Gael Fashingbauer Cooper and Brian Bellmont must have been reading my mind. The title of their book is a question I’ve asked myself more than a few times since the early nineties, when the legendary Jell-O treat seemed to disappear from supermarket freezers.
It turns out that Jell-O Pudding Pops are still being made by the Popsicle company, though they aren’t the same as they were when we were growing up. (They’re bullet-shaped, and the much-loved icy coating appears to have vanished.) Since reading Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? I’ve combed my local supermarkets looking for this taste of my choldhood, but no luck yet. Still, Cooper and Bellmont’s book gives me hope.
Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? also tells us what happened to dozens of other iconic toys, foods and fashions from our childhood, and it’s heartening to see how many of them are still around in some form. Fisher-Price Little People are still available, though redesgned to be less of a choking hazard. Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books are still available – as is Mad magazine, though its old (now online-only) rival Cracked appears to have finally pulled ahead.
Dynamite magazine, that old staple of the Scholastic Book Club, is long gone, however. So are roller rinks, Rondo soda and, most egregiously, Roosevelt Franklin. Others are hanging by a thread – just 60 Shakey’s Pizza outlets remain open, down from approximately 500. Then there’s the Forever Yours chocolate bar, which “went into witness protection” and was renamed as Miguel Sanchez Milky Way Midnight.
Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? could have been better. The old “toys, tastes & trends” are categorized as “still going strong,” “revised and revived” or “gone for good,” but some aren’t so easily classified. (Is the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon really “gone for good,” when you can get it on Blu-Ray?) They really should have included more photos and illustrations – and the decision to publish in black-and-white borders on unforgivable. If ever a book deserved to be printed in full cover, this is it.
Still, anyone whose childhood included hours leafing through the Sears Christmas Wish Book and playing lawn darts should enjoy the book. You might regret never having had the chance to enjoy some of the toys featured, though. How the hell did I grow up in the late seventies and early eighties without knowing the Hal Needham Stunt Set existed?