Juice of my youth/Photo: David Hammond

Picking up some up some wiring and switches at Schauer Hardware (7449 Madison, Forest Park), I was delighted to see an impulse purchase display, right by the register, featuring a range of sodas, some new, but some old-timey. In amongst the many familiar and unfamiliar labels was Kickapoo Joy Juice.

The name “Kickapoo Joy Juice” was a creation of Al Capp, the cartoonist of Lil’ Abner. In his comic strip, the beverage, presented as a kind of moonshine, was prepared by Hairless Joe and Lonesome Polecat, two of Abner’s fellow hillbillies.

When I was a kid – before I became a hippy and Al Capp became the embodiment of far Right intolerance – Kickapoo Joy Juice was my beverage of choice. I believe part of the reason for my affection for it was that it was pretend-alcohol; it was forbidden and thus attractive.

I believe this beverage appealed to me because it was transgressive, and such forbidden candy appeals to all kids, a phenomenon I wrote about in Newcity in an article entitled: “Taste of Transgression: Breaking Rules at the Sweets and Snacks Show”:

The first snack booth I visited offered shredded jerky in circular cans, simulating chewing tobacco. This treat was like the candy cigarettes we had as kids, and which are now rarely available. That they encourage unhealthy behavior seems likely, and their forbidden status is what attracted me as a kid, and may perhaps have contributed to several college years of smoking a pack a day of Lucky Strike. At the show, there was a non-boozy beverage that came in Duff beer cans, Homer’s preferred brew, so that kids can practice becoming problem drinkers and dumb dads even before they’re of drinking age. Of course, there are candies that transgress beyond beef “chew,” sugar cigarettes and pretend beer. Toxic Waste Sour Smog Balls, for instance, obviously don’t contain poison, but it’s fun to make-believe they do, to pretend to take a risk. [http://resto.newcity.com/2015/06/15/taste-of-transgression-breaking-rules-at-the-sweets-and-snacks-show-and-dylans-candy-bar/#sthash.Vpo1gNgv.dpuf]

Kids sometimes like to consume things that go beyond the realms of the normal, just because it’s fun…and maybe a little naughty.

As a beverage, Kickapoo Joy Juice compares with Mountain Dew, its traditional competitor and, as far as I can tell, the first to market. Like Mountain Dew, Kickapoo Joy Juice gets some of its kick from caffeine and a whole lot of sugar. It seems, though, that Kickapoo Joy Juice may have a touch more carbonation, which tends to “awaken” the drinker. 

I’m not endorsing Kickapoo Joy Juice, but I can say this: it was a blast from my past, and if you like sampling some of the sodas that may have fueled your youth (especially if you’re over 50), check out the rack of soda options at Schauer Hardware.

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David Hammond

David Hammond, a corporate communications consultant and food journalist living in Oak Park, Illinois, is a founder and moderator of LTHForum.com, the 8,500 member Chicago-based culinary chat site. David...