Foods from YesterYear: Crystal Pepsi

Monday, July 25, 2022

"It could have been more than just a novelty."
-David Novak, creator of Crystal Pepsi

I'm gonna make a giant stretch here since it's hard to connect this topic directly to summertime, but I'll just say... who doesn't like a nice cold refreshing glass of soda on a hot summer evening?  

There!  Now it's connected to summertime and fits perfectly into the YesterYear Summer of 2022!  See how I did that?  I'm a professional.  I was ova there... now I'm ova here.  Thank you, Mr. Dice Clay.  I will forever use that line.

The 90s was a great time.  Summer in the 90s was even better.  During the 90s, we were introduced to many new and exciting products.  Back then, large corporations were more willing to take a chance without having everything market tested or viewed from a thousand different angles by lawyers, subject experts, and consultants, only to produce a watered-down version of what everyone wanted anyway.  

In the 90s, they took chances and frequently succeeded. Unfortunately, there were just as often just as many failures.

Crystal Pepsi was supposed to become a billion-dollar idea.  Instead, it wound up a colossal failure.  Starting with a smashingly successful Superbowl commercial featuring Van Halen, Crystal Pepsi debuted with much fanfare.  Less than a year after it hit store shelves, the soft drink was pulled from circulation.  It became a bit of a laughingstock that was later dubbed as one of the biggest product failures ever by TIME Magazine.  

The rise and fall of Crystal Pepsi has always been fascinating to me.  As a kid, I remember seeing Crystal Pepsi in stores with signs, cardboard standees, and all other sorts of advertising a new product tends to get.  In the beginning of it's run, Crystal Pepsi was advertised during nearly every commercial break on television.  It may just be my imagination, but I can remember Mom and Dad had it in the fridge once or twice, too.  

Then, suddenly it disappeared.

When it re-emerged two decades later, my wife and I went on the hunt.  It was quite a happy day when she was doing our weekly grocery shopping and found a (literal) barrel full of them at the check-out line.  She grabbed a handful, and we sampled one the minute she got home.  It tasted like I remembered, or at least what I thought I remembered it tasting like, anyway.  We enjoyed the rest of the bottles over the next week or so, and I've saved one in my nostalgia museum.  

So, how did this clear soda come about and what exactly happened that made it go away so quickly?  

Let's take another deep dive as we look at a Food from YesterYear:  Crystal Pepsi!

25 Things That Make a 90s Kid Think of Summer

Monday, July 18, 2022

I frequently get a little prickly when I hear the 90s are old-fashioned or a long time ago.  It feels like something 5 years ago, but to my horror, the 90s were as far back as THIRTY-TWO years ago!  If Back to the Future was made today, instead of making the jump from 1985 to 1965 (which seemed like two different worlds), Marty Mcfly would be time-traveling from 2022 to 1992!  It would definitely be considered two other worlds today, too.  Talk about crazy!  

I'm older than I feel, although some days I'm a little stiffer and slower than I'd like to be.  My wife and I use a line from the DuckTales reboot "It's because you're so old and moving is so hard."  I'm 38, but I feel like I'm still a 25-year-old, which is a good thing... I think.  I say all that to not sound like an oldtimer with my following statement.  

Kids today are missing out because summertime in the 90s will never be beat.  

Everything from movies or music, pop culture, snacks, tv shows, and everyday activities were much better back then.  Let's just state the obvious, though.  There was one thing that made all of our summer shenanigans possible that wouldn't fly today.  

We weren't supervised as much as kids today are and got away with a lot more.  

We also had to be creative to entertain ourselves rather than be entertained by our parents.

It wasn't because our parents were neglectful; it was just a different time.  We enjoyed a freedom and security that no longer exists.  We spent hours playing outside and wouldn't come home until our parents yelled for dinner.  Then we'd be back out on the streets until dark.  Nobody worried when they didn't see us because they knew the neighbors and where we were all hanging out.

Peak 90s Summer Attire

I also spent a lot of time indoors, watching reruns on daytime television and playing with my action figures.  I created whole universes and storylines that lasted the entire summer.  I made wrestling leagues and fantasy sports leagues and played out the seasons in my head.  When we got our first computer and Prodigy internet, I'd spend hours researching pro wrestling rumors and storylines, making clipart, and attempting to beat that frustrating Windows MineSweeper game.

When we weren't indoors, my brother and I rode bikes in the street with the neighborhood kids.  If not, we'd be in our pool in the backyard, swimming until we turned to prunes.  We didn't have to worry about dropping our cellphones into the pool because they didn't exist yet.  When our friends wanted to talk, they'd call the house and ask our parents if we were there.  If not, they walked over and rang the doorbell.  

Looking back, the best thing about all of the summers of the 1990s was no social media to distract (or document) us.  We were carefree, and there was no evidence left behind.  And to be honest, we really didn't get into trouble.  We mainly did what we wanted to do, when, and how we wanted to do it.  We embraced summer in a way that is no longer possible due to stranger danger and whatnot.  

Maybe we know more now and just got lucky back then, I don't know.  Whatever the case, we were the last generation of kids to experience the true freedom of summer before technology took over and the world got more complicated and less safe.  

Perhaps, as the oldtimers say, those were the "good old days."  

Enough complaining, let's get down to my list of 25 things that will remind you of summer in the 90s!

This Month in YesterYear History - July

Monday, July 11, 2022

Welcome to July!  A new month brings a new edition of "This Month in YesterYear History!"   

Please CLICK HERE to read last month's feature if you missed it!  

In this series, we'll take a brief look back at the "best" or "top" of pop culture from 20 (2002), 25 (1997), and 30 (1992) years ago!    

Using film website Box Office Mojo, The Billboard Top 40 music list, and a conglomeration of television rating websites, I've pieced together a little time capsule of what was significant in life during those days.   

Hopefully, as you read these brief synopses from the past, you'll remember the who, when, and where of your memories from that time period.  That's what this site is all about, after all!

So, get into those time machines, my friends!  We're headed back to 20, 25, and 30 years ago!

Happy 4th of July!

Monday, July 4, 2022

Happy 4th of July, everyone!  

This is a copy of last year's 4th of July post that I thought was pretty good, and I wanted you all to read it this year in case you missed it.  

At the very least, please give the video and song at the end a watch/listen!  Happy Independence Day!

Growing up, my family put our half-hearted spin on most holidays, aside from the 'big ones' like Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  By half-hearted, I mean we hardly mentioned it was even a holiday and didn't decorate or have a big meal with friends or family.  The 4th of July wasn't any different than any other day in my household, and when I think about the Independence Days of my childhood, I can only remember a handful of things.  

I always enjoyed helping my Dad get out our American flag and hanging it on the house.  He reserved this act for only Memorial Day and Independence Day, making it even more special.  After that, I can only remember waiting around the house and avoiding the heat while watching TV or playing games on the computer.  We'd count down the hours until Dad grilled some burgers or hotdogs that would make up the bulk of our "celebration."  

After dinner, I'd find something to do and try to catch the New York City fireworks on television.  Usually, my parents were watching something like Frasier, so I'd have to beg to watch a few minutes of it.  I know it's hard to believe, but we only had one TV.  Ok, to be honest, my parents had one in their bedroom, but I had to have a real good reason to use it.

Sometime while I was in high school, my parents began their own unofficial tradition of watching the Boston Pops Orchestra play patriotic music on PBS.  At that age, however, I'd have rather watched paint dry.

We never went to watch fireworks, as my Dad would always say he didn't want to fight the crowds.  He and Mom frequently took us to see fireworks at other points of the year up at Bear Mountain, and I guess they decided that was enough colorful explosions for one year.

My parents were also very against us having our own firecrackers and the like.  It was mainly because when I was about 5, my Dad set off some firecrackers, and one launched itself onto a neighbor's roof in a fiery blaze of explosive glory.  I remember him scooping me up and sprinting into the house, which was the end of fireworks in our household. 

After that, my parents would get us a pack of sparklers every year, and my brother and I would stand in the driveway and wave them around like lunatics, chasing each other for a few minutes as soon as it got dark.  One summer in middle school, I spent my allowance buying some fireworks from my neighbor after returning from his vacation in Pennsylvania, where fireworks were legal to purchase.  My Mom confiscated them, and years later, when I found them hidden in the cellarway.  I waited until they went out one evening and lit them off in the street.

Sorry, Mom.

When I met my wife in college, she invited me to her family's cabin in upstate New York on our first 4th together.  The homeowners association had an annual 4th of July picnic around the lake, and it became a tradition to head up there every year for a few days for the picnic and a fireworks display.  I jumped through hoops every year during the airline's busy season to make sure I had off that weekend, and I only can recall missing one year.

Like with most things, it only takes a handful of people to ruin everything.  As more and more people from "the city" started moving into the area, they began complaining about the noise and the safety of the evening fireworks by the lake.  The gentleman who volunteered his time and money to put on a pretty spectacular display each year decided it was no longer worth the hassle and retired.  Every year after that, the picnic lost some magic as they added more and more rules.  Due to COVID, there wasn't one last year in 2020, and there won't be another one this year for 2021 as everyone is still skittish about the whole thing.  I'm afraid another great tradition has been lost in the name of "modernity."

For those of you new to this site, I grew up in upstate New York, but I've lived on Long Island for nearly 20 years now.  I've traveled all over the country for work, and I've never seen a place like Long Island when it comes to fireworks.  Every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day, not a night goes by that people don't shoot off all sorts of rockets and grenades from dinner to well after midnight.  Some are of such professional quality they even shake the house on occasion.  I don't mean to sound like the curmudgeon I am coming across as, but with two little yipper dogs with anxiety issues, living in the fireworks capital of America wears thin quickly. 

This post is starting to sound pretty negative, and that's not my intention.  The 4th of July holiday is about celebrating all that is America.  My opinion on the direction of this country may have soured recently, but it's still the greatest place to live on earth.  We should all be grateful to be here, whether we're born here or not.  We should reflect on all who have gone before us that have worked hard, sacrificed, and given everything to build this into the greatest nation on earth.

Last year, the guys at The Retro Network asked what pop culture reference makes us think about America.  My answer then, as it is likely now and forever, was easy.

The nighttime 4th of July baseball game from the movie The Sandlot.  When Ray Charles' rendition of "America, the Beautiful" plays, it makes me feel happy and excited for the future, melancholy for the past, and proud and patriotic all at the same time.  

Please take the 3 minutes to watch the clip below.  It's worth it, I promise.  Happy 4th, everyone.