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Things Are Going To Be OK

Over the past decade, nostalgia has become a big market. Children of the eighties and nineties looking back and latching onto, reclaiming the toys, movies, styles of their youth and adolescence. In more recent years the word has finally gotten around to the food market. And they are finally beginning to listen.

            Online campaigning has brought back the likes of 90’s greats such as Surge, French Toast Crunch, and Crispy M&Ms. All great news. However, living near the cities in Minnesota all my life, I am forever chasing one particular sensation of my youth. And I fear I forever will.

            The summer of 1993 was a special one, I had officially reached double digits, for one thing, and was now allowed to bike the busy street to the corner store with my pals. On one such adventure, there was something new. In the back of the store, the cooler section, a new bottle. It wasn’t eye catching in a super fun, “Hey kids!” kind of way. It was actually rather boring. Silvery grey with black, white, and red writing and characters. Printed in black, on a white rectangle, bordered in red, “OK.”

            We all bought one.

            The liquid inside was an opaque rust color.  It smelled of fruit. It tasted amazing. A citric fruitiness with a cola background. We would actually all debate the flavoring of the drink. The final verdict, which would become lore in our neighborhood, was that the Coca-Cola company combines all of the vats of each of their sodas to create this, OK, the super soda. This would be my new drink.

            Soon after we would discover the phone number.

            Phone number, you ask? Yes. On each bottle was printed the phone number. It was toll free. 1-800-IFEELOK.

            On a daily basis we would ride our bikes to the corner store, buy our OK, and call from the payphone for our daily affirmation. The benign announcer style voice would say things like,

            “We’re sorry, but your inability to press the correct number suggests a lack of OK-ness. To address this OK-ness deficit, we’re transferring you to some lovely music now,”


           “Thanks for being such a devoted caller of the OK hotline. Please listen closely to this OK coincidence selected especially for you. Kevin B. of Portland Oregon called our toll free number sixty three different times in two days. At the end of this period, he began to hear our recording in his phone ear even when he was not calling. Also, he found he could not remember simple things like how to drink milk, or whether his shoes went on before his socks, or vice versa. He lost a lot of weight, and got kinda confused. This is a complete coincidence. Please call again as often as your busy schedule permits.”

            Being us kids, and being it summer, our schedule permitted a lot. We called the number incessantly. They eventually began to require punching in a code found on the individual bottles. This dropped our calls drastically.

            That summer, we drank OK soda like it was going out of style. Unbeknownst to us, it was. If it was ever even in style.

            The drink did not last long. It left the shelves. With no internet, we didn’t even have the foresight to stock up.

            For the next few years we would always conduct experiments with the fountain at that same corner store. Trying our best to recreate what we once had. We were always supportive of each other’s attempts, but it was never quite the same.

(so close..so far)

            Some of you may be wondering about this soda. While others may know well. For those of you who think I’m nuts and have made this whole thing up, I will explain.

            I would not learn until much much later that OK soda was part of a test market. Living near Minneapolis/St. Paul, I was fortunate enough to take part in the experiment. When I first learned this, I thought, “I-we loved the stuff, how could it have failed?!” Then I realized, I was ten. I loved the stuff. The campaign worked on me. Unfortunately, it was meant to attract the rebellious teenage demographic. Looks like the target market saw right through it, and the younger market latched on to what they thought was cool and different. They missed the mark.

            So, with the resurgence of a number of classic products from the 90’s, why am I so sure that this, what has actually become somewhat of a cult hit, is not going to be as fortunate? Two reasons.

            One, we already covered. This product failed at the test marketing phase. This means that only about twenty areas in all of the U.S. even got to taste it. Following the Surge movement, I have a hard time believing that twenty small markets could create the proper buzz to convince the company that it needs to bring back something that failed so quickly back in 1993.

            And the second reason. Each of the aforementioned products still existed up until their re-introduction. Surge was still produced as Urge in Norway, French Toast Crunch sold under the same name in Canada, and Crispy M&Ms still available in the UK all of these years. It was simply a matter of making the decision and repackaging them for U.S. sales. Honestly, it was not that big of a leap to make.

            So, there you have it, folks. The soda that barely ever was, and likely never will be again. Save for the times that we who remember, take a moment at the fountain, and do our best to recreate the magic. I still do.

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shakin steak Posted on Feb 27, 2015 at 03:45 PM

I think I saw this. I was never into soda so I wouldn't have drank it. Or maybe I just recognize Dan Clowes' art. (Either way it's perfect for what they were trying to do.)

I remember a different weird prerecorded phone message campaign from around the same time that my friend and I called incessantly, but we never bought the product. A video game called Alfred Chicken.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Feb 16, 2015 at 04:16 PM

I love the interactive nature of their marketing campaign with the whole phone message gimmick. It would be interesting to know if the OK formula ever got re-purposed for another soda in a foreign country or something.

OldSchool80s Posted on Feb 16, 2015 at 02:34 PM

Never even heard of OK soda before and I am even from the state right next door in Wisconsin. Seems to have made quite an impression on you, though. Love how certain things from our youth can have that kind of long-term impact.

ThatDudeintheHoodie Posted on Feb 13, 2015 at 12:30 AM

So it was an OK soda?

jkatz Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 10:15 PM

Yeah, I was talking about original Pibb.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 10:00 PM

When did Mr. Pibb go extinct? It was still in my area up until recently (I hadn't checked lately). Unless you mean the old formula. In 2001 the cinnamon formula became Pibb Xtra.

echidna64 Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 09:50 PM

Funny thing is, with all the hipsters nowadays, this probably would be a big seller.

pikachulover Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 09:32 PM

Thanks fuschnikt!

I really hope they bring back the kiwi flavor.

jkatz Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 09:09 PM

This reminds me of Mr. Pibb, another long gone, sadly missed soda.
Fortunately somebody ha he foresight to horde a few cans back in the day,and now it can be yours for the low, low price of $25 per can!

fuschnikt Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 08:33 PM

@vapor- Man, I could go for some Oreo cereal myself. So many cereals on my list of products I would welcome back. S'mores cereal, anyone? The real stuff. The stuff made with golden graham pieces. Not that sad excuse from the 00's. Pop Tart's cereal? Ninja Turtles? Turtle pies, for that matter..This could go on for hours.

@pikachulover- How close are you to the border? Canada has one existing Fruitopia flavor..Strawberry Passion Awareness. If I remember correctly, it was a good one. You can even order it here.. http://www.sodafinder.com/products/fruitopia-strawberry-passion-awareness

pikachulover Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 05:03 PM

Ok soda to my knowledge never came to my area. What did it taste like? I'm still holding old for Fruitopia to come back.

Vaporman87 Posted on Feb 12, 2015 at 04:56 PM

Mmmm... your description of OK makes me thirsty for some myself (if I was still allowing myself to drink soda, that is).

This is a story I have lived through many times over. Some days I feel cursed that any food or drink product I enjoy will quickly disappear as soon as I proclaim it "good". The list is quite long... Oreo Cereal, Sugar Free Oreos, Snackwells mini chocolate chip cookies, Swordfish (though it's made a comeback everywhere now - FINALLY), etc.

So you're certainly not alone in your affinity for things to consume that disappeared. Who knows... maybe one day everything WILL be "OK" again. :)

P.S. Congrats on being the first to utilize the new "Color" background option. It looks great in white.

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