Remember when you went to the grocery store with your mom and you got to pick the cereal? Be honest … did you pick the most nutritious (did we even know what that meant) kind? Did you go for the sugar versions or the colorful contents? Or did you, like me, pick the cereal box that contained a prize at the bottom of the box?
To continue with the soul searching, did you ever pour out the cereal to get the toy, and then put the cereal back in the box? Be honest! Some cereal manufacturers even hid their toys underneath the bag that was in the box. What devious person decided to do that?
Premiums have been gone from cereal boxes for years. Kellogg’s was the innovator behind this genius move. Initially, they gave away books that buyers had to get through the mail after they’d sent in two box tops or other qualifying parts of the box and possibly some money. Later, actual items were put in the boxes, including things like paper dolls, squirt guns, stickers, records, and toys.
My favorites included the Navy frogmen and miniature toy guns, but my absolutely most favorite of all items ever, was the little SUBMARINE that sank and floated back to the surface when you put a pinch of baking soda into its “special” compartment. The genius of the cereal companies was displayed when they offered sets of items, like the frogmen. The cereal company’s genius was our pitfall, because the rest of the set could be obtained only through mail order (Can you remember Battle Creek, Michigan?) and only after you ate the requisite number of boxes of cereal and sent in sufficient money. It always took a long time for your order to be received. In fact, I actually forgot several times that I had ordered something. If you look on eBay, some of these toys are available for a lot of money, relatively speaking. I think I might have finally outgrown the submarine, although when I went to eBay to do research for this blog entry, I actually thought, for a moment, about getting another one.
And then there was Cracker Jack. Somehow, moms knew instinctively that Cracker Jack wasn’t a cereal, even though those boxes also had prizes. It wasn’t a taste I ever acquired.