Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Before "Old E. H." There Was... a Robot!

After reviewing some early E. H. Roberts phone book ads in preparation for yesterday's post, there's one thing that struck me kind of interesting.

If you look closely at the artwork above of a 1963 Lorain phone book ad, you don't see "Old E. H." on his rocker anywhere on the truck. Instead, there's a sprinting robot with tools in hand to illustrate the "fast service."

Here's a closer look at a truck from a 1968 Elyria phone book ad.
I'm not sure if the robot is tied to any specific furnace brand. Perhaps he was a subconscious nod to another robot related to home heating: the old Iron Fireman mascot (although the E. H. Roberts robot was more modern, mobile and less clanky).
Courtesy RubyLane.com
I suppose in the 1960s there was something appealing and futuristic back about a robotic repairman that was reliable, efficient and ready at a moment's notice. But on the other hand, there's something cold and souless about robots as well.
So it's not too surprising that the robot repairman apparently had a short career. He definitely would not be popular in this era, in which robots are seen as more threatening than ever to workers' livelihoods.
Whoever was in charge of E. H. Roberts advertising must have realized that their high-profile animated sign on Route 57 was a marketing goldmine, effectively communicating the warmth and nostalgia of simpler times – and destined to remain in the community's collective memories for decades.

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