I don’t claim to be an expert on many things, but I do consider myself somewhat of a candy aficionado, particularly when it comes to chocolate. In the early days, before we were old enough to go to the store and get the family dessert on our own, my dad would come home with a candy bar for each of us. He would throw the loot on the couch (because the piano was already full) and we would get to select a Milky Way, Snickers Bar, Three Musketeers Bar, or Hershey Bar. He always brought chocolate and since then, I have always been a bit of a snob when it comes to candy. Once we were old enough to go with friends to the store to buy candy, I was often surprised by their ill-informed, non-chocolate selections (yes, perhaps I was a bit judgmental). Below are a few of their misguided choices.
Wax harmonicas. Play a little tune on the wax harmonica and when you get bored with that, chew on the flavored wax. Yum.
Wax bottles. These gems offered equal chewing pleasure, but before you chewed, you could down the putrid warm liquid inside the wax filled bottles that tasted like the liquid polio vaccines of the 60’s.
Candy necklaces. Fashionable. Functional. Edible. Kids would wear these necklaces and try to eat them at the same time, nearly chocking themselves while trying to get the chalky candy into their mouth.
Partridge Family Bubble Gum. While the boys were buying bubble gum with baseball cards, the girls were buying Partridge Family gum which came with a poster of one of the famed Partridges. Unfortunately, the coveted Keith Partridge poster seemed to only be in one out of every million packs, and after acquiring three posters of Laurie, one of fellow ginger, Danny, and one of that little brother who I’m sure never touched a real drum kit in his life, I gave up.
Red Hots. The kids who selected these candies at the store were the dare devils and the ones always challenging authority. By age 9 they were probably using heroin.
Lemon Heads. Same idea as above but these kids opted for Quaaludes (like some of the other candies on the list, Quaaludes too have been discontinued).
Black Jack Gum. So now you expect me to not only eat black licorice, but keep it in my mouth for hours on end?
Halvah. I don’t remember any kids actually buying this at the candy store, but my dad bought it and kept it in the house from time to time. This was the family’s candy equivalent of really bad cookies. This actually did last in time for dad to claim it, because we would sooner eat really bad cookies than halvah.
Marzipan. I have no words to explain this. I just never understood marzipan.
Jelly Fruit Slices. These only made an appearance in our house during Passover, when we broke out the “religious desserts” which included Manischewitz macaroons in a can and these sorry-ass mouth-puckering excuses for candy.
Milk Duds. Yes, they were duds. On your first bite, the candy became lodged in your lower molar and stayed there until your next visit to the dentist.
Jaw Breakers. For the kids who had too much spare time on their hands and were willing to dedicate the muscle and brawn necessary to crack these things.
Candy Cigarettes. The packaging for these was frighteningly realistic and you could buy them in chocolate or bubble gum flavor. The bubble gum ones had a sugar-based powder on them that enabled you to pretend you were blowing real smoke. Oy.
Pretzel Rods. This is what you ended up buying when you didn’t have enough money for real candy. The rods were in a large plastic container at the front counter and you could pick your own ,which often entailed touching every single one to find the right one, which was delightful, because inevitably, the kid who picked his own before you had also recently picked his nose.
To my dentist’s delight, I still eat chocolate just about every day (fortunately, I gave up the chocolate cigarettes decades ago). And every time I have a piece of chocolate, I’m reminded of the happy sound of the thunk of those candy bars hitting the couch and the wonderful memory of greeting my dad with a big hug upon his arrival home from work.