Do you remember variety stores? There used to be one up the street from me when I was a kid: Bob's Variety. There's a tattoo parlor in the building now, but back in the day Bob's Variety was a destination store for neighborhood kids. I guess that today a variety store would be pretty mundane to my jaded adult eyes, but back then Bob's was the retail equivalent of paradise. Every Saturday I'd head there with my allowance to check out the latest comic books, get a chocolate malt at the fountain in back, and shop the seemingly limitless selection of candy. I look at the building when I drive by today and shake my head at my memories - the building is so small, how could it possibly have been such a Valhalla of wonder and delight?
Some of the candies that were my favorites back then are still available today - both online and from brick-and-mortar stores. Join me on a trip down memory lane:
Atomic Fire Ball by Ferrara Pan - Awesomely hot cinnamon-flavored jawbreakers. I think this was the "gateway food" that first introduced me to spicy flavors. Most of the time, when you first pop an Atomic Fire Ball into your mouth, you're met with punishing, eye-watering cinnamon candy heat (note that I said most of the time - I seem to recall that the candies varied some from piece to piece and we'd sometimes get a milder one that didn't hurt so much initially.) That first layer would fade, and there would be a period where the flavor would be sweet and mildly flavored...and then, a little more than halfway through, there would be another burst of fire! By the time that second wave had passed, the Fire Ball would me small, and we'd try to crush it with our molars. Sometimes we succeeded. Sometimes we felt like we were going to break a tooth. These were absolutely my hands-down favorite, and they're still found just about everywhere - as well as being available online.
Sky Bar by NECCO - The label has changed a couple of times since I was a kid - the picture I have here is the current packaging - but the contents haven't changed a bit. Decent-quality chocolate (somewhat better than Hershey's usual quality in fact) wrapped around four different fillings: caramel, vanilla, peanut, and chocolate fudge. For a long time, you couldn't find these if you traveled too far from New England. They have wider distribution these days, but can still be tough to locate if you're From Away.
Candy Cigarettes - As you can see from the illustration here, candy cigarettes were sold in packaging remarkably similar to the real thing. Cynics will believe - perhaps with some justification - that this was done deliberately to build brand loyalty before kids were old enough to smoke. However, we have to remember that back then, smoking wasn't the social leprosy that bluenoses have turned it into today. Realistically-packaged candy smokes were intended to allow children to imitate Mom and Dad with more verité. I used to love candy cigarettes, but kinda lost interest in them when I started actually smoking (I've quit since then.)
I tried some candy cigarettes recently, just to see if they still tasted the same way they did when I was a kid. I think they do, but the packages don't look anything like the real thing, and they don't call them "candy cigarettes" any more, they're called "candy stix."
NECCO Wafers - I did a post about these awhile ago, but I'll mention them again for the sake of Vintage Sunday. NECCO recently changed both the packaging and the flavoring in their wafers. I liked the old flavors better, but the new flavors are "all natural" and I guess that makes parents feel somehow better about letting their kids eat rolls of compressed processed sugar.
Wax Lips, currently made by Concord Confections (a division of the Tootsie Roll Company) - I don't know of any kids who don't love fooling around with a pair of wax lips. They're made of sweetened, flavored chewable wax. When we were kids, we would wear them around for a while and when the novelty wore off we'd bite off hunks and chew them like gum. I notice that most kids just throw them away when they get bored. The same company also made Wax Moustaches, which were big black handlebar moustaches along the same lines as the Lips.
I've really only touched on a handful of the candies I loved as a kid and can still find even today. I could write about them all day and still not manage to capture all of my old faves. What are some of the canides from yesteryear you loved?
Ferrara Pan Candy Co. - Take their virtual tour and see how Atomic Fire Balls are made. Tres cool.
NECCO - Information and online store.