It’s so easy to forget the brands we boomers liked as kids. Which a lot of us have done. But not writer Barry Silverstein of Asheville, North Carolina. In fact he has a brand new book about the best and worst brands of the 1950s and 60s, and has adapted a bit of it for BoomerCafé. You can call it, “Whatever happened to….?”
Our baby boomer memory banks are filled with decades worth of miscellany, including childhood brands. Some of the brands we remember have survived to this day, yet others are long gone. Do any of the following “Boomer brand losers” bring back memories for you?
Nabisco Rice Honeys and Wheat Honeys
While cereal giants General Mills, Kellogg’s, and Quaker were battling it out for cereal superiority in the ’50s and ’60s, Nabisco joined the fray with “Rice Honeys” and “Wheat Honeys.” The two brands were often promoted together in early television commercials featuring “Buffalo Bee,” a cartoon character insect who wore a cowboy hat. Nabisco tried to pump up cereal sales using premiums tied in with TV shows and movies. Both cereals eventually lost their buzz and disappeared.
Funny Face Drink Mix
In an attempt to eat into Kraft’s Kool-Aid’s market share, Pillsbury introduced “Funny Face” drink mix in 1964. Not a bad idea— until two of the flavors were named “Injun Orange” and “Chinese Cherry.” The “Injun” package sported a cross-eyed cartoon character with war paint and feathers, while a face with slants for eyes and buck teeth was featured on the “Chinese” package. Complaints poured into Pillsbury and the packaging was changed. The drink mixes lasted until 1994, but the brand never quite shook its early controversy.
Remember how disappointed you were with “Sea-Monkeys?” This scientific toy featuring tiny crustaceans (actually brine shrimp) turned out to be a giant letdown. The Sea-Monkeys looked nothing like the cute cartoon monkey illustrations in ads, most of which appeared in comic books in the late ’50s and ’60s. Boomer kids and their parents saw Sea-Monkeys as nothing more than a scam. But Sea-Monkeys became a pop culture fad… and they are still being sold today.
Originally introduced in 1901 by Bristol-Myers, “Ipana” gained popularity with boomer kids in 1954 because of its mascot, “Bucky Beaver,” a Disney animated character who sang and danced in television commercials and appeared in comic strip ads. Through the ’60s, Ipana was a very well-known popular toothpaste brand. When Bristol-Myers turned its attention to pharmaceutical brands in the 1970s though, Ipana suffered, disappearing by the end of the decade. Today, a Canadian company is bringing back the Ipana brand, along with Bucky Beaver.
General Restaurant Equipment, owned by brothers Frank and Donald Thomas, made hamburger broilers used by Burger King. The Thomas brothers saw the potential in the hamburger business and opened a few restaurants of their own. By 1958, they had stores in three states under the name “Burger Chef.” By the end of 1967, Burger Chef was second only to McDonald’s in sales. Things started to fall apart a year later. Sold to Hardee’s in 1982, the Burger Chef name was no more— except for a cameo appearance on the television series “Mad Men.”
Barry’s new book is, “Boomer Brand Winners & Losers: 156 Best & Worst Brands of the 50s and 60ss.”