Hey Little Girl–Ya Want Some Candy? by Deb Jenny

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?

12 Replies to “Hey Little Girl–Ya Want Some Candy? by Deb Jenny”

  1. Thanks for the memories Deb Jenny! Although, in retrospect, I recall how those wax candy lips always fell apart in the funniest ways … but the Clark bars and Peppermint Patties and Neco
    wafers – pure gold. I have to admit that, living outside of North America, I’m always a bit nostalgic for the huge candy displays at this time of year, especially the one with those guilt-free bite-sized chocolate bars. I’m off now, for a dip into a box of French chocolate …. Therese

  2. Jenny, this was hysterical. I read it with a giant smile on my face…what a great MEMORY you have! The candy I hated was Smarties, but by Thanksgiving that would be all that I’d have left, dusty and linty at the bottom of my schoolbag, and I’d eat it sullenly on the bus, one teeny chalky pellet after another.

    Those awful orange things: circus peanuts. Worst. Candy. Ever.

  3. Ah, Jess, I succeeded in duping you! My memory is ghastly, but Google is a great thing…I just typed in nostalgic candy, which took me on a little trip down memory lane 😉 .

  4. I used to love those long Koo Koo taffy ribbons and Fun Dip (the stick was the best part). My mom used to love those chocolate covered marshmallow ‘brooms’ that you could get at the counter at the convenience store. I hated them but ate them anyway when I was told it was a broom or nothing. And caramels, gotta love caramels.

    That’s it, I’m going for a sugar fix!

  5. This is a wonderful walk down candy lane. The memory of splaying the candy across the floor and comparing the loot and deciding who got the best take made me laugh out loud. We DID all go to the same houses. What WERE we comparing?? Thanks for sharing!!!

  6. Oh My Gawd Jenny I laughed so hard I pee’d my spandex panties. Just so you know I’m sitting here chucking down black licorice. Not your average Twizzler type but this hefty Aussie stuff that makes all my stomach woes vanish. Yum Of course I look like the chick on Pirates of the Carribian –you know, the sea goddess chick withe the black ooze coming out of her teeth?

    Which reminds me we had an ice cream parlor back in my day and Mr. Van Decker (no kidding) would order in licorice ice cream for me. Black as midnight. So you can see that Good & Plenty and other various forms of black licorice have been with me for a very long time.

    But Every Saturday I would take my “fiddy cent” allowance to the Town and Country Market and indulge that sweet tooth to my hearts content, because back then fifty cents bought you king sized Three Musketeers, sugar babies, Hot Shots, well… enough to fill a brown paper lunch sack and keep the buzz going at least for the rest of the day.

    And my dentist was definitely the dude from Little Shop of Horrors, but somehow I never made the connection between a sack of candy, a six-pack of cola in little bottles, and my frequent visits to his chair. I mean, the dude gave out lollipops. Oh and back in our day all those healthy cereals had different names, remember? Sugar Smacks, Sugar Frosted Flakes–none of this Honey Smacks stuff. If didn’t have Sugar in the title we dumped on a ladle of the white stuff ourselves. Hmm Now that I think of it all it was a short trip from our sugar daze to the acid trips of the seventies. Cuz like.. WHERE’s THE BUZZ? Is there a rehab for sugarholics? Fortunately for me I went straight into caffeine with a side of chocolate and ….licorice of course. I’ve given up everything else. Well–until Halloween hits. Jenny, you are a goddess.

  7. Hello all! I apologize for not having replied yesterday–I was out the entire day till late and then never got to all of my emails! Thanks for your great posts and I’m glad there are some fellow candy fiends out there who relish those innocent days where all we had to worry about was what candy we didn’t want to eat 😉
    (and Suz, glad your teeth are faring better these days!)

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