Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Jewel of a Thanksgiving

Picture this:  you’re seven years old, and living in an apartment complex with indoor corridors. One fine November morning as you step outside to leave for school, you notice a newspaper with your Mom’s picture on the front page, sitting on every doorstep. Well, that’s exactly what happened to me in November of 1970.

It wasn’t a newspaper in this case, of course, but rather a weekly advertising paper for Jewel Food Stores, the leading Chicago-area supermarket chain. My mother was working as a freelance advertising model at the time, and unbeknownst to me she’d just completed this shoot for “The Jewel”.

Excited about her newfound fame, I bolted back into the apartment, screaming “Mom, you’re in the paper!!” or something along that line. Mom was excited too, but in a different way. She proceeded to run down the hall in her bathrobe (letting out a small shriek, if I remember correctly) and picked up every single one of those ads from the doorsteps, lest the neighbors see them and recognize her. (My apologies to our ex-neighbors for having missed out on Jewel’s outstanding 1970 Thanksgiving deals. I hope you enjoyed the holiday nonetheless.)

Now you’re probably wondering how they prepared that beautiful, incredibly appetizing turkey Mom is holding in the picture, aren’t you?  That’s simple – they took a nice, big, raw turkey hen and varnished it.  You know, there’s nothing like a coat of Minwax to bring out a rich, festive glow in the ‘ol holiday bird. (Delicious-looking turkey simulated by professionals in a faux dining room. Please don’t try this at home.) The aroma left something to be desired, however: “I had to stand there and smile and hold that platter for an hour. I couldn’t wait to get out of there. I thought I was gonna die!” she says.

She must not have let the strain show, though, because Jewel apparently liked her work enough to hire her for some ads for Turn-Style, their discount store division, a few months later. 

Another photo from this shoot appeared in a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune. Amazingly, Jewel used this photo in the Trib for three successive Thanksgiving seasons, 1970, ’71 and ’72 – the latter appearing more than a year after my mother ceased modeling work altogether. (At least one of those years, the photo was in color. Of course we wouldn’t save one of those now, would we? ) The November 20, 1972 version is pictured below, courtesy of ProQuest. I dig it, not only for Mom’s presence, obviously, but also because it’s the most complete listing of Jewel-Osco stores from that era I’ve ever seen. Those of us who are retail history fans (and isn’t everyone, at heart?), can appreciate that. 

Below, the rest of the pages from the advertising flyer.

And let me extend to you my “unvarnished” wishes for a very happy Thanksgiving!


  1. You should have your mom write a guest post about her misadventures in modeling. Most of us couldn't hold a varnished turkey for an hour and still look good doing it.

  2. I got a good laugh from the mental picture of your mother, probably not fully awake, running down the corridor grabbing papers like mad! Bless her heart! A classic kind of grocery store ad, though, and I am glad you shared the "behind the scenes" story about it!

  3. I took a good look at the wine page and noticed the $0.98 wine-Mogen David "Cold Bear" wine. Mogen David products can still be found in less discriminating merchants under the name "MD 20/20". And I can't say that I've ever seen a wine label with a polar bear on it either.

  4. Every Jewel at the time? Gee, I wonder if it has Dixie Square. There was a brief time that Jewel-Osco had stores in Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma, too, if only for less than a year.

    1. Yup, "15201 S. Dixie Highway, Harvey". The Texas, Oklahoma and Florida stores came several years later.

  5. Great photo of your mom, Dave! It is obvious where your love for retails comes from

  6. Two bucks for a 12pack of PBR? I want to go back in time to the 1970 Holiday season and then return to 2013 with all that beer! Happy holidays!

  7. My grandfather more than likely did this ad and shoot. Jewel was a big account for him. I'm trying to find his last work for jewel. Their jewel osco brand fabric softener with a sketch in the box of a woman throwing a sheet into the dryer, that's how I came across your page! He either did the shoot on Harvey street in oak park or his actually business office 400 N Michigan, Wrigley building. I have many of his old ads for Pontiac, wells Fargo ect...ect...Your mom is beautiful, he wouldn't have picked another! Thanks for this great site.

  8. Cushing Advertising did this advertisement.