AMAZE FRIENDS or maybe lose them

I knew I had this ad tucked away somewhere in a box. I hadn't seen it for years. I found it yesterday and thought, "Now why did I keep this?" It's from a 1978 TV Guide. Then I started reading it. It still strikes me as odd/absurd/silly/strange, etc.

Click on image to see it larger.

Just think, for only $2.95 + $1.00 shipping (buy two for $7.60 total!) you could learn how to really annoy people at parties. Imagine how many people bought these things and then showed up at a family gathering dragging pathetic Archie the Boy Wonder (a wonder for all the wrong reasons) or the exceedingly creepy Dumbo the Clown (who looks like he has a whole life going on without the handler) with the plan of surprising relatives with their new found talent.
"Oh no."
"Look who's coming up the walkway."
"Oh, please, not again."
"When is he going to find a nice girl?"
"Not as long as he has Archie and Dumbo."
"It's just so sad. He always seemed normal as a child."
"You call hanging onion rings from your ears for 5 hours normal?"
"Well, it's better than the cheese cubes he stuck up his nose at your wedding when he was 19."
"Hi Jerry. I see you've brought your little friends."
"Hi cousins! I thought when things slowed down this evening I'd just pop these fellas into action."
"Okay, yeah, sure don'tcha know. You have a good time Jerry."

And once again, Jerry was left standing at the front door with Archie and Dumbo as a path magically cleared for him to the buffet table where people were praying he'd stick cheese up his nose and hang onion rings from his ears.
Now, just in case you choose not to click on the image to make it larger let me just point out a few of the things that still make me laugh. The copy. The copy is funny and each sentence makes you pause and think "Ummmmm...yeah, and the alternative is?"
"Full length 16-inch dummy with hidden control to operate mouth and move head."
I've always found the "full length" part strange. Full length in comparison to what?
"Make him stand, sit, even dance and act alive!"

They're just getting into the creepy zone here with that exclamation point following "alive!" And thank goodness it comes fully dressed. Don't even want to think about it arriving naked. Not going there, especially with Dumbo. Dumbo looks too much like an inanimate object that would enjoy sitting around naked.

But the best line for me is in paragraph two:
"Fool people even without a dummy!"
Was there a money back guarantee with this because I'm guessing there were a lot of people who thought the person pretending to make a bowl of spaghetti talk WAS the dummy.

So, do you think it paid to advertise in TV Guide? I don't know, but this company, Johnson Smith Company, has been in business since 1914.
The Johnson Smith Company™ is one of America's oldest catalogs companies. In 1905, our founder, Alfred Johnson Smith, started selling his novelties and practical jokes in Australia. The company was officially founded in the U.S.A. in 1914, when Mr. Smith shipped his first package from Chicago.

Australia to Chicago was to be the first of several moves...

The Johnson Smith Company relocated to Racine, Wisconsin in 1926. Nine years later the company made a mid-depression move to Detroit, Michigan with the intention of starting a Canadian subsidiary across the Detroit River. Those plans were abandoned with the outbreak of World War II. The company remained near the Detroit riverfront for nearly 35 years, until it moved to Mt. Clemens, Michigan (a Detroit suburb) in the early 1970s.

In 1986 the company made an exciting move to Bradenton, Florida, to a specially-designed building that enables us to serve our customers with state-of-the-art technology and service!

Our story is not without sociological aspects and influences. During the 1920s and 1930s, practical jokes and home hobbies provided an escape for people wracked with economic struggle brought on by WWI and the Great Depression. Our 700-page catalog provided hours of "escape," fun and fantasy for the depressed nation, even without having to place an order! Even today we hear from people who remember our catalog and the "relief" we provided! Today, the Johnson Smith catalog is known as Things You Never Knew Existed (TYNKE) and still brings hours of enjoyment to people across the country. (SOURCE: Johnson Smith Company)
This reminds me a bit of the post I did on the butterfly card made by the S. S. Adams Company, inventor of the hand buzzer.

And don't forget to read outside the lines. Note the show listed above Archie:
"The history of cheese."
Or perhaps to the left of Archie:
"obot Peepo encoun-
ous life forms that
and body
And it says above it that it was a children's show. Does anyone remember a children's show with a robot named Peepo? Oh geez, was Peepo a friend of Dumbo? I really get the feeling Peepo and Dumbo were cut from the same piece of plastic.

Okay, it's useless ephemera. I will put it back in the box and perhaps find it again in another 20 years. Let us hope I am not blogging then because most likely my mind will be in another universe and I dread to know what I'll think about Dumbo then.

Update: I have looked online hoping to find a color photo of Archie or Dumbo. Nada. But I did find this. An ad for both of them from a June 1980 Boy's Life magazine. Please take a good look at Archie. Ummmmm...his arms come nearly down to his ankles. I'm imagining a kid buying one of these and then opening the box and thinking, "What the...? It's a freak in a box! MOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMM!" All the while Dumbo maintained his creepy sideway glance and snicker. Were these two the inspiration for the Chucky movies? I have a friend who was in two Chucky movies. That's all I'll say.

You can see the ad in context amongst other ads here. And do scroll the pages of ads. Quite a retro treat.

I just noticed that in this second ad Archie appears to have a comb over. He lost his hair between 1978 and 1980! But...but...IT'S PLASTIC HAIR for cryin' out loud!

UPDATE: A reader, Russell S., recently sent me some full color images of Archie and Dumbo. They are just as creepy as I imagined they'd be.

The first few images he found on the net, but there's no reference source for them. Should these belong to someone who wishes I take them down let me know by providing links as proof.

Then there's the amazing visual story of what became of Dumbo the Clown. That's one creepy clown in need of a 12 step program.

Thank you Russell!


  1. For a long time I kept an ad from Planters Peanuts that I had clipped out of a magazine and fully intended to send in. I think I needed a boxtop or label or something to send in with my $9.95. Had I done it, I would have been the only girl on the block with white bell bottoms with images of Mr. Peanut all over them. I still regret it, but not as much after I read this post. God knows what they would have said about me.

  2. Sometime in the late Fifties, my dad brought home a "Magician" for Thanksgiving dinner...

    He did apparently perform magic tricks with cards, and other oddities, including a pair of dummies (I don't recall their names) which he did not bring to dinner. My dad played the piano at the night club where this gentleman performed, and he had nowhere to go for Thanksgiving, hence the invite to our table.

    He did however amaze us four kids with a some "Turkey Talk" mid-carving. My youngest sister hid under the table. Memorable event. ;o)

  3. Oh Christine...Planter Peanut Pants!!! What a shame you didn't buy them. How wonderfully odd. Bell bottoms no less. Oh sigh. I can see it now. You'd have been at a Be-In and some guy would have walked up to you and said, "What gives? You wearin' pants made by THE MAN." And you could have responded with, "Yes, but I got them for peanuts." The guy'd have walked away muttering, "That's cool."

    Dave, I would have loved a magician to come to dinner. That would have been fun. Even back then I'd havd enjoyed the dummies if he'd brought them. Now they kind of creep me out.

  4. Besides being creepy, I'm having trouble with the date.... I'm horrified by 1978......

    I want it to be 1958... when people were more innocent.... 1978...oh my

  5. Archie the Boy Wonder? Was he Batman's replacement sidekick?

    I can see Batman squaring off with The Joker: "Robin's got the day off, but never fear: I have Archie the ventroliquist's dummy and together we will defeat you Joker!"

    (Archie's mouth opens and closes): "Gats right Goker! We will gefeak you!"

  6. Eloh:

    Exactly! What was Archie doing in Disco 1978? Kids, as far as I know, had no interest in puppets like this. And think about it, it's 16" long which means for an adult it would have been a pretty small puppet and look really really odd. And for $3.95 it had to be an incredibly cheap object. Yes, it was out of its natural time zone. I'll have to look around online and see if there any actual photos of Archie and Dumbo.


    I believe the only way Archie would prove to be of any use was if he was flung at your adversary, legs and arms flying all akimbo, while you ran the other way. Since Archie was probably pretty lightweight plastic he did no harm which left your adversary looking at the person standing next to them saying, "I wonder what that was?" "Oh, that's Archie."

    As to his name I believe they probably used it because of Archie the comic book character. He looks like a poor mans Howdy Doody, but they obviously couldn't use that. So I'm guess Archie had molded plastic red hair and the best these folks could come up with, and hoping to somehow ride the coattails of the REAL Archie, well you see where I'm going.

    Yes, it would have to have been the TV Batman, low budget Boy Wonder.

    And we won't even discuss Dumbo. He's still sitting naked in the corner with that "He, he!" expression.

  7. Anonymous4/05/2012

    nellydude@yahoo.com Im looking for that dumbo the clown dummie. Does anyone know where I can find him ? had when I was 7 yrs old Please Help!

    1. Sadly you may have missed this chance to buy the pair!


    2. Poor Anonymous. Missed the deal of the century!

  8. Good luck, Nelly Dude. I've never seen one.

  9. If anyone has one to sell I would be interested, I'm putting a book together things kids sent away for...ty