My Maalox Moment
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My Magnificent Maalox Moment

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Do you remember Maalox?

It was an over-the-counter medication used to treat the symptoms of stomach upset, heartburn and acid indigestion. It was also indicated to relieve symptoms of extra gas, i.e., belching, bloating and feelings of pressure/discomfort in the stomach/gut.

By 2014, Maalox was no longer available. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) had issues with one of the plants where the drug was manufactured. Subsequently, Norvartis, which made Maalox, merged with another large pharmaceutical company, and the brand became redundant.

Do you remember Allen Prell?

He was a popular, folksy WBAL-Radio morning talk-show host from 1982 to 1999. Unlike the talk-show hosts of today, he used the airwaves to share not only political issues but to engage the imagination of his listeners. He was funny, serious, silly and smart, often mocking himself and the radio audience in a gentle way. I loved his show.

Allen did all kinds of crazy things; he was a radio genius. According to his obituary in the Baltimore Sun, he especially liked pranks. One day, he and 20 listeners took over the station’s penthouse office to make taffy. Another time he made root beer in the elevator shaft. He once asked listeners for their beer bread recipes and made them on the air (or so we imagined).

Friday’s 12-1 p.m. segment was “Honest Al’s Yard Sale.” Listeners called in to sell their items (usually junk!). Allen was quick to take listeners to task when their asking prices were too high or unrealistic, especially with used cars. The lady who called in to sell her handmade “Afghanistan” was a classic segment. For over 10 minutes, Allen asked her lots of questions, in a serious manner, about the color, texture, price, etc. of her “Afghanistan.” She had no clue.

What does Allen Prell have to do with Maalox?

Maalox was one of Allen’s sponsors. He and Maalox ran a contest called “Your Maalox Moment.” Each “moment” had a theme, such as “Your Thanksgiving Maalox Moment,” “Your Christmas Maalox Moment,” etc. Winners wrote a story on how they used the product to help reduce their gas, bloating, heartburn and acid indigestion on those special days. The idea was, of course, that something happened to upset the plans for that day, causing the symptoms. The prize was $1,000!

Where is this story going??

Let’s return to the summer of 1991. It was a hot Wednesday, July day, and I had just dropped off my boys, ages 10 and 7, at camp. The rest of the day, well…until 3 p.m…was mine. The radio was on in the car. For the umpteenth time I heard Allen do the commercial for “Your Maalox Moment Summer Vacation.” The deadline was that day.

A bolt of lightening struck. I had a story! But was it too late to submit an entry? The contest rules were very specific. The story had fit on a 3.5” x 5” postcard. Who had a postcard in the house? Would I be able to drop everything, go home, write the story and get it to the radio station before the boys came home?

Fortunately, we had a computer and a dot matrix printer at home. I sat down in front of the monitor and wrote the story, shrinking the font to a teeny-weeny size to fit on a postcard. However, I still didn’t have a postcard and no time to buy one at the post office.

I called my sister Laura. “Yes,” she said, “I have a postcard. What do you want it for?” There was no way I was going to tell her what I was doing – she was a big tease. She grudgingly said I could have the postcard. I might have even paid her a quarter for it; I don’t remember. Knowing her, that’s what happened.

Laura lived three blocks away, so getting the postcard was easy. My heart pounding, I printed out my story, cut it out and pasted it to the postcard. Yes, the print was small, but it fit! I addressed it to WBAL-Radio, jumped back into the car and drove like a maniac (not really) to TV Hill to drop off my entry. I ran into the building and gave it to the receptionist with fingers crossed that it would get to the right person.

So, what happened?

The winning entry was to be read on Friday morning, about five minutes before the 12 noon news. My stomach was churning – I certainly could have used some Maalox. Finally, it was 11:55 a.m. Allen Prell began to read, “Hooray, hooray! We were on our way! Our family was finally taking a much needed vacation!”

You guessed it, dear Reader. It was my story! I won $1,000! Unfortunately, I never kept a copy; it is lost in cyberspace. So, here’s a summary:

My kids were almost 4 and 10 months. We were going to Far Rockaway, New York to attend a second cousin’s bar mitzvah. Ordinarily we wouldn’t have bothered to attend. However, a college friend lived a few blocks away from the relatives. They were also invited. The friend urged us to stay with her, saying she had plenty of room.

We got to her house. We weren’t expecting “The Ritz” but we certainly didn’t expect to find a filthy, dirty house. There was so much grease on her kitchen walls that they were brown, not white. Each room was worse than the next. Our “bedroom” was a storage room, full of junk and boxes. The “beds” were two mattresses on the floor. The baby’s crib was filthy. Luckily, our 4-year-old got to sleep in a “real” bed in one of the bedrooms with our friend’s son.

I distinctly remember putting down our very heavy 10-month-old (he was in the 99th percentile for weight), watching him crawl on the living room carpet and being covered with dirt. His yellow and green onesies were so filthy that I was never able to get them clean; I threw them out. Miraculously, we didn’t see any bugs. Believe me, I was on the lookout for roaches. It was probably too dirty for them. My husband apologized to me. “I’m sorry I brought you here.”

Needless to say, the bar mitzvah weekend was a bust, except for the times we were with the relatives. We couldn’t wait for Sunday morning when we could go home. That, my friends, was my “Maalox Moment Summer Vacation.”

But who had the last laugh? We did many years later, of course, with our $1,000 check. We used the money in the summer of 1991 to pay for a “real vacation” in Ocean City. Hurricane Bob passed by Ocean City that week, but that’s a story for a different time.

Read more by Eileen Creeger.

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  1. UGH Eileen!! I stayed in a home like this in London. I would only dit on the wooden chairs with no cushions. I threw out the clothing worn in the place— I would have grabbed a hotel but they were poverty $1,000 a night near the airport as we were leaving the next morning after changing our flight for a funeral. It was gross.

  2. You are amazing Eileen, you are the winner and your stories are enjoyable and easy to read. Thanks for sharing these memories

  3. Eileen, I LOVE this story. It’s interesting and creative but mostly it’s just FUNNY! When I laugh out loud while reading a story, it’s a winner. One question: If he ran the contest every week, why couldn’t you just wait til next week? or was this a different contest that he ran once in the summer? Oh, one more thing: You have a real knack for explaining things. You used that same simple explanation technique in Mah Jongg and the holidays. Impressive.