When I was little, I was mistress to the high-fructose world of candy. Wax lips, candy cigarettes, Junior Mints, Bit O’ Honey, Sugar Daddies, Baby Ruths…my list of favorite candies was endless. The high point of many of my early elementary school days was stopping at the candy store—either the one behind the school, across a very busy street (who let us do these crazy things like cross busy roads alone back then?!), or the one down the street from my house. Again I had to negotiate lots of traffic to reach my vaunted destination. But once there, it was all worth the death-defying car-/truck-/bus-dodging it took to get there.
Candy came cheap back then. Mere pennies, nickels, or—on the rare occasion—quarters, would allow us kids to stock up on Bazooka gum (the one with the really corny comics, usually involving Bazooka Joe dreaming he ate a giant marshmallow only to wake and discover his pillow missing), Tootsie Rolls, Red Hots, candy necklaces, Fruit Striped Gum, Atomic Fireballs, Mary Janes, Lemonheads, Good ‘n Plenties, Smarties, Wax Bottles, Milk Duds, bubble gum cigarettes, candy buttons, Smith Brothers chewy cherry cough drops (who needed a cough to inhale those things by the boxful?), Clark Bars, Peppermint Patty, BB Bats (I don’t even remember what they were but I know I ate them all the time), Sweetarts, and jawbreakers. The only candy I really could not have cared less about was chocolate.
Of course I had to balance out all that junk with a little health food. For nutrition? Indian Brand Pumpkin Seeds–surely you remember those things, the ones coated with a whitewash of so much salt it’s a wonder I didn’t shrivel up and die on the spot from dehydration when I plowed through a package of the things.
Candy, sweet candy. Evocateur of many fond childhood recollections. Like when my beloved grandmother took me on a tour of the Mallo Cup factory, one of the highlights of my young world. Swimming in marshmallowy nougaty heaven, I was, at this candy haven, Boyer Candies, in the heart of Altoona, Pennsylvania. I bought so many Mallo Cups that day that ultimately I couldn’t tolerate another one for the rest of my life.
Halloween—the ultimate day for candy greed—was always an adventure, since we were allowed to wander unfettered through the mean streets of my city neighborhood in search of the holy grail. This was before the days of razor blades in apples, child abductions, all of those nefarious destroyers of happy childhood memories. My brothers and I would lug pillow cases overflowing with our loot by night’s end, at which point we’d come home, splay our stash across the living room rug, compare and contrast and brag about who got the best take (even though we went to the same houses and all had essentially the same candies). At that point it was all about the candy gloat.
Now, Halloween treats fell into two categories: the winners and the duds. Some of the all-time most failed Halloween candies? Boston Baked Beans, Necco Wafers, Dots, Beeman’s Gum, Chuckles, Sno Caps, Raisinettes, Teaberry gum, anything root beer-flavored (or licorice, for that matter), and those nasty orange styrofoam-like “peanuts” (what are those things, anyhow?). Worse still? Pencils. Pencils! What self-respecting kid wants pencils in his trick-or-treat bag?
A neighbor of mine—a dentist—gives out toothbrushes for Halloween. As a mother, I applaud him for his good judgment; as a child of the 60’s/70’s, I am tempted to pelt his house with eggs on behalf of candy-grubbing children everywhere.
Most any candy made by Brachs was an instant throw-away in our house. Well, actually more like that was what we immediately set aside to donate to the home for Crippled Children. That’s actually what it was called back then, The Home for Crippled Children. Every Halloween night, immediately following our post-collection euphoria (damn near post-coital in its orgasmic glory), our parents forced us to pony up most of our spoils to donate to children who didn’t have the luxury of collecting not only Halloween candy, but Halloween memories as well. At the time, we felt so betrayed by this mandate. In retrospect, it was the best thing they could have done. Aside from the wise de-sugaring of four small children and sparing my mom weeks of hyperactivity, and our young teeth Lord knows how many cavities (my dad was an orthodontist—these things mattered to him!), it was a lovely gesture to kids who probably really appreciated the kindness.
My candy gluttony days soon drew to a close. The candy gene was sucked right out of me one Easter Sunday, when I was in second grade. That day–I can see it like it was yesterday–I sat on the radiator looking out from my purple-infused bedroom onto the streets below while I gorged on chocolate eggs, electric pink and blue marshmallow chicks, a chocolate bunny, and jellybeans galore. When the bellyache kicked in, that once heavenly stash of Easter bunny goodness had morphed into an impenetrable and undigestable glob of muck just frozen in my stomach, a sugar-coated tumor. I threw up more candy that day than I’d thrown up anything in my entire life. And from then on, my Easter basket came with nothing but a new Barbie each year, and I was perfectly happy to never eat a piece of Easter candy ever again.
And now, the only candy left I can muster any interest in? Chocolate. The honest-to-goodness real-life European chocolates, my absolute favorite. But for day-to-day, feed-the-muse variety, I settle on Peanut M&Ms, a cursed addiction I’ve tried to break to no avail. Though I haven’t tried the gorge-till-you-drop method.
Back in the old days candy was nothing but good in a kids’ eyes. For this grown-up? Empty calories, and rarely worth the guilty pleasure. And I can honestly say, I have not been tempted even once to pop a jellybean in my mouth. Not in nearly forty years.
Okay, now it’s your turn–what’s YOUR favorite childhood candy?