Advertising bounties caused pitched battles at the breakfast table



My mother is one of eight children. It could make mealtimes a rush when she was growing up. She tells the story of not always having enough spoons for everyone and how one of her brothers would grab a spoon from the drawer and then lick it dramatically, thus contaminating it and claiming it for himself.

I thought of this story when I read an email from Alexandria Mary Battywho after reading my column on Monday about Nescafé promotional globe cups, shared his own memories.

Mary’s family was a bit smaller than my mother’s – Mary is the eldest of five children – but having breakfast in her house brought its own power dynamic into play. The kids weren’t fighting over a Nescafé globe coffee mug, but over another promotional tchotchke: a matching Chiquita banana bowl and spoon.

It was a yellow banana-shaped bowl and spoon with a tiny plastic banana for the handle, each sporting the blue Chiquita logo.

“We used to fight over who got to use the bowl for cereal (with or without bananas) or ice cream (with or without bananas),” Mary wrote.

Without bananas?! Mary, you’re lucky the goons at Chiquita didn’t break down your door and repossess your Chiquitiana.

When Mary was growing up, she extracted the bowl and spoon from her childhood home before any of her siblings noticed — “a classic big sister move,” she wrote. “My kids loved the bowl and spoon too, and now I keep it handy for any little ones who visit and want to use it.”

Back to those Nescafé globe cups: Several readers have sent me pictures of theirs. Some even have the matching milk jug and sugar bowl.

“But there’s more to the story than product bonuses,” wrote one reader, who wishes to remain anonymous.

When she was at university in the 1970s, she read an article in Mademoiselle magazine about a competition sponsored by Nescafé. She doesn’t remember the exact name of the contest – something like “A Trip Around the World” or “A Trip Out of This World” – but she does remember the grand prize: a seat on the first lunar flight for travelers. civilians, whenever it would be. The consolation prize was a trip around the world.

I know which one I would take. There’s a lot of this planet I haven’t seen yet. And I don’t think the moon has a very good continental breakfast.

Does anyone remember this contest?

Last month, I was able to solve the mystery of a graffito on an I-66 overpass that drivers have seen for decades. DEN + NAN 4EVER has been on the Route 622 bridge since 1991, painted by a Virginia man as a birthday present to his wife.

This spray-painted message reminded the reader Mary Fracker another act of amorous vandalism.

“When we moved to Capitol Hill in the mid 80s, we were thrilled/intrigued by the graffiti painted on the overpass where you can take the ramp from South Fourth Street southeast on I-395 heading to Virginia,” Mary wrote. “We saw and smiled at it several times a week, but unfortunately we never took a picture.”

Mary doesn’t remember the exact spacing, but the message looked like this:

A certain period of time passed – a few months at least, although it could have been years, says Mary – and then one day the message changed to:

Mary wrote: “So much good news!

When the viaduct was renovated, Robert + Claudia’s romantic statement was erased. But was their love made of stronger things? Mary and her family have wondered about the couple ever since.

“I hope you and your readers can provide details on what I hope will be another heartwarming story of graffiti and love,” she wrote.

Well can you? Email me – – if you know anything about this couple.

I swear I do not tolerate vandalism! But speaking of graffiti, I came across a little Washington Post article from April 4, 1887: “Frederick Douglass was in Egypt. There he performed the difficult and dangerous feat of climbing to the top of the high pyramid of Cheops, and the traveler who now climbs to the top of it will find his name carved there in stone.

Reunited and it feels so good

Here are two local high schools coming together this fall:

Winston Churchill High Class of 1972 — October 7-9. For information, e-mail

Gary Balsamo at

1968 Groveton High Class – 50th meeting long delayed on October 8. Email Jessica Schorr Saxe at


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