In the Fall of 1973, I was newly into 6th Grade at Ashippun (WI.) Elementary School, although back in those groovy days "grade levels" there had sort of been set aside for "units" A, B, and C, grouped loosely by ascending age and ability. We were a mix of farm and town kids, with "town" being the small group of houses surrounding a five tiny saloons, a firehouse, and a post office, no more than 300 people in total. I can remember particularly that year one of the bars was open very early in the morning (Wisconsin, remember) and would sell CANDY to us schoolkids before we got on the schoolbus. Hot dog gum, Kit Kat bars, Boston Baked Beans, Bit O' Honey, Red Hots, Almond Joy and Mounds, candy many tiny joys that rotted our teeth and depleted our school milk money allotments. These were also the days when your parents could send you with a written note to buy cigarettes for them from the same bars, but that's another topic.

If there's anything elementary-age kids love, it's trading and collecting. It could be cool rocks, swizzle sticks (again, Wisconsin), or the above candies. But in 1973, the big kid collecting fad was the return of Wacky Packages. For a nickel a pack, you got some stiff, powdery bubble gum and three stickers, which hilariously spoofed common household products. With American super-consumer culture into its third decade and a heightened zeitgeist of "question authority," we kids weren't buying the hype we saw on TV commercials by now...we'd grown up with all the tricks of advertising. Wacky Packages brilliantly mixed that youthful cynics' eyeview with the zest to collect, as if MAD Magazine got into the trading card business. They made millions off us while making us laugh.

I was so proud of my collection that I peeled them off and made a mini-album out of a piece of cardboard and clear plastic, stapled together. I recently found it in a box of dusty school papers and art that had been stored for decades, and my smile, 42 years later, was wide. I did a little research and confirmed that they all belong to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6 series of Wacky Packages releases, going from the fall of '73 to the spring of '74. The glue is failing to hold, but they still look pretty good!

The next year I was off to junior high in the "city" (of about 7000 people), and the fad had faded. But good satire never dies, and I thought I'd share these with you. Click on the images to enlarge!

Cooper Tooling class, Ashippun Elementary School, 1974.