One of the time-honored gimmicks used by businesses is a mascot, especially mascots geared towards kids. They have spent years of research and a lot of money to figure out the best ways to get kids involved in the consumer business. Obviously, most kids don’t have a lot of money of their own, so the businesses come up with things the kids want so bad that they drive their parents nuts until they buy it for them. In the case of a mascot, they had to appeal to kids. In the Sixties, clowns did the trick.
There were clowns on television, clowns on cereal boxes, clown toys, and a clown at a restaurant chain. It was the restaurant clown that caught my attention. This one came with food, a favorite hobby of mine. All the kids knew when this clown would be at the local restaurant. When it happened, there were often free burgers or fries involved. What more could a kid want?
Back in the Sixties, free was still something that meant free. Today, free usually has a catch. It might be magazines, or a four-year lease, or even a way for law enforcement to catch you. They send you a card that says you won something, you show up to collect it, and then you’re in handcuffs. We just can’t resist the word, “free.”
Anyway, my parents understood that free burgers or fries meant free food for us kids and a savings for them. It wasn’t too hard to beg for this. The clown was just a bonus. He just walked around and handed out coloring books while we ate the free food. Those were the days.
Clowns are a little different today. Thanks to a host of horror movies, a serial killer named John Wayne Gacy, and a great loss of innocence in youth, clowns are scary. My youngest son once told me they just creep him out. I told him about the free burgers, but that didn’t seem to help. I’m sure he envisioned poison in the burgers or something like that.
It’s a shame that what amused me as a child simply doesn’t exist today. We live in such an information-rich and violent society that innocence is often lost before a child enters Kindergarten. Of course, this isn’t true for everybody, but when an innocent four-year-old girl gets shot while jumping rope in front of her house, this steals the innocence of all the other children who knew her. When kids are watching a dance on television and the dancers are bumping and grinding, there’s little left for imagination later. This becomes life for these children and they often will imitate what they see or know.
Clown’s used to be one of the ways we could escape the realities of life and see through a different set of eyes for just a moment. Red Skelton was an awesome clown that not only amused us but also often taught us how to smile at what life would bring us. It’s not that bad. Look at the clown. It could be worse.
I say we need to get back to the days of free burgers and clowns. That was just good stuff.