Treat or Treat
A usual statement out of my mouth every other week is, “I have to start an article.” And, I continue by telling my wife Linda what I’m going to write about for my next entry for Hagenbuch.org.
This time she said, “It’s Halloween. You should do an article about that.” I replied, “I did an article already about my cemetery experiences. Not sure what else to do.”
You see, as a youngster growing up on the farm we didn’t dress in costumes to go trick or treating. Oh, I remember once or twice that we had a Halloween party in the basement of Oak Grove Church. And, we did dress for Halloween parties in elementary school. But I have no memory of what I dressed as. However, I do remember those plastic masks that were difficult to see out of and even more difficult to breath in!
“What about doing something on candy?” asked Linda. She continued by naming off candies that she remembered: licorice in the shape of a smoking pipe, Necco Wafers, Mary Janes, and huge lollipops. My mind began working. Sure, getting the treats for trick or treating is most of the fun. What sort of candy and sweets did we enjoy as children?
Candy was not an important part of growing up in the 1950s and 60s on our farm in Montour County. In fact, when asking my siblings about their memories, Dave at first said, “I don’t remember much at all. I guess we didn’t have much candy around!” But, he did continue and named a few items: Mounds bars and Almond Joys (which were favorites of Dad).
If Halloween did not get us much candy, Easter did. That religious holiday brought white and milk chocolate rabbits, jelly beans, and marshmallow chicks—yuck! But mostly we received hard boiled eggs often dyed by Mom with onion skins. Mom did make her own chocolate Easter eggs, three different kinds: peanut butter, coconut, and fruit and nut. Fruit and nut were my least favorite, but I sure enjoyed those peanut butter eggs.
At Christmas time we usually received a small box of chocolates (filled with the sicky-sweet white cream) at church. The most candy I can remember ever being around was when we held the Oak Grove church festival in July each year.
For several years Mom was in charge of picking up boxes of candy bars, black licorice in the form of whips and crows (like gum drops), and other such sweets to be sold at the festival—by me! We got these candies at Dehart’s Candy Store in Milton, PA. On the evening of the festival, I sat behind the table with the display of candy receiving nickels and dimes as payment.
In addition, for several years at the church festival I was also in charge of selling the bottles of soda pop, which we called soft drink. Along with Cokes and 7 Ups, we sold the famous Catawissa Bottling Company’s birch beer which came in four colors: red, blue, brown, and white (clear).
Speaking of soft drinks, I can also remember Dad giving me a nickel (or perhaps a dime?) to buy a Coke or 7 Up at Max’s Weld Shop in Limestoneville. Max Hoffman was a most important fellow in the community as he fixed, welded, and hammered pieces of machinery for the local farmers in that area. His shop was located across the road from where my grandparents lived, Clarence and Hannah (Sechler) Hagenbuch. The earthy smells, sparks from the welding, grease, and the ever present Coke machine have left me with wonderful childhood memories.
Candy was a special treat, but I just can’t remember a lot of different kinds. Black licorice, some of it with colored sweet creams in the center, were popular as were the red Twizzlers. Baby Ruth, Fifth Avenue, Three Musketeers (my least favorite), and the little Rollo candies were part of my likes. My father had a specialty candy which he never shared. He would purchase a large bar called Chunky, chocolate filled with raisins and peanuts, and stash it in the top cupboard of the kitchen. I can still see him come in from baling straw, reaching up and taking that bar down, snapping off a chunk and sticking it in his mouth to chew away with delight. It was sort of like taking a chaw of tobacco—something which he never used.
Mom did make homemade candy. She made peanut brittle and her own taffy which came out of the pan hot and sticky. We had to butter our hands to pull it into strips and cut it. I was never fond of this taffy she made, nor of the salt water taffy which folks who had visited the beach would give us.
Along with Dave, I asked my sister Barb and my oldest brother Bob about candy. They came up with some memories which I had forgotten, but were quite sweet! Barb remembered the small wax bottles that were filled with a sweet liquid like Kool-Aid. After breaking off the top and drinking the liquid, we could then chew the wax. That also reminded me of the candied wax lips and mustaches we had. I doubt that chewing that wax was good for us!
Barb also remembered Bit-o-Honey, Zagnut bars, and candy cigarettes! As she wrote to me (and I remember this), as children we were not allowed to have the candy cigarettes. But, I do remember having a box of them once in a while. I must have sneaked a “sweet smoke”!
Bob reminded me about the bacon strip coconut candy—brown, white, and pink striped. He continued with a long list: Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pops, Mallo Cups, jawbreakers, Sugar Babies (and Daddies!), and bubble gum (with the little comic strips inside.
Many of these candies and sweets are still available and appear en masse during the Halloween season. The one Halloween candy I cannot abide is candy corn. Yuck! With cultural changes and a strong eye on safety and health, Halloween treats are somewhat different than “back in the day.” Today our trick-or-treaters are given fruit, popcorn, and gift certificates to McDonalds. Some folks even hand out money to the costumed lads and lasses.
It’s fun to reminisce about so many things in our past. It leads me to wonder what my grandparents and great grandparents enjoyed in the sweet treat line when they were young. They certainly did not have all the choices we have today or even the ones mentioned above from the mid-twentieth century.
Search your mind and let us know what you enjoyed when you were young and traveling through candy land!