By Michelle Railey
All hail the AstroPop! In all its red-green-yellow, glowing, sugary glory. It has returned.
Here’s the story, if you didn’t know. In 1963, two rocket scientists (literally, they were working on actual space rockets at Rocketdyne) left their job to develop a lollipop based on the three-stage booster rocket. Its flavors were pineapple, passion fruit, and cherry. They had to build special machines to manufacture the AstroPop. They did. And kids from 1963 until 2004 were endlessly delighted.
In 1987, Spangler (maker of candy canes which are totally second in quality to Bob’s, by the way) acquired the AstroPop brand. In 2004, for reasons surpassing understanding, the beautiful and glorious AstroPop was discontinued (Spangler! *she shakes her fist*). The world was a cold and inhospitable place. But perhaps you didn’t notice as some disreputable candy stores (aka that one in the Greenwood Park Mall) continued to sell old AstroPops as though no one would Google it and find out the evil they had perpetrated.
Happily, in 2010, Leaf Brands (hi, Whoppers! I’m a fan!) acquired AstroPops and spent five years to get the old pointy-shaped, three-stage rocket lollipop machinery working again. Which means: 2015 is the year the AstroPop Returned!
So, let’s use the AstroPop to explore two years: 1963, its birth year, and 2004, its temporarily dead year.
In 1963, the national debt was $305,859,632,996.41. In 2004, the national debt was $7,379,052,696,330.32.
In 1963, the global population was 3.195 billion persons. By 2004, that had grown to 6.413 billion.
In 1963, the per capita GDP in the U.S. was $3,374.52 and in 2004, it was $41,921.71.
In 1963, Loyola defeated Cincinnati in overtime in the NCAA Men’s Basketball finals. In 2004, Georgia Tech lost to Connecticut.
The top five songs of 1963, according to Billboard: (1) Sugar Shack (Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs) (2) Surfin’ USA (Beach Boys) (3) The End of the World (Skeeter Davis) (4) Rhythm of the Rain (Cascades) (5) He’s So Fine (Chiffons). In 2004, also according to Billboard, the five top songs of the year were: (1) Yeah! (Usher, with Lil Jon and Ludacris) (2) Burn (Usher) (3) If I Ain’t Got You (Alicia Keys) (4) This Love (Maroon 5) (5) The Way You Move (Outkast with Sleepy Brown).
The Academy Awards in 1963: the Best Picture award went to Lawrence of Arabia. In 2004, the same award went to Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Weirdly, the Super Bowl of 1963 was played at Wrigley Field (isn’t that a baseball stadium?). The Chicago Bears defeated the New York Giants. But in 2004, the year of the infamous Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake “wardrobe malfunction,” the New England Patriots (hi, Mom!) defeated the Carolina Panthers.
In 1963, all of the following happened: President Kennedy made illegal the travel and financial commercial transactions between the United States and Cuba, Sylvia Plath committed suicide in London and Patsy Cline perished in a plane crash. Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique. The Supreme Court of the U.S. ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright. Alcatraz was closed by Bobby Kennedy. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” Tab debuted in May. In November, on the 22nd, John F. Kennedy Jr was assassinated.
In 2004, these things happened: it was, as declared by the United Nations, the Year of Rice. It was also a leap year. A whale exploded in Taiwan in January. Facebook launched on February 4th. In March, NATO expanded by seven countries and in May, the EU expanded by ten nations. Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, the Summer Olympics were held in Greece and Edward Munch’s The Scream was stolen by thieves in Norway. The Breslan crisis in Russia occurred and George W. Bush defeated John Kerry for a second term as U.S. president. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine began on November, on the 22nd. On December 26, one of the worst tsunamis in recorded history hit Southeast Asia including Thailand, Malaysia, the Maldives, and Indonesia.
In 1963 and in 2004, allegedly, it required approximately 45 minutes for a human to eat a one-ounce Astropop, presumably without any biting. And, it probably takes about that now. (And who has the patience to do that? Or measure it? People are so weird.)
Pineapple (Ananus comosus, aka the first flavor) is an herbaceous perennial native to South America. Passion fruit (Passiflora edulis) is native to Uruguay, Brazil, and northern Argentina. Cherries (Prunus avium, which makes one think of flying prunes) are native to the Northern Hemisphere and have, roughly, 77 calories per cup (pitted cherries, mind you).
And, in 2015, year of the Return of the AstroPop, all of the above is much easier to find than it was in 2004 or in 1963. (Thanks, Internet, you are swell!)
The AstroPop is back. Happily. It is crystalline and strangely beautiful. And has three fruity flavors. But it also has a history and 1963 to 2004, this object is interesting in its dual-yeared-digression.
Sources: World Bank, Wikipedia for 1963 and 2004. The Atlantic The World in 1963. And Wikipedia for “cherry,” “passion fruit,” and “pineapple.” Google ’em. It’ll come out the same. God help us if Wikipedia is wrong.
For what it’s worth? In 1963, I was not yet born and neither was this damn blog. In 2004, I was alive and kicking but the blog wasn’t even thought of yet. and the blog was not yet born. In 2015, I was weird enough to Google AstroPop. They are not only back, but they have t-shirts now. If you’re rich, go buy one. Because, you know, AstroPops. (Hipster Chic).
Some idiot on eBay is selling one pop for $5.44! The ass! It might be worth it, though. Have you seen how those colors glow against a window? Sugar is light and light is beauty.
And it’s all edible, baby. It’s all edible.
Where were you in 1963? In 2004?