A little bit of nostalgia – Betty Crocker Junior Baking Kit
I was expecting to “revisit the past and reminisce about an era that people over the age of 50 remember with fondness” as I entered the hotel space for a nostalgia convention late last week.
At least that’s what the story in the antiques newspaper had promised when I asked my friend Rebecca, a collector of African American memorabilia, to join me on a road trip. Neither of us expected to find much representing African American culture, but we are Americans, too, so we did expect to find items common to all of us Baby Boomers.
So, I was looking forward to the vintage toys, games posters, photographs and other remnants of our past laid out on tables by the 150 or so vendors who were expected to be there. As soon as we entered the first floor of the convention, we saw nothing but movie posters and old movies in DVD cases.
Seeing so many was a bit disappointing since I had expected so much, but I was able to find a handful of vendors with vintage wares, and I’ll be blogging about what I found for the rest of the week.
I didn’t recognize much, but I rarely remember old toys from my childhood. Whenever my auction buddy Janet and I attended auctions, she would automatically recognize some toy that she had played with or remembered seeing in a store. This time, Rebecca had mentioned a baking set from her childhood. Her mother had worked across the street from a department store that sold toys, she said, and had bought toys pretty often for her and her siblings.
At the nostalgia convention, we came across a toy baking set, but it was different from the one she recalled. The Betty Crocker Junior Baking Kit was propped against a wall atop some other game boxes behind a table. The bright yellow box had a $95 price tag on it, but the vendor was willing to drop the price to a mere $70 for me (much more than it was bringing on the web, I learned later).
The set looked to be in little-played-with condition and was even in its original box. The man opened the box so I could examine it, removing the first layer that consisted of all 12 boxes of brownie, cake, biscuit and frosting mixes that were empty. Some child long ago had already baked those goodies. Beneath that layer was another with mini pots, pans, cookie cutters and other utensils, along with a cookbook.
General Mills seemed to have sold the Betty Crocker Junior Baking Kit in the midst of its fierce competition with food giants Pillsbury and Duncan Hines after World War II. Susan Marks in her 2007 book “Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food” called it “the postwar quest for cake mix supremacy.”
Betty Crocker (who was not a real person) had come around late to the game (the first cake mixes were offered in the 1920s, and Pillsbury had arrived before Betty). In 1947, the company offered its first cake mix – a Ginger Bread Cake in a “Just Add Water and Mix” marketing campaign. It seemed to have gotten an edge when it told bakers that it did not use powdered eggs like some of its competitors. Instead, it told them to add their own fresh eggs.
I could find very little on how well the kit sold, but I did find several ads on its cost. A December 1954 Western Auto ad for toys in Life magazine had a price of $4.95. A 1966 ad for BargainTown USA in the Gettysburg (PA) Times showed it selling for $3.66.
In 1968, General Mills revived the baking kit after buying Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven and later renaming it the Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. I suppose it needed some cakes for girls to bake in their new oven.
Did you have a Junior Baking Kit? If so, I’d love to hear your recollections of it.