While I was in the process of Googling vintage Halloween stuff (a pathetic example of how I waste my time) I happened to come across this ancient ad for Wowe-e. It immediately ignited a burst of childhood memories.
Candy and childhood are synonymous and the Wowe-e wax harmonica whistle was one of my all-time favorites. Actually, it wasn't candy at all. It was made of sweet wax that could be chewed like gum. Most kids, however, liked the whistle so much that they didn't want to ruin it by chewing the wax. The Wowe-e whistles were 5 cents - which was a little out of my price-range - but I did manage to buy a few during my recklessly indulgent wonder years.
The wax whistles were patented in the 1920's and made by Glenn Confections. The above ad is from 1948, which was before my time. I remember them from the 1960's.
The original Wowe-e whistles are no longer made, but I think reasonable facsimiles are available. When I was a kid, it wasn't Halloween without them. I still remember the distinct fluted sound of the whistle.
These are the exact whistles that I remember
with the same Halloween labels
I was crazy about the wax novelties that always appeared at the beginning of the Halloween season. Big red wax lips, black mustaches, vampire teeth, and wax fingers. I seldom chewed the wax, but rather preferred to keep my treasures preserved in a small box in the refrigerator. Naturally, my father would inevitably throw them out.
The height of my childhood candy career came between the ages of 8 and 11, when we lived in Pomona, California. There were two stores where we kids would always buy candy - Ted's Liquor Store and Roy's Liquor Store. Both were located on Fifth Street, the street on which I lived (Fifth Street has since been renamed Mission Boulevard).
Ted's was a small store. We went there very often solely because it was conveniently located on our way to school. Unfortunately, Ted was the meanest son-of-a-bitch in Pomona. An incredibly grouchy old man who hated children (it's bitterly ironic that I can fully relate to his feelings now).
He would grumble under his breath as we dug out our pennies to purchase candy. He also always checked our pockets and lunch boxes to make sure we weren't stealing.
When I was a child, I was so impeccably innocent and unbearably honest, that the thought of stealing never even entered my mind.
Roy's Liquor Store was twice as big as Ted's and much more child-friendly, but we only went there on weekends because it was much farther down the street. Roy's had an enormous selection of candy. And comic books.
Is it only the sweet nostalgia of my memory, or was the quality and taste of candy really better back then?
There were so many varieties of candy favorites that my faulty memory can't contain them all.
Bit-O-Honey and Good & Plenty, Sugar Daddies and Black Cows, thin Necco Wafers and jellied Chuckles. Turkish Taffy in chocolate, banana, and strawberry. Impossibly hard Jujubes. Root Beer Barrels. Hot Tamales. LifeSavers. Tootsie Rolls. Abba-Zaba. Pay Day and Clark Bars. Chunkies. Giant jawbreakers that had different layers of colors.
Black Jack chewing gum, Chiclets, Dubble Bubble and Bazooka Bubble Gum. Not to mention candy cigarettes and cinnamon-flavored toothpicks. And bubble gum cards.
I remember when a little Mexican girl in our class accidentally swallowed a cinnamon toothpick and had to be rushed to the hospital. Our teacher Mrs. Butler immediately gave us a harrowing lecture about the dangers of cinnamon toothpicks.
Returning to the wax theme, I used to like those little cartons of tiny wax bottles that contained colored sugar liquid. They are still being manufactured under various names and variations.
The present infuriating restrictiveness of political correctness has inspired the ban of the once-popular wax six-shooters. They were pistol-shaped and (like the little wax bottles) were filled with a sweet colored liquid that you could drink.
I also recall the now obsolete and politically incorrect Nigger Babies. The startling name inspired me to do some research, but information is vague and very conflicting. They are mentioned in a 1945 issue of Confectionery & Ice Cream World, vol. 33, page 34.
Many people remember this candy but even the description varies. The original candy was supposedly made of licorice, but later the little baby-shaped candies were made of a caramel chocolate. I distinctly remember the chocolate-type ones.
My guess is that different candy companies manufactured similar black "baby" candies under various names at different times - including Chocolate Babies and Tar Babies.
In the innocent age of my childhood the name wasn't considered offensive and we kids never thought of it as being racist. I actually thought the little babies were cute. Things are entirely different in the present era of intense racial awareness and extreme hypersensitivity. At any rate, the candy was never particularly popular.
While I'm on a roll, who could forget Pez? Let's face it, Pez candy was absolute crap but those dispensers were immensely appealing. They are still being manufactured and the old ones are collectibles.
Childhood trends come and go, but the intrigue of candy will always remain....
.......until, of course, the Government-appointed deputies of the Candy Control Commission will raid our homes and ban sweets forever.....
Jon, your inexhaustible sarcasm never fails to amaze us.
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