that option is still there for certain things, Airport, Bluetooth, date & a few other things but I do not recall there ever being one for Mail.
Having said that, there may have been a third party piece of software that could do the mail thing for you. Mail, if left running, will indicate the number of unread messages by displaying that number on the Mail icon in the dock.
Other than Mail, what are you missing from the Menu bar?
on my old G5 iMac I was able to add icons to the toolbar (the items on the top of the screen--date, airport etc. icons). i.e. mail (and it would alert me when I had a new msg) and calendar. Can't seem to find how to do it with my Intel 10.6.2 iMac. How do I do that? Thanks.