My brother and I were raised on the sugar-sweetened joy of the 60's. My favorite Western RanchHands were Twinkie the Kid and the Hostess Cupcake. We drank Koolaid (Soda Pop was an expense that was only the rarest of treats in my house), or better yet, cold water from the garden hose. We watched TV when we could, but mostly we ran, we jumped, we covered miles of ground on our bikes. TV was a treat, not a weekend-long marathon and the backyard was our empire, one of constant motion. None of us had an ounce of spare flesh on us, we were lean and healthy from all the outdoor playtime.
And our cereal came with prizes in the box.
When did the cereal prizes disappear? I'm sure, as most children did, I drove my Mom crazy begging for one type of cereal over another, depending on what toy was inside. The toy would be buried deep down, and we'd have to eat about half the box to get to it. Of course, there were those times Mom left us alone briefly while Dad watched football, and with the help of a large mixing bowl, the toy was liberated soon after purchase, the bowl then cleaned (here boy!) and put back in the cupboard. But that didn't happen often so normally the prize would plop down into our bowl about half way through the box. What a treat that was!
Most of the toys plastic figures were slightly larger than Monopoly counters – animals, trains, cars. Sometimes there were decoder rings, badges and other trinkets promoting TV adventure shows. Sometimes the prize was a cut out on the back of the box that could be made into a toy, there were even cut out photograph records on the back.
One of the cereal toys I've never forgotten was a plastic submarine. On its bottom was a tiny container into which you placed baking powder. The sub would then dive underwater and resurface on its own, again and again. I loved that toy and spent a lot of time with it in the bathroom sink and in the bathtub.
Big Bro spent his years after school on a real submarine, so perhaps all that play with those things had some effect.
The unsweetened cereal usually didn't have a prize, but it would have a coupon where you could collect box tops and send away for a prize. The sugar laden cereals usually had the prize right there. The prize might sway our decision but our favorites remained unchanged. Were they healthy? Not particularly. You'd have to add an orange grove and an entire pig to be a "complete breakfast", but that's not why we ate them.
Sugar Pops - My personal favorite. The original cereal was just Sugar Pops. Then they added the word corn, then they dropped the word sugar, then they dropped the corn thinking kids didn't want to eat a bowl of corn, now they're just Pops. That was one thing I liked about that generation. They weren't afraid to use the word sugar. They were PROUD of the word. Now they fill everything full of corn syrup which is worse for you and simply change the names. Not only was the cereal great tasting (I still eat it before big presentations at Secret Squirrel headquarters) but the concept was cool. Blasting sugar onto the cereal with a gun? How cool was that? The earlier boxes that my older brother remembered even had special offers for a "Colt six shooter".
Sugar Crisp -The sugar bear started out as your average bear, then later got fashion sense (though no pants) and this laid back groovy persona. The Sugar Bear was the cool dude your retired military Dad NEVER wanted you to date (attitude and no pants, never a selling point with my Dad). He was so popular some kids went as Sugar Bear on Halloween.
In the 70's they came out with a Super Sugar Orange Crisp that had little sour orange bits in it. The sweet and sour was enough to keep you bouncing off of walls for days. It didn't last long, probably banned by the PTA.
Alpha-Bits - like Cocoa Puffs, as a kid I was on the fence about these. They were OK, but as an adult, I thought they tasted like hamster food. It was fun to try and spell words in your spoon though, except for that time I tried out a NEW word which I heard my Dad use when he dropped a tool on his foot, which my Mother did NOT find amusing.
Sugar Smacks - Start your day the Sugar Smacks way. Dig em the frog was OK, but not as cool as the bear. However, even Spock could have figured out they were the exact same cereal as Sugar Crisp.
Frosted Flakes - one of the few breakfast cereal that hasn't changed, been improved or altered (I cringe when I think what they've done to Trix over the years). I used to eat it dry, in a little bowl with my fingers, watching Scooby Doo (those meddling kids!) because it lasted about 10 seconds in milk before going limp.
Froot Loops - not sure where Toucan Sam got the English Accent in the 1970's but it was a house favorite. The only colors were a tropical fruit sort of red color, yellow and orange. What more do you need? I got sample box in the mail recently to which several new colors were added (is that blue?) PLUS fiber.
What's next? "Honeycomb. Improved, now with Ginkgo Biloba?"
There are a lot of things that aren't good for us. Letting your kids eat junk food in adult portions all day long is good for no one. But what about a little bowl of sweet, the occasional cookie with the hug and fun with our imaginations and the help of a "beam up badge"? Did it really do us any harm?
So I'm going to start my day some weekend soon with a big bowl of Quisp cereal.
You remember Quisp?
The voice of Quisp on the commercials was Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. It tastes like Captain Crunch but doesn't remove the roof of your mouth when you eat it. The slogan I remember as a kid in 1970. . . "it gives you Quazy energy". It's hard to find but it's still out there.
Look, I try and eat healthy most of the time. But I refuse to grow up, and I'm going to enjoy my sugar laden dreams via a bowl of cereal from the 60's.
And then I'm going to give Abby Normal our Senior Rescue Lab mix an extra treat.
For growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.