A big birthday celebration is coming up for Nabisco Shredded Wheat and the city that made it famous, Niagara Falls. They both turn 100 this year.
The city and those familiar pillows of toasted wheat grew up together. Niagara Falls was the big draw, but 100,000 people a year toured the wonderful old Shredded Wheat plant with its jaunty pennants flying on Buffalo Avenue. Nabisco touted it as the world's cleanest food factory. Niagara Falls and Shredded Wheat were so linked that for years a drawing of the falls graced the cereal box containing one of America's favorite breakfast foods.
And that's why it hurts Niagara Falls boosters to see the new Shredded Wheat box celebrating the 100th birthday.
The falls are gone.
The porthole-shaped drawing of the falls that is on a top flap on the original box is left off the new version. The phrase "The original NIAGARA FALLS cereal," admittedly shrinking in size over the years, is also missing. Poosh. Vanished. Like a barrel going over the you-know-what.
Nabisco says there was just no room for the falls on the box. The space was needed, Nabisco says, to tell consumers how they can win $100 cash certificates in Shredded Wheat's $1 million giveaway to celebrate its 100th birthday.
Nothing personal. It has nothing to do with Love Canal or recurring government investigations by the FBI or tourists who can't find their way to the falls for a lack of road signs.
It's just space. Niagara Falls, where Shredded Wheat is still made to this day, just didn't fit, says a company spokeswoman.
That doesn't make sense to Charles P. Steiner, president of the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
"I don't know their problems with space," said Steiner, "but with Niagara Falls a worldwide recognized name, you'd think they'd find room on the box."
It was 100 years ago that Henry D. Purkey and William Harry Ford baked their first shredded wheat on a machine they built in Watertown.
After the falls were harnessed for electric power, Purkey built his Shredded Wheat plant there, with such niceties as marble shower rooms for his workers, and threw open its doors to the public.
Purkey's handsome building was razed in 1977, but Nabisco's more utilitarian plant on Rainbow Boulevard and another Nabisco plant in Naperville, Ill., are the only places where Shredded Wheat is still made.
Nabisco says it hasn't forgotten Niagara Falls. The giant food company advises those in the Falls to have patience, because Nabisco will make it all up in May.
Another commemorative cereal box will come out then, with an antique postcard from the Niagara Falls plant on the back and a side panel explaining the cereal's link with the city.
"The original Niagara Falls cereal," the panel reads. "Ever wonder why we call it that? It's because Niagara Falls is the home of the original Nabisco Shredded Wheat factory. . . . "
"Today we still make Nabisco Shredded Wheat in Niagara Falls," the explanation continues, "and we'll probably keep making it there as long as people keep wanting the wholesome goodness of America's favorite breakfast biscuit."
Ann Smith, a Nabisco spokeswoman, said the company plans to have a 100th-anniversary party in June and invite the entire city to breakfast.
And what's on the menu?
"We were thinking of Shredded Wheat."