Slush Puppie / Facebook
Slush Puppie / Facebook

A Brief History of the Slush Puppie

Slush Puppie / Facebook
Slush Puppie / Facebook

In 1970, Cincinnatian Will Radcliff was at a Chicago trade show when he made a culinary discovery: a slush machine. The machine, which was manufactured by Stoelting and had been on the market for decades, didn’t have a name or any marketing materials. But Radcliff, who had already found success as a peanut salesman, saw an opportunity. “I saw there was nothing being done to make it take off,” Radcliff said in 1998. “There was no magic, as I say.”

One evening, Radcliff enlisted the help of his mother and sister to brainstorm some names for his would-be slushy drink. Over a six-pack of beer, they wrote down a handful of possibilities on a brown paper bag and came up with the idea for Slush Puppie, which would feature a cartoon dog as their mascot and logo. Shortly thereafter, Radcliff invested all the money he had (a sum total of $970) and founded the company.

Though other iced beverages such as ICEE already existed, Slush Puppie was different because it was a non-carbonated drink created with flavored syrups and water that are mixed together in a machine and then frozen.

When Radcliff started what would become a multimillion-dollar enterprise, only four flavors were offered: cherry, grape, orange, and lemon-lime. Today, there are more than 40 flavors available, ranging from cotton candy to pomberry açaí, many of which contain fortified juices and vitamins. Despite the juice content, the slushies are filled with artificial colors, preservatives, and some varietals have high fructose corn syrup added. An eight-ounce Slush Puppie contains 119 calories, which according to Calorie King, would take a 31-minute walk to burn off. Yet, it tastes delicious.

Radcliff’s flavored ice pellets beverage gambit took off and by 1999 sales had escalated to $25 million a year—that’s a lot of slush! An astute businessman, he eventually parlayed his idea into a global phenomenon; Slush Puppies have found their way into 62 nations, including parts of Africa and Europe, via 650,000 machines. “If it ain’t fun, to hell with it,” was one of Radcliff’s favorite aphorisms, though he admitted to the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1998 that, “It doesn’t always work that way all the time, but that’s what we shoot for.”

Besides the Slush Puppie business, Radcliff also started Lanikai Frozen Cocktails in 1986, which applies a similarly slushy methodology to mixed drinks such as frozen daiquiris. Because of his successful concepts, Radcliff had earned enough money by the age of 40 to purchase two Learjets and a Mercedes S500 with the license plate “1 SLUSH.”

In 2000 Cadbury Schweppes bought Slush Puppie Corp., and in 2006 J&J Snack Foods—which also owns ICEE—purchased the company from Cadbury. By this point, Radcliff was ready to retire and had purchased more than 3,000 acres of Florida wetlands, where he built a ranch and became a fierce advocate for land conservation.

Many convenience stores, movie theaters, and Kmarts sell Slush Puppies, but anybody can purchase a machine. It’ll cost you about $1,200 retail for the low-end model and $2,000 for a top-of-the-line one.

Unfortunately, Radcliff died on September 18, 2014 in Cincinnati, due to complications from a fall. He was 74 years old. His utilitarian Cincinnati home is currently on the market for a cool $695,000, and features a laundry chute, a dumbwaiter, and an elevator. Even though Radcliff’s no longer around, his legacy will live on. His infinitesimal contribution to the world doesn’t seem like much, but on any sweltering summer day, parched adults and kids alike should think of the maverick businessman as they suck down their favorite flavor of Slush Puppie.

Zach Hyman, HBO
10 Bizarre Sesame Street Fan Theories
Zach Hyman, HBO
Zach Hyman, HBO

Sesame Street has been on the air for almost 50 years, but there’s still so much we don’t know about this beloved children’s show. What kind of bird is Big Bird? What’s the deal with Mr. Noodle? And how do you actually get to Sesame Street? Fans have filled in these gaps with frequently amusing—and sometimes bizarre—theories about how the cheerful neighborhood ticks. Read them at your own risk, because they’ll probably ruin the Count for you.


According to a Reddit theory, the Sesame Street theme song isn’t just catchy—it’s code. The lyrics spell out how to get to Sesame Street quite literally, giving listeners clues on how to access this fantasy land. It must be a sunny day (as the repeated line goes), you must bring a broom (“sweeping the clouds away”), and you have to give Oscar the Grouch the password (“everything’s a-ok”) to gain entrance. Make sure to memorize all the steps before you attempt.


Sesame Street is populated with the stuff of nightmares. There’s a gigantic bird, a mean green guy who hides in the trash, and an actual vampire. These things should be scary, and some fans contend that they used to be. But then the creatures moved to Sesame Street, a rehabilitation area for formerly frightening monsters. In this community, monsters can’t roam outside the perimeters (“neighborhood”) as they recover. They must learn to educate children instead of eating them—and find a more harmless snack to fuel their hunger. Hence Cookie Monster’s fixation with baked goods.


Big Bird is a rare breed. He’s eight feet tall and while he can’t really fly, he can rollerskate. So what kind of bird is he? Big Bird’s species has been a matter of contention since Sesame Street began: Big Bird insists he’s a lark, while Oscar thinks he’s more of a homing pigeon. But there’s convincing evidence that Big Bird is an extinct moa. The moa were 10 species of flightless birds who lived in New Zealand. They had long necks and stout torsos, and reached up to 12 feet in height. Scientists claim they died off hundreds of years ago, but could one be living on Sesame Street? It makes sense, especially considering his best friend looks a lot like a woolly mammoth.


Oscar’s home doesn’t seem very big. But as The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland revealed, his trash can holds much more than moldy banana peels. The Grouch has chandeliers and even an interdimensional portal down there! There’s only one logical explanation for this outrageously spacious trash can: It’s a Doctor Who-style TARDIS.


Dust off your copy of The Republic, because this is about to get philosophical. Plato has a famous allegory about a cave, one that explains enlightenment through actual sunlight. He describes a prisoner who steps out of the cave and into the sun, realizing his entire understanding of the world is wrong. When he returns to the cave to educate his fellow prisoners, they don’t believe him, because the information is too overwhelming and contradictory to what they know. The lesson is that education is a gradual learning process, one where pupils must move through the cave themselves, putting pieces together along the way. And what better guide is there than a merry kids’ show?

According to one Reddit theory, Sesame Street builds on Plato’s teachings by presenting a utopia where all kinds of creatures live together in harmony. There’s no racism or suffocating gender roles, just another sunny (see what they did there?) day in the neighborhood. Sesame Street shows the audience what an enlightened society looks like through simple songs and silly jokes, spoon-feeding Plato’s “cave dwellers” knowledge at an early age.


Can a grown man really enjoy taking orders from a squeaky red puppet? And why does Mr. Noodle live outside a window in Elmo’s house anyway? According to this hilariously bleak theory, no, Mr. Noodle does not like dancing for Elmo, but he has to, because he’s in hell. Think about it: He’s seemingly trapped in a surreal place where he can’t talk, but he has to do whatever a fuzzy monster named Elmo says. Definitely sounds like hell.


Okay, so remember when Animal chases a shrieking woman out of the college auditorium in The Muppets Take Manhattan? (If you don't, see above.) One fan thinks Animal had a fling with this lady, which produced Elmo. While the two might have similar coloring, this theory completely ignores Elmo’s dad Louie, who appears in many Sesame Street episodes. But maybe Animal is a distant cousin.


Cookie Monster loves to cram chocolate chip treats into his mouth. But as eagle-eyed viewers have observed, he doesn’t really eat the cookies so much as chew them into messy crumbs that fly in every direction. This could indicate Cookie Monster has a chewing and spitting eating disorder, meaning he doesn’t actually consume food—he just chews and spits it out. There’s a more detailed (and dark) diagnosis of Cookie Monster’s symptoms here.


Can a vampire really get his kicks from counting to five? One of the craziest Sesame Street fan theories posits that the Count lures kids to their death with his number games. That’s why the cast of children on Sesame Street changes so frequently—the Count eats them all after teaching them to add. The adult cast, meanwhile, stays pretty much the same, implying the grown-ups are either under a vampiric spell or looking the other way as the Count does his thing.


Alright, this is just a Dave Chappelle joke. But the Count does have a cape.

A New App Interprets Sign Language for the Amazon Echo

The convenience of the Amazon Echo smart speaker only goes so far. Without any sort of visual interface, the voice-activated home assistant isn't very useful for deaf people—Alexa only understands three languages, none of which are American Sign Language. But Fast Company reports that one programmer has invented an ingenious system that allows the Echo to communicate visually.

Abhishek Singh's new artificial intelligence app acts as an interpreter between deaf people and Alexa. For it to work, users must sign at a web cam that's connected to a computer. The app translates the ASL signs from the webcam into text and reads it aloud for Alexa to hear. When Alexa talks back, the app generates a text version of the response for the user to read.

Singh had to teach his system ASL himself by signing various words at his web cam repeatedly. Working within the machine-learning platform Tensorflow, the AI program eventually collected enough data to recognize the meaning of certain gestures automatically.

While Amazon does have two smart home devices with screens—the Echo Show and Echo Spot—for now, Singh's app is one of the best options out there for signers using voice assistants that don't have visual components. He plans to make the code open-source and share his full methodology in order to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

Watch his demo in the video below.

[h/t Fast Company]


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