Datsun’s Return

When I was a kid, Datsun was one of the Japanese carmakers that seemed to suddenly burst onto the scene and sell a lot of cars.

It produced models like the Datsun 280ZX, a cool-looking, reasonably priced sports car that was popular with many of the guys in my age group.  Then, one day, “Datsun” was gone — forever (we were told) replaced by “Nissan.”  For years, Nissan did whatever it could to try to erase the name Datsun from the collective consciousness of the American consumer.

Now, more than 30 years later, Nissan has decided to reintroduce the Datsun name.  Nissan wants to offer a low-cost line of cars.  However, it doesn’t want to call them Nissans because that might impair the Nissan brand.  So, “Datsun” is being exhumed from the graveyard of familiar brand names, and low-cost Datsun cars will be sold in Russia, Indonesia, and India beginning in 2014.

How many products that once were popular but have fallen into obscurity are still available to the general public?  Do they still sell Brylcreen, Bufferin, and Blatz beer — just to focus on the Bs?  And if a name that has been consciously discarded and scrubbed from human memory, like Datsun, can be revived, could we see a resurgence of other discarded, gone-but-not-quite-forgotten brands?  We’ll know when we start to see Burma Shave signs, RainTree soft drinks in the supermarket, Quake cereal in the breakfast food aisle, BBFs (short for the clumsy, vintage ’50s moniker Burger Boy Food-o-Rama) on Columbus street corners, and chintzy commercials for the Veg-o-Matic back on late night cable TV.

Robin Hood Cream Ale And Other Cheap Beers Of the ’70s

My post on summer cider, and particularly the picture of Errol Flynn in iconic Robin Hood garb, inevitably reminded me of Robin Hood Cream Ale.

The corner grocery store about a block and a half from my college apartment at 101 West 8th Avenue in Columbus specialized in cheap beer.  How surprising in a campus community!  On any given Friday afternoon, a stroll down to the store would find a frenzied press of students of The Ohio State University rushing to buy as much beer — that is, as much dirt-cheap beer — as the wallet could bear.  The store’s stock of foodstuffs consisted of three categories — (1) various forms of beef jerky, (2) Hostess Bakery products like Twinkies, Ho Hos and cupcakes, and (3) beer.  Approximately 99.7 percent of the store’s available footage was devoted to beer.

The ’70s really was the golden hour for cheap beer.  A visit to the corner grocery might find several cases of warm Billy Beer laid in, or Burger Beer, or Blatz, or even a totally generic brew in a white can with the black-stenciled label “BEER.”  Of the various choices, however, the preferred selection was Robin Hood Cream Ale.  A six-pack of 16-ounce cans cost $1.19, which meant that you could properly greet the coming weekend in style for an amount that usually could be cobbled together by carefully checking the sofa cushions.  Unlike, say, Billy Beer, which really was undrinkable except in extremis, Robin Hood had a decent taste.  It also featured a guy who looked like Woodrow the Woodsman lifting a flagon of frothy brew, and a slogan that had “Ye” in it.  What could be classier?

It went down easy on a Friday afternoon as you watched a Star Trek rerun and waited for the Friday night party to begin.