PITTSFIELD

I used to be a cereal killer. I probably still am if given the opportunity. But, sad as it is to admit, I never quite figured out the ol' cereal bowl. I'd put in the flakes, then add too much milk. So, when I was almost finished I would have to add a few more flakes because there was still a lot of milk in the bowl.

But then I would add too many flakes and I would need more milk. The process would then repeat itself until the entire box of cereal was empty. So, you see? I used to be a cereal killer.

I found a website recently where you could vote for your favorite cereal. It listed the top 200. Whoa, 200? I could probably name 25 if pressed to really think. I went through the list, and while some were spin-offs of originals, I have to say that most were unique. Well, as unique as a cereal can be. Most are made from the same basic recipe list that includes oats, rice and other staples. The color and the amount of sugar, however, is a big variable.

There were a lot of "Cocoas" on the list and a lot of "Crisps." But no Coco Crisp, the fine outfielder for the Oakland Athletics. Can you say missed opportunity?

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I don't remember child obesity being an issue growing up. I think my generation did a good job burning off the calories during our formative years. We were outside a lot, and ran and played and played and ran. We slept well at night. But it's not like we didn't try to be big, and it started with our breakfast cereal.

A big bowl of Sugar Pops or Frosted Flakes wasn't enough.


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Oh, no. We had to dip our cereal spoon into the sugar bowl and sprinkle more sugar onto the already sugar-laden flakes. We were definitely fueled and ready for take-off. I don't think our feet hit the ground until about noon.

The Allendale Elementary kids would drop a dime into the soda machine at Mel's gas station on Dalton Avenue after school and grab an ice cold glass bottle of Coca-Cola. The more adventurous could walk to the Dalton Avenue Variety -- we called it the DA -- and buy penny candy.

We tried to get big, it just didn't happen. At least not at that age. Of course, fast-food restaurants had not quite taken hold and the physical destruction that has been left in their wake was yet to be realized.

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You can trace cereal back to the Seventh-Day Adventists during the 1860s. Grain and oats were a staple of their vegetarian diet -- some of those folks would cringe now if they saw what was on the cereal shelves -- and you can credit the Kellogg brothers, Will Keith and Dr. John Harvey, with inventing the early versions of the food.

John Harvey Kellogg operated a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Mich., around the turn of the 20th century, and a sound diet was one of the mandates for his patients. Cereal now, as you might expect, is a billion dollar industry.

I was old school back in the day. Frosted Flakes, Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies were standard fare, with Sugar Pops, Sugar Smacks and maybe a little Raisin Bran tossed into the mix on occasion.

But, there were other choices. Wheaties and Cheerios were out there, and as the years passed so were a couple of hundred others. The top 10 on the website voting list was led by Quisp, which I don't know, Frosted Flakes, Cap'n Crunch, Concentrate, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Wheaties, Fortified Oat Flakes and Rice Krinkles.

Nobody, it seems, was coo-coo enough for Cocoa Puffs to get it into the top 10. But Frosted Flakes are apparently GRE-E-EAT!

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Sifting through the remainder of the top 100 proved interesting. Corn Flakes checked in at No. 13, while old favorites Rice Krispies, Cocoa Puffs and Fruit Loops were Nos. 14, 37 and 39, respectively. Apple Jacks was at 56 and Special K 78. A cereal called Oreo O's was at No. 64, and I assume they are little versions of the bigger cookie. Lots of milk in that bowl, please.

Chocolate Lucky Charms was at No. 75. I'm thinking that two healthy-sized bowls of these guys and you might not blink for a month.

There were some cereals in the 100 to 200 range that I think would be fine if you were trying to drive from Pittsfield to Seattle in 60 hours. Do Reeses Puffs, Fruity Pebbles, Fruit Brutes, Crazy Cows or Sugar Jets do it for you? One bathroom stop in Topeka, but that's it.

Honorable mention, meanwhile, goes to Sugar Frosted Flakes, an extension, I guess, from the regular Frosted Flakes. Yup, we frost them and then sugar them. A four-minute mile? Sure, no problem. The Ralston Co. offered up Grins & Snickers & Giggles & Laughs. Man, I'm starting to sweat like a horn player in a Chicago jazz club.

Do you have a favorite cereal not listed here or perhaps a cereal story? Let me know and maybe we can share responses next week. In the meantime I leave you with O.J. cereal, a Kellogg's product in 1985.

No, not that O.J. This cereal boasted of having the equivalent of one cup of orange juice within the DNA of its bran flakes. The character on the box was O.J. Joe, a cattleman. The guys in marketing were soon sleeping under the stars with all the cattlemen. The cereal lasted on the shelves for less than a year.

Say it ain't so, O.J. Joe. We hardly knew ya.

Brian Sullivan can be reached at mariavicsullivan@yahoo.com.