by Barbara Sherf
Flourtown resident Cameron Callanan has been ‘hot dogging’ it all over the country, and now with the Covid-19 virus pandemic, she has been driving an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile through the neighborhoods surrounding the family home she grew up in.
The “Wienermobile” is actually a series of automobiles shaped like a hot dog on a bun which are used to promote and advertise Oscar Mayer products in the United States. The first version was created in 1936 by Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Carl G. Mayer, as a way to lift Americans’ spirits during difficult economic times, and variants are still used by the Oscar Mayer company today. Drivers of the Wienermobiles are known as “Hotdoggers,” and they often hand out toy whistles shaped as replicas of the Wienermobile, known as “Wienerwhistles.”
Callanan, 22, graduated with a degree in public relations from Penn State University last year, and has been living her dream. “When they came to campus to recruit, I thought that’s what I wanted to do when I graduate,” said Callanan, who started the one-year gig last June. “My parents were actually very excited for me.”
A 2015 graduate of Springfield High School, Callanan was one of 7000 applicants to apply for 12 Wienermobile positions. “There are two ‘Hotdoggers’ per Wienermobile, and I’ve had an amazing opportunity up until now to travel far and wide making people smile,” said Callanan from her McCloskey Road home, where the Wienermobile is now parked except when she drives the 27-foot long hotdog on wheels around the neighborhood.
Before the virus outbreak, Callanan traveled throughout the Midwest, Upper Peninsula and up and down the East coast showing up at supermarkets, fairs, festivals and parades. “It’s been a blast. People just jump up and down and smile, as they want to get their picture taken and get a ‘Wienerwhistle’ as a souvenir. For some it’s a once-in-a–lifetime experience that deserves to be ‘relished,’” Callanan quipped.
Callahan had to go to “Hot Dog High” for special training in how to drive the Wienermobile. The ‘Hotdoggers’ trained with the ‘Peanutters,’ who drive Peanutmobiles for the Planters Peanut Company. (The Kraft Heinz Company owns both Planters Peanuts and Oscar Mayer, both of which tour the country passing out goodies at each of their stops.)
“Some ‘Doggers ‘and ‘Nutters’ are going to get together and travel on our own once this gig is up,” said Callanan, who “would love to do this job for the rest of my life. I have learned a lot from being on the road. I learned how to fend for myself, how to talk to anyone, no matter the background. This has taught me so much about people and how nice it is to give back.”
Her favorite story is about giving members of the band Portugal.The Man a road trip through Des Moines, Iowa, where they were playing at a music festival. “I told the guys if they ever want a ride, just let me know,” she said after seeing them perform. “We spent the day traveling around Des Moines, even going shoe shopping, and they gave me backstage passes for their next performance.”
During this time of self-isolation, Callanan said readers should keep their eyes and ears open. “I am just driving around the local neighborhoods, including Chestnut Hill, to spread the joy of the Wienermobile until my time is up.”
What’s her next move? “I want to be part of the transition team to train new ‘Hotdoggers,’ if possible, and get back on the road and travel and see more of this country.”
Once travel restrictions have been eliminated, the Wienermobile travel schedule will be posted at oscarmayer.com
Flourtown resident, freelance writer and photographer Barbara Sherf, who creates video biographies of the lives of area residents, can be reached at email@example.com
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