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Penny for Your Thoughts

Back in the ‘50’s, a penny bought more than thoughts.  It bought CANDY—several pieces, as a matter of fact. And a nickels’ worth filled the bottom of a small brown sack—about an inch deep.

My favorite place for candy shopping was not the little store a block away, but another one farther from home—McCool’s. It had the best selection, displayed in partitioned shelves for us serious consumers to help ourselves. In fact, Mrs. McCool gave each kid a bag and let us “shop till we’d drop” or ran out of money.

My first choice was always Bit O’ Honey. The consistency of taffy, each small rectangle was individually wrapped and looked like a mini gold ingot. And it tasted perfect—not too sweet, but sweet enough, with pieces of pecans imbedded in each little bar. Brick-like Mary Janes came in as a close second. They had inserts of peanut butter in the center along with minced peanuts.  You can’t go wrong with peanut butter and besides, I liked the name.

Bat suckers lasted a long time, so I chose them for later. I favored the strawberry ones, but McCool’s also carried chocolate and banana, which I found disgusting. I hated artificial banana flavor even then.

Those cute little paraffin bottles, filled with various colors of liquid appealed to me, too. They might as well have been called “Liquid Tooth Decay,” but I loved them anyway.  I’d bite off the top of each and slurp down the “juice” in one gulp. Speaking of paraffin, how about those waxy red lips we all thought made us look like the Vamp of Savannah? My friends and I would tease the boys and threaten to kiss them, but eventually we’d give up and chew them (the lips, not the boys) into an icky red lump.      

Since we’d seen Lucy and Ricky Ricardo smoking on TV, we always bought those candy cigarettes too, with their little pink “fire” on the ends. A penny bought a whole box so we could practice looking sophisticated before we ate them.     

I was a picky licorice buyer, only choosing the long red ropes. Never a fan of the black ones, I hated the taste and the way it made my friends’ teeth look. As I was grousing about their ugly smiles, I, of course, looked like a vampire after her feed.

I have another Old School column in the works. It’s an ode to my dentist. I can’t imagine why. 


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