It’s October of 1993. Mom drives you to Toys “R” Us to find a Halloween costume. Too old for Lamb Chop and too bashful for Aladdin, you settle on a cheap hockey mask and a pair of gnarly werewolf gloves.
But here’s the best part: After Mom pays the bill, the cashier hands you a special Halloween sample box stuffed with free snacks!
If you haven’t read my prior articles on the subject, Toys “R” Us used to give out “R” Treat sample boxes. This happened at least ten times during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, with themes ranging from Batman Returns to Jurassic Park to summer-lovin’ giraffes.
The boxes were free with any purchase, and I was obsessed with them. The only thing better than leaving Toys “R” Us with a new action figure was leaving Toys “R” Us with a new action figure and a CARDBOARD BOX FULL OF JUNK FOOD.
But jeez, a Halloween version? That was over the top in a pinch-me sort of way. Let’s take a closer look at the contents:
Only the box itself was Halloween-themed, but I hope you’ll agree that a box this boo-tiful was more than enough. Saturated with spooky art, puzzles and games, the box was as much a plaything as a container.
The main event was this generous pile of snack samples, and what a mix it was!
Leading the charge was a pack of Planters P.B. Crisps, which were brand spankin’ new at the time. (I wonder if the Crisps’ inclusion in these mass-produced boxes had anything to do with their meteoric rise to fame?)
Then there was a trial-sized bag of Graham Chex and Crispy Mini Grahams, a long-discontinued cereal that basically amounted to “Chex with cookies.”
Rounding things out were two pieces of Rain-Blo bubble gum and a Keebler Cracker Pak. In one form or another, both treats are still in production today. (Keebler’s cracker sandwiches are the only things keeping Dollar Tree in business, IMO.)
Like every other “R” Treat box, the Halloween version also came with an assortment of coupons. They were stuffed into an envelope addressed to your mother, but if you were anything like me, Mom was never getting her hands on this stuff. I didn’t “need” a Pert Plus sample or a coupon for Double Chex, but this was a complete set, dammit.
(Hell, I used to hold off on eating the junk food for as long as I could, not wanting to “mess up” my picture-perfect sample box. I always caved in the end, but it’s okay to cave on your own terms.)
As y’all know, Toys “R” Us is now extinct, at least in the United States. It honestly hadn’t been a great Halloween destination for many years, but I’ll always cherish those early childhood memories, when Toys “R” Us was *the* place to find costumes and decorations. Our TRU used to pile it all right in the front, in floor-to-ceiling displays that almost created a store-within-a-store.
So you take that sort of magic, and then add free boxes of cookies and cereal to the mix? Pure Halloween heaven!
I’m pourin’ one out for you tonight, Geoffrey. (Even if I still think it’s cool that Halloween stores are temporarily haunting your former locations. If nothing else, that’s making the best out of a bad situation!)