Mad Men Water Balloon Scene Really Happened

Megan’s birthday song for Don became the main topic of conservation about the season premiere of Mad Men, but there were also many other memorable scenes. The episode was framed by the dropping of a water balloon on a civil rights march by employees of a competing advertising firm and the consequences after Sterling Cooper Draper Price responded with their equal opportunity ad. The New York Times reports that the dropping of a water balloon was based on an actual incident in 1966:

Everything in the scene really happened, written almost verbatim from an article on Page 1 of The Times on May 28, 1966.

“Poverty Pickets Get Paper-Bag Dousing on Madison Avenue,” the headline read. The article described more than 300 people picketing the Office of Economic Opportunity, between East 40th and 41st Streets, the day before, chanting, “O-E-O, we’ve got the poverty, where’s the dough?” Executives upstairs at Young & Rubicam, half a block from the building, shouted at the protesters, and hung up signs saying “If you want money, get yourself a job.”

And then, the article said: “A container of water was pitched out of one of the windows of the building, splashing two spectators. Later, two demonstrators were hit by water-filled paper bags thrown from the building.”

A 9-year-old boy was struck. Several women in the protest, including the boy’s mother, hurried up to the advertising agency’s sixth-floor offices and confronted a secretary about the water throwing.

“This is the executive floor,” the secretary said. “That’s utterly ridiculous.”

“Don’t you call us ridiculous,” a protester shouted. “Is this what Madison Avenue represents?”

“And they call us savages,” a protester named Vivian Harris said.

 

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