Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Pin Pix

Today I thought I would delve once again into the legendary "Bag O' Pinbacks", a random assortment of pinback buttons, mostly oversized, that are stored in a magical Ziploc bag. You just never know what you'll find in there.

Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids! But, in 1976, General Mills let kids vote on whether he should be allowed to finally eat the fruit-flavored corn puffs, and depending on how they cast their ballot, they received a special button in the mail (these have clips on the back instead of potentially-deadly pins). Because most kids loved the Trix rabbit, they voted "Yes", so that button is by far the most common. But a few stinkers voted "No". Maybe they were worried about his health? Either way, the NO button is scarcer.

Most people know Sun-Maid raisins because of the famous red cardboard boxes with the beautiful Sun Maid herself, wholesome and good. But for a brief period the Raisin Wrangler took center stage. Raisins are a healthy snack, full of iron, potassium, copper, vitamin B6, and manganese. Not to mention fiber. The Wrangler looks sort of like a Jay Ward creation to me, but I could find no connection.

Here's one of my favorites, featuring the adorable mascot for the Minnesota Gas Company, "Minnegasco", with a blue flame in her headband instead of a feather. I just learned that Minnie was introduced in 1957, and she continued as a friendly representative up until sometime in the 1990s.

This large (4") pinback might have been worn by a Gimbels employee. It's undated, but I'd guess it is from the late 1960s. "Now... it's Gimbels". The design is modern, clean, and minimalist. Gimbels Department Store began way back in 1842. By 1930, there were 20 Gimbels locations, making it the largest department store chain in the world. But by the 1980s, profits were waning, and the last Gimbels store closed in 1987.

I always love a good lenticular pin, and this one advertising Pepsi Weather manages to convey the scorching heat of the summer sun... as you waggle the pin back and forth the rays of pin, red and yellow swirl around. One source lists this as being from 1966.

As a rule I don't collect political pinback buttons - it is an enormous category all its own, and while there is certainly a lot of historical interest, it's just not my thing. But there are exceptions of course. When George McGovern threw his hat into the Presidential race in 1972, his campaign produced a number of buttons with graphics that were much more modern and atypical of election paraphernalia, almost certainly attempting to connect with young voters.

 I'm afraid that it is my duty to inform you that there will be more PIN PIX to come!


Anonymous said...

Pepsi takes first, having a happy and colorful design. Plus, I enjoy Pepsi.

Minnegasco takes 2nd, as to my vote. But I am concerned her head’s aflame. Too much hairspray near an open fire?

Thanks, Major.


Nanook said...

Up until now I have been living a senseless life, as I've never even heard of the Sun-Maid Raisin Wrangler-! And, he bears a striking resemblance to Dudley Do-Right.

"Raisins are a healthy snack, full of iron, potassium, copper, vitamin B6, and manganese". While that may be true, they also contain a "healthy" amount of sugar - about 24 grams/serving-! So, mind the Wrangler.

As for Gimbels - I still remember my 1967 Xmas visit to Manhattan, and the view from the Empire State Building. Emblazoned on the roof of the Macy's flagship store was this piece of shopping advice: Macy's - It's smart to be thrifty - a slogan evidently dating back to 1931. I know they're the words I always live by-!

Thanks, Major.

JB said...

I notice that the Trix Rabbit looks less scuffed up on the 'NO' button. I imagine the kids who voted 'YES' wore their buttons proudly, while the 'NO' kids kept their buttons hidden, so as not to get beaten up by angry 'YES' kids. And that's why the 'NO' buttons are in better shape. That's my theory. I never cared much for the Trix Rabbit. Not sure why.

Major, I think you're right about the Jay Ward appearance. The Wrangler looks like Dudley Do-Right's twin (Ha! Nanook beat me to it). Or maybe a prince from one of the Fractured fairy Tales.

Hard to pick a favorite today, but I'll go with the Minnegasco pin. It has a clean, simple design that appeals to me.
I have to applaud the 'white dove of peace' McGovern button. So different from the typical political pin that usually shows the face of the candidate.

Thanks for the pins, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

My fave is that groovy Pepsi pin.

My brother and I tried a lot of kids cereals, but for some reason, we never had Trix. I did have the 1970s "Wacky Package" sticker for the cereal, which referred to it as "Tricks":

Then there is a newer version from 2004, referring to it as "Ticks":

I wonder if Gimbels ever had locations here on the west coast? The only time I ever heard of it was in a certain 1950s TV show, where the main character wants a Don Loper "original" dress, but when her best friend (who only gets her clothes from the bargain basement at Gimbels) sees the price tag, she exclaims, "Back to Gimbels' basement!"

Chuck said...

That McGovern pin was definitely aimed at a younger demographic, but I doubt it was put out by his official campaign. I get that he was the “peace candidate of 1972,” but it seems the height of folly to incorporate the flags of the Vietcong and North Vietnam into a button that was intended to connect with the average American voter.

I buy all of my toy fire trucks at Gimbel’s.

JG said...

I loved Trix and ate my share, I remember this ad campaign, but by then I was too old to care.

While all of the pins have some interest, I’m going with the Raisin guy. I don’t remember him at all, but Sunmaid Raisins were a local Fresno company and the original Sunmaid girl was a minor celebrity. She would make appearances at fairs and parades, still lovely after all the years since her portrait as a teen became the brand symbol. I don’t recall her name but google knows.

Lots of vineyards around our home went either to table grapes or raisins since it was too hot there in the Central Valley for the prime wine grapes. I vividly remember the sweet smell of drying grapes becoming raisins as we drove past those fields in the late summer and early fall. The variety was Thompson Seedless, prized for both table and drying since there were no seeds to worry with.

Originally, the grapes were laid on wooden trays in the rows between the vines. Later these were replaced with disposable brown paper trays that didn’t require retrieval, cleaning and storage, but went to compost after use. The surviving wood trays were popular as home decor items with decoupage or painted scenes, but most just became kindling.

There was a huge risk of early rain spoiling the drying raisins-to-be, often there would be rush pickups to get the paper trays rolled up (much like a rug) and out of the weather ahead of a storm. Drying would finish in ovens at the packing plant, but it was costly and there was a risk of mold starting in the rolled packages. Farming is a risky and hazardous business.

This was all long before the development of the red Flame Seedless variety, which is very popular today. I don’t know if any of those go to raisins or not.

Thanks Major, good stuff from the bag, awaiting more.


DrGoat said...

Everybody beat me to the Dudley Do-Right resemblance, so I'll go with the Trix buttons and Pepsi, of course. Didn't eat Trix back then. I was a Frosted Flakes kid, with Cocoa Puffs every once in a while.
Been a Pepsi man since I weaned myself off of Dr. Pepper and Chocolate Soldier. Don't drink much soda nowadays, only 7-Up occasionally.
JG, like the way your first comment rhymes.
Before we moved to Tucson in '54, my first 4 years of life was in Manhattan, don't have the address but it was a few blocks from the Lincoln Tunnel. My Mom worked at Macy's for a couple of years. When I hear the name Gimbals, I always think of Miracle on 34th street.
If they'd have put Dudley on that raisin pin, that would be the winner.
Thanks Major, good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Here's some quick research


Anonymous said...

Dr. Goat, completely unintentional.

Here's some doggerel from my Mom.

"I was a poet and didn't know it, but my feet show it, they are Longfellows."


Major Pepperidge said...

Sue, oh I was sure you were going to like the Minnegasco the best! But I admit that there is something about that Pepsi lenticular pin - too bad you can’t see it as it “moves”.

Nanook, I also had never heard of the Sun-Maid Raisin Wrangler. Sure, raisins have sugar, but they’re still better than a candy bar (I do like the occasional candy bar, though). It’s impossible to think of Gimbels and Macy’s without also thinking of “Miracle on 34th Street”.

JB, I was actually very glad to find a “NO” Trix button in good condition, and you’re right, the “YES” button is a bit scuffed. It might have just rattled around in a kid’s junk drawer for decades, but I like to imagine that its owner actually wore it proudly. It’s possible that the Raisin Wrangler just has that 1970s cartoon ad style, but the big chin is very “Dudley Do-Right”. You can’t go wrong with Minnegasco!

TokyoMagic!, you DO like groovy things, I know that about you. Wacky Package stickers! I love those things, and still have a handful from my childhood. At one time I considered trying to get complete sets of those, but… $$$. I’m unaware of Gimbels being on the west coast, but you never know. And I have never seen that episode of “Bonanza” that you are referring to!

Chuck, hmm, that IS odd. Thank you for pointing out the Vietcong and North Vietnam flag connection, I would have never known. I am reasonably sure that this is an official McGovern campaign pin, but I could be wrong. With the white dove, I guess the message was that McGovern would bring peace in Southeast Asia (maybe?), but you’re right, it could also send a negative message. Could it have been one factor in Nixon’s landslide victory?

JG, oh I was a big fan of all of those sugary cereals. Still am, to be honest, I just don’t buy them much anymore, unless I want a late-night dessert. I did not know that the Sun-Maid girl was based on a real person, I’ll have to look that up. I love your recollection of the scent of drying grapes. Good old Thompson Seedless, you used to be able to get those in stores, but lately I don’t see them. I bought some “cotton candy” grapes, good, but actually too sweet in my opinion. I always assumed that raisins had been dried in some sort of factory situation, but it sounds like they actually did try to sun-dry them, weather permitting. Imagine losing your whole yield to a sudden storm! This is why I decided to go into crypto-currencies rather than farming. No risk at all! “Red Flame” grapes, they didn’t get the PR that Thompson Seedless did. Thanks JG.

Major Pepperidge said...

DrGoat, I loved Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Puffs, Cocoa Krispies, Quisp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Cap’n Crunch, Froot Loops, Fruity Pebbles… etcetera! I finally came to the conclusion that I like Coke more than Pepsi, but I’ll drink whatever’s available. Speaking of Dudley Do-Right, there’s a plumbing place near me that stole Dudley’s image, but put a baseball (or trucker) style cap on him instead of the mountie hat. It’s definitely him though!

JG, awesome! Thank you! I love that stuff.

Anonymous said...

According to the intertubes, Flame Seedless can be used for raisins but I have no idea if SunMaid uses them. Flames were very popular in the marketplace because they were a good grape for eating and the color conformed to peoples' idea of "a grape", which green Thompsons did not.

This variety came into general planting around the time I got out of farming, so I don't know much about it. This wikipedia article might be accurate, I remember the name of the man credited for introducing it, so that part is probably right.

Major, there are a lot of new varieties of table grapes (and other fruits) now that weren't around 50+ years ago. I just saw "Ruby Seedless" in the web search, and this is the first I have heard of Cotton Candy grapes. These may have pushed Thompson out of the market.

Pluots are a big new thing now, hybrid of plums and apricots.

Yes, grapes are dried right out in the field using sunshine, and the risk of damage is great. There are rules about late season spray and so forth, so drifting chemicals from other fields and growers don't fall on the fruit, etc. I think that crop insurance was probably a must for raisin growers due to the multiple risks. There was also the risk of labor trouble and workers striking in the critical week or two window when picking HAD to occur. A ten day strike could wipe out a whole crop. Often, grapes intended for table sale went to raisins instead due to late picking. I think table prices were higher.

We never had vines except for household use, we had a Thompson and a Green Muscat. Thompson was my favorite, the Muscat had seeds and was tannic and "foxy", a descriptor that is common in grape flavors, but hard to describe. Once you have had foxy fruit or wine, you know what it means, but I can't really communicate it.

It's great to pick fruit off of your own vines and trees, very satisfying.


JB said...

Tokyo!, haha, I like what they did to the Rabbit in the "Tix" parody.

JG, I like the Red Flame grapes best. They usually have a firmer, crispier texture than the Thompson Seedless. I also like those long, Moon Drop grapes.

Count me as another sugary cereal fiend. I like to eat it dry, as a snack, most often. I'm miffed that Sugar Pops/Sugar Corn Pops/Corn Pops or whatever they're calling it now, has lost a lot of its sweetness. No doubt an effort to make it more 'healthful'. TRE.

Major Pepperidge said...

JG, huh, for me Thompson Seedless grapes were our “go to” grapes when I was a kid, my mom would put a bunch on a plastic bag for us to eat instead of candy (or some other unhealthy snack). I wonder if I have ever had Flame Seedless grapes? They do look pretty with that rosy color. “Ruby Seedless”, maybe? I went to 99 Ranch, which is a fascinating Asian grocery store chain here in SoCal, and they had these big beautiful green grapes, smaller than a golf ball, but still… big. Got ‘em home, popped one in my mouth, and discovered that they had seeds. LOTS of seeds, slightly smaller than lemon seeds. ARGH. I’ve had pluots, they’ve been around for a while I believe. I love a good stone fruit! You sure know a lot about grapes! As much as Nanook knows about old cars, or Chuck knows about buses ;-). “Foxy”, that’s an interesting adjective!

JB, yes, there’s just something about that slight “crunch”, I agree with you. I like to put grapes (pulled off the bunch and rinsed and dried) in the freezer for about half an hour to get them nice and cold. Of course I sometimes forget them, and then I wind up with green marbles. The last time I had Sugar Pops (Corn Pops), they seemed plenty sweet, but I don’t remember what they used to be like.

Anonymous said...

JB, I know what you mean, that crisp *snap* of the grape skin when you bite into it.

Thompsons can have that snap when they are just ripe, but it doesn't last long. If they are picked at the peak and kept in cold storage, it will last long enough to get to market.

Flames do seem to keep that snap longer, might be part of their appeal.

I've had those long grapes, can't recall the name. They are pretty good.

Major, sorry about that seed experience, I know how you feel. The seeds are often tannic and unpalatable. An Italian recipe I saw calls for grating them into a cheese sauce, but nutmeg works as well, and is easier to hold.


Melissa said...

I know we usually quote Oklahoma! here, but right now I've got that bit from 1776 going through my head where John and Abigail sing "Saltpeter!" "Pins!" back and forth to each other.

The Sun-Maid cowboy reminds me of the old Sugar Corn Pops cowboy. There were a bunch of vineyards around where I grew up, but they were mostly table grapes and juice/wine grapes.

I think my favorites from this lot are the Pepsi and McGovern buttons, just because the artwork is so pretty (although as Chuck points out, the political imagery has its problems).

Melissa said...

And even though I didn't choose her as my favorite, as the child of an electric & gas company employee, I give Minnegasco mad props for being a lot less horrifying than Reddy Kilowatt.

Nanook said...

@ Melissa-
"I give Minnegasco mad props for being a lot less horrifying than Reddy Kilowatt". Amen, to that, sister - in spite of my love for Reddy Kilowatt. "Saltpeter!", indeed. (Maybe it's time for a Xmas screening of 1776, just to flip-flop things).

Chuck said...

Melissa, I’m with you 100%. Pepsi really should have stayed out of politics.