Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tale in a Bucket

This stack of buckets can be seen through the window of the recently closed Tower Electronics, at Fifth Avenue and 13th St.  I passed by the store yesterday, and as I am easily pleased by the trivial, I admired  the elegant font on the bucket label, and the name itself: Embassy's Lucky Boy.  It sounded sort of jaunty and upbeat, and made me curious about the company, so I did a little amateurish digging.

It turns out that Embassy, founded by Samuel Wirfel and Samuel J. Fixler, started out on Greenwich Street in 1927, and later moved to Maspeth, Queens. Wirfel and Fixler registered for the draft not only in WW1, as teenagers, but also in the Second World War, when they were 50 and 51.  Between them they had three sons, though it's not known which particular kid was the actual Lucky Boy*. Their business, which produced a huge array of goods, from cleaning products to canned fruits and vegetables, closed down in 1986, but the Embassy Lucky Boy brand is still distributed by Mivilia Foods.  You can find out more detailed information about Embassy, and see a 1986 picture of a street commercial at its original location right here, at Walter Grutchfield's photography/local history website.  The website is mostly dedicated to old commercial ads on city buildings - those ghostly traces of a manufacturing past - and because some of the photographs go back twenty five years, it's a useful resource.

Unfortunately, the sign Grutchfield photographed in '86 is no longer there.  I went over to 405 Greenwich this morning, and found it gone, though paint from the ad remains at the top of the building, and the same patch up job on the brickwork is evident.  There are some extra windows punched in. It's an apartment building now, converted from commercial use early this century, and the two storey factory next door, recently an architect's office, is now to let.

Looking around online, for further information, I did find a label for a Lucky Boy product, on sale for a dollar, at Cerebro, an antique label business.  There's the lucky boy himself, along with some "strictly fancy" golden creamed corn.  Seems like a pretty good deal for a buck.

I wouldn't have known any of this if I hadn't looked in (T)ower, and seen the buckets.  How arbitrarily we acquire knowledge, and how fleeting the comings and goings of stores, businesses, and plump faced kids on the labels of cans. Tower was a rip-off store, and never did sell very good appliances.  We made a big mistake with a washing machine we got back there in the 80's, and the damn thing shuddered and banged across the floor at every spin cycle.  I almost miss the place though.  I'd take it over a condo development, or the next door 7 Eleven. It'd be better than Doggy Day Care (a recent here-and-then-gone venture across the street) or the nearby Edible Arrangements.  Let's hope we get lucky with the replacement. 

* Update - 11/22/15
It has now been established that the boy on the Lucky Boy label is neither a Wirfel nor a Fixler, but is in fact Seymour "Sy" Unger, who, along with his father, Morris Unger, worked for many years at the Embassy/Lucky Boy company.  I'm honored that both Melissa Unger, daughter of Seymour Unger, and David Elstein, great grandson of Sam Wirfel, wrote in to the blog about this, and conferred to set things straight (see comments below).  Thank you!


Goggla said...

Wow, what a cool discovery, all from a bucket!

mensajes claro gratis said...

I loved too @goggla

Melissa Unger said...

Hello there.... I just came across your site. The actual Lucky Boy photographed on the label is not Fixler or Wirfel's son....his name is Seymour 'Sy' Unger. He's my father. He passed away in 2000. He is the son of Morris Unger- my grandfather. Both he and my Dad worked most of their lives at Embassy/Lucky Boy.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Melissa, thank you so much for revealing the true identity of the Lucky Boy! It must have been quite something for your family to have your father's picture on the label. I really appreciate your taking the time to write in. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I would beg to differ.......My Dad thinks this was him.. My Great Grandfather was Sam Wirfel. Melissa.. please contact me at Would love to share history.

Melissa Unger said...

For the record: David Elstein and I have been in contact and it is definitely my father Seymour ' Sy' Unger.
100% sure.

onemorefoldedsunset said...

Thank you, Melissa. I will update the post.

ungerama said...

Hi - I'm Sy Unger's oldest daughter, Rusty. I was always told that Embassy/Lucky Boy ultimately belonged to Morris Unger. Having his picture on the label became embarrassing for Sy when the trucks with his huge baby picture on them were all over Manhattan. I do believe it was a source of misery for his older brother Robert - who was not nearly as adorable and deduced that he was not the favorite son!