Not Dead Yet: Ten Things with Greatly Exaggerated Demises 

Rotary phones. Radio drama. Us? Even The Saturday Evening Post isn’t immune to people thinking that we’re gone. Today, we clear up some misconceptions about some things that are still around.

A rotary phone
The EC Vision 1960s Style Retro Rotary phone, as sold by Amazon. (©EC Vision)

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They thought that The Saturday Evening Post was dead. It’s true that the Post did cease publication for a time, 50 years ago this week. However, as we’ve discussed in the past, Beurt SerVaas acquired Curtis Publishing Company in 1970 and brought it back, where it’s remained alive in print and online ever since. And yet, we still find people that, on occasion (we’re looking at you, Planet Money), didn’t realize that we were still around. And we’re not alone. Here are nine other enduring institutions with demises that have been greatly exaggerated. 

1. Postum

A man and woman pointing to a sun rising above the horizon

Our own Nick Gilmore recently wrote about the health drink Postum. The “cereal drink” that was promoted as an alternative to coffee went away for a bit beginning in 2007, but new owners acquired it in 2012. While it’s true that it had a period of inactivity, so did Twinkies and Coca-Cola Classic, both of which also made triumphant returns.  

2. Guitar Groups

 It might be the most famous rejection in history. 1n 1962, Decca Records shot down The Beatles. While some stories have tried to pin the rejection on executive Dick Rowe, others said that Rowe wasn’t even present. Regardless, Beatles manager Brian Epstein frequently cited that the band wasn’t signed because “guitar groups were on the way out.” Obviously, that was wrong, as The Beatles would lead the British Invasion that spawned and influenced a seemingly endless parade of bands worldwide. Today, some pundits think that guitar groups are on the way out again, which is a conclusion that Foo Fighters, Ghost, and many others would no doubt dispute. 

3. Cobblers

Guess what? Shoe repair shops and craftspersons are still around.  Places like Cento Shoes in Indianapolis, Red Star Cobbler in Chicago, and Village Cobbler in L.A. keep the tradition alive. 

4. Macramé

What 1970s home didn’t have a macramé plant hanger? Though dismissed in the intervening years as a fad, it a) never really went away, and b) has been around since at least the 13th century. The term is derived from the Arabic word migramah, which means “fringe.” Recently, fashion blogs and magazines began to report on the “return” of the form, despite the fact that it was never really gone.  

5. Jiffy Pop

A package of Jiffy Pop popcorn.
Jiffy Pop Popcorn. (©ConAgra Brands)

The frequent rumors of Jiffy Pop’s demise may have more to do with the fact that it doesn’t run as many of the ads that were ubiquitous in the 1970s and 1980s. Nevertheless, the pan-and-popcorn combo can still be found hanging around your local grocery, courtesy of ConAgra Foods. 

6. Crocs

It seems like people have been trying to kill Crocs for years. They’ve had television editorials, magazine essays, blogs, and comedians allied against them. And what they’ve done in return is sell 300 million pairs of shoes. A lot of the rumors around the death of Crocs stem from some of the financial troubles and restructuring that the company has gone through at various points between 2011 and 2014. However, despite closing their last company-owned plants in 2018, the creators of those “foam clogs” keep on walking. 

7. Tickle Me Elmo

This is more of a common misconception that a “fad toy” went away. Back in 1996, the Tickle Me Elmo doll, based on the beloved (or hated, by some parents) Sesame Street character flew off the shelves, occasionally resulting in department store fights that hadn’t been seen since the advent of Cabbage Patch Kids (which are, incidentally, also still around). Though the initial craze died down a little bit, new versions of Tickle Me Elmo have been released continually, with special editions hitting in 2006, 2007, and 2012. The latest 2017 edition can still be found in toy aisles.  

8. Radio Dramas 

An uncommonly large group of Americans believes that radio dramas died the second that the first TV was plugged into the wall of a suburban home. In fact, radio drama continues to flourish around the world, including in countries like India, Germany, and Japan. In England, the BBC still carries The Archers, the longest-running radio soap opera in the world. Additionally, programs like Doctor Who still do radio installments. In the U.S., a variety of outlets, including digital stations, terrestrial stations, and online networks, carry audio dramas, including projects underwritten by the American Council for the Blind.  

9. Rotary Telephones

A rotary phone
The EC Vision 1960s Style Retro Rotary phone, as sold by Amazon. (©EC Vision)

This is America; if you can make a buck on it, you can sell it. And that includes both rotary-dial and “push-button” landline phones. Though not necessarily available in every store, these are quite findable online and are being made in new and retro styles by various companies. Voice-over-IP will not work on older rotaries without an adapter, but traditionally active landline outlet jacks will work just fine with these styles. Expect to pay in the $30 to $60 range to reach out and own one. 

10. The Saturday Evening Post

And, as we said . . . us. Despite assertions to the contrary, we’re still around, online and in print, and we don’t plan on going anywhere.

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  1. RE: Rotary-Dial Telephones – Make sure that you do indeed have a traditional old-fashioned copper 2-wire or 4-wire E & M landline “pipe” coming into your home/office before trying a rotary-dial telephone, and that if it’s a newer phone jack that it is indeed adaptable for “pulse dialing” which is how rotary phones work. Your phone company will be able to tell you if a rotary-dial phone will work with the phone jacks in your home/office. If you have a “Triple Play” package with cable TV, internet, and VoIP telephone service installed in your home/office, chances are a rotary-dial phone will not work with those types of phone jacks. PS – I worked in Engineering and Operations Management for several telephone companies in the 80’s and 90’s and find the above to still be true in most cases, but there are exceptions. Ask your phone company representative to be sure.

  2. I too thought it had gone away until I saw a copy of it in my doctor’s office. I tore out the subscription card and sent it off. It’s not only good reading but for me it is a throwback to a time when things were so much more simple than they are today.
    PS: I think of Norman Rockwell every time I see the magazine.

  3. Bob McGowan jr., I love your comments here and on countless features on this site otherwise. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Very unique gift you have. I don’t know if you write professionally, but you should.

    The Post is a great publication and needs to get itself out of obscurity as you stated. It’s kind of like a great movie up on the screen, and only a few rows are filled. Same principle as getting ‘butts in seats’! Hopefully that will change if they implement your suggestions.

  4. On “OCCASION” you find people that don’t know the Post is still published??! Seriously? No, that would be the vast majority of people don’t know that it’s still published, Troy. Nice try at an attempted downplay of the severity of its continual image as a publication of the distant past in the public perception, but it won’t work.

    I bring up the Post to people A LOT. Sometimes it’s in line somewhere and I bring up the website on my phone, other times it’s at a classic car show, still others it’s while I’m waiting for an appointment. No one knows about it until I show them the website. Everyone though is pleasantly surprised, smiling, covering their mouths saying “I had no idea” and thanking me for telling them. They also say they want to subscribe now that they know about it!

    They ask if it just came back and I say no, its been published all along and had a wonderful makeover several years ago. Its a subscription publication, so that’s why they don’t see it on newsstands. I compare it to why certain soft drinks aren’t on the shelves with Coke and Pepsi dominating the space; today’s economics, rolling my eyes.

    “On occasion” is where the Post needs to get to. First it has to get itself out of the dark shadows of obscurity which, let’s face it, is none other than the ultimate big gun, 60 Minutes’! In 2015 the program did a segment on the cartoon selection process for The New Yorker. Nothing against that at all. It was quite interesting. It also gave The New Yorker massive publicity it did NOT need, but got anyway!! (Social media is fine as a mother’s little helper for the Post, but that’s about it.)

    The program can do the same for the Post which needs it very badly. It’s the best magazine published today few people know about. This can be changed, and reasonably quickly. No, it won’t have 6 million or so circulation again but doesn’t need to. How about one to two million by 2022? You’ve got an ‘in’ with Ms. Stahl already. Let her help the Post take that step to the other side of life, and let the good times roll once again, with fame and acclaim!

    Shame on Planet Money for the damage they’ve done with their ignorance and lies. Fortunately they’re small potatoes that won’t matter once the big gun is applied. You can even call them out on it in a very public way that will surely embarrass. Who knows HOW many times they’ve reinforced that lie over the decades?!


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