Tea-ing Off


EVERY ASPECT OF our lives, it seems, is subject to some sort of calibration, Grades measure academic performance. Weekly schedules and semesters gauge time. Exam scores mark intelligence. But what of life itself?

One former undergraduate, perhaps recalling his studious Harvard years wrote: "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."

Perhaps if T.S. Eliot '10 resided in a Harvard house today, he would use a similar indicator--tea bags. The great modernist bard might have found the most intriguing daily reading not in any of his text books or any college publication, but on the tags of Salada tea bags.

"When you stop to think," he would have read some early morning in the dining hall, "don't forget to start again." Surely, this was the kind of prodding than cynical Eliot needed. Students today read these oh-so-catchy lines with every cup of tea they consume.

There are those who pay no need. Others let the letter white tags dictate their lives.


Some critics may oppose these steadfast adherents to the Salada philosophy. Maybe they should learn to "Listen before judging, think before speaking "and realize that" Truth and oil always come to the surface."

Somewhere in the vast spaciousness of Salada company's Little Falls, N.Y. plant, sits Mr. Allan Bastes, the company's vice president in charge of marketing and a man who "always drives as if his children were in the other car." Bates must approve every "tag-line"--as they are known in the business--before it is realised to the masses. "The point," says the man behind the Weltanschauung is to be a little bit comical, and to use just plain old good common sense.

But more often, many critics claim, the lines offer the veritable propaganda of capitalism and that great American faith if you try hard enough, you will succeed. "In trying times try harder," one tag beckons. "A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor," another states.

The messages have changed over the years since 1954, when the tags were first introduced by Jack Colpitts, the company's advertising manager and his wife. In the early '60s, the bags featured "instant fortunes" and Salada launched a massive media blitz under the ficticious premise that American Gypsies were boycotting the product. The campaign, let by Comedian Stan Freedberg and the mysterious Gypsy leader "Vladimir Krim," featured television ads depicting a Gypsy encampment on the ground of the company's Wobrun, MA headquarters. "It was a real laugh, "Bates recall. In the late '50s pilots on Eastern Airlines read their tags over the P.A. systems, and some tags featured "instant winner" cash prizes of 10 to 100 dollars.

Though today's tag lines--most of which are written by a Chicago advertising firm--are of a more traditional, fortune cookie vein ("People with clenched fists cannot shake hands"), they persist. Those who read them ought not to shun the cryptic messages, but should "be thankful for the opportunity to be thankful."

Be thankful for these outcast fragments of literature hanging from our tea cups, this source of guidance and thought. In a world in which everything is measured and monitored, in the complicated, often depressing world of college, "sometimes the best thing to get off your chest is your chin. "It's best, perhaps, to accept the tea bags for what they are After all, "A spoken work and thrown alone cannot be recalled."