American culture has hit Down Under in a big way. Aussie kids think most movies, food, and games from the United States are pretty cool. Fox-TV's "The Simpsons" especially is a huge hit with kids here (and with a lot of adults, too). US influence is growing: Twenty years ago, Australian families often ate at a hamburger joint called Hungry Jack's (part of Burger King). Hungry Jack's is still popular, but now there seems to be a McDonald's on every city street corner. Children here can get the same Happy Meal toys as their American counterparts. US candy bars that were once hard to find here - Hershey bars, Baby Ruths, Butterfingers - are much more common today.
But not everything that's popular with children here originated in America. And Australia can claim at least one big contribution to America's kid culture.
'Bananas in Pajamas' TV show
Those adorable pajama-clad bananas, B1 and B2, are among Australia's most successful exports. The Australian TV show is shown in more than 40 countries, including the United States. Its global audience is estimated at more than 100 million viewers.
The show was inspired by a nursery rhyme written in 1972 by Carey Blyton, the nephew of a well-known English children's author, Enid Blyton. The rhyme was sung on "Playschool," an Australian kids' TV program, and became a big hit. Twenty years later, the bananas were given names, personalities, and their own TV show on ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, that is). Today, anything with B1 and B2 on it - even tubes of toothpaste - is considered pretty cool.
Australian Rules Football
It's nearing the end of summer here, and Aussie kids are getting ready to play and watch a game unique to Australia. Some collect trading cards of their favorite "footy" players, just as baseball cards are collected in the US. Aussie Rules Football is faster than American football, which is called "gridiron" here. The players kick and "handball" (a kind of lateral pass) a rounded football up and down an oval-shaped field to score goals. Fans bundle up against the winter cold in beanies, scarves, jumpers (sweaters), and thick socks in their favorite team's colors. They may also paint their faces the way American sports fans do. The players have nicknames like Captain Blood, Louie the Lip, and The Big Dipper. They are proud of the fact that although there's lots of physical contact in the game, players don't wear pads - only shorts, shoes, and a jersey.
Spectators at games eat such "tucker" as meat pies with "sauce" (ketchup). They may wash down the pie with a can of lemonade - carbonated lemon-flavored soda, that is. What Americans call lemonade is "lemon juice" here.
Dandy Aussie candy
Colorful, shiny Smarties (they look and taste like slightly bigger M&Ms) have long been snapped up by kids and adults here. But M&Ms are increasingly popular. Kool Mints (almost indistinguishable from Mentos) are ideal for throwing at the screen when you're in the back row of the movies. (We do not encourage this!)
* 'Kid Stuff in Japan' ran Oct. 21, 1997, P. 16.
Update: When Was the First PB&J?
We've gotten some replies to our question about when peanut butter first met jelly. (See "How a PB&J Came to Be," March 3 Monitor) We know that the United States Army popularized this sandwich by feeding it to soldiers in World War II. Now readers tell us they ate PB&Js in Huntington Park, Calif., in 1926, and in Fowler, Ind., in 1928, where toasted PB&Js were popular at the local after-school hangout. Please tell us if you can verify even earlier dates or places! Write: TCSM, Home Forum, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org