I well remember the penny chews, the Fruit Salads that were once four for a penny, then three, then two, then one, then - when 'new pence' were introduced - got fractionally larger before being dumped by the not-so-stupid young consumers of my day. Rolos and Smarties, still with us, Spangles, long gone, Macintosh's Caramac (where is it now?), Rowntree's Fruit Pastilles and Fruit Gums, never a particular favourite of mine, were easily outclassed by the Fruitella bar and Opal Fruits, now the far less appetising Starburst candies. I never liked the green ones much though. Then there was the candy tobacco, coconut and heaven knows what else, 'monkey nuts', and of course the flying saucers, rice paper with sherbet inside. And talking of sherbet, the sherbet lemons that I remember from 40 years ago seemed much more explosive than they do now. Bassets Liquorice Allsorts are still with us, but you don't find too many liquorice canes these days...
Nothing evokes fond memories of childhood more than sweets and candy. While you may strive to remember the lyrics to a song of long ago, the mouth waters instantly at the recollection of a sweet nugget you chewed as a child. You remember the sort; those that made you chew for hours, those that sparkled in your mouth or even those that melted in your hands on a hot summer's day. Below you will find a glossary, by no means definitive, of the sweets and candies we hold dear to our hearts.
These are hard round sweets so big you could only just get them in your mouth, hence the name, and they were sold loose, unwrapped, in local sweetshops. Good ones changed colour as you sucked down through the layers. They lasted for hours - or seemed to. The centre was a tiny squashy brown sort of seed which nobody could quite identify.
One old penny would keep you sucking for hours, and half the fun was looking every few minutes to see what colour it had changed to. The seed was a necessary part of the production of a good Gob Stopper as the layers of sugar were 'grown' on the seed by a dipping process.
It's amazing how much there is to say about Gob Stoppers when you're not chewing on one.
Spangles were fruity boiled sweets, with a very slight fizz about them. You could suck them thinner and thinner until you felt like you could cut your tongue on them, but upon trying they would always snap in your mouth.
They were relaunched a few years ago, but didn't seem to take off. The wording on the packaging was in that big fat-bottomed font, the same one that The Goodies used on their opening titles. Ah, the 1970s, so very tasteful...
'Old English' spangles were a more 'traditional' boiled sweetie, with flavours like butterscotch and humbug rather than a non-medicinal version of Tunes (a cold sweet) They were a kind of aniseed/boiled molasses/cough medicine flavour and were the sort of sweets you ate for penitence. They came in a black and white packet.
At one point, Spangles launched a 'guess the mystery flavour Spangle' competition. There were two in a normal packet and they were wrapped in white waxed paper covered in question marks.
I always thought they tasted of pear drops but no one ever found out what the mystery flavour was.
Many of us don't eat Milky Bars. We see them as below us, as 'kiddy' chocolate. We all were once like you, proud, unbelieving, and ignorant of the bliss that could be had for less than 30p. They are great straight out of the freezer, especially in hot weather.
Ah, but did you ever discover White Mice? They were made of a material almost identical to the Milky Bar, but with a little more vanilla...
They're highly addictive, and in my student days I was glad to discover a wholesaler who didn't check your trade membership card if you were buying such 'obviously' trade-only items as, say, a case of White Mice... Bliss.
All in all, as we reminisce about the sweet old days, it's the Curly Wurly Bar that comes popping back into our decaying minds and sends a fond tingle through a million sets of decaying teeth - a young candy connoisseur's delight. They were the ultimate foot long toffee and choccy delight, although it seemed to get smaller as we all grew bigger. The great thing is that they are still available.
For the kids that never grow up, Australian universities give the stuff out to prospective students on Open Day! Yummo! And even though you get a whole stack on a stick, because it's not dense you don't feel like your thighs are about to double in circumference. In Australia they call it fairy floss/food - which is a bit harsh on the little folk.
There is one overriding question when it comes to Candy Floss, why do the bags of it you get at the show come in different colours? It's not like it comes in different flavours at all - there's sugar flavour or sugar flavour...
Milk Shake Bar
This is essentially the same type of candy bar as a Milky Way except with one difference - malt. Malt powder was blended with the chocolate coating to give it the taste of a malted milk shake. The bar was manufactured by Hollywood Brands of Minneapolis. These bars were delightful frozen on hot summer days, but good just about anytime really!
Fist sold in the UK in 1948, Polos have been famed for being the one and only mint with a hole. Up until about 1994 there were only two products in the polo range, mint (now Polo Original) and Polo Fruits which are boiled sweets with a hole. Nowadays, there are numerous varieties from which to choose; from the large (Smoothies) to the small (Supermint/Super Oj), from the strong (Extra Strong Polo) to the light (Sugar-free), from the pleasant (Spearmint) to the downright disgusting (Citrus Sharp). For a brief period of time you used to be able to get polo holes, which were supposedly the holes punched out of the centre of the said mints in order to give them their distinctive look.
Some Polo trivia:
The best selling variety of Polo mints in Japan are the plum and mint flavour (not seen that one in the UK yet ), and a completely mint-free variety is popular in India.
Polo mints are pressed under the pressure equivalent to two fully grown elephants jumping up and down on it.
East Kilbride, Scotland is nicknamed Polo City because of its numerous mini-roundabouts.
There is a 158ft Polo Tower in Morecambe, UK (although it isn't made of proper Polo tubes, which is a shame).
They are called 'Lifesavers' in Australia.
Schleckmuschel ('Candy Shell')
This is a small white flat plastic shell filled with candy. In Germany it is called Schleckmuschel, which translates as 'shell that has to be licked'. They were sold in some basic flavours like lemon or strawberry, always shrink-wrapped in colourless plastic, and always had a distinct artificial, slightly sour taste.
They are still widely available throughout Germany, any mall with a candy bar should offer it.
Here's one Researcher's fond recollection of this particular delicacy:
The main advantage was that they lasted a very long time. Depending on appetite and spare time, it could have been days. My favourite way of eating candy shells was during smaller or larger breaks at school. During lessons, a shell would lie on my table drying, to be licked again as soon as the next possibility came, which was more often than not the moment teachers turned to write on the board. This was a good method to measure time (who needs digital watches).
Liquorice and Aniseed
Some of the best sweets ever contain them:
Traditional Liquorice Comfits - These, and the larger liquorice torpedoes, provided so much fun when trying to get the sugar-case off the outside while leaving the liquorice intact.
Liquorice Allsorts - Why do the new bags have funny little men in them?
These were possibly my favourite sweets when I was little, the only sweets my mum would by me, just so she could nick some.
Army Navy - These were hard, navy blue sweets which used to come in little paper bags by the quarter pound.
Aniseed Balls - The truly original, little red balls. Never try to suck three or more at once. They'll keep you quiet for hours.
Liquorice Bullets - 2cm long bits of liquorice coated with chocolate.
Liquorice Sticks - This international delicacy could be bought from any school tuckshop. They occasionally came choc-coated for a little more money.
Aniseed Rings - These were hard to find and not a classic but a good occasional treat.
Liquorice Yards - These were four strands of liquorice, sometimes red, which were twisted to make one fat 'rope'.
Liquorice Straps - These are the Australian equivalent of the yard. They were shaped like a guitar strap and measured about 40cm.
While liquorice seems to be a firm favourite for many, one Researcher shares their experience of Dutch liquorice and explains why it is far superior to the English variety:
I always hated English liquorice when I was a child. I lived in Holland for nearly six years and loved 'drop' which is their equivalent - it has the most incredibly strong taste especially the sour version 'zout' or even 'dubbel zout'. There was also a little bag of equally strong tasting black powder which we used to walk miles to buy from the only shop in my area that sold it - hence I never got into sherbet much either (far too fizzy and sweet for my taste).
The twiggy stuff... I remember spending a large part of my (admittedly somewhat deprived) childhood, gnawing on one of these branches. My grandmother decided that liquorice root was better for me than the nasty black sweet stuff.
Candy Cigarettes and Tobacco
These were chalky, sweet, and mint/bubblegum-flavoured, and came in a cardboard box that was meant to look like a cigarette pack. The end was painted red to look lit. Boys liked to pretend to smoke them leaning up against the porch, very likely imagining they looked like a cowboy.
They still make them, although they are rather hard to find in the US, possibly due to the morality surrounding the issue of fake cigarettes being sold to kids.
In Australia they were sold as Fags. There were also fake cigars which were brown and could be seriously munched. Big Boss was a big brand - you could even get them at the swimming pool. Well, they are still sold, but they've changed their name to Fads and they aren't sold with the red tips any more - just white minty-bubblegum stuff.
The idea for this was sweet tobacco and was constituted of stringy coconut stuff. It came in a little treasure chest! It makes you wonder if there's also candy snuff....
These are basically stiff straw covers filled with coloured sugar that has a tart taste. The wrappers are typically decorated with a slow spiral swirl of white, plus a colour matching the sugar inside.
Pixie Sticks taste somewhat like sweet tarts, but are both tangier and more sweet. They really pack a punch! And, of course, kids love colourful and bright things, especially candy. So making a mess by spilling a Pixie Stick's contents on the floor or yourself is fun in its own right.
To eat a Pixie Stick, you rip or bite off one of the ends and suck the sugar into your mouth. At the end of the process, it is usually necessary to tip the filled end of the stick into the air to get gravity's help.
Less advanced Pixie Stick eaters will clamp their mouth over the stick, which tends to make the stick mushy and may cause sugar clotting. In this case, the best solutions is to bite, rip, or cut off the newly sticky tip of the stick. You can also try biting off the intact end, but you risk losing the rest of the candy if the sugar clot dries before you're finished eating.
Then there are the adult-sized Pixie Sticks. These are about 3 feet long, and about half an inch in diameter, and completely full of that sweet sugary powder. For some unexplainable reason, these jumbo Pixie Sticks are normally sold in toy stores rather than in candy shops.
It isn't unusual to see a small tyke eat the stick along with the candy. Fortunately, this causes no harm as long as the stick is softened with saliva before being swallowed. The Pixie Stick paper casings are edible, if not entirely tasty.
Pixie Sticks are a generic and cheap candy, and are made by a variety of manufacturers. They're especially good on a long hot day. In Texas, it was possible to pour Pixie Stick sugar on the asphalt during a summer heat wave and watch the sugar granules melt together into an unattractive blob.
To freak out your friends, have them eat a Pixie Stick while quietly refraining yourself. Then do the asphalt melting trick. Finally, remind them that they have already swallowed the same stuff, and make vague comments to the effect that Pixie Sticks may be poisonous. You're not sure...
Alternatively, empty Pixie Sticks into a can of soda and then shake it up for a super fizzy, super sugary drink which will keep just about anyone awake all night.
Rainbow Kali were flavoured and coloured sugar crystals sold from big jars and decanted into triangular paper bags. This was multicoloured heaven.
They were often smuggled into the classroom for the afternoon session, you would wet your finger and dip it into your bag
Wham! bars came in blue galactic wrappers and they were a green sugary bar with small patches of fizzy stuff. They were great for sticking your teeth together for about half an hour and sour enough to ensure that your lips fell off.
I remember buying these at the school tuckshop. They were a purplish blue colour with bright sherbet bits in. They were sticky, tasted nasty and lasted forever!
I used to like the Wham! chews as well. They used to sell them at the pool my school used for swimming lessons, so of course we'd all buy them after class, although it was banned. I pulled out a tooth on one once.....
Lypties are little white lollies that taste like eucalyptus leaves... what more could you want?
Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Sticks
When I was young, my family used to frequent a local Mexican food restaurant. Instead of the more usual after-dinner mints, this establishment handed out chocolate-covered peppermint sticks. They were individually wrapped in clear cellophane, about 5-6 inches long, and maybe half a centimetre wide. The peppermint stick centre varied in colour, and was sometimes green, red, orange, or yellow. The ones with the orange and yellow centres seemed to have a bit of citrus taste mixed in with the peppermint. Unfortunately, I've never seen them anywhere but there, and I haven't been back in about 15 years.
Flying saucers were little pastel coloured rice paper parcels, shaped like flying saucers, filled with sherbet. They were wrapperless and a penny each so you got half a dozen or so in your paper bag and then munched away. The rice paper was bland and soggy after you'd sucked it a while but then inside was the sherbet taste explosion.
My childhood memories are inextricably tied up with running down to the sweet shop after church on Sundays to waste my pocket money on feeding my sweet-tooth.
Banjos were quite short lived - some time in the late '70s. They were 10p, and came in a blue and yellow wrapper. Your average Banjo comprised two chocolate wafers, topped with hazelnuts all covered with chocolate. A bit like a Kit Kat, but they were rounded not square, the wafers were bigger, the chocolate wasn't as thick and it came with nuts. What a combo! Mmmmm...
It wasn't so much the gum (which was the best for bubbles until Hubba Bubba came along) but the hint of other places that the wrapper would evoke. This was a quintessential American product and as a little English kid I would look wistfully at the offers for '10,000 civil war soldiers !', 'Just save 6,000,000 Bazooka Joe wrappers'. Tasted great too!
Alas, now history, Bunny Tots where once part of the mighty Tot empire the sole remaining standard bearer of which remains the irrepressible Jelly Tot. Along with Tiger Tots, these mighty three formed a large part of many childhood diets, but of the lot, it was Bunny Tots that really did it for most.
This was partly because they were so bloody difficult to get; whenever a consignment came in they were instantly grabbed and made off with. Basically they were fruit flavoured chewey sweets, sort of like Skittles that had been flattened and squared. Each was, naturally, a different colour. You jammed a half dozen into your mouth, munched them into a soggy chewy mass and then swallowed with great difficulty. Heaven.
A nougat-toffee chocolate covered hybrid, the Texan Bar was brilliant because at different times of the year it was two completely different bars. In winter, with the cold weather it was a small thin slab of concrete sugar that was capable of shattering in your mouth and impossible to chew before saliva had worked on it for at least half a day. Come summer... well imagine a bar that you could grip your teeth onto and pull but could never actually sever - it just got longer and longer - sort of like sweet melted mozzarella.
My brother and I discovered this candy one summer before the lawyers took over. JawBreakers, then, were hard candy spheres, about 1 inch in diameter. They were huge! They came two to a pack for a quarter. The transparent plastic package had goofy faces drawn on, positioned to look like they were on the candy. Pop one of these babies in your mouth, and it would take a good chunk of the afternoon to dissolve your way through successive layers of flavour (and through your teeth for that matter) to the bubble gum centre. They were a staple for cottage weekends when you needed the extended sugar rush to keep you going. This candy has since evolved. First they got rid of the gum, replacing it with fruity powder. Then - I can only assume that some kid finally got one lodged in his throat - they reduced them to marble size and stuck them in a box.
Sensible maybe, but not quite the same...
Made by Trebor, Sherbet Fountains consisted of a paper tube filled with lemon sherbet, and a narrow liquorice 'straw'. Theoretically, it was supposed to be possible to suck the sherbet up through the liquorice, but the inherent stickiness of liquorice tended to make that impossible. No matter, though, you could just keep moistening the liquorice, dipping it in the sherbet and picking it up that way. Then, when the sherbet ran low, you could knock the last of it back as if you were finishing a drink, and then finally eat the liquorice straw.
Black bullets were, as the name suggests, black, spherical and about 3/8 inch round and hard - you had to suck them and they lasted for ages. They were akin to Tyne mints which are still available on Tyneside, in tins, from the Beamish Museum Village (BMV). The BMV also stores many other pre-war.
Does anyone remember Pacers? They looked exactly like Chewits, except they were diagonally striped in green and white, and were minty. They stopped doing them many years ago, and are now sorely missed. There's nothing else quite like them - you sucked them till the sugar was thin and fragile, then poked your tongue through the middle.
The Fudge was basically a slim bar of fudge covered in chocolate. however, what does bring a twinge of nostalgia is the song that accompanied the TV advert:
A finger o' Fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat,
A finger o' Fudge is just enough until it's time to eat,
It's full of Cadbury's goodness, and very small and neat,
A finger o' Fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat.
You'll be singing that all day now...
Love Hearts are made by Swizzels Matlow Ltd and come in a white wrapper with 'Love Hearts' and a few pictures of on it. Love Hearts are fizzy sweets; you can suck them but they're not boiled, they're brittle and powdery, not chewy. But the important thing about them is that they each have a couple of words on, like 'be mine', 'ever yours ', 'glad eye', 'marry me' or, more recently 'email me', 'fax me' and slightly worryingly 'website'.
I really liked them as a child, I used to get them from the papershop at the end of the road. However, at the beginning of this year I discovered that they sell them in the local supermarket, and also in the student union shop, so I'm obsessed. Unfortunately this is now bordering on an obsession...
The Double Agent was a hard boiled sweet with a sherbet centre - hence the name Double Agent - in either blackcurrant or apple flavour. They also had great wrappers full of hints and tips for aspiring spies.
What a classic Cold War sweet!