Steven (unzeugmatic) wrote,

Window on the Past

I think I've been poring over old magazines since I was in elementary school. Cultural detritus and ephemera provide a time-travel window, and that's the sort of thing that gives me goose bumps. It's part of what I love about old movies, particularly B-movies and domestic comedies. One thing I concluded long ago is that you can never really know what it felt like to live in a different era. It's hard enough to remember without revisionism what it was like to live in an era you actually did live through. But these inadvertent remnants that were created without a concern for permanence or significance are the best clues we have.

That said, I just found an amazing primo example of something that was so clearly ephemeral in its day and yet here it is over 80 years later and I'm reading it for the first time. It's a parody of The Song of Hiawatha, from 1927, by a mister Everett W. Lord. It's a compendium of commercial products, when all of the products were new. To us, these are either quaint and archaic (Tarvia, Valspar, Sealpax) or long-standing and solid names (Coca Cola, Jello, Sunkist). How can we know what this poem felt like when it was absolutely current -- when "Jello" might have had the resonance of a word like, oh, iPhone perhaps? How can we know a world when you could reasonably assume that everybody knew the Longfellow poem pretty much by heart.

I like this anyway. So I share this with you.

The Legend of the Admen
Hear the legend of the Admen
Ere they conquered all creation.

In the Prophylactic forest,
On the shores of Coca Cola
Dwelt the Moxies in their wigwams --
Old Sapolio, the chieftain,
Pebeco, the grizzled prophet,
And the warriors, young and eager.

In the lodge of the old chieftain
With Uneeda, more than mother,
And Victrola, old and feeble,
Lived the warmest of the maidens,
Musterole, Sapolio's daughter --
Musterole, the Sunkist Chiclet.

All the young men sought her favor
Left their trophies at her wigwam,
Brought her Thermos skins for raiment,
Brought her Tarvia for ointment;
And sweet Musterole smiled on them --
Smiled on Vaseline and Pointex,
Smiled on Danderine and Jello,
Smiled on Listerine and Valspar --
Smiled but left them unrequired,
For her love she gave to no one --
Frigidaire alone she gave them.

Then from Multibestos mountains
From the tribe of the Texacos,
Came the young chief, Instant Postum,
Mightiest hunter in the forest,
All superb in strength and beauty.
He it was who trapped the Kodak,
He, who shot the great Sears-Roebuck.
Eversharp his trusty hatchet,
Every Arrow had a Hotpoint.
On him gazed the Moxie maidens --
Nujol poured her glowing glances,
Bold Carbona sought to win him,
Zonite brought him luscious Pyrene;
But for Musterole yearned Postum.

Through the fields of ripe Wheatena
Hand in hand the lovers wandered.
Seated then upon the White Rock,
By the rippling Cuticura --
Safe beneath Palmolive shadows
From the boughs they picked the Grapenuts,
There, they saw the sun descending.

Naught cared Postum for the night winds
Blowing through the Holeproof forest;
Musterole was there beside him.
To his bosom quick he drew her,
Held her to his manly bosom --
Whispered words with love a burning,
Told her how he'd caught the Sealpax,
Told her how he'd slain Bull Durham,
Told her how he'd trapped Ampico --
Boasted of his father's tepee,
With its sides of Mentholatum
And its rugs of soft Socony.

To him, Musterole aquiver,
Listened and her heart gave answer.
All the warmth of love she gave him
Gave her Rubberset affection
Gave her heart to Instant Postum.
Thus he won her -- thus he took her.

Passed the years in quick succession;
Little Fairies came to bless them --
Gold-Dust twins and bright BVD,
Little Beechnut, Wrigley Spearmint,
Vici Kid and Pluto Water
Filled the wigwam with their laughter.

So they lived in happy union
Safe in peace and strong in warfare;
And they progeny continues,
Finds a place in town and hamlet
Known and loved by every mortal --
All the tribes are held in honor.

This the legend I have told you.
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