A memory wrapped in a bun

I imagine there was a bit of a hot dog in George Molchan. And why not? It was his job and he did it with relish.Which is why — and I’m not making this up, folks — mourners sang “Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener” and then blew short blasts on miniature, hot dog-shaped whistles during Molchan’s funeral in Merrillville, Ind.Molchan, who died Tuesday at 82, helped market Oscar Meyer for 36 years. Molchan, who played a character known as Little Oscar, would travel from town to town in the 27-foot-long Oscar Mayer Wienermobile back in the days when medical experts hadn’t yet done a lawn job on the negative nutritional aspects of hot dogs.In the true vagaries of coincidence, I happened to check out the obits today and saw Little Oscar’s farewell story. Which immediately brought into focus in my mind’s eye a treasured image from yesteryear.Yep, the first celebrity I ever met was Little Oscar. I don’t remember the precise year, but it was somewhere in the mid-1950s when I was a mere tyke. I recall that my mother and I had just left Joseph’s, which sold men and boys clothing, at Fourth and Penn. And there parked on Penn Street was the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, with Little Oscar working the small crowd.In the cold light of hindsight, I should have asked Little Oscar for his autograph that day. I don’t remember why I didn’t. Perhaps he didn’t have a mustard-colored Sharpie. I don’t recall, since time’s winged chariot has clouded my memory.I do remember being almost as tall as Little Oscar, which was no big feat. And I do recall being quite impressed with the Wienermobile. After all, it was in color. It sure looked more vibrant than it did in the commericals on our black-and-white TV set.Truth be told, I hadn’t given Little Oscar much thought until today. I don’t eat hot dogs that often anymore. But the next time I have one, probably at a Reading Phillies game, I’ll observe a moment of silence for Little Oscar.

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