I am sitting on the porch, eating a bowl of Cheerios, trying to think of something to write about. Almost every morning I combat writer’s block with a bowl of Cheerios.
Cheerios are a proven cure for writer’s block. I know this because when we used to take multiple-choice tests in grade school, our teachers always told us to eat a healthy breakfast beforehand so we could focus.
And it must’ve worked. Because most of my classmates ate Cheerios and made great scores. Sadly, I ate Captain Crunch and i wuz held bak a cuple grades.
But somewhere along the way I switched to eating Cheerios during boyhood, and my grammar immediately became a lot more gooder.
The truth is, eating Cheerios is one of the few boyhood habits I still engage in on a daily basis aside from taking Flintstone vitamins and cleaning my nostrils manually.
I love Cheerios. I’m crazy about them. I don’t need fancy flavors like honey-nut, cinnamon-sprinkled, yogurt-covered, or coconut-toasted. Just give me the classical yellow box and a jug of two-percent and I’m good to go.
I’m sure you’ve already heard, but Cheerios turned 80 this year. And while the birthday of a famous General Mills breakfast cereal might not strike you as a big deal, it is to me. And there’s a very important reason why: Because I needed a topic to write about this morning.
Think about it. How many old-world American brands are still around? How many products from the golden days of your youth are still on the store shelves?
Each year we lose another iconic institution that made our childhoods special: Chiclets, Slo Pokes, Woolworths, Oldsmobile, Plymouth, General Foods, Billy Beer, etc. Those things are gone now.
The world changes so fast that it’s impossible to keep up. Each morning you awake only to discover that a new Olive-Garden-Old-Navy shopping complex has popped up in your backyard. American nostalgia vanishes a little more each day.
Case in point: How many Kmart and Sears stores have you seen around lately? The answer is: Hardly any.
Kmart, a sacred American pastime, founded 122 years ago in 1899, a company which used to operate 2,100 stores nationwide, recently shut down most of their stores. Currently, there are 17 Kmarts remaining in the U.S.
But Cheerios, by golly, is still going strong. You can still walk into any grocery store in Anytown, USA, and purchase a box of puffed whole grain oats just like when you were a kid.
And bonus, the box looks pretty much the same as it did during the Roosevelt administration, back when Cheerios’ official spokesperson was the Lone Ranger himself.
Yes. The Lone Ranger. The masked hero and Cheerios have a long and beautiful history together.
General Mills began sponsoring episodes of the “Lone Ranger” radio show in 1941 which is likely what helped Cheerios become the most successful cereals of all time. It also helped an entire generation of children learn about the explosive benefits of oat-based fiber—but that’s another subject.
It was an era when your average American family moved slower. When fathers still owned Sears Roebuck & Co. ratchet sets and changed their own motor oil; when mothers still wore layered dresses to check the mail. When “The Abbott and Costello Show” was considered cutting edge comedy, and Ted Williams was still swinging a bat.
It was also a period in history when, each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 7:30 P.M., the Lone Ranger instructed 45 million youthful radio listeners to get off their keesters and buy a box of Cheerios.
In those days you would have seen images of the Masked Man printed right on the cereal box.
Cheerios offered a host of promotional gimmicks, contests, and prizes, but their most unusual promotional stunt took place in 1951 when General Mills announced that 10 lucky children could “win a trained white horse” by competing in a Lone Ranger coloring contest.
Personally, I would have enjoyed witnessing an average fifth-grader win a horse. I like to imagine this kid maybe living in, for example, Detroit, when his quarter horse got delivered.
I would have loved to have seen that kid’s dad’s face when he got home to find a 900-pound thoroughbred corralled in the garage with the family Studebaker.
But getting back to Cheerios. There has never been a time in my life when a box of Cheerios wasn’t in my pantry. From childhood to adulthood. My father ate Cheerios, so did his father. I still eat them almost daily, and I have a feeling children will be eating these oats for a long time.
So yeah, I guess I’m a little excited about the 80th birthday of an American breakfast cereal. If for no other reason than because I couldn’t find squat to write about this morning.
That, and I’m hoping General Mills will send me a horse.