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The Writing’s In The Wall

I recently did some remodeling in my house and uncovered some interesting insulation within the walls.

It appears a prior owner had used rolled up newspaper on the cheap.

Out of curiosity I unfurled a section and discovered a fairly pristine copy of The Newark (New Jersey) Sunday News, dated April 28, 1968.

It proved to be a remarkable time capsule, providing a glimpse into my world back in grade school. Thumbing through the pages, I learned that on that date:

* the Dow was at 906;

* the Vietnam War would soon be ending as the U.S. pressed for peace;

* a new car could be had for $4,000 and a new home for $26,000;

* Bobby Kennedy was the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nod; and

* the discovery that a Columbia University co-ed was cohabitating off-campus with her boyfriend garnered more attention than student unrest.

I also discerned several harbingers of things to come in the CE and appliance space.

For example, an ad for a $79 Regina Electrikbroom, available in op-art graphics, listed about a dozen regional retailers who carried it, including Bamberger’s, Brick Church, Two Guys, Prince Range, S. Klein, Alexander’s, E.J. Korvette, Grandway and Stern Bros.,  none of whom are still around.

Also cited was something called BBD, which in a separate ad for Admiral TVs and refrigerators listed another 100 or so dealers in the Garden State. (Turns out BBD stood for Best Brand Dealers Association, “New Jersey’s largest appliance co-op group. Big-volume sales assure big values!”)

Point being, one could see how overstored the marketplace was 46 years ago, and how the channel was setting itself up for the retail consolidation that continues today.

Another interesting ad came courtesy of New Jersey Bell, which depicted a rainy scene beneath the headline “What a great day to shop by phone.” While telesales never evolved into the disruptive force that e-tail would become, it certainly was an e-commerce precursor.

A final, less ominous omen came in the guise of a news item about the upcoming Spring Joint Computer Conference in Atlantic City, heralded as the largest-ever exhibit of computers and related equipment. According to the conference chairman, an IBM exec, the event “will focus attention on the growing interrelation of computers and communications and their emerging interdependence.”

If only he knew.