Speedy’s back and Alka Seltzer is the better for it. Long gone, a remnant of more innocent advertising times, Speedy has been revived as solace, perhaps, for the stressful, stomach-aching epoch we exist in today.
Speedy was born in 1951 when A.G. “Jeff” Wade II, head of Wade Advertising in Chicago, conceived the idea for a Howdy Doody-type spokes-character for Alka-Seltzer. As ad legend has it, Wade had just met the creator of the Fisk Tire boy (“Time to Re-Tire”) on a hunting trip in Michigan. He was looking for a similar creation to advertise the effervescent tablet on the new medium of television.
Artists were invited to submit concepts. Chuck Tennant, an advertising man, commissioned artist Robert Watkins, who sketched a baby-faced character with red hair and a tablet body and hat. Originally named “Sparky,” Perry L. Shupert, an account exec, renamed the character Speedy after that year’s promotional theme, “Speedy Relief.”
Speedy’s high-pitched child-like voice was supplied by Dick Beals. Speedy also co-starred with Buster Keaton, the Flintstones and others until he was discontinued in the mid-60s, when “spicy meatball” and “plop, plop fiz fiz” hit the airwaves. And oh want a relief it was. But now, Speedy is a welcome reminder that nostalgia can ease an aching stomach and head.