When I was a kid in Minneapolis, the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was a sight to be savored. My friends and I would see it only once or twice a year, in the parking lot of a shopping center in the ‘burbs, or idling in front of a department store like Dayton’s or Donaldson’s downtown. Then we’d come running.
Back then the driver was a dwarf or other small person, known as Little Oscar, and he would shake the hand of every kid that approached, and give him or her a wiener-shaped plastic whistle. In an earlier age, Little Oscar rode in a tiny seat at the top of the Weinermobile, which was basically just an automobile with a giant hot dog mounted on top. In those days, we didn’t think of the sexual connotations of frankfurters.
The Weinermobile was invented in 1936 by a nephew of the owner of Oscar Mayer, a meat-packing company based in Madison, Wisconsin, that had a particular penchant for promoting hot dogs, which were a prominent feature of the refrigerated meat case of every supermarket in the country. At one time there was as many as six Wienermobiles crisscrossing the nation to promote the company’s products.
The Wienermobile had a speaker that played a jingle, and we all knew the words:
I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener
That is what I’d truly like to be
‘Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener
Everyone would be in love with me.
Kind of needy-sounding, isn’t it?
Here’s a TV ad from the ’60s with a version sung by cartoon children:
The Wienermobile changed over time, and there have apparently been seven different configurations. I’ve tried to put them in chronological order. You’ll be surprised at the most recent edition.
Finally, here’s 1950s TV commercial featuring Little Oscar:
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 12, 2013