Oldies but Goodies

Favorite treats from the '60s are a nostalgic lure in the '90s

October 27, 1999|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,Sun Staff

Set aside your children's Queen Amidala and Pokemon costumes for a moment. Forget about Skittles and Gummi Bears. Think back to your own days of trick-or-treating.

George Schauer can help make it almost real. Place an order and the Ohio entrepreneur will dispatch a 4-pound box filled with the confections baby boomers used to haul home on Beggar's Night, or stash among the notebooks in their sixth-grade desks.

When was the last time you tasted, or for that matter saw, a Sugar Daddy? A Skybar? Or B-B-Bats?

Remember Atomic Fire Balls, Milk Duds and Chuckles?

Schauer even found Fizzies -- the sugary little disc that when dropped in a glass of water bubbled into a soft drink. Not surprisingly, it was the invention of Baltimore's own Emerson Drug Co., maker of Bromo-Seltzer.

Like many enterprises that indulge the baby-boomer hunger for nostalgia, this one began with a personal experience last year -- between Schauer and a package of Indian Brand salted pumpkin seeds.

While getting his van fixed at a small gas station outside of Fairview, Pa., in the spring of 1998, Schauer noticed an antique candy counter that contained packets of the seeds he had nibbled as a kid 35 years earlier.

"I remembered I would buy the little red boxes, I'd suck the white salt off, and when I bit into the seed, it tasted like wood," he said.

So while waiting for the mechanic to finish, the 46-year-old bought a pack and proceeded to consume them the very same way, hating them still.

It was the step backward in time that counted. Schauer says it made him feel like a 10-year-old again.

"It's not the candy so much as what it stands for," he said. "It's a passport back to your youth." If eating something he disliked could be that much fun, how much better to rediscover the treats that had been his favorites, Schauer thought. It was an experience worth building into a little business, he figured.

Intending to buy some of the old favorites and sell them in boxed collections, he began a company called Sugar Memories. At first, his calls to candy companies and distributors had mixed results.

Fizzies, for instance, had been pulled off U.S. shelves in 1968 with the banning of cyclamates. Twenty years later, it turned out, a group of baby boomers began a six-year search to find the Fizzie formula and re-create it, this time using NutraSweet.

The group succeeded for a while. And although its venture ultimately folded, Schauer managed to buy out what appears to be perhaps the world's last remaining stockpile of the beverage tablets.

Other candies appear to be gone for good, though: Pine Brother's Soft Honey drops, hollow licorice cigarettes, Popeye Tattoos with the square purple gum. And, sadly, Bonomo Turkish Taffy.

Remember the jingle? "B-o, n-o, m-o, Bonomo. O-O-O. It's Bonomo. Caaaaaaandy." The only acceptable way to eat it was to freeze the vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or banana slab, then smack it against a table, cracking it into bite-size pieces. Tootsie Roll Inc., which bought Bonomo, later discontinued it.

But Schauer has found Doscher's Vanilla French Chew -- a substitute that is not precisely the same, but close.

Otherwise, the Willoughby, Ohio, businessman provides 40-some oldies but goodies in a box labeled "Hard to Find Candies of the 1960s." Necco wafers, Jujubes, Lik-M-Aid, Mary Janes, Bun Candy bars, Slo-Pokes, Charms. Beemans and Black Jack chewing gum, which returned to the market a year ago, are there too in the identical packs.

Some offbeat surprises are included. Bright red wax lips. Smith Brothers wild cherry cough drops. Nik-L-Nip wax bottles. King's candy cigarettes.

Schauer almost gave up on the idea last fall after only a month. He had no advertising budget and in that time had sold only six boxes. But a friend stopped him as he headed toward the garbage bin to throw everything out. He had just watched a talk show where the guests fondly reminisced about Skybars and Slo-Pokes, he told Schauer. It was too early to fold, Schauer decided.

Since then, he has sold more than 6,000 boxes in all 50 states and abroad. Many of his customers are seeking unusual birthday gifts for friends in their 40s and 50s. Some buy the boxes for their high school reunions.

Recently, Sugar Memories merged with Double Diamond Co., a Cleveland-based firm that is preparing to send Schauer touring nationwide in the next several months to promote the merchandise.

"Hopefully, this will become the Whitman's Sampler for the millennium," Schauer said.

Sugar Memories can be contacted at P.O. Box 942, Willoughby, Ohio, 44096, or by calling 800-830-7510. A box of Schauer's candy costs $19.95 plus $5 for shipping.

Taste of the past

Here is a list of the assortment of candies you will find in a Sugar Memories package. (The candies are subject to replacement, depending on availability.)

Atomic Fire Balls

B-B-Bats

Bazooka Joe Gum

Beemans Gum

Bit-O-Honey

Black Jack Gum

Black Taffy (Blackjacks)

Boston Baked Beans

Bubblegum cigarettes

Bubblegum cigars

Bun Candy bar

Candy cigarettes

Candy lipstick

Candy necklace

Charleston Chews

Charms

Chocolate cigarettes

Chuckles

Fizzies

French Chew Taffy

Good & Plenty

Hot Cinnamon Toothpicks

Indian Brand Pumpkin Seeds

Jujubes

Kits

Licorice pipe

Lik-M-Aid

Mary Janes

Milk Duds

Chocolate Necco Wafers

Razzles

Shoebutton Candy

Skybar

Slo-Pokes

Smith Brothers Cough Drops

Squirrel Nut Chews

Strawberry Rolls

Sugar Daddy

Walnettos

Wax bottles

Wax fangs

Wax lips

Zagnut

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