Archive for January, 2009

The pendulum of poverty: sandwich boards and streetwalkers

January 28, 2009

By David Farside

As the pendulum of poverty and hard times slowly swings in our direction, the signs of the past are becoming more noticeable. High unemployment, banks going under, foreclosures on mortgages and our life savings have evaporated somewhere in capitalism’s free market system. And these are only a few examples.

Solutions learned from past recessions and the Great Depression will soon tilt the momentum of the Republican’s weapon of destruction for the masses (ultra right conservatism) towards the fulcrum of economic prosperity.

In politics, the Democrats will polish off the remnants of the “new deal ” and Franklin Roosevelt will soon be joined by Barack Obama as the Democrats savior and deity of our society, culture and economic future. Obama’s coronation crowned him the liberal leader of the free world and the rest will be history- maybe.

There are many obvious signs of hard times on street corners and sidewalks, both locally and nationally For Example, human billboards; street walkers carrying small billboards (directives), board-walkers and sandwich boards advertising goods and services are growing all across the country like little seeds of prosperity.

Locally, Round Table Pizza is using board directives on street corners advertising their lunch buffet.

Builders were flooding the sidewalks last year with people of all ages carrying signs with an arrow pointing the way to there reasonably priced $350,000 new homes. That should have been an indicator of hard times ahead. We all should have sold our stock and followed the arrow to our safe deposit boxes.

Another sign of hard times on the horizon was illustrated by Liberty Tax Services. To compete with H&R Block, their board walkers not only carry the board with the directional arrow, they dress like the Statue of Liberty.

More recently, I saw a local Jiffy Lube using a board directive. They had one of their employees stand on the sidewalk with a board indicating their stalls were empty and there was “no waiting to get you car serviced.” Five minutes later their stalls were filled.

In large cities like Chicago and New York, sandwich boards are carried around town to advertise almost everything including plays, museums and the arts.

Board-walkers are not limited to tourists enjoying the boardwalks of Atlantic City or even the wooden sidewalks of Virginia City. During the depression, board-walkers were men carrying boards advertising stores, food products and special events. The walking billboards were directives designed to create more business at a minimal cost.

The sandwich boards consisted of two plywood boards tied together and draped over the shoulders of the walker. They displayed more advertisements and information that could be seen from the front and back of the walker. The boards were large heavy and cumbersome. You had to be in pretty good shape to be a sandwich board walker.

The concept of sandwich-board advertising evolved dramatically in the mid 1940s and early 1950s. After World War II, movies such as the “Wild Ones” and “A Street Car Named Desire” both staring Marlin Brando, and “Rebel Without a Cause” staring James (Jimmy) Dean, started a teenage revolution for fashion creating a new medium for sandwich-board style advertising – the t-shirt.

T-shirts, jeans and black leather jackets worn by the rivaling motorcycle clubs in the movies were gradually making their way into the school rooms. Previously t-shirts were considered underwear and could not be worn in public schools.

The t-shirt came out of the closet during the first World War. In 1913, the U.S. Navy issued t-shirts to sailors as a new type of underwear. In World War II, over 12 million men were wearing t-shirts as underwear and outer shirts. The newsreels from the front lines showed the men in their shirts which gradually made their way to the movies.

Businesses tried to print their advertisements on the t-shirts but couldn’t find the right ink or process to make them stick to the cloth until the mid 1950s. However, in 1939 there was a “Wizard of Oz” promotional t-shirt, it is a rare collectible today. Another collectible t-shirt displayed in the Smithsonian Institute was a political one used in New York Gov. Thomas Dewey’s presidential campaign in 1948. It read “do it with Dewey.” Now, t-shirts are worn as underwear and over wear with advertisements on the front and back.

The pendulum of poverty will cast its shadow over most of us for the next four years. Our new president will be the fulcrum of a different and new America. Prosperity will return turn and the ugly head of war will drown in its own blood. Our stem cell research, foreign policy and affordable health care for everyone will change the worlds negative opinion of us fashioned by former President George W. Bush.

But for those of you wanting extra income in these hard times, maybe you should start you own human billboard business. When you grandchildren ask you how you survived Bush’s presidency of war and economic collapse, you can tell them because of George you survived on sandwich boards and became a professional streetwalker.