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.