Prizes & Giveaways

by Bill Newman

Since the 30's were a definite part of the depression years. Competition was keen among businesses and businessmen. It seemed that everyone that had any sort of a business also had a gimmick to promote it.

The neighborhood movie theater had all sorts of gimmicks. A strong promotion was "Dish Night". On this night a dish was given away to each adult paid admission. After attending for so many consecutive weeks it was possible to have a set of dishes. During the showing of the movie on "Dish Night" there were always about five crashes. Women would put the dish on their laps, forget it was there and during the show it would slide off.

The neighborhood movie also had bingo night and "request night". On "Request Night" an additional picture was shown. The picture was supposed to be an old one that many people wanted to see again. It was usually just old. The extra picture made three that were being shown. The show started at 7:00 PM and you could plan on leaving the theater after midnight. Walking home on a winter night was not too pleasant. There were also special give-a ways and contests for the Saturday afternoon crowd of kids.

Popsicle sticks had letters printed on the stick that could not be seen till you had eaten the popsicle (flavored ice on a stick). When you were able to spell the word "popsicle" with the various sticks you were entitled to a free popsicle.

A Dixie cup was a small cup of vanilla and chocolate ice cream. The cup covers had pictures of popular movie actresses or actors on the inside. These could be used for various games that the girls played. The boys only used them to pitch toward a wall to see who got closer. There was also a word or a number on the cup cover that entitled the bearer to a free cup of ice cream.

There were cigarette makers that sponsored contest and others that gave away a premium. There was one I liked, a cloth replica of a foreign flag was given in a box of Melachrino cigarettes. I did not smoke but I got the flags from a man in the neighborhood that did. When he got a duplicate he would give it to me.

It would be interesting to do research on the cigarettes and their give-a-ways in the 1930's. I can recall Wings, Spuds, Avons, Old Golds and Sensations as a few that are no longer around.

There were cigarette vending machines in the 30's that dispensed one cigarette for one penny. Pistachio nuts, Indian nuts and gum balls also came out of a penny vending machine. Other than for the cigarette machine, it was possible to win a small useless prize in the other machines.

Some of the downtown theaters did a brisk business in the summer because they were air conditioned. It did not seem to matter what pictures were playing. Over the marquee there was a large white flag that read, "This theater is air conditioned". A large fan continually blew on the flag. It was visible from a good distance. The hotter the day, the more business the theater did.

At the time we never realized to what lengths merchants were going to get our business, it was all a part of the times.


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