Read any good cereal boxes lately? You know the ones I mean – the ones that contain something special. I doubt it.
It’s hard to believe how backward progress is at times. Gone are the days when a cereal box was the ticket to a world of fun and adventure. Today’s boxes are all about nutrition – talk about boring.
You check the rows of cereal in the grocery store today and it’s like walking down the aisles of a drug store. This one claims to give you more energy, the next one will aid your digestion or, perhaps, improve your love life. Others vow to help you lose weight. Whatever happened to tasting good?
Now and then you might see a cereal boasting a free plastic statue that’s even less exciting than the stuff that’s inside the box – big deal! Let me tell you, it’s a far cry from the good old days.
Back in the 1950s, a kid could hardly wait to empty a box of cereal. Heck, that was when the real fun began. He might go so far as asking for a second helping just to finish off the box that much faster.
This was long before those plastic containers people dump their cereal in as soon as they open the box. You know the ones I’m referring to, the ones guaranteed to keep food fresh. Back then, everything stayed in its original box and didn’t go bad because kids ate it.
Let me tell you, the day that last little “O” fell in the bowl was a red-letter day. It meant one more box top toward whatever was being offered on the Lone Ranger radio show.
Hey, we’re not talking plastic statues here folks. This was the big time! It could have been a silver bullet containing a secret decoder, complete with invisible ink and a compass. Or maybe it was an atomic bomb ring which would “explode” when you shook it and turned the lights off.
I can remember eating enough Wheaties to fill a grain truck, just so I could get my very own genuine rubber-band powered submarine. I don’t know what ever happened to the submarine, but I’m sure it’s now a collector’s item.
Most prizes never actually cost money. Instead, a potential prize winner would have to send in several box tops to claim his treasure. Keeping that in mind, it’s easy to see why there came a time in a youngster’s life when he or she could eat only so much of one particular brand of cereal. That’s when true salesmanship came into the act.
Usually Grandpa and Grandma were good targets. For some reason, they would never eat the cereals offering the good prizes, so it was up to the grandkid to persuade them to switch brands.
As hard as the eating and saving were, the toughest part was waiting for the prize to come after the box tops had been mailed in.
Usually it took at least three to four weeks – which seemed like an eternity. I can remember running up town every morning to check out our post office box before going to school.
When the prize finally did arrive, it was never quite what I had expected. For some reason, the way it was described on the radio and its picture on the cereal box were a far cry from the actual item.
I guess it proved to be a good lesson in growing up – dreaming about something for weeks and then discovering that it isn’t all that it had been cracked up to be. Kind of like politics.
Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times.