On 4th St. today, in a toddler shop, a pair of books caught my eye. Little Golden Book Classics The Good Humor Man (1964) and Scuffy the Tugboat (1946). The idea of of these reprints is to cash in on the sentimentality of people who were raised on the same titles and now want to share them with their own children. The pictures were groovy and the plots innocent (or so I thought), so we bought them.
Once home, it dawned on us that “The Good Humor Man” is not called “The Ice Cream Man” — that the book cover uses the actual Good Humor logo, followed by a trademark symbol. It’s the oldest example of product placement we could think of. The stereotypes inside are excellent: Mommy with her apron, Daddy with lawnmower and pipe, Tommy and his trains, Dinah and her dolls.
It takes a deeper read to uncover the insidious subtext of Scuffy the Tugboat. Scuffy starts out secure, at home, floating in the bathtub. But he soon grows discontent, wants more out of life. Gets his wish, ends up floating down streams, caught in a logjam, tossed in a flood. In the end, Scuffy is back home, in the tub, higher ambitions dashed, wings clipped, more than happy to conform to standard expectations for toy tugboats. “This is the life for me!,” Scuffy exclaims. One of the reviewers at Amazon cites the book’s “important lesson.”
Of course, for Miles it will be more like “bo!” (for “boat”). But it will be fun to pretend he’s being spoon-fed a diet of “the man”‘s pre-PC propaganda.