In June of 1940, Hitler’s Nazi regime was rolling across Europe at a seemingly unstoppable pace. Every day, the East Oregonian’s front page was full of war bulletins and stories of the latest bloody battles in the European Theater. In an attempt to lighten the mood a little, Pendleton merchants planned a city-wide sale promotion called Old-Fashioned Bargain Days.
A full spread of ads in the June 13 newspaper featured chicken-themed savings, with slogans such as “We’re crowing about good old-fashioned bargain days” and “We haven’t been ‘chicken-hearted’ about these mark-downs.”
Planned to coincide with the Elks State Convention, the Friday-Saturday extravaganza included live music with the Elks State Convention Band, Flag Day exercises at the Round-Up Grounds, a big parade through downtown Pendleton and a friendly softball game between two lodge teams.
The biggest promotion was a giveaway set for Friday afternoon at 2 p.m. Two trucks were driven down Main Street and Court Avenue, and as the trucks slowly passed by the people lining the streets, live chickens were thrown to the crowd. Each chicken had a cardboard ticket tied around its neck with the name of the merchant that had donated the bird. The lucky person catching a chicken could take it home, and when they filled out the merchant card and returned it to the donor’s store, they could also win other prizes and discounts. In case of a tie (two people catching the same chicken), the winner was determined by a coin toss.
The promotion provided a little levity during some truly troubling times, and (I’m sure) a much-needed boost to local merchants.