Monday, October 11, 2010

When Coolers Were Wine

After writing a post about Dewey Stevens wine coolers for Diary of a Non-Person, I started thinking.

Back in the '80s, wine coolers actually contained wine. These days, people tend to still use the term "wine cooler," but most of these drinks don't actually have any wine in them. In fact, they're flavored malt beverages now. Occasionally, through the years, I've wondered how that happened, but I've never taken the time to delve into it.

I'm actually not much of a drinker; when I do drink, I lean toward having a strawberry daiquiri or some other frozen concoction that contains rum. Even so, I miss some of the wine coolers of the past, such as Dewey Stevens, California Coolers, Seagrams, and Bartles & Jaymes; I preferred them to any of the flavored malt beverages I've had in more recent years.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Coke

I still remember the uproar over the introduction of New Coke. As a Coca-Cola fan, I wasn't even remotely amused by the idea of replacing my favorite soft drink with some inferior version. It just didn't make any sense!

I was perusing the bulletin boards at the student union and saw a note urging everyone to complain about it by calling the Coca-Cola Company's toll-free number, so that's exactly what I did when I got home. I think it was the first time I ever actually called a company to complain, but I was mad! The customer service representative informed me that the new formula had done very well in taste tests. I didn't believe it. Who were the tasters, anyway?

In panic mode, I stocked up on 2-liter bottles, trying to space out the opening of each one. Once it was open, it would start going flat. I would have preferred to buy cans, since they would last longer, but with no car, the best I could do was buy a couple 2-liter bottles at a time and lug them back to my place. When I bought cans, it was one at a time from the many vending machines around campus, and I opened it right then and there.

I had a decent supply but didn't go overboard the way a lot of people did. I probably would have, but I was a student and couldn't afford that kind of extravagance.

Sure, I know now that it would have been healthier to just let it go and switch to water, but that wasn't going to happen. At the time, I wasn't amused, but I can admit now that it was better for me to cut down on them anyway. The problem is telling that to someone whose favorite product is about to go away.

I did try New Coke, and I didn't like it. I knew I'd be drinking more Dr Pepper and RC, two of my other favorites, if this stuff stuck around.

By the time the manufacturer admitted its mistake and brought back "Classic Coke," as they decided to call it, I still hadn't run out of my supply.

For the record, I do drink water most of the time now that I'm a lot older and a tiny bit wiser. Still, I remember fondly the days when it was rare to see me without a can of Coke in my hand or on my desk.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Simpler Times

I miss being able to buy food products without scrutinizing the label. I'm not talking about my more carefree days, when I didn't care as much about chemicals or trans fat in food. I'm talking about the manufacturing changes that have taken place over the years. Specifically, I miss the days when I could buy a regular, non-diet food or drink, and not have to check the ingredients for sucralose.

Sucralose was approved for use in the United States in 1998. Since then, it has become the most popular reduced-calorie sweetener, and I pretty much expect it to be in most diet products now. But what about the non-diet products? I've lost a lot of favorite products to this change. Unlike the use of aspartame, manufacturers don't even have to warn us that they're using sucralose; we just have to check the ingredients. All debates about the safety aside, I simply don't like the taste.

I don't drink as many soft drinks as I did in my younger days. Mostly, I drink water now, and when I indulge in a soft drink, it's somewhat of a treat. I was stunned recently to open a can of Shasta, take a drink, and realize that it tasted like a diet drink. What do you think I found on the ingredients list? Sucralose. It was down pretty far on the list, and high-fructose corn syrup was near the top (and yes, I'd much prefer sugar). I didn't even think to check for this before making the purchase; I just saw Shasta on sale at the store and thought it would taste pretty good--and bring back some memories. Well, it did bring back memories--of a time when it tasted so much better, and when trips to the store were much quicker and simpler because I didn't spend so much time checking lists of ingredients.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Elsie Stix

Borden was a company based in Columbus, Ohio, with a large product line. A lot of their products were dairy, such as ice cream, condensed milk, and cheese.

Borden used to have these great frozen treats, and there was something special about them besides the taste. Instead of a wooden stick inserted as a handle, each one had a plastic stick to hold onto. Elsie Stix (named for Elsie the cow, Borden's mascot) came in different colors and were designed to be interlocking so that you could build things with them.

A lot of kids--and probably adults too--collected Elsie Stix. It was nice to have something to play with after the ice cream was gone. However, the best thing about Elsie Stix was that you could enjoy your frozen treat without being subjected to a wooden stick. I can't be the only one who doesn't like those things!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Show 'n Tell

I had this really cool toy called a Show 'n Tell. It looked like a combination of a record player and television. It was small and box-shaped like a TV, with a screen in the front. On the top, it had a fully functioning record player. Also on the top, there was a thin, deep slot.

The Show 'n Tell played records, but its main purpose was to tell stories. To use this educational toy to its full potential, you had to buy the appropriate accessories. These were the '70s equivalent of educational videos and came in the form of a combination record/slide strip.

When you wanted to play one of the stories, you put the record on the turntable and started playing it, simultaneously inserting the slide strip into the slot, as far as it would go. As the story progressed, the strip would automatically rise, so that the next image would show on the screen.

I'm not sure how many stories I had, but I remember two of them. One was based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, by Washington Irving. It was where I first learned about the Headless Horseman, Brom Bones, and Ichabod Crane. I played this one a lot.

The other was a cool lesson in Spanish. It featured a song with several verses that changed according to which family member was going shopping and what that person was buying. I still remember the tune and some of the lyrics.

The Show 'n Tell was pretty high-tech for its time.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

So Many Books!

When I was in grade school, my classmates and I had to fulfill a reading requirement outside the classroom. I'm not sure how many years it was required, but I do know it was mandatory in at least the first and second grades.

The requirement was simple. We had to read a certain number of books in addition to the ones we all read in class. These extra books could be anything we wanted, as long as we read the entire book and not just a page or two. I believe the required number was 32.

At the beginning of the school year, we received a pre-printed form on which we (or a parent) were to write down the book titles. Then, at the end of the school year, we turned in the completed form. If we exceeded the requirement, we could continue the list on another sheet of paper, staple the pages together, and hand in the entire list. We didn't get any extra credit for them, but the teacher could see just how busy we'd been.

I was always an avid reader, read far above my grade level, and read just about anything I could get my tiny hands on. It always took me very little time to get through the required number of books. Just 32? No problem!

In the second grade, I was pretty pleased with my list. I'd read well over a hundred books and could easily have told you what happened in all of them if asked. (That was back when my memory was actually quite good, as opposed to now, when I probably couldn't tell you anything about what I read yesterday.)

I proudly gave my teacher the list. She glanced at it, scowled, and asked, "Why'd you read so many?"

Can you imagine?

Fortunately, her sour attitude didn't spoil my love of books.

Welcome to Ellie's Attic

The attic is where people used to store things, back when I was younger. Maybe most people still do.

In any case, Ellie's Attic is about memories. Whether it's toys, games, or something else from the past, this is where I'll be writing about the way things used to be. Good old days? Maybe in some ways, but definitely not in others.