Saturday, December 29, 2012

I Want My Maypo!

It is a snowy day here in Maryland, our first real snowfall of the season (although it did not last very long).  A good time to enjoy a piping hot cup of coffee and a bowl of warm oatmeal with a few dried cranberries tossed in for a splash of color.  While doing so I thought back to my youth (and we are going back quite a ways here) .  Some of you will have no idea what I am talking about, but I think there will be a few of you for whom this traipse down memory lane will be a pleasant read.

It was late autumn of 1956 and I was living on my grandparent’s southwestern Michigan farm and attending the local one-room Acorn School, in Almena (which I have written about previously).  My regular breakfast in those days was hot oatmeal much like what I enjoyed this morning although I tended to eat it plain without any additional healthy blandishments.  Another one of my regular activities in those days was watching Saturday morning cartoons on the old black and white television in the parlor (on those days I often enjoyed my oatmeal in front of the TV).  And this is where the story begins.

One of the popular and frequent commercials back then was for Maypo, a maple flavored oatmeal cereal originally developed in 1953 by the Maltex Corporation, in Burlington, Vermont, shortly before the company was sold to Heublein, Inc. of Farmington, Connecticut.   By today’s standards of animation, it was a pretty cheezy 60-second spot.  It features a tyke with tousled hair and big ears decked out in a cowboy outfit (boots, six-shooters, gloves, neck bandana, and a floppy hat as big as he was pulled down over his eyes) being beckoned to the breakfast table - “Come and get it!” - the same way my grandmother got me to settle down at the big dining room table on the farm.  The boy scrambles to the table and climbs up on his stool.  In a baby-like voice he asks “Do you have a surprise for me?” to which a now visible man (presumably the boy’s father) is stirring a bowl situated next to a box of Maypo.  He announces this new cereal and tries to get the boy to take a spoonful while asking him to remove his hat.  He refuses to do both and the man snatches away the hat to which the boy crosses his arms and demands, “I want my cowboy hat.”  He is promised it after breakfast but he wants it now!  The man asks the boy if he likes maple-flavored  candy, which gets his attention until he stares into the bowl to find only oatmeal.  The man then tries the old “airplane flying into the hangar” ploy only to have the hangar door shut just before the plane, aka the spoonful of Maypo, arrives.  The lightbulb comes on and the man puts on the boy’s hat and tell him cowboys like Maypo as he places the spoon in his mouth.  His eyes light up after which the boy finally takes a taste from his bowl and realizes he likes it after all.  By this time the man is devouring the cereal to which the boy, soon to be dubbed “Marky Maypo,” announces “I want my Maypo.”  A new cultural icon is born.

Marky went on to star in another commercial, this time a dyed-in-the-wool Maypo convert who tries to get his Uncle Ralph, sleeping on a sofa, to try the cereal by mixing it in his homburg.  This commercial also ends with the now familiar cry, “I want my Maypo!

 After watching that original commercial numerous times on Saturday mornings, I decided I wanted my Maypo, too.  Enough of that bland, flavorless gruel I had always enjoyed before.  Maple flavored oatmeal seemed just the thing.  I wanted my Maypo!  I prevailed on my grandmother and so the next time she visited the Spartan market in Paw Paw she picked up a box and thereafter, when she called out for me to “come and get it,” I was treated to a bowl of hot Maypo.  Still no fruit, but the maple flavor was a nice touch.  No plane into the hangar was necessary.  Maybe cowboys do like it.  It really didn’t matter to me.  I liked it.

So I was thinking about this earlier today and I was curious whether Maypo was a thing of the past or not.  I quickly discovered that Hueblein, Inc., which manufactured Maypo at a cereal mill in Highspire, Pennsylvania, was acquired by the Uhlmann Company, of Kansas City, in the mid-1960s, and following additional acquisitions, the Maypo brand name today belongs to Homestat Farms, Ltd., in Dublin, Ohio, and production continues at the Highspire mill.  And little Marky is still around, too, still wanting his Maypo.

I also learned that John Hubley (1914-1977), the originator of the Marky Maypo character who also designed the commercials, was a former Walt Disney animator who worked on such Disney staples as Fantasia, Dumbo, Pinocchio, and Bambi, before leaving the company in 1941.  He later joined other former Disney artists to form United Productions of America, in Los Angles, which played a major role in the evolution of animated productions with characters such as Mr. McGoo.  He continued at UPA until he as fired in the early 1950s when Walt Disney denounced him and others as communists to Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee.  Hubley continued as a freelance artist and animator until he was approached by the Heublein company to develop an animated commercial for its recently acquired Maypo brand, which was not selling well.
What he produced was a commercial with minimalist animation and a voice over created by recording his own four year old son Mark.  From the outset neither Heublein nor Hubley realized what a hit Marky Maypo would become, or how well Maypo would sell as a result.  This relationship eventually deteriorated over the company’s desire to cash in on the popularity of Marky through a number of commercial merchandising ventures (banks, dolls, etc.) while Hubley tried to retain his artistic integrity.  They eventually parted ways and there were no more Hubley-inspired commercials.  By that time I had moved on to other things and I no longer wanted my Maypo.

In fact, I haven’t thought about the cereal for years; I didn’t even know whether it was still on the market.  But this morning, as I sat down to my breakfast oatmeal, I fondly recalled those simpler times when I was a kid.  For me, Maypo is not just a maple-flavored cereal I use to eat when I was younger.  It is a benchmark for the good old days when kids did not have to worry about being murdered in their classroom, or all the other things that are forcing them to grow up much too fast.  Childhood was and should be a time of innocence and free from the fears that now continually encroach on all of our lives.  At least this is what I was thinking when I was eating my breakfast this morning.  OK . . . I’ll admit it.  I want my Maypo!  I think we all want our Maypo.

Friday, December 28, 2012

80,000 Hits So Far!

Thanks to everyone worldwide who has visited Looking Toward Portugal since December 2008. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Wishing Everyone a Very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

On Second Thought

Yesterday I was filled with anger and stunned by the senseless and unspeakable horror visited on the people of Sandy Hook/Newtown, Connecticut.  Now I am overcome by an intense sadness and a profound sense of loss.  I do not know anyone who lives there, certainly not any of the victims, yet there is a sense impression that all has changed.

Most summers over the past quarter of a century, as we made our way to and from the lake cottage in Maine, we have become accustom to stopping in Newtown  to gas up and to have a bite to eat.  It has always been a convenient place, a friendly place, to take a breather after making our way around NYC, on the northbound trip, or to savor one last breath of New England air and Yankee tranquility before navigating the Big Apple on the way home.  I recall in particular an ill-fated attempt to eat at the charming Sandy Hook Diner last New Year's Eve day only to find it closed so that everyone could be home with their families to ring in the new year.  It is less than a half mile from the school where yesterday’s massacre unfolded.  Who knew what the new year would bring to this quiet and pleasant community.  Sally Ann and I tried again in October on our way home from Maine.   We found it closed again late on a Sunday afternoon.  But we always find a place to stretch our legs and seek a little nourishment for the road.

Now I will never be able to look at that charming rest haven the same way again.  Somehow evil and terror found their way here.  Our prayers go out to all the families, friends, and neighbors whose lives have been horribly changed forever.  We also pray for a nation that needs to wake up and make certain this never happens again.  We are all diminished by what has happened in Newtown.

Most of the victims were not just children . . . they were mostly six-year old children. Even as old as seven!!!   NRA - put that on your tote board. How do you sleep at night? Folks, it's time to stop being angry. It's time to take a stand. Make gun control the gold standard for weighing your choices in the future. If a politician won't stand up to the NRA, then he or she is not interested in taking this country back from the extremists, the survivalists, and those whose solutions to challenges and problems are only found through the barrel of a gun.  Wake up America!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Time to Stand Up!

There is a sickness in this world. How much more blood . . . childrens' blood . . . will it take for you people to wise up? I don’t care what anyone says, I hold the National Rifle Association [NRA] responsible for the cruel, wanton and sadistic murder of over two dozen innocent people, most of them elementary school students, in Sandy Hook [Newtown], Connecticut this morning.  “I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear,” former NRA President Charleton Heston stated proudly in May 2000 claiming Americans should not surrender their right to bear arms.  “From my cold, dead hands!  Out of your cold, dead hands?”   Mr. Heston is no longer with us, but many who believe what he said twelve years ago are.  Last year 48 people were killed by handguns in Japan.  Eight in Great Bitain, 34 in Switzerland, 52 in Canada, 58 in Israel, 21 in Sweden, 42 in Germany . . . and 10,728 in the United States!!  The murder and mayhem in this country continues unabated and it will eventually catch up with even the NRA.  What if it were their children who were slaughtered in their classrooms this morning?

I am pointing the finger at the NRA for not supporting reasonable gun control and registration in this country. I am not against guns per se. I believe people should be able to own them, and I support hunting and those who hunt. But you don't need to have a machine gun to hunt. You don't need cop killer bullets to hunt.  There are those who own guns responsibly and know how to store and use them properly.  But there are many out there who should not have guns, and the NRA knows this and does nothing about it.  Yes, the NRA protects the right of those who own guns legally.  But it also protects those who go out on a nice sunny New England morning and murder innocent children.

See this gun?  It is legal in the USA.  And this morning it was used to kill lots of little kids.  Does anyone really need to have one of these? I mean, really?  This weapon was designed to kill people. If you don't plan to kill people, you really don't need to have one. I think that is reasonable.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the issue of gun control and registration, it is the unreasonable on both ends of the spectrum that seem to win the day while the moderates, those of us who try to see the issue from both sides, who seem to get lost in the fray. But on days like today, it is often hard to seem reasonable when all reason has gone out the window.

We need to stop mourning the victims of gun violence and start doing something that will reduce . . . nay prevent more victims of gun violence. I'm getting tired of seeing the flag at half staff. That does nothing. It is time to get serious folks, and not just wait for it to happen again. And sadly, it will happen again . . . and again . . . until we wake up and stand up. If a politician won't stand up to the NRA, go out and find one who will.  It is the only way this madness, this senseless murder, will stop.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Day of Dozens

This date will be that last instance when the month, day and year match for the next 100 years.  I thought this was worth mentioning.

The number “12" has long been recognized by mathematicians and scientists as a sublime or perfect number, a quality it derives from its divisibility. There are relatively few small numbers that can be evenly divided into so many subsets. The number 12 can be evenly divided into halves, thirds, fourths, sixths, and twelfths. Multiples of 12, by definition, retain this divisibility.

But that is not all!  There are 12 months in a year.  There are 24 hours in a day - 12 hours ante-meridiem and 12 hours post-meridiem.  Noon and midnight are 12pm and 12 am respectively.  The basic units of time - 60 seconds, 60 minutes, and 24 hours - are all perfectly divisible by 12.

A basic non-metric unit of measurement is a dozen (12 units).  A foot consists of 12 inches.  A troy pound is 12 ounces.  Force 12 on the Beaufort wind force scale corresponds to the maximum wind speed of a hurricane.  There are 12 basic hues in the color wheel.  12 individuals sit on a jury of one’s peers, and 12 men have walked on the moon.  The human body has 12 pairs of ribs and 12 pairs of cranial nerves. The average man has 12 pints of blood.  And for my Canadian friends . . . the House, or the circular scoring area in curling, is 12 feet in diameter.

There were 12 Olympians in the Greek pantheon of gods. Hercules had 12 labors. The Western and Chinese zodiacs each have 12 twelve signs or constellations.  King Arthur's round table had 12 knights.  Virgil’s epic poem The Aeneid, as well as John Milton’s Paradise Lost, are each divided into 12 books.

Muhammad had 12 successors known as Imams.  They were infallible and had a close relationship with God.  When the twelfth Imam returns he will bring justice and peace to the world.  According to the Quran, “And there gushed forth from it twelve springs, and every people knew its watering place. Eat and drink from the provision of Allah.” 

The Bible is full of twelves.  Revelations 21:12 describes the city of Jerusalem descending from the heavens: “And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.”  Jacob had 12 sons who were the progenitors of these 12 tribes.  Ishmael also had 12 sons. There were 12 minor prophets in the Old Testament, and the New Testament’s 12 Apostles gave the world the teachings of Christ.  And 12 days of Christmas which will soon be upon us.

Like I said, it seemed worth mentioning.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Beginning of Advent

Today we begin the Advent season.  Let us lift up our voices during this joyous time of year with a deeply felt commitment to the future.  We do this with great hope despite the violence and uncertainty we see around us.  It is a time to celebrate light in the midst of darkness.  We have been taught that nations will enter into warfare, and that all inhabitants of the earth will experience and suffer great disasters and calamities.  These will challenge us and try our patience and our abilities to cope.  These trying times offer us opportunities to test our faith, and to steel our hopes and desires for a better future, a time to stand tall and be brave.  Let us hope that swords will be crafted into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks.  May there be a renewed pledge for gentleness, compassion, justice and peace in the world as we enter into this joyous season.  Turn hatred into love and our grievances into forgiveness and help us to  strengthen our faith.  For if we are faithful to the end, darkness will turn to light and there will be salvation for all the nations and peoples of the earth.