I recall as if it were yesterday: I had collected a Kix cereal box-top, enclosed fifteen cents, and sent away for an atomic bomb ring! Promotions involving cereal box-tops were common back in the mid to late nineteen-forties, but this one was special – this one really tweaked my boyish enthusiasms!
The ad beckoned: See Real Atoms Split to Smithereens Inside Ring!
This mail-order offer dates to approximately 1947/48 when I was a seven-year old living in Chicago, Illinois. That would have been approximately two years after the world first heard of the atomic bomb and its use on Japan.
Within a week after mailing in my money and box-top, I began badgering my mother every afternoon: Did my ring arrive in the mail, today? I distinctly recall my agony-of-waiting as the elapsed time went well beyond three weeks. Finally, a little brown box arrived at our Wrightwood Avenue address, and I was beside myself with happiness as I unpacked the jaunty little finger-bomb with its polished metal nose and snappy red-plastic tail assembly which could be removed to reveal a glass-covered “viewing chamber.”
A small sheet of directions told how to condition the “radioactive” material inside the viewing chamber by exposing the ring to a bright light and then retreating to a dark environment (my mother’s closed pantry) in order to view tiny scintillations of light in the viewing chamber – the result of atomic activity.
I recall that the scintillations were there, for sure, but that they were not brightly visible. It took a bit of “peering” to reveal them.
Nonetheless, at age seven, I was thrilled with the atomic bomb ring-thing even though the more sinister aspects it represented were lost on me and, I suspect, on most Americans who were busily forging a new future after the devastation of World War II. Atomic energy and nuclear weapons had only recently been revealed to the general public; this little ring represented the excitement and mystery of the “new” technology in the eyes of the public.
I fondly recall sending for many such cereal box-top/mail-order offers when I was a kid: the excitement of ordering the newest treasure, and the agony of waiting for it to arrive are still vivid in my mind’s-eye even as I approach eighty years of age…and I am glad to still have such vivid recollections! Of all the mail-order offers I recall sending for as a youngster, none of them can surpass my fond memories surrounding the Kix atomic bomb ring. Sometimes, in life, little things can mean a lot.