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A Brief History of Kool-Aid

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Though the fruity juice powder is now best known for the “Oh yeah!” of its Kool-Aid Man mascot, the recognizable anthropomorphic pitcher came along much later, after Kool-Aid was already a popular product.

Kool-Aid got its start in the 1920s as Fruit Smack, a liquid drink mix developed by Edwin Perkins of Hastings, Nebraska (which later went on to make Kool-Aid its state soft drink in 1998). Considering the competition Kool-Aid faces now with liquid drink mixes, it’s interesting that Fruit Smack was initially a liquid mix. The costs of packaging and risk of breaking bottles prompted Perkins to develop a way to remove the liquid, packaging it in personally-designed packages and renaming it Kool-Ade.

Eventually, the spelling was changed to Kool-Aid, and Perkins sold it as an affordable luxury for children at five cents per packet. The Smiling Face Pitcher was introduced in print ads in the 1950s, when Perkins sold Kool-Aid to General Foods. General Foods introduced lemonade and root beer to Kool-Aid’s standard six flavors, and in the mid-1970s, the Kool-Aid Man made his debut. 

The Kool-Aid Man hasn’t changed much through the years, as Milwaukee Mag's article shows. The cheerful pitcher of red drink bursting through walls with his signature “Oh yeah!” is widely recognizable, even featured in the Museum of Modern Art and appearing several times in Fox’s television series Family Guy.

However, the signature Kool-Aid Man has recently been given a makeover. While he does still prefer walking through walls, this new Kool-Aid Man is entirely computer-generated and presented as a “celebrity trying to show he’s just a normal guy.” Instead of crashing through a wall mid-commercial, he’s now shown stepping out of the shower as a clear pitcher and choosing his “pants” (Kool-Aid flavors) for the day as a voiceover makes him a relatable character.

While the Kool-Aid Man is advancing into the technological future of computer-generated images, the products themselves are shaking hands with the past: Kraft has introduced into the lineup of Kool-Aid products Bursts and Jammers, which are liquid drinks more like the Fruit Smack that Edwin Perkins first invented.

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Animals
25 Benefits of Adopting a Rescue Dog
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According to the ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States. Although that number has gone down since 2011 (from 3.9 million) there are still millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month; here are 25 benefits of adopting a shelter dog.

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How Urban Legends Like 'The Licked Hand' Are Born
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If you compare the scary stories you heard as a kid with those of your friends—even those who grew up across the country from you—you’ll probably hear some familiar tales. Maybe you tried to summon Bloody Mary by chanting her name in front of the mirror three times in a dark bathroom. Maybe you learned never to wonder what’s under a woman’s neck ribbon. Maybe you heard the one about the girl who feels her dog lick her hand in the middle of the night, only to wake up to find him hanging dead from the shower nozzle, the words “humans can lick too” written on the wall in the dog’s blood.

These ubiquitous, spooky folk tales exist everywhere, and a lot of them take surprisingly similar forms. How does a single story like the one often called “Humans Can Lick Too” or "The Licked Hand" make its way into every slumber party in America? Thrillist recently investigated the question with a few experts, finding that most of these stories have very deep roots.

In the case of The Licked Hand, its origins go back more than a century. In the 1990s, Snopes found that a similar motif dates back to an Englishman’s diary entry from 1871. In it, the diary keeper, Dearman Birchall, retold a story he heard at a party of a man whose wife woke him up in the middle of the night, urging him to go investigate what sounded like burglars in their home. He told his wife that it was only the dog, reaching out his hand. He felt the dog lick his hand … but in the morning, all his valuables were gone: He had clearly been robbed.

A similar theme shows up in the short story “The Diary of Mr. Poynter,” published in 1919 by M.R. James. In it, a character dozes off in an armchair, and thinks that he is petting his dog. It turns out, it’s some kind of hairy human figure that he flees from. The story seems to have evolved from there into its presently popular form, picking up steam in the 1960s. As with any folk tale, its exact form changes depending on the teller: sometimes the main character is an old lady, other times it’s a young girl.

You’ll probably hear these stories in the context of happening to a “friend of a friend,” making you more likely to believe the tale. It practically happened to someone you know! Kind of! The setting, too, is probably somewhere nearby. It might be in your neighborhood, or down by the local railroad tracks.

Thrillist spoke to Dr. Joseph Stubbersfield, a researcher in the UK who studies urban legends, who says the kind of stories that spread widely contain both social information and emotional resonance. Meaning they contain a message—you never know who’s lurking in your house—and are evocative.

If something is super scary or gross, you want to share it. Stories tend to warn against something: A study of English-language urban legends circulating online found that most warned listeners about the hazards of life (poisonous plants, dangerous animals, dangerous humans) rather than any kind of opportunities. We like to warn each other of the dangers that could be lurking around every corner, which makes sense considering our proven propensity to focus on and learn from negative information. And yes, that means telling each other to watch out for who’s licking our hands in the middle of the night.

Just something to keep in mind as you eagerly await Jezebel’s annual scary story contest.

[h/t Thrillist]

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