Long before the Internet or the Amber Alert, the best known method of attempting to locate missing children was to put their picture on milk cartons.
Several days ago, New York Police announced the arrest of Pedro Hernandez, for the murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz in 1979. The incident marked the beginning of this practice, which would be utilized for several decades, and the news caused me to revisit this phenomenon, with the same question I’ve always had – WHY A MILK CARTON?
While I agree that immediate and intense exposure is vital in finding missing children, I have always wondered – why a milk carton? I recognize the dairy industry has often played a major role in crime-solving efforts. For many years, Dallas‘ own Schepps Dairy (now “Oak Farms“) has admirably been among the first to offer cash rewards for information leading to arrests in violent crimes. Cash rewards, I understand. But, I never could see the logic in faces on milk cartons.
When this first began in 1979, I immediately wondered – why a milk carton? That is going right back into the refrigerator. It’s the CEREAL BOX that remains on the table throughout breakfast. That is what we’re mindlessly staring at for 15 minutes.
Then, my thoughts went further – in fact, why the cereal box? Unless it’s some kind of bran, only other children will truly be paying attention to a cereal box. That’s when it hit me – BEER CANS – WINE BOTTLES – that’s what adults are endlessly eying!
Pondering other items that, by virtue of their placement and demographics, innately demand, so to speak, a “captive audience,” I also considered toilet paper. While potentially effective, it seemed somehow disrespectful.
Needless to say, my ideas never really caught on. Fortunately, these days, the Internet and highway marquees quickly broadcast Amber Alerts and similar emergency messages to the public.
Nevertheless, I’m still thinkin’ beer cans – that is, until they get that macho fist crush, which would likely transform the image to Popeye.