Contributing writer and photographer, “Boris" Boden, switches gears this week and instead of a photo essay, he’s ditched the photos and went for a straight-ahead essay from his Midwestern youth. Take it away, “Boris!”
I describe myself as “a full time cynic, with hopes of someday becoming a skeptic.” I believe this began somewhere around the age of 7, thanks in part to the fine folks at General Mills, in Battle Creek, Michigan.
From an early age, I loved cars, airplanes and boats, and I could readily identify the make, model and year of nearly every vehicle on the street. I made my Grandfather very proud on our walks through the Chicago neighborhoods, him quizzing me and showing me off to virtual strangers with my uncanny auto abilities.
One morning, while eating a bowl of Kellogg's Sugar Corn Pops (or some other "nutritious" sugar-laden breakfast cereal), I saw something that combined with the sugar-rush from the cereal caused me great excitement! It was an illustrious ad on the back of the cardboard cereal box for an “Atomic Submarine!” This was certainly something special, as it was NOT included IN the box (which was basically how I chose the cereals, begging my parents to get the one with the best toy, nutrition be damned!), but it was to be ordered through the mail. Yes, for twenty-five cents and ONE box top from either Kellogg's Sugar Corn Pops or Sugar Smacks (sugar being a recurring theme here), I could have this amazing submarine loaded with no less than 20 features!
In the early 60's, a quarter went a bit further than it does today, so I figured this must be worth every hard-earned penny. The order was sent and anticipation hung heavy in the air.
Every day I waited for the mailman to arrive (much like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” waiting for his Ovaltine decoder ring to arrive). Weeks went by, then months and then nothing. My friend Tommy down the block, not only got his, but he got TWO of them. Even at that young age, I somehow convinced him, that the other one MUST have been mine! The address obviously got mixed up by the post office. He finally gave in, and parted with it. I raced home, and anxiously filled up the bathroom sink, added the baking powder, and watched it quickly sink to the bottom. Undaunted, I filled up the bathtub and once again loaded it with baking powder, only to have it float, roll over, upend and sink to the bottom of the tub where it remained motionless. What a gyp!
Later in life, I think I had somewhat of a flashback when watching "Das Boot" for the first time. The 20 "'special features," were nothing but worthless little indentations and extensions of the small, gray, molded piece of plastic shit, I had agonized over while waiting weeks for its arrival. In reality, I would have gotten more "action" from a fucking Popsicle stick, or it may have at least floated.
I found out that day about the sad reality of “Truth in Advertising.” But I had a short memory as a young hopeful kid, and a few months later, when Kellogg's Sugar Frosted Flakes (another sugar reference) offered a set of ALL 3 U.S. Navy Frogmen that “swam” (also baking powder powered), I had to get them. Maybe research and development had gotten all of the bugs ironed out of the cereal toy department by then. Now, mind you, Kellogg's Corn Flakes (you had to add your own sugar), was including a FREE U.S. Navy Frogman inside each box, but I couldn't risk eating all that cereal and perhaps getting duplicates, so I was going for the Frogman trifecta!
The order form was cut from the back of the box, a shiny new quarter was taped to the cardboard and off it went to Battle Creek, Michigan. Once again, I had placed my order, and this time, after a couple weeks, they actually arrived. They were indeed the perfect “crew” for my submarine! Perfect in the respect that they also promptly sank, not "swam," not to mention each frogman being larger than the submarine itself!
Looking back, I truly believe that is when my cynicism, and distrust in life began. I never did receive the original submarine I ordered, and 50 years later it still hasn't shown up. Not that I'm still waiting, of course. Probably moving, relocating to different cities, a 36 year career, and witness protection plans didn't help delivery any. But I learned, and looking back, I should have just whiled away my time watching my “Sea Monkeys” through my ”'X-Ray Specs” instead.
Live and learn. Hey, wait...I think the mail just arrived, I'd better go check! Nope. Just bills and junk mail. Bastards.