Cereal Box Toys

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Here comes the ice cream man.

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These blog posts are not excerpts from my pending book, Baby Boomer Reflections, but rather additional memories I’m having after writing the book. If you like these posts, please share them with your FaceBook friends.

Also, if you have any ideas for future posts, or you’d like to contribute a post of your own, please send me your thoughts directly to fred@babyboomerreflections.com.

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I can still hear it … the tinny amplified music that was so familiar. It alerted us kids that the “ice cream man” (women were not hired as vendors until 1967) was in the neighborhood. The music evoked a Pavlovian response to the well developed stimulus, and that was to run from wherever we were and whatever we were doing to find a parent so that you could get some change to satisfy your need for a frozen treat. I believe that process fulfills several of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

The predominant ice cream man sold Good Humor products, and they drove Good Humor trucks and other unique vehicles, including pushcarts, bicycles, shoulder boxes and even one boat.

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It all started around 1920 in Youngstown, Ohio, when Harry Burt replicated the “Eskimo Pie” and outfitted twelve street vending trucks with bells and freezers, and started to sell “Good Humor Ice Cream Suckers.” A few years later, the Good Humor Company sued the Popsicle Corporation and obtained both a license fee and the right to manufacture similar products. Following Harry’s death, his wife sold the company and it was renamed the Good Humor Corporation of America. Franchises were sold for a $100.00 down payment.

Good Humor franchises were initially located in metropolitan areas, and provided inexpensive treats during the Depression. Following the end of World War II, the company moved out to the expanding suburban communities to serve baby boomers predominantly. More than half of Good Humor’s customers were twelve or younger. By the mid-50s, there were around 2,000 trucks that collectively resulted in around 90% of the company’s sales.

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By 1960, Good Humor’s product line had expanded from its three-ounce chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream bar on a stick to eighty-five flavors or combinations. Near the end of the decade, the company became unprofitable, and the gasoline crisis of the early ‘70s caused even more troubles. In the late ‘70s, the decision was made to end neighborhood truck sales and become a stand-alone ice cream distributor. The fleet of trucks was sold, and many of the employees purchased their truck and became independent operators. Some of them will be cruising the neighborhoods as soon as the snow melts.

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The Neighborhood Candy Store

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These blog posts are not excerpts from my pending book, Baby Boomer Reflections, but rather additional memories I’m having after writing the book. If you like these posts, please share them with your FaceBook friends.

Also, if you have any ideas for future posts, or you’d like to contribute a post of your own, please send me your thoughts directly to fred@babyboomerreflections.com.

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As I recall, and it’s getting increasingly more difficult to do that every day, getting candy became a frequent experience in elementary school. My parents would send me to school with a few cents in my lunch bucket. Sometime around noon, a teacher would accompany us, as so that we could cross the street in front of the school, to go into a house that had a store attached to it. I’m sure that store sold other things, but for sure, it sold “penny candy.” Penny candy meant you could generally buy one piece of candy for one cent. The term is still in vogue, and it applies to individually wrapped candy with a history of at least fifty years. The same candy is certainly a whole lot more expensive today.

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The first of these individually wrapped by-the-piece candies were Tootsie Rolls in the late 1800s. Following quickly thereafter were Necco Wafer’s “Sweethearts,” and Hershey Kisses, chocolate’s first entry in the game. Next, came bottle caps, licorice, candy corn, bubble gum and jawbreakers.

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In addition to the neighborhood “Mom and Pop” stores, candy had been sold for years by small pharmacies, markets and special ice cream and candy stores. The F.W. Woolworth five and dime store had its own candy aisle, and that marketing ploy had a tremendous impact in putting candy on every main street in America.

Please enjoy my photomontage of the candy that was enjoyed and coveted by baby boomers and their families, and, please add your comments for everyone to read.

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Potato Chip Nostalgia

A friend of mine wondered if these posts I’m sending out are actual excerpts from my book, “Baby Boomer Reflections: Eighteen Special Years Between 1946 And 1964.”  They aren’t.  The book is scheduled for release in May 2015.  It is an actual story.  These posts are fun memories I believe we need to share.  Please share them as well with your FaceBook friends.

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I’m going to start this out as a central Pennsylvania story, and then admit, up front, that the story goes way beyond where it starts.

One of my favorite recurring memories was accompanying my Mom to a local store where they made hoagies (submarine sandwiches for those not familiar with the Keystone State). If I were convincing, Mom would let me buy some Tastykakes (another blog subject) and potato chips to go along with my nutritious hoagie. The Wise Potato Chip Company, in Berwick, PA and The Middleswarth Potato Chip Company in Beavertown, PA made the best chips, each distinctively different in its own way. My Mom liked those brands because they came in a variety of bag sizes, usually small.

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While that worked in our house, my friend’s mom had periodic deliveries of potato chips that came in a large recyclable can … Charles Chips, from the historic Pennsylvania Dutch region near Lancaster, PA. I’m not going to lie … I had “chip envy.”

Charles Delivery Men, who drove Charles Delivery Trucks, delivered Charles Chips, and subsequently, Charles Pretzels to those families whose parents were kind enough to treat their well-deserving family to the best junk food on earth. I still wonder why my parents were so mean as to deny my two siblings and me this small pleasure of a weekly can of potato chips.

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In any event, I believed that my baby boomer peers throughout the USA really missed something, that is, until today, when my diligent research uncovered that people in other parts of America also knew how to make and consume potato chips.

I hope you enjoy looking at potato chip cans from throughout our glorious country.

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Hangin’ Out At The Ice Cream Stand …

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Remember back to when you or a friend had the keys to a car? Where did you go? My friends and I went to the drive-in! It was a great place to hang out, and you might even meet a member of the opposite sex.

There were different kinds of drive-ins from custard stands to burger joints to drive-ins with actual things to do, like miniature golf, a driving range and possibly even an arcade. How cool were we?

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In rural America, local entrepreneurs served homemade ice cream and soft serve treats until the franchises of Dairy Queen and Tastee-Freeze, two Illinois operations, arrived on the scene. Dairy Queen is the older of the two having started in 1940, ten years before “Tee” and “Eff” began operations. During the summer months, many families planned their days around going to the custard stand together after dinner. You could get vanilla, chocolate or a swirl.

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The burger joints were also local “mom and pop” joints that existed in nearly every town and regional franchises in bigger towns.  Among the oldest of the “franchises” is White Castle, having been started in Kansas in 1921. After that delectable burger arrived, others followed, including Carl’s Jr. in 1941, McDonalds and In-N Out in 1948, Whataburger in 1950, Jack In The Box in 1951, Burger Chef and Burger King in 1954, and Hardees in 1960. I remember White Castles as being the most affordable, but not necessarily the gourmet’s choice.

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But we must go back to my local hangout, Romeos. Romeos had it all … besides all the aforementioned delicacies and the golf distractions, it also had frozen chocolate bananas and the best pizza and hot dogs on the planet … but as a friend recently told me, in those days, canned spaghetti tasted great.

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I rest my case!

It All Depends …

It’s one of my earlier memories.

Mom and Dad drove our family to West Virginia to visit my grandmother. While she was making lunch, she told me to look in the icebox and get myself a pop. I didn’t have a clue what to get.

According to a lot of articles, what people call soft drinks is different depending on where they live. The two most recognized names are “soda” and “pop.” Let me try to clear that up.

Supposedly, if you live on either of the coasts, you’re probably used to the name soda. If you live in the Midwest, the more common term is pop; that is unless you’re living close to St. Louis or Milwaukee, in which case, you’re more like the coast dwellers. Residents of the Pacific Northwest or Mountain West like pop too.

Now, if you’re from the south, people call soft drinks cola or coke, no matter what they’re drinking, and rural Americans drink soda water. Got it?

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Now, that everything’s been clarified, try to remember the last time you had a Yoo-Hoo, Lotta Cola, Nehi, Kayo or Moxie.

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And if you’re really motivated, how about the last time you sat down on a revolving stool at a counter and ordered a chocolate, vanilla or cherry coke, and watched the soda jerk actually added the syrup to your coke (or pop or soda or whatever).

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If you can remember that, can you remember if your flavored coke was served in a glass or in a cone that was inserted into a metal base? But you might have preferred one of those real ice cream milk shakes that were mixed right in front of you.

I’m gonna go get a pop now … an alcoholic one.