VINTAGE CANDY

Recognize any of these?

Nerds.

Espeez Gold Mine.

Pixy Stix and Chicken Bones.

Sweet Tarts and Pep Chews.

Thrills.

Recognize any of these?

Were these the visions of sugar plums that danced in your childhood head?

If so, you probably have mercury amalgam fillings dancing in your adult head today. 

Candy – the gold of childhood! But not candy that adults would eat. No, far from it.

Photo of Olde Tyme Candy Shoppe from Travel Alberta

Penny candy. Basically corn syrup, food grade gypsum and food colouring … lots and lots of food colouring. This type of candy is sharply distinguished from the candies adults favoured. No pristine, little scotch mints, no dour ivory and tan humbugs, no fine Belgian dark chocolate for our childhood selves. No enrobed almonds, nor peanut brittle, either. We favoured novelty! Candy with curbside appeal. Candy with an added attraction. Candy with a backstory.  Garish wrappers, crazy names, gimcrack presentation – that’s what caught our eye. Remember Thrills gum? Did you know that Thrills were a Canadian creation? Those ten purple chiclets in a yellow and purple box were an acquired taste. I bet you’re remembering the taste right now. It tasted just like soap, didn’t it? Not only was this not accidental, but pick up a package of Thrills gum today and you’ll see that it boasts, “It still tastes like soap!’ It’s inexplicable, really. 

“It still tastes like soap!”

How about popping candy? What makes popping candy pop are bubbles of carbon dioxide that are released when saliva melts the sugar enclosing those bubbles. I bought some Pop Rocks a while back to reacquaint myself and, I have to say, I really enjoyed them! They really do fizz and pop exactly as advertised. Think of it as dinner and a show!  What kid wouldn’t love that?!

Pop Rocks Candy photo by Opie’s Candy Store

Yes, clove Lifesavers couldn’t hold a candle to the delights of the penny candy bins. If you wished to part our childhood selves from our weekly allowance, best bring on the creative.  Truffles were mere trifles to us. 

Truffles were mere trifles to us.

Penny candy was conceived and manufactured to appeal to a child’s sense of wonder.  It was candy with the allure of fine gems and with the novelty of Fabergé eggs; candy with something extra. We coveted it for reasons that had nothing to do with flavour or texture. Gold Mine Nugget Bubble Gum came in a wee cotton sack with a yellow drawstring. The little pieces of gum were shaped and coloured to look like nuggets and they tasted like styrofoam pellets. I’d wager that real gold might have actually tasted better. But what did it matter? The sack alone was treat enough. Remember Ring Pops, those multi-faceted sugar knuckle dusters?  Ruby, sapphire or amethyst – they all tasted the same, but still, you’d deliberate over your colourful selection as if choosing a cocktail ring. And what about candy necklaces? The starchy pastel beads of sugar strung on a length of elastic never went out of style on the playground. But I never understood those enormous jawbreaker candies. Too big for your mouth, they rivaled golf balls in size and probably in the flavour department, too. The boys loved ‘em. They were status symbols; to see them was to want them.

The boys loved ’em!

Gold Mine Bubble Gum by OldTimeCandy

No matter your choice, all penny candy tasted equally terrible but, again, what did that matter? They were calorie-ridden enchantments and they catered to our childish sense of adventure.

Penny candy was also a good way to introduce math concepts. The expenditure of your few nickels and dimes had to be well thought out. If you got a box of Hot Tamales, a Cherry Blossom and some gummy worms from the bins, you might end up with some coins left over.

What to do?

It might be months before you were back in Candy Land.

The solution was the cheapest thing on offer and came in a boring wax paper sleeve: Hot Fire Pix. Don’t recognize the name? They were toothpicks, cinnamon toothpicks. They weren’t hot and they only faintly, and briefly, tasted of cinnamon. In fact, they tasted like sawdust … but at least they didn’t boast about it.

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This week’s question for readers:

WHAT SATISFIED YOUR CHILDHOOD SWEET TOOTH?


Responses to last week’s question:

DO YOU WANT TO LIVE TO 100 AND BEYOND?

I choose not to ponder this question for myself—there are too many unforeseeables that could change my answer.  But I’m certainly rooting for my bright 97 year-old, former eighth grade school teacher to make it. Every year he phones me (as well as my husband) to wish us happy birthday on the appropriate days. He probably does the same with others he taught many years ago in Penticton High School.  As we wade into our dangerous eighth decade there’s something very reassuring about having your grade eight school teacher phone you to wish you a Happy Birthday. Everyone needs a buffer between themselves and the great “hereafter”—an elder to validate your history, to  remember the house you lived in (in this case across the lane from his and his wife’s), to remember your parents, and even your dog.  I’ll never feel old as long as I have Mr. Crittenden in my life and the ability to reminisce.

June Macdonald

I work for a plumbing company. Back in 2017, our company was working at a seniors hospital in Abbotsford B.C.. One day, myself and two workmates met a fellow who was residing there. He was 106 years old and had to use his fingers to pull up his eyelids. He said to us, ” whatever you do in your life, don’t get as old as me.” He was an interesting fellow, one of the more active people there.

Matthew Jordan

Yes, I’d like to live to 100 or more, but I sure as heck don’t want to merely exist to that age. If I stop living a life that gives me pleasure and stimulation, then I would hope to make an exit via MAID.

Lorna Blake

This past spring many graduates of our high school Class ’60 started a chat group on Facebook.  Everyone bragged that, after 60 years, they were still strong and groovy just like back then. They all said they will live long. When I told them I intend to live to at least 104, it intrigued them. Oh, me too, each one replied.  Now they all sign off their message with a code: C’60 104.  When one celebrated his 78th birthday last week, I said, “You have only 26 years to go.”  Realizing life is short, I continued, “Live your life to the fullest, bud.  Carpe diem.”  

John Marasigan

I live by the credo that it is better to plan on living to be a 100 and dying tomorrow, than planning on dying tomorrow and living to be a 100. 

Mel Fast

My husband kept a running countdown on an app on his phone until he retired in June 2017. After that, he started keeping a countdown until his 100th birthday in February 2058. I hope he makes it!  I’ll be 98!

Chris Walton

20 thoughts on “VINTAGE CANDY”

  1. Licorice babies (they weren’t called that in the early 60’s)-3 for a penny. Jaw breakers-small 2 for a penny or the large ones that barely fit in your mouth were 1 for a penny. Candy cigarettes- pack of 10 for a nickel. Chocolate chunks, 1.5 inch wide x 3/8inch thick, 3 to a pack-a nickel. There were lots of other sweets for similar prices but these were my favourites when I spent any money to spend on sweets.

  2. For me it has always been
    Smarties. And not the American ones, but the tasty candy coated chocolate ones. Ever since my older brother handed me one I have been in love. The other candy I used to love was those tiny ‘Soap Candies’ you could get at the Bon Marche in Seattle. They were tiny hard ju jubes. But my adult self doesn’t want any broken teeth so I will stick with Smarties forever!

  3. Enjoyed today’s column. [And so appreciated June Macdonald’s response to your column around age 100 and beyond.]
    The thrill for me around 1960s penny candy was my solo purchasing power as I surveyed the abundant choices in front of me. A begged dime or quarter (such riches!) bought a fistful of sugar. They were well-displayed in individual boxes and so fragrant. To your well-documented list, I’ll add licorice pipes with red sprinkled tips! Such illicit joy in them at age 10.

  4. Maybe I’m just a little too old to remember all the packaged candy, perhaps that came later. I vividly do remember going to the candy counter (yes, there was one) at the local store and surveying the 8 ft glass display case of “penny candy”. Oh, the riches! In those days (I was 8 then) we didn’t get an allowance as such but would sometimes be gifted with a dime or quarter. With even just a dime you could get a small brown paper bag with 3 lemon sours, 3 licorice strings, 3 cherry drops and the best of all, 3 jawbreakers! Imagine what you could get for 25 cents! Just remember to save 10 cents for the latest comic book! Ah, life was good!

  5. As a kid, I did not go for the novelty penny candy, I would go for the most I could get for a penny. My first choice is now called “liquorice babies” at 4 for a penny. The original name for them is now terribly offensive, but kids back then did not know that.

    While not a penny, the golfball-sized jaw breakers lasted hours, with saliva drooling down my chin because they were so large for my small kid mouth. The outer layer was black, so the drool and my tongue were also black.

    Interestingly, Thrills gum is still quite popular here in BC . . . maybe for the novelty value and the fact that they cost only 87 cents a pack at a dollar store chain. I actually still like the taste!

  6. Penny candy required searching the neighborhood for empties, or being paid for doing extra work around the house that wasn’t chores. 1$ would go a long way in1977 on the penny sweets. My favorite candies then and to this day is black liquorice. My least favorite was white rabbit wrapped in rice wrapper.

  7. Hi Jane,

    The best thing about buying penny candy is that you could trade it for empty bottle returns! My sister and I would volunteer to return empty pop bottles for a small paper bag of penny candy.
    There was a colourful assortment of candy including strawberry and banana shaped ones but our favourite were the minty chewy Mojos and the Sweetarts!
    We would hop on our banana seat bikes with our small bags of candy and savour each candy when we got home.
    Do you remember banana seat bikes? I remember summers “doubling” with my cousins as our first signs of preteen freedom!

  8. I was always enchanted by the candy store, so many choices but Jelly Tots were and still are my favourite. My youngest son follows this passion, and in his early twenties still knows the cost of each treat and is appalled when corner stores overcharge – “Mom they are charging DOUBLE for bananas…”. One day (fairly recently) after he helped me with some household chores we were at the local grocery store and I handed him a $5 bill to run down to the candy store (Candy in the Cove is a Bowen Island marvel). His eyes lit up as he ran out the door, to return with his paper bag of treasures. He even shared some with me!

  9. Dear Jane,
    That question was an easy one. The first thing that came to mind was my after school walking home treat in the 1960s. A Wagon Wheel, the original type made with marshmallow, two digestive cookies and real milk chocolate, 5 cents , real Cheddar Cheese Popcorn, 10 cents, and a Coke, 10 cents. A veritable kids feast for 25 cents! Sen-Sens, those tiny, funny looking squares that looked like miniature shingles and tasted like intense anise!

  10. I was always a licorice kid, and my favorites were the Y&S Licorice Pipes and Cigars. I ate these delicious licorice treats until 2019 when they were dropped from the Hershey offering, a truly sad day.

    This licorice was best eaten after being exposed to the air for two or three days as they changed colour and became chewy. Often you would find them this way at corner stores. The big decision in eating these was whether or not to eat the red candy sprinkles “burning end” first.

    I still miss this licorice, and it is s mystery as to why they were dropped. Costco seemed to sell cases of them.

  11. Dear Jane;
    Saturday afternoons, Stoney Creek Ontario,25 cents in hand, to Turner’s corner store and the fabulously enticing penny candy counter to fill the little brown paper bag with blackballs, licorice pipes, candy cigarettes with red tips, wax lips you could wear or chew—driving poor old Mr. Turner crazy with “no not that one—THAT one!” Then across to the Fox theatre with its starry- painted ceiling for the double feature. Some memories never fade and I can still remember the row order of nearly every wonderfully garish tooth decaying penny delight. And the blackballs had a white core if you managed to suck them all the way to the middle.

  12. Oh what memories. Remember wax lips, candy cigarettes (they still make them but they are not as hard so they taste stale) and that yellow package of powdered sugar with a black stick of licorice sticking out. And don’t forget during the summer the triangular frozen lola’s (you would get freezer head scraping your teeth along the ice). FYI, Clayburn Village Store in Abbotsford still carries some of these older candies and many other great candies from all over the world.

  13. Thanks for reviewing the candy land of my youth. Although I did enjoy most of those bizarre products, my favourite candy was my Mum’s Sour Cream Fudge. When enough heavy cream went off, she boiled it with white sugar, then poured, cooled, and cut it into squares. Yumm! And I have a mouthful of expensive dental restorations to remind me of my former fondness for candy.

  14. In Grade five and six I was lucky to attend an elementary school directly across from a corner grocery store. My mother decided that when I turned eleven I was mature enough to be given a dime every Friday to spend as I wished. I couldn’t wait to get out of school at 3:00 and cross the street. I chose gummy worms, jelly beans and anything with a caramel or licorice flavour. To top it off I bought three small black jawbreakers. I sucked on one of these as I walked from Lakewood Drive to 6th and Slokan Street where we lived. I never did bite into one and loved the taste of the tiny seed in the middle. I remember almost choking on one after an elderly man grabbed me from behind as I left the store. I can still see his laughing face in my mind all these years later.

  15. Hi Jane,

    Twenty-five cents allowance in the early fifties allowed me to have fifteen cents for a movie matinee at The Lonsdale Theatre and ten cents to buy 30 small jawbreakers at 3 for one cent.

    I loved the flavour even though you ended up with a black tongue and gums.

  16. One of my favourite candies when I was young was blackballs. As the name suggests, they were round black balls, maybe a little over a centimetre in diameter. Layers of different colours were revealed as you sucked on them. Sometimes they ended in a tiny bit of liquorice seed in the middle. When they for some reason went from 2 for a penny to 3 for a penny, we neighbourhood kids sat on the curb excitedly calculating how many we’d now be able to get for various coins – for a nickel, 15! for a dime, 30! Oh happy day!
    I haven’t been able to find blackballs for many years – and don’t know if I’d still like them if I did – but they’re a fond memory.

  17. Hi Jane
    What wonderful childhood memories you’ve brought back! Yes, I remember the gold rush gum, the horrible soap gum and so many others! What I liked were the strawberry marshmallows that, unfortunately, just don’t have the same taste or texture as they used to. Little spearmint jelly candies in the shape of mint leaves were good and a friend and I used to enjoy the various (glass) bottles of crush pop for a 25 cents, which would sometimes be accompanied by a long red twizzler licorice that had both ends bit off and used as a straw.

  18. My favourite was Mackintosh toffee, but only in winter when you could break the bar by slamming it on a lamppost, and of course in Quebec also, Vachon cakes

  19. Hi Jane:

    How about the politically incorrect candy from the 1960’s? The candy cigarettes that made you feel so cool and grown up?

    There was another candy introduced in 1968 called Albert’s Hippy Sippy. It was a plastic toy syringe filled with multi coloured pellets in it. A button was attached to the tip with sayings such as “I’ll try anything” and “we sell happiness”. Needless to say they were banned by 1969.

  20. Dear Jane,

    Thanks for the fun read!

    Among my favorite candy was Mojos. Came in different flavors (I liked the white-wrappered spearmint best). They cost me only a penny for 3 but cost my mom much more when one pulled the filling out of my tooth!

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