Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A prize in every box!

Like 30 bajillion other people, I have become mildly addicted to Facebook. Go on and criticize. My friend Sherry thinks my "dicking around" on FB is the cause of my lapse in posting on my blog. There might be some validity in her statement, but not all is lost. No matter what excuse one uses for being on FB -- I'm reconnecting with long, lost friends; it's my family's way of communicating; inane quizzes created by barely literate people rock my world -- we're there and no one seems immune. Much to the dismay of the younger people who believe the world belongs to them and us old folk are just sitting around watching Murder She Wrote dvds and waiting to die, we are joining en masse. Get over yourselves. Without us, you wouldn't have a basement to live in, junior.

I digress.

One of the many applications available on Facebook is called Living Social. It should be called Living Social; Demented and Sad, but Social. What this app (it's how cool Facebookers say applications) does is allows users to post their Top Five anything. It can be "My top five favorite television shows" or "The albums that shaped my life."

What this has done is caused me to revisit my youth. Despite the many obstacles my family faced, I had a great childhood. Yeah, I have some emotional scars from being teased as the youngest child in a brood of eight, but so much of my recollection is filled with joy. I guess we were poor, but I never knew it until later on. I suspect it's due to so many other large families living in our neighborhood.

One particular memory is of our neighborhood grocer: Weiner's Superette. They had a little bit of everything. If we needed Manila paper for a project, they had it. If mom was out of sanitary napkins, she'd send me down to get her a box (oh! the embarrassment!)

Because we lived from paycheck to paycheck or unfortunately had to "rob Peter to pay Paul," fancy name brand products weren't a regular item in our home. Dad did most of the grocery shopping after he left his barbershop. We weren't strangers to whatever could be made into a gravy and served on rice or potatoes. The key was making something of quantity out of very little.

In the winter we'd consume a lot of oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, or Maypo for breakfast. When hot cereal wasn't an option due to time constraints or being plum out, we'd rely on good old puffed rice or wheat cereal. The bag was enormous but hardly weighed anything. Now, I can't bank my life on it, but I'm pretty sure it bore the name of Popeye on the bag. It wasn't frosted. We had to add the sugar which inevitably sunk to the bottom of the bowl. You had to dig deep; scooping up gritty, sugary syrup with each spoonful of cereal. The real treat was drinking the remaining milk and getting that last bit of sugar grit in the final swallow. mmmm mmmm. If we were lucky, we'd have honey to drizzle on the puffed kernels. It made consumption a lot easier with sweetness in every bite.

Periodically we'd run out of all things breakfasty. Mom or dad would dig up the cash to turn this cereal free Saturday a momentous occasion. We'd have the esteemed pleasure of walking to Weiner's to buy name brand cereal. I was trusted with buying a cereal we'd all love. Being a kid, I only cared about what I wanted. Naturally, the cereal itself had nothing to do with my purchase. For me, it was all about what lay deep within the crumbs and sugar coating. Yes, the toy prize in the box!

I had to choose wisely. Reading the box carefully to make certain the toy was in the box and not some free offer with 15 proofs of purchase. I needed immediate gratification. I wanted tasty and fun all in the same box!

Finally, a selection would be brought to the counter where our choice was scrutinized by either Lydia or Betty. Lydia looked like most depictions of a hairy moled lunch lady. Betty, on the other hand, was much more put together with her auburn bee-hive hair. She was bitchiest of the two. They were accustomed to me taking eons to pick out cereal, nail polish, magazines (Playboy and the like were kept on the bottom shelf behind the counter right under the candy bars which always made me giggle.) Of course I was interested in Tiger Beat. I only flipped the pages without ever buying. This, too, was something they were probably less than fondly used to when I passed through those doors.

I'd take off with my purchase and race down the alley. The store was a mere half block away. In the summer, I rarely wore shoes. I became quite adept at walking on the rocky pavement of the alleyway. It wouldn't be unusual for me to be toting a gallon of milk, too. As I got a little older, I learned to carry an 8-pak case of Pepsi; a gallon of milk and, in this case, a box of cereal in a paper bag. Skills, friends.

I'd burst through the back door and immediately rip into the box of cereal. I'd shake and shake tilting the box to the left, then the right. Elbow deep I'd go in search of the prize. My reward for making the trek to the store. With a forearm laced with crumbs and sugar I'd retrieve it. A toy that had the amusement of 30 minutes ... less time than it took me to choose the breakfast of champions.

One unusual prize had a greater impact and much longer staying power. This prize wasn't even within the box of cereal. Sugar Crisp Cereal had a 45 record on the back of the box. With a pair of scissors and a record player, I became a Jackson 5 fan one special morning. I'd anxiously await Michael's declaration to "Look over your shoulder, honey!"

So, if you're on Facebook you can find me ... 'cuz I'll be there ... I'll be there. Just search my name ... and I'll be there....


  1. Thought I posted a comment earlier but don't see it, so here goes again, sorry if the original wanders in and doubles up.

    Love the post and remember those kind of days myself. Even if you're over at the devil FB too much, this one was worth waiting for :)

  2. Hello!

    Adam L here from I caught your reference in a search so I thought I'd pop over to say hello. I'm glad to hear using the LivingSocial app sparked some positive memories. That said, I'm not too sure about the new name (Living Social; Demented and Sad, but Social) :D.

    I see that you are a movie lover judging by your blogger profile. I highly recommend you check out LivingSocial: Movies (it is a separate FB app) at You can use it to catalog the movies you've seen and then display them on your Facebook profile.

    Adam L

  3. :D I absolutely loved this post!

    Of course, now that I know all those really annoying Top 5 lists come from the same app, I can now block it. Kickass!

    Oh, and I saw what you did there with that last line, you and your clever Jackson 5 quotes.

  4. Nathan, thanks bunches. A friend asked me if everything I say is some subtle song reference. Quite often, it is.

    Adam L.! What an honor. I was wondering how items were added to the data base. For the record, I often refer to the John Bender quote from "The Breakfast Club" when I hear the word 'social' -- "so,it's social. Demented and sad, but social." -- totally not a personal jab. I am, after all, a rabid Facebooker now.

  5. FYI-- your friend Sherry-- I'm pretty sure she accused you of "dicking around on facebook" in equally guilty jest.

    But THIS is what I'm talking about, Riss. Oh I know full well about being uninspired to write... I've had some massive bouts of it... but when you plant yourself in front of the keyboard and aren't mugging in some hilarious video (which I love, don't get me wrong), your talent absolutely erupts. It's what writing is all about... touching other people.
    I swear... I remember being forced to eat the healthy cereal and scraping away at the sugar that fell to the bottom. I remember a little grocers like that in Frankfort, just maybe 20 miles from where you were?, with black and white checkered floors that buckled under age or maybe tree roots... and being fascinated with the blood stuck under the plastic wrap when my mom would visit their butcher. For some reason, older people in small towns were still living in the 60's during the 70's. They still had those glasses with heavy black trim and yeah, the beehives which I created successfully years later myself... not using THEM as inspiration, but the B52s instead.
    Thanks, Marissa, for showing me your childhood and zapping me back to my own simultaneously.
    This post is a perfect example of why you need to write.

  6. I lived for collecting the 3D baseball cards in Kelloggs cereal. Every team had a single representative (Cubs: Bruce Sutter? Cool! Sox: Wayne Nordhagen? WTF!). In terms of quality, they were only a cut or two above the cards on the Hostess boxes (which I also loved; completely tore up more than a few store displays of Twinkies looking for Rod Carew) but I still think they're some of the coolest things ever.

  7. I had totally forgotten some of these small moments of youth, thank you for bringing them back to me so vividly. I was able to remember so clearly shoving my whole arm in a box of cereal to get the crappy toy before my little brother...and in reading your words I could almost taste the sugar sludge at the bottom on the cereal bowl. (Let me guess, did you also eat all of the marshmallows out of the Lucky Charms too?)

  8. Okay, so now the picture in this blog has me reminiscing about flexidiscs. I remember buying an Osmonds fanzine in about '72 or '73 that had a flexidisc on it. I had never seen the like before. I had to have it. From then on, any magazine that has some kind of freebie attached to the front, no matter what it is, I try to justify in my mind why I need it. Fortunately i am an adult with self control and can prevent myself from buying it. I'm not sure why i mentioned this but there we are.

  9. Really, really, really, really GREAT writing today Riss!

    My dad brought home a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken right before Christmas 1973 & it came with a FREE 45 >> ``Merry Christmas Neighbor`` sung by the BONANZA GANG: Paw, Adam, Hoss & Little Joe. We still have it & play it every Christmas.



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