Thursday, July 23, 2009

July 24 - Good Morning, My Cereal Friends

Breakfast Cereal. Those two words conjure up memories for many of us.

Which did I discover first? Was it the sugary sweet crunchy morsels or the cartoon icons? Probably the icons. Back in those pre-cable days, Saturday Morning meant one thing. Cartoons and lots of them! They'd start at 6AM on the three networks - ABC, CBS, and NBC - and continue until Noon.

And they were a big deal. The networks would launch their Saturday Morning line-ups with Friday Night Primetime Specials in September, juts before the Fall Season of Saturday Morning (this is NOT a joke, that's what they did). Usually hosted by current sitcom stars, they'd introduce us to their new shows and characters as well as remind us of our returning friends and what changes to expect.

But I digress - that must be a topic for another blog. Interspersed amongst my favorite Saturday Morning TV friends, were other animated friends... sometimes even in their own ongoing adventures.

Capt. Crunch and his Crew were always trying to allude Jean Le Feet the Pirate. It looked and felt like the cartoons I watched (and it should have... being animated by Jay Ward Productions - makers of "Rocky & Bullwinkle" and "George of the Jungle").

There was the (again animated by Jay Ward) battle between Quaker's characters Quisp (the alien) and Quake (a miner). A contest over whose cereal was more popular was held (via the commercials, with Quisp eventually winning). Interestingly the only difference between the two cereals was the shape of the product and the character on the box.

Kellogg's had their own group of friends; Toucan Sam (Froot Loops),
the funny trio of elves known as Snap, Crackle and Pop (Rice Krispies), Tusky the Elephant (Cocoa Krispies), the ultra hip and cool sweater-clad Sugar Bear (Super Sugar Crisps) and of course, Tony the Tiger (Frosted Flakes).

General Mills had Lucky the Leprechaun (Lucky Charms), Sonny the Cuckoo Bird (Cocoa Puffs) and the Trix Rabbit (who got his own contest wherein we voted to see if the admonishment, "Silly Rabbit, Trix are for kids." should be lifted). I don't recall if he was ever allowed to eat a bowl.

There were others of course, Fred and Barney for Post Pebbles (both Fruity and Cocoa - nearly identical to Kellogg's Cocoa Krispies), the King Vitamin, the Cookie Crisp Thief, the Clown for Kaboom! (the only kids cerael with 100% of all vitamins and minerals - and most chemically sweet taste ever!), The Monster Squad (Frankenberry, Boo-berry, Count Chocula, Fruit Brute [the werewolf] and the Yummy Mummy).

Anyway, cereal used to come with great 'prizes' (as we called them) inside or prizes that you could send away for with box tops. My favorites (natch) were the records that were on the back of the box. There were round areas of vinyl grooves mounted on the back of the box. Once the box was empty, you'd cut out the back of the box along the dotted lines and you'd have a cardboard record.

One funny memory I have has to do with those cereal prizes. For those of you who don't know, these were great free little toys buried deep at the bottom of the box; usually in a plastic pouch coated in cereal dust.

My Mom would allow each of us (my brother Michael, my sister Susan and I) to select one box of cereal to have as our own, meaning our responsibility to finish it and as a reward, we'd keep the prize that came in it. Of course our cereal selection was nearly always prize-based. And being kids, we couldn't wait for the prize - we had to know what it was! Once we were home and Mom wasn't around, we would dig to the bottom of the box with our little grubby paws to retrieve our little plastic treasure (we never thought to dump the cereal out into a big bowl or anything - that would be too messy).

The cereal prizes would then live - unopened - in the top cabinet (over the little counter next to the dishwasher) until we finished eating that box of cereal. Of course, oft times since we chose the cereal based on the prize, the cereal would sit and sit uneaten. We'd eat each other's cereals and being the older brother, I'm sure I conned them into somehow trading their next pick of cereal to me if I hadn't finished mine... but so it goes.

Anyway, those days are gone. The prizes are lame. Most of my cereal now comes from Trader Joe's. Gone is the torn-up roof-of-my-mouth due to Capt. Crunch. The smell of Froot Loops no longer sends my sinuses into convulsive delight. The sweet, slightly hard nuggets of colorful shapely marshmallow bits with the oaty goodness of Lucky Charms no longer sits in a box on my shelf. The crunchy, oh-so cocoa-ey spheres of corn in Cocoa Puffs no longer turn my milk chocolatey.

But I do remember those times.

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