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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Screaming Yellow Zonkers II

February 13, 2006

Screaming Yellow Zonkers II

A few weeks ago I wrote a column about one of my all-time favorite snack foods Screaming Yellow Zonkers.

Until then, I thought that Screaming Yellow Zonkers had been relinquished to the junk-food trash heap of history. I hadn’t seen them on supermarket shelves in years and had resigned myself to living a Zonker-free existence for the remainder of my days.

Then I came upon a magazine article that sang the praises of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. I Googled them immediately and found a company in Upstate New York that would ship them to me for $6 per box, plus shipping.

Six bucks, what a bargain, I thought. I hadn’t had a bite of one of the elusive butter and caramel coated popcorn snacks in 30 years. I ordered six boxes and planned to ration the allotment— only letting a few, extremely close friends try the product— to make sure that they lasted a long time. There was no guarantee that I would ever have the chance to eat a Screaming Yellow Zonker, ever again.

The column ran and the e-mails poured in.

I would have expected the correspondence to contain praise and accolades for doing the extensive research needed to track down such a hard-to-find foodstuff. Or maybe even a few queries as to where one might find a company that would send a box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Not so.

Most of the e-mail responses included lines such as, “You idiot. I was at the Dollar Tree today and they had a shelf full of Screaming Yellow Zonkers.” Or, “Why would anyone pay a New York company $6 per box plus shipping when you can go to the Dollar Store and purchase them for…you guessed it… ONE DOLLAR!”

After scraping my ego off the floor, I traveled to a local dollar store. They were right. Sitting on the shelf, only a few blocks from my home and office, were boxes of Screaming Yellow Zonkers. As the man said in his song, “So close, but yet so far.”

My first thought was to get to work on another column notifying everyone that Screaming Yellow Zonkers are alive and well and sitting on the shelves of their local dollar store. Then I worried that there might be a run on the candy coated popcorn and held off.

I cleaned the shelves in one dollar store and bought half of the stock from another before I wrote this piece. I am now hoarding 42% of the Hattiesburg area’s Zonker supply.

Now that my home and office shelves are fully stocked with dozens of 8 oz. black boxes of Screaming Yellow Zonkers, and my stash is intact, I can admit that I have quickly become addicted to the butter-glazed snack, and am in the market for a twelve-step program to help me with my snack consumption problem.

During the week that all of the e-mails were pouring in I received a note from Allan Katz, a California man, who was the award-winning creator of the original box, ad campaign, posters, and marketing of Screaming Yellow Zonkers, the snack that The New Yorker magazine called one of its best bets. After leaving the boutique agency that did the Screaming Yellow Zonker work, Katz traveled to Hollywood and became a writer and producer on some of television’s best shows including Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, All in the Family, Cher, M*A*S*H, and Roseanne.

In addition to designing the humorous copy on the box of Screaming Yellow Zonkers, Katz led the crew that designed an elaborate circus poster that was available in 1970 to those who sent in $2.95.

Actually, 35 years ago I sent $2.95 to the manufacturers of Screaming Yellow Zonkers and the poster hung on my wall for a number of years. I was saddened to learn in the letter sent by Katz that one of the posters recently sold on EBay for $5,000.00. It seems that. I am either paying too much for popcorn, or not holding on to my collectibles as long as I should.

Nevertheless, I’ve got my Zonkers stored under lock and key and I plan to keep the dollar stores in business for the next few years.

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