Crazy Cows and Quangaroos: Our favorite 60s and 70s-era cereals and their wacky mascots

By on November 27, 2015

Today we thought we’d just reminisce a little bit (okay, a lot) about some of our favorite boxed cold cereals of the 60s and 70s, the ones that we mostly still remember today because of their crazy mascot characters or those memorable TV commercials we saw during Saturday morning cartoon shows.

We’d see the boxes lined up, row after row, on what always seemed to be the most colorful aisle in the supermarket, and even though we weren’t always able to try all of the ones we wanted (thanks, Mom), we did have a lot of our faves, and you’ll have to tell us some of yours, too.

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There’s just a few things to remember when you’re having a discussion about boxed breakfast cereals, particularly those from the 60s and 70s. First of all, when you’re a kid, you pick up on something pretty quickly: usually if the TV commercial you were seeing was boring, that meant the cereal was going to be boring too, as in it wasn’t going to taste very good (usually meaning: it was meant for adults, not kids). Those were usually the ones we were told were healthier for us, but who cares about that when you’re 6 years old?

You began to believe that you know all about the cereals you’d never even tried, simply by looking at those cereal boxes in the store. Sometimes you could just tell how it was going to taste, based on the name of the cereal, and you could tell what shape the pieces were going to be, even before you had a chance to pour the cereal into your bowl, sometimes based on the name alone. Over the years there have been all kinds of shapes — flakes, bits, puffs, logs, loops, honeycombs, pebbles, and even checkboard-ish (Chex) shapes — and we could probably play some kind of match-the-cereal-with-the-name game with your friends even now (we’ve got some spare time and a couple of clean cereal bowls, c’mon over, bring your own spoon).

Our favorites seemed to be the ones that are typically described as either crispy, crunchy, frosted (with sugar), or they were popped (unless they got too soggy in the milk). Most cereals back then, as they today, are usually made from these four grains — corn, rice, oats and wheat — or they’re multi-grained. Or they’re made from bran, lots of people are fans of the bran. Sometimes there was an added attraction in with the flakes or puffs or whatever — raisins, for instance — or the focus was on the flavoring, the main ones being berry (usually strawberry), cocoa or chocolate (sometimes choco is part of the name), honey, marshmallow, peanut butter, raisin, and vanilla, and occasionally orange and banana. Loved both of those, orange and banana.

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Sometimes it was all about the marketing of cereal, honestly, and all about the image of the cereal on the box, or about that TV commercial. A lot of the mascots on those boxes were animals, but they weren’t likely to be the kind of animals you’d find in any zoos — there were colorful cartoon lions, tigers, bears… oh my, and pink panthers, beavers, rabbits, owls… the list goes on and on. Most of them were probably certifiably insane in some way — at least a little wacky if not entirely crazy. And there were lots of moronic made-up mascots that were something else entirely: monsters, wizards, sea captains, fighting ace pilots, and much, much more.

Sometimes all it took was a mascot like Tony the Tiger (voiced by Thurl Ravenscroft for over five decades, later replaced by Lee Marshall) booming out about Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes: “They’re grrrreat!”  That’s all we’d need to hear and the next thing you knew, you were clamoring for frosted flakes, and they always had to be the one from the commercial, imitation sugar-coated flakes from some other cereal company just wouldn’t do. Similarly, we probably heard that “Trix are for kids!” before we ever knew what it tasted like, or what shape it took, but at least the commercials told us it was meant for us, for kids, and we wanted it (Trix featured a Silly Rabbit mascot, and it was first introduced in 1954).

Finally, sometimes these cereals would undergo name changes for one reason or another, sometimes as way to kickstart the brand again after a season of flat sales, or to kick off a new marketing campaign or because of some new affiliation with a cartoon character from a TV show that the cereal company had partnered with. One example is Post’s Sugar Crisp, introduced in 1949, which became Super Sugar Crisp, before a name change to old Super Golden Crisp, and finally Golden Crisp, which it maintains to this day.

You may recognize that the voice we hear for the mascot Sugar Bear closely mimics actor-singer Bing Crosby (some say it sounds like Dean Martin too) — that voice belonged to Gerry Matthews, who provided Sugar Bear’s voice for more than forty years!

It’s probably best to place these cereals within the context of cold cereal history. There were several companies that pretty much defined the experience of breakfast cereal for us, but four of them are still considered the main ones — Kellogg’s, General Mills, Post, and Quaker Oats — along with a handful of others, including Ralston-Purina, the National Biscuit Company (better known as Nabisco), following their lead, and often coming up with their own second-rate versions.

There’s a reason that we listed Kellogg’s first — by 1967, their annual sales represented almost half (43%) of the cold cereal market, with popular brands like Rice Krispies, 1929; Raisin Bran, 1944; Special K, 1955; Apple Jacks (1965); and, Product 19, 1967, among the many, many cereals beloved by many.

Of these, Raisin Bran continues to be a very popular cereal — their mascot, a smiling animated character named Sunny, representing that solar body up there in our sky — has been made available in many, many flavors over the years, and Post cereal even have their own version.

Ferdinand Schumacher

Ferdinand Schumacher

The American cereal revolution really began way back in the 1850s when a German immigrant, Ferdinand Schumacher, began hand-grinding oats in the back room of a small store in, Akron, Ohio, becoming the first commercial manufacturer of oatmeal when he started his German Mills American Oatmeal Company.

By the 1870s, his company had grown — helped by the influx of German and Irish immigrants to the U.S. — and in 1877 he began using the Quaker symbol on his product, making it the first registered and trademarked breakfast cereal. His success at selling what was termed “horse food” to humans made others sit up and take notice, and soon he had competition from two other companies, who eventually merged their separate operations into one competing company.

After a fire at his mill in Akron, Schumacher (perhaps reluctantly) then joined his competitors and together they formed a new company, the Consolidated Oatmeal Company, which later combined with seven large mills, forming the American Cereal Company, which soon began using the Quaker Oats brand name and the “Man in Quaker Garb” — a symbol of plain honesty and reliability — earning the company annual sales of $10 million by the turn of the century.

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The Quaker Oats Company (officially formed in 1901 to replace the American Cereal Company) continued to grow and adapt, and acquired puffed-rice technology too, sometime in the early 20th century, using Alexander Anderson’s steam-pressure method of shooting rice from guns to create “puffed” rice and wheat. Soon puffed cereals, which were stripped of fiber, thought injurious to digestion, and laden with sugar, to induce children to eat, became the norm.

By 1964, the Quaker Oats company was selling over two hundred separate products, which were (they claimed) consumed by eight million people each day, earning the company more the $500 million gross in annual sales. (Quaker Oats, since 2001, is now owned by the much larger PepsiCo company). Some examples of popular cold cereals from Quaker include Life (1960s-present), available in an array of flavors: Cinnamon Life (1978-present), Baked Apple, Chocolate, Chocolate Oat Crunch, Honey Graham, Maple & Brown Sugar, Multigrains, Raisin, Vanilla Yogurt and Vanilla Yogurt Crunch, and the Crunchtime varieties: Apple Cinnamon and Strawberry.

It’s possible that you already know that corn flakes — the original classic cold cereal — were invented back by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, skilled surgeon and health food pioneer, who worked at the Western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan, established in 1866 by the Seventh-Day Adventists, a Protestant Christian denomination, to offer their natural remedies for illness.

Actually, the idea may have originated even earlier, and with another doctor, Dr. James Caleb Jackson, the operator of Our Home on the Hillside (later replaced by the Jackson Sanatorium) in Dansville, New York, a vegetarian wellness retreat. Jackson was focused on getting his patients to eat less beef and pork for their breakfasts. Instead, he soaked concentrated grain cakes overnight, calling his invention Granula.

Dr. Kellogg

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, laying down and dictating a letter to his secretary

Dr. Kellogg was already dedicated to developing church-recommended dietary foodstuffs to serve the wealthy industrialists who came to the sanitarium for recuperation and rejuvenation. His patients were also accustomed to eating breakfasts of cooked ham, eggs, sausages, fried potatoes, hot biscuits, hotcakes, and coffee, but Kellogg wanted them to see the value of a cold all-grain breakfast with its high nutritional value, partly because he believed meat and rich or flavored foods increased sexual desire, and plain-tasting foods suppressed it. Kellogg was a staunch believer in the benefits of celibacy, believing that sex was unhealthy for the body, mind and soul.

He considered masturbation even worse, saying that it caused epilepsy, bad posture, stiff joints, fickleness and palpitations. He believed that people would stop jerking off if they made adjustments in their diets. In his book Plain Facts for Old and Young: Embracing the Natural History and Hygiene of Organic Life, he is quoted saying “Self-pollution is a crime doubly abominable.” And so it’s relatively safe to assume that his healthy cereal inventions, in some way, were to help curb their desire for sex and masturbation.

Think about that, the next time you sit down to have a bowl of Kellogg’s corn flakes.

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According to Mental Floss, who went deep on the subject in this post: “His methods with young women were even more severe. He reported that ‘the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.’ And when he wasn’t burning children’s genitals with acid, he was ‘bandaging or tying their hands, covering their genitals with patented cages, sewing the foreskin shut and [applying] electrical shock.’ Yeesh.”

(Kellogg, by the way, never consummated his own marriage by having sex with his wife — she even slept in a separate bedroom. They chose to adopt several children and foster 42 children, rather than have sex).

(If you’re interested in a humorous look at Dr. Kellogg and his quirky ideas, seek out the 1994 Alan Parker film The Road To Wellville, an adaptation of the comic novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle, which purports to tell the story of the good doctor, played by Anthony Hopkins, who depicts hims as an eccentric health nut, convinced of the benefits of holistic health practices, mostly involving irrigation of the bowels and colon, electrical stimulus and sexual abstinence, vegetarianism and physical exercise).

John Harvey Kellogg Age 86

By experimenting on his own, he created a biscuit of oats, wheat, and corn (possibly barley too) which he also called Granula, but after Jackson sued his over the obvious trademark infringement, Kellogg began to call his new invention “granola.”

Kellogg then hit upon the idea of boiling wheat, grinding it down, and and then drying and flattening it out with a rolling pin, noticing that the pieces didn’t crumble but retained their shape after they were toasted, thus inventing his own cold cereal wheat flakes, which in addition to being somewhat healthy, also aided his patients in helping them poop, and Kellogg was all about keeping the ol’ colon cleansed. Another invention of his was an enema machine and he also had a regular routine that involved a pint of yogurt: he would stuff a half pint of it up his own rectum as a cleanse, consuming another half-pint by eating it.

Kellogg’s Wheat Flakes (originally called Granose Flakes), were introduced in 1895, and were such a hit with his patients, that he began to sell them to the local public, forming what was originally called the Sanitas Food Company. He kept experimenting, and with corn, using the same process, he created corn flakes. In 1904, Kellogg began serving them to his patients.

Kellogg’s Corn Flakes were originally introduced as Sanitas Toasted Corn Flakes in 1898, and have been through many, many marketing campaigns over the years. Our favorite era was when they were using a mascot named Cornelius Rooster, voiced by Andy Devine:

Unfortunately, Dr. Kellogg thought that making the cereal available to the public at large might actually damage is reputation as a doctor, and so his brother, a marketing genius named Will Keith Kellogg (ol’ W.K. to his friends), who had worked with his brother for years, bought him out and, in 1906, began to market Kellogg’s cereal commercially.

W.K. ditched the health food concept, focusing instead on marketing the cereal for its commercial taste appeal, giving his guarantee by including his now familiar signature on every package, which became the company trademark for the Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake Company, shortened to Kellogg’s.

Portrait of W.K. Kellogg

W.K. Kellogg

By this time, however, Kellogg already had had competition: a salesman and former patient of Dr. Kellogg’s from Texas named Charles William Post (ol’ C.W. Post to his friends) was so impressed with Kellogg’s all-grain diet and flaked cold cereal that he opened his own health resort in Battle Creek, and he’d begun to sell his cereal around the same time, in 1895.

Post began first selling his products under the company name Postum Cereals, named for his first product, a coffee substitute called Postum, a cereal beverage, and a more bite-sized version of Jackson’s Granula, which he called Grape-nuts, which was one of the first ready-to-eat cold cereals. The Post company website says that Grape Nuts cereal was likely named after the “grape sugar” — now more commonly known as glucose) that formed during the baking process — and also for its nutty flavor.

Surprisingly, most of the many varieties of Grape-Nuts didn’t arrive until fairly recently, as you can probably tell from their names: Grape-Nuts Fit, Grape-Nuts Flakes, Grape-Nuts O’s, and several kinds of Grape-Nuts Trail Mix Crunch, including Cranberry Vanilla and Maple Nut & Brown Sugar.

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Post had already begun marketing his corn flakes under the biblically-named Elijah’s Manna, with the first cereal box showing the prophet Elijah hand-feeding manna to a bird, but the product’s name was denounced as sacrilegsious in religious communities across the nation, and it was even banned from being imported into Britain.

Post, who might have made a good preacher himself, adamantly defended his Elijah’s Manna, saying “Perhaps no one should eat angel food cake, enjoy Adam’s ale, live in St. Paul, nor work for Bethlehem Steel … one should have his Adam’s apple removed and never again name a child for the good people of the bible.” In 1908, Post begrudgingly changed the product’s name to the more recognizable, less incendiary Post Toasties.

In 1929, four years after Post’s death, the company changed its name to General Foods, keeping his Post name on their cold cereal line (General Foods is owned now by the Philip Morris Tobacco Company, who bought them in 1985 for $5.6 billion and merged it with its Kraft division).

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Like Kellogg’s, Post Cereals introduced a lot of cereals over the years, including 40% Bran Flakes (1922), Grape-Nuts Flakes (1932), Post Raisin Bran (1942), Golden Crisp (1949), Alpha-Bits (1958), Spoon Size Shredded Wheat (1961), Crispy Critters (1963), Honeycomb (1965), Pebbles (1969; also, Fruity Pebbles, 1969; Cocoa Pebbles, 1970), and Mini-Wheats (1978).

Of these, Crispy Critters cereal had a couple of mascots: One of the first was Orange Moose (circa 1962-1963), when the cereal actually featured orange-flavored bits sorta moose-shaped, possibly for Post to have their own moose mascot since Bullwinkle (of  TV’s “Rocky and His Friends” and “The Bullwinkle Show” cartoon fame, from 1959-1964) was owned in part by General Mills.

Then came Linus the Lionhearted, a cartoon lion, who actually had his own TV series on CBS (it also featured other Post mascots, like Sugar Bear, and the Chinese kid So-Hi), which went off the air in 1969, when the FCC ruled that the show was nothing more than a 30-minute infomercial for Post cereals and, according to Mr. Breakfast, “violated their dictate that characters on children’s shows must not appear in commercial messages during the show.”

Regarding Alpha-Bits, the Mr. Breakfast site also says that cereal was the “brain child of an Italian-American pasta lover named Al Clausi… the head of product development for General Food, Post’s parent company,” but we’ve also read that it was invented by a father of seven named Thomas M. Quigley, who also worked for Post. Not sure which story is correct.

Either way, Post’s original postal carrier mascot came along in 1961, created by ad man Gene Schinto (we’ve also read that they didn’t introduce him on TV commercials until 1964), and he was originally voiced by comedian Jack E. Leonard, until Post re-introduced the character with a new voice and a new name, Loveable Truly. Since that time they have had other mascots, including the Alpha-Bits Wizard.

Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five starred in a series of Alpha-Bits musical TV commercials, beginning in 1973, and then sometime in the 1980s we suddenly started seeing a mascot named Alfie, the Alpha-Bits cereal wonder dog. The cereal was taken off the market in 2006, but reappeared just a few years later in a limited edition for which proclaimed it was made from “0% Sugar!” The original recipe was reintroduced later in 2008.

The General Mills food company of Golden Valley, Minnesota, initially emerged in 1921, when James Ford Bell, president of a Minneapolis wheat milling firm, Washburn-Crosby, began experimenting with rolled wheat flakes, creating the breakfast cereal Wheaties after tempering, steaming and cracking wheat, and then processing it with syrup, sugar, and salt, preparing themin a pressure cooker for rolling and then drying them in an electric oven.

By 1925, Wheaties had become a top-seller, the “Breakfast of Champions,” heavily promoted through magazine ads and radio broadcasts, and soon General Mills — which had formed when four milling companies consolidated their factories — became a serious contender. Their long-lasting brand Total (1961 to the present), and short-lived one Wheat Stax (lasting just one year, 1966) are variations on the wheat flake cereal.

Another early entry into the competing rice and wheat cereal worlds came along in 1939, when Ranger Joe Rice Honnies and Ranger Joe Wheat Honnies arrived on the breakfast tables of America in 1939. The National Biscuit Company — later Nabisco — purchased the Ranger Joe cereals in 1954 and changed their names to Rice Honeys and Wheat Honeys.

Nabisco also had Norman cereal, apparently. an 1971 entry that was, according to Mr. Breakfast, “promoted as ‘the buttery cereal with 6 essential vitamins and iron.’ The character Norman appears to be a rip-off of the character GROG from the B.C. comic strip that was popular at the time.” Norman has gotta be the strangest of all names for a cereal, don’t you think?

Then, in the late ’60s, after sales of the Honeys cereals began to drop, Nabisco re-introduced them as Klondike Pete’s Crunchy Nuggets, and again they came in both a “wheat cereal” and “rice cereal” variety. The cereal’s mascot, Klondike Pete, was a bearded prospector who searched for gold with a mule named Thorndike. They lasted four more years.

Around that same time, in 1971, Winnie-The-Pooh Great Honey Crunchers, were introduced, and came in both rice and wheat varieties.

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Ralston’s Chex cereals, which came along first in the wheat form in 1937 (Rice Chex and Corn Chex both came later, in 1950 and 1958, respectively) have been made by General Mills since 1997; Bran Chex arrived in 1978, and more recently, Honey Graham Chex (1986), and Cinnamon Chex, in 2009), to name a few varieties on the Chex theme.

The Kellogg’s company first introduced their OK’s, a new oats cereal — promoted as “the best in oats” — way back in 1959. The pieces were shaped like the letters “O” and “K” and were said to taste similar to (and thus, competed with) the boxed cereal Cheerios (originally called Cheerioats), which was a very popular toasted oats cereal from General Mills.

Another variation on the frosted theme was Frosty O’s, which was also introduced in 1959. Mr. Breakfast tells us: “This cereal was described on an early box as ‘goodness in a sugar-charged oat cereal’ and on later boxes as ‘goodness shaped like little frosted donuts.'” The boxes at one time featured Chumley the Walrus, from “Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales” animated cartoon TV series that originally aired on CBS from 1963 to 1966, and Dudley Do-Right, from “The Dudley Do-Right Show,” a cartoon which was featured on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show,” on Sunday mornings on ABC-TV from April 27, 1969, to September 6, 1970.

The Cheerios mascot(s), incidentally, don’t seem to be remembered today — the first was Sue, who would eat a bowl of Cheerios for the strength, which would then give her muscles she needed to get out of tough jams. Then, in 1954, along came The Cheerios Kid, who was invented to save Sue from those same tough jams (one presumes he ate Cheerios for the same reason).

General Mills, of course, as we’ve mentioned, also had also had Wheaties, made from toasted whole wheat flakes, in addition to Golden Grahams (1970s-present), and a bunch of corn grain puff-type cereals (Kix, 1937; the aforementioned Trix, 1954; and Cocoa Puffs, 1958), among others, for the kids (and adults ate them too, of course, let’s not kid ourselves).

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In 1960, Kellogg’s had introduced a “sugar toasted oats” cereal called All Stars, which featured a mascot named Whoo, the Wizard of Oatz, often shortened to just “The Wizard,” who was said to have created the holes in the middle of the cereal pieces with his magic wand. The Wizard disappeared at some point, replaced by the Hanna-Barbera character Huckleberry Hound at some point (he had his own CBS TV series), and eventually the cereal added the word “frosted” to their name.

A year earlier, Kellogg’s had debuted their OK’s cereal, whose first mascot was Big Otis, who appeared to be some kind of musclebound Scottish dude, but he only lasted a few years, replaced by Hanna-Barbera’s popular cartoon character Yogi Bear sometime in the 1960s (and, somewhat curiously, Yogi was made to seem like he was in shape from eating OK’s, and could be seen flexing his muscles on the cereal boxes).

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In 1962, or thereabouts, Kellogg’s decided to go a different direction with their OK’s cereal, and the product development team was tasked with creating a new cereal that could use the same factory equipment that made the “O”s in OKs.

In 1963 or ’64 (sources differ), Kellogg’s introduced the cereal that replaced their OK’s… Froot Loops, with yet another new mascot, Toucan Sam, voiced originally by the great Mel Blanc, who would say things like “Follow my nose! It always knows! The flavor of fruit! Wherever it grows!” Sam’s colorful beak actually represents the colors in the cereal he loves — red and orange and yellow.

Over the years many others in the product line have been introduced: Frightening Froot Loops, Froot Loop Bloopers, Froot Loops Marshmallows Cereal, Froot Loops Smoothie Cereal, Froot Loops Treasures Cereal, Haunted Froot Loops Manor Cereal and Froot Loops with Ghosts Cereal.

Around ’64 or so, Nabisco — still National Biscuit Company at the time — introduced the four-grained Team Flakes, with an ad campaign that explained that the teaming up of those four grains — corn, rice, oats and wheat —kept the cereal flakes from getting soggy in milk.

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Are you cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? The chocolate flavored puff cereal arrived in 1958, and their crazy bird mascot Sonny began hawking his insane need for them in 1962. Another puff cereal was Magic Puffs, a candy-coated cream-filled puff cereal from General Mills, which featured a Magic Hat top hat character. It lasted for three years, from 1974 to 1977.

Kids just loved chocolate-flavored cereals in the 70s, and they probably still do, for all we know. The surprise in General Mills’s Mr. Wonderfull’s Suprize was supposed to be the chewy vanilla or a chocolate-y center, but sometimes those crispy little balls would dry out and get crushed, and during shipping or packaging or whatever, they’d end up in the bottom of the box, dried up choco or (worse) vanilla blobs. Surprize!!

Another chocolate-flavored cereal was the short-lived Kellogg’s Cocoa Hoots, appearing in 1972 and featuring a chubby little white owl mascot named Newton the Owl.

Another wacky cereal, one that arrived on the scene in 1965, was the oat cereal Wackies (1965), from General Mills, which featured banana-flavored marshmallow bits, and according to the TV commercials (which referred to the cereal as “Banana Wackies”), the bits were actually shaped like “banana bingles, banana jangles, oat gloops, oat glots and lots more wacky shapes.”

We also liked Kellogg’s Banana Frosted Flakes, but that came just a bit later, in the early 80s (1981-1984).

More mascots: The Kellogg’s cereal Triple Snack, which had a wacky looking giraffe on the box, came along in 1965, lasting just two years before it disappeared. Hill Billy Goat was the mascot seen on the Kellogg’s Sugar Stars box, arriving some time in the mid-sixties.

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Captain Crunch remains one of the more popular cold cereals of all time, and if you ask us, it’s still the best tasting, goddamn delicious golden nuggets. It was created by General Mills in 1963, when Cap’n Horatio Crunch, sailing his S.S. Guppy along with his first mate Seadog while thwarting the efforts of his pirate nemesis Jean La Foote from swiping his precious cereal cargo.

The Captain was the creation of animation legend Jay Ward, who had teamed up with partner Bill Scott, in 1959, to make cartoons in Los Angeles. Their first creation was “Rocky and Friends,” featuring iconic cartoon characters Rocky & Bullwinkle, but Ward was also responsible for TV’s “Dudley Do-Right.” As we’ve said, Rocky and Bullwinkle were owned, in part, by General Mills.

There have been probably more than a couple dozen variations on the Crunch brand over the years, but we for sure remember Cap’n Crunch Crunch Berries (1967), Peanut Butter Crunch (1969), Vanilly Crunch (1970s), Punch Crunch (1970s). More recently they’ve introduced Choco Crunch (1982), Deep Sea Crunch (1993) and CoZmic Crunch (1999). It was Vanilly Crunch TV commercials that introduced us to their mascot, Wilma the Winsome White Whale.

Over the years, General Mills have wisely added: Mystery Crunch, Polar Crunch, Carnival Berries, Cinnamon Crunch, Cinnamon Roll Crunch, Choco Donuts, Chocolately Crunch, Chocolately Peanut Butter Crunch, Crunch Treasures, Home Run Crunch, Mystery Volcano Crunch, Poopy Crunch, Popeye Sweet Crunch, Race Car Crunch, Rugrats Go Wild Berries, Sea Creature Berries, Smashed Berries, Soccer Crunch, Superman Crunch, Sweet Crunch, Swirled Berries, Treasure Hunt Crunch, Touchdown Crunch, Triple Crunch, Very Berry, and two seasonal flavors — Halloween Crunch, and Christmas Crunch (1988). OK, we made up one of those, just to see if you’re paying attention.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch, despite the crunchy name, is actually a Quaker Oats cereal, and it arrived in the 1970s, too.

Of these, we remember being humorously entertained as a kid by Punch Crunch’s Harry S. Hippo mascot, a hippopotamus with fluttery eye lashes who skips around foolishly on the deck of the S.S. Guppy.

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In 1964, General Mills introduced us to Lucky Charms, a cereal of toasted oat-based pieces and multi-colored marshmallow bits in various shapes. Their mascot was a leprechaun named Lucky — full name: L.C. Leprechaun… the L.C. stands for Lucky Charms — whose catch phrase was the oft-repeated “they’re ‘magically delicious.'” Lucky was replaced in 1975 by Waldo the Wizard, but Lucky was brought back within a year. Another General Mills cereal from the first half of the 60s was Sugar Sprinkled Twinkles (1960–1965).

A few months back we told you about the cereal wars created by the clever marketing people at Quaker Oats fifty years ago, when they decided to make two new breakfast cereals — Quisp’s Quazy Energy Cereal, and Quake (“for Earthquake Power!”) — which were originally released in 1965, compete against each other in TV commercials. The very successful ads were cartoons created by Jay Ward and Bill Scott (both mentioned above) may have been inspired in designing Quisp by the moon men Gidney and Cloyd who appeared in “Rocky and His Friends.”

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They even used some of the same voices heard in the “Rocky and Bullwinkle” cartoon, including Daws Butler as the voice of Quisp (an alien who championed “the biggest selling cereal from Saturn to Alpha Centauri”) and actor William Conrad as the voice of Quake (a miner). Butler had also voiced Cap’n Crunch.

As we mentioned in the post, the Quisp v. Quake competition reached its peak in 1972, when a series of commercials asked children to vote for which cereal should remain on the shelves, with Quisp being named the winner.

Quake was discontinued at some point, but it made a comeback just a year or so later, becoming an orange-flavored Quake cereal called Quangaroos, the miner character now appearing with a sidekick, an orange-colored kangaroo named Simon (voiced with a Cary Grant-ish accent, again by voice actor Bill Scott), only the miner appeared to have undergone some kind of diet (he was much slimmer) and he also had become Australian. Crikey! Quangaroos lasted from 1971-1974. It was strangely delicious, one of our favorites.

Post introduced Corn Crackos in 1967. The box described the contents therein as”A Deliciously Sweetened Cereal Made From Corn, Oat And Soy Flour… It’s crackly when you crunch!!!”

Puffa Puffa Rice was Kellogg’s lightly honey-coated cereal, available from 1967 to 1975, and it was marketed using a distinctly different campaign with a Polynesian Islands theme, complete with an active exploding volcano.

They had TV commercials (circa ’69-’70) which showed a young boy and girl, both wearing colorful swimsuits, rowing an outrigger canoe over to the island with a volcano. They would offer up a bushel of brown cane sugar, and a bushel of rice, into the volcano as a kind of sacrfice, and the volcano would explode, raining down Puffa Puffa Rice on everyone, while we heard an island king describing the cereal — “Newy, newy, Puffa Puffa Rice. Early puffs of rice toasted crisp and tender sweetened island way with brown sugar, cane sugar” — while the islanders sing: “Enua, Enowa, a Kellogg’s a brings a you (BOOM) uh a new kind of breakfast cereal. Huff and puff and a toasted nice. Here comes Kellogg’s Puffa Puffa Rice. Yummy, yummy. A takataka bowl full. Uh. You ketchum — a big, big flavor. Oceans of en-er-gy.”

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And speaking of rice, one of the more outrageous mascots was Post’s little Chinese boy named So-Hi, who loved Rice Krinkles cereal. His name was a reference to him not being very tall, you see, just one of many of the stereotypes about the character that today consumers would certainly not find very politically correct.

At the time — the early 60s, right around the time Mickey Rooney was portraying an offensive Asian (at the time: Oriental) man in Breakfast At Tiffany’s — So-Hi was seen as quaint, and fun, but we’ve come a long says since then. The sugar-coated cereal was, of course, made from rice grain (naturally, because Asians like rice, another stereotype).

The vitamin-fortified, circus-themed breakfast cereal Kaboom!, from General Mills, came along in 1969. Their mascot was a smiling circus clown, and the cereal itself was fruity-flavored corn-flake bits shaped like smiling clown faces and marshmallow bears, lions, elephants, and stars.

Another General Mills circus-themed cereal, Circus Fun, also featured a clown for a mascot. The super-sugary crispy puff-like cereal also featured marshmallowy shapes appearing to be, as the song tells us, “horses and hoops, balls, bears, elephants and lions” (and tigers, but they came later, that’s why you don’t hear about them in the song).

Another supposedly vitamin-fortified cereal — King Vitamin, a Quaker Oats cereal originally introduced in 1970 — initially featured an animated king mascot, created by Jay Ward Productions, along with two good knights, Sir Laffitup and Sir Cravenleigh (we’re not sure about that last one’s name, he sounds a little perverted).

The cereal was promoted in the TV commercials as “sugary sweet tasty little crowns… kids love ‘em” and also as “a corn and oat multi-vitamin and iron supplement cereal,” promoting the fact that the cereal contained “100% of the minimum daily adult requirements for vitamins and iron established by the U.S. Government.”

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That’s when the FDA, the government’s regulatory agency, stepped in. At the time (and to this day), they were checking out the claims being made on cereal boxes, and forced the cereal company to make adjustments to their claims. The FDA also made them change the name of the product, and so, in 1971, the king was replaced by a live-action actor, George Mann, playing the part of King Vitaman (note the spelling of his last name, and the new name for the cereal), and the new claims promoted the cereal was now “a low fat and cholesterol free food – excellent source of 8 vitamins & iron.”

King Vitaman lives today — he underwent another makeover in 2000 (actor George Mann died in 1977), and he is now older and perhaps even more like a wiser-looking wizard than a king, and now the cereal is promoted as “a good source of 12 essential vitamins and iron and 100% of the recommended daily value of folic acid.”

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Crazy Cow, from General Mills, was introduced in the late 1970s, and it came in two flavors, chocolate and strawberry. The cereal itself was shaped in little pellet-like bits, coated with a powdered flavoring that would dissolve and then turn the milk in the cereal into a flavored milk drink. It was another favorite of ours — pretty much any cereal that turned the milk into chocolate milk was a favorite, in fact.

Another short-lived, strawberry-flavored “ready-sweetened corn and oat cereal,” was Crunchy Loggs, which arrived much later, in 1978. Their baseball-loving mascot was Bixby Beaver, and you see, since beavers like wood, and wood comes in the shape of logs, that’s how the cereal got it’s name, with an extra “G” added to make it special, of course. Poor sales, and the fact that kids like beavers but they likely didn’t like logs, at least log-shaped cereal pieces, meant that the cereal lasted just a year before the General court-martialed Bixby and his loggs.

Speaking of flavored milk, the Ralston company attempted to recreate “the great taste of chocolate chip cookies and milk” with their Cookie Crisp breakfast cereal, introduced in 1977. It was deliciously addictive. The Vanilla Cookie Crisp flavor came along in ’78 (lasting into the mid-80s), as did their Oatmeal Cookie Crisp (which last until 1980). Ralston were also the company that brought us Dynaman in 1969, and Moonstones in 1976, a fruit-flavored cereal that came in stars, half-moons and planet shapes. The two main Moonstones mascots were Bigbum and Majormoon.

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Ralston was a really interesting company — Mr. Breakfast had this info: “The name Ralston stems from a minor social movement in the late 19th Century called Ralstonism – created by Webster Edgerly. Followers of the movement (about 800,000) followed the motto “Regime, Activity, Light, Strength, Temperation, Oxygen and Nature” – the first letters of which spelled out ‘Ralston.’ In 1902, Webster Edgerly teamed up with the Purina Food Company to produce whole wheat cereals that he had been advocating to Ralstonites. This partnership resulted in The Ralston-Purina Company.”

Sugar Smacks cereal were one that have used a lot of mascot characters in their TV commercials over the year, including The Smackin’ Brothers, Quick Draw McGraw and the Smackin’ Bandit. They began using their frog mascot Dig ‘Em in 1972. About ten years later, Sugar Smacks became Honey Smacks (1983), and Dig ‘Em was phased out in 1986, to be replaced by Wally the Bear, but Dig ‘Em was brought back eventually and remains the cereal’s main character now.

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Sometimes the cereals had gangs of mascots, where children were exposed to a group of characters and one of our early 70s favorites — mainly for the memorable TV commercial — was Freakies, from Ralston, who were these weird tentacled mutant freaks: Boss Moss (who sounded like John Wayne), Grumble, Cowmumble, Hamhose, Snorkeldorf, Gargle, and Goody-Goody. They were exiles from somewhere referred to as “The Old World,” who had left to search for a mythical “Freakies Tree” in somewhere called “The New World.”

The pieces of cereal were typical O-shaped pieces, and each box housed a free Freakie inside. Freakies were a Ralston cereal from 1972-’76, and then a new version was re-introduced in 1987.

Another mid-70s cereal with a gang of mascots was given quite a mouthful for name: Grins & Smiles & Giggles & Laughs, another Ralston cereal which appeared in 1975 (unfortunately it’s been discontinued).

They had a whole mess of mascots for this cold cereal too — the main mascot was Cecil, a machine that spit out boxes of cereal. He was a big ol’ grump, though, and didn’t like laughing too much, and four other characters — Grins, the guy in the brown suit; Smiles, in the green suit; Giggles was the lady with the clipboard; and, Laughs was the guy in the blue suit with glasses — told jokes in an attempt to make Cecil laugh so he would make more cereal. “It takes funny people to make funny cereal.”

“If something makes me laugh, I make my cereal, Grins & Smiles & Giggles & Laughs – part of a nutritious breakfast. These bozos are gonna try to get me to laugh up some Grins & Smiles & Giggles & Laughs – the deliciously sweet crunchy corny cereal that smiles back at you.”

Also, in the early 70s, General Mills introduced their line of cereals that were “monster”-themed. Franken Berry was a strawberry-flavored cereal whose mascot was a Frankenstein monster, and Count Chocula, a chocolate-flavored cereal with a vampire mascot, were both introduced in 1971 (both have been available as a seasonable cereal since 2010).

General Mills’s Boo-Berry — a “blueberry”-flavored cereal — came along in 1973, and Fruit Brute — with a werewolf mascot appearing on the cereal box — appeared in 1974. It’s the cereal we see Lance the drug dealer, played by Eric Stoltz, eating a bowlful of, late at night while watching a “Three Stooges” episode, in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, and you can also spy a box of Fruit Brute in Mr. Orange’s apartment in Reservoir Dogs — wouldn’t an orange-flavored cereal, like Quangaroos, have been just as cool? We think so.

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Fruit Brute was discontinued within ten years, and replaced in 1987 by Fruity Yummy Mummy, which also had a short life span (discontinued in 1993; both Fruit Brute and Yummy Mummy were brought back in 2013).

Baron Von RedBerry“berry-flavored oat cereal with sweet berry starbits” (i.e. flavored marshmallows) — and Sir Grapefellow “grape-flavored oat cereal with sweet grape starbits” — both came along in 1972, and were two new entries in the crowded cereal market that marketed together in a kind of competing campaign, once again, only this time that campaign had a kind of vintage military history and tone that probably went right over the heads of the children who gobbled them up by the spoonful.

Sir Grapefellow (British) and Baron Von RedBerry (German) were both WWI fighter pilots with their own catch-phrases: Grapefellow’s was “Tally-ho!,” with some additional commentary on how delicious his cereal was, and Von RedBerry’s was “Achtung! Baron Von Redberry iz der berry goodest.”

Another blueberry-flavored cereal — introduced in limited markets in 1971 — was Bopperoos, with a blue kangaroo mascot that appeared to be some kind of hipster musician, wearing sunglasses and playing a stand-up bass. The confusing cereal box actually reveals that the name of the cereal was actually OOOBopperoos — as in “Oooooh… Bopperoos.” It never was distributed nationally, however, due to poor sales in the test markets.

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Another 70s-era Post cereal was the Pink Panther Flakes, which were corn flakes frosted with a pink sugary topping, accompanied by TV commercials that were created be shown during “The Pink Panther Show” on Saturday mornings.

We could probably go on and on even more about our love for 60s and 70s-era cold breakfast cereals, their TV commercials and mascots — and if you enjoyed this blog, check out our post about some of the memorable breakfast cereals of the 80s! — but this kind of blog post could not have happened without the diligent research of many online websites, so a special BIG THANKS to Mr. Breakfast!

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.