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 February, 2007


 A fond look back at penny candy

Whatever Happened to JuJubes?
By Al Owens
Ok! I freely admit that after I finish a box of Good N’ Plenty, I still hold the empty box up to my mouth and try to make it sound like a trumpet. What’s wrong with that?

I’ve noticed that when I play Flight of the Bumble Bee on an empty candy box, the other adults within earshot look at me like I’ve done something wrong. I know I haven’t. I’m just a proud member of the Penny Candy Generation. If you just read that, and you’re part of that Generation – I know I just brought a smile to your face, and you’re bearing what few teeth you have left.

I can remember when penny candy actually cost a penny. When it seems a quarter could get you about 200 candy bars and a belly ache. That same quarter won’t get you a down payment on a Payday bar these days.

I can also remember when there seemed to be corner stores on every Uniontown corner. I think there were probably 6 or 7 corner stores at five corners alone!

And there wasn’t any of this Red state Blue state stuff when I was building these memories.

The entire kid world was split into three camps.

You were partial to Milky Way bars, Three Musketeer bars, or Snickers. I was in the Legion of Snickers. I had a particularly annoying way of eating them. (At least that’s what my parents used to say) I’d start by biting off the chocolaty/caramelly/
roasted peanut upper Snicker. Then I’d pause long enough to take measure of the impending explosion of the peanut/butter/nougatty lower Snicker – and then away I went. Just thinking about that makes me shiver!

On Super Bowl Sunday I was only slightly amused, when I saw that Snickers commercials with those two guys almost kissing. Whatever happened to that camel that used to say, “I want a Clark Bar”? To me, a talking camel is normal. Two mechanics eating both ends of a candy bar is just weird. Oh, we had our candy lipstick and even paraffin lipstick back then, but nobody drew any conclusions about them.

In my day, 10 year-olds were in the constant state of “ruining their dinners” with stuff like Necco Wafers, Sugar Babies (or Sugar Daddy), Kit-Kat, Malo Cups, all washed down with a Fizzies chaser.

My mother never understood that I wasn’t really “ruining my dinner”. A bag of Caramel Creams had BEEN my dinner.

Ah, Caramel Creams. It was the world’s best two part candy. There was that soft outer layer with a hint of something that resembled chalk on the outside, and then that smooth, smooth – oops it’s already gone – mystery cream on the inside!

I haven’t found any studies on the subject, but I’d be willing to bet you a Turkish Taffy that there are more forms of licorice (pronounced licorish) than any other kind of candy (with the exception of chocolate) We had the “standard” black kind. We had those long, long, thin, faintly cherry flavored, red ones. And they’d put licorice outside and inside all kinds of candy. Remember, I started this thing talking about Good N’ Plenty? I rest my case.

Man! Give me a black licorice and a 2 penny pretzel and I’m in heaven. I just saw a box of what passes for licorice the other day. They call it Twizzler. One bite and I’m back on the playground, warding off the other kids with the words, “No H’s”. (The Penny Candy Generation slang term for, you can’t have any)
When I’d work my way through the line at the State theatre on Saturday mornings, back in the last century, I’d proudly step up and get a box of buttered popcorn and a box of JuJubes. Those pencil eraser sized things that would always manage to stick to my teeth. I’ve often wondered what happened to JuJubes.

I’ve taken a tour through a couple of vintage candy stores down in the Strip District of Pittsburgh, but I haven’t been able to find any of those JuJubes. I did find JuJy Fruits! (Something completely different from JuJubes) But they worked in a pinch. And besides, they too, stuck to my teeth. Or what’s left of them.
These days, we of the Penny Candy Generation (to me the true Greatest Generation) can sit at our computers and order penny candy all day long. Amazon.com has boxes of assorted candy from the 1950’s and 1960’s. You can order one set with Boston Baked Beans, Chuckles and about 40 different kinds of candy for about $30.00.

The package weighs about 5 pounds. That’s about 6 dollars a pound. My Omaha Steaks don’t cost that much!