Remember breakfast cereals in the 1970s? How colorful they were, how crunchy? And the cartoon characters who endorsed them: vampires, robots, aliens, leprechauns, rabbits with football-shaped heads... Remember Saturday morning cartoons, and how much more sense they made after a few bowls of high-fructose glucose coated with sucrose?
Take a walk down memory lane and see if any of your favorites are reviewed here. Some of these brands are still available, but I've tried to balance them with more obscure, hard-to-find, and out-of-print '70s cereals.
Can't sleep...clowns will eat me...
Let's start right off with the hard stuff. This is what recreational, "gateway" Lucky Charm usage leads to: happy clown faces drenched in highly saturated, weapons-grade food coloring. Marshmallow stars provide a secondary buzz.
After a few bites of Kaboom, you could control hummingbirds with your mind and see all the way to the edge of the universe. Kaboom turned milk an interesting shade of grayish purple.
"Stays crunchy...even in milk". Also stays crunchy in blast furnaces, outer space, and sixty thousand leagues under the ocean. These pillowy vanilla kernels contained a Zen-like paradox: smooth taste, yet vicious texture. If, like me, you were not a regular eater of Cap'n Crunch and weren't able to build up calluses on the roof of your mouth, this cereal was an object lesson in the relationship between pain and pleasure.
Personally, I think the gum-shredding fiberglass-and-cornmeal formula was genius. It ensured faster delivery of sugar to the bloodstream, and also meant you wouldn't be able to taste any of its cereal competitors until your soft palate healed.
Quisp and Quake
First, there was Abel and Cain.
Then, there was Quisp and Quake.
Quisp and Quake were a pair of quarreling cereal box mascots drawn by Jay Ward of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame. Quisp was a cross-eyed space alien in a green jumpsuit whose mission was to bring Quisp's "Quazy Energy" to Earth. Quake was a manly man with rock-hard biceps, a "Q" on his chest, and a miner's hat (or sometimes, a cowboy outfit, as shown in this illustration), whose cereal promised "Earthquake Power".
In commercials, the two feuded bitterly over whose cereal was best. Quaker Oats ran a contest in 1970 to determine which character was more popular. Quisp won, and Quake was quietly retired, though he later re-appeared with an Aussie bush hat and an orange spotted kangaroo sidekick on boxes of Quangaroos cereal.
Quisp was a saucer-shaped corn cereal with faint hints of brown sugar and vanilla, which tasted pretty much identical to Cap'n Crunch. I could never figure out if Quisp's pink propeller was detachable, or if it was actual flesh growing out of his head.
70s Cereals on Amazon - Throw a '70s theme party, or travel back in time!
Sugar Kapowies are a part of this complete breakfast. See? They're over there, just off to the side.
Alpha-Bits, small alphabet shaped oat letters, were introduced in 1958. Post briefly experimented with a whole-grain version in 2006, then took them off the market altogether, then reintroduced "Classic" Alpha-bits in 2008. Old Alpha-Bits commercials showed the letters spontaneously forming groovy words in the spoon, but I could never get them to spell anything other than "KRQZWACK".
If one thousand monkeys ate one thousand bowls of Alpha-Bits for one thousand years, would they eventually spell out "Hamlet"?
The Jackson Five endorsed Alpha-Bits, which was pretty cool, and some of the boxes came with cardboard 45s embedded on the back of the box that you could actually cut out and play. As I recall, my brothers ruined one of Dad's hi-fi needles with "Sugar, Sugar".
Grins & Giggles & Smiles & Laughs...
...and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. If you want to appeal to children, by all means, put some accountants in three-piece suits on the cover.
Classic '70s Cereal Commercials - 1973 Alpha-Bits Commercial with Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five
Old-school Lucky Charms. Back when they only had four marshmallow colors (pink hearts, orange stars, yellow moons, green clovers), back before they started admitting heresies like blue diamonds, purple horseshoes, and red balloons into the mixture. The marshmallows had a pleasing slickness when coated with milk. I used to sneak into the kitchen and eat all the marshmallow "charms" out of the cereal, leaving behind the oat pieces, which made the cereal considerably less luckier. And me, once my brothers got wind of what I was doing.
Kellogg's OKs Cereal
Och! Showdown at the OK muir!
This was Kellogg's answer to Cheerios. Not the most exciting cereal name ever. After some heated discussions around the conference tables, OKs finally won out over "Meh", "Blandy-O's", "Mediocres", and "Shrug".
This cereal is actually from the '50s, but I love the cover: "Big Otis", Kellogg's virile, caber-tossing spokes-hunk, proudly flaunts the Scotch Tape clan tartan. I'd love to see this guy duke it out with the Brawny paper towel man.
True fact #1: Big Otis was eventually replaced by Yogi Bear, whose biceps were less intimidating to children.
True fact #2: After OKs were discontinued, in the late '60s, Kellogg's re-used the same manufacturing equipment to produce Froot Loops.
True fact #3: Scotsmen don't normally wear jingle bell wristbands.
Fruit Brute was General Mills' brief foray into the lucrative field of lycanthropic breakfast foods. The cereal was raspberry, the marshmallows lime. Less successful than its cohorts Count Chocula, Boo Berry, and Franken Berry, Fruit Brute was discontinued in the early 1980s. It later went on to a successful movie career, appearing in "Pulp Fiction" and "Reservoir Dogs". Now it lives in Malibu and won't return your phone calls.
Classic '70s Cereal Commercials - Mikey Life Cereal Commercial
He likes it! Hey Mikey!
Let your freak flag fly
Oh we are the Freakies
We are the Freakies
And this is our Freakies tree
Distributed by Ralston-Purina from 1973-75, Freakies continues to maintain a devoted following. The Freakies characters (BossMoss, Hamhose, Snorkeldorf, Cowmumble, Gargle, Grumbles, Goody-Goody) cavorted in and around a tree which bloomed eternally with Freakies cereal. Plastic figurines were packaged in each box of cereal along with a little backstory. The creator, Jackie End, based the Freakies characters on her co-workers.
Like whoa. Have you ever looked at the back of your cereal spoon? I mean, REALLY looked, man?
1974 Freakies Commercial - We never miss a meal, 'cause we eat our cereal
Breakfast of Junior Fascists
Introduced in 1977, Moonstones lasted about a year before going to that big supermarket aisle in the sky. Ralston marketed these with the story that the moon has two sides: a light side and a dark side. The light side of the moon is populated by clean, hard-working, honest workers called Moonbeams, led by the hero, Majormoon (who "majored in cerealogy at Moon University"). Majormoon sports a general's visor cap and chest full of medals, presumably won for bravery in the face of polysorbate-80. Every day Moonbeams work hard, mining Moonstones off the face of the moon and turning it into delicious crunchy cereal using their secret formula.
On the dark side of the moon, we have the shiftless, lazy Moonbums, who refuse to work. Instead they lie around like wet sacks, plotting ways of getting their dirty hands on the Moonstones secret formula. (Big Bum and Crum Bum are two of the chief villains). The cereal box didn't actually come right out and say it, but the implication is clear: the Moonbums probably accept moonwelfare checks from the moongovernment.
So eat up, kids! And remember: fiber is a vicious socialist LIE.
a.k.a. Bovine Spongiform Cereal
When you're a kid, the condition of the milk after cereal has been steeping in it for awhile is always an important consideration when choosing a cereal. I was a huge fan of Apple Jacks milk: a delicate pink, like blushing dawn, lightly infused with artificial apple and cinnamon. (1974 was a particularly amusing vintage, with top notes of pear, bourbon, and oak). I also liked post-Cocoa Krispies milk for its umber hue and no-nonsense chocolate flavor. It provided a richly satisfying aperitif. On the other hand, plain sugar-coated cereals such as Honeycomb and Cap'n Crunch didn't enhance the milk, and often turned it into an unappealing sludge.
In the 70s, some brilliant General Mills scientist hit upon the idea of coating cereal with "an excipient of a drink mix" (in the words of Wikipedia) which would dissolve on contact and flavor the milk. Crazy Cow came in chocolate and strawberry. One edition featured Star Wars trading cards, which were particularly valuable because they weren't available anywhere else.
Crazy Cow went belly-up in the early 80s along with other unfortunately-named products, such as Aydz diet candy and Legionnaire's Disease Soda (well, okay, I made that second one up).
Kellogg's Crunchy Loggs
An apple-cheeked Canadian rodent is offering you a nice bowl of brown, log-shaped pellets.
No, I insist.
Check out this cool Cereal Obama at Cerealart.com.