Boomers and After-School Snacks

After-school snacking, like practically everything else these days, was fundamentally different in our boomer years than today. TV commercials picture the perfect mom, popping frozen nuggets or bites into the oven to serve their perfect children and their perfect friends. Better yet, the perfect children microwave their own snacks while mother gives them her Good Homemaker Seal of Approval.

In Mister B’s experience, after-school snacking wasn’t really a thing — it was called “the time before dinner.” As such, boomer children were reminded that they didn’t want to spoil their appetite. This could very well have been, for many of us, a practical approach due to limited family budgets. Nonetheless, there were times that snacks were consumed, though different and in smaller quantities than today’s kids have grown accustomed to.

By Mister Boomer’s unofficial poll of boomers he knows, the number one after-school snack for boomers was fruit. A banana, apple, orange or grapes was the recommendation of boomer moms. For Mister B and his siblings, after-school snacks were not a regular occurrence. Mister B’s sister did, on a regular basis, make herself celery stalks with peanut butter — something she actually liked. Brother Boomer didn’t seem all that concerned about snacks, but he might on occasion, sneak a cookie with Mister B (those were intended for lunch!) right out of the package in the cupboard. When “nothing looked good,” Mister B and his siblings might grab a handful of cereal out of the box. Remembering that many cereals had a high sugar content in the boomer era, that handful of Frosted Flakes or Sugar Smacks might as well have been a couple of candy bars. Again, cereal was intended for breakfast so it was not part of normal daily snack life.

By the time boomers became teenagers, the fast food industry was also booming. Mister B knew many kids who stopped at McDonald’s or Burger King at least two or three times a week on the way home from school. Mister B does not recall a single time he ate at these establishments after school. In the rare instance he did go, it would have been on a Saturday since Sunday was dedicated to afternoon dinners at his grandmother’s house.

Wait a minute, you might ask, what about Little Debbie cakes, Ho-Hos, Twinkies, Hostess Snow Balls and, for that matter, Jeno’s Pizza Rolls? In Mister Boomer’s neighborhood, those were assigned to particular times and meals, and those culinary rules were rarely broken. Snack cakes were intended for lunch; a dessert to a sandwich. Pizza Rolls were a possible substitute for kids’ dinners, in a pinch, or maybe served as a first course. Otherwise, these snacks that required using the oven were relegated to being served at parties.

Surely, you might say, there were potato chips on hand. In Mister Boomer’s house, you would be correct. Mister Boomer’s mother had a potato chip jones and there was often a bag available; but again, chips were not intended for after-school consumption. When his mother usually wanted to munch on them was after-dinner while watching TV. She would often use that dry pouch mix stirred into cream cheese to make an onion dip that Mister B despised. Likewise, Mister B’s father was a pretty big snacker, but never before dinner. At TV time, he was the household member responsible for bringing home a box of Bugles, Triscuits, Fritos or his favorite, Cheez-Its. Snack crackers — usually plain and straight from the box — was his snack choice. The kids nibbled accordingly, but not after school.

Today’s families eat dinner at later times than boomer era families. That may be one reason for the emphasis, nay, need, for an after-school snack. Families today have, as a general rule, more spendable income as well as fewer children to feed. Of course, we cannot discount the effect that the massive marketing of after-school snacking has on the American family. This advertising blitz was in effect during the boomer years, but has really reached fever pitch in current decades.

How about you, boomers? Did you have after-school snacks on a regular basis, and if so, what were you allowed to eat?