When I was a kid there was a ‘day old’ Colonial bakery store close by where my dad shopped for items nearing their expiration dates. Along with loafs of white bread that were essential to the ham sandwiches my brothers and I had for lunch, he’d bring home a bag of Hostess snack cakes that sold for 10 cents each. I can still taste those cream-filled cupcakes and glazed apple pies and it may be a sign of aging but I’m certain they tasted better then than they do now. Even though I’d not had one in years, a wave of nostalgia washed over me a year or so ago when it appeared the Hostess line might be swept into the breadbox of history. These cavity inducing pasteries were a part of my childhood, afterall, so I was relieved when the brand was saved.
That experience started me thinking about brands I grew up with that are now either things of the past or don’t mean nearly as much as they once did. As the marketing content manager for NanoLumens, I’m entrusted to promote our brand online so the rise and fall of precious childhood memories has actually become a study in self-preservation.
So return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear when I used Prodigy’s dial up service to build my first website on geocities, coke used real sugar and the toys at the bottom of cracker jack boxes were actually cool. Here is my list of products gone, nearly gone, but definitely not forgotten.
1. Tab – Oh, Tab! How I loathed thee! Before Diet Coke, the Coca-Cola company intruduced this sugarless abomination for those who wanted to keep a ‘tab’ on their weight. I didn’t (but should have) and considered it a very poor substitute for ‘the real thing.’ (For those that don’t know, that was a 70s marketing slogan for Coke). Still, my mom kept the refrigerator stocked with it and like most kids I dumped a half pound of sugar in a glass of it once to diguise that bug spray taste. It didn’t work. Word is, Tab is still available in some places though I haven’t seen it in years.
2. The Georgia Theater Company was a chain of movie theaters that essentially held a monopoly on cineplexes in my hometown for years. I saw some of the best movies of my life on those screens, films like King Kong, Superman and the original Star Wars trilogy. I can still smell the fresh popcorn and I still recall how a manager at one of the theaters put the fear of God in me when I let a couple of friends in through one of the exit doors to see Bo Derek’s risque and ultimately terrible take on Tarzan. Ah, good times!
3. The National Wrestling Alliance was a regional professional “wrasslin'” league that went national thanks to Ted Turner’s Superstation WTCG (later WTBS.) Years before Wrestlemania and the flashy appeal of the WWE, my grandma and I thrilled to bloody gladiators like Mr. Wrestling II and the American Dream Dusty Rhodes. One of the ‘bad guys’ was named The Masked Assassin. Each weekend a young boy would approach him for an autograph, only to run away in tears when the wrestler broke the pencil and ripped up the autograph book. Turns out the kid was his son and part of the act. My dad actually knew the guy. True story.
4. Sears Wish Book. Let’s face it, the Sears Holiday catalog had one purpose back in the day – to incite riots among kids when Santa Clause didn’t deliver every flippin’ toy in it. The rarest and most valuable collector’s toys today were once found in the Sears Wish Book. Some fetch prices in the five figures. Who’s crying now, mom?!
5. Swanson TV dinners on REAL tin foil plates. Before the age of the microwave, TV dinners came on tin foil plates and you had to bake them in the over for a whole hour! So if you wanted to have one with your favorite TV show you had to plan in advance then kill 60 minutes until it was ready. One good way was to surf the internet…I mean read a book, text you friend or, rather, call him on a big rotary dial phone or find something else to watch on that amazing line up of 3 channels. But if you got distracted and lost track of time the meal would burn, forcing you to start again and turning meal time into a two hour ordeal.
So, what brands and concepts do you have fond or not-so-fond memories of?
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