Zach Rosenberg waxes rhapsodic about all of the novelty junk food from his childhood that he’ll never be able to share with his son. Ecto Cooler, anyone?
Some things are too good (or too bad) to keep around forever. This is especially true in the world of junk food, where brands constantly crank out products based on market trends and flimsy pop culture references.
My son will never eat some of the junk food I had when I was younger. I certainly won’t tell you that he’s missing out on some of these. This is a list of tooth-and-organ-rotting garbage. But TRY not to get nostalgic reading this list of stuff my kid will never be able to eat.
1. Hi-C Ecto Cooler
Let’s just get this out of the way quickly, since this is the most often mentioned name that my generation turns to when talking about discontinued drinks.
“HOLY F**K YES.”—me, remembering Hi-C Ecto Cooler.
“OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG OMG W OFFWO FOFONNFKGRT”—me, 8 years old, tasting Hi-C Ecto Cooler.
Some items were the perfect storm.
It was green!
It tasted like a 9-volt battery made of tangerines!
It contained no more than 10% real fruit juice!
Minute Maid didn’t know how much of a slam dunk they had with Hi-C Ecto Cooler. It was an orange-and-tangerine-flavored drink (I’m telling you this like you don’t already know, so bear with me) that was green, because duh, Slimer. It was based on the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters, which was based, of course, on the Oscar-nominated (fo’ real!) movie, Ghostbusters.
So Ecto Cooler was created in 1987 and only supposed to exist as long as The Real Ghostbusters. But the cartoon ended in 1991, and Ecto Cooler was still wildly popular. It was produced until 1997-ish, at which point, the public consciousness just couldn’t identify with Slimer anymore, and Minute Maid took Slimer off of the box. Around 2001, no one on Earth remembered what “ecto” meant, and Minute Maid created another Hi-C flavor that was similar—Shoutin’ Orange Tangergreen. It even had a green, splotchy mouth on the front of the box. Around 2006, it was renamed Crazy Citrus Cooler, and then discontinued a year later, once no one was actually interested in their citrus drinks being on the green spectrum and didn’t need their 10% confectionery juices to be shouting, crazy or ecto.
Honestly, I remember trading for this in the middle-school spice trade, but I don’t think my parents ever bought it for me.
2. Oreo Big Stuf
When you were a kid, the only thing that was better than an Oreo cookie was many Oreo cookies. Or, of course, The Oreo Big Stuf. It was an Oreo cookie, but instead of being all small and delicious, it was about 4 inches in diameter. And delicious. I remember going to a Mexican restaurant with my family when I was little and getting them with my kids’ meal.
First of all, the commercial is like being at Bayside High AND West Beverly High all at once, so of course I loved it.
Second of all, I added “make a double Big Stuf Oreo” to my childhood bucket list. And, well, folks, I don’t remember how, but I did it. I also remember that being the point in my childhood where my parents started really harping on me about my weight.
The Oreo Big Stuf was only around from 1987-1991, which seems like a great run except I WANT ONE RIGHT NOW. Well, two so I can
share one with my son have two.
3. Keebler Tato Skins
I’m gonna slap your mouth if you’re not immediately screaming “OMGYES” right now.
Keebler Tato Skins were the first chip I recall eating by the fistful. They tasted filthy, but good-filthy. They were thicker than pedestrian potato chips to accommodate a light and dark side to visually remind you of a potato skin. Goddamned marketing genius. GENIUS, I SAY. They were the pinnacle of mankind, and we’ve just been circling the drain since then.
And I know you’re all “But Zach, Keebler handed over the Tato Skins brand to Poore Brothers some time ago, who marketed the same product with different seasonings under the T.G.I. Friday’s Potato Skins Snack Chips brand. They’re still available at most Walmart stores across the nation.”
So why don’t you write the rest of this article then since you’re so smart?
Didn’t think so.
4. Nintendo Cereal System
Remember when you had a Nintendo Entertainment System and you were all “I’M MARIO, WATCH ME BREAK BRICKS AND EAT MUSHROOMS AND WALLOW AROUND IN THE SEWERS LOOKING FOR COINS”?
Well, the only thing a go-getter like you could do after trudging through human filth in a sewer for a couple of hours was
get tested for hepatitis have a bowl of cereal to recharge. And, if you were an adventure-loving dude who would mash his privates all over the heat vents of his NES while no one was looking (it’s cool, bro, everyone did it), then you were literally holding your parents at knifepoint in the grocery store to get this stuff.
Nintendo Cereal System was, let’s be honest, just okay cereal, but holy octoroks, it was shaped like stuff from Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda. These days, you’re assaulted with video game stuff everywhere, from Happy Meals to toy aisles to that one dude’s ring tone at work. But back then, if you had a Nintendo sticker, which you got in every box of Nintendo Cereal System, you’d hoard the hell out of it until your little brother ended up peeling them all off and sticking them on one of your Nintendo Powers.
The cereal was made by Ralston Purina in 1988, and if the name “Ralston Purina” sounds a whole lot like a dog food company, it’s because it is. I mean it was. I mean… it kind of was. It kind of is. It’s complicated.
5. Oreo O’s
I could probably fill a whole list with discontinued cereals alone (French Toast Crunch?!), but I couldn’t resist adding Oreo O’s—a cereal that was so extreme that even I only bought it once. But that’s the thing—you’re supposed to buy Oreo O’s once to reawaken all of the good things in your soul. And once it’s gone, you charge down to the grocery store to buy another box, but instead, stand and stare, repelled by its force. Don’t fight nature. The box only chooses you once.
Oreo O’s were around from 1998 until 2007 and probably only discontinued for political reasons; Post owned the cereal side, and Kraft owned the Oreo side. They don’t play nice anymore. You can, however, still buy Oreo O’s in South Korea. Oversimplified: Korean food manufacturer Dongsuh Food has a license to produce Post Foods cereals in Korea. Kraft acquired General Foods, and Dongsuh Food got the magical combination of licenses you’d need to make a Post cereal with a Kraft brand. Booyakasha, or something.
If you were a kid in third grade and didn’t have a Squeezit because your parents didn’t believe in popularity contests and would say dumb s**t like “if they only like you because of what you drink, they’re not your friends at all,” then wow, will you really want to punch your parents in their stupid mouths again now, because WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SQUEEZITS, Y’ALL.
This sugar-water was created in the 1980s by General Mills and, if the trash I found on my lawn was any indication, kicked ass for 20 years.
It made you feel so bad-ass drinking out of a faux-bottle while your buddy was attempting to not blow-out the sides of his Capri Sun as he struggled to get the straw in.
Also, and I know you did this, so you shut right up with the negativity, but middle school spin-the-bottle.
BAR FIGHTS! PLASTIC BOTTLE FIGHTS! Some knucklehead would finish his Squeezit and then refill just the bottom with water and then whomp on your head. Instant war.
Lunch table games would never be the same.
7. Jell-O Pudding Pops
If you had a faux-health conscious family (and who didn’t in the late 80′s and early 90′s with the Diet Caffeine Free Coke flowing like water and the aerobics craze in full swing?), then you had Jell-O Pudding Pops in your freezer. No doubt.
You remember these only because Bill Cosby was the spokesperson and a million of your stupid friends would do Cosby imitations on the schoolyard, and then you’d go home and they’d have the same stupid Cosby imitations on In Living Color and MADtv and Saturday Night Live. In. That. Order.
I don’t know how, but no matter if you ate these on day-1 or day-100, these were always freezer burned, leaving them rubbery like some kind of edible, chocolate-loving Eskimo sex toy. Did I just say that? I don’t know. Awkward.
So—ahem—if you so choose, you can make Jell-O Pudding Pops yourself with a recipe from Kraft or with a store-bought kit—which seems like a rip-off going through the trouble of living in America and then having to make your own stuff.
8. Crystal Pepsi
Van Halen, amirite?
The only thing that anyone remembers about Crystal Pepsi is that they made a commercial with Van Halen’s “Right Now,” so that the soda would somehow feel progressive and everything-conscious. But now, the commercial just feels like the 90′s took a poop in your eyes:
I brought a bottle of this stuff to football practice when I was in 8th grade because 1). I was a hefty kid, 2). I clearly didn’t understand hydration during sports, 3). I knew I had no future in football, and 4). I was dog-stupid.
My wife fondly remembers Crystal Pepsi as “the only soda allowed in [her junior high] classroom so it wouldn’t stain the carpet.” To which I responded “You could have soda in class? You had carpeted classrooms?! Holy s**t, where did you go to school? St. Illiard’s of the 1%?” I smiled, so proud of my diss.
And you know how marriage goes; my son starts kindergarten at that same school this August.
So the catch was that Crystal Pepsi wasn’t like Sprite, 7up, or Slice (remember Slice?!), which were “un-colas.” Crystal Pepsi was a cola, but without the coloring. Its assumed purity meant health, because clear stuff can’t kill you. Like ghosts or a garage full of carbon monoxide.
Coca-Cola s**t such nervous bricks over Crystal Pepsi at the time that they launched Tab Clear as a competitor and Trojan horse. Tab Clear hit the market, made everyone say “this is so NOT Van Halen” and both products died. Crystal Pepsi first in 1993 and Tab Clear in 1994. Pepsi has released a ton of other stupid barely-cola products since then, of which the most notable is probably Pepsi Blue.
You could track down an old bottle of Crystal Pepsi like the L.A. Beast, and vomit, like the L.A. Beast. But I have a child now, so vomiting for fun is kind of behind me at this point in life.
9. Keebler Pizzarias
You don’t share the same affinity for these as I do, and that’s fine. Pizzarias were like an Italian version of Doritos. If I’m not mistaken, Pizzarias were a flour-based chip, where Doritos are corn-based. The result was like you were eating an astronaut food pizza. FO REAL.
Keebler’s mantra for these was “Real pizza dough! Real pizza cheeses!” But it should have been “Astronaut pizza, bitches! Getcha space on!”
NASA was big back then, so it totally would have worked. That commercial should have been done from a Keebler tree space station. You put all those elves in space suits and show them eating Keebler Astronaut Pizzarias and I guarantee you’d be selling those things hand-over-fist to infinity and be-f**king-yond. But no…
Why did spraying a chip with a mix of tomato powder, vague cheese dust, Italian seasoning, and pepperoni-ish spices make for such a good chip? I suppose because in a time where every kid had Nacho Cheese Doritos, Cool Ranch Doritos, or Cheetos, you looked like some kind of Italian child-godking with Zesty Pepperoni Pizzarias. Everyone wanted to trade with you. You got the best of the lunch trades for Pizzarias. If you had a full boat of kids at school that day, your come-up would end up trading with a hot lunch ticket.
I gotta be honest—I have no idea when these chips came around or got discontinued. They were around during the 90s, and at some point, the license got shoveled over to the Poore Brothers (just like Tato Skins) and they slowly disappeared. And good luck finding a picture on the internet of these. There’s one Flickr photo of a bag and that’s about it.
If you were a gamer in the mid-90′s, you sucked down a Surge or two hundred. It was first produced by Coca-Cola in 1996, and my god, do you remember what else came out in 1996?
Duke Nukem 3D
Super Mario 64 (and the Nintendo 6444444!)
Oh god, the late nights. And in 1997, Mario Kart 64, GoldenEye 007, and Quake II came out (among a long list of others), so yeah… SURRRGEEEEEE.
We needed to be as extreme as possible at all times, and Surge made it happen. My friends and I all loved Mountain Dew, but Surge just fit our extreme gamer lifestyle better (“Cha-CHING” said Coca-Cola). I don’t know what it was about Surge. We thought it had more caffeine than Mountain Dew, but it only had 51mg of caffeine versus 55mg for the Dew.
BUT IT WAS EXTREME. LIKE, FATBOY SLIM EXTREME.
I even had the CD that they gave away that contained tracks by Moby, Fluke, David Bowie, Third Eye Blind, The Dandy Warhols, and of course, Fatboy Slim. But my favorite Surge-related track wasn’t official, it was by the nerd-rapper YTCracker, called “Surgerunner.” See? People loved this stuff. Not enough to keep it alive though… Surge petered out by 2003.
There are more snacks and drinks that didn’t make the list. I was surprised to find that some of the items I thought were gone still exist (Shark Bites!). Or, some items exist in slightly different, but acceptable form (Butterfinger BBs!). Also, terribly boring items (New York Seltzer!).
What old snack are you sad that your child can’t enjoy just as you did?
Originally appeared on 8BitDad.com