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The Mysterious Case of the Dancing Wax Junket.

Occasionally I accidentally trip across a mom-and-pop market that offers up a few expired products, pre-packaged items that are at least a decade old. We went into a market the other day that made these places look like amateurs.

The market was pretty large, so everything was spaced out, and I mean that both ways. One side featured a large greeting card center with droopy, dusty cards from the '60s. Next to that, a weight-and-fortune coin vending machine. On the other side of the first aisle, some sort of knock-off Jell-O gelatin packages called "Junket," lined up, six in a row. The boxes were faded, and obviously at least thirty years old. There were packaged bras from the 1960s, sneakers, boots, Thermos jug replacement glass, California & Hawaii. Don't mention it. Softasilk from 1986. Current products seemed to be intermixed with the old stuff, it's all very disconcerting. It was just one jaw-dropping decades-old product after another. I was afraid to grab any of the liquid products, lest they explode in my hands. The Log Cabin syrup bottles had an 800 information number listed, but the bottle shape and design clearly had been discontinued long ago. Borden's "None Such" Mince Meat. Beefamato. Desert Tips Salsa. Arnold's Salsa. Heinz Hamburger Relish. The essential substance of one of the four jars of relish had wicked up every last drop of fluid such that all that was left was an avocado-sized and shaped mass with a hamburger-like texture. "Look what I caught, grandma! A hamburgocado!"

My girlfriend bought a box C&H Magic® frosting sugar just for the package design. Zip code, no UPC. "Perfect Frostings in Half the Time!" He's got about fifty of these things. Priced to sell!

The store seems to stay in business by selling alcohol products and various permutations of brightly colored high-fructose corn syrup presented in plastic bottles with bold, execrable computer graphics. Also: lard. [The girlfriend made an amazing discovery at another supermarket later in the day ... your standard list of nasties in assembly-line hot dogs these days now includes corn syrup. Coming soon: corn syrup in your tap water. I've seen the television ads, there's this little tow-headed kid who drinks a half-gallon of it and it sloshes all down his shirt -- then he smiles, revealing missing front teeth while he whistles: "It's fillerer ... it's cheaperer!" Parents are going to eat that shit up.]

My goal, for this trip, was to purchase the oldest products I could find. I made my selections and brought them to the counter.

Zee bulge, she is distressing, no?

The clerk inspected the Junket Brand Orange Flavor Sherbet Mix. This was the part that I loved, the total regularity of it all, as if he's selling cases of this stuff every week. The price had faded off the package. He went to the aisle to see if there were any other box with the price still visible. I didn't watch him while he was gone, fearful that he might have stepped into a time machine. He came back, and rang it up for 99 cents. Coincidentally I went to a real, actual supermarket later in the day and various popular brands of powdered horse hooves were selling for 39 cents a box.

Chr. Hansen Laboratory, the company that manufactured Junket, goes back to 1874 when Christian Hansen started manufacturing rennet in Denmark. The company then set up shop in Little Falls, New York, manufacturing a wide variety of dessert-related products. Apparently at the height of the brand's popularity, the Portland-based "Daughters of Norway" published a book in 1956 that indicated using Junket brand "Danish Dessert with Raspberries" would suffice as a substitute for the popular dish Rødgrøt med Fløte. The company was bought out in 1958 by Salada-Shirriff-Horsey Inc., which is not a fake name. It seems rather likely that this delicious sherbet mix (featuring carboxymethyl cellulose stabilizer) is over forty years old. Let me just pull out my "sucker molds" and add water ... you want some?

The clerk used a modern LCD printing calculator to tally up my purchases, and I tried to hide my disappointment that he wasn't using the mechanical cash register sitting next to the calculator.

[disco music plays] dannnce waxin' ... At least the Dancing Wax had a price tag. The store had several large cans of Golden Star Powdered Dancing Wax ("For all Dancing Floors ... Sprinkle the wax lightly over the floor before the dance and the feet of the dancers will do the rest. Do not use too much."). No UPC on the can, no zip, the given address "North Kansas City 16, Mo." Golden Star Polish, the manufacturer of Golden Star Powdered Dancing Wax, still exists, kicking out mops and mop frames. To dance with. I have no idea how old this can is, or when dance wax took off as a packaged product. I found a 1907 dance wax can for sale on Ebay. More recently, I eyeballed some swing kids on a web-based "BBS" mewling about people using dance wax and the ensuing ass-landings/litigation. It doesn't taste that great, either.

If you would like to purchase some powdered dance wax, perhaps you would enjoy a can of Galaxy Powdered Dance Floor Wax, precision-engineered by the fine folks at Liberty Products (800 653 1871).