The Night Owl is continuing its Halloween focus tonight… with candy! And because I’m writing this, I get to discuss some of the favorites I’ve had over my lifetime.
First is Swedish Fish. I’ve loved these things since I was a child. I particularly enjoyed when I could find the multicolored fish, which used to be fairly rare. And I continue to enjoy them even as I grew older and learned they were made with caranuba wax, the same stuff used for car polish. They aren’t the only candy to be made with it… it’s used for surface glazing on everything from tic tacs to candy bars. Swedish fish just step up their game and use it as a gelatin replacement, thereby having a much greater proportion of it in the candy.
Second are Tootsie Rolls. They were absolutely more of a childhood preference; as I’ve gotten older, when I want chocolate I tend to gravitate to the real thing. (That said, Tootsie Pops were the definitive lollipop. They gave you a lot, the flavor was strong, and you didn’t risk cutting your tongue or lip the way you did with Charms Blow-pops.) What no premier chocolate can claim, however, is that they saved a bunch of Marines’ lives.
During the Korean War, the First Marine Division met the enemy at Chosin mountain reservoir in subfreezing temperatures. Out of ammunition, Marines called in for 60mm mortar ammo; code name “Tootsie Rolls.” The radio operator did not have the code sheets that would tell him what a “Tootsie Roll” was, but knew the request was urgent; so he called in the order. Soon, pallets of Tootsie Roll candies parachuted from the sky to the First Marine Division! While they were not ammunition, this candy from the sky provided well needed nourishment for the troops. They also learned they could use warmed Tootsie Rolls to plug bullet holes, sealing them as they refroze.
Over two weeks of incessant fighting, the 15,000-man division suffered 3,000 killed in action, 6,000 wounded and thousands of severe frostbite cases. But they accomplished their goal and destroyed several Chinese divisions in the process. Many credited their very survival to Tootsie Rolls. Surviving Marines called themselves “The Chosin Few.”
Lastly, I’ll reverse course from the “favorites” to discuss one of the least favorite Halloween candies, ever. Necco Wafers. While not inherently horrible, they were not good, either. They were chalky bits of sugary stuff, the last thing eaten from the bag. The distinctive look of their roll was cool, even the mini-rolls that were given as treats, but their taste was unimpressive. Which is probably the reason the business closed down this year.
What people were not expecting was the simultaneous death of SweetHearts, the equally chalky but intensely nostalgic candies that people would buy with the intent of giving one to a particular person. Then they’d realize how difficult it would be to parcel them out one by one in the middle of a classroom, and they’d eventually just eat the things or buy a bunch of boxes and irrationally hope that the object of their affection would see the reason behind their box (as opposed to the boxes everyone else received.)
Well, nostalgia fans, I can tell you that Ohio has saved the day. Spangler Candy of Bryan, Ohio, specifically. They have said they will be ramping up production of SweetHearts, and while they do not have any expectation of having them available in large quantities in 2019, they’re expecting the candies to have wide distribution by Valentine’s Day 2020.
Oh, and they’re bringing back Necco Wafers too. I’m not sure how I feel about that.
Question of the night: What’s your favorite Halloween candy?