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Radio Station Promo Vehicles: Pontiac Woody – Corvair Greenbrier – Edsel Station Wagon

Radio station mobile units or promotional cars and vans are usually covered in lettering and two-tone or bright color combinations to make them more eye-catching to the general public. The three distinctive examples shown here certainly do gain attention and date from the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s.

The lead image contains two female models wearing “Blue Bonnets” for a promotional event by Radio Station WADC in front of a “Schmidt’s” market located in Marietta, OH. The wood-bodied Pontiac station wagon is a 1948 or earlier model. The “Yellow Blue Bonnet Margarine” refers to the yellow dye pre-mixed into the Company’s regular margarine which is white so that it resembles butter. At the time many white margarines came with a yellow dye capsule that needed to be broken and stirred into it.

The CFPL Radio “Mobile Station” 1960s Chevrolet “Greenbrier” van in the photo (below) is equipped with an aftermarket add-on top. The large “Tony the Tiger” likeness on the top of the van and the add-on flashing red light on the front portion of the main roof surely gained attention in this “Tiger in Your Tank” Esso filling station promotion.

And finally, the last promotional picture (below) contains a KALE Radio Station 1950s Edsel station wagon and trailer “Mobile News Unit” and “Mobile Broadcasting Studio” touting its “Your Better Music Station” and the “News When Its Still News” advertising.

Share with us what you find of interest in the images via This Was Americar.

35 responses to “Radio Station Promo Vehicles: Pontiac Woody – Corvair Greenbrier – Edsel Station Wagon

  1. In the lead photo beside the ’48 Pontiac (’48-only “Silver Streak” script on the side of hood) would be a ’41 Olds Deluxe Dynamic 76 or 78 or a Series 96 or 98 Custom Cruiser.

    In Photo 1, beside the Greenbrier, a ’66 Rambler Classic with its ribbed taillight lenses vs a ’65.

    • Good eye Pat. Our neighbors down the street had a ‘61 green and white “Corvair Greenbrier van which had the engine in the back and had a tendency to break down a lot. We had a ‘65 two-toned green and white Rambler Classic for several years. Not a bad car, and definitely an improvement over the‘61 Pontiac Tempest station wagon that for power had only 115 hp. It was always having mechanical problems and on account of that car I have never liked GM very much.

  2. In Minnesota and Wisconsin (among others) the dairy industry had such sway that yellow margarine was unavailable until ’63 in Minnesota and ’67 in Wisconsin.
    In the 1890s Minnesota and some other states required any margarine sold to be pink…until the US Supreme Court declared “pink laws” unconstitutional in 1898.
    Minnesota and North Dakota kept their special tax on margarine until 1975.

    The coloring packet was an acidic-looking orange/red. I recall my dad mixing that into large blocks of white margarine every week or so. It would fill a container of approximately 4 x 4 x 8”. He did that until he talked a patient from Iowa into smuggling in 25 pounds of yellow margarine (in typical 4-sticks-per-pound packaging) on his twice- yearly visits.

    • Pat,

      Interesting information concerning margarine. My grandmother referred to it as “oleo,” short for oleomargarine, and told how one had to mix the color with the oleomargarine to make it look like butter.


    • Speaking of smuggling, there was a gang of five or six families in the Milwaukee area (including mine) that had an understanding. If any one of them got near the Wisconsin/Illinois border (about 40 miles south) they were to cross the boundry, load up their cars with yellow margarine and distribute the haul among the conspirators. Absent any trips to Illinois, my mom bought margarine in plastic bricks with the dye enclosed. It was always my chore to mix the dye into the margarine by squeezing and kneading the plastic bag until the product had a nice even yellow tone. Life was grand.

    • The one pound bags of margarine were generally soft enough by the time we returned from the grocery store that my brother or I could “massage” them into yellowness. Otherwise you had to wait for them to warm up. Or develop stronger fingers. This excitement wore off pretty quickly and, just as well, since I think white margarine became obsolete in Illinois by 1950. The real issue was when you put the plastic bag back in the fridge to harden you were left with this one pound blob of oleo that had to be hacked up into amorphous chunks.

      • We had a similar situation in Manitoba, Canada . My brother and I would take turns squeezing the margarine bag until one day we discovered it made a great ‘tossing toy”. He heaved it a bit too hard and it burst against our bedroom wall. Mother? Not pleased but it ended our squeezing chores for a while. Cheers. Vin

  3. Without even looking at the Ohio plate on the Pontiac, I knew it couldn’t be Wisconsin. It was illegal to sell oleomargarine in Wisconsin, being the “Dairy State”. I remember, there was a store just over the Ill. line where you could buy margarine and lottery tickets, also illegal in Wis. at the time. The law was overturned in 1967, making Wisconsin the last state to do so. Oddly enough, there are still some laws with margarine in Wisconsin. It can’t be served without butter available in restaurants and institutions. We never had margarine, and to this day, I don’t eat it.
    Apparently, CFPL radio is from Ontario, Canada. I think Esso had the market cornered with doo-dads. I remember traveling, the stations had all kinds of stuff, probably highly sought after by collectors today. Obviously, those promotions spilled into Canada as well. KALE radio is out of Richland, Washington. Can’t seem to I.D. the camper, anyone?

    • Howard, I think Wisconsin is the last holdout with those margarine laws. Evidently those lottery tickets must’ve been a local lottery just over the Illinois border….the Illinois Lottery began July of ’75. (I had just moved to an apartment in Chicago that spring and my roommate bought some.)

      • Hi Pat, the straw that broke the camels back, was a Wis. senator, Rep. Gordon Roseleip, one of butters biggest supporters, in a taste test, was told to pick from 2 samples, what he thought was butter, and he picked the margarine. ( apparently, it was found out, his wife had been serving margarine to him for years without him knowing it) It was big news,,,

  4. The Esso shot looks to be London, Ontario Canada circa 1966-67. I remember when I was a kid the Tiger in your tank was a huge promo at Esso. The tiger tails they handed out were hanging from everyone’s gas caps!

  5. My family lived in West Texas in the late ’40’s and early ’50’s. When my parents brought groceries home and they had white margarine in a plastic bag, we kids would all try to be the first to grab it and mix the red dot, about the size of an M&M, into the margarine. This would make it yellow with a more appetizing appearance.
    I also remember getting Log Cabin syrup in a tin container shaped and painted like a log cabin. I think the chimney was where the lid was located.

    • Tom….funny, I was just talking to a friend the other day about those red tin Log Cabin Syrup containers…met with “Tin? Really?”

  6. That 1948 Pontiac Woody must be on of the rarest ever. It seems like a strange body for such treatment. Maybe it was a special model just for Blue Bonnet advertising.

  7. You would think that, in the first picture, someone would have taken down the sign “Yes! We Have Yellow Parkay” sign.

  8. Seeing the Chevy van with the rotating beacon reminds me of my internship days at a local AM-FM-TV station in the 70s.
    In the TV newsroom that had old photos of a 58 Ford wagon TV News unit. Not only did it have the police-style beacon, it had civil defense insignia decals.

    I guess at that time the media were held in high regard and the beacon have them semi-official status and let them through barricades and the like.
    One reason for that might have been because they had two-way radios, a very big deal in the pre-cell phone age.

    In the late 70s I was returning from a story and a car ahead of me on I-90 drifted into the median and rolled. While one of us got out to help the passengers (it turned out they were uninjured), I stayed in the car and radioed the newsroom with our location so they could telephone the state police to send help. Our radios helped save the day, without them, help would have been a much longer time coming.

    • The rotating ‘red’ beacon light referred to would most likely be amber/yellow as red would signify an actual emergency response vehicle. My ‘radio daze’ experiences verify that the radio wagon or van with the flashing light commanded attention – not always deserved, mind you as some of the ego-maniacs would use it to clear traffic – just to – well, just because they could!! Vin

  9. I remember the jingle: “Everything’s better, with Blue Bonnet on it” when i was a kid.

    That Edsel looks like a real stripper. Little hub caps and blackwalls? Not very promotional

  10. There was a gas station near where I lived as a kid that offered to remove the tiger hair out of your tank for you. The “Put a tiger in your tank” promotion must have been very popular!

    When I was a kid in Quebec margarine was bought with the packet of colouring too. Dairy farmers had quite an influence.

    • Kellogg and Esso had been fighting that for years. I believe Kellogg won the infringement lawsuit, claiming they had Tony the Tiger 7 years before Esso copied them.

  11. KALE 960 was an AM station in Richland WA. One of the few to play rock n roll and top 40 back in the day. I remember that. All we had was AM in the car.

  12. I find that KALE is licensed in Richland, Washington. Wonder how that handled the addition of kale to the “healthy food” list.

  13. Back in 1965 or so the family and I were traveling in the Blue Mountains(Oregon) headed for a camp ground, we were stuck behind a Corvair van having trouble getting up a pass. All of a sudden POOF, a large amount of smoke and the van died. The side air vents were not adequate for hard work at slow speeds. I had not to long before that traded off my 62 Corvair coupe with the l05 HP engine as it had more than it’s share of problems.

  14. Yellow Parkay was made by Kraft, and cost a little more due to the Federal Colouring Tax. In those states where coloured margarine was banned, it was sold white with the colouring in a separate bag.

  15. I just had to add one more note concerning butter versus margarine. A waitress in a restaurant once told me that butter had to be served in square pats and margarine had to be served in a triangle shape.

  16. I grew up in Tennessee where oleo margarine / butter conflicts didn’t carry political weight. All margarine was yellow. The dominant brand I remember had the catchphrase “It’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature”

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