Siouxland Observer

Master of Science

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Wrapper

I remember the Indian. ...  I would immediately unwrap the Tootsie Roll Pop, pop the Pop in my mouth, and spread the wrapper out.  If the Indian was on it, it was good luck.Karen Kubby, 1994, Iowa City, Iowa.  

In Iowa City, arguably home to one of the most progressive universities in the Midwest, respect, and even emulation for Native American culture would come as no surprise.  And yet the symbol in question (a warrior chief) is a little boy playing Cowboys and Indians on a candy wrapper (original article here).  How can finding him bring good luck?

For anyone who’s worked in a grocery store, or a convenience store, and especially during the “Tootsie Roll Pop heyday,” the Indian wrapper was truly special.

At a store in Sioux City, for example, a group of boys, ranging in age from 10 to 14, looked at a clerk repeatedly while eating the candy.

Suddenly one of the boys came inside.  It was just after school, and he had a wrapper.  He wanted to know what he got for finding it.

“You don’t get anything,” the clerk said.  “I’m sorry.”

“But it has a star on it.”

“I’m sorry,” the clerk said again, and the boy left.  He and his friends looked disappointed, but the query was not unusual.  For decades, children routinely collected, or asked about the wrapper.  For some reason, children thought it was special, and many believed they would get a prize for finding it.

“It’s a real heartbreak,” Bob Crandall said.  He worked at Dan’s Short Stop, a convenience store in Iowa City, Iowa, in 1994.   
“When I was little," he said, "I went into stores too.  We thought if you got ten wrappers you’d get something for free, but you didn’t.  It was just a myth.”

Just a myth.  Try telling that to a kid in line.  You can be sure he won't be happy.  

Once a common occurrence, customers would be standing in a line, waiting to pay, when out of the blue a child would ask for a free sucker. 

In 2005, a reporter went searching for the "myth," only this time in Wayne, Nebraska.  Far from the more liberal Iowa City, the children of Wayne knew about the candy wrapper as well.  This time, however, the story had lost some of its luster.

Dori Bart, a scan coordinator at Pac ‘N’ Save on the eastside of Wayne, had to think about it.  At first she wasn't sure.

“I've heard of it,” she said after hearing more details, “but it has been years ago.”

Years ago. That’s how long it had been, she said, since children had asked about it.

Wayne is in rural, eastern Nebraska.  It is connected to other small towns in the area by a state highway.  From Wayne to Wakefield, and from Wakefield to Hubbard, no one had had a child ask for years

At the Westland Korner Mart, in Wakefield, Nebraska, no one remembered having a child ask for 3 or 4 years.  Likewise, across the street at the Cenex “C” Store.

“Not for a long time,” the manager, Julie Schultz, said one busy afternoon. “We actually had them bring in wrappers.”

At the “C” Store, everyone knew about the wrapper. Including Carol Gustafson, who was making popcorn at the popcorn machine.

Did children get a prize or something for the wrapper? a reporter asked.

“I don’t think so,” Gusafson said. “I thought it was just a big story someone had made up.”

But it was not just a big story someone had made up.  It happened all the time, and all across the country.  And while it is impossible to assess the legend’s staying power (will anyone still be asking in ten years, or even know about it?), it still generates excitement.  Children have asked in Iowa, Nebraska and even California.  They have asked about the star, and the little boy dressed as a warrior chief.  They want to know what they get for finding it.

In Carroll, Iowa, in 2010, a young mother, who worked at a GNC, knew all about it, including the newest update.  When a reporter asked if she had ever heard about the wrapper, and what the rules were, she told him people had to collect three wrappers to win.

“But you can’t do it anymore,” she said.

The belief that you get a free Tootsie Roll Pop, or anything, for finding the wrapper surfaced decades ago.  In fact, back in the day, if a consumer wrote the company (as recently as 1994), Tootsie Roll Industries sent "The Legend of the Indian Wrapper"— which can be read here by enlarging this copy.

Of  course, it is "Top Secret."  But for all the hoopla, only a Xerox came in the mail.  And according to one spokesperson, it was written because children keep asking about the wrapper.

“Long, long ago, when all lollipops were made alike,” the story begins, “a man one day decided to make a different kind of lollipop for people…." 

Naturally, it had a soft chewy center.

Interestingly, there is nothing about free gifts in the letter, only what the star means: that the candy maker has approved the quality of the product.

In more recent years, the company has been less inclined to send the story out.  A recent self-addressed, stamped envelope brought nothing in the mail.  But once upon a time, without fail, a letter sent to Tootsie Roll Industries in Chicago brought the children’s story.

It is not surprising, with more awareness toward the rights of Native Americans, the symbol has lost its luster.  And there are many more kinds of lollipops out there these days as well.

Erik Diessner, a clerk at the Westland Korner Mart (just across the street from the “C” Store), wasn’t sure why children didn’t come in anymore.

“I don’t know if it’s because we don’t sell that kind anymore,” Diessner said, “or kids just forgot about it.”

Indeed, at some stores you can’t even find the old Tootsie Roll Pops. Tootsie Roll Industries sells new flavors now; Tropical Stormz, for example. The wrapper was bright green, and there are no children playing on it at all.

In his “Encyclopedia of Urban Legends,” Jan Brunvand explains that companies and corporations are frequent targets of legends—generally negative ones.

But all is not negative.  A few legends claim companies provide valuable benefits, and such claims have circulated about Tootsie Pops for decades.  According to Brunvand, this kind of information is usually shared by people talking to other people.

“It is like a rumor,” he said in an interview by phone. “If you locate the wrapper with the Indian on it, you turn it in.  Of course, a lot of this circulates on the internet now. But generally speaking, it’s done person to person.”

And it’s true.

“We were just thinking about it,” Schultz said on a follow-up visit to the “C” Store. “And we think it was a cowboy on the wrapper.”

“No, it was an Indian and a star,” another clerk at the front counter shouts.

And with this, Schultz is off to the candy aisle. Sure enough, she immediately finds a wrapper with a little boy dressed as a warrior chief.  He holds a bow, and is shooting a star.

Spokespeople for the company insist they have never had a promotion, including employees in consumer relations. And they insist the wrapper is nothing special.  There are many different designs on the wrapper, according to the company; a child skateboarding, for example, and a tricycle.

Simply, as the wrapper is cut from a large roll for production, wherever the cut falls, an individual Tootsie Roll Pop wrapper has that particular design.  One person said that appropriately one in four wrappers will have the little boy shooting his bow and arrow. Sometimes the star will be on the wrapper, and sometimes it will not. It just depends on the cut.

Of course, for many, the image is just too contrived not to have any meaning, and especially when it comes to sales.  But repeated calls to the company revealed nothing about the wrapper’s development. The process has either been lost to time, or spokespeople cannot, or will not tell the story. The thought behind the wrapper, and which came first, the wrapper or the legend is not discussed.

And the belief in a free prize?

“People always remember things,” a spokesperson said, “but nobody remembers where, or how. Small businesses have had promotions perhaps, but the company has never had one....”

Dan Glasgow, the owner of Dan’s Short Stop, said children came in a lot.

“When I first opened,” Glasgow said, “kids came in all the time asking about it. I might have given then something, but after a while I had to stop.”

Other managers and clerks have confirmed this as well. Sometimes the kids got lucky.

In a call to Chico, California (after talking to Dan in 1994), Jeanie Vincent, a 7-Eleven manager, confirmed children asked about the wrapper there too. 
She knew all about it, but the children weren't asking much anymore.  The wrapper's popularity had faded long before it faded here.

Sadly, stores in the heartland have now lost the children as well.  But not to worry, there will always be a some myth, or urban legend, to turn a boring day into an adventure.  Spider eggs in bubble yum, come to mind, for example, or Pop Rocks that kill unwary children when their heads (or stomachs) explode.
Something will always amaze and delight.  And chances are, should you ever ask someone, they will have heard about the Tootsie Roll Pop wrapper.

“I heard about it,” a clerk said in 2005 at the Hubbard Mini Mart, a convenience store 20 miles south of Wayne.

“My mom’s heard about it,” a little girl said.

She and her brother were in the candy aisle looking at candy.  And it had to be true — or would be as soon as the children returned home.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Stuck In a Cup
Waiting For Godot

In San Francisco, in 1983, two people sat at a small table in a walk-up flat on Post Street. The friends were having tea; he coffee, when suddenly the woman looked into her cup. Something was going on, and she began to talk as if a crowd had gathered there.  It was odd.  The man looked on with sympathy, when suddenly the tea leaves began dancing (or so she said).  And then they spoke to her.  They called out, and from across the table they found voice in a woman staring at a cup:  “Help us,” they were shouting, she said, “Help Us!”

Suspended high in the air above Union Square images of the holiday dance in the sky next to the likes of Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Visitors marveled as they walk to the stores of downtown San Francisco. The holograms were festive; the streets filled with excitement.

It could be any year since holograms have filled the sky at Christmas, but during this year the crowds harbored missionaries armed with a new psychology called Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Neuro-Linguistic Programming, or NPL, is a registered trademark today, but back in 1983, it was routinely taught in college, and perhaps is royalty free in college psychology classes still.

Just a few miles north in Sonoma County, for example, “Frogs into Princes: Neuro-Linguistic Programming” had been required reading in the counseling department of Sonoma State University.

“Frogs into Princes” is believed to have started the Neuro-Linguistic Programming revolution. Joseph Riggio, a customer of, reviewed his copy of the book and said that “Frogs into Princes” was a “10,” and a hoot to read. “Even though it's now over 20 years old,” he wrote, “this is the first (and best-IMHO) book introducing the still cutting edge technology of human communication and cognition—Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP™).”

The book, according to Riggio, is an example of “doing” NLP™ as opposed to “describing” it. “You'll want to read it with your eyes open,” he cautioned, ”—sometimes more easily said then done—since what the authors are doing is often presented in hypnotically engaging language. … The material is written in such a way as to resolve itself as you read. This is an example of ‘nested loops’ a teaching technique Bandler and Grinder use extensively” (Riggio, 2000).

In San Francisco the holographic images and crowds hid the dispossessed, the hungry and underemployed who became easy marks for those seeking converts. Even the street-smart residents walking to get the newspaper, or resting in the park, could be fooled.

But this is not a story against NLP™, or missionaries. Helping psychologies have nothing to do with converts. And those offering a hot meal can have a good heart. The difference is between a Church and a cult, as both heed the call to converts.

At a banquet in San Francisco, hungry visitors ate salads, vegetables, bread and meat. Most had been approached by members of the Unification Church. All who had listened were invited to a meal and a lecture.

Competition for converts at this lecture was keen, and some assigned to work in San Francisco for the church deceitful. In a citation on the website, Wikipedia, the church is explained in far greater detail than would have been possible at the lectures that day. In fact, talk of the Heavenly Father did nothing to reveal what members truly believed about God.

“Unification Church beliefs,” the citation reports, “are summarized in the textbook ‘Divine Principle’ and include belief in a universal God…and that a man born in Korea in the early 20th century received from Jesus the mission to be the second coming of Christ. Members of the Unification Church believe this Messiah to be Sun Myung Moon.”

Regular folks in San Francisco could meet members of the Unification Church anywhere in the community, especially during those years of heavy recruitment. And in 1983, at least one recruiter in the church knew about “hypnotically engaging language.”

The details of NLP™ cannot be explored in any depth here, but the idea on one level is simple: nested loops explore communication and cognition—it is a teaching tool to help others learn new behaviors.

After an invitation to a meal, hungry guests heard about a retreat. They were offered more food, along with the opportunity to learn about the church.

O'Connor and Seymour (1994) who wrote about NLP™, said that metaphors, cover stories, parables, similes and jokes “are more memorable than just information, for you can make a point much more deeply and effectively with a story than just relating facts” (O’Connor & Seymour, p. 75).

Although it can be argued that tea leaves dancing in a cup is problematic, many who went to the retreat, and heard the lectures that followed dinner, would have experienced what O’Connor and Seymour called “training by nesting metaphors one inside another.”

Thus, O' Connor and Seymour, advised “start with a story that you leave unfinished as you move into the course of the material. You can start another metaphor at any stage which you also leave unfinished…as it leads you to another part of the training material. You can do this a number of times: this sets up what are called ‘nested loops.’ Nested loops require unnesting in reverse order. So the structure is as follows:

“Start training

Story A . . . material A. . .
Story B . . . material B. . .
Story C . . . material C. . .
Story D . . . material D. . .

“Now come out by completing the loop by finishing story D. . .

(then) Finish story C. . .
Finish story B. . .
Finish story A. . .
End of training” (O’Connor & Seymour, p.75).

At the Unification Church in 1983, the lectures were looped in such a way that the stories were never finished. Many people who attended a meal never found answers to their first story, their first lecture or even during the entirety of a week-long retreat.

In fact, the Church’s loops went on and on, until perhaps someone joined, when the story would perhaps be finished.

How guests learned the Revered Sun Myung Moon was considered the Messiah is still unknown. A would-be disciple left in frustration. But no doubt somewhere in NLP™ training there is a cautionary tale against the rejection of  too many nested loops.  For even after a chilling cry for help from desperate tea leaves, one visitor could not overcome the frustration of nested loops.  Simply, the “aha” moment never came, and the tea leaves went to a dishwasher in a flat on Post Street. 


O'Connor, J., & Seymour, J. (1994). Training with nlp. Hammersmith, London. Thorsons.

Riggio, J. (2000, August 2). Customer review. An nlp trainer’s review of the book that began nlp. Retrieved July 27, 2010, from

Editor’s Note: This is an update; "Stuck In a Cup" published on Blogger, July 27, 2010, drew sharp comments.  These can be found at 2010/07/stuck-in-cup.html by scrolling to the bottom of the page.