Last night I was flipping through an old Field & Stream and marveling at all the wonderful old mail-order ads that I (and I’m sure many of you) grew up reading. For children who came of age in the olden days of paper-based print, being mesmerized (and more often than not, duped) by the ads in the back of magazines and comic books was a rite of passage. Who among us (or at least those among us old enough to remember polyester clothing) didn’t – at least once – send off our hard-earned paper route or allowance money, dazzled by the allure of Sea Monkeys, hypnotizing coins, X-ray glasses, spook hands or live seahorses?
But one ad in particular stands out for me. It ran for years in the back of comic books and magazines and was as much a part of my Seventies-era childhood as Zebco 33s, Scooby-Doo and terrifying encounters with shopping mall Easter bunnies. “See Miracle of Birth!” it promised. That’s right: For the low, low price of $6.98 (or $4.98, or $3.98, depending on the decade in which you grew up) you could send off for an incubator and some genuine quail eggs. No fake “undersea kingdoms” populated by lowly brine shrimp here, these were the genuine article: real live quail.
The ad, which was ubiquitous in the back of Field & Stream, Outdoor Life and Sports Afield, fascinated me. I constantly asked my parents if I could order it. They constantly said no, and eventually as I got older and my interest in quail turned from raising them in the manner of some Sterling North-inspired fantasy to hunting them, I stopped asking. And at some unnoticed point the ads, like so much else from that era, just faded into the realm of nostalgia.
Thankfully, however, I’ve managed to hang on to a lot of those old magazines. On cold winter nights when I’m feeling a little sappy and maudlin, I’ll throw another log in the woodstove, grab a few of those tattered old issues, pour a wee nip of my favorite libation, sink into the chair and step into the wayback machine.
What’s your favorite old mail-order ad from the back pages of Field & Stream? Did you ever actually order anything as a kid?