The old saying goes that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Mister Boomer mentioned in an earlier post that every successful consumer product in our boomer youth spawned a competitor that claimed they could do it better, faster or cheaper. We often knew about all of the competition in any given category — especially food — from TV commercials and their jingles (Food vs. Food: Boomer Food Always Had Competition). When it came to chocolate syrup, the competitors were Bosco and Hershey’s. In the Mister Boomer household, Bosco won, “spoons down.”
Bosco was introduced in 1928 by a physician in Camden, New Jersey. Its historical trajectory after that point has largely been lost, along with the name of its originator, but by the boomer era of the 1950s and ’60s, Bosco was distributed across most areas of the country. Bosco commercials were a staple of Saturday morning cartoons in order to indoctrinate every boomer child into asking their parents to buy some.
Bosco was marketed in the 1950s with a character mascot named Bosco Bear. It was standard operating procedure for advertising, especially for those products aimed at children, to have a mascot and a catchy jingle. The company sold plush Bosco Bears and toys. Also in keeping with the practices of the day, many products were being “fortified” with vitamins in an effort to convince mothers that it was a good thing for their children. In the case of Bosco, vitamin D and iron were touted as the healthy benefits. Until the late 1960s or early 1970s, Bosco was not called a chocolate syrup on its packaging. Instead, it billed itself as “the milk amplifier.” Bosco came in glass jars, while Hershey’s was packaged in a can that required a “church key” to pierce the lid with a triangular opening.
For Mister Boomer and his siblings, there was no better choice than Bosco when it came to chocolate syrup. It was darker, a bit less sweet and thicker than Hershey’s syrup. That made it especially good on ice cream since it clung to the scoop and didn’t all drip off into the bowl. These attributes also made it the preferred choice as a substitute for blood in black and white movies of the ’50s and ’60s. Two classic movies in which the use of Bosco as blood is documented are Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968).
Mister B never liked the taste of regular milk, so a tablespoon of Bosco would “amplify” his tall glass of milk into chocolate milk. Mister B’s parents could then buy just regular milk for the family without the need to buy chocolate milk, too, for one finicky boy. It helped the family budget in that regard, but Mister B and his siblings loved the taste. While Mister B’s sister would drizzle a tablespoon over vanilla (or Neapolitan) ice cream, Mister B’s dad would wait to add his drizzle of Bosco on top of whipped cream. A Maraschino cherry (there always seemed to be a jar in the refrigerator for cocktails for when guests came over) completed his home sundae.
Part of the fun of spooning Bosco over a dish of ice cream was licking the remaining thick, chocolatey goo from the spoon. On occasion, a furtive dip into the jar with a teaspoon that went directly into the kids’ mouths satisfied a hankering for sweets after school.
For Mister B, Brother Boomer and Sister Boomer, Bosco was the milk amplifier and more. It’s now been nearly 50 years since Mister B enjoyed Bosco, but the memories linger!
What memories of Bosco do you have, boomers?