Everyday People is a column about people you see coming and going, but if you stop to talk to one of them, you might find a treasure trove of distinctively different and wonderfully unique life experiences, all rolled up into one every day person.
My every day person this week is Mitzi Mirkin. No, this won’t be a sappy collection of information that will bore you and have you looking for something else to read. This is a story of a woman who was a stay-at-home mother and parlayed her wonderful command of words into a hobby that reaped her many prizes. Just one example is that she won three cars from three different contests. Her talent was writing “why I love this product in 25 words or less.” I was three when she started, and my brother was in kindergarten. We could not have foreseen what was to come.
As we grew and went to grammar school, my Mom entered every contest out there. She took two free trips to Hawaii and one to Mexico, all being prizes for writing jingles. In the middle of all this she had twins, but that didn’t hold her back. The prizes kept coming. The one I liked the best was watching my mother and my brother on TV as they did a “supermarket sweep”, and they were televised and had a grand haul. They were driving home in a Rolls Royce limousine with all their winnings, and the chauffeur drove all the kids in the neighborhood around in the beautiful car. Mitzi won a tiger…yes folks, a tiger…but took a cash prize instead.
One of the great benefits of having a mother with such talents was that when you had to attend a birthday party you would just go to the china closet, pick out a camera or a transistor radio (new technology back then!) and wrap it and give it to the birthday girl/boy. We had an endless supply of small gifts to choose from at any given time. One summer, a cash prize my mother won enabled me to go to drama camp for the summer. There was no end to the usefulness her hobby brought to our lives.
There was actually a National Contester’s Association that had conventions every year, so Mitzi wasn’t unique in that she was not the only contester. There were thousands! The downfall of the windfall days came about when Sweepstakes entered the picture. It was a disaster! No more clever jingles, phrases, and no more windfall of cash and gifts at the other end. We were overcome from how spoiled we now were. If I forgot to mention it, my Mom and I went to the Pillsbury Bakeoff in San Francisco in 1966, and there’s a picture of me with Pat Boone on this article. We also combined our writing skills to produce an essay from the Wrangler Sportswear contest entitiled “Why I Want to Be a Young Ambassador to Europe”, and was one of 90 kids who won the contest. I visited, on a bicycle, England, Belgium, Austria, France, and Italy, and rode 50-60 miles every day, spending nights at youth hostels and meeting kids from all over the world.. It’s one of my best memories when I look back on my life. I also, at age 16, got a good taste for Stella Artois and sampled many wines as we rode through wine country.
My mother is now 91. She retired from her at-home executive secretarial job for the New York Society of Social Work at age 87. I appreciate that she did much with her life, was generous to her children and to charities, and gave me so much to brag about that I could probably fill many pages. I hope you enjoyed my every day person, my Mom, Mitzi Mirkin. Thanks for reading!