one of the most successful and certainly the best remembered of all oil
company advertisements was the Boy and Slate sign which, for more than
two decades, extolled the qualities of White Rose gasoline and En-Ar-Co
It was an advertisement that could at once be readily identified by almost every car owner in Canada. The Boy and Slate was practically a national institution.
The epigrams he carried might not raise a chuckle now, but they were in keeping with the mood of the less sophisticated years between the two World Wars.
The Boy and Slate was not the result of a genius or a high powered advertising program. He simply arrived on the scene.
Many service stations during the First World war found the need to advertise certain of their products. Normally a piece of cardboard attached to a piece of stick had to serve the purpose.
The message was soon unreadable in bad weather and so a message whitewashed onto an ordinary school slate took its place. The Boy was simply devised to hold the slate, in place of an easel.
So it was in 1917 that the first Boy and Slate sign appeared. It carried a straight advertising message.
In no time, thousands of these happy looking advertisements appeared all along the Canadian highways.
Working on the belief that if you can make a prospective customer smile, he is more likely to buy you product, the company sought to use the slate for humorous messages.
They were an immediate success and soon a calendar of these messages- they were called En-Ar-Co Grams- was being sent out to dealers so that every Boy and Slate sign in Canada carried the same message on the same day.
For two days the slate might read "It's the old soaks who sponge around" to be followed by "Fall guys are always in season." Soon everyone was talking about them. In Toronto, for instance, there was a Boy and Slate outside a Canadian Oil service station on Dundas Street. Every morning the rush hour street cars slowed down so that passenders could read and chuckle over the message for that day.
And it didn't stop at that. The messages were repeated in all sorts of ways. On one occasion the Boy and Slate proclaimed "there is no reduction in the wages of sin." A newspaper wrote an editorial based on it and a Methodist preacher used it as the text for a sermon.
Another message " A little down each week feathers your nest" was liked so much by a furniture firm that they asked permission of the company to use it as an advertising slogan of their own.
"More accidents are caused by Tight Nuts than loose ones" brought the company many applauding letters from the abstemious.
And so they went on bringing chuckles and nods of agreement all over Canada. In English and French they continued to attract attention and business to the Canadian Oil service stations.
To the service station attendants the Boy and Slate became "The World's Greatest Oil and Gas Salesman," and a uniqure trade mark for the company.
Among all the oil and gasoline trademarks, the Boy and Slate was always conspicuous. Its shape alone set it apart from the others and, in a survey taken of one area, only two out of 350 motorists were unable to identify the Boy and Slate with White Rose gasoline.
However, it was a form of advertising that had its greatest appeal in the 20's and early 30's. In 1940, shortly after Canadian Oil Companies, Limited reverted to Canadian ownership, the Boy and Slate was discontinued ----but not forgotten!