I told you in my previous post about the great baseball themed party we had to celebrate the publication of Jeff Potter's new book, Whatever Happened to Baseball? (available at Amazon.com - yes, that's a shameless plug!) Who knew a book signing party would lead me to ponder "Whatever Happened to Cracker Jacks?"
I bought boxes and boxes of Cracker Jacks to use as part of my baseball decor for the party and used them in various displays around the house. After the party was over someone needed to eat all of that popcorn, so I decided to get started on a box or two! I hadn't eaten Cracker Jacks in years, and I was happy to discover the popcorn was sticky and crunchy; just as I remembered it. The "prize" inside was not. All of those leftover boxes of Cracker Jacks really got me thinking about the one family heirloom I know we'll never part with; Grandma's memory jug. (Oh, and just in case my mom is reading this; I would never part with the oh so fabulous spoon collection she got me from Home Interiors in the 1970's!) Hmm, I wonder where those spoons are.........
Anyway, have you ever heard of a memory jar or jug? If you're lucky you can find them every now and then in antique shops or folk art galleries. Memory jars are vessels that were made by placing everyday items such as tokens, bits of jewelry, shards of pottery, etc., into a clay that covered a jar, bottle or crock. I found out online that some experts think memory jars have their roots in Southern Black communities where they were placed in cemeteries for use as grave markers. The vessels were covered with trinkets that belonged to the deceased person.
There's even the theory that memory jugs were in a sense the precursor to scrapbooks and started during the Victorian era where "sentimentality reigned". Whatever their start, my husband's grandmother had one and he and his brother have fond memories of looking at it when they went to visit Grandma because they never knew what would be pressed into it on their next visit. In fact, Grandma used to let them press the prizes they got out of Cracker Jack boxes into the clay when they visited.
Several years ago my in-laws thrilled me when they gave us the memory jug! It's awesome and I have honestly never seen one so large. If you look really close you can see some of the treasures in the jar. Old pins, plastic toys, screws, a strand of pearls. I love looking at it and wondering where the items came from, who put them there and imagining the thrill my husband had as a child looking at it. (Keep in mind this was way, way before video games were invented. Back in the day when kids were amused by simple, honest things!)
Grandma's Memory Jar
I found out on the official Cracker Jacks website they were "first invented in 1893. According to legend, a unique popcorn, peanuts and molasses confection that was the forerunner to Cracker Jack caramel coated popcorn and peanuts was introduced by F.W. Rueckheim and Brother, at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago's first World's Fair. Then in 1896 Louis Rueckheim, F.W.'s brother and partner, discovered the process for keeping the molasses-covered popcorn morsels from sticking together. Louis gave the treat to a salesman who exclaimed, "That's crackerjack!" "So it is," said F.W. Rueckheim, who then trademarked the words."
"Then, in 1908 the song "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" was written by Jack Norworth, who wrote the lyrics during a 30-minute subway ride, and Albert Von Tilzer, who composed the music. Cracker Jack brand was immortalized with the third line, "Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack."
Finally in 1912 a marketing genius decided to put a A Prize in Every Box" and toys were inserted into every package.
Isn't it amazing that 115 years later we're still eating Cracker Jacks, listening to "Take Me out to the Ballgame" and signing along with Meatloaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad":
I know you're looking for a ruby
in a mountain of rocks
But there ain't no Coupe de Ville
hiding at the bottom
of a cracker jack box
That's all great but whatever happened to the great prizes inside? You know, little "diamond" rings, plastic cars, trinkets and little ballerinas. You won't believe how lame the "prize" is in boxes of Cracker Jack now. My "prize" was a little piece of paper asking if I could guess who the boy pictured grew up to be. Pull back the paper and SURPRISE it's Andrew Jackson! WHOOP DE DOO! Being the optimist that I am I decided maybe I had a little bad luck and just got a lame box so I opened another one just to make sure, certain this time I'd find a little rocket or spinning top. Nope. Same paper, different person, this time it was Susan B. Anthony. I kid you not; check this out:
That's not a prize; it's history class. Can you imagine trying to make a memory jar out of those "prizes"? Someone please tell me, "WHATEVER HAPPENED TO CRACKER JACKS?"
*(information obtained from www.crackerjacks.com)
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