When I was a youth, I believe the single most important thing in my life was candy. In the past, I’ve mentioned my love for baseball; my Little League years being some of the best times of my life. But as I look back over my life and ponder what was most important to me, candy seems to gently rise, as does cream in milk, to the top of my list.
Yes, I had dreams of making movies and TV shows. I had thoughts of being a writer. I wanted to be a police officer and a TV weatherman and play drums and be on a morning radio show… and I did all of those things and more. But when I reflect back on my childhood, the theme which weaves its way through all of my days was my desire for and various plans to acquire candy.
Once, my friend Duane and I even opened our own candy store. I can’t recall just how, but we had some money and we went to the store and bought several (perhaps ten to fifteen) pieces of candy. We set up shop in an old, dilapidated shed on his property. My memory of how we priced our product is hazy and, I’m sure, it’s best that way, for I think we didn’t consider how much we paid for each piece. We just bought some candy bars and some smaller, individual-sized pieces and then priced them based not upon some profit or loss margin but probably nothing more than which were our personal favorites and/or which had brightest color wrappings… or something like that.
We sold some pieces to our siblings and ate some of the merchandise. Actually, I don’t recall much more than that except that the thrill of being candy traders only lasted for that first shipment of merchandise. Then we were on to something else like engineering streams of water on a hillside; directing muddy rivulets down the hill from his garden hose and ending up caked with layers of mud and both catching the dickens from our mothers at the end of the play day.
I’ve never been a fan of chocolate, per se. I never really cared for a plain chocolate bar, though, and getteth me not wrong, ’twere it were the only candy in sight, I’d eat it. And since most candy has a chocolate component to it, it was hard to avoid.
My faves were:
- Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- Milky Way
- Abba Zabba
- Big Hunk (When they dipped it in chocolate and called it a Black Cow, I didn’t like it.)
- Jolly Rancher
I also liked those big Charms “winner” suckers. I’m not sure if that was the actual name of the item. They used to sell them for a nickel at the Little League Park and four out of every box had a winner sticker on the back. When you ordered one at the window, the lady would let you pick the one you wanted—they came in grape and cherry—and you’d immediately unwrap it to see if it had a winner sticker on the back. If it did, you got an extra sucker. Nothing tasted as good as that free one!
So, for the most part, those were my favorites but, in a pinch, I would eat any candy.
When we were taking swimming lessons at The Plunge during the summer, they had an odd assortment of candy bars for sale in the lobby. I think one of them was the Zero bar, by Hollywood Candy. With the exception of their Pay Day bar, I didn’t care for Hollywood’s candy. But that was all they sold at the Plunge. The first year our family got to take swimming lessons, I was unable to participate because I’d broken my thumb and had a plaster cast clear up past my wrist. So, whilst my siblings splashed about in the cool water, learning to swim, I sat in the bleachers under the hot sun with my mother. I think she took pity on me and, at each lesson, she gave me a nickel to buy a candy bar. I’d walk around to the lobby at the front of the building and stand for long minutes before the glass counter, deciding which of the candy bars I’d hate the least. I truly hated them all, but I had a nickel and was being allowed to have a candy bar so I was going to get one and choke it down. And each week I did.
Even if I hated the candy, I’d eat it because it was candy.
Especially at Easter. Each Easter the Easter Bunny would leave us a basket of the yuckiest candy. We’d each gotten to dye our own half-dozen eggs and, once we discovered where EB had hidden them, we’d then settle into our own basket of crappy Easter candy.
There were chocolate-covered marshmallow eggs and bunnies, which I hated. There were candy-coated malted milk eggs. Despised. Peeps. Detested. Crème Eggs. Disgusting. All of the chocolate was some far-from-premium, off-brand. Reviled. And there were jelly beans. For the most part, I hated all of it. Even that big, hollow allegedly chocolate bunny. But I ate it. All of it.
I’d begin with the candy that I disliked the least. That I would eat mostly before my mother got us dressed and ready for church. A few times I smuggled a piece or two of candy in my pants pocket but never had the nerve to try to unwrap them and eat during Mass. As an aside, the thing I remember most about church on Easter Sunday, besides how crowded it always was, was one time when the priest began his Homily with, “He is risen. Happy Easter. And to all of you golfers who I haven’t seen since Christmas, Happy New Year…” I remember that and the look my mother gave to my dad.
After church I’d get home and get right back to my basket of candy. I’d eat as much as my mother would allow—before I ruined my dinner!—and then I’d sneak as much as I could until I began to experience some mild nausea. Over the following days I’d pick through my basket, eating my candy in order of descending dislike; working my way from mild aversion toward those I loathed or abhorred and finally to pick at the green and black jelly beans which had been shuffled to one side or the other so often that they were now sitting on the bottom of the basket, below the plastic grass.
And I’d eat those. I’d first choke down the black ones and then the green until I’d eaten every piece of candy that had been given me by the floppy-eared holiday rodent. All in all I hated the Easter candy. But I ate every piece because it was mine!
Of course, there was Halloween. Lots of good stuff there. It wasn’t crappy candy manufactured specifically for Halloween as had been the Easter candy. For the most part, it was just miniature versions of good candy bars. Some was not so good but the sugar comas have clouded my specific memories.
As I grew into adulthood, I no longer bought or ate crappy candy. But for more Octobers than I’d care to admit, early in the month I bought three to five bags of mini-Snickers bars in preparation for Trick-or-Treaters. Then, the day before Halloween, I’d again buy the same amount because I’d eaten all of the candy I’d purchased early in the month.
As an adult, I really didn’t eat that much candy. I had my October sessions with mini-Snickers and about once a year I’d get a craving for See’s Candies and I’d buy a 1lb box of Nuts & Chews. I usually ate it in two sittings.
With the exception of those two binges, I didn’t eat that much candy. However, I now pay the price for my youthful indulgences. Old age and Type II Diabetes has caught up with me. For the most part, I’ve weaned myself from any desire for candy.
For the most part.
But the hardest for me is ice cream. I love all ice cream that does not have a chocolate base. Even still, I recall my friend, Duane’s, seventh or eighth birthday party. His grandmother asked me if I wanted chocolate ice cream with my cake.
She said, “But you’ll eat it if that’s all we have.”
I said, “Okay…”
What are or were your favorites?