Sunday, January 02, 2000

Let's toast anniversaries!




BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Here's a tragic thought: Some people have run out of things to toast, what with all the bubbly getting lifted for the last day of one century and the first of another.

        Don't you just hate it? Holding a glassful and nothing to clink about?

        Well, cheer up. There are still a few things needing a toast that maybe you forgot about in the New Year's Eve frenzy. Raise your glasses, please, and join us . . .

        A FEW 50THs: They deserve it, don't you think? Surviving 50 years and all:

        • How about one for what seems to us a pretty earth shaking birthday. It was 50 years ago this year that Lady Clairol introduced Miss Clairol Hair Color, a product particularly dear to our heart. The big deal with Clairol, as opposed to the other stuff on the market back then, is that it cut application time in half.

        • And not that any of us are too lazy to cook it the right way, but how about a toast for Minute Rice? Like our friend Miss Clairol, it's celebrating a 50th birthday in the coming year.

        • And one more for one Mr. Gerald Blitz. Don't recognize the name? Wellsir, back in 1950, as Europe was still recovering from the war, he set up a bunch of tents on Majorca, off the coast of Spain. He called his getaway camp Club Med, short for Mediterranean back then, today short for “a really nice place where even legal secretaries can lighten up.”

        A FEW 100s: Well sure, 50 years of survival is great, but 100 is better. Consider . . .

        • The paper clip, as in the things people bend out of shape and use to clear up ear wax during boring phone conversations, celebrates 100 this year. It was invented by one Johann Vaaler, who no one ever heard of before or since.

        • Baseball cards made their debut in 1900 as well. At first, they were given away with cigarettes, but that seemed too politically incorrect, since it was a bunch of kids collecting them. So card publishers thoughtfully switched to bubble gum, thereby rotting America's teeth, but saving its lungs.

        • And not to ruin anyone's day or anything, but the College Entrance Examination Board is also 100 years old. These are the fine folks who bring us the annual nail-biter known as the SATs.

        • And a touch of birthday news for people who don't like to Walk This Way: Philadelphia shoemaker William Young introduced the concept of different shoes for the right and left foot in 1900. Until then, people were doing a sort of one-side-fits-all thing and getting crabby in those stiletto heels.

        A FEW 200s: And for goodness sakes, if something survives 200 years, well, then it really has survived the test of time.

        • Mayonnaise, for example. It was introduced in the U.S. 200 years ago and was considered a right exotic delicacy. Especially when you think how egg salad must have tasted without it.

        • Or batteries. One Alessandro Volta invented the first one — the Voltaic pile, he called it — thereby proving chemical action of moisture and two different metals can generate electricity. Remember that for the aforementioned SATs. Also remember also that the volt, a unit of electrical measurement, is named after him. And remember, also, your VCR remote isn't worth diddly without him.

        • Finally, the Christmas Tree. It became a tradition in the English-speaking world 200 years ago when England's Queen Charlotte, remembering the fun she had trimming one in Germany, slapped one up in her royal residence. High powered vacuum cleaners — pine needles you know — followed about 20 minutes later.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.