Alfredisms: "Polking Around"


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Norris AlfredThe Polk Progress was a Nebraska treasure that ceased publication in late 1989 after 82 years as a weekly newspaper. From 1955 until its last issue, the editor and publisher was the late Norris Alfred. In its last few months, the Progress had 900 subscribers in 45 states. Alfred was a remarkable Nebraskan with an uncanny eye for connecting the present with the future. Prairie Fire has collaborated with the Alfred family, the University of Nebraska School of Journalism and the Nebraska State Historical Society to locate and archive many of Norris's writings. We are capitalizing on our good fortune to present many of the Norris Alfred writings to our readership. We believe that his observations are as fresh and relevant to today's world as they were when originally written. “Polking Around”
June 4, 1970
We entered a world of fantasy yesterday. Not the fantasy world of the Pentagon, who use B52 bombers in fighting a guerrilla war; nor the fantasy world of Vice President Agnew, in which he is right and everybody else is wrong; but the fantastic world of breakfast foods on the shelf at Stromburg’s IGA. At first our intention had been to check on the NEW breakfast foods added since our last investigation; and we were also looking for words used to describe the contents. We have a suspicion that the superlatives being used in advertising are losing their effectiveness due to constant use, and are now ridiculous. We came across a carton in the Progress office on which was printed “Super Standard Sterling Supreme” to describe the gummed-tape packed in it, and this startling discovery sent us to the breakfast food shelves for more words, oddly used. Looking at the packaged offerings for breakfast, our attention was diverted by the amazing variety of prizes, coupons and articles available with every purchase. We decided we could render a service to our subscribers by listing what was offered besides the breakfast food inside the box. The wise shopper could stretch her dollar further by obtaining cutlery, tableware, dishes, coupons worth cash, flashlight, coffeemaker, lipstick, perfume pendant, monogrammed notepaper, a roll of color film, creamer-and-sugar set, salt-and-pepper set, mustard jar and jam jar set, a Sticky Wicket (every household needs one), or with a coupon from a box of Wheaties plus $2, six fishing lures can be obtained. Also, in a hundred words or less, plus the entry blank from a box of Wheaties, you can enter a fish story in a contest and maybe win a fiberglass boat, outboard motor, etc. We don’t believe a fish story worth telling can be told in 100 words. It takes that many just to get our line baited up and cast out. We finally decided, after a thorough perusal of the shelves, the wise shopper will detour the entire area. Those consumers who insist on dry breakfast food each morning will have to take their chances on eating a super speed car with their Alpha Bits, or Archie Rub-ons with their Rice Krinkles. You can join Dick Dastardly’s Vulture Squadron for only 25 cents and a coupon from a box of Frosted Flakes. Dismal Dick Dastardly is also offered with Smacks and Cocoa Krispies. With Bran Buds the shopper receives nothing extra except normal bowel movements. All the buyer has in a package of Special K besides the breakfast food is eight essential vitamins.

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