I’ve been on the outside of that famous shell and the inside and trust me — outside is better.
All throughout elementary school my cousin Kit and I were occasionally treated to a lift to the Asbury Park Boardwalk by our moms in summer and winter. In the summer the boardwalk was crowded with tourists from New York City and Northern New Jersey.
In the winter the boardwalk was deserted.
During the biting cold it was not unusual for our moms to let us roam freely while they took their power walks never being too far away yet still giving Kit and me a sense of freedom.
The difference in the activity between summer and winter allowed us to have two entirely different relationships with the boardwalk.
There was one constant, however, Mr. Peanut. Neither rain nor sleet, nor dark of night could keep him from his appointed rounds. He was always there amicably patrolling the boardwalk between the Planter’s Peanut Store on the west side and the Atlantic Ocean on the east.
For the uninitiated, Mr. Peanut was a human wearing a gigantic peanut shell costume made of plastic with his arms stuck out two holes on the sides and legs two holes in the bottom.
Because the shell was so outlandishly shaped additional small circular breathing and sight holes were cut somewhere around the plastic shell’s lower half.
All told a humanly occupied shell stood close to 8 feet tall.
Pretty intimidating for a couple of 7th graders.
We were drawn to Mr Peanut, especially in the winter when he didn’t have the distraction of so many tourists and could concentrate on frightening two little preteens.
I confess, Kit and I had a real approach-avoidance complex about Mr.Peanut.
He fascinated us, while in equal parts scaring us.
In the winter when the rides and most shops were shut down; Mr Peanut was the only game in town.
Our mothers were power walking.
How else was a guy to prove he was a man other than to pester Mr.Peanut?
Kit and I would toss empty clam shells we collected from the beach at the outsized peanut shell and run away. Mr Peanut could have been an olympiad and with the handicap of the monsterous shell he’d still have trouble catching up with us.
He became unfriendly the more we persisted in teasing him.
We were afraid but that made it all the more delicious.
One brisk winter day with the wind whipping off the ocean, mothers strutting half a mile away on the boardwalk, Kit and I scavenged only a couple of shells to toss at Mr. Peanut. Not much of an arsenal.
Because of our lack of ammunition we felt we had to become embolden. Not wanting to miss our target, we advanced closer to the colossus than we normally would have, Mr. Peanut whirled around to take a swipe at me and tripped over Kit.
Hitting the unforgiving frozen boardwalk with a thud, Mr Peanut gave out a very human moan.
“Oh, fuck! I think I’ve sprained my wrist!” exclaimed Mr Peanut.
“Here, help me pull this God damn shell off.” a voice far from what we would expect to hear from the scary omnipotent Mr Peanut.
Kit and I helped wrestle the shell costume off Ginny Keller, a girl in my brother’s class a sophomore in Asbury Park High School.
Certainly not the scary monster we’d been thinking all this time.
My mother and aunt seeing the commotion hurried over to join us and help sort things out.
We all returned the Mr. Peanut shell to the store and explained the accident as best we could leaving out all the incriminating parts. The manager gave Ginny the rest of the day off but admonished her to return to work for her next weekend shift.
My mother and aunt gave Ginny a ride home. She only lived a couple of block from us.
Far from the villain we projected our imagined adversary Mr Peanut to be, Ginny told us that donning the Mr. Peanut shell and roaming on the boardwalk is the first step on the coporate ladder to be a waitress inside the store where peanut related food is served summer and winter — a much more lucrative position.
Ironically, after my cousin’s dad got a job in Danbury Connecticut and Kit enrolled in high school there, I was Mr. Peanut for a couple of sweltering weeks one summer.
I can appreciate what a pain in the ass my cousin and I were back then.
Referance: www,planters.com>mr-peanut> planters
1906: Planters Peanut Company founded in Wilkes-Barre, Pa
1916: Mr Peanut was born when schoolboy Antonio Gentile submitted his sketch to win the Planters contest to win the Planters contest for a brand icon.
1950s: First TV commercials featuring Mr Peanut aired nationwide.
2004: Mr. Peanut earned a spot on Madison Ave’s Advertising Hall of Fame.
2016: Mr Peanut celebrates his 100th birthday.
2020: Mr. Peanut was killed (retired) in an accident trying to save Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh by plunging to their death with a morbid bit of advertising in a Super Bowl 54 spot.