You are Miss Citizen Fair.

This one goes out to the 614, yo.

Via Romenesko, news that what I’d previously believed was one of the more elaborate and amusing circulation-boosting gimmicks in newspaper history, the Columbus Citizen-Journal’s “Miss Citizen Fair,” was nothing but a retread. It’s identical in nearly every detail to the Minneapolis Tribune’s mysterious Mr. Sly, which dates to 1906.

The game: The mysterious Mr. Sly walks the streets of Minneapolis, with a cash reward on his head. Clues to his identity and whereabouts are published in every edition. Every day, the reward gets bigger and the clues better. There’s a strict procedure to claim your prize: You must be carrying a copy of that day’s paper (in Mr. Sly’s day, you had to have the right edition). You must lay your hand on him. And you must say, “You are The Tribune’s Mysterious Mr. Sly. Do you deny it?” If he didn’t, he took you to the newspaper office and paid out your reward.

Miss Citizen Fair didn’t require a touch, but you did have to carry a paper and say , “You are Miss Citizen Fair.” She usually got through a week to 10 days of the two-week Ohio State Fair before she was identified. The clues started with a vague, whole-body silhouette and concluded with close-up photos of her shoes, earrings or ponytail.

I don’t need to tell you that as a child, I was enthralled by the hunt for Miss Citizen Fair, who usually turned out to be some circulation district manager’s college-age daughter. She was photographed with the lucky winner on the last day, passing a check for a couple hundred bucks. If I were writing one of those “you know you’re from Columbus” lists, I’d include Flippo the Clown, Dick Clifton’s Ramblerland, and Miss Citizen Fair.

You’d think I would have figured this scheme wasn’t original by now, but what can I say? My History of Journalism class didn’t cover it.

Posted at 1:27 pm in Media |
 

23 responses to “You are Miss Citizen Fair.”

  1. Kirk said on November 7, 2007 at 2:00 pm

    I, too, followed the daily search for Miss Citizen Fair, dating back to the days when it was just the Columbus Citizen (I think it merged with the Ohio State Journal in 1961). I figured that someone with “Miss” in her title had to be pretty, so I wanted to see what she looked like.

  2. Dave said on November 7, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    Bill Swad? Lex Mayer? Casper the Camel? Spook Beckman?

    Never saw Miss Citizen Fair but remember the contest, which brings another Columbus newspaper memory to mind, Johnny Jones, who once did a column on my late father-in-law. My wife said they went to his place and it was an absolute mess.

  3. Laura said on November 7, 2007 at 3:10 pm

    How about the BBF? Mr. Edwards?

    I lurved the Miss Citizen Fair contest. That, and seeing Lucy’s Toy Shop live. And, of course, the giant (now talking) Smokey.

  4. Kirk said on November 7, 2007 at 3:59 pm

    Not sure whether it was Lex Mayer or Lex Mayers, but I used to watch him on TV, selling cars that sweaty wrestlers had recently landed upon.

    And my crayon drawing of a baseball diamond made it on Casper’s TV show.

  5. Crabby said on November 7, 2007 at 6:49 pm

    Lex’s Live Wrestling!1!

  6. Danny said on November 8, 2007 at 12:21 am

    Nancy, are you planning to weigh in on the WGA strike? Seems fertile ground for some serious bloggage. I was checking some of the comments on defamer. Though most are in support, one struck me as interesting:

    My heart is with these poor, oppressed writers whose average earnings are a mere $200,000 per year with health benefits. Viva la Revolucion!

    And when I read that, I found myself thinking about the discussion a few months ago regarding Lileks’ $75k salary for a few features per week. I know it is not apples-to-apples (failing newspaper industry v. Hollywood), but it is an interesting point.

    Right now, I am coming down on the side of the WGA. $200k sounds very small in comparison to what the execs must be making. Especially when one considers the contributions of each party.

  7. Danny said on November 8, 2007 at 12:35 am

    And Nancy, loved this from the Mondegreens:

    This space has been for some years the chief publicity agent for Mondegreens. The Oxford English Dictionary has not yet seen the light, but it will, it will.

  8. James said on November 8, 2007 at 7:48 am

    “… Dick Clifton’s Ramblerland…”

    I’m guessing this is a car dealership, but rings no bells with me. When I googled it, all I got were references in your blog.

    Are you sure you didn’t make it up?

    Count me in as someone who tried to find MSF, unsuccessfully.

  9. nancy said on November 8, 2007 at 7:54 am

    It changed pretty early to Dick Clifton’s Motorland, but it is not a figment of my imagination. In fact, it had a jingle:

    Dick Clifton’s Ramblerland
    Columbus’ dealingest dealer
    He hates to say no, we must confess
    So instead of no, he says yes yes yes!

    Ask John. I bet he’d remember.

  10. MichaelG said on November 8, 2007 at 8:45 am

    For a great take on the WGA strike read Ken Levine. One of the best blogs around. Right up there with . . . well . . .you know. http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/

  11. brian stouder said on November 8, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Michael – agreed. That Ken Levine site you often mention is quite good.

    I’m beginning to wonder about msnbc/newsweek, though. Check out this article –

    http://blog.newsweek.com/blogs/labnotes/archive/2007/11/07/a-my-name-is-alice-moniker-madness.aspx

    an excerpt –

    You know the old children’s game (excellent for long car trips) where you think of a name, place, and item for sale beginning with the same letter: “P my name is Paul, and I come from Poughkeepsie and I sell potatoes.” Turns out there may be more to it than we thought: People like their names so much that they unconsciously opt for things that begin with their initials. Tom is more likely to buy a Toyota, move to Totowa and marry Tessa than is Joe, who is more likely to buy a Jeep, move to Jonestown and marry Jill—and Susie sells seashells by the seashore.

    I say, Baloney (but then, being a Brian, I guess I would)! On the other hand, the writer’s name is Sharon Begley, so according to the theory she probably is more likely to traffic bags of sh%#t like this

  12. Laura said on November 8, 2007 at 9:59 am

    I sing the Dick Clifton Motorland jingle fairly often. Really. It’s part of my secret shame–an uber fascination with all things banal.

    And James, I remember singing “Hi There Mr. Tree” with you a few (many) years back. My husband thought we were nuts.

  13. nancy said on November 8, 2007 at 10:04 am

    In other news at this hour, I seem to recall that in the grand tradition of children’s-show hosts everywhere, Luci was a tippler.

  14. Kirk said on November 8, 2007 at 10:14 am

    The old editor I worked for in Van Wert was a drunk who had been a TV clown (the live kids-show type, not the news-reading type) in Lima. He told me he once had a baby elephant on the show. He climbed up on it facing the wrong way, the elephant reared and he found himself looking up its butt.

    I didn’t watch Luci, but I was a faithful fan of her Channel 10 predecessor, Aunt Fran.

  15. Danny said on November 8, 2007 at 11:05 am

    Aunt Fran? Kirk, is she the same as Fran Allison from Kukla, Fran and Ollie?

    Speaking of children’s shows: In Baltimore we had Professor Kool and his Fun Skool. He was a local TV weatherman who dressed up as a scholarly clown and had Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops as part of the live classroom each Saturday morning. Funny stuff. Here is an excerpt from snopes that I found funny, even if unconfirmed:

    Comment: After reading your Television Legends Section, I was reminded of a story that circulated in Baltimore, MD around the early 1970’s. At that time, there was a local TV kid’s show host, Stu Kerr, who used to play the character “Professor Kool” (Professor Kool and His Fun School – WMAR-TV Baltimore) who would have weekly banter with kids during a live Saturday morning broadcast. Each week, he’d have different children in the studio so that there wasn’t a script for the kids, just for Stu. The kids were supposed to be spontaneous (within reason). Professor Kool would ask for the kids to tell their best jokes and he would give a prize for the one which got the biggest laugh. After a couple of kids had their turn telling the standard knock-knock’s, etc., one brutish-looking lad grabbed the microphone from Stu and proceeded to relate the following joke quickly before cameras and sound could cut away: “Why is a virgin like a frying pan? Because she’s got to be hot before you can apply the meat.” I don’t know if he won the prize, but I understand there was at least 2-3 minutes of backstage pandemonium as the camera panned the room to recover and the boy’s mother ran to the set and whacked his bottom.

  16. Kirk said on November 8, 2007 at 11:39 am

    Nope, not Fran Allison, just a local TV person. She did do some puppet stuff, though.

  17. Dave said on November 8, 2007 at 10:28 pm

    I do not remember Aunt Fran at all but as soon as I saw the lyrics for Dick Clifton’s Ramblerland, though I didn’t break out into song, I instantly knew the tune. I do know the Mr. Tree song, too, younger siblings watched Lucy’s Toy Shop.

    Chiller Theater? Fritz the Night Owl? Jerry Rasor’s Dance Party on Saturday morning?

  18. Dean said on November 17, 2007 at 9:34 am

    It was Lex Mayers, with an “s”. He was the wrestling host and owner of Lex Mayers’ Chevrolet in Columbus. I’m certain-I’m his X-brother in law. How’bout that!

  19. Donna said on November 25, 2007 at 7:19 pm

    Reading these blogs is a hoot. I remember Aunt Fran–I was on her show while in first grade. Also, remember Casper the Camel? While I was an undergraduate at OSU, I went into a campus shop on High Street. The owner/store clerk asked, “May I help you?” Before responding, it occurred to me that that person was Sky Lucy a.k.a. Casper the Camel. Too funny!

  20. Bill said on November 30, 2007 at 11:05 am

    My wife was oince on “Bowling for Dollars” hosted by Spook Beckman. And reading through all this reminded me of Casper the Camel’s sidekick and straight man, Chuck Nuzum. Great stuff.

  21. John E. said on December 17, 2007 at 7:51 pm

    I remember in his later years (late 70’s) Spook Beckman sold cars at Lou McGuire Ford in Westerville,Ohio along with my dad. He also served in WWII. Great guy.

  22. tim said on January 7, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    hi there mr tree
    we’re very glad to see you
    wake up mr tree
    its daytime cant you see

  23. tim said on January 7, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    MR TREE