Last week I heard yet another news report that Sears is closing and went on to read an article in MoneyWise about several consumer brands that may soon be disappearing. Since my mood was not particularly reminiscent at the moment, I felt more intrigued than concerned about the demise of certain products and companies that have been around for a long time. By the way, many of these marketplace changes are attributed to the Millennials. We Boomers have long since fallen out of favor with advertisers: we have not been part of the desirable 18-34 demographic group for quite some time.
Sears has seemed involved in brutally-protracted death throes for years and is still shedding stores: in fact, it comes as no surprise that the one on Upper Valley Pike has joined stores in Columbus and Cleveland on the 2019 closure list. The news is nonetheless unsettling: the hefty Sears & Roebuck catalog, along with its toy-filled seasonal companion through which we thumbed incessantly, were staples in the Scott household. I am pretty sure most of our underwear arrived in the mail from Sears!
There is really nothing new about grocery store brands that come and go. But to see Wheaties on the endangered list seems somehow unpatriotic: I mean, boxes of the Breakfast of Champions carried likenesses of Jesse Owens, Johnny Bench, Dale Earnhardt, Michael Phelps, and Lindsey Vonn, to name a few! According to the article, Millennials consider cereal generally too difficult for on-the-go consumption, preferring instead more portable egg sandwiches and breakfast burritos. My siblings and I were not really Wheaties kids; Raisin Bran and Sugar Crisp were more popular on River Road. Nowadays Grape Nuts and shredded wheat are more my speed – geriatrically speaking, of course.
Campbell Soup, on shelves for a century-and-a-half, is no longer at peak popularity. Like the younger set, these days I myself seldom opt for any “mmm, mmm, good” flavor, choosing something less processed and less sodium-laden. But toasted cheese sandwiches and Campbell’s tomato soup were often on Friday night’s supper menu. We also slurped our way through many a bowl of chicken noodle soup as well as vegetable soup complete with alphabet letters. And Campbell’s cream-of-anything has long been an easy go-to sauce for any number of recipes. These days, however, it is almost as easy to make fresher, healthier soup in a crockpot or instant pot.
Mother did not regularly buy Chef Boyardee products: boxes of Kraft macaroni and cheese more often ended up in her grocery cart. A hundred years ago in Cleveland, Ettore Boiardi anglicized his surname when he founded the company known for canned pasta. There were also pizza kits popular when I was a kid. Our first pizza pie – that is what we called it back then, before pizza restaurants popped up on every corner – was the one Mother made from a Chef Boyardee pizza kit sometime in the 50’s on the occasion of The Wizard of Oz being televised for the first time. Alas, today’s young adults seem to prefer their Italian cuisine to be of the fresh variety, although I personally have nothing against eating ravioli right out of a microwaveable can!
Younger consumers are no longer enamored with J-E-L-L-O products either, associating the brand with cafeteria food. Well, of course! Squares of perfection salad, fruit cocktail in red Jell-O topped with mini-marshmallows, and pear halves submerged in green Jell-O all fit perfectly on the standard cafeteria tray! By the way, to entice youngsters back to the wiggly confection available in some sixty flavors, the company is now offering Jell-O edible slime. Yum?
Supermarket brands are not the only items no longer making the consumer splash they once enjoyed. My brother-in-law might be sad to hear that fewer Millennials choose to experience that independent sensation of riding a Harley-Davidson with the wind in your face; I suppose they are too busy ordering Ubers on their apps or traveling by driverless car – a form of transportation I do not fully understand. Young people may also be turning away from the Croc brand of footwear for their pedestrian moments. The foam clogs so popular with my students as the 21st century dawned may not be healthy enough for the feet of today’s students, who seem to prefer the infinite variety and price tags of athletic shoes.
Putting up with these current tastes and trends, along with others not listed in the MoneyWise article, is unavoidable because, well, “the times they are a changing…” Soon enough, there will be no one left to recognize a true Kodak moment. Millennials might not even realize that the price of a postage stamp will increase by a nickel on January 27; so few of them ever use snail mail. And I am sure my long-entrenched habit of writing checks whenever I shop or pay bills is not being carried on by my younger relatives and friends, all with debit cards at the ready.
I will end this article with an example of not a brand but a lost art. I just ran across a riotously-hilarious YouTube video of two teenaged boys challenged to dial a number on a rotary phone. I urge readers wishing to laugh until their sides hurt, all the while sensing the undiminished advancement of old age to sneak a peek at this stranger-in-a-strange-land demonstration of our changing times!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.