Saturday, February 24, 2018

Lobster Tanks and the Not-So-Holy Grail


I am old.

Old.

How old?

Well, I'm so old that I was a kid in an era when even the best mother could leave a child completely alone in a supermarket, standing in front of the lobster tank while she did all her grocery shopping, and she could be perfectly certain that the little tyke would still be standing there, safe and sound, when she returned for him! Provided he stayed there while she shopped, that is.

And "he" being "me," of course I stayed there! I used to stand by the lobster tank in whatever grocery store my mother chose to shop in, and she knew I wouldn't leave until she came back.

Y'see, fellow babies, I was fascinated by lobsters as a pre-schooler. In fact, the very first superhero I ever created as a five-or-six-year-old was the rather unimaginative "Lobster Man." He looked like a cooked lobster, bright red with a blue cape that had a big "L" on it.

I received a lobster toy or two, but it took what felt like years of pleading with my mom to buy a real lobster for me before she actually broke down and acquiesced. But when we finally got it home, I was horrified to learn that my mother intended to cook the thing!

You may be thinking "Awww, how sweet. Even at that young age, the little Silver Foxlet couldn't stand the thought of the lobster being boiled alive."

And you'd be wrong.

Screw the stupid lobster. I was just pissed off that I was being gypped out of getting a pet!

*  *  *  *  *

And somewhere around the same stage of my life came another childhood fixation: Speedy Alka-Seltzer!


I don't specifically remember any television commercials featuring Speedy, the mascot for Alka-Seltzer tablets. But somewhere during my very early years, I developed a fascination for the little guy. A pharmacy I sometimes accompanied my mother to had a cardboard promotional stand-up for Alka-Seltzer, probably, if not exactly, like the four-feet-high one shown above. The combination of my mom's indulgence of her young son's wishes, plus the same kind of pleading which got me the live lobster, eventually convinced my mother to ask the pharmacist for the stand-up display!

He said yes. And I'm pretty sure he didn't charge her for the thing, although she probably offered to pay him something.

But even more exciting for little ol' me was this little sucker!


Again approximately four feet high (including its base), this was made out of an unknown (to me) material. Hard plastic, ceramic... I dunno. And he even talked and sang... sort of. He didn't move at all, IIRC, but those holes in his Alka-Seltzer tablet "belly" was where Speedy's voice came from.

This giant Speedy figure was at the end of an aisle in one of the supermarkets which my mother frequented. Instead of stationing me at their lobster tank, my mom would leave me at the end of said aisle while she shopped for our food.

I can still recall part of the song that he sang, and it was not the familiar "Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz" jingle that became popular years later. The whole song & speech probably lasted less than a minute.

There was only one minor problem. The Speedy display was about four feet from floor level. I, as a four or five-year-old, couldn't reach the button to start the damned thing!


Luckily, I wasn't shy where my selfish little wants were concerned. Every single time the recording ended, I would approach some total stranger, male or female, and say "Mister?" (or "Lady?"), and then ask if he or she would push that button for me. And of course, they would.

Now, just in case you're wondering about the whole "not-so-holy grail" bit in the title, let's just say that the talking and singing Speedy Alka-Seltzer is the ultimate collectible for me. I'd probably part with almost every other collectible I own in exchange for a working model of this one. In approximately twenty years, I've seen one listed on eBay, and the bidding had reached $4000 or so before the auction was cancelled for whatever reason.

So, do you know anyone who has one that they'd consider selling?

Thanks for your time.

19 comments:

  1. haha she knew how to amuse you while she shopped. Such trauma getting gypped out of a pet lobster. Can't say I've ever seen one of them. I'll stay on the lookout though as I've seen lots of weird stuff during my recent travels.

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  2. Great. Now all I have to do is come up with several thousand dollars to buy one!

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  3. A real lobster for a pet that is unique. It probably wouldn't be a good idea to try and pet it or anything. I've never heard of Speedy the Alka Seltzer guy, but the plop, plop fizz fizz was a great advertising slogan. I wonder if taking one would make this flu go away. I have been terribly sick for days. I know I'm whining and no one likes a whiner.

    I found this especially for you! Enjoy

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bxjb2UJZ-5I

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    1. Thanks for the link. And no, I wouldn't try to pet a lobster.

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  4. I love lobsters but here are really expensive!
    and a pet ?? never I think that !! original and curious!

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    1. I was a very original and curious kid, Gloria.

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  5. What a great pet a lobster would be. I picture Orson and the lobster cuddling together. The lobster would want to sleep on your pillow. As for Speedy, I've never seen him before, but if I find him, I'll let you know.

    Love,
    Janie

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    Replies
    1. I couldn't understand why my mother wanted to eat him.

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  6. Have you seen the movie, The Lobster? I want to see it. I see those lobsters in the tank and feel bad for them but...I do love lobster with melted butter...double yum! Didn’t Alka have a girlfriend or is tha my imagination working overtime?? Sorry but I don’t know anyone with Alka

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    Replies
    1. I don't recall Speedy Alka-Seltzer having a girlfriend. Not in my era, anyway. But the Pillsbury Doughboy did.

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    2. I saw the movie. It was strange but interesting.

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  7. Loved this! I don't remember lobster tanks at the grocery until I was older. Probably more common in Massachusetts than in Illinois or Ohio. haha. If I ever see the Alka Seltzer advert at an auction, I'll be sure to let you know!

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    1. Lobster tanks disappeared from my area for several years, as the prices got prohibitively higher in the late 1960s.

      \Aren't there any lobsters in Ohio? Oh, well, you have tornadoes there, and we New Englanders don't.

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    2. We have a lobster tank at my Kroger. Very common now, but not when I was a kid!

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  8. Your story and these snapshots are mighty endearing. And now a little jingle is going through my head: "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, Oh what a relief it is!"

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    1. Catchy tune, innit? I actually have an LP from the '70s where Sammy Davis, Jr., is singing two different versions of that song!

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  9. Alka-S didn't operate in the parts of the world I was in as a child, but children being safe left alone in public spaces? Totally relate!!

    A lobster is a very original pet to have on a wishlist. Good your mum cooked it, a nip with those pincers wouldn't be funny at all.

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    Replies
    1. I seem to have surprised a few of my readers with my choice of a pet.

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