Old advertising can be interesting and we’ve found some fun examples in our archives (which is a fancy word for our storage room!).   Rather than let these interesting examples just gather dust, we thought it would be fun to return to the advertising craft before computers and digital technology revolutionized everything.  You can also see a bit into the local pop culture of Spokane in the 1970s with some of these billboards.  Enjoy these old ads, and see which of these companies, places and stores you remember!


I have a hard time remembering Rusans. I dimly remember thinking it was “Russians” (because I was a kid, and it make more sense to me for some reason). Maybe because I was more of a Hamers or Squire Shoppe sort of guy.  Apparently, they sold clothing that was good for your body-particularly while wearing some sort of apron designed to protect you from various biohazards while you were lying on the floor drinking milk. On the floor.  Hmmm. Actually, it’s a decent enough billboard;  It’s a striking visual from a design perspective (I mean you have to notice a large painting of a woman on a billboard) and the copy is short and readable with a clean look. Well done 1970’s era designers!

Bell Furniture was one of Spokane’s long-time anchors in the furniture category, Along with Burgan’s, Sylvan, Liberty Furniture and others I don’t recall, these were once the big retail center-pieces of downtown Spokane.  Bell Furniture was located in a building called the Mearow Block on Riverside.  I mention that because the Mearow Block is still there. Which is interesting, and I have a hypothesis; these old furniture stores may be responsible for the existence of some of the historic structures that still exist in Spokane so we should be thankful for their legacy (for example, Liberty Furniture is now Auntie’s Books and the old Burgan’s is now the Ruby Condos, etc…). Consider that many of the other buildings of this vintage likely did not have a solid tenant or owner, and so their legacy is….a parking lot. So thank you former furniture stores of an earlier era; you have left us with something even more valuable than the furniture our parents bought from you.

What about the ad? It’s a clean and easy to read billboard.  I suppose if those old-fashioned roll-top desks were ‘the thing to have’ back in the seventies then the subject matter was appropriate. Anyway, I’ll try not to impose contemporary tastes on 1970’s furniture.  At least not publicly.  Those sort of divisive opinions are for Facebook.

I do remember Penrod’s. Not very well as I don’t think they were in around too long. They were a toy store.  In the Valley. As an ad…Well…This one feels pretty dated. The copy is clever: “Pick up your toys!” …. get it? It’s a double-meaning.  It was one of those secret advertising tricks that was used in the seventies along with subliminal advertising (“Don’t you see all those naked ladies in that glass of bourbon!”).

But i have an issue with this ad. I suppose that illustration of a toy soldier is supposed to get me excited. But being that I was very much in the target demographic for this ad at the time I have to say….that’s every kid’s worst nightmare of a toy. A smiling toy soldier? Really? How about Kenner Star Wars action figures? Or Hot Wheels? Or Lego’s or a Spyro-Gyro, or ANYTHING that a REAL kid might want. The reality is that in ye olden days, there wasn’t anything like Google Image Search or easy access to clipart libraries with billions of illustrations and images. In fact, the term “clip art” comes from the fact that you had to ‘clip’ it out of giant books. I’m not kidding kids. And hope that your candle didn’t tip onto your drafting desk and soil your quill. Anyway, if the best ‘art’ they had for ‘toys’ were some really sad illustrations of toy soldiers, well, that’s what you got. Thank you internet.

Penrod's billboard

Okay, I’ve already talked about Penrod’s, but here’s another example of that secret 70’s advertising device the “double entendre” again.  But in a way I miss these puns in advertising. We’re all so serious now aren’t we?

But you know what is serious? Why is the address even on this billboard? If you were flying by this billboard in your ’72 Oldsmobile Custom Cruiser, could you read that? No. Why? Because you weren’t wearing a seatbelt, were likely drinking from a bottle of gin, your bangs were covering your eyes, you had a cigarette in one hand while putting mascara on with the other? No.  You see, people in 1977 were people too.  With the same eyesight (basically) we have today.  They weren’t so different. So what’s the lesson from this for all you future graphic designers (and marketing directors)? This falls in the category of “Make it bigger or take it out; you can’t have both.”

I remember Camelot. It was on Francis. I guess everyone knew that because there’s no address on this billboard. How was the food? Not sure. Not even sure what kind of food they had.  It might have been a cool place to go because I think we went there once when I was little and it was one of those ‘special dinners’.

Wow, check out those hand-painted billboards. Yikes. Can you get a makegood on painting?

I love this ad. This ad is everything you WANT from a ‘retro’ ad; from the long-forgotten brand to a cute cartoon kid.  I love that back in ‘the old times’ cartoon kids were found on everything: bread, cereal, fast food, liquor, cigarettes, etc….

What I don’t understand is the copy:  Quiet. Sandwich.

Was there some sort of issue with loud bread back in those days? Have I forgotten how loud Wonder Bread was? Part of the charm of this old ad is that I have not idea what the product benefit is. Its an enigma.  At least to me. Today. And that’s what’s fun.  Imagine how many ads today will be unintelligible to some smart-aleck 40 or 50 years from now? Hmmmm…..