DOUBLE LUCK Brand FOODS
In many ways, the Double Luck brand of canned vegetables -- a subsidiary
of Del Monte Foods of California -- is unremarkable. Sold locally in
northern California throughout my childhood, it is just one of those
cheap brands that utilize produce which for one reason or another cannot
be sold to the "fancy-packed" market. This label, taken from a can
containing a "mixture of short cut and cut" Blue Lake variety green
beans, is typical of the Double Luck product line. "Short cut" is
packer's code for ends and pieces. Short-cuts aren't bad; they just don't
look very pretty, a fact that is reflected in their price.
Canned green beans -- in contradistinction to fresh or frozen ones -- are mostly
popular with people from the South. As with many "lucky" brands of merchandise,
Double Luck was designed to be marketed to poor people, especially to
African-Americans. On a warm Spring afternoon in 1996, my daughter Althaea and i
bought this unopened, rusting can of Double Luck green beans for 25 cents at the
Ashby BART Station flea market in Berkeley. In the words of the old blues song,
"If you've ever been there, you know just what i mean."
In keeping with the place and era of its manufacture, the lucky images shown on
the label are the horseshoe and four-leaf
clover, without a doubt the most commonly encountered good luck charms of
20th century North American provenance. The name Double Luck evokes an echo of a
famous brand of African-American hoodoo soap, floor wash, and room spray,
The E. Davis Company's Double Fast Luck
brand -- and that name is itself a variant of a very old (and still popular)
formula for anointing oils, sachet
powders, incense, bath crystals and floor wash known as Fast Luck.
There is one more thing i would like to say about Double Luck green beans: if it
were not for my dim, poorly-filed memory of eating them as a child, this web site
would not exist. As explained on the Lucky W home
page, my illustrated online archive of amulets is an outgrowth of the
usenet newsgroup alt.lucky.w. In 1995 i was
told of that group's existence by Carlos ("Froggy") May, a net-head who
"salvages" used newsgroups. It was abandoned and had almost no propagation, but
somehow, when i saw the meaningless, hierarchically-incorrect name "alt.lucky.w,"
i got this nagging feeling that it "meant" something, something about California
fruits and vegetables, something about my childhood.
I decided to revive the newsgroup and as part of that project, i wrote up a specious
alt.lucky.w FAQ in which i tried to evoke these elusive memories by mentioning
"the Lucky 7 Grocery Store in Nevada City, California...childhood
Westerns set on ranches known by letter-brands, like the Flying A and the
B-Bar-B...radio station "KDIA Lucky 13," playing R&B music out of Oakland,
California...[and] fresh fruit from California's Central Valley packed in wooden
crates with beautiful figurative labels and "lucky" brand names like High
Hand." I also began to ask people of my age if the phrase "Lucky W" meant anything to
them. Most said it did not -- but those who, like me, had been raised in
California occasionally volunteered, "Yeah...it's something...like vegetables or foods,
some brand name..." I was so obsessed with this mystery that i decided to design a
"Lucky W" logo, as if for a brand of food, and include it in the phony alt.lucky.w FAQ:
3) What is the official logotype of Lucky W?
The official logotype of Lucky W is this:
In upper/lower case Rope Script, the word "Lucky," with a four-
leaf clover twined into the starting loop of the initial "L"
In an upward (U-shaped) horseshoe, the letter "W" in upper case
Stempel Garamond Bold.
I got the font wrong -- it is Century Old Style, not Stempel Garamond -- but as
those who know type will realize, i was not too far off; and i did include the
half-remembered horseshoe and four-leaf clover. The rope script was a nod to the
Western influence i perceived in the "W" part of the name. In going through my
large collection of California fruit crate and can labels, i ran across a
Lucky Trail Sliced Peaches label from the 1930s, but i knew that this,
nice as it was, had not been the image that i recalled. The "western" motif was
there in the word "trail," but the horsehoe and clover were lacking. It was
close, but not close enough.
Later, when i chose an icon for the Lucky W web site -- the image that appears at
the top and bottom of each page -- i selected a horseshoe and a four-leaf clover
image from an old printer's stock cut book of 1950s vintage, again something from
The moment i saw the Double Luck can at the flea market, i knew that it was the
missing brand name around which my memories were gathered: in the equation of
time, Double Luck had become Lucky Double-U. The mystery was solved.
I peeled the label off the can and scanned it and then spent two hours cleaning
it up in Adobe Photoshop, removing the rust marks pixel by pixel, until it was
restored to its original crisp appearance.
Green beans. Cheap, short-cut green beans for poor folks. That's why this web
site is here.
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