The parent company that produced such products as Twinkies, Zingers and Ho Hos is turning off its ovens for good, which certainly has to stir memories for baby boomers, not just of the iconic snacks it produced but of the TV shows it sponsored in the 1950s.
I spent Saturday afternoons in those years stretched on the living room floor of my central Jersey home, and I'm sure I wasn't the only kid doing that. I watched a pigtailed Gail Davis race across the screen of our DuMont television set playing sharpshooter Annie Oakley in a series by the same name that aired on ABC.
The show opened with Annie and her rifle, which she quickly pulled to one side and commenced firing as an announcer intoned the show's name. And then a picture of its sponsor, a loaf of Wonder Bread with colored balloons on its white wrapper, appeared on the screen.
In an authoritative voice, the announcer then said, "Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies 12 ways," making sure that there was no doubt that this was a healthful and good product and we ought to tell our parents to buy it.
Wonder Bread's parent company was none other than the one that produced those luscious Twinkies, which we so craved and my mother ruled I could have only once a week.
We felt that if Annie got so excited about Wonder Bread that she started pumping her rifle in praise, then it must be a pretty good medium to smear with peanut butter and jelly or to bed down a few pieces of bologna.
In those golden years of TV, the Western was a weekly staple for kids and adults.
And while "Annie Oakley," "Rin Tin Tin," "Zorro" and "The Lone Ranger" were for the younger set, grown-ups had a wide range of shows to choose from, including "Gunsmoke," "Have Gun Will Travel," "Wagon Train" and "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp."
A production of Gene Autry's Flying A Pictures, "Annie Oakley," in addition to starring the perpetually perky cowgirl Davis in the title role, featured Jimmy Hawkins as her brother, Tagg Oakley, and Brad Johnson as Deputy Sheriff Lofty Craig.
The half-hour show, which aired 83 episodes in all from 1954 to 1957, was a highly fictionalized account of the celebrated sharpshooter who had thrilled audiences around the world as a member of the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and Congress of the Rough Riders of the World.
The show, which was the first Western that starred a woman, was set in Diablo, Ariz., and it seemed to me, even as a kid, that Diablo seemed to have an unusually high rate of crime.
And it was Annie's job to see that those outlaws and miscreants, whom she outgunned every time, were brought to justice.
But Davis, always wearing her trademark fringed cowgirl outfit, was just not another pretty Hollywood blond, but was actually an accomplished trick rider — her horse in the show was aptly named Target — and sharpshooter, who had performed with Autry's traveling rodeo.
After the end of the show, Davis sporadically appeared in guest roles on various shows and never minded being associated with her one hit.
She was 71 when she died in 1997 and was buried in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Los Angeles.
Now, back to Wonder Bread. Remember how it was supposed to "Build strong bodies 12 ways"?
In 1971, Ralph Nader accused the bakers of Wonder Bread of "deceiving people into thinking their product will make children grow by leaps and bounds, 'just like the children in its commercials,'" reported The Baltimore Sun.
A Federal Trade Commission decision in 1973 barred ITT-Continental Baking Co. from making such deceptive claims in its Wonder Bread advertising.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun