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Bring back cereal prizes, and add a new Jeep for box tops

Burt's Eye View

In the old days when I wanted a new car, I saved cereal box tops. Better yet, my new wheels came free inside the box.

I was 8 years old and the cars fit in the palm of my hand, but let me tell you, that Monkeemobile was one sweet ride. “Here I come, drivin’ down the breakfast table…” (Monkees not included.)

We also collected two or three Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang cars (with wings that flapped), a dozen Wacky Racers and a submarine that glowed in the dark.

Not only was it the most important meal of the day, breakfast was the most exciting.

Flash forward 50 years or so. My ol’ Jeep is breaking down and I can smell a new vehicle in my future. But I’ve checked the cereal aisles at the grocery store and I can’t find a single one that offers the keys to a new car free inside.

I miss the days when I stocked all my needs with cereal boxes.

Special offers were included on all of them — Sugar Smacks, Sugar Frosted Flakes, Sugar Crisp, Sugar Pops…

(Back then, sugar was still good for you. Somewhere in the 1980s, society decided that shoulder pads and mullets were good and sugar was bad. Our cereals were rebranded as Honey Smacks, Frosted Flakes, Golden Crisp and Corn Pops.)

If the prizes weren’t IN the box, they were ON the box. I filled my music library with cardboard records with vinyl overlays. I scored the Archies’ chart-topper “Sugar Sugar” on the back of Super Sugar Crisp (seriously, sugar used to be good); the Monkees’ smash “I’m a Believer” off Honey-Combs; and the Jackson 5’s biggie “ABC” off an Alpha-Bits box (we may have messed up on the sugar thing, but we knew product placement).

But I had to send in a bunch of box tops to get the 45 rpm-sized record that played 10 songs from “H.R. Pufnstuf” at 33 1/3 rpm. (Note to younger readers — rpm refers to how fast our pet dinosaurs had to run to crank the turntables.)

Where else but in your very own pantry could you get nine essential vitamins AND cool tunes to keep you hoppin’ and be-boppin’ all day long? (Or maybe that was the sugar talking.)

When plastic, snap-it-together-yourself secret decoder rings plopped into our cereal bowls, we spun dials to match up symbols to send sneaky messages — which we wrote with glow-in-the dark pens and detective notebooks that came free inside the boxes.

It’s not just sugar that’s disappeared from cereal boxes. So have the prizes. Kids can’t stomach the delicious agony of waiting four to six weeks for delivery. They hunger for online codes to download free games NOW on their handheld devices.

They wouldn’t understand Monster Mitts or state license plates for bicycles or Beatles Yellow Submarine rub-on stickers.

I stocked my room with cereal box prizes — posters, sticky wall crawlers, decals and patches, spy periscopes and flying discs, all free inside, and trading cards, cap guns, superhero kits, rocket launchers and cartoon-shaped breakfast sets for a few box tops and a quarter taped to the cardboard order form.

Wouldn’t it be gr-r-reat to bring back breakfast cereal commerce? I wonder how many Cap’n Crunch and Cocoa Puffs box tops a new Jeep costs.

— Send four proofs of purchase and 25 cents to Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or @BurtonWCole on Twitter.

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