Back to School Advertising in the Days of Yesteryear

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As with the month of August, back to school season is upon us once more. Soon the kids will be going back to school and/or leaving for college. Yet, if the kids aren’t back to school by now, this is the time to get them ready with back to school shopping. And the wonderful spirit of advertising is bound to help you find the best products and deals for your child’s back to school needs. Of course, this is because back to school season is a big time for American business since a lot of retail giants make a ton of money. And if that retail giant is like Staples, then it’s “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” to quote from their 1990s commercial in which the dad is basically prancing around the store while his children sulk in misery. This parent loves back to school shopping since he knows it’s a time when he can get the little ones off his back and Staples is happy to oblige him. Yet, there are some downsides to back to school shopping. Sometimes the ads feature back to school clothes that may be what Little Susie wants but don’t conform to the school dress code or make her resemble a child streetwalker. Then there’s Timmy who wants a Grand Theft Auto stationery set so he could impress all his friends even though you wonder how he’s able to play that game in the first place since he’s like ten. Oh, and there’s Nate who is all tied up with high school football camp at the moment while Tammy wants a binder with Justin Bieber’s face on it. I could go on and on about the great vintage back to school season ads but you probably wouldn’t enjoy it. Instead, I’ll show an assortment of vintage ads that seem a bit crazy to us nowadays. So without further adieu, here’s a treasury of the old back to school ads people tend to forget.

1. For the college boy in the 1950s, here’s Tom Sawyer college stripes.

Of course, Jimmy's mom picked the outfit for him thinking it would make him seem sharp. However, Jimmy thinks wearing such outfit would make him the laughingstock at Ole Miss and is currently devising a plan to murder his mother in her sleep.

Of course, Jimmy’s mom picked the outfit for him thinking it would make him seem sharp. However, Jimmy thinks wearing such outfit would make him the laughingstock at Ole Miss and is currently devising a plan to murder his mother in her sleep.

2. For the teacher, here’s a bottle of Teacher’s Scotch to help you through a day in the classroom.

Teacher's is actually a brand of scotch whiskey. Yet, this

Teacher’s is actually a brand of scotch whiskey. Yet, this “Are we serious about not drinking Teacher’s on Saturday?” can also have another meaning entirely. I wonder if their TV ad campaigns have people confusing “drinking Teacher’s” with “drinking teachers.”

3. Teacher, what fabric will clothes be woven in America’s future?

Now I don't know about you, but I know little kids don't ask questions about fabric or what not. Also, the little girl's pinafore is way too short and the boy's shirt is pink which will probably lead him to getting beat up at recess. Oh, and what the hell is the teacher wearing?

Now I don’t know about you, but I know little kids don’t ask questions about fabric or what not. Also, the little girl’s pinafore is way too short and the boy’s shirt is pink which will probably lead him to getting beat up at recess. Oh, and what the hell is the teacher wearing?

4. So for the college bound boys out there, remember that girls are very attracted to men who reek the smell of nicotine.

This is one of a quite a few back to school season ads that targets smoking to college students. Sure Jerry's nicotine addiction might make him a hit with the ladies in college but he's headed through a dark future of emphysema, lung cancer, yellow teeth, heart disease, respiratory disease, halitosis, and early death. Sure Jerry is a smoking hot stud now, but he'll end his days as a very sick man.

This is one of a quite a few back to school season ads that targets smoking to college students. Sure Jerry’s nicotine addiction might make him a hit with the ladies in college but he’s headed through a dark future of emphysema, lung cancer, yellow teeth, heart disease, respiratory disease, halitosis, and early death. Sure Jerry is a smoking hot stud now, but he’ll end his days as a very sick man.

5. In 1937, it was perfectly all right for teachers to endorse their favorite brand of cigarettes.

Sure this ad is from 1937, but it basically features a teacher who's basically endorsing tobacco products, which doesn't make him a good teacher. Also, he seems to act rather pervy to Miss Hepplewhite whom I'm not sure is one of Mr. Throckmorton's faculty colleague or possibly his student. Just hope that Miss Hepplewhite is a student.

Sure this ad is from 1937, but it basically features a teacher who’s basically endorsing tobacco products, which doesn’t make him a good teacher. Also, he seems to act rather pervy to Miss Hepplewhite whom I’m not sure is one of Mr. Throckmorton’s faculty colleague or possibly his student. Just hope that Miss Hepplewhite is a teacher because the student-teacher romance dynamic isn’t what I want to see in advertising.

6. Want to fit into college? Then start smoking!

Yes, college kids, buy Camel cigarettes today or else that girl in the picture will go to your dorm room and strangle you to death in your bed. Seriously, she's so terrifying that we had to shoot this ad in black and white since her teeth are yellow.

Yes, college kids, buy Camel cigarettes today or else that girl in the picture will go to your dorm room and strangle you to death in your bed. Seriously, she’s so terrifying that we had to shoot this ad in black and white since her teeth are yellow.

7. For the school nurse, treat the kiddie cuts with Mercurochrome.

Warning: Contains mercury which is a poisonous element that you don't want in  your bloodstream. Pulled from the US market by the FDA in 2008. Yet, at the time the ad was made, it was over the counter.

Warning: Contains mercury which is a poisonous element that you don’t want in your bloodstream. Pulled from the US market by the FDA in 2008. Yet, at the time the ad was made, it was over the counter.

8. Of course, we can’t forget underwear for your child’s back to school needs.

Yes, these are tidy whiteys and that's a teacher with a kid. Still, this isn't an appropriate show of teacher and student relations. Also, why feature a student and teacher in their underwear at all? It just seems creepy if you ask me.

Yes, these are tidy whiteys and that’s a teacher with a kid. Still, this isn’t an appropriate show of teacher and student relations. Also, why feature a student and teacher in their underwear at all? It just seems creepy if you ask me.

9. Yes, drink 7UP for a fresh, clean, taste during your awkward moments in high school.

Sure this group perhaps consist of a bunch of good looking rich kids with their fancy cars and fur coats. Yet, while this may seem like an after school double date, notice that the guy in the back seat is touching the front seat driver's shoulder. And the driver doesn't really seem to mind for some reason. Considering that this ad was made in the highly homophobic 1950s, it makes me wonder about the two guys'

Sure this group perhaps consist of a bunch of good looking rich kids with their fancy cars and fur coats. Yet, while this may seem like an after school double date, notice that the guy in the back seat is touching the front seat driver’s shoulder. And the driver doesn’t really seem to mind for some reason. Considering that this ad was made in the highly homophobic 1950s, it makes me wonder about the two guys’ “friendship.”

10. Apparently Principal Henry Dingbat had a tendency to hire a lot of young and attractive teachers at the local elementary school.

And every year, Mr. Dingbat would stare down his window ogling at the young teachers wondering which one he was going to get lucky with.

And every year, Mr. Dingbat would stare down his window ogling at the young teachers wondering which one of them he was going to get lucky with or whether he had to fire her after knocking her up.

11. Join the Schools at War program and show your American patriotism.

Yes, I know this is a back to school season ad from World War II. Yet, you have to wonder whether

Yes, I know this is a back to school season ad from World War II. Yet, you have to wonder whether “Schools at War” should be an appropriate slogan. Of course, we know what’s probably going to happen with the boy collecting metal things come his senior year if it’s before 1945.

12. Coffee, a perfect drink for a date at a Saturday afternoon football game.

Sure the guy and the girl may be holding hands but the man looks too old to be your conventional 18-22 college student. Rather he seems more like a middle aged professor to me. Let's just hope the woman isn't his student, which would make this ad kind of disturbing if she was.

Sure the guy and the girl may be holding hands but the man looks too old to be your conventional 18-22 college student. Rather he seems more like a middle aged professor to me. Then again, maybe it’s the trenchcoat and fedora aging him. Let’s just hope the woman isn’t his student, which would make this ad kind of disturbing if she was.

13. Which senior will you be watching this graduation day?

I don't know about graduation. However, we've all remember the creepy blond guy in the bowtie and the blue

I don’t know about graduation. However, we’ve all remember the creepy blond guy in the bowtie and the blue “M” shirt. That guy, my friend is future 3 time Academy Award winner, Jack Nicholson who’d later dye his hair dark and star in movies like Chinatown, The Shining, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Five Easy Pieces, and many others. Yes, this guy is going to be big after graduation.

14. Become an unforgettable and disarming woman by buying stockings of course.

Seriously, I would've been fine if this was just a vintage picture in Playboy geared toward men and encouraging them to seek out smarter women with big books on their shelves instead of big boobs. Since this is an ad to sell hosiery, I just have to be disappointed. Seriously all the women you read about may be unforgettable and disarming, but many of them did it without wearing hosiery. So does putting on that ad kind of defeat the purpose?

Seriously, I would’ve been fine if this was just a vintage picture in Playboy geared toward men and encouraging them to seek out smarter women with big books on their shelves instead of big boobs. Since this is an ad to sell hosiery, I just have to be disappointed. Seriously all the women you read about may be unforgettable and disarming, but many of them did it without wearing hosiery. So does putting on that ad kind of defeat the purpose?

15. Now you, too can have your own notebook containing a picture of your favorite teen heartthrob whether it be David Cassidy or Donny Osmond?

Let's just say that if you want to embarrass your mother, ask her if she actually had a notebook featuring either of these two guys. Of course, I wonder if they have one those notebooks with Michael Douglas' picture on them and if my mom had one. Then again, she probably had a notebook with Starsky and Hutch, too.

Let’s just say that if you want to embarrass your mother, ask her if she actually had a notebook featuring either of these two guys. Of course, I wonder if they have one those notebooks with Michael Douglas’ picture on them and if my mom had one. Then again, she probably had a notebook with Starsky and Hutch, too.

16. Wear the perfect hosiery and soon you’d have a guy staring up your skirt in the library.

And this is where a young Bill Nye the Science Guy discovered the wonders of human sexuality and reproduction both in a theoretical and literal sense. The woman's identity remains a secret to this day.

And this is where a young Bill Nye the Science Guy discovered the wonders of human sexuality and reproduction both in a theoretical and literal sense. For him it was the best day in high school he’d ever have. The female’s identity remains a secret to this day.

17. For your platter parties, here’s a spam pizza from Kraft and Spam.

Because if all that smoking in college doesn't kill you in the future, this spam pizza dish certainly will. I mean a 2 oz. serving contains 15 g of fat,  174 calories, and 767 mg of sodium. Basically, eat enough on it and you'll be a joke of a Monty Python sketch and die from cardiovascular disease.

Because if all that smoking in college doesn’t kill you in the future, this spam pizza dish certainly will. I mean a 2 oz. serving contains 15 g of fat, 174 calories, and 767 mg of sodium. Basically, eat enough on it and you’ll be a joke of a Monty Python sketch and die from cardiovascular disease.

18. Nothing is sexier than seeing a guy play the accordion.

Of course, the reason why she may date a guy playing the accordion is: A. He's the best looking available guy in school. B. Her parents like him and she doesn't want to let them down. C. His family is rich enough to own a yacht and a hunting lodge. D. She's secretly gay. E. She just simply loves polka music and Lawrence Welk for some reason. Or F. All of the above.

Of course, the reason why she may date a guy playing the accordion is: A. He’s the best looking available guy in school. B. Her parents like him and she doesn’t want to let them down. C. His family is rich enough to own a yacht and a hunting lodge. D. She’s secretly gay. E. She just simply loves polka music and Lawrence Welk for some reason. Or F. All of the above.

19. Some people go to school in a building, others outside in the open air.

Now if this classroom were set where I live, the kids would get a lot of days off, usually due to rain, snow, thunderstorms, ice, and what not. This is why outdoor classrooms aren't very practical.

Now if this classroom were set where I live, the kids would get a lot of days off, usually due to rain, snow, thunderstorms, ice, hail, wind, and what not. This is why outdoor classrooms aren’t very practical.

20. Of course, this ad shows a scene of a guy and girl studying chemistry.

Don't look now, but I think this is about to become a creepy love triangle any time soon. I mean the science teacher is totally checking that girl out which is rather disturbing if you ask me.

Don’t look now, but I think this is about to become a creepy love triangle any time soon. I mean the science teacher is totally checking that girl out which is rather disturbing if you ask me.

21. The party drink on college campuses, well, it’s 7 Up of course.

Of course, they may be talking about school sponsored activities here. However, 7 Up is used in a popular highball drink called 7 and 7. Still, let's just accept the fact that the most popular beverage on college campuses is beer and leave it at that.

Of course, they may be talking about school sponsored activities here. However, 7 Up is used in a popular highball drink called 7 and 7. Still, let’s just accept the fact that the most popular beverage on college campuses is beer and leave it at that.

22. Want to be one of the cool kids in school? Then start smoking!

Yeah, these perky kids may look cool, but be warned this is an ad that's promoting a product that should never be sold to minors at all. Yet, since this is before the later 1960s, tobacco might as well get as many kiddies hooked as it can. Expect these kids to spend the rest of their lives on a respirator with their lungs full of tar.

Yeah, these perky kids may look cool, but be warned this is an ad that’s promoting a product that should never be sold to minors at all. Yet, since this is before the later 1960s, tobacco might as well get as many kiddies hooked as it can. Expect these kids to spend the rest of their lives on a respirator with their lungs full of tar.

23. For girls going to college, take hangers, driver’s license, sewing kit, bedsheets, and ukelele?

I'm sure Bethany's obsession with Hawaiian music is going to drive her roommate Marjorie into many sleepless nights. Still, the girl seems like she doesn't have a clue.

I’m sure Bethany’s obsession with Hawaiian music is going to drive her roommate Marjorie into many sleepless nights. Still, the girl seems like she doesn’t have a clue.

24. Buy a dress like this and become a distraction to boys in the classroom.

Let's just say that the boy's inability to pay attention in school is his fault, not the girl's. I mean her dress is totally in line with dress code regulations. Yet, since a lot of girls are being blamed for distracting their fellow male students, a lot of them have to endure humiliation of being sent home to change. This isn't a good thing.

Let’s just say that the boy’s inability to pay attention in school is his fault, not the girl’s. I mean her dress is totally in line with dress code regulations. Yet, since a lot of girls are being blamed for distracting their fellow male students, a lot of them have to endure humiliation of being sent home to change. This isn’t a good thing.

25. Seems that the girls are very much into lumberjack trend for men this year.

Of course, I hope they don't find out that the guy is a crossdresser who hangs in bars, wears suspenders and a bra, and has a lot of gender identity issues. Seriously, these girls need to be prepared to be disappointed.

Of course, I hope they don’t find out that the guy is a crossdresser who hangs in bars, wears suspenders and a bra, and has a lot of gender identity issues. He also enjoys shopping a lot. Seriously, these girls need to be prepared to be disappointed.

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One response to “Back to School Advertising in the Days of Yesteryear

  1. No Spam Pizza or Cigarettes- how did I get through school?
    I don’t think my mother sent me to college with 7-Up either.
    I probably did not reach my potential!

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