Driving the streets of Madison, Becca Ream “relishes” the fact that her hot wheels turn heads. Ream says she can’t help but notice the attention, “We get people waving, honking, taking pictures out of their sun roof. People see it for the first time, they don’t even know what it is.” So here is a clue, what is 27 feet long? Ream said, “It’s comparable to a large SUV.” It’s 11 feet high. Ream then offers this clue, “It’s a huge icon. Everyone knows it.” And it gets one thousand smiles per gallon. Ream would add, “We like to say we can really “haul buns” but we always follow the speed limit.” “It” is the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile and “it” has been turning heads since 1936.
The hot doggers as the drivers are called each have their own nickname. On this day the crew is Turkey Bacon Becca. And her partner is Always Spicy Ashley. Ream is a University of Wisconsin marketing grad and she knows all about these “buns of steel”. Ream said, “I’d seen the wienermobile growing up since I’m from Wisconsin. It’s such an iconic vehicle so I was always super excited as a kid. I was like yeah that’s what I want to do“.
The job of “meat” and greet is a year-long position traversing the country with a fleet of six giant hot dogs. Ream describes her assignment like this, “We’re the Southeast Region. We made our way down from Wisconsin where we had training so we went to Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, we’ve been to Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia. It’s our own PR firm on wheels.”
And social media hasn’t escaped these recent college grads. They are on Twitter and Instagram. Sometimes the wienermobile will be in front of landmarks or a beautiful view in front of the Grand Canyon. Cool views for the iconic ride. But the hot doggers don’t get the keys to this wiener on wheels without being “grilled” about it first. Ream said, “We get trained extensively at Hot Dog High. It’s for two weeks at the beginning of summer. We start in the classroom and build our way to parking lots and then finally the road but we learn everything you need to know about being a hot dogger in Hot Dog High. You just need a regular license and a lot of excitement.”
It’s actually an intense interview process. More than1200 people apply each year and only 12 people “cut the mustard”. Oscar Mayer recruits at the University of Wisconsin, Penn State, Missouri and Texas A and M. You can apply online. You’ll have an in-person interview and then if you make it past that, they actually fly you to Madison and you have ten other people with you that want the job.
Let’s be “frank” despite the training sometimes these hot doggers feel the “heat” driving in a big city with six lanes of traffic. Ream remembers one city in particular, “Atlanta because of the crazy traffic and the like six lane highways was pretty intense.” She says the hardest part might be all the attention the hot dog gets, “People will come in the left lane and slow down cause they’re taking pictures next to us and if we want to like go faster we kind of are boxed in because they’re just so excited taking pictures.”
Even so, there’s now whining about driving this wiener on wheels as they cruise around with a window on the world. Ream describes her ride like this, “We always have our blue skies in the wienermobile on the ceiling and on the floor it has ketchup and mustard and condiments splattered carpet. We have our hot dog buns for glove compartments and pretty cool seats that have hot dogs all over them.” And complimenting those condiments the wienermobile has a bun roof (sun roof) and the hot doggers always buckle their “meat” belts (seatbelts). The puns are just par for the course in this job, “Oh, we have lots of puns so you know we “haul buns”, we “relish” every moment. We like to slip it into conversation and just see if anyone would notice like we always say oh come “ketchup with us” or “meat us… m-e-a-t” (laughs).
The radio is always on and while Becca doesn’t have a “beef” with popular music. There’s one catchy tune that’s always a fan favorite. At this point, Ream and her partner Always Spicy Ashley chime in, “Oh, I wish I was an Oscar Mayer Wiener. That is truly what I’d like to be.” But that jingle isn’t complete without the famous Wienie whistle and the song continues like this, “Because if I were an Oscar Meyer Wiener everyone would be in love with me.” Ream would add, “Say Cheesy Wienie. Cheesy Wienies. I am living the dream. It’s so awesome that I get to see the United States and I get to do it for work and I get to see all the places I’ve never been to and at the same time just making people’s day as my job is awesome.”
Designer of the Wienermobile – Brooks Stevens
Brooks Stevens, an industrial designer from Milwaukee designed the Wienermobile. He designed home furnishings, appliances, automobiles and motorcycles. Of note were his designs for the Jeep Wagoneer, Harley-Davidson motorcycles and the Miller Brewing Company logo. He popularized the phrase “planned obsolescence.”
In 1939, Brooks Stevens built a unique two-story home in Fox Point, along the north shore area of Milwaukee. Below is an excerpt from the program Remarkable Homes of Wisconsin.