I said when I started this blog that I’d be featuring some of the amazing completist websites that are out there in the virtual world of vintage, and Mrs M has stumbled upon an absolute blinder. It all started with one of those ‘do you remember…’ conversations with her brother, which started with fruit and vegetable pencil toppers and wandered off into poppet people and 3D animal cards. Back home, and the encyclopaedic filing cabinet of Mrs M’s mind starting whirring, and the next thing we knew, she had tracked down not only the source of those particular items, but also a treasure trove of other childhood memories on a site devoted exclusively to the ‘stuff’ that came in, or was obtainable from, cereal boxes.
A wander round the site is like a tour of a 60s and 70s childhood. There are items there that I don’t actually remember arriving, but were part of my toybox from early memories, including the Batman transfers released by Shredded Wheat in 1966 (oh, for a fresh set of those) and the Thunderbirds craft that lurked in the bottom of Sugar Smacks boxes, also in 1966, and that frustratingly seemed to consist entirely of Thunderbird 4s; I wonder now if regional distribution destroyed any sense of random allocation of craft to batches and that there are kids in other parts of the country whose entire Thunderbirds fleet was limited to one of the other craft I waited vainly for.
Sugar Smacks seems to have hit a rich seam of TV-related items. The Thunderbirds theme of ’66 was followed by Captain Scarlet badges in 1968 and more badges, this time featuring terribly-drawn characters from Jon Pertwee era Dr Who in 1971, sharing the year with Mrs M’s beloved 3D wildlife cards. I recall one of each finding their way into our random collection, most likely the result of some nascent TV-driven pester-power for a foray into undiscovered parts of the Sainsbury’s cereal shelf.
I’d like to claim that this also demonstrated a lifelong commitment to a less sugar-dominated breakfast diet, but I confess that my school day wasn’t complete without a bowl of Frosties, and who could blame me when a handful of boxtops could deliver a free model plastic kit. These came in remarkably high quality for a give-away item, and covering a remarkably wide range of esoteric subjects that would never have passed the commercial proposition test for one of the major kit manufacturers. A miniature Galaxy transport aircraft appeared in 1971, with a cross-Channel hovercraft in 1972 (OK, Airfix did do that one). Somehow the kit lead seems to have switched across to a sister Kellogg’s brand for a few years; not a problem as Rice Krispies were my sister’s cereal of choice, which guaranteed me the Tristar jet in 1973, hydrofoil in 1974 and, most bizarre of all, a faithful reproduction of a North Sea oil rig in 1975. Frosties got the kit line back in 1976 for a De Havilland racer, whereupon my tastes seem to have matured, but I’m now wishing that the completed models hadn’t joined their Airfix counterparts in a major clearout a few years back.
Sixth form, a growing obsession with rock’n’roll records, and then working life meant that the lure of the cereal box giveaway waned, apart from a final glorious flurry when 1990 saw Cornflakes – fortunately Mum and Dad’s morning staple – give away not only miniature die cast Spitfires to mark the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain but also, for a small sum, a sheet of cut out buildings and a base to make a complete scale 1940s airfield. Again, having graced the top of various filing cabinets, my complete set fell victim to some rationalisation; once again, though, the memories are sharp.
Check out the website – it’s growing constantly (and I’m hoping that they’ll be able to track down the cut-out 3D scenes of sea battles and the like that lurk in my memory). Whether you’re a child of the 50s, 60s, 70s or later, if you ate cereal, it’ll take you off on a time machine journey of your own. To misquote Noel Coward, ‘Strange how potent cheap stuff from the bottom of cereal packets is….’.