ECTO COOLER: THE PAST AWAKENS

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As a life-long fan of all things Ghostbusters, having a tasty beverage branded with an iconic character from the franchise only made the time following the release of the original two films all the more worthwhile.  It was during this time that the then-running Real Ghostbusters cartoon was retitled Slimer! And the Real Ghostbusters, ostensibly done to capitalize on the popularity of the green ghost who had gone from the team’s first capture in the 1984 classic to sidekick on The Real Ghostbusters and, to a lesser degree, the 1989 sequel Ghostbusters 2.

Hi-C, clearly having noticed this and armed with a desire to introduce a new flavor to the market, released a new variant of juice with Slimer on the front of every box called Ecto Cooler to the delight of young fans and widespread acclaim overall.  So popular was said drink, a tasty mixture of orange and tangerine, that it lasted well beyond the run of the television series (and its 1997 reboot Extreme Ghostbusters) into 2001 until fading into a Jell-O Pudding Pop-shaped abyss of nostalgia.  Sad, by true.

When the new millennium kicked into gear and the children of the Ecto Cooler era became adults, the pre-YouTube and social media landscape was instead occupied by scores of independently-run web sites, and with Generation Y bursting with memories of dormant fads, forgotten trends and obscure oddities of our youth, the internet quickly gave birth to a small subset of pages devoted to such things, most notably the now-defunct X-Entertainment.  It was on this site that a series of articles about Ecto Cooler appeared, some of the first to truly shed light on the drink-on X-Entertainment, site administrator Matt Caracappa used this opportunity to discuss everything, from the original commercial advertising Ecto Cooler & the flavors that may or may not have replaced it to a video in which he actually opened an ancient box of Ecto Cooler and took a drink, with predictable results.

Unfortunately, no amount of throwbacks online or ad-hoc recipes could do anything to bring Ecto Cooler back…that is, until the spring of 2016, when it was officially announced that the beloved juice would be returning to store shelves, largely to coincide with the release of the all-female Ghostbusters remake/reboot/sequel/prequel set to hit theaters in July.

The circumstances were irrelevant.  Ecto Cooler would, at long last, make its triumphant comeback.

Even if the drink ended up being available for a limited time only, to be able to literally taste a part of our childhood once more in the traditional box or a new snazzy color-changing can, was all we needed.  No longer would we casually drink our box of Ecto Cooler in our respective elementary school cafeterias-as kids, we simply consumed the flavored water and properly disposed of the box in the nearest, most convenient, trash receptacle.  Unquestionably, the epitome of taking something for granted.

The release date of May 30th, 2016, couldn’t have come sooner, especially as pre-release reports of Ecto Cooler sightings began to emanate from the East Coast.  It didn’t help that other online reviewers had already been shipped samples of the drink in collectible packaging a few weeks earlier, all of whom gave the product high marks and a wealth of ecstatic smiles.  The wait was awful.

Imagine my disappointment when, on the appointed day, I made my way to four locations in the Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin area, hoping to purchase a piece of my past, to no avail-Ecto Cooler was nowhere to be found.  Although it appeased me somewhat that many other people around the country appeared to be having no better luck than I, it didn’t do anything to put the drink on its special spot in my cupboard, now did it?  Furthermore, additional visits to other stores over the next few days continued to produce no results.  I’m not even going to mention the other places I checked out in the days leading up to Ecto Cooler’s second debut, although I suppose I just did.

Luckily, a simple, desperate email sent to roughly every brick-and-mortar Pick ‘n Save in existence elicited a corporate response that put my anxiety at ease-the elusive Ecto Cooler was poised to hit the local grocery chain as early as Friday, June 3rd.  Even though my frustration over the delay had been grazing peak levels by that point, the knowledge that a possible end to my quest was in sight gave me a small amount of relief.  I now felt the same way I did on May 29th-here we go again.  Would it actually be happening this time?

The answer is, thankfully, a resounding yes.  On the afternoon of Thursday, June 2nd, I hurried across Silvernail Road to a nearby Pick ‘n Save, having been tipped off by the store director that the drink was now on display near the front cash registers.  Following a few moments of nervousness at the thought of another wasted visit, I entered the store with a surge of adrenaline, rounded the corner…and immediately saw it.

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There it was, in all its beauty.  Childhood bliss, American-style.

I took in the sensation.  I can only imagine this is what travelling backwards through time literally felt like.  For the briefest of seconds, the Pick 'n Save on Silvernail Road seemed to take on the appearance of a grocery store in the early ‘90s.  I truly was a kid again.

However, I knew I couldn’t waste much time-surely, any minute now, a maniacal tribe of wild-eyed Ecto Cooler fanatics would storm the automatic doors and charge the display, taking every last box with a villainous cackle while I stood there in stunned disbelief. 

That would not happen today, not on my watch.  Mark my words.  Also, I don’t have a watch.

I grabbed three packs, tried not to make it look like I was clearly sprinting to the checkout, and after what felt like an eternity was out the door, clutching my purchases as if they were a newborn child.  I then immediately headed over to work, where I quickly made a dash to the office’s refrigerator, carefully placing the items inside so they could reach the requisite level of chill before consumption.  Again, an agonizing wait set in.

Before long, and with I now having seemingly aged twenty years in a week, I couldn’t contain my patience any further.  I opened a pack, snatched a box, inserted the affixed bendable straw and took my first sip since I was but a lad.

 Heaven. 

Heaven. 

The figurative time travel I had undergone earlier now accelerated to speeds previously unfathomable by yours truly, as Hi-C has done an outstanding job re-creating the drink.  From the old school logo, to the green hue of the beverage, to that taste, indistinguishable from the Ecto Cooler of yore, everything about this re-issue is pitch perfect and chock full of 21 grams of sugary wonder.

I sat, enjoying my box of ectoplasmic love, reminiscing of the days when a box of Ecto Cooler was the perfect companion in my lunch bag and something to look forward to when it came to eating lunch in the Pleasant Hill Elementary cafeteria.  I thought back to a simpler time, when my afternoon revolved around The Real Ghostbusters and the world was only as big as my hometown.  I remembered what it all felt like, and it was beautiful.

I finished the drink, knowing more liquid treasure awaited and that, thanks to the mysterious circle of life, I’d now be able to share this delicious memory with my own children.  But I didn’t throw the box away.

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I know better now.