candy buttons

An odd way to eat Candy Buttons

If you are not familiar with candy buttons, they are the little dots of flavored sugar attached to paper. They tend to sell them nowadays at more retro-style candy joints in jars or in drugstores handing from a peg in a bag. When I was a kid, we could get the candy buttons by the foot.

So you would go into our local store and say, give me 4 feet of candy buttons and they would give you 4 pieces of paper all pre-cut. You would then race outside and begin gnawing the bits of hard sugar off of the paper. Often getting more paper in your mouth than candy. This bothered me a great deal as a kid and I took great pains to try to remove the buttons without getting any paper on them. It was tedious work, but it made the buttons last a whole lot longer.

My good friend on the other hand went in the opposite direction. He would rip off maybe 4 inches of buttons paper and then just shove the entire wad of paper in his mouth and begin chewing. When he started eating them this way, he would eventually spit out the paper, but then he got into the habit of just chewing on it until it completely dissolved in his mouth.

I did try this method a few times. I figured it would stretch out the candy a bit longer, but I couldn’t handle it. Even now, I cannot think about this without feeling a little queasy. The paper would get hard and difficult to work and the sweetness would completely disappear. Leaving you with a lump of dyed paper.

It was just one of those weird quirks that has stuck with me over the years. And sometimes when I see a bunch of candy buttons it makes me think of my buddy and I smile. Then I remember the feeling of that wad of paper in my mouth and I gag just a little.

McPasta

The Time McDonald’s Tried to Sell McPasta

McDonald’s has tried a lot of off the wall menu items in their time. Some are fondly remembered like the McD.L.T., and others are still scorned to this day (I’m looking at you here Arch Deluxe). But a few products have come along that most of the population totally missed out on, and McPasta was one of them.

In 1990, McDonald’s decided they would try to add some entrees to their menu that weren’t hamburgers or Chicken McNuggets. They dreamed up this concept of McPasta dishes and roasted chicken legs, and felt sure it would be a big hit. Before they released it to the masses though, they went the test market route.

A small area in New York was selected, as well as chain of franchise stores in Northeast Tennessee for this new line of McPasta products. Fortunately, I lived in a part of southern Virginia where that franchisee had two locations, and they put the product in those two stores as well.

You can check out the New York Post story on this test from 1991 here.

What they offered was a selection of Spaghetti, Spaghetti with Meatballs, Lasagna, and Fettuccine Alfredo. Each dish came with a garlic bread stick as well. They also decided to offer roasted chicken legs as a side item, as well as mashed potatoes. How those last two items fit in to the McPasta lineup I’ve yet to figure out.

To be honest, the only one I ever tried was the Fettuccine…..and I thought it was awesome! For the six month period they were testing the line, it’s what I ordered on every trip to the golden arches. My Mom loved it too, and since my Dad was out-of-town a lot, she felt it was easier to just run to McDonald’s and pick up a couple of Fettuccine platters for the two of us instead of cooking, so I got to have the pasta goodness a lot.

Imagine my sadness one day when I went to order my favorite McPasta dish only to be told it was no longer available. I listened in horror as the lady at the counter relayed the info to my Mom and I that it had been a test product, and she had no way of knowing if it would be added back to the menu or not.

As the weeks and months passed by, I would continue to inquire about it on every trip to Happy Meal land. And every time I was disappointed. After a while, I came to the sad conclusion that McPasta wasn’t coming back at all.

For years I reminisced about it, only to find it strange when other people had no idea what the heck I was talking about. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why no one had even heard of McDonald’s McPasta. Then one day it popped into my brain and I searched it out on the internet. It was there that I discovered that it had been a test product with just a very limited release, and that’s why everyone thought I was crazy when I would bring it up.

To this day I miss that McPasta Fettuccine. But now I look back and realize that the stars were aligned perfectly for me to even have gotten to experience it in the first place. Some say, it is better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all. But for those people who say that, to them I say they never loved McDonald’s Fettuccine Alfredo.

(Sadly, there is virtually no pictures or video of this stuff available to share with this article.)

Sip Ups

Do you remember Sip Ups?

As a kid, anything with sugar in it was alright with me. So I took to juice boxes and Capri Suns like a fish to water. Just hand me a tiny straw and container with some sweet fluid in it and I would attack it with gusto. This meant that when given the opportunity, I would pick up the newest flavors when they hit stores. Usually that was followed with discussions with my friends about which was our favorites. This was not the case with Sip Ups.

Sip Ups were flavored milk drink boxes. They made a splash with a wonderful commercial, but lasted barely a year. I got to try their Chocolate and Strawberry flavor and thought they were pretty good. Telling this to my friends, they all asked their parents for them. When they got their own Sip Ups, they did not have the same positive experience. They hated them. In my town, I was the only one who seemed to enjoy them. Not sure why that was. Perhaps my palate, is just not discerning enough?

ReadI Love Capri Sun!

I must have drank a few dozen Sip Ups during their run. We especially loaded up on them when they were being discontinued. Not making the association between the low price and their failure, I would look for them for months after it was obvious that they were gone to everyone else. Now as I mentioned, I had the chocolate and strawberry Sip Ups, but I could have sworn they also had vanilla and blueberry. This is probably some sort of phantom memory caused by some other product mix-ups, because I cannot find any proof of those flavors online.

Unlike other retro products, I doubt we will ever see Sip Ups again. Even though that is the case, we do have an amazing commercial with a catchy jingle, to keep their memory alive. It is basically just a group of kids musically yelling, “Where doing Sip Ups,” over and over again, but it works.

This earworm has been stuck in my head since the mid-eighties and every time I hit play it comes roaring back. While you might be transfixed by the music, also pay attention to the choreography. The best part is this kid in the front in the purple jacket. I feel like this is take 100 for the day and he is so over being in this commercial.

Sip Ups Kids

Sip Ups Kids

Enjoy this classic ad for Sip Ups

TRON Quaker Oats

TRON Quaker Oats

I was in the store today and spotted a new Dr. Pepper bottle. It appeared to be normal Dr. Pepper, but it had a fancy TRON style label on it. After taking a photo and putting a bottle in my cart, I started thinking about other products that might be improved with a TRON remake. One aisle over, in cereal, I decided that TRON Quaker Oats would work best.

tron dr pepper

Why? Well, it is an old brand that is virtually unchanged. As you can see above, even with the edition of a TRON style grid, it looks virtually the same. So they would have no problem with brand confusion. They could even take it a step further. Perhaps putting some TRON garb on the Quaker Oats guy. Maybe they could even play around by adding some TRON-esque catch phrases to the package?

“I fight for good colon health!”

Okay, I am not sure they can make that claim, but I am not a scientist. So I don’t know. Still, I like the idea. And frankly, I just want to see more TRON in the world. If you read this blog, you know that I am in the minority of people who think that we need a TRON 3.

Now either they could release TRON Quaker Oats as a tie-in with the film. Or, they could start using brand tie-ins to build enthusiasm for the new film. I know that if I started seeing more TRON themed merchandise, I would start buying. Heck, I have a bottle of Dr. Pepper in my fridge right now that I bought solely for the label. Who knows what else I might buy with the proper labeling?

TRON Scouring Pads? TRON Fly Paper? The potential for TRON merchandise is as limitless as the game-grid itself.

End of Line

Rock-afire Explosion - Billy Bob

At Maker Faire The Rock-afire Explosion Finds New Life!

It should come as no surprise that I’ll talk about the Rock-afire Explosion at the drop of a hat. While Showbiz Pizza is of course a cherished memory for me. It was in fact Creative Engineering’s delightful animatronic band that is such a vivid memory.
Rock-afire Explosion

Well, in addition to all of those video games that Showbiz Pizza provided a vidiot like myself.

Perhaps when you have time you might enjoy my own memories of Showbiz Pizza on the Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast?

Now the reason we are still talking about the Rock-afire Explosion is because of the work of Creative Engineering. The blood, sweat, and tears that creator Aaron Fechter and his company put into the characters paid off. As a result they obviously transcended their original purpose.

I have mentioned on the Diary Podcast as well as on The Retroist before of my first encounters with the Rock-afire Explosion. It wasn’t just the kids that were being entertained by the likes of Billy Bob’s gentle nature and humor. The adults also were being captivated by the melodious cover songs of the Rock-afire Explosion themselves.

[Via] Fan Programs

Not only did Aaron Fechter and his staff create the band, they also provided the music and voices to the characters. Fechter in fact voiced Billy Bob, Rolfe DeWolfe, Looney Bird, and Earl Schmerle to name a few.

[Via] Rockafire Explosion fan

Now having said all of that, thanks to Caseen Gaines, we have this fantastic YouTube video. Uploaded by Norman Chan of Adam Savage’s Tested, it focuses on Jack Turner at Maker Faire 2017. A young man who in fact with the help of his Father has begun to learn firsthand the amount of work it took Creative Engineering to bring the Rock-afire Explosion to life.
Rock-afire Explosion - Mitzi - Jack Turner

Rock-afire Explosion - Solenoide Valve

As well as restoring the characters, in this case. Billy Bob and also Mitzi Mozzarella, to as near as original working condition as he can. In regards to the parts and method used to bring them to life.

I think the work that Jack Turner has done is of course amazing. However, I would quibble over his statement about Chuck E. Cheese purchasing Showbiz Pizza. As it was in fact the other way around. Due to them attempting to buy the Rock-afire Explosion from Fechter and his obvious refusal. They decided to rebrand everything to Chuck E. Cheese as they owned the rights to it.

Furthermore, regardless of the title to my post. The Rock-afire Explosion are doing quite well. Fechter is releasing brand new YouTube videos featuring his creations. As well as in the case of this video uploaded by Michael’s Short Films. Fans are using Minecraft to bring Dook LaRue’s cover of Heartaches to life!

While it is natural for younger generations to compare the Rock-afire Explosion to Five Nights at Freddy’s. I would have them watch this vintage commercial showing what the characters really do after closing.

[Via] SPP California