Monday, December 1, 2008

Penny Candy

This is Bethel Beach in all its glory. Beautiful white sand, undisturbed vegetation, some random mutant plant sticking up on the left, and the blue, blue water and sky just beckon you to sit down and meditate. If you gave me a penny for my thoughts right now, you'd march away feeling cheated. My thoughts right now are not worth a penny and are fixated exclusively on that Charlie-Brown-Christmas-tree-looking plant there on the left.

Speaking of pennies, I turn now to the topic of penny candy.

Once upon a time, there was candy made from sugar and not high fructose corn syrup.

The End.

OK, not The End, although that pretty well sums it all up.

High fructose corn syrup, besides being a fast and easy way for food companies to simultaneously save money and kill us, just doesn't taste the same--or as good--as pure cane sugar.

When I was young, I used to ride my bicycle down Route 198 to the Gulf Station with one purpose and one purpose only: to procure penny candy. (To any Mathews readers: The Gulf Station was where the Curves is presently, between Hudgins and the old Blakes post office. At one point back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, we called it--and I'm spelling phonetically now, so forgive me--Luttalows, after the owner.)

Chesapeake Bay Children? There was a time when people actually bent over to pick up the penny on the sidewalk because they could purchase something with that penny. And it was called candy, and it was good. From your root beer kegs to your Now and Laters, from your Bazooka gum to your grape gumballs, there was something for everyone in the bins of individually-wrapped pieces. You could pick and choose, mix and match, and walk out with a nice paper bag loaded with delectables.

Below is a list of some of my favorites from the Gulf Station Days. Whether or not it's all penny candy is neither here nor there, it's from the same era, namely that era of rotary phones, party lines, rabbit-ear aerials on portable televisions that only received 3 channels, and EXCUSE ME BUT I FEEL OLD.

Wax Lips - Though technically not a candy, they were more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Monkeys who were wearing big red wax lips.

Candy Cigarettes - I never smoked a day in my life (except for those one or two experimental clove cigarettes in college), but I sure as heck enjoyed many, many boxes of candy cigarettes. I laugh when I hear people say they make children inclined to smoke. That's like saying that if you eat bacon, you're going to turn into a pig. Wait a minute....OK, then, it's like saying that if you eat beef, you're going to turn into a cattle rancher. Whatever, you get the picture. Candy cigarettes do not make children smoke. Peer pressure does.

Bottle Caps - Have mercy! 7-Up, Root Beer, Pepsi, Nehi Grape. All these flavors pressed into small circles the size of a nickel and made to look like a bottle cap. They were heavenly.

Pixie Stix - What is better than tossing your head back and swallowing 100% pure, artificially-colored, sugar granules? It saved you from wasting time chewing and, I do believe, ensured a most expeditious journey of the sugar from your mouth/digestive tract to your bloodstream.

Mary Janes - a hard, peanut-buttery candy that many people didn't like, but because Chesapeake Bay Mother liked them, I bought them.

Sugar Daddys - a large, rectangular, caramel lollipop that ensured the local dentists had no worries about their financial future

Fireballs - Oh, oh, oh, how good. I loved them because they lasted so long and there was a surprise waiting around every corner, if in fact a fireball had corners.

Caramel Creams - My favorite, but also good filling-yankers.

Charleston Chew - in a variety of flavors...

Zots and Pop Rocks - There's nothing like putting a piece of heavily-artificially-colored sugar into your mouth and having it explode like a 4th of July celebration. Zots were the sparklers and Pop Rocks were the fireworks.

Anyway, this is but a short list of some of my favorites from a time when 100% sugar was used and high-fructose corn syrup was not even a glimmer in some food scientist's eye.


Unknown said...

You can find a lot of those candies at the Dollar Tree store. I don't buy them because I think they may be the original batch..and the thought of rancid poprocks going bananas in my mouth scares me. At least it's not a pet rock...remember those? I'm wrapping some up for the grandkids this Christmas and revive the nostagia.

I loved candy cigarettes. The kind that you had to break apart, and try not to break them the wrong way. I smoked but the candy cigarettes had nothing to do with it. It was the cute brothers across the street who had access to all the Kents they wanted. Their mother used to come over at night to watch TV with my parents. I would go over her house and smoke with the boys. We could see our parents watching TV through their picture window that faced ours. Why were they called picture windows?

Val said...

did you have gobstoppers too? those giant candy balls that filled your whole mouth (hence the name) and turned diff colours as they got smaller. I also remember a sweet shop - a whole shop full of sweets - shelves and shelves of huge jars of sweets - mesmerising!

Val said...

werent they called picture windows because they framed the view?? not sure... I made that up.

Angela said...

When I was little, which was even BEFORE the dinosaurs, our small-shop grocer`s (called Aunt Emma`s shops)had really big glass containers with loose, unwrapped candies which you could buy for a Pfennig (penny) each, and Aunt Emma put them in a small pointed bag which you could hold in your hand tightly so your stupid brothers wouldn`t grab them from you (instead, they tried to talk them out of your fist)- oh yes, now I also really feel old. And did you have the ammoniac pastilles that you could lick on and then paste to the back of your hand in form of a star, and then lick till they were gone?

Bear Naked said...

Congratulations for being a "Post of the Day" contender on David McMahon's blog for your post "Cooking."
In my opinion your posts are always "Post of the Day."

Memories of penny candy.
I am still trying to find a nougat that tastes the same as what I used to buy when I was young.
And does anyone remember sponge candy?

Bear((( )))

Icey said...

All I can think about now is our college trips to 7-11 which always included penny candy (and either beer, a microwave burrito, nachos or a big gulp depending on time of day) I am ready for our reunion ...

Anonymous said...

Way back when kids like me used to ride the bus to school, there was a guy nicknamed "Cougar" who'd worked out a brilliant scheme to get free candy for himself. Cougar's grandmother, Big Mama, drove our bus to school; a route that included all of Gwynn's Island. Each day Cougar took candy orders from kids when they got on the bus. When Big Mama turned to go down Callis' Wharf Road, a two mile round trip, she'd let Cougar off and he would run over to Scrooch's Market to get the candy. When Big Mama returned Cougar got back on the bus and distributed the candy. "Us kids" worked it out beautifully, for the most part, we'd give Cougar our left over change, or a portion of it, and he'd buy his own candy. If we didn't have money on a given day, he'd make us a loan. On a few occasions Cougar's scheme was temporarily halted, I suspect by complaints from kids who didn't have the resources to buy candy. This too was overcome by "us kids" as we learned to share with others. We were good at "spreading the wealth" back then...

I don't know whatever happened to Cougar. I'd like to think that he's a generous corporate giant or head of some non-profit somewhere, but I fear that another outcome pevailed. We miss you, Cougar...

Mathews Mountain Man (MMM)

Anonymous said...

OMG! I can't believe you posted about this!!! My sisters and I had quite the "penny candy" conversation over the weekend. Our store of choice was "Lum's", and he called all the girls "Boop". Oh, how we LOVED those tiny paper bags that held our treasure!!!!

Some more to add to your list: Square Shooters, Jolly Ranchers, Those candies that were made from honey and sesame seeds, jaw breakers, the apple flavored gum that my PaPa said smelled like an outhouse, Laffy Taffy.......

Mental P Mama said...

Sweet Tarts ere my favorite, and Necco Wafers. 'Member them?

Cool Breeze said...

I used to work at a Gulf Station in Eltham. We had the penny candy there too. I used to teach our station dog to do tricks by tempting her with Caramel Creams. They were awesome from a freshly opened box ... nice and soft and chewey and creamy and ...

Double Bubble

Tootsie Rolls

How about service station sandwiches? I'll have to blog on that one some day.

Anonymous said...

When I was around 10, my brother would send me to the store to buy cigarettes. Yes, they sold cigs to minors in those days. Anyhow, he told me to get anything I wanted with the change. I always liked the tootsie rolls, and fireballs. The now and laters were good for now but later they would make your teeth hurt. I too feel like I am from the dinosaur days.
MY husband and I were talking the other night. WE are the only generation to see the microwave, VCR, computer cell phones, dvd, ipod, and the list goes on. When I was a child we had 3 tv channels. When I was very young no one had a color tv unless you were rich. My mother used to ride horse and buggy to the mill to grind corn into flour when she was a child.
We have come a long way baby.

nativedevil said...

I used to go to Port Haywood Market to buy Wacky Packages stickers. I would be so excited each week when a new shipment came in. I also liked to get grape bumble gum (for 5 cents) from the machine at the station that was across from Bobby Hubbards station.
Sometimes, in the summer, you had to be careful about getting candy bars at the service stations, since alot just used big fans instead of air conditioning. I remember I got a Clark Bar once at Buck's Service Station, and when I opened it, it had worms on it. I got lots of other things there, never any problems, they just sat there too long. Buck just said throw it away and gave me an ice cream bar instead.

Anonymous said...

It got my penny candy at Sibley's. We'd load up on provisions there and at the Dollar Store. Watermelon Jolly Ranchers were my favorite.

My mom used to say that when her older sister was being romanced by a certain young gent he bribed the nine (!) younger siblings with a sack of penny candy to get them to leave the courting couple alone.

He was successful in his suit, and later became my uncle by marriage. His grandchildren reminisce that the ash tray in his old blue truck was always full of change and that they were allowed to buy all the penny candy they wanted with it.

If there was no source of penny candy within walking distance, he plied them with Rolaids! Now that's babysitting!

Anonymous Mathews Native

Unknown said...

This was interesting. I am sad to say that I don't remember a lot of this candy. I surely ate it : ) but I just can't recollect it!

I laughed so hard on Big Hair Envy's blog when you said
"It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without guns going off left and right." You are hilarious!

Hope your week is great!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Whew! What a relief to FINALLY be home after leaving at 6:15 a.m. and only now returning at 7:24 PM AND NO INTERNET ACCESS ALL DAY AT THE PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT!!

What a treat to come home to all these comments.

GJ - Why am I not surprised to hear about you smokin' with the boys next door....

Val - Gobstoppers, yes, we had those. They were hard on your teeth, though.

Angela, those brothers sound pesky. I've never heard of the paste-on candy, I would have loved that.

BN - No way! I'll have to go check it out, and thank you for your kind words.

Icey - We kept that 7-11 in business and it kept us well-fed. We'd go in there and have Patrick cash us a check for five dollars, and that would pay for an entire night out. Then we'd come home to those delicious nachos covered with artificial cheese product...mmmmm, artificial cheese product melted over stale chips.
At 2 a.m. nothing could taste any better. Except the 7-11 burrito.

Mathews Mountain Man - I rode one of Big Mamma's buses. We were scared to death of her. What an enterprising young lad that Cougar was....didn't he drive a volkswagen at one time?

BHE - Sometimes I have ESP...maybe I picked up the vibe of your conversation..I LOVE(d) Jolly Ranchers. The green ones and any of the reds. Heavenly.

MPM - I loved Sweet you remember when they went through a phase where they made them two to a pack...they were HUGE, sort of like the clump of soap you toss into the dishwasher or the washing machine these days. The texture was different from the regular sweet tarts - a tad chewy, but still delectable. I almost refrenced the Necco wafers as well as the Zero bar because both of those were my mother's favorites along with the Mary Janes. I liked all the Necco flavors except the black..licorice I think?

Cool Breeze - there is nothing more heavenly than a fresh caramel cream...there is a significant difference in taste and texture once they get some age on 'em. You should definitely write about those Gulf Station Days.

Cats - you're right, anyone could buy cigarettes. Remember the smoking section in the outdoor quadrant in high school?


Ms. Anonymous Mathews Native - We shopped at Sibleys too. Not only did we get the candy there, but we bought all our horse feed, salt licks (for the pony, not for my sisters) and garden seeds there. I miss him and I miss going in there to buy that stuff.

LWK / Reb. - You have perhaps just made my day. The fact that I can make anyone laugh for any reason is very rewarding, especially on a long day like today.

Have a wonderful evening, everyone.

Anonymous said...

Oh how I miss those days!

There is a place down in Harvard Square, MA, that Megawatt and I discovered when we went down for her admissions interview to the university, back last fall. It's a candy shoppe with every single candy known to man and loads of the old fashioned stuff too! I imagine they use HFCS nowadays, but it sure shocked me to see things like bottle caps, wax lips and candy cigarettes...things I haven't seen in more than 20 years!

HFCS is one of the reasons I loved sweets whilst living in the UK and traveling all over Europe...they don't use it over there. Coca Cola is to die for because it tastes just like it did back in the old days.

What I wouldn't give for a fountain drink from my favourite cinema just outside London!

There was something else the dime stores carried when I was just a wee lass...and whilst I can't stand chocolate, I'd love one of these, but alas no one makes them. Cup O' Gold...Mmmmm.

Anonymous said...

Oh the memories. My life of crime began because of my addiction to penny candy... I used to steal change from my dad's coat pocket so that I could stop by the variety store on the WAY HOME FROM SCHOOL (how convenient!). I would load up a little brown bag with candy and consume it before I got home (had to hide the evidence). Some of my favorites were little wax bottles filled with sugar syrup. You'd bite the top off, and chug a mouthful of grape, cherry, cola, you name it. I also liked those long strips of white paper with the little dots of pastel-colored candy "glued" on. I'm not sure what the point of that was, but I bought it anyway. And by the time I was 13, all of my teeth were filled with metal, and now they are all being converted into crowns! Penny good yet so evil.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Auds, I'd kill to be able to visit that candy shop in Harvard Square....Many moons ago I was a college recruiter and traveled up there for free courtesy of the company I worked for. I would have loved to visit that candy shop.

Kaffy - Oh, how could I forget the pleasure of biting the top off those wax bottles with wanton abandon and tossing back the nectar of the gods, also known as artificially-colored sugar water, also known as cancer enhancer. The juxtaposition of the wax and the sugar definitely was a winning combination.

The mere fact that I'm using the word "juxtaposition" in the same sentence as wax and sugar (nevermind the cancer enhancer)is a clear signal that I'm up too late and need to sleep.

Thank you all for commenting, it makes my day.

Anonymous said...

Where can I get candy cigarettes these days?? I'm going to buy one pack a week and use them for "fresh air breaks" at work. If those lazy people can take 5 smoke breaks a day I can certainly take a candy cigarette break, right??
Baby Sis

Anonymous said...

Candy, whether from cane sugar or syrup is not good for the continuity of life. Choclate, of course, is different. Since it's made from a bean it's a vegetable/
For longevity, try


Anonymous said...

My uncle's grocery store - my first place of employment (I rode a dinosaur to work) - stocked all of that, PLUS three colors of bubblegum cigars. Remember those? Also, did anyone mention those wax coke bottles?

BTW, was I not supposed to eat the wax lips?

Anonymous said...

Our family's grocery store at Callis Wharf had a penny candy counter, featuring all of the before mentioned treats ... also, root beer barrels. We even provided the smallest brown paper bags, in which a dime's worth would comfortably fit. I lived just up the road from the store. My mother would call me inside from playing and say "Go down the wharf and get me a 'Forever Yours.' Those candy bars were 5 cents at the time.

Anonymous said...

I rode that bus with Cougar and Big Mama! **sigh** I'll get no work done today going down memory lane.