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Freebies from the Groovy Era – Definitely a “Thing” of the Past

Culture | October 29, 2018

The '60s and '70s weren’t called the groovy era for nothing! Although it is an era remembered for being a time of social unrest in the United States, there were so many things about that time that was so unassuming and simple. Looking back, some might say it was just “better” back in the day!

MEMORY:

[mem-uh-ree]

noun

• the mental capacity or faculty of retaining and reviving facts, events, impressions, etc., or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences.

Whether your memory is accurate or not, isn’t an issue. The truth is that perception is reality. With the holidays coming, how many of us remember sitting down at our family tables set with the “good dishes?” You know, the dishes that Mom and Grandma proudly displayed in the dining room china cabinet. If they weren’t on display, you can be sure they were stored somewhere else in the house and only brought out on special occasions and holidays.  

In the groovy era, businesses, especially filling stations, gave dishes away as a marketing ploy! They also pumped your gas, checked the oil and cleaned your windows!

Back in the '60s & '70s, for the price of a box of soap powder or a tank of gas, you could receive a plate, a bowl or a glass. If you made a weekly purchase, in time, you could collect an entire set, so businesses just knew you would be back. Once a person started their collection, businesses knew they’d have to come back to keep adding pieces for a complete set. This was a clever and very lucrative marketing tool that really got results! These dishes, platters and glassware we love and have inherited, are still making appearances on many holiday tables, even still. Bringing out the vintage dishware brings back fond holiday memories of an era past.  

Newlyweds Heading Off To Honeymoon A newly-married couple waves as they drive off with streamers and a 'Just Married' sign on the back of their pink convertible, 1964. (Photo by Lambert/Getty Images)

With the purchase of furniture, newlyweds could score an entire set of dishes!  

One of the most recognizable giveaways from the groovy era was the iconic American Currier and Ives turkey platter. The huge plate used to serve our turkey and all the trimmings was usually decorated with a distinctive Currier and Ives lithograph of a tom turkey or a winter scene. These freebies were given away at supermarkets with the purchase of a turkey.

Another popular giveaway pattern was the Homer and Loughlin Company wheat pattern dishes that came free in boxes of DUZ soap powder. The elegant ivory colored china pieces were trimmed in 22-karat gold and featured a 22-karat gold etching of a head of a ripe grain of wheat. If you bought enough soap, you could get the serving platter, serving bowls and even the gravy boat. The wheat pattern giveaway dishes are still around today and can be had from yard sales and antique shops, only they are not free!     

A guy could stop by the Esso station to gas up his muscle car and pick up a piece of dinnerware for Mom…

Other memorable giveaways included Anchor Hocking teacups and saucers that could be collected with the purchase of Quaker Oats. Gas stations like Esso and Union 76 gave away complete sets of glassware. Buy jelly and, eventually, you would have every Disney character on a tumbler or drinking glass. Brands like Pepsi, Coca-Cola and local hot spots also got in on the giveaway action.

These days nothing in life is free…not so in the groovy era!

Other “freebies” cost a little bit of time, but where well worth it. By saving a certain number of box tops, lids and other container wrappings and following the manufacturer’s instructions, you could get free dishes and glassware in the mail. Purchase frozen orange juice, mail away the plastic seals and in 6 to 8 weeks a cheery orange decorated carafe would arrive at your door.  The foil seals from cigarette packages could be exchanged for artistic glass ashtrays, ceramic cigarette holders and coasters.

It is said that what is old, eventually becomes new again.

Trends and fads come and go… and come back again! The same is true of the giveaway dishes of the '60s & '70s. Many of these very dishes are being sold now in antique stores and thrift shops today. That’s right… ironically, the dishes our mothers collected, for free, are now being SOLD… after years of use. I also think it is safe to say that these same dishes were of higher quality than what we buy today and will be around long after we are all gone. So with the holiday season approaching, you just may sit down to a table full of vintage place settings that were once free but are now valuable, if only in our memories.  

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.