“And if you’re looking for squid…”
I thought these would make nice companion pieces to the Dominick’s post from last week. Three early 70’s-vintage TV commercials for Dominick’s, shown here courtesy of Rick Klein’s incredible Museum of Classic Chicago Television ("Fuzzy Memories")website. Believe me, anyone who grew up in Chicago in the late 20th century could while away days there, and even if you didn’t, there's lots to enjoy.
I love these commercials for several reasons – first, obviously, because they’re from the golden era of Dominick’s - a chain my family patronized with ridiculous frequency in my childhood. Beyond that, they’re some of the most interesting and fun commercials of their kind – giving an overview of the shopping experience as opposed to “this week’s specials”.
Most importantly, though, they provide a textbook example of a true “Chicawgo” accent, courtesy of spokeswoman Elaine Mulqueen. These commercials were produced for Dominick’s by Elaine and her husband Jack. The Mulqueens had been well-known Chicago TV personalities in the 1960’s, hosting a children’s program entitled “Kiddie-a-Go-Go”, a sort of American Bandstand for the grade-school set. (A film clip of the show appears below.)
Elaine played “Pandora”, the happy harlequin in charge of the proceedings. The show was one of the very first rock-and –roll programs to originate from Chicago, and it gave key exposure to 60’s Chicago rockers such the Buckinghams and the New Colony Six, who would go on have a few national hits. The Mulqueens took no small amount of flak for the show, usually criticisms of “the effect of rock-and-roll and dancing on young minds” and that kind of thing. Mrs. Mulqueen passed away last year at age 80.
Originally airing on the ABC affiliate, WLS Channel 7, the show later moved to WGN Channel 9, then ultimately to WCIU Channel 26. In our house, we got a good signal from Channel 26 - as long as the winds were blowing from the east, there was aluminum foil on the antennas, and you kept your left hand on top of the TV set at all times. Ah, the joys of UHF!
Back to Chicago accents, despite growing up in the Chicago area, I didn’t hear that accent around the house in my early years except on TV. My Mom is from Georgia, and any trace of a southern accent she had was lost to years of dramatic training in high school and college. My Dad is from Rhode Island, and his accent, though softened through the decades, is still recognizable as such. People who meet me generally don’t think I have a Chicago accent. (Except when dining at Portillo's.)
But when I hear Mrs. Mulqueen’s accent, it transports me back to those days of visiting friends’ houses after school. Straightforward, but calming and sincere. Interested in what was going on in my life. A few years older than my folks. Smiling, and ready with a plate of milk and cookies for us to devour. Heinemann’s cookies and Heritage House milk from Dominick’s, of course.