They say that the ozone layer is depleting rapidly (or maybe it’s increasing dangerously?) diseases are mutating at an alarming rate, and the world economy is standing at the brink of collapse. What I want to know is what’s up with Mr Whipple and Fred, the Dunkin’ Donut guy?
In my town, every child knew the big three rules 1) never play with matches, 2) walk facing traffic (I guess so we couldn’t say “I never knew what hit me”) and 3) “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”
I could have included – “It’s time to make the donuts,” but that wasn’t really a rule.
As I age, I’m dealing with the unpleasant realization that the trivial icons of my generation are resonating with fewer and fewer people. I now get the same blank stare I once gave old fogies who said to me, “Twenty-three skidoo!
What was that about, anyway?
The thing that’s most frustrating is that there’s no reason for today’s wrinkle-less, gray-less youths to learn about Fred and Mr. Whipple. Fred didn’t march with Martin Luther King, or even supply donuts to those who did. Mr. Whipple didn’t end the war in Vietnam – or even wipe up afterwards.
Fred and Mr. Whipple sold donuts and toilet tissue.
And they weren’t even that funny. Why did we think they were funny… Alright, I’ll speak for myself - why did I think they were funny? Why did I chirp, “Ring around the collar,” and laugh as I got dressed for school? Why did I chortle over “Let Hertz put you in the driver’s seat,” as I piled into the family station wagon? Why did I wander down residential macadam singing out, “If you think it’s butter, but it’s not…?”
Well, there was a reason for that last one. Being a little boy of the 1960s, I had fewer bad words available to me without serious repercussions. Though I and my pals sang the Chiffon margarine jingle correctly, what we heard in our heads was: If you think it’s butter, but it’s snot.”
Yes, little boys are gross.
Yes, I grew up – I’m taller than I was. What’s your point?
As much as we are defined by what we do, we are also defined by what our generation does. My father’s generation saved us from the Germans.
(Maybe we were in a bit of a rut there.)
But what did my generation do? We watched TV and learned advertising jingles, and as shallow and downright (synonym of shallow used here for rhetorical flourish without enhancing meaning) we were, I still care about these two silly little men.
Are they still with us? Is Fred still making donuts, or has he been promoted to the great deep fryer beyond?
That doesn’t sound nearly as pleasant as I meant it to.
Is Mr. Whipple still meticulously stacking paper products – an act which was clearly anal (talk about subliminal advertising!)
Wherever they are, and whatever they are doing, I am grateful for having such trivial influences in my life.
Donuts and toilet tissue are a lot easier to think about than ozone, disease, and economics.
For those of you who A) want hard things to think about or B) want one last blast of the Christmas Season – here’s a Weird Al classic.