Saturday, November 6, 2010

You know you want them

I stopped at the Fred Meyer's tonight to get some milk, beer, butter, and the kiddos some cereal. And as I wandered down the cereal aisle, feeling the diabetic coma coming on from all the crystallized sugar around me, I realized that I could not find any Alpha-Bits.

Remember Alpha-Bits?

I used to love those nasty, sugary things. All lettery, crunchy, and glued all over with the finest beet-sugar product. Mr. Breakfast says that the original cereal idea was
"the brain child of an Italian-American pasta lover named Al Clausi. At the time, Clausi was the head of product development for General Food, Post's parent company. He had the idea to run cereal ingredients through a machine designed to create different-macaroni shapes. Once the cereal ingredients (primarily oat flour and corn starch) were formed into letters of the alphabet, the pieces were exposed to a flash-cooking process known as "gun-puffing".
Whoa. Now that's pretty cool.

But not tonight. There was no joy in North Portland; Daddy struck out on Alpha-Bits.

I guess they're just not hip enough, now-enough, for NoPo anymore.

While I'm talking about kid cereals, though, I should tell you this story.

In the late Sixties and early Seventies my family lived in a suburb of Chicago. My father, who made his living in the chemical business, made frequent trips throughout the Midwest to call on customers buying his water-soluble polymers like CMC and Klucel. During the summer he would often take his wife and kids along, the entire little Sixties American family stuffed in the big forest green Ford Fairlane station wagon.With kids and bags, blankets, pillows, books, and snacks all tumbled inside this Medicare sled my father bored along the small interstate roads of the upper Midwest; Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, en route to dying factory towns with dusty grain mills, paint plants, and fiberboard factories.Once there it was usually my mother's job to entertain the littles, finding parks for my sister and I to play in, reading us (or, when we were old enough, find places for us to read) books, or, most often, taking the public tours of the various business places my father was pitching his products to.

So it was on a hot afternoon in August, probably sometime in 1969 or 1970 that my little sister, my mother, and I found ourselves waiting at the bus stop outside the General Mills plant in Minneapolis, Minnesota.It was a warm day, for Minnesota, and remember that this was 1969; the notion that a young mother should drag an immense rucksack full of wherewithall for her spawn to eat, drink, play with, or wear was inconceivable. So we had no drinks, no toys, nothing to eat.

Except the complimentary box of the brand new "Kaboom!" breakfast cereal we had been handed at the end of the GM factory tour.

The bus back to our motel was late, my dad had the car, and with cell phones a distant future there was nothing to do but wait. Being poor waiters, my sister and I began to whine incessantly if not creatively. We whined for something to drink, something to do, something to eat. Finally, our (I realize now) desperate mother shoved the box of "Kaboom!" at us.

"Eat this, then, dammit, it's supposed to be for kids." she snarled.

So we ate the Kaboom!

(As an aside, am I alone in remembering when "sugary" was considered just an adjective for describing kid cereals? Hell, there was a cereal named "Sugar Pops" and another named "Sugar Smacks". Sugar; it was what's for breakfast. God; what the fuck were we thinking. But that stuff sure was good.)

For breakfast. With milk. I can't think of anything less appetizing on a sweltering summer day than harshly-sugary, brightly-colored dry cereal grain. But it was all we had. It looked just like it does on the box; crayola-hued, vacantly-grinning death masks of sugared cereal. It looked frightful and tasted worse. We choked it down, complaining bitterly all the way back to the hotel. Kaboom! remained our lead standard for awful kid food for years.

I have never eaten the stuff again, nor do I ever intend to. It was only now, researching this post, that I find that Kaboom! lasted until this very year. But no more. General Mills finally pulled the stuff from production after more than a generation.

Alas, Kaboom, we hardly knew ye.

And if you are no longer for this world...can the End of Alpha-Bits be far behind?

Every day, a little more of the world I knew when I was young disappears.

No comments:

Post a Comment