Some of the breakfast cereals listed below are still in production. Some have been re-named and re-packaged. Many of them disappeared as quickly as they arrived.
But they all have a special place in our memory because they evoke powerful memories of our childhood in decades gone by . . . when a bowl of your favourite cereal was usually an accompaniment to Saturday Morning Cartoons, and the carton yielded magical prizes, tokens and competitions.
This list is not intended to be a definitive list of breakfast cereals from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. It is a work in progress.
Please drop us a line if you have a favourite which is not listed here (or to share your special breakfast cereal memories).
Bran Muffin Crisp
“Stays crunchy, even in milk”
The sea-going mascot of Quaker Oats Cap’n Crunch cereal sported a white walrus moustache, jacket with tails, shoulder epaulettes and a blue Napoleonic hat bearing the initial “C.”
The Captain (who often said of his cereal, “It has to be good because they named it after me!”) commanded the SS Guppy, which sailed the oceans with a crew of four children: the ponytailed Brunnhilde; bespectacled Alfie; gap-toothed Dave; and silent little Carlyle.
The ship’s first mate was a dog named Seadog. Pirate Jean LaFoote (the barefoot pirate) often attacked the ship for its cargo of Cap’n Crunch and Crunchberry cereals.
Other characters were the Crunchberry Beast who raised strawberry-flavoured crunchberries and Smedley, a friendly elephant who loved peanut butter-flavoured Cap’n Crunch. The Cap’n Crunch commercials (produced by Jay Ward) sailed into the living rooms of America in 1963. Daws Butler supplied Cap’n Crunch’s voice.
Cap’n Crunch’s Punch Crunch
Coco Pops/Coco Krispies
Launched in the UK in 1961 with Mr Jinks. Sooty’s friend Sweep replaced him after the name became Coco Krispies
Cornelius the cockerel appeared on Corn Flakes packets from 1963
Crispy Wheat n Raisins
Freakies were made by Ralston Purina (yes, the cat food people) from around 1973 to 1977.
The box had a picture of a large tree (the “Freakies” tree), and very long, well-written stories about the Freakies on the back of the pack.
The Freakies themselves were seven really neat creatures;
- Hamhose : A brown octopus, known for his shyness;
- Gargle : A purple alligator (who stood upright) and was the genius of the group;
- Cowmumble : Looked like a green cow – She was pathologically shy, but also a little giddy;
- Grumble : Looked sort of like an orange frog with gigantic feet and complained about everything;
- Goody Goody : Looked and talked like everybody’s worst grandmother, and had a giant bulbous red nose;
- Snorkeldorf : A purple elephant who played his trunk like a musical instrument;
- Boss Moss : The green leader of the group whose wide-open mouth was so big that it covered half of his face
The cereal itself looked like yellow Cheerios but tasted just like Cap’n Crunch. There were six or seven different TV commercials on Saturday mornings, and at least one of them went “We are the Freakies, We are the Freakies, And this is the Freakies tree, We never miss a meal (Oh, no) ‘Cause we love our cer-ee-eel”
But the neatest thing about Freakies were the prizes. First, they had little statuettes of the seven Freakies; then they had refrigerator magnets. But the big favourites were the Freakmobiles; seven little cars which every kid just had to collect. They had a little “air booster” in the back (a kind of rubber bulb) and squeezing it would push the car thirty feet or more!
There were also seven boats for the Freakies. You blew up a balloon and attached it to the boat, and as the balloon deflated, the boat travelled through the water.
In no particular order, there were also; Freakies bicycle flags; Freakies airplanes (which you just cut out from the back of the box); Freakies iron-on patches (twenty of them; Flip ‘N Fly’s (sort of like little Frisbees) . . . and then Ralston Purina offered their famous “Mystery Prize” (where you could basically get any of the items above).
Eventually, Ralston Purina started to run out of ideas and by early 1978, Freakies was gone. NB: Do not confuse the original Freakies with the feeble comeback attempt in the late 80s.
Klondike Pete and his hoss featured on the boxes, of Golden Nuggets (which always used to have great free gifts, like Klondike Pete comics). Sold from 1970 – 1979 (and were re-launched in 1999).
Grins Giggles Smiles and Laughs
“spoon size shredded wheat”
In 1971, the Doyle, Dane & Bernbach Agency created an ad campaign for Life cereal (which ran from 1972 through 1987) starring three young brothers (The Gilchrist brothers), all freckled and all very cute. The now classic TV spots showed two of the boys (Michael & Tommy) wrestling with the decision of whether to try a new cereal (Life) that was supposed to be good for you.
“I’m not gonna try it. You try it,” they argued. Suddenly, they slid the bowl of cereal in front of their little four-year-old brother, Mikey (John Gilchrist), who according to the commercial “hates everything.” To their surprise, Mikey liked it (“He likes it! Hey, Mikey!”) and the commercial message that Life cereal was good for kids was complete.
In 1986 Mikey returned as a college student to continued this cereal saga for the Quaker Oats Company. In addition to Life Cereal, John Gilchrist (aka. “Mikey”) appeared in more than 250 commercials for such products as Pepto Bismol, Skippy Peanut Butter, and Jell-O before quitting in 1988.
In later years, the Gilchrist brothers joked about how they did all the talking, yet their brother John got all of the recognition. John’s standard answer to this discussion “Well, I was the cute one.” The three Gilchrist brothers are now successfully employed: John as an advertising executive; Michael as a labour negotiator, and Tommy as an account executive.
Urban legend rumours asserted falsely that Mikey had died after eating Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola. In 1997, the makers of Life Cereal held a contest to find a “new” Mikey to appear on their cereal boxes. The winner (chosen from 35,000 entrants) was a girl named Marli Brianna Hughes.
Puffa Puffa Rice
Quake (SEE Quisp)
A round-faced alien with crossed-eyes, a broad teasing grin and a propeller growing from the top of his head featured on the 1960s Quaker Oats commercials that advertised Quisp cereals.
Quisp shared his commercial spot with a hard-hatted miner named Quake (voice of William Conrad) who relentlessly chased Quisp to prevent him from plugging his cereal (“the biggest selling cereal from Saturn to Alpha Centauri!”).
The Quisp & Quake ad campaign was created in 1965 by the Compton ad agency
Advertised by three cute little elves called Snap, Crackle and Pop who scampered about the kitchen promoting Rice Krispies, Frosted Rice and Cocoa Krispies for the Kellogg’s cereal company.
Originally designed by children’s illustrator W. T. Grant, the three elves made their debut in 1928. The elves derived their name from the Snap! Crackle! Pop! sounds emitted from the cereal when milk is poured onto it. Over the years, the elves’ large ears and noses have been softened and downsized.
With the introduction of television, the Snap, Crackle Pop campaign initially targeted such children’s shows as The Howdy Doody Show but later targeted programs like CBS Schoolbreak Specials and ABC Afterschool Specials. The elves voices were provided by Daws Butler, Paul Winchell & Don Messick
Sugar Crisp, Super Sugar Crisp
In the UK, Sugar Smacks kept pace of childhood trends by featuring the latest favourite TV hero on the pack.
The fear of overly sugary cereals forced Kellogg’s to change the name to Honey Smacks in the 1980s.