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Crookston Times - Crookston, MN
  • Column: I'll give you KFC, but J.C. Penney is no 'jcp'

  • Department store chain is what it is, but is that so bad?
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  • What's that old saying about a leopard not being able to change its stripes?
        Some things, no matter how intense the efforts to change the way they are perceived by others, will always be viewed in their original sense, even if some well-paid marketing gurus determine that the original sense is outdated, out of style and, worst of all, maybe no longer raking in enough cash.
        You know how you sometimes come across those quirky, entertaining and educational stories about the passing of time and the older generations versus the up and coming ones? The stories will typically include a lot of technological, pop cultural and historical developments and facts, and mention things like today's high school graduates have never known a world without the Internet, or they have no idea what a rotary land-line telephone is.
        You could probably add another one, that today's young'uns have no idea what KFC stands for, in reference to the fast-food chicken franchise. If you're of a certain age, you know that many years ago the decision-makers at the restaurant founded by Col. Sanders ditched the spelled-out version of the name because the "F" stands for "fried," and all of a sudden it began dawning on people that devouring lots of foods fried in a vat of fatty oil probably wasn't heart-smart. These kids today? For all they know KFC stands for Krazy! Fun! Chicken!.
        The focus on limiting the chicken franchise's title to an acronym would have to be considered a success, however, because when was the last time you uttered the words "Kentucky Fried Chicken" or heard anyone else say those three words? If you eat there as often as my family does – like, never – maybe the words have never crossed your lips.
        Next up on the list of something trying to reinvent itself is the department store chain, J.C. Penney. No longer are you to refer to the longtime retail destination by that ancient, antiquated name, however; now you are to say, "JCP." Actually, even that's inaccurate, as the logo features trendy, lower-case letters, "jcp." Maybe we’re supposed to whisper it.
        Sorry, I just can't go there. I grew up with J.C. Penney and I'll grow old and die with J.C. Penney. I may have called it "Penney's" on occasion, but jcp? How dim-bulbed do you think I am? (That's a rhetorical question.)
        I do, however, understand the desire to change with the times and attract a younger, hipper demographic of shopper. When I was a kid, I saw J.C. Penney as the stodgier, more uptight department store when compared to, say, Daytons. On those occasions when my family would venture to Columbia Mall in Grand Forks, I'd always prefer a browsing stroll through Dayton’s to Penney's, especially when it was time to buy clothes for school. Dayton's had all the trendy brand names of shirts and jeans, while I associated Penney's with their affordable, sensible and functional "Plain Pockets" denim jeans.
    Page 2 of 2 -     When I was entering my teenage years, most reasonably priced stereo systems were of the "rack" variety, in that you'd buy an integrated system self-contained in some type of cabinet that included some combination of turntable, cassette deck, CD player, receiver, maybe an equalizer and two speakers. One Christmas, a rack stereo system was going to be my big gift, and one of the first places we shopped was the cool electronics department at Dayton's. I fell in love with a Sony system, although my mom thought the Mitsubishi system – yes, Mitsubishi – kind of looked like a spaceship. "I'd get the Mitsubooshoo," she'd say, and to this day I don't know if she was legitimately pronouncing the brand name wrong, or if she was just trying to mess with me.
        You could get a stereo at J.C. Penney, too...for your grandmother. My grandma Marian wanted a sound system one year and she ended up with a receiver, cassette deck and speakers, but it was from Penney's and the brand was "MTS." She wasn't a glam-metal head banger like her grandson, so her audio needs were somewhat less intense, but, still...MTS? What did that stand for? Mundane Timid Sounds? It had J.C. Penney written all over it.
        Sometimes we simply are who we are, and that is what it is. If that means you're sitting around eating a greasy piece of fried chicken while wearing your Plain Pockets, feel free to bask in your retro-coolness. And wipe your chin, before you drip fryer oil on your jeans.

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