In June 1927, the Shredded Wheat Company of Niagara Falls, New York, conducted a nationwide essay contest that resulted in 20 grammar school students and their teacher being invited on an expense-paid railroad trip to visit their plant and take in all of the dazzling sights of the falls.
An estimated 200,000 school children submitted essays in the competition; winners were chosen based on their cleverness, originality and knowledge of the subject. Needless to say, the object of all this was advertising, believing that the most important feature of their ad campaign was the education of children to the food value of whole wheat and Shredded Wheat.
One student selected was George Cox. Although his address was listed as Morristown, Tennessee, he was shown as attending school in Johnson City, residing at the home of Mrs. W.N. Clamon. His teacher was John McCullough of 405 E. Maple Street in the city. Unfortunately, the school was not identified.
A Niagara Falls news release revealed that while a multitude of organizations visited the falls that year none drew more attention than the public school students and their proud teachers.
The entourage, wearing white badges bearing the words, “Guest of The Shredded Wheat Company,” arrived at Niagara Falls on July 14 for a 2-day stay. They were promptly escorted to The Niagara Hotel where the choicest rooms reserved for them overlooked the swift flowing rapids of the Niagara River.
The youngsters were thrilled at the sights of the American and Canadian cataracts. One reporter captured some of the words expressing their excitement: “Gee whiz.” “Ain’t it wonderful, Bill?” “Hully gee.” “I’d hate to ride over the Falls in a boat, wouldn’t you?” “Certainly beats the old swimmin’ hole, doesn’t it?”
After breakfast, the children and their teachers were taken through the plant of the Niagara Falls PowerCompany where they learned how the falls had been harnessed and electric current sent to nearby cities.
At 12:30 p.m., the officers and executives of the company gave a luncheon for their special guests in the company’s private dining room where they were greeted. The president of the company and the director of publicity made short speeches of welcome.
Following the luncheon was a trip through “The Home of Shredded Wheat” where the students witnessed their favorite cereal being made. At 3:00 p.m., an excursion was made to the American Falls. After enjoying a nice dinner at the hotel in the evening, the visitors were escorted across the International Bridge to see the colorful illumination of the falls at night. Afterward, the fatigued group returned to the hotel for a night’s rest.
The program on the following day included a trip around Goat Island, a visit to Luna Island and Three Sisters Island for a view of the stunning Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. For lunch, they dined at the Clifton Hotel, followed by a ride down the Great Gorge Railway to Lewiston and their return home.
Shredded Wheat was my favorite cereal in my younger days. Brands of cereals were limited then to a few selections on store shelves. There were no bite size or frosted biscuits available then. My standard breakfast fare consisted of two large size biscuits that I crushed with my hands, sprinkled with sugar, covered with cold milk and consumed.
The product was once advertised as “A Warm Nourishing Meal for a Cold Day – Shredded Wheat with Hot Milk and a Little Cream … 100 percent whole wheat and so thoroughly cooked that every particle of each crisp, tasty flavory baked wheat is digested.” I do not recall ever eating it hot.
The company was in operation from 1904 until 1928 when it became Nabisco (National Biscuit Company) in late 1928.