Willie brought in some candy last week, left over from Halloween. Picking through it, I found a couple of things I like – a Jaw Breaker and a Red Hot. I also found a pack of ‘Marvel Heroes Candy Sticks. ’ It had a picture of Wolverine from X-Men on the front and a picture of the Incredible Hulk from the Avengers on the back. Inside, what I was expecting was some kind of candy sticks in the likenesses of the pictures, or at least one green stick for the Hulk and one orange or blue stick for Wolverine. Instead, two little white sticks of candy, similar to candy canes, but thinner, fell out.
What it reminded me of is what got me started on this column – candy cigarettes. If you’re reading this column and you’re under 40, you probably won’t know what I’m talking about, but for those of us above the age of 40, do you remember back when we were kids and we “smoked” candy cigarettes? They came in a small pack that looked like a cigarette pack. There were 12 sticks in them, and the sticks were painted to look like cigarettes, with brown food coloring on one end to simulate a filter, and black food coloring on the other end to simulate ash, with that end tipped in red to simulate it being lit. We were imitating our parents and other grownups who smoked. Back then was before the dangers of cigarette smoking were so widely known. Once the bad publicity started getting widespread, the candy cigarettes seemed to get pulled off the shelves because people claimed they were encouraging kids to smoke. Curious, I did a check online, and they still make candy cigarettes, but they are hard to find in stores, and now they are usually called something other than cigarettes.
Do you remember when bubble gum was a penny and comic books were 12 cents? On the days after school when Mama would go by the Woolworth store on the square in the Decatur, she would sometimes give me a quarter, and I would go buy a comic book and some Double Bubble gum, the penny bubble gum with the little cartoons wrapped around them. I occasionally bought the Marvel Hero comic books, but I also bought Archie comic books (I had the hots for Veronica), and some of the different war comic books. My favorites were Sgt. Rock, and The Ghost Tank. Sgt. Rock is pretty much self-explanatory, but The Ghost Tank was a Stuart tank in WWII whose tank commander was a direct descendant of Confederate Cavalry General J.E.B. “Jeb” Stuart, who “haunted” the tank and helped his descendant and his crew get through some hairy situations.
Do you remember when you were 8 years old and it was safe to walk or ride your bike downtown by yourself? When I was in the third grade, that summer my folks took a vacation to Hawaii. I stayed with my grandparents, who lived on the street behind us. My mother had given me $10 to spend during the week, and my grandmother didn’t want to have to drive me downtown, so I would ride my bike down to the Woolworth’s store and buy comic books, bubble gum, and toys. I spent all my money in the first two days, but I had plenty to read and play with for the rest of the week. Nowadays, with all the sick, twisted people around, we don’t hardly let our kids out of sight anywhere, much less let them go downtown by themselves. I miss those days.