Several years ago, I wrote and taught a course at CCAD on the history of advertising. The course was designed to teach history, not from the usual political perspective, but from a consumer behavior perspective: how can we understand history from the changing lives of consumers in America.
This class introduced me to this wonderful advertisement for the New Haven Rail Road. “The Kid In Upper 4” is featured in a favorite book, Julian Watkins’ 1959 classic, 100 Greatest Advertisements 1852-1958. This advertisement, written by Nelson C. Metcalf, Jr., addressed the railroad’s need to explain (and win consumer acceptance) for reduced service due to the war economy. Civilian passengers were complaining, so they needed an attitude adjustment….
…because, as the advertisement suggests, it isn’t right for our lives to go on as if there is nothing happening halfway around the world when our young people are in harm’s way.
Each year I taught this course, I read this advertisement aloud to the students. It always made me cry.
This makes essential reading, especially now, when we are so aware of so many young people who are in harm’s way.
Read on for the text of the advertisement…
The Kid in Upper 4
It is 3:42 a.m. on a troop train.
Men wrapped in blankets are breathing heavily.
Two in every lower berth. One in every upper.
This is no ordinary trip. It may be their last in the U.S.A. till the end of the war. Tomorrow they will be on the high seas.
One is wide awake … listening … staring into the blackness.
It is the kid in Upper 4.
Tonight, he knows, he is leaving behind a lot of little things — and big ones.
The taste of hamburgers and pop … the feel of driving a roadster over a six-lane highway … a dog named Shucks, or Spot, or Barnacle Bill.
The pretty girl who writes so often … that gray-haired man, so proud and awkward at the station … the mother who knit the socks he’ll wear soon.
Tonight he’s thinking them over.
There’s a lump in his throat. And maybe – a tear fills his eye. It doesn’t matter, Kid. Nobody will see … it’s too dark.
A couple of thousand miles away, where he’s going, they don’t know him very well.
But people all over the world are waiting, praying for him to come.
And he will come, this kid in Upper 4.
With new hope, peace and freedom for a tired, bleeding world.
Next time you are on the train, remember the kid in Upper 4.
If you have to stand enroute — it is so he may have a seat.
If there is no berth for you — it is so that he may sleep.
If you have to wait for a seat in the diner — it is so he … and thousands like him … may have a meal they won’t forget in the days to come.
For to treat him as our most honored guest is the least we can do to pay a mighty debt of gratitude.
The New Haven R.R.