Saturday, September 17, 2016

Did Sally Struthers ever offer a degree in Tire Retreading?

In the late-1980s, I had the best job imaginable for a kid working his way through graduate school- I managed a video rental store.  What made it a fantastic job was all the fun conversations with regular customers about this or that latest release, how amazing it was that Superman IV managed to be even worse than Superman III, and how we all appreciated Golan and Globus for making the video rental industry even possible.

I also remember watching recruitment tapes which explained what a great career managing a video rental store could be- with awesome benefits (like free rentals, plus....well, that's about it, really) in an industry which would just keep growing and, right?

When I saw this classic Sally Struthers Correspondence Courses commercial on YouTube, it made me a little nostalgic about my days at the old video store, and also made me wonder what happened to the people who bought in to the idea that managing one might be the late-20th century equivalent of working the assembly line at the Ford factory- something you did for forty years or so before retiring with a sweet pension (or at least a hefty 401k.)  Obviously those dreams did not become a reality.  Ok for me, as I had no intention of devoting my life to a job suited for a college kid, but I'm sure that there were plenty of people who watched the rapid demise of the video rental industry* at the dawn of the 21st century with more than a little anxiety at the idea of starting over.

What happened to the people who decided to go all in for training in VCR repair or "Learning the Personal Computer?"  An earlier Struthers ad I remember even included Typewriter Repair as one of the options.  Did this training result in a few years of steady paychecks before those jobs were swept into the dustbin with streetlamp lighting and meter reading?

(I also thought it was more than a little appropriate that Sally Struthers would be pitching these courses - while she would find steady work on television over the next forty years her career peaked before her thirtieth birthday and I always imagined that while she was urging the audience to look into career options and telling us "do you want to make more money? Sure, we all do!" she was speaking for herself as much as for the company that hired her.)

*Which was already underway when I departed the industry in 1991.  My last job for the company I managed for was to close three of the chain's stores through liquidation sales.   The only VHS tape left unsold in one of the stores was the Justine Bateman vehicle Satisfaction (yes, I know Julia Roberts was in it, but it was Bateman's movie.)  The last I heard, Bateman was studying Computer Science.  Good to have a fallback, even if it's not on Sally Struther's list.


  1. I recall that Shannen Doherty was doing ads for "Education Connection" a few years back. I wonder if she ever got that bachelor's degree she claimed she was studying for.

    One of the companies from that era whose ads I recall is "Apex Tech", a school in New York City that promised training in car repair, HVAC, and so on. One of the sales pitches was that when you completed the course, a toolbox like the one the pitchman showed you was "yours to keep".

    I used to figure that if you got nothing else from the course, at last you got the toolbox. Then I remember thinking "that toolbox is probably worth nothing close to the cost of tuition."

    1. That toolbox probably retailed for $49 at any Sears. And unless it came with a computer, no one is using it to do car repair today.

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