Cap’n Crunch Cereal – the breakfast food of my childhood – has been something I never thought about for years. It is only now that I am, because of an accidental uncovering of a childhood item that brought everything back to me. I started realizing how much I loved eating Cap’n Crunch cereal as a kid when by chance I found a buried treasure.
While finally getting to cleaning up a portion of the garage this weekend, I unearthed an old Cap’n Crunch treasure chest from my childhood. Inside were items I had saved as a kid that tweak my heartstrings a little including: a 1969 moon landing button, a French coin, a pair of dice, and a casino chip from the Bahamas. I must have stuck them in this box 30 or more years ago, and over the years threw other things into the box on top of them. When I moved to where I live now, this – and a number of other boxes – simply came along for the ride. I wasn’t sure what was in any of them, but I figured on going through them one day and deciding what to keep.
As I sat on a chair holding the discovered item, my memories started coming back to me. I had seen on the back of the cereal box – and in an exciting a TV commercial – that I could get the coveted item by cutting box-tops from my favorite cereal. I do not recall how many box-tops I needed, but I remember bugging my Mom to buy more Cap’n Crunch. I recall writing out the address on a long envelope, putting the box-tops in it, and licking a stamp. This was too important to put into a mailbox, so I insisted Mom take me to the post office to make sure it went out as quickly as possible.
I had been waiting for the arrival of my treasure chest for a long time, and one day when I came home from school there was a box on the doorstep. I knew that had to be my Cap’n Crunch treasure chest – now available on eBay from $45 and up. I ran up to my room – unwilling to share with anyone the delight of opening the box – and ripped it open to see my prize.
The treasure chest came with a lock – of course, it did – and a shovel (which could be used as a spoon), coins, a treasure map, and a tray that came out of the chest, and there was a slot on top of the box to add coins while the box was locked. That tray would be filled with the golden nuggets of Cap’n Crunch cereal and drowned in a sea of luscious milk. That is what I ate for breakfast every day for I don’t know how long.
Lost at Sea
Unfortunately, at this time I do not know what happened to the items inside the treasure chest. As I tired of Cap’n Crunch, the “treasures” that came with the chest became lost at sea, or perhaps got snagged by some imaginary pirate who thought there was gold in there and settled for what he found.
I do recall keeping the treasure chest on a shelf in my room for years, gradually filling it with the items that I found when I discovered it after all these years. At some point I must have needed that shelf space for books, my glowing globe of the world, Mets paraphernalia, and whatever else I put there. That is when I must have taken the treasure chest and shoved it in a box. While it wasn’t lost, I had forgotten about it, and that is why I was delighted to see it again when I found it all these years later.
No More Cereal
I kept hearing in school that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. One day I came home and told Mom that other kids were eating pancakes, scrambled eggs, and omelets for breakfast, but I was getting cereal. I boldly stated, “I want a hot breakfast!”
Mom gently touched my cheek and nodded, “You will get a hot breakfast tomorrow.”
The next morning, I was bleary-eyed, but marched down to the kitchen anticipating my great breakfast. I sat in my usual chair, and Mom had her back to me as she was standing at the stove. I sipped my milk and waited for about a minute, and she turned around and put a steaming bowl in front of me – my hot breakfast was oatmeal!
She had garnished it with cut-up strawberries and a thread of honey. I looked up at her and said, “Mom, this is cereal!”
“No, dear,” Mom smiled, “this is hot cereal.”
From then on into my high school years, I had oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, or farina for breakfast on a school day – I’d only get the eggs or pancakes on weekends. I have to say the hot cereals were much more satisfying, and I was happy knowing my Cap’n Crunch days were over for good.
Keenly aware of my childhood experience, my kids were spared the indignity of the cold breakfast cereal routine. Oatmeal has definitely been on the menu, but so have eggs (any style), pancakes, waffles, and English muffins. I don’t think they have missed out on anything, and I know for certain that these foods are healthier than sugary cold breakfast cereal.
And in the End
I don’t regret my childhood experience of eating cold cereal. I know Mom had good intentions, and it certainly was much easier putting cereal into a bowl and pouring milk over it than frying eggs or making pancakes on a school day.
But because of that, I had the exciting experience of sending away for something – it was the first time I had ever ordered anything. The treasure chest was free, but it gave me hours of imaginary play with its contents and the pirate figures I had.
Now, that I have recovered the treasure chest, it sits proudly upon my shelf once again, next to a Captain Action figure and a Lost in Space Jupiter 2 model. They are all part of my childhood – a very happy one at that – and now I wonder about going to the store and buying a box of Cap’n Crunch. Should I dump all that stuff out of the treasure chest – cleaning it of the detritus of decades in a box – and pour some milk over those golden nuggets? I probably won’t end up doing it, but the kid in me can dream, right?