7 pop culture favorites that are turning 50 years old in 2021
Count Chocula, Hamburger Helper and Swamp Thing are turning the big 5-0. Wonder if they're friends?
It's hard to believe these things are all half of a century old. Thankfully, many of them can still make us feel young, from the sugar cereals to the slimy superhero.
Here are some beloved box office hits, botanical shampoos, and beef boosters you might not realize were born in 1971.
1. Monster Cereals from General Mills
Count Chocula and Franken Berry made breakfast monstrous — and marshmallowy — in 1971 with the launch of their iconic "Monster Cereals." What about their friends? Boo Berry first floated into bowls in 1973. Fruit Brute followed a year later. They always had pretty sweet prizes inside the boxes back then. We miss those.
Image: General Mills
2. The Quarter Pounder from McDonald's
Following in the footsteps of the Big Mac, which premiered a few years earlier, the Quarter Pounder was the brainchild of a Bay Area franchise owner who felt there was "a void in our menu vis-à-vis the adult who wanted a higher ratio of meat to bun." The California location launched the beefy burger in 1971. McDonald's eventually took the sandwich nationwide in 1973. Which do you prefer — the Big Mac or the Quarter Pounder?
3. Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl published Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964. Six years later, when Paramount adapted the instant classic to big screen, the title shifted the focus to Willy Wonka, the whimsical confectioner. And rightfully so. He's a much more interesting character. Sorry, Charlie. Gene Wilder made the man delightfully warm, witty and wicked. The real-life Wonka Bar also hit candy shelves in 1971, allowing us to eat along with the characters.
4. Swamp Thing
In the Seventies, the major comics publishers delved more into horror, perhaps nostalgic for the comics of the Fifties. Alongside the good guys in capes and spandex, this new breed of anti-hero filled the drugstore racks in titles like Tomb of Dracula and Werewolf by Night. DC's boggy botanical monster Swamp Thing made his debut in House of Secrets #92 (July 1971), helping to kick off the movement. In the half-century since, Swamp Thing has come to live multiple times on live-action television, including the 1990 series that has sometimes aired on MeTV.
Image: The Everett Collection
5. Hamburger Helper
"Hamburger Helper… when you need a helping hand!" The Seventies jingle is still stuck in our head. Oh, and the Eighties one, too: "Hamburger Helper helped her hamburger help her… makes a great meal!" The white glove mascot, Helping Hand, became a regular fixture of television commercial breaks in the 1970s.
Image: General Mills
6. The Oregon Trail computer game
Most Gen-X and Millennial kids at some point played the educational computer game The Oregon Trail in school. Today, "You have died of dysentery" survives as a meme on social media. That's longevity. Believe it or not, it dates all the way back to 1971. Of course, back then, it did not have those high-tech green-and-black 8-bit graphics. No, no — that kind of technology was years off. It was a text-based computer program. Educators in Minnesota programmed the game for their students!
7. Herbal Essences Shampoo
We know from past articles about Seventies shampoos (yes, we've done posts on vintage haircare) that folks have fond, fond memories of the smell inside this bottle. When this shampoo was launched in 1971, the advertisements featured an animated "nature girl" bathing in an idyllic pond, surrounded in blossoming flowers. It doesn't quite smell the same today, does it?
Image: Procter & Gamble