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Subject: Help me to remember a Woolworth's promotion

Written By: Moon444 on 04/13/14 at 7:41 am

Good day,

I am feeling a little nostalgic this morning and have set my sites on the nickel and dime store Woolworth. What I remember about Woolworth the most was the lunch counter that used to go on seemingly forever. :) What I need help with is remembering a promotion that Woolworth's used to do in the mid to late 70's at the lunch area booths. In NYC there used to be a huge Woolworth's and towards the back, beyond the long counter lay the lunch booth area. In this area they used to have balloons clustered together and affixed to string either hung from the ceiling or attached to the end of select booths affixed to a long pole. The balloons were low enough for the waitress to reach up and grab. Inside each balloon was a small piece of paper folded to resemble the paper you find inside of a fortune cookie. I think you had to buy something special on the menu to gain access to pick one of the balloons which the waitress would then pop to give you the paper inside. Does anyone remember this promotion and most important what was on those little papers inside the balloon?


Subject: Re: Help me to remember a Woolworth's promotion

Written By: Foo Bar on 04/15/14 at 12:47 am

http://i.imgur.com/YciGuRa.pnghttp://i.imgur.com/vDUSa5v.png

(click here for large version of full page. Google acquired PaperOfRecord's archives and now runs the Online Historical Newspapers Site, which was where I got these images.)

I was able to find a scan of the Toledo Blade from May 5, 1964, and it might help you get started on your quest.  The promo did exist, and there may have been other prizes/promos (what do you remember?) but at least in 1964, what was on the pieces of paper was the price of the item.

The official name of the promo was Woolworth's Pick-A-Balloon.  This ad was for the Pick-a-Balloon Banana Split Special:

"PICK-A-BALLOON ... and pay the price (1c to 39c) marked on the ticket incide the balloon of your choice! 3 super dips of ice cream on banana half, your favorite sauce, whipped topping and rich roasted nuts ... you pay only 1c to 39c (Reg $0.39) - Your money's worth more at Woolworth's."

Subject: Re: Help me to remember a Woolworth's promotion

Written By: Moon444 on 06/13/14 at 8:40 am


http://i.imgur.com/YciGuRa.pnghttp://i.imgur.com/vDUSa5v.png

(click here for large version of full page. Google acquired PaperOfRecord's archives and now runs the Online Historical Newspapers Site, which was where I got these images.)

I was able to find a scan of the Toledo Blade from May 5, 1964, and it might help you get started on your quest.  The promo did exist, and there may have been other prizes/promos (what do you remember?) but at least in 1964, what was on the pieces of paper was the price of the item.

The official name of the promo was Woolworth's Pick-A-Balloon.  This ad was for the Pick-a-Balloon Banana Split Special:

"PICK-A-BALLOON ... and pay the price (1c to 39c) marked on the ticket incide the balloon of your choice! 3 super dips of ice cream on banana half, your favorite sauce, whipped topping and rich roasted nuts ... you pay only 1c to 39c (Reg $0.39) - Your money's worth more at Woolworth's."


Wow, can't believe you found this! So it was the price. 39 cents for a banana split, wow now it costs like $5.00. I don't remember anything about what was on the slips of paper inside the balloon nor what you had to buy to get the balloon. This certainly clears up some of the lost memory and the links to the historical papers are a gold mine. Thanks so much for this. 

Subject: Re: Help me to remember a Woolworth's promotion

Written By: Foo Bar on 06/14/14 at 1:48 am


Wow, can't believe you found this! So it was the price. 39 cents for a banana split, wow now it costs like $5.00. I don't remember anything about what was on the slips of paper inside the balloon nor what you had to buy to get the balloon. This certainly clears up some of the lost memory and the links to the historical papers are a gold mine. Thanks so much for this.


You're most welcome.  That's what we're here for!

I also spent a lot of time after I found that image, just flipping through old papers like you did...  Reading a random newspaper from 50 years ago is educational because it's the "unimportant" things like the ad copy that can tell you the biggest things about how the world has changed.  I don't just mean that Roomba-shaped hair dryer, but things like "No more repairs!" as a feature of a new household appliance.  Fifty years ago, a toaster, a coffee maker, or an iron cost about $10 (on sale for $7.88-8.88!) and was worth repairing, and a banana split regularly cost $0.39.  Today, the going rate for a banana split is about $3-4 at a chain like Dairy Queen, and that makes that $8.88 toaster worth about $90-100 in 2014 dollars.  All of a sudden, repairing a toaster, percolator, or iron starts to sound like a good idea, even if it is MothFather's Day.  (Besides, Dad/Grandpa probably secretly enjoyed tinkering with household appliances, he just never told Mom/Grandma!)

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