January 8 is the birthday of Edwin Perkins, the pride of Hastings, Nebraska.
Even if you don’t know who Edwin Perkins is, you probably know about what he’s most known for: Edwin Perkins invented Kool-Aid.
Perkins actually invented, marketed and sold a lot of household products, everything from facial cream to a drink concentrate he called Fruit Smack.
That product was intended to save families money because they could add water and make a whole pitcher.
But Fruit Smack was sold in expensive and breakable glass bottles.
Perkins decided the solution to that problem was to do what Jell-O had done: turn his product into a powder.
In 1927, this powdered variant of Fruit Smack was sold as Kool Ade – note the spelling – with packets good for 10 glasses worth of drinks each selling for 10 cents.
Perkins dropped the price to a nickel during the Great Depression, and Kool-Aid took off; he eventually sold the company to Kraft in the 1950s.
That’s about when Kool Aid became a cultural force outside the kitchen, or at least its mascot did.
In 1954, Pitcher Man debuted.
Then, 20 years later, he was renamed Kool Aid Man and changed the world by becoming the first giant pitcher to break through solid walls even when doors were close by.
Sugary drinks raise a lot more eyebrows today than they did when I was growing up – Kool-Aid even emphasizes today that its flavoring comes unsweetened, so consumers can adjust the amount of sweetener themselves – but Hastings, Nebraska, the community where Kool-Aid was created, still takes a lot of pride in its part in the Kool-Aid saga.
It’s home to a multi-day festival known as Kool-Aid Days.
And it turns out the best time to have a big festival in honor of this drink? August.
Today is also the birthday of the King, Elvis Presley.
And with coronavirus vaccines now making their way into the world, it’s worth noting that in October 1956, Elvis volunteered to get a shot of the then-new polio vaccine – and to be photographed doing so – to encourage people to do the same.
It was just another way the King was taking care of business.
History of Kool-Aid (Kool-Aid Days)
When Elvis Helped to Conquer Polio (Politico)
Inflatable Kool-Aid Man photo by Traci Lawson via Flickr/Creative Commons