Mack Williams: Endangered “old-time” candy
Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 22, 2018
The other day I had a shock similar to the one I experienced back when it looked like Twinkies was going to go out of business. I heard the Necco Company may be going out of business soon if they don’t find a buyer!
I first thought of one of my late wife Diane’s favorite candies: Necco Wafers.Thinking further back about Necco, time seemed to be turning back on a direct line (no jumping around like “Slaughterhouse 5”) to my childhood spent on the Old Concord Road and in Granite Quarry School. That feeling of panic about the candy wafer’s demise made it seem almost as if Granite Quarry School and the Old Concord Road were going out of business too, but no chance of that.
I then thought about the other Necco products: Conversation Hearts, Mary Jane, and Squirrel Nut Zippers. I hadn’t seen (read) any “conversation hearts” lately and wonder if the “PC commandoes” might have changed their wording, possibly viewing them as offensive (“offense by candy”).
On Valentine’s Day at Granite Quarry School, if your paper, hand-decorated, Valentine’s Day “mail pouch” (masking-taped to the wall) contained a box or two of Coversation Hearts, it meant that someone especially “cared!”
I thought back to childhood when just a few minutes presence of a piece of Mary Jane candy in my mouth would soften it enough to make it chewable. Nowadays, I would have to eat such candy in the same manner as my dentally-plagued second cousin, George Washington would have (if Mary Jane had been around then) relishing solely through its dissolving, from beginning to end.
Speaking of another “Mary Jane,” I neither lit nor inhaled!
Similarly, one time at Appalachian, I accompanied a writer friend when he visited another friend one evening. We sat there, talking, when my writer friend’s buddy suddenly pulled out a bag of marijuana (the other “mary jane”) and started puffing away. I was uneasy, remembering reading about the time Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif visited Lenny Bruce.
Bruce started shooting up drugs, the police raided the place, and Bruce, O’Toole and Sharif wound up in a jail cell on the eve of the world-wide premier of “Lawrence of Arabia”(1962). In my nerve-wracked analogy, my friend’s pot-smoking friend was Lenny Bruce, my friend was Peter O’Toole, and I (of course) was Omar Sharif.
In the case of Bruce, O’Toole and Sharif, Sam Spigel got them released from jail. In the case of my writer friend, his friend and me, the Boone Police never showed.
I always pronounced “Necco” as “neck-o” instead of “Nee-ko” because of the two “cs” following the vowel. When I remarked to a fellow worker at the science museum, “Necco might be going out of business,” he gave me a cautious, alarmed look, as if I had said something involving the word “nekkid,” but after my painstaking spelling of “n-e-c-c-o,” his alarm (and caution) subsided.
Just the name “Squirrel Nut Zippers” makes me think of the Chapel Hill band of the same name, their hit “The Ghost of Stephen Foster.” Google it on You Tube. It’s a hoot!
I ordered some of all of these Necco Company candies: Necco Wafers, Mary Jane, Conversation Hearts, and Squirrel Nut Zippers to store away (like a squirrel) just in case. Most Amazon sites said:”None left” or “One left,” evidently the effect of “candy hoarding.” Just now, I picture some empty barrels at Boone, North Carolina’s “The Candy Barrel.”
Thinking about some of this while I was at Food Lion (I have “retro” memories of it too!) I saw a retro “cane sugar” bottle of Dr. Pepper (my late wife, Diane enjoyed its diet version too). All of a sudden, that glass bottle seemed (to my mind) to shrink down to just under two inches in height, becoming wax, and instead of Dr. Pepper, contained liquid of different colors. A sinking feeling told me that upon my return home form the grocery store, I must again Google Amazon, just in case!