The Thunker - Sarah Donohoe

When we started this isolation-by-pandemic back in March, we had to figure out what to do with all the extra hours that came knocking on our door. We invited them in and made them feel welcome. We played games, did puzzles, played duets on the piano, I tried lots of new recipes (and many old favorites too), Joe practiced guitar every single day, we planted and moved rocks and weeded in the garden, and we played catch.

We were well and things were good. But we could only play so many rounds of Scrabble, finish so many crosswords, and throw the ball so many times before we needed to do something different. So we started watching old movies. One a week.

We made a list of what we wanted to see based on the American Film Institute list of the 100 greatest American movies of all times. Joe has seen 94 of them so most of the flicks we selected are reruns for him. He doesn’t mind. He can tell me who starred in most of them, when the movie was made, and if it won any Oscars. Obviously, he likes movies. I’ve never been much of a movie-goer so many are premieres to me.

From our list I order on Netflix and Joe gets to be surprised when the movie-of-the-week start playing on the screen.

After dinner tonight I gave him a hint of what title is up next. I started whistling the Colonel Bogey March. He immediately knew we would soon be watching the 1957, seven-Oscar-winning “Bridge on the River Kwai.” (We both thought the bridge was over the river but it’s not. The bridge is on the river.)

The theme music for “Bridge on the River Kwai” is a classic. I remember it as a kid, although the version I recall isn’t of a crisply whistled piece originally composed in 1914, but of a completely different version that went like this (plug your ears if you don’t like the ribald that is so enticing to youth) :

Comet, it makes your teeth turn green,

Comet, it tastes like gasoline.

Comet, it makes you vomit,

So get some Comet and vomit today.

This is the kind of stuff a young girl picks up from her older brothers. I’m guessing they got it from Mad Magazine. I can’t imagine where else kids of the pre-internet era would learn stuff like this.

Remember Hello Muddah, hello


Here I am at Camp Grenada.

Camp is very entertaining

And they say we'll have some fun if it stops raining.

Believe it or not, this song won a Grammy in 1964 and just this year was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant. ” So what about the song on the flip side of that 45—Rat Fink?

Another tainted advertising song we used to sing—because we thought it was hilarious—was about the ice cream sauce called Bosco (it’s a different tune than the Colonel Bogey March) :

I hate Bosco, because it’s bad for me.

Mommy put some in my milk to try to poison me.

I fooled Mommy, I put some in her tea.

Now there is no Mommy to try to poison me.

I know this is crude and rude and unacceptable, and that’s exactly why we found it so irresistible. (Remember, I had two older brothers. I couldn’t escape it.)

Those old ditties got me thinking about catchy TV ads. Real ones. There was the one about hot dogs:

Hot dogs! Armour hot dogs!

What kind of kids eat Armour hot dogs?

Fat kids, skinny kids, kids that climb on rocks.

Tough kids, sissy kids, even kids with chicken pox

love hot dogs, Armour hot dogs. The dogs kids love to bite!

And another:

Oh I’d love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener,

That is what I truly want to be,

For if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,

Everyone would be in love with me.

We think we’re living in strange times? Ha! In the ’60s the most catchy ads on TV were songs about eating hot dogs and being a hot dog, and also naming bologna (aren’t they the same thing, just in different shapes?) :

My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R.

My bologna has a second name, it’s M-A-Y-E-R.

I love to eat it every day and if you ask me why I say,

‘Cause Oscar Mayer has a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a. (Note: The curly haired little boy fishing on the dock while singing this song is one the most successful TV ads of all time.)

There was Uh Oh, SpaghettiOs! (The neat, round spaghetti you can eat with a spoon), and

Rice A Roni, the San Francisco Treat (ding! ding!),

And the classic:

I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

Ask anyone who was around in 1975 what’s in a McDonald’s Big Mac and you’ll get this answer (everybody now, as fast as you can!): Two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

Those were simpler times, when an ad didn’t cut from one camera shot to the next every single second. Today’s lightning speed clips—ads or movie trailers or even TV shows—go by so fast, they can make a person queazy trying to keep up. That’s when I’m likely to head to the medicine cabinet with a specific jingle in my head: Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is! (I can’t believe I watched the whole thing!)

You may let The Thunker know what you think at her e-mail address,

© 2020 Sarah Donohoe

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