Before they started making Cap’n Crunch’s CrunchBerries®, cold cereal had no actual taste. In fact, during the Cold War, there was general agreement among my friends, many of whomwere junior conspiracy theorists to begin with, that what they gave us as “the anchor to a nutritious breakfast” wasn’t actually a food at all.
It was some kind of paper product that governmentscientists had invented to beat the Reds. You could either eat it or move to Russia.
When the liberals took over the country in the ’60s, the cereal manufacturers attempted to foil the socialist foodbureaucracy by making really sugary cereals,so kids would hound their mothers until the poor women couldn’t stand it any more and gave in to their demand for what amounted to atomic-powered sugar bombs.Inthis new consumer landscape, no kid wanted a cereal without the word “frosted” on the box.This resulted in a“Cold Cereal War” during which the distributors of the traditional,tasteless cereals had tofind a new weapon to counter. It was kind of a grain-fed arms race.
They chose toys. The makers of Corn Flakes started including something to play with to make their drab offering more attractive. Myfavorite was the plastic “Frog Man Diver,” which would sink to the bottom of the tub and occasionally, but certainly not reliably, bob to the surface. This particular toy made for a long bath withouta guaranteed payoff, which in itself was kind of exciting for a small town kid who wasn’t allowed to watch TV on school nights.
Only Shredded Wheat stayed above the fray, perhaps because the peopleat Post figured that anybody who would actually eat Shredded Wheat was a born ascetic and probably had never played a day in his life.
Of course, these were toys that toddlers could choke on, butapparently toddlers didn’t choke back then. So we got whistles and decoder rings and “3-D Statuettes,” all with small parts that could come off and lodge in our throats. But, this was the Baby Boom, and...