I looked at the logo on the coffee cup I use a couple of times every week and started thinking about how some brands and people take me back to being a kid every time.
That elongated S for Studebaker transports me to the days I always rode in the back seat with my two brothers. Dad bought a succession of Studebakers through the 1950s and mid-60s, sold on the company and the trusted Werner dealership he favored. I remember how foreign the back seat of that 1965 Ford Galaxie felt.
There are few brands that feel so linked to my childhood – but there are a few.
Godzilla: The American version of this classic monster movie, starring Raymond Burr as reporter Steve Martin, was ubiquitous on TV in those days. It feels like I watched it dozens of times before I was 10. “A trilobite! A three-winged worm that was thought to be extinct …”
Erie: The Erie Railroad had a branch that ran past our backyard. When it merged with the Lackawanna, we watched for the first sight of the Erie-Lackawanna logo on the freight engines and box cars that rolled past.
Neil Sedaka: The first musical artist that caught my ear. I remember hearing “Calendar Girl” on WKBW when my brother pulled that far-away Buffalo station in on his radio one night, and not long afterward “Little Devil” was one of the first in my thousands of musical purchases. I’m not sure I realized it was the same guy at first. Getting to interview Sedaka on the phone was one of the thrills of my grown-up career; he was charming and accommodating to this old fan boy.
Soupy Sales and Diver Dan were TV heroes; Two Guys was an early New Jersey version of the big box store (formal name Two Guys From Harrison), Forest Hills Factory Outlet was a must when we went on vacation in the Burlington, Vermont, area.
And while encountering my first Spider-Man in Vermont was a turning point, it’s the comic book Strange Tales that evokes the same feeling as the Studebaker S. Our parents always gave us a quarter to buy comics at the Milton IGA, and it was a tradition to pick up a Superman or a Flash or something to read at the cabin. One year I spent the whole 25 cents on Strange Tales Annual #1, a big fat collection of fun scary and science fiction stories. Imagine my glee a year later to discover the geniuses behind Strange Tales were branching out into superheroes. Actually, I take that back: I was a little disappointed that the lead story in Strange Tales Annual #2 was some guy who burst into flames and fought bad guys. I love those Serlingesque little tales better.
Spider-Man turned my annual comics vacation into a year-round pursuit, Studebaker stopped building cars, and Sedaka gave way to the likes of Tommy James and Creedence and Joni Mitchell. The boy became a man – actually, no, the boy just got older.