One of the children’s fondest memories relates to “penny candy.” During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, many small pieces of candy actually did only cost a penny – thus the name.
It’s no secret that Joyce had quite a sweet tooth and that all of her kids did too. To satisfy their cravings, Joyce would entrust one or two of the children with a dollar bill and send them down to Dewey’s Café on Hyrum’s Main Street. It was a long, three block walk for the kids, but the walk was full of anticipation and much discussion about how they’d spend the dollar. “I’m going to get lots of Smarties and Sixlets” was countered by “I hope they have cocoanut-filled black licorice.”
The candy counter at Dewey’s was just inside the front door on the right, by the cash register. It had a glass top and four glass shelves, all stocked with neat little open-top boxes of various candies. The big-ticket nickel candy bars, like Big Hunks, Baby Ruths and Cherry-O-Lets were on the bottom shelf. We’d nose up to the cabinet, eager to start picking our 100 pieces of candy.
Can you imagine helping some small children pick 100 pieces of candy? Erma Bradley was the nicest of Dewey’s waitresses and never seemed annoyed by our indecision or the endless bending and reaching required to fill our brown paper sack to the brim. The blonde woman with the beehive hairdo (Mrs. Riggs from Greens Corner, the author recalls) wasn’t quite as nice. Sometimes Dewey himself waited on us…which was almost enough to make us run away. More than once he’d prod us with “Hurry up and decide!” Looking back, I suspect that he had hamburgers on the grill and hungry, big customers waiting for lunch.
Back to that small, brown paper sack. Mrs. Bradley would usually ask us how much we had to spend before picking the appropriately-sized sack. As we made our selections, we had to keep in mind how many kids (besides Mom) we were buying for. We knew that if we didn’t buy enough of each item for every child (and Mom) to get one, we’d better be sure nobody would get mad.
Some of the most popular candies included:
- Red and black licorice curls
- Tootsie Rolls (Tootsie Roll Pops were 2 cents)
- Small Bit-O-Honey bars
- Jaw breakers
- Double Bubble gum (with a comic inside)
- Pixie Sticks
- Gum balls
- Bbbats Taffy (several flavors)
- Atomic Fire Balls
- Black licorice sticks (one of Mom’s favorites)
- Licorice sticks with cocoanut
- Slow Poke suckers
How the waitresses kept track of how much we’d spent remains a mystery but we don’t ever recall getting home and discovering we had fewer pieces of candy than we had pennies. Once we finally chose that last piece, we’d hand over the dollar bill and hurry home, knowing that it was against the rules to eat even one piece of candy before it was “divvyed up” by Mom.
The image of us kids and Mom all sitting on the living floor in a circle is forever etched in the author’s mind. We’d all wiggle in anticipation as the candy buyers dumped the sack in the middle of the circle. Mom would “ooohhh”, “aaahhh” and “that’s one of my favorites” over the mound of candy, spread it out with her hands and praise us for making such great choices. She’d then divide up the candy between us all…a task that had to be completed before we could start enjoying it.
Spats over how Mom divvyed up the candy were non-existent. Perhaps that’s because we knew she’d launch into a throaty rendition of the song “Love at Home” if we argued, but that’s another story…