The Fate of Old Spice
By Bill Cherry
Galvestonians, Marie Hutchings and her sister, Billie Levy, founded and ran Galveston's annual December event, The Family Dance.
It began in 1949, and continues today.
It's kind of weird. It's a club with a once a year event.
The purpose is to get members and their teenagers in the same room for dinner, ballroom dancing and other frivolity.
Those who have turned 16 since the last Family Dance are presented to the group, walking down the aisle escorted usually by their mom or dad while the orchestra plays, maybe, "Stella by Starlight."
What's interesting is that this rather innocuous club all but destroyed the use of Old Spice shaving lotion and cologne in Galveston.
And once that happened, stores had no interest in putting it on their shelves, and didn't for decades.
In the 1950s, teenagers wanted to dress and act like their moms and dads, even to the boys regularly stopping by the U.S. National Barber Shop for a fifty-cent spit shine by Jim or Sam.
I had to sit on the edge of the shine stand chair so that my feet would reach the foot forms. And that part hasn't changed much for me all of these decades later.
A new charcoal gray wool suit with contrasting vest, pink shirt and pink and black tie, and a fresh haircut were "in."
Our dads were quite a bit more conservative.
And don't let me forget the black loafers with tassels from Leopold's. Awesome grown-up shoes.
They looked like golf shoes without laces and cleats.
Then came a dab that quickly turned into a splash or two of Old Spice.
Even though we weren't old enough to shave, smelling like dad was what was important.
And there was another benefit.
Putting on lots of Old Spice would assure us that everyone in the room would turn to see who had just come in the door with their date.
By the way, she had on a new short evening dress with lots of petty coats underneath and a "beginner's" strapless bra that she would spend the rest of the evening jerking into place.
And there was the wrist corsage delivered by the florist to her earlier in the day.
Regardless of the venue, whether at the Family Dance or in the Ball High auto shop working on their '47 Ford, a boy needed his Old Spice.
I feel certain that this addiction to Old Spice had permeated even to the boys dancing on American Bandstand.
Finally, after a decade of Old Spice addiction across America, girls rose up in protest.
"Either stop wearing this stuff, or quit asking me for a date," although probably paraphrased, came out of many female mouths.
We got the message.
And now you know why Old Spice disappeared from shelves in Galveston and across America, and it took more than 50 years for it to return.
Copyright 2015 - William S. Cherry
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