Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rastus WHO?

Every once in a while, usually with the help of a friend, I am reminded of something from my childhood that takes me back in time so completely, it's almost jarring.

That happened on Friday night.

I was still packing up from our monthly Tour the Town gallery walk (I sold a LOT!) at Cujak's, when in walked two of our friends, Julie and John.  Julie was also part of the Tour and she had already loaded up.  When I was done the four of us headed to Theo's, a popular restaurant downtown that serves dinner later than everyone else.  I love Theo's because you can eat in the bar but it's quiet enough where conversation is actually possible.

To be honest, I cannot remember how Julie and I got to talking about it, but she mentioned Cream of Wheat.  We got to reminiscing about how we had it every day as kids - and that's when I was instantly transported to 1303 Morris Avenue in Ashwaubenon.  I could taste that Cream of Wheat like I had it yesterday (it's been YEARS).  What a lovely experience!  So not only did I relive a fond childhood experience, but Julie told me about Rastus.

You already know who Rastus is - he's the chef on the Cream of Wheat box!  I'll bet you didn't even know he had a name - I sure didn't!  I mean, I vaguely remember from my book Symbols of America the story of the icon, which was originally just a drawing but later became the image of a gentleman named Frank White, who supposedly was paid 5 dollars to pose in a chef's uniform.  According to Wikipedia, Mr. White, who died in 1938, finally has his Cream of Wheat image engraved on his headstone.

In the early days of Cream of Wheat, though, Rastus wasn't the only spokesperson for the cereal.  Some other advertisements feature kids, too.

In fact, check out Julie's AMAZING collection of honest-to-goodness advertisements from super-early magazines.  Truly, it is unbelievable that: a) they even exist, and b) they're in such fabulous shape!  As you can see, her collection is quite comprehensive.

I love this ad - that Rastus is everywhere!  Here is is, comforting a poor kid whose cat beat him to his Cream of Wheat.  I hope the cat got diarrhea.  :D

This ad seems positively radical for the time - black and white kids eating....TOGETHER?  This ad is nearly 100 years old and I can't imagine that this ad sat well with the Southern states.  Cream of Wheat was invented in Minneapolis, so maybe that's how they got away with this.  Personally, I think it's a lovely, sweet ad, especially when you consider the era.

This last ad, which came from Harper's, reiterates how I feel about its product: "The Joy of Childhood".  Indeed!  It's amazing to me how one cereal could bring back such a flood of memories.  And how fun is it that I have friends who share the same fondness?  :D

Here is Julie's collection as it appears on her wall.  What a fascinating conversation piece!  And with that, I have to say a HUGE thank-you to Julie for sharing these photos with me so we could all enjoy them.  I know Julie and I are not alone in our fondness for Cream of Wheat - I know there are many of you out there who feel the same about this product, and icon - let's hear from you!  What's YOUR favorite flavor?  :D


  1. I love Cream of Wheat AND when I was recently in the hospital - it was the first REAL FOOD I was allowed to eat. They even mixed it with broth and other flavors to PRETEND that I was eating something that they thought was better, but I liked it just the way it was with just a bit of sugar and cinnamon. Thanks for the memories and for the chance to tell everyone how good it STILL is. I'm still eating it on a cool morning!

    1. Annie, I'll bet that the Cream of Wheat was so comforting for you! What a lovely story, especially now that you're getting better! :D