An auction just for kids!
by Brian G. Spare
Think back to when you were a youngster. Wouldn’t it have been cool to have an auction just for kids that was every bit as like one for grown-ups? You would be on TV, win games, toys or even a bike that you bid on, and all you had to do is save up your potato chip bags.
In 1960, Robert Watson of Watson Advertising proposed such a show to Old Dutch Potato Chips of Winnipeg, Manitoba founded in 1954, as a promotion. He proposed the Kids Bids auction show where children could save up their Old Dutch potato chip bags and box tops that would be worth points to bid for prizes provided by Old Dutch. A small bag would be worth 10 points, the larger bag worth 25 and a box top worth 100 points. A moderator would open the show, welcome all the children to Kids Bids and introduce the auctioneer. The auctioneer set the minimum number of points the prize to be bid on while high school-aged girls dressed in Dutch costume displayed the prize. Then the bidding started. If a child had enough points to out bid everybody else he or she won the prize. Then the moderator handed out the prize.
The idea was a hit. Kids Bids shows quickly sprang up in Thunder Bay, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Medicine Hat, Lethbridge and westward. Kids Bids shows in Thunder Bay were taped on Saturday mornings from a studio in CKPR at 87 N. Hill St. Bud Riley and Jack Masters were the moderators, Maurice Fennell, a professional auctioneer, conducted the bidding, and the high school girls who displayed the prizes wore white dresses with red aprons, wooden Dutch shoes and windmill hats. Ten to 15 prizes – board games, books, toys and a bike – were up for auction each week. The kids bidding on the prizes sat on bleachers.
During the years Kids Bids was on the air, you wouldn’t find an Old Dutch bag littering the streets. All the kids scoured every street corner and ditch looking for bags to add to their collection. Although, you might have found an Old Dutch box or two – missing the top, of course.
It took the kids months to collect enough bags to accumulate enough points to get on Kids Bids. Over time the accumulating bundles of bags piled up in basements developed a strong stale odour. Each Saturday boys and girls lined up outside the CKPR studio with their stinky stacks of Old Dutch chip bags hoping to be lucky enough to make it onto the show. Once inside, every child was given a number corresponding to the points they had saved up in exchange for their bags and box tops, and that is how high they could bid. Then the kids took their place on the bleachers and the show began.
Nancy Angus was a regular on Kids Bids. She diligently saved all her Old Dutch potato chip bags and box tops in her basement and tied them up into stacks. Nancy got all the neighbours to save Old Dutch bags for her too. One time when she was on Kids Bids when she was in Grade 4 in 1966 Nancy recalls, “I wanted to bid on a Kimmie doll but I didn’t have enough points to win.” But she won a Hardy Boys book, The Flickering Torch Mystery by Franklin W. Dixon, and a Slinky. As Jack Masters handed Nancy her prize he told her that it was actually a boy’s prize (girls got Nancy Drew books). That was fine with Nancy. All that mattered was that she had won a prize on Kids Bids. “… and I’ve kept it all these years,” Nancy said with a smile.
“Oh, I remember Kids Bids,” Susan Ward said to me as she laughed. Susan was another avid regular on the show. “It seemed like a really big production to me. Maurice Fennell spoke so fast you pay close attention all the time.” The excitement of the show kept Susan going back for more.
The big prize was the CCM bicycle. “You needed a lot of points to get the bike,” recounted Tony Vincenzoni. When he was in Grade 8 in 1964, Tony had collected enough bags for the points to win the CCM bike. “They gave me a coupon for the bike and I had to get the bus right across town to the Chapples warehouse on Simpson St. (now Dinty’s Warehouse 500) to get it.”
It turned out that 1968 was the last year for Kids Bids in Thunder Bay and the show made its way into the history books. But to all the kids-at-heart like Nancy, Susan and Tony, the excitement of Kids Bids is fondly remembered to this day.
Thank you to Nancy Angus, Susan Ward, Tony Vincenzoni and the Saskatoon Public Library for their assistance with this article.
Brian G. Spare is a local author and freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Contact him at https://BrianGSpare.com
*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*