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Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Saturday, May 18

Gapers Block

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As I prepare for a large cross-country move, one that will take me far from Chicago, I am left wondering many things. Where will I get a decent deep-dish pizza? Can I continue to act like red lights are extended yellow lights? Most importantly, though, will there be a phone number as ubiquitous as 588-2300?

When I was growing up, the television was often on. Son of Svengoolie on Channel 32 during the weekends, the news during weeknights, and all points in between. But the remarkable thing is that, although I sat and watched all of those lunchtime cartoons after AM kindergarten, I remembered the commercials the most.

I'm pretty sure the first one I remember is Empire Carpet. 588-2300. I don't think I'll ever forget that phone number, even though I've forgotten my own on more than one occasion. I struck up a television friendship with the Empire Carpet Guy. There he was, telling me about free padding and installation -- plus no payments till 1988. The Empire jingle, to me, harkens back to the days, long before my birth, when jingles were expected, welcomed, and just couldn't leave your head. Things are a bit different now. Empire is now Empire Today (as opposed to Empire Yesterday or Empire Tomorrow) and there's a very sad 800 prefix on the number now.

In a testament to the degradation of jingle quality, the "800" has been haphazardly grafted onto the front of the 588-2300 jingle: the singers are entirely different, and yet somehow just as memorable. It's not as good, but I can remember it -- why is that?

Home improvement services love the jingle. Back in the '70s and '80s, there was another name in town: First Metropolitan Builders. Their number? 262-8600, of course -- in the days before Chicagoland had 8 area codes. I even remember that First Metropolitan added a middle-aged worker fellow on their commercials, just to compete with the Empire Carpet Guy. A later tactic of selling carpet fell flat on its face; First Metropolitan is truly First Metropolitan Yesterday.

Another favorite of mine and one that was all over TV back then was the spot for Victory Auto Wreckers. Anyone who has seen their ad knows that "your old car might be worth money" (although in the '80s, they boldly proclaimed that it was worth money.) In addition, they're located in Bensenville, "near O'Hare." No jingle here, but the video footage of Generic Poor Guy opening the door of his enormous boatmobile, only for it to come entirely off the car, is classic and still used today.

The good news is there are some ads making the rounds today that keep the Chicago jingle around. By far, the biggest is the one for Luna Carpet: 773, 202 (touch tones here!) Luuunaa! They even implore us to "call now," as if the catchy jingle, free padding and woman wearing odd pants weren't enough. The Luna jingle is, perhaps, weaker than either First Metropolitan or Empire Today, but it's also one of the few that's still out there.

I do hope that Chicago can return to its jingle days of yore. After all, there are a lot of new homes and condos going up -- and who are you going to call when it's time for new carpeting? Home Depot? Lowe's? Crafty Beaver? No way. 588-2300.

GB store


Alice / September 5, 2003 8:11 AM

True story: I met the Empire Carpet Man, whose real name is Lynn Hauldren, back in college when I was doing a semester abroad in Rome. It turned out he was good friends with one of our English professors, and he joined us students on a day trip to an olive grove. Mr. Hauldren is/was also part of a barbershop quartet. My friend and I happened to be sitting behind him on the bus, and he insisted that we both sing with him on the bus, telling each of us which part of the harmony to sing. I swear I'm not making this up. I have photos. How many people can say they've sung barbershop with the Empire Carpet Man?

Andrew / September 5, 2003 12:31 PM

I've been to Victory. I had to get a new rear windshield for my VW Rabbit, and that was the only place that had'em cheap. It was a cold, wet November day, and the whole yard was covered in about 6 inches of pudding-like mud. Fun!

alicia / September 5, 2003 1:10 PM

i love the commercials for eagle auto insurance. even though they don't really have a jingle, they are just funny. the big eagle costumed guy flying through the sky, the guy crashing into another car because he's busy staring at a well endowed woman, the eagle apparently farting out big eggs that have the extremely low auto insurance rates on them. who makes this stuff?

alicia / September 5, 2003 1:15 PM

the website is here:

Eric / September 5, 2003 1:29 PM

...When you gotta send a package and you gotta send it fast... Call Pack n' Send, Pack n' Send...

That's the one I will never forget. It has incredible therapeutic qualities. Repeating it a few times in rapid succession is a great way to get your mind off things. Something about its rhythm is very calming. It's my "serenity now." Everyone should have a serenity now.

Wizard of Odds / September 5, 2003 2:00 PM

What? How can this article possibly not mention one Mr. Peter Francis Geraci, esq., who so desperately wants us to order his Bankruptcy ((Info)) ((Tapes))? I was practicaly raised by his smiling visage coming off the TV. My friend once convinced his little brother that there was a secret code you could put into this racing game in Nintendo, and you could race Peter Francis Geraci, esq. Why the double parenthesis? Were italics and bold not known to him? I love those commercials.

Benjy / September 5, 2003 2:13 PM

I still remember all the ones for techinical and vocational schools (ITT, DeVry, etc.) But my favorite was for Lincoln Technical Institute.

"Meet Chuck. Chuck likes working on with his hands, and now he's making good money doing so. Right, Chuck?" To which he gives a thumbs up as me climbs into his bitchin' Camaro!

dce / September 5, 2003 3:00 PM

While it's not a jingle exactly - well, not at all really - one piece of commercial culture I'll miss should I ever leave Chicago are the Magikist lips. What would life be like without them?

Paul / September 5, 2003 3:29 PM

Frankly, Peter Francis Geraci scares me, with his ((Info)) ((Tapes)). He's a TV natural, too.

Kate Fitzgerald / September 8, 2003 1:56 AM

Never fear, my jingle friend: I already made the move from Chicago to Arizona and a whole bunch of insane late-night TV spots and weird jingles await you, but nothing about carpeting. Our bag is discount law firms urging you to collect huge sums from being in accidents. Lately the war between two biggest law firms has boiled down to "CALL THE WOLF (573-WOLF with image of a wolf howling) vs. "CALL THE EAGLE (884-EAGLE with image of noble eagle). Two things I miss: the big Budweiser sign on the expressway and the erstwhile MAGIKIST lips on the expressway touting (what else?) special carpet protectant.

Cinnamon / September 9, 2003 11:08 AM

Personally, I'm pretty fond of the Morton Salt girl. When it rains, it pours.

annfrankenstein / September 9, 2003 10:38 PM

The Empire Carpet 588-2300 is my fake phone number! That is, on a few occasions in the past I've been out and cornered by some annoying and way too liquored up fella who said he just must have my phone number before he'll leave me alone (I am not saying this happens a lot, I am just saying on the few occasions it has, because there's always ONE loaded and annoying one in every group) I've actually passed along the 588-2300 because well, it's too funny. And hardly recognizable without the jingle unless you write it out five-eight-eight ... etc etc. No one's caught on.

All right, so I thought it was funny.

Audrey / September 10, 2003 10:38 AM

I heard a great juicy story a while ago from a good friend of mine who worked on one of those tourist cruise boats on the Chicago River. Evidently the Empire Carpet guy (Lynn Hauldren, thanks Alice) crashed his motorboat into the cruise boat and got busted by the cops for DUI, along with a very young blonde woman.

Bill Dolan / October 2, 2003 1:45 PM

I'll never forget these addresses because of a couple of jingles from the 60s:

Arnie Yewsom (sp?) Chevrolet
4849 North Broadway

For Chevy cars
And Chevy trucks
And Chevy service, too
Come to 5727 South Ashland Avenue
That's Ferril Hicks
That's Ferril Hicks

Amy Hickey / March 4, 2004 9:46 PM

We own the Magikist in Milwaukee and if anyone remembers the jingle we would love to hear from you. We have bits and pieces off of old tape and reel to reel. We want to bring it back to the Midwest.

Call me at the office 414-344-4380
Thank you so much

Kris Ritter / April 29, 2004 5:38 PM

Almost as memorable as the Empire jingle:

At York and Roosevelt Roads
Where you always save more money!"

God, I missed that stuff the 3 years I lived in New Jersey!

aaron garner / July 13, 2004 9:23 AM

i love these memories!!!! how about the commericals on ch 26 back in the 70's and 80's during bob luce and wrestling that car dealership with the superhero/wrestler in the costume as well as quick stop i think it was called buy a huge bag of chitlins.speaking of signs does anyone remember forest city auto parts logo long neck max? why was his neck so long? he looked cool though and that funky art down at cermack plaza in cicero


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