When I would accompany my mom to Farrier’s IGA store for the weekly purchase of groceries, I would spend a long time at the cereal aisle. Eventually I would select a box of sugar-sweetened goodness and present it for her approval.
“You just want this one because of the toy inside!”
How could she say such a thing? I mean, of course, it was TRUE, but still…
Indeed, sometimes I would select a cereal whose flavor didn’t really ring my bell for the prize inside. I remember selecting a box of Sugar Crisp once whose back featured a cutout record covered with images of Sugar Bear, Shoobee Bear, and Doobee Bear (snicker, snicker! Those clueless cereal execs at it again!). I just had to have that record, even though the cereal itself was awful (to this kid, obviously millions disagree).
Anyhow, many was the time I proved my mom right by getting home, tearing into the box, fishing out the toy, and barely touching the remaining cereal. Fortunately, due to the presence of the venerable calcium disodium EDTA, it could sit for months in the cabinet perfectly preserved.
Thus, I would be frequently forbidden to get cereal with toys. But even then, there were often times goodies on the back.
Games, collector’s cards, the aforementioned records, and cutouts meant to be constructed into cardboard toys frequently graced the backs of the boxes.
That meant that you didn’t get the prize until you finished the contents. Mom LOVED that!
There were two types of cereal: plain old, and with fruit!
A cut-up banana could transform the most mundane bowl of soggy cereal into a fruity delight, savored until the final slice was fished out of the milk.
I remember hearing on a 1970’s radio talk show that a cereal manufacturer put dried banana chips in with the product to become reanimated in the milk, but that it had to be pulled because “hippies” were smoking the banana chips as an alternative to marijuana. True or not (probably not), it was a short-lived experiment which has recently been resurrected by Kellogg’s Corn Flakes! Presumably, today’s hippies are better behaved?
A bit of marketing genius by the cereal manufacturers was the production of miniature boxes that were packaged in multi-packs.
The upside: no matter what cereal you liked, it was in there. The downside: no matter what cereal you hated, it was also in there. Another downside was that nary a toy was found inside, although the cardboard wrapping might contain games or puzzles.
The boxes could be sliced open and made into miniature bowls into which you poured the milk. Occasionally, feeling adventuresome, I would do so, usually making a mess that mom had to clean up. What patience that woman had!
The miniature boxes were (and still are) sold to restaurants, but kids were attracted to them as well. We liked kid-sized versions of products.
It’s been years since I had cereal and milk. The rare occasions that I partake in a traditional breakfast, it’s more likely to be a saturated-fat-and-cholesterol-laden bacon and eggs affair. It’s fortunate for me indeed that breakfasts are rare.
Nonetheless, here’s a tip of the hat to Kellogg’s, Post, Quaker, General Mills, and Nabisco, who helped get our sleepy bodies up and at ’em for school so long ago.