Today we have hundreds of choices for a snack. The supermarkets devote an entire aisle to all kinds of hand-to-mouth snack items.
We can still find America’s “old time” favorite, Cracker Jack, but it now commands only one or two rows of plastic bags on a lower shelf. It really does not resemble the great product of 1910-1950.
Like all collectibles, items or packages that no longer exist are in high demand. Readers of this column who are 60 or older remember the red, white and blue box with Sailor Jack and his dog Bingo. And, on each box, one end encircled the word “nut” and the other “toy.”
Cracker Jack was everywhere and 100 percent of American’s new what Cracker Jack was.
The early toy “sur-prizes” were a joy and a treat. Maybe your prize was a metal boat, a car, plane, a spinner or a magic puzzle. Today, these toys, if perfect, bring up to hundreds of dollars for advanced collectors.
Another sought-after collectible is the packaging. Each year, subtle changes to the basic design would take place and collectors want them all. In 1930, a very limited box with Sailor Jack in red is valued at more than $1,000!
A very attractive coffee table book, “Cracker Jack” by Larry White, pictures more than 1,000 packages, ads, displays, stationery, promotional materials and novelties. Prior to the television era, those media were used to promote Cracker Jack.
As a boy growing up on the Southside of Chicago, a trip to Midway Airport was a thrill. Two blocks from the airport was a he factory with a well-manicured lawn and giant white letters spelling C-R-A-C-K-E-R J-A-C-K.
If flying over the plant, one could see “Cracker Jack” spelled out on the chimney and the roof.
The well-known anthem “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” features the line “Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.” Every circus, carnival and movie theater featured this popular treat.
On a personal note, my wife and I met with Hall of Famer Luke Appling one week after, at age 73, he hit a home run off Warren Spahn in the inaugural Cracker Jack Old Timers Game. Luke said it was the thrill of his life and commented, “They even put me on The Today Show!”
Ah well, all good things must come to an end – or should they? Why not search your supermarket for a package of that old America’s No. 1 snack, Cracker Jack? See if you relive the “good ol’ days.”
(Sorry, but no toy, darn it!)
Jerry Glenn is co-owner of Reminisce in Bluffton, where sports collectibles are bought and sold.