Remember when cereal box prizes were a thing to be anticipated on a saturday morning?

Remember when Saturday mornings were awesome because of a lot of obvious reasons, but also for things that seem to be disappearing. My brother and sisters and I used to pour out entire contents of cereal boxes to get the prize hidden in a crinkly plastic wrap somewhere near the bottom. Oh the joy of finding a small, and useless toy somehow promoting the cereal from whence it was born. The arguing over its true owner, was it whoever felt it first as they reached their hand into the cardboard box? Was it whoever connected best with the prize that should claim it? Was it best to be on a rotating cycle of prize getters?

Regardless, cereal prize hunting has been a favorite and blessed American past time. I researched the topic just a bit, and I realize that I am not the only one lamenting the loss of cereal box prizes. Apparently the tradition goes back to the early 1950's, when kids sent in box tops and waited anxiously for prizes like: (according to wikipedia) "Captain Midnight secret decoder rings and baking soda powered frogmen" (I have no idea what that would be). The article said that once in 1974 there was even a cut out phonograph record on the back of the box.

Through my growing years the prizes went through phases. In early childhood, the prize was found in the box, then we moved to the stage of the "send in" for things like CD's from semi-popular bands, and disc-like computer games. Then we moved to the slimmer prizes, like a pack of cards, or a set of blue and red 3-d glasses back in the box, and then onto the ever-disappointing and even slimmer prizes like a coupon in plastic wrap. Then it seemed that prizes were gone for some time, until the phenomenon of the "virtual prize" took cereal eaters by storm.

I realize the green movement is upon us, the need for less waste, the fact that we live in excess of silly things we don't really need. I recycle, compost when I can, use my plastic lunch baggies over and over, but my appetite for the emotion that accompanies a cereal box prize has not been curbed. Perhaps the move to "virtual" cereal box prizes is a wise one, but nonetheless, a terribly disappointing and disenchanting way to eat breakfast on Saturday morning. This morning Carl and I ate our Honey Nut Cheerios (cheerios is consequently the first word I remember spelling wrong and not knowing how to fix), I unscrambled the word puzzles on the back of the box and read the bee dialogue telling me about fortification and why my grown body needs it. As I lifted the box up to pour some more, I saw that you could enter a very long code into an internet site and maybe win a prize. Not even a prize though, five stinking dollars. Carl got his laptop and we went to the site, before we could even enter our code though, we had to enter our name, age, address, and email address. We finally got through the first steps (which made me wonder how a six-year old would even have a chance at cereal prize glory) and then came to the page where we had to enter our 15-digit code (part of it had ripped off and so we had to piece it back together first). We put it in and a virtual wheel of fortune wheel started to spin, the wheel had two options: 5 dollars, or sorry not this time. The sorry not this time pieces of the wheel were far more abundant and as the wheel stopped, we did not win a prize. A virtual crowd sighed in deflated anticipation for us.

I came to write this post and Carl proceeded to play 9 more times (you can play ten times a day) and in the background I heard nine more sighs, both from the computer and from Carl. Carl, being a thoroughest, looked into the website, apparently even if you hadn't purchased a box of cereal, they gave you a code to use on the website for free, it was the same code on our box lid. We never had a chance. I don't mean to complain, just reminisce and feel nostalgic for "the good old days", it makes me feel happy... and nostalgic.


Sofia Deyanira said...

Have you seen the film, The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio with Julianne Moore? 1950s setting where the mama is good with words and sends in jingles for ads and makes enough money for her family to float through tough times...

K8 said...

on the reuse of plastic baggies:

i feel so much guilt about plastic that it is insane.

yesterday i found these:


and i'm going to order some. seemingly expensive. but so worth it.

when they come out with freezer bag size i'm going to die of joy.

darcie said...

5 dollars is the weirdest prize i've ever heard of.

shelly said...

I totally remember pulling records off boxes! Ask your dad! I love the memories you bring back to me!

Joseph said...

"Carl, being a thoroughest" ...
Brilliant. Perfect.

And this business of cereal box prizes. I am beginning to feel like the time of my childhood was a time of the past soon to be grabbed up into the crazy big label "retro."

A thoroughest!