Monday, 28 November 2005

They sang every Sunday night

Like many of the posts in Other Men's Flowers, this one is of little interest to Americans or anyone born after the Reichstag was set on fire.

With Christmas approaching, it is time to put an end to the obsession with modern sleaze which characterises this blog and to return to a simpler and less sophisticated era.

Many organisations now defunct sprang up in the 1930s. There was one which at its peak in 1939 had five million adherents in the UK. The exact number may never be known, for its secrets were guarded with extraordinary rigour; it had its own passwords and codes, and signs by which its members might recognise one another.
It even had its own anthem:
We are the Ovaltineys, little girls and boys,
Make your request we'll not refuse you,
We are there just to amuse you,
Would you like a song or story?
Will you share our joys?
At work and play we’re more than keen,
No merrier children can be seen
Because we all drink Ovaltine,
We're happy girls and boys.

You can hear the tune—and many others of the same period and in the same genre—played HERE, or a whole 1937 Radio Luxembourg broadcast HERE. How innocent were our pleasures!

I was a keen member, and in another popular organisation for young people which flourished at the same time (not based in the UK) I might well have reached the rank of Gefolgschaftsf├╝hrer, or even Hauptgefolgschaftsf├╝hrer. As it was, I was merely a Silver Star Member. To reach this height you had to enlist three more members, a sort of pyramid selling operation. All you got for this effort was the rather pathetic badge which you could swank about with, but I remember the honour fondly as my first taste of the privileges of rank. And, come to think of it, the last.

[The way in which children nowadays are brainwashed by advertising into influencing their parents’ purchasing habits is crude and ineffective compared with this scheme, perhaps one of the most brilliant marketing ideas ever. It was intended to promote the sale of a malted milk drink (containing barley and malt extract, dried skimmed milk, sugar, whey powder, glucose syrup, vegetable fat, full cream milk powder, fat reduced cocoa, caseinates, egg powder, emulsifier, stabilisers, flavouring and vitamins), which was invented in 1904 by a Swiss chemist: it succeeded to the extent that ten million jars used to be sold in the UK every year. It was withdrawn here in 2001 but apparently is still in demand in S.E. Asia.]


. said...

Tony, it is quite amazing that you should have mentioned the very product originally invented by my great, great-grandmother’s brother, Georg Wander, and further developed by his son, my great-Uncle Albert!
Would you like to hear more?

Tony said...

Yes, please.

. said...

It’s silly, really, yet quite provocative. Here goes. Both Ovomaltine (later renamed Ovaltine for the British and U.S. markets) and that clever marketing campaign of which you fondly speak are childhood memories very dear to my heart, although not for the reasons you might expect such as fame, infamy, or great family fortune. No, today the surname Wander is barely recognized by anyone outside the Gimmelbrunnen Valley in the Alps, and the family fortune was suspiciously squandered long before I was conceived.

Yet I literally owe my existence to Ovaltine. I grew up youngest in a family of 22 children, a fact we mutually attribute to this fertile beverage. Why, Uncle Albert and his wife alone had 28 children, and they in turn produced 149 more. Thousands of Swiss relatives yearly attend our family reunion, where an homage to our inventive ancestors is always recited in reverent tones at the beginning of the week-long festivities. I cannot remember the entire piece, but here are two of the stanzas supposedly written just after Georg’s unfortunate demise:

Yea, all brothers and sisters esteemed,
While our fortune has not been so clean,
We do owe to Georg
(Who's now in the morgue),
Without whom we’d never have been.

At first it was “Ovo-maltine”,
A drink plenty fine it would seem.
But Al swirled it in kegs,
And combined it with eggs --
It made the libido so keen . . .

You can truly read more at this site, albeit an American one,

. said...

P.S. I Googled the surname Wander, and it turns out that it sometimes means wild goose chase in Swiss German.

Minerva said...

Hasn't it been reincarnataed as Horlicks?

Tony said...

No, Min, Horlicks has no connection. Wasn't it the manufacturers of this who invented night starvation, i.e you have to drink their stuff before you go to bed or you will die? Brilliant!

Tony said...

Fascinating, Professor Jove, merci vilmal. My God, your forebears were a productive lot, weren't they? You must be related to half the population of Switzerland: it's not surprising that even the millions from Ovaltine/Ovomaltine couldn't make all the descendants rich.
Er, where is Stechelberg, exactly?
I admire the Swiss, see here

Tony said...

Don't think Esther's finished her studies yet but of course we are keeping in touch with her.
I like Hungarians too, and remember particularly a happy time in Pyongyang when I bought champagne for Zoltan Berczik, Gabor Gergely, Tibor Klampar. Istvan Jonyer and a couple of others whose names I forget. You don't know what I'm talking about, but never mind: it was 27 years ago.

Dr Wander said...

Professor Jove must therefore be a relative of mine. Albert wander was my Great Grandfather, Georg my G G Grandfather.