Friday, February 14, 2020

That's What You Get From Cracker Jack...Checkers

A few years back, I posted some students' Valentines sent to a teacher named Peter Blank in the 30's and 40's. Included in the box were some sheets of paper with little poems and illustrations.  They appeared to have been tied to Cracker Jack, possibly as prizes.  Only one is Valentine appropriate, but I've included the rest below.

The first is a criticism of "spooning" in public. 

Are you too stupid and senseless to know
That this sort of thing makes a sickening show?
About spooning in private I've nothing to say,
But to do it in public proclaims you a jay.

Modern interpretation of the slang "spooning" is for couples lying in bed, front to back, cuddling, like a pair of nested spoons. As it turns out, "spooning" back then was slang for kissing.  Doing so in public "proclaims you a jay."  Apparently, "jay" has traditionally been slang for someone who is an "idiot, dull, rube, unsophisticated, poor, or simpleton."  Hence the term "jay walking".

The rest appear to be aimed directly at Mr. Blank, perhaps secreted to his desk while he was away by the same rebellious student simply known as "The X".

Written in pencil: "Here's what you would do if you had kids."

The fact that Mr. Blank saved these little jabs tells me he found them amusing and was a pretty good sport and teacher.

I was having trouble deciphering the meaning behind "Cracker Jack Checkers".  As I said, it lead me to believe these were some sort of premium for "Cracker Jacks".  Then I thought maybe "Checkers" was the name of Sailor Jack's dog, but it's actually "Bingo".  I found some comments online that suggested "Cracker Jacks" originally began as a product called "Checkers", but I found nothing else to support that. The name "Cracker Jacks" goes back to 1896, clearly well prior to these comics, so I doubted it's accuracy.  I did find this other premium for Checkers online:

The term "flapper" puts this premium in the '20's.  

Finally after diving down a dozen fruitless rabbit holes, I came across this statement:
The Checkers Popcorn product was from the Shotwell Manufacturing Company. It was a very strong competitor to Cracker Jack. So much so that Cracker Jack bought the product outright in 1926. It was continued but eventually phased out.
So these comics date from after the buyout of the Checkers product by Cracker Jack and while it was still being produced, which again puts it most likely in the '30's.

1 comment:

  1. interesting! i've never heard of Checkers Popcorn (but then again why would i). i also find it interesting that the slang term "jaywalking" was eventually absorbed into the common lingo, but the base term "jay" and its associated meaning never was. i wonder if there are other examples of this.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...