Boomers Loved Product Animal Mascots

The Boomer Era is arguably the Golden Age of the product mascot. There were figures and characters of all types advertising everything from dish detergent to candy, and everything in between. Yet more specifically, it was the decades of the Boomer Generation when animal mascots reigned supreme. Many attribute this marked increase in animal mascots to the rise of television, and especially, children’s television programming. How many of these “spokesanimals” do you recall?

Elsie the Cow – Borden dairy products (1936)
Actually not new to the Boomer Generation, Elsie, like the RCA Victor dog, was a throwback to an earlier generation. Elsie made her debut in 1936, but boomers will recall the talking cartoon cow extolling the virtues of milk.

Elmer the Bull – Borden’s Elmer products (1940s)
Presumably the mate to Elsie, Elmer will be recalled by boomers as the spokesanimal mascot to products such as Elmer’s Glue.

Smokey the Bear – United States Forest Service (1944 to present)
Mister Boomer will wager to say there isn’t a boomer anywhere who can’t repeat Smokey’s refrain of, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires.”

Sugar Bear – Post Sugar Crisp cereal (1949)
Post beat arch-rival Kellogg’s in the animal mascot race by introducing Sugar Bear on packages, ads and commercials two years before Kellogg’s animal mascots entered the scene. Sugar Bear has gone through many transformations since then, and so has the cereal; it went from the name Sugar Crisps to Super Sugar Crisps, then to the current name, Golden Crisps. Nonetheless, the next generation of Sugar Bear continues his fifty year spokesanimal job.

Tony the Tiger – Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes (1951)
Unless you are a boomer born in the earliest days of the generation, you won’t be able to recall a time when Tony the Tiger wasn’t hawking Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes. His signature, “They’re g-r-r-r-r-eat!” phrase was another known by boomers. An interesting tidbit of trivia about Tony in TV commercials is that the first man to voice the character was Dallas MacKennon, but he was followed by Thurl Ravenscroft, the deep voice boomers will recall as later singing, “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch,” in the Dr. Seuss Christmas TV special, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966). Naturally, the product name changed to just Frosted Flakes as sugar was removed from the name of several cereals marketed to children.

Hamm’s Bear – Hamm’s Beer (1953)
Hamm’s was brewing beer for nearly a hundred years before introducing the Hamm’s Bear spokesanimal. In the process, Hamm’s became the first brewery in history to have a cartoon mascot. Boomers can find a case load of Hamm’s Bear collectibles online to reminisce. Unlike many of the other animal mascots, the Hamm’s Bear did not generally speak. The character did say one line once, and that was, “It bears repeating!”

Farfel the Dog – Nestle’s Quik (1955)
Ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson was hired to do Nestle’s commericals for children’s television with his dummies, Danny O’Day and Farfel. When Danny O’Day sings, “N-e-s-t-l-e-s, Nestle’s makes the very best,” Farfel adds, “Chaw-clett” and snaps his jaws shut as an exclamation. Many a boomer stirred up the chocolate powder in a glass and repeated the animal puppet mascot’s refrain right down to snapping their teeth.
Late generation boomers recall Quik the bunny. First seen in 1973 on the strawberry flavor of Nestle’s Quik, the animal mascot has since been renamed the Nesquik Bunny, but is still seen today.

Cornelius the Rooster – Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (1957)
Mister B was always reminded of the classic Colorforms toy when he spied the abstract, flat color rooster on the box of Corn Flakes. Kellogg’s produced a series of commercials in the 1950s that combined the animated cartoon character with live action. Cornelius was usually called “Corny” for short.

Bucky Beaver – Bristol Meyers Ipana toothpaste (1957)
Popular for decades, Ipana toothpaste reached its peak in the 1950s and ’60s along with the introduction of Bucky the Beaver. Bucky was always fighting the villain, Mr. D.K. Germ, in commercials. Other than Bucky, Ipana is best known for being the first toothpaste to include hexachlorophene in 1959, a germ-killing agent. A few years later, it was removed from the product when it was identified as a harmful chemical. By 1970, Bristol-Meyers was concentrating on its pharmaceuticals line of products and Ipana faded from popular view.

Smaxey the Seal – Kellogg’s Sugar Smacks cereal (1957)
Sugar Smacks cereal was introduced in 1953 with a clown on the package. A few years later, a seal appeared on the box. The seal did have a name, and that was Smaxey. The Hanna-Barbera cartoon horse Quick Draw McGraw replaced the seal in 1961. One of Mister Boomer’s sister’s favorite cereals (along with Lucky Charms and Cocoa Puffs), Sugar Smacks were notorious for containing more than 50 percent sugar. The cereal was rebranded as Honey Smacks in the 1980s.

Trix the Rabbit – General Mills Trix cereal (1959)
The original mascot for Trix was a flamingo when the cereal made its debut in 1955. Trix the Rabbit was introduced four years later. Every boomer knows the catchphrase for this cartoon animal mascot, too: “Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids.” Like pulling the football away from Charlie Brown, Trix the Rabbit was destined to never get a taste of Trix cereal during the boomer era. It was 1976 when General Mills ran a clever and highly popular contest for kids to vote on whether the rabbit finally gets a taste of Trix by sending in the yes or no “ballot” on the boxtop. Kids voted overwhelmingly in the rabbit’s favor. The company ran a similar campaign in 1980, so Trix the Rabbit has only tasted Trix cereal twice in his fifty-plus-year spokesanimal career.

Geoffrey the Giraffe – Toys R Us (1960s)
Company founder Charles Lazarus opened a baby furniture store called Children’s Bargaintown in 1948. Geoffrey evolved from the 1950s print advertising for the store as Dr. G. Raffe. By the end of the Boomer Generation in 1964, boomers readily recognized the giraffe mascot for the company that became synonymous with toys.

Charlie the Tuna – Starkist tuna (1961)
In another series of classic commercials most boomers will recall, Charlie the Tuna was always trying to get noticed by Starkist, but a note on a fishing hook sent him a rejection of, “Sorry, Charlie.” The commercial voiceover man went on to say that Charlie wasn’t the quality tuna that Starkist looks for.

Sonny the Cuckoo Bird – General Mills Cocoa Puffs cereal (1962)
Originally introduced with another cuckoo bird, “Gramps,” “Sonny” was presumably the older bird’s grandson. Sonny was always losing it, and as boomers can still say, he was “…cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.” Gramps was soon dropped from the campaigns.

Toucan Sam – Kellogg’s Froot Loops (1963)
“Follow your nose! It always knows!” was the phrase Toucan Sam uttered. A bird with an oversized beak, the character was originally voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc.

Morris the Cat – 9-Lives cat food (1968)
Decades before Grumpy the Cat and video memes, Morris was billed as the “world’s most finicky cat.” Yet Morris loved his 9-Lives cat food, and said he preferred it. Since his debut, three cats have portrayed Morris.

There were many more, as boomers can attest. Did you have a favorite product animal mascot when you were a kid, boomers?

Boomers See Climate Change By Their Own Experiences

Watching and reading the reports this week, about the efforts of millions of young people around the globe, marching to persuade their governments to act on climate change, put a hopeful smile on Mister Boomer’s face. After all, we boomers are not novices when it comes to environmental issues, or protests. Unfortunately, though, it was also a little bit of “deja vu all over again” (as Yogi Bera reminded us). Putting all politics aside (well, as much as can possibly be put aside), Mister Boomer can only say he is admittedly a tree-hugger from way back when. Environmental concerns have always been one of his top pet projects, and the reason is directly related to his experiences as a boomer.

It all started because, first of all, Mister B, like almost all boomers he has ever spoken to, spent the vast majority of his time outdoors. That not only gave him an appreciation for blue skies and green trees, but also offered direct contact with nature and wildlife. The fields and creeks where Mister Boomer and the neighborhood children played were teaming with grasshoppers, caterpillars, ants, frogs, snakes and birds. Mister Boomer, though fascinated when a neighborhood kid captured something in a jar, always suggested the animal be released back to its natural habitat.

At the same time, Mister Boomer’s father took to heart the Boomer Era idea of family vacations by car to visit National Parks. Before Mister B reached his peak teenage years, his family had visited the Great Smoky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Canyon, Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park, not to mention numerous state parks. The effect this had on a young boomer was one of wonderment at the sheer beauty and awesome vastness of Mother Nature.

At the same time that he developed these sensibilities, a young Mister B experienced pollution in his own area. A nearby lake had been the family’s favorite fishing spot and swimming beach for years, until one day they drove up to find the space fenced off. A sign said the lake had been closed because it was no longer safe for humans to swim, boat or fish. Access to the lake remained closed for 10 years.

Mister Boomer has also written about how the steel mills in his area lit the sky up an eerily bright orange each night when manufacturing was in progress. Smokestacks from various factories spewed enough brown clouds of soot into the air that his mother had to shake off the accumulated particles from the sheets she hung on the backyard clothesline before she could fold them and bring them back in the house for their next use.

Years later, when he was on an airplane for the first time, he could see firsthand that the plane flew through a layer of smog on takeoff before breaking through to a beautiful blue sky. That same layer of smog was readily seen from the highest point of the city’s freeway system once Mister B began driving.

It’s been Mister Boomer’s experience that these happenings were not unusual for boomers who were raised near a major metropolitan area. All that was true before the government became actively involved in protecting the public — and the environment — through the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. People tend to forget that it was Richard Nixon, with bipartisan support, who first brought the agency into existence by Executive Order in 1970. The House and Senate later approved its creation. The original idea of the agency was to create an independent organization responsible for establishing guidelines, rules and regulations, and also holding those who violated the rules responsible for cleaning up the environmental messes they were making. The agency issued its first regulation in December of that year, and for the next five years, added about 1500 rules and regulations concerning air, water and land per year.

Rachel Carson’s 1964 book, “Silent Spring,” is often credited with being the moment when public opinion changed about how our resources of air, water and land should be treated by individuals and corporations alike. As a direct result of that book, DDT, the most widely used pesticide in the world at that time, was banned because of its effect on birds — killing them by thinning their shells so they couldn’t reproduce — and its entry into the waters that fed drinking water systems. For decades municipalities as well as private corporations spewed raw sewage and industrial chemicals and waste into rivers and streams. Smokestacks, once thought of as a sign of progress after the Industrial Revolution, began to be seen as source of concern for humans, especially those who lived near factories. Clean water, once taken for granted, was now seen as a right worth fighting for. The environmental movement was born from these sentiments, and many boomers participated in marches of their own in the late sixties and early seventies.

The point Mister Boomer is making is, we’ve been here before, at the edge and looking over a steep fall. Boomers witnessed the stepping back from the edge, and the world was better off for it. Boomers saw many things that once seemed impossible become reality during their early years. And how boomers felt about Mother Nature is laced through the songs of the era.

In his famous speech that challenged the U.S. to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, President Kennedy said that, “… We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills …” So Mister Boomer says this is another hard nut to crack, but we’ve been there before. Mister B salutes the young people around the globe, and adds his Right On! Groovy! and Sock It to Them! to their cause. That doesn’t sound like politics to Mister B. It sounds like the boomer values which we proclaimed when we were their age: freedom of expression, freedom of expanded opportunities and freedom to shape their own future.

How about you, boomers? How did pollution affect you and your family in your area? Did you take part in environmental protests in your day, boomers?