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May 23, 1950: Mother of 10 serves Wonder Bread

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History Updated: September 14, 2012 - 3:13 PM
 
A photo of Betty McClellan surrounded by her 10 children was featured in a four-column Wonder Bread ad in the Tribune in May 1950. Her serene smile belies what must have been a hectic day, getting all 10 spiffed up and settled down for a photographer. As you'll see in the images below, she did a remarkable job with this fine-looking bunch.

The ad copy is hard to read, so I’ll reproduce a bit of it here:

Mrs. McClellan says: “I watch food bills carefully, but I watch my children’s health first. That’s why my 10 children are so strong and sturdy. The school girls are Girl Scouts or Brownies – and Charles is a Boy Scout and active in sports. I serve my family Wonder Bread three times a day. I know it helps build strong bodies in 8 different ways!”
 
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Click on the image above for a larger version of the ad.

 

 
Here’s How Wonder Bread Builds Bigger Stronger Bodies 8 Ways! 2 Slices a Meal and a Sandwich Daily Supply:
 
1. MUSCLE. As much Protein as a serving of roast sirloin of beef.
2. BONES & TEETH. As much Calcium for bones and teeth as a helping of cottage cheese.
3. BODY CELLS. As much Phosphorus for cell metabolism as 1 egg.
4. BLOOD. As much Iron for rich red blood cells as found in 3 lamb chops.
5. APPETITE. As much Vitamin B1 to help maintain appetite as supplied by a serving of fried liver.
6. GROWTH. As much Vitamin B2 for growth processes as 3 slices of American cheese.
7. BRAIN. As much Niacin to help maintain mental health as 6 sardines.
8. ENERGY. As much Energy for work and play as 3 glasses of milk.
 
Mmmm-mmm: All that Goodness without the mess of fried liver and sardines!
 
I found one of the 10 children – eventually the McClellans had 15 – in Sun City West, Ariz. Patti Van Meter, the fourth oldest, raised five children of her own. She retired some years ago and now volunteers four days a week at a small home for Alzheimer’s patients, serving breakfast and engaging them in activities.
 
 
  Patti Van Meter (she changed the "y" to "i" in high school -- pretty cool, eh?)
She explained how the Wonder Bread ad came about. Her father, Ralph McClellan, owned a neighborhood grocery store at W. 46th Street and Grand Avenue S. “It was pretty big,” she said. “He had a butcher and a nice storeroom where we did all the preparation of the vegetables.” She and her siblings didn’t actually “work” at the store. As they grew older, their mom sent them to the store to “help Daddy.”
 
In 1950, a Wonder Bread representative who knew of the big family approached Ralph about doing a newspaper ad. The family agreed, and in return received a year’s worth of Wonder Bread products, including bread, buns and rolls.
 
Did the family eat Wonder Bread before appearing in the ad? “You know,” Patti said, pausing to think back more than 60 years, “Dad would just bring whatever day-old bread he had on hand.”
 
Did they like Wonder Bread? “We did. We all loved it and ate it after that, and even after we grew up, we chose it.”
 
Ralph sold the store in 1953 and went into auto sales. He worked as sales manager at Prestige Lincoln Mercury and later bought a Chrysler dealership in Buffalo. Through it all he and his wife managed to send all 15 children to Catholic schools. The boys attended DeLaSalle High School in Minneapolis; the girls attended the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield. He and Betty retired in 1977 and moved to Arizona. Even in retirement, he was still paying off the family’s sizable dental bill, sending a Minneapolis dentist $20 a month.
 
At some point, Patti lost her taste for Wonder Bread. Too many additives. These days she buys fresh bakery bread. “It melts in your mouth,” she said. “That is my big flaw. I love bread!”
 
In addition to free bread, the family received a nice print of the photo featured in the ad. Back row, from left: Patty Lou, 9; JoAnne, 11; Beverly, 13; Charles, 12; Rita, 8. Front row: Nancy, 4; Mary, 7; Tommy, 1; Mrs. McClellan; Richard, 2; Michael, 5. (Photos courtesy of the McClellan family)

 

 
"This picture was taken July 1991 for our Dad's 80th birthday," Patti Van Meter writes. "It was held at our parents' pool area in their subdivision in Scottsdale, Ariz. Those from out of town flew in a day early and hid while Mom and I planned the picnic-party for a surprise for Dad. On the day of the party we all met down at the pool area and walked up to their garage and quietly waited for Dad to open the door. We yelled SURPRISE! and he totally flipped. I don't remember how many of us were there, but he had all his children, spouses, half of his grandchildren, plus a brother and a sister from out of town. It was the BEST."

Back row: Jimmy, No. 13; Joe, No. 12, Richard, No. 9; Michael, No. 7; Tommy, No. 10; Marty, No. 11, and Chuck, No. 2. Second row: Theresa, No. 15 (the baby), Joni, No. 3; Rita, No. 5; MOM and DAD; Mary, No. 6; Patti, No. 4, and Nancy, No. 8. In front: Billy, No. 14, and Beverly, No. 1, the oldest.

 

 

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