Friends, I’ve found the permanent slogan of Throwback Thursday.
Not the fanfare part, just “It’s Thursday.” With a period and not an exclamation mark.
I have to admit, the idea of today’s Throwback Thursday actually came to me at Christmastime, when I was watching a block of Christmas commercials from the 1970s and 1980s. It was then that I came across a true gem, no matter what time of the year it is. Whether it is the holiday season, or just any ordinary Tuesday, this commercial screams classic, and this product…apparently was necessary at one time. If you’ve ever thought that using your Echo or Google device to turn on your lights, television, or play music was a marvel of modern technology, then man, do I have a product for you.
Today, we’re going back to 1984, and to a product that promised to do all of the things your fancy voice-activated devices can do, with a very simple motion of the hands.
Have you figured out what we’re looking at today? Because if you haven’t, here’s a visual aide…
Oh, Grandma! You proved that this product wasn’t the biggest waste of money!
The Clapper is a sound-activated electrical switch, which can turn on and off several plugged in devices at the simple – you guessed it by the name – clap of the hands. Clap once to turn on, twice to turn off. Set it to turn lights on as soon as you open the door (with an auto shut off set at five minutes), and prevent burglaries by setting it to away mode.
“What is this witchcraft?!” the wannabe-burglar thinks.
The Clapper, of course!
The Clapper was first introduced to a market who clearly needed home automation in 1984, sold by San Francisco-based Joseph Enterprises Inc. The product was marketed with the infamous slogan “Clap On! Clap Off! The Clapper!”, courtesy of its creators, Robert E. Clapper, Sr. and Richard J. Pirong. Up to two devices at a time could be plugged into a standard Clapper unit, and an upgraded model, the Clapper Plus, even had a remote control function in addition to the standard “clap” feature. There was even a SMART Clapper (!!!!!) that you would clap twice for one plugged in item, and three times for another. It knows the difference!
My Christmas tree can be on, and my TV can be off! SO SMART…and simple! But not as smart and simple as my Clapper remote!
The Clapper is one of those items that has never quite gone away – I was still seeing commercials for it in the mid-2000s, and they were always the reused footage from the 1980s and 1990s versions, just with the added bonus of a website title card. They were always advertised around the holidays as “making a great gift!” (wasn’t everything a “great gift”?), but I haven’t seen the commercials in years. Naturally, when one isn’t actively looking for The Clapper in “drug and other fine stores,” one probably wouldn’t see it. So naturally, since I found out there was a website (clapon.com), I needed to check it out, and well, brace yourself for this…
Was Bob Ross this popular when he was alive? Because 25 years after his passing, he’s everywhere, including your Clapper!
The Clapper itself is alive and well, and comes in six different versions – The Original (for the nostalgic people in the room), The Plus, Darth Vader, Bob Ross, C-3PO, and even…A Christmas Story.
You too can hear classic Star Wars and Christmas Story dialogue with two or three claps!
I honestly hope this isn’t the voice the Darth Vader Clapper speaks with. Because it sounds like the announcer’s tenth rate impression, and that’s just really sad.
Not you too, C-3PO!
All kidding and new versions aside, The Clapper is a classic product, if only for the commercials, and that earworm of a slogan. Lord knows it wasn’t/isn’t the perfect device – any sound it registers (doors slamming, laughing, yelling, banging, sharp sounds, and sound from televisions and speakers) could be the difference between a perfectly lit room, and total darkness. There is so much nostalgia tied to such a product, but it didn’t always work well.
My maternal Great Grandma, who lived to 95 (she passed away in 1994), loved the classic commercial, especially the old lady in the bed. It got her every time!
Thinking of my 80-something Great Grandma laughing at the “old lady in bed” makes me laugh. She lived independently in a senior citizen apartment building in her 70s and 80s (close in proximity to my aunt’s house), and was the oldest resident there. According to my mom, Great Grandma always referred to the younger people in her building as “poor old people” and “shut ins.” She was in the newspaper in the 1970s for her bowling abilities, and was sharp right up until the very end. She would love to know that this commercial – and the “old lady in bed” are still immortalized to this day.
Who is the “Old Lady in Bed,” anyway, aside from “The Official Spokes-clapper for The Clapper”?
Turns out her name was Thelma Goodwin, that much I’ve been able to find. She was the holdover from the original commercials, appearing in all of the subsequent ones. And why wouldn’t she? This woman was immortalized in her moment – the 1970s TV signed off, and she wants to turn off said TV and her lamp without having to leave the comfort of her twin bed. She is all of us seeking comfort in our laziness, and has been doing it far longer than it ever seemed necessary, possibly outliving her.
Man, what a legacy…and what a cheesy series of commercials.
Oh, and notice the commercial that always seems to be on TV when someone turns it on? Wasn’t that a total earworm?
Guess what I’ll be looking at for Flashback Friday?
Until then, have a great Throwback Thursday! And turn out the lights when you leave!
I think it’s the way she claps, with those big rubbery arms 🙂 She might not be as famous as Clara Peller, but she’s been on TV a lot longer. I’m surprised you found her name. Good article, as always.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Her giant hands! And “once more with feeling” clap gets me EVERYTIME! Oh, she’s definitely high on the list of Elderly Advertising Icons, alongside the wonderful Clara Peller and the “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!” lady!!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
There seems to be a whole series of this type of item that comes back around every Christmas, the clapper, the chia pet, that weird VCR remote with 2 tuner knobs, Hickory Farms stuff… Gifts for people you can’t think of anything better to get them, but are obligated to buy them something. I had a friend that had one hooked up in his room, when he would play his stereo too loud it would trigger the clapper and the lights and stereo would turn off. We’d be jamming to something and then all of a sudden you’d just be sitting in the dark with no sound or lights, it didn’t last too long. I can see where they’d be useful though.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I never owned one myself. It probably worked great for Christmas tree lights, as long as the tree was in a quiet room. Growing up, ours was in the living room, so it was away from the TV and any noise that would turn the Christmas lights off. But man, that commercial. I’m pretty sure “Old Lady in Bed” lived longer because of the commercial than she did in real life.
LikeLiked by 1 person