I used to love getting a few packs of candy cigarettes in my Halloween bag as a youngster. Did those pretend-tobacco confections influence my later pack-a-day habit? Probably not as much as old Warner Bros. movies and the Kool-puffing juvenile delinquents I knew in high school did. Hey, everyone seemed to be smoking cigarettes in the 1960s…even Fred Flintstone.
These days, candy cigarettes are so politically incorrect that Pat McBee, owner of the Candy Store in Crown Center, keeps her stash hidden behind the counter. Kids can still buy the chalky candy sticks — they’re not illegal, after all — but only with a parent present.
“We used to have them displayed,” McBee says. “But then I got an angry phone call from a school principal who was offended to see them.”
Candy cigarettes — like Chuckles, Adam’s Clove chewing gum, Chick-O-Stix and other nostalgic treats — evoke a simpler, less controversial Halloween of another day. Most of the customers who come to the Candy Store for the vintage stuff tend to be 40 or older, McBee says. Baby boomers grew up with Bit-O-Honey, Mary Janes, Necco Wafers — which date back to 1847 and are one of the oldest candies in the United States — and Beeman’s gum.
“Every so often, I get a 20-something buying some of the vintage candy, and I’ll ask if the person is buying it for his father, and the customer will say, “No, I’m buying it for me.’ ”
In the 1960s, Kits — which came in a variety of flavors — were popular penny candies. McBee sells the taffy in banana, peanut butter, strawberry and chocolate flavors. And not for a penny.
The Adams chewing gums — Blackjack, Beeman’s and Clove — taste just like they did when Nixon was in the White House, though they were 10 cents a pack then. Now McBee has to charge $1.25 a pack. I vaguely remembered Charms candy and Zagnut bars (both still sell well at the Candy Store), but a Sky Bar? “It was very popular,” McBee says.”It was four candy bars in one. One portion was filled with caramel, another with peanuts, another with vanilla cream and the other with fudge.”
Since young patrons are the primary clientele of the Candy Store, McBee’s top sellers are the bins of gummy products, Jelly Bellies and taffies.
“We don’t sell that much of the vintage candy, but people do still come in looking for it, so we keep it in stock.”