Editor’s Note: This is the 322nd in a series of articles recalling vanished Huntington scenes.
HUNTINGTON — Hadacol was a patient medicine marketed in the late 1940s and early 1950s as a vitamin supplement. Its principal attraction, however, was that it contained 12% alcohol, listed on the bottle as a “preservative.”
The tonic was the creation of four-term Louisiana State Sen. Dudley J. LeBlanc.
He was neither a medical doctor nor a registered pharmacist. He was, however, a colorful and tireless pitchman who turned his product into a big-selling but short-lived phenomenon.
LeBlanc had a talent for coming up with catchy names. He also peddled something Dixie Dew Cough Syrup. Asked about his tonic’s odd name, he often joked, “Well, I hadda’ call it something.” He flooded the radio airwaves with enthusiastic (if dubious) testimonials to the powers of the seemingly miraculous liquid, turned the ad’s jingle into a popular recording called the “Hadacol Boogie” and created the Hadacol Caravan Show.
With a frequently changing cast of entertainers, the traveling show offered free admission but audience members had to present a Hadacol boxtop to get in. Kids could win prizes if they gathered up and presented stacks of boxtops. The grand prize offered at each show was a Shetland pony.
In 1951, the Hadacol Caravan played in 50 cities in 16 states. On Sept. 2 it rolled into Huntington for a show that night at then-new Veterans Memorial Fieldhouse. An advertisement in The Herald-Dispatch listed a lineup of the show’s entertainers that included Grand Ole Opry stars Hank Williams and Minnie Pearl, along with singers Dick Haymes and Carmen Miranda and even boxing great Jack Dempsey. (If any lucky youngster at the Huntington show won a pony, that fact went unreported in The Herald-Dispatch.)
LeBlanc sold his company for $8.2 million shortly before it collapsed under a mountain of debt, and Hadacol disappeared from the marketplace. Today, old Hadacol bottles and boxes are prized as collector items.