POP HAZMAT-RETRO presents CLASSIC KID-KIBBLE from YESTERYEAR by JONATHAN KIERAN
TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: BOO BERRY CRUNCH CEREAL (General Mills)
RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: As one of a trilogy of “monster-themed” cereals introduced by General Mills in the mid-1970s (along with Frankenberry and Count Chocula) Boo Berry Crunch was touted by its makers as “the first cereal to ever taste like blueberries.”
I have some good friends who operate one of those organic fruit farms here in Northern California. These fine people wouldn’t let so much as one luvin’ spoonful of Boo Berry Crunch pass their sustainable lips, but if they did, they would assure the world that Boo Berry Crunch did not taste remotely like blueberries. As I recall, Boo Berry Crunch tasted like crystallized drops of sugary summer sky that came to earth when a flying unicorn was strangled with the blue ribbon of a rainbow after a thunderstorm. Yeah, that’s what they tasted like. That and a slight nuance of Selsun Blue dandruff shampoo. I always wondered if there might have been a connection.
In any case, kids certainly overlooked any faint chemical undertones that might’ve been detectable in Boo Berry Crunch because, like any classic “gimmick cereal” of the 1980s, it contained enough high fructose corn syrup to keep you bouncing off the walls, swinging on the jungle-gym and running the streets like a fevered Tasmanian Devil until dusk. Cereals like Boo Berry Crunch were, however, the bane of conscientious mothers and their wheedling children. A mother with two brain cells to rub together wouldn’t let you go near the stuff, no matter how much you pleaded for “just one box,” dancing around in your duck-feet jammies.
“Those are junk cereals!” my mother would declare. “That stuff is bad for you. Here, have some of this Cream of Wheat.”
“I hate Cream of Wheat! You gotta put half the sugar-bowl on it to get it down.”
“Cream of Wheat is wholesome!” Mother would parry. “It’ll make you grow up big and strong.”
“I don’t wanna be big and strong. I want to taste that sweet Boo Berry goodness on my tongue. It’s fortified with two essential vitamins … and iron!”
“Oh, the company just puts that on the box because the government makes them do it. There’s no vitamins in that garbage. And you don’t need to eat cereals promoted by ghosts. Ghosts are the spirits of the dead. Boo Berry Crunch is nothing but necromancy in a brightly colored box. Do you know what that means?”
“Yeah, yeah. Deuteronomy says it’s the stuff Satan feeds his demon-spawn down in Hell. But can’t we just get one box? As a treat?”
“NO! Here, try a bowl of these nice Grape Nuts.”
“Mommy, no! ANYTHING but Grape Nuts! My gums will hemorrhage!”
It never worked, our pleas for Boo Berry Crunch, especially when Mother was in a spiritual phase. Sure, Boo Berry Crunch was probably “of the devil,” just like she claimed, but we didn’t fear hellfire all that much at age six and neither, apparently, did our next door neighbor, Barbra Smith. Barbra and her derelict boyfriend, Hank, were nice enough folks. Sometimes, on summer weekends, we were even allowed to play with their kids or camp out overnight in their yard while Barb and Hank knocked back whiskey sours and staggered across the patio to the sound of old Beach Boys records. The next morning, Barbara Smith never felt much like going through the complicated series of motions required to produce a pan of Cream of Wheat. That’s because she could barely stand. When we stormed her bedroom begging for breakfast, she’d throw a few pillows or maybe a pack of cigarettes at us and pull the covers over her head, groaning about the light in the room.
“It burns! It burns!” she would rasp.
Then she’d tell us to look under the kitchen sink and get the hell out of her hair, already.
Barbra Smith’s cupboards were stocked with every form of sugar-saturated kid kibble that a much sought-after rural hairdresser’s money could buy. Boo Berry Crunch was always prominently featured and we would end-up stuffing ourselves to the brink of diabetic comas until Barb and Hank finally drifted out of their bedroom around noon and started rummaging in the fridge for Bloody Mary fixings. By that time, we didn’t care about Saturday morning Adult Invasions. Our bellies were full and our minds were tweaking on Bugs Bunny reruns. My experience of forbidden Devil Cereals –along with the bliss of carefree childhood– was complete.
Thank God for alcoholic neighborhood moms.
WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Mothers (even drunken ones, apparently) got wise with the advent of the Information Super-Highway and thus all of the brain-rotting, tooth-emulsifying treats like Boo Berry Crunch swiftly went the way of the Twinkie. May they rest in pieces.
EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Part of the appeal of Boo Berry Crunch stemmed from the fact that it was one of the popular junk cereals fronted by a monster. Few kids in my day could resist the imprecations of a monster that promised a reliable sugar-high. Boo Berry Crunch had an extra advantage because my friends and I couldn’t stand that mealy-mouthed wimpy wonder, Casper the Friendly Ghost. “Boo” of Boo Berry Crunch, on the other hand, looked like he could’ve been Casper’s seedy, criminal uncle who earned a living as a supernatural bookie at some Ghostly Greyhound race track, or maybe as an inner-city loan shark. Boo was villainous and kind of “Peter Lorre henchman” creepy and that made you feel like a rule-breaking rebel, a real “bad boy” when you tore into a bowl of the good stuff Boo was pushing. What red-blooded American boy could have resisted that? Behold the very first General Mills commercial for Boo Berry Crunch cereal … in all of its Boo Berry Splendor.