Most country kids, back in the Sixties, manufactured their own games and new toys were limited to Christmas and birthdays. Their fertile imagination carried them wherever they wanted to go and many days were spent on hands and knees in the sand pile with beat up trucks and cars.

However, there was always the little wish that he would be the one to get the prize in the cereal box. Hands disappeared out of sight searching before emptying the goods into the plastic bowl. The siblings did not mind that their breakfast had been manhandled before it got to them. Each morning was a battle to see who got the box first to start the “pawing” and after the prize was eventually found, all interest was lost . Remember the chintzy little card or whatever encased in such tough cellophane that a pair of kitchen scissors was needed?

Cracker Jacks was not necessarily an item that my four were crazy about, but there was always the prize nestled in that box with the sailor boy saluting.  As the years went by, the prizes got smaller and far worse…but then perhaps their expectations had grown too big.

They watched their mother buy soap detergent to get dish towels and glass ware so of course, it was expected that every box at the grocery store should have something mysterious hidden within.

It was about this time that I discovered one could get refunds for boxtops and labels. Well, now, it was my time to rejoice.  The average refund was .25 and what  a joy to see those quarters arrive in the mailbox!  Soon I found that one could also get premiums for those same boxtops and labels. It was a common sight to see my body flung between an outstretched hand and the wastebasket. Another big rr–iii–p and the label was mine.

One June afternoon, the four arrived home and my heart just did a jig with the surprise I had in store.  All lunch boxes were dumped on the kitchen table and I emerged with my prizes.  They watched, with open mouths, as I dumped four heaps of sticks and plastic down on the porch.

“There you go,” I announced  and readied myself with the instruction sheet. Within a few minutes, each one was holding a kite, ready to hoist it in the spring breeze .  Down to the lower field, we marched, my camera in hand, kites in their hands.

Soon the wind picked up and aloft against the beautiful blue sky were the kites emblazoned with the Jolly Green Giant on each.  They ate the canned veggies and were now reaping the rewards. 

I wish I still had the photo I took that day..the kites so high that even the Giant had disappeared. As my son, Gary, said recently …when he looks at the photo of just the kites and no one in the photo, he remembers thinking that he could fly just as high as the kites and do whatever he wanted to do in life.  Well, that might not be verbatim, but it was the jist of what he was saying.

It was such a simple thing to do…back in a more simple time. Coloring books with advertisements, a Christmas pin for .25 and a boxtop, and if you wanted to think big, S & H green stamps , lick them and stick them in a book and eventually, your son had his own bike.

I don’t do boxtops and labels any more….but I would, if I had those four young kids back again and a wide open field with a June breeze.




  1. Love, love, love this post, Sandy! You hit on so many magical happenings from long ago from a wide-eyed child’s memory. Prizes with cereal boxes, green stamps, buying gas and getting juice glasses, and on and on. And kite flying was a highlight. It still is on Florida beaches. No running necessary. The wind just takes it up. I hope to start a Beach Kite Flying group some day. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


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