We have a generation gap at our house.
Our Generation Z sons, ages 12 and 17, have their own go-to candies — modern confections such as Airheads, Sour Patch Kids and Laffy Taffy. About once a week, the boys visit our neighborhood Dollar General store to replenish their candy pile.
Thankfully, I am not tempted by contemporary candy.
I'm a child of the 1960s who grew up with candy cigarettes, Lik-M-Aid and giant SweeTarts at the center of my candy universe. (Imagine a kid today sucking on a candy cigarette in the school-bus line.)
When it comes to candy, the boys and I speak different languages. The exceptions, oddly, are Pez and Swedish Fish, candies that seem to span the generations. Classics, through and through.
So, for my boys, and for posterity, I've decided to put together a glossary of candies that were popular in the mid-20th century when I was a kid. Baby Boomers take a ride with me down memory lane.
Here we go, in no particular order:
» Lik-M-Aid: These little packets of sweet and sour dust begat Pixie Stix straws, which begat SweeTarts, according to online sources. I just like saying Lik-M-Aid. It makes my tongue happy. And if Lik-M-Aid was the mother of SweeTarts, then mad props to the makers.
» SweeTarts: This is my favorite childhood candy, by far. And I don't mean those modern, rolled (or boxed) SweeTarts that you get at the movies. I'm talking about old school SweeTarts that were as big as brass doorknobs and as dense as creek rocks. Forget all-day suckers; you could gnaw and lick on on a big SweeTart for a week, wearing the hide off your tongue in the process.
» ZotZ: These candies had an X factor, a hard candy shell around a soft center, that once exposed to bodily fluids produced a chemical reaction in your mouth. The result was something I call "saliva lava," an explosion of fizzy flavor. I feel like if I could suck on a ZotZ while swinging a pair of Clackers, I could mentally transport myself back to junior high school in 1972.
» Sugar Daddies: So, I've discovered that Sugar Daddies were invented in the 1920s, but they were still going strong in the 1960s. Essentially a slab of caramel on a stick, Sugar Daddies were tasty, but they could also yank out a baby tooth. This created a virtuous cycle whereby the Tooth Fairy financed repeated trips to the neighborhood candy store.
» Sugar Babies: The offspring of Sugar Daddies, these were little M&M-size caramel nuggets. These babies could gather around a loose molar and yank it out of your head lickety-split.
» Bazooka bubble gum: Penny bubble gum was the way we learned the value of currency in the 1960s. So, if gas was, say, 35 cents a gallon, we knew that it was the equivalent of 33 pieces of Bazooka — which made it real in our minds.
» Chiclets: These little squares were the perfect delivery system for gum. Sticks of gum were so early 20th-century compared to these modern marvels, which came in a box and could be shaken into your mouth with one hand.
» Clove Gum: Said to be the perfect masking agent for cigarette smoke — and I don't mean candy cigarette smoke — a pack of clove gum was an essential accessory in high school in the 1970s.
» Atomic Fireballs: These little darlings were like pebbles soaked in Tabasco. The temptation was always to try to crack them with your teeth, but I'm not sure you could break one apart with a pick axe.
Contact Mark Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6645.