Sparky is shown in 2010 at South Marshall Elementary when the new Optimist uniform was just a couple of years old.

The Noon Optimist Club met online March 10 under the leadership of President Ned Calvert, with Vice President Julie Brock, Secretary Melissa Al-Ahmadi and Treasurer Michele Fuller assisting.

Optimist Le Ila Dixon shared with the club “that whether or not you like your peanut butter creamy or crunchy may actually say more about you than you think, according to a new survey.”

The poll examined the peanut butter and snacking preferences of 2,000 Americans — evenly split by their preference of crunchy vs. creamy — and found enjoying a crunchy peanut butter may make you have a cheerier outlook on life.

Sixty-three percent of those who prefer crunchy peanut butter describe themselves as optimists, compared to 56 percent of those who prefer creamy.

Other personality traits for creamy fans included being more of an early bird and more introverted — whereas their crunchy counterparts were more likely to be night owls and extroverts.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Jif, the survey found that a third of all respondents described themselves as “extremely” passionate about their peanut butter preference. Americans are so passionate, in fact, that rather than asking your date what they do for a living or where they’ll see themselves in five years — you may want to ask about their peanut butter preference. The results showed that nearly half of all respondents said it would be a deal-breaker to find out their date is on the opposite side of the creamy vs. crunchy debate.

Sixty-three percent of all respondents even said they will pass on the peanut butter altogether if it’s not the kind they prefer.

When asked to reflect on their childhoods, the results showed creamy fans were teased more over their peanut butter preference than their crunchy counterparts growing up (47 percent vs. 28 percent).

Surprisingly, those who prefer creamy were more likely to be judged for their preference than those who prefer crunchy — at 50 percent compared to 32 percent. And 68 percent of creamy peanut butter fans said they’ve felt pressure to pick crunchy to fit in — compared to just 50 percent of crunchy.

Some club member comments on peanut butter include one from Charles and Le Ila Dixon: “Our peanut butter preference is healthy and takes a while to get used to. Natural ‘nutty’ does not have salt or sugar, and accumulates about 1/8 inch of peanut oil on top. It takes a good 5 minutes with a knife to stir the oil into the nutty paste. Then you keep it in the refrigerator so they won’t separate again. We go through about a pint a month at our house, both liking the same spread.”

We did not get enough responses to test the thesis about optimism and styles. Optimist Julie Brock expressed a preference for crunchy but will eat either. Optimist Michele says, “I love smooth, especially when it tops a slice of chocolate cake.”

This week the club was authorizing its annual support for the Marshall Fire Department’s Fire Pup program, which each year places literature in Marshall ISD elementary schools to encourage fire safety. That subject led to a search into the origins of Sparky the Fire Dog.

We can’t be sure when Sparky first joined the Marshall Fire Department, but retired battalion chief David Dean kept up his research and found Sparky present as early as 1964. According to Optimist treasurer Michele Fuller, it was in April of 2006 that our club gave $1,475.74 to purchase a new outfit for MFD’s Sparky. (Optimist Ned Calvert wins the prize for correctly remembering the cost!)

David Dean reports that by 2006, Sparky’s original workday outfit was quite rank and attempts to deal with the odor were more and more unsuccessful. Also as a sign of his wear and tear, an ear had to be re-attached. (P.S. David thinks that Febreze has kept the Optimist purchased one in more usable condition, but Optimist Richard Magrill wonders if it might be getting toward time for an upgrade?)

David and Joey Hudson, now Assistant Fire Chief, have searched their files for photos for us of Sparky. When Optimist Richard Magrill made the photo request of Joey, he asked for photos of the “current occupant,” and Joey laughed and said it was always the force’s “rookie.” When Richard later talked with David, he admitted that was ordinarily the case but that at one time they had a fireman who had been a high school cheerleader and he liked playing Sparky and even did cartwheels for the kids. (No easy feat with Sparky’s cumbersome head.)

David reports that Sparky is “a great tool,” and while some younger kids may be frightened, “he is a real hit with the K-3rd graders.” Joey shared the fact that Sparky’s current outfit carries a patch in honor of our club’s gift in 2008. President Ned Calvert is happy to remember our gift and says that Sparky was well worth the money!

“Sparky is synonymous with fire safety, and his messages are just as significant as they were when he was born back in 1951, if not more significant as today’s homes burn faster than in previous decades,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy for National Fire Protection Association. According to NFPA research, if you have a home fire today you are more likely to die than you were in 1980.

On March 18, Sparky will be 70 years old. Pause a moment to wish him a happy, happy and give thanks for all who have donned the uniform! (It is the regulation outer shell of a real uniform with special fittings at the neck and wrists for holding the Dalmatian head and paws in place.)

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