When did cereal toys disappear? I sometimes eat dry cereal for breakfast during the warm months of the year and there haven't been toys – at least not in the brands I eat – for decades.
Like most children, I probably drove my mother nuts begging for Rice Krispies or Shredded Wheat or Krumbles (remember Krumbles? It was discontinued half a century ago) depending on what the toy inside was.
Many were small plastic figures slightly larger than Monopoly counters – animals, trains, cars, flowers, hats, etc. - with a little hole attached so my friends and I could keep them all on a string, like a charm bracelet. Sometimes there were decoder rings, badges and other trinkets promoting radio shows we listened to.
I've forgotten most of them, but 60 years ago or so, these toys were an important part of my young life and it was not unknown for me to empty out a new cereal box, when mom wasn't around, to retrieve the toy that had sunk to the bottom.
So I was intrigued when I read somewhere recently that Cheerios has revived the cereal toy with a series of Lego racing cars. There is still snow on the ground here in Portland, Maine, but I couldn't resist picking up a box when I was at the market yesterday. Just as in days of yore, I opened the box as soon as I got home. (Well, I put the fish in the fridge first.)
What a disappointment. The car is enclosed in its own plastic bag so it sits on top of the cereal bag. Easier to find and maybe more sanitary than when I was a kid, but not nearly as much fun as digging through the cereal.Worse, the car is already assembled. Booooo.
And worst of all, there are only three Lego pieces. I was imagining about 10 little pieces I'd need to work at putting together. It's boring when there's nothing to figure out.
That fourth item (no, not the cat) is a group of stickers you can attach to decorate it like a professional race car. Overall, I am not impressed, although Ollie found it amusing enough to give those black wheels a couple of pokes. Then he lost interest too.
But the exercise sent me to the web to see what I could find about vintage cereal toys. Basically, not much, except on eBay. But there were hardly any as old as my era, the 1940s and early 1950s.
One of the cereal toys I've never forgotten was a plastic submarine. On its bottom was a tiny container into which you placed baking powder. The sub would then dive underwater and resurface on its own, again and again. I loved that toy and spent a lot of time with it in the bathroom sink. I was – oh, seven or eight years old.
And guess what? Among all the modern “antique” cereal toys on eBay from the 1970s and 1980s, I was delighted to find this one, identified as a 1950s cereal prize - and identical to the submarine I remember.
Now that's a classy toy - look at the detail compared to the race car. It's cheap enough too, under $10 including shipping, and I almost bought it before I realized how silly I was being.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Sydney Halet has written an ode to Old Fashioned Married Life.]