Happiness? To be living in the good old days, and realilze it at the time - it doesn't get any better than that. Your one-stop thought-shop. Thank you for shopping at GAR*MART.
Monday, February 15, 2010
This post is inspired by a package I received from Lisa Page of Texas. She got a package of Brach's Maple Nut Goodies out of her time machine and sent them to me. They look like mushrooms and taste like heaven. Peanuts and toffee bits in a chewy maple flavored nougat. Magic mushrooms, indeed. A magical flavor that takes us back to the late 1960s.
One of my first real jobs in high school was working at Woolworth's Dime Store in Watertown, Wisconsin. I worked with (sometimes for) Angie, in the candy and cosmetics department. Of course, everybody there was always extra good to Angie because Angie held the key to that room downstairs. Down in the center of the basement - in a secure wooden enclosure, was the Candy Room. And sometimes I would be designated as a key-holder to this sacred domain. Why me? Gravity, mainly - no matter how sweet it is, a 25-pound box of candy weighs 25 lbs, and these candies have to be brought upstairs by hand. By me, of course. On a torn-off corner of a piece of wrapping paper - encrypted in a shorthand that only Angie knew completely - the daily list.
Inside the candy room, the smell was, well, just imagine being surrounded by stacks of boxes all full of living, breathing CHOCOLATE! Once inside the fortress you realize why the candy room has to be guarded by the fortress-like gate with a steel padlock. Without the fortification, the candy would be powerless to defend itself from the Quality Control efforts of the entire staff.
February was candy month at Woolworths, the prime time to be sentenced to work in this glorious prison. February was the beginning of candy-centric holidays. Already upstairs and going full tilt in February, were the valentines treats - red gum-drop hearts, and those multi-colored multi-flavored little colored hearts, each with its own message, some good, some dubious. And then in honor of George Washington's birthday, the chocolate-covered cherries! Woolworth's was the only place to get a decent box of chocolate covered cherries, you know the kind that burst out with juice when you bite into them, and a tart cherry floating in the middle. Does anybody remember the gummi axes? We didn't call them gummi's at that time, but they had little cherry-flavored axes, to commemorate George Washington's chopping down his father's cherry tree.
And then, fully into Lent -- the marble cake cookies. They were similar to the Nabisco devil's food cookies you can get now, but Marble Cake Cookies were rich golden cake inside and a chocolatey coating (not really chocolate, but chocolate-flavored). I could not get enough of these, and because I was Angie's pet, I could get first choice of the fresh ones!
And then - the ultimate candy holiday - Easter! Marshmallow eggs, chocolate bunnies, and of course those little yellow marshmallow chickens, similar to the "peeps" that they have now. And the jelly beans! You could get large coconut filled, regular size fruit flavor, multi-colored spicy ones, and the little mini ones with a much more pungent flavor. You could also get tan-colored all-caramel eggs, or all-black, called Crow Eggs. And the wrapped creme-filled eggs which came in maple, cherry, vanilla, chocolate, coconut, or other fillings.
So, from February to Easter, carrying the candy up the stairs became priority number one as soon as I arrived after school. Even Roger the Baptist had to carry some up if we were falling behind the demand.
Valentines was busy, but Easter was simply crazy. The candy-counter was almost all Easter candy, and there was a seasonal section which became devoted to mostly candy, the wrapped-pre-packaged items. Keeping this all stocked involved a lot of heavy stomping up the stairs, and not without its rewards. Angie was always needing help sampling for 'quality control' purposes
The day before Easter was the final push. On that Saturday, we had to come in an hour early, piling up backup stock under the counters, and carting away the empties as the clerks frantically shoveled the shelves full of product. And at the end of the day, the day before Easter, after we closed and cleaned up, Mr. Conard the manager gave each of us a grocery bag, and told us to take whatever Easter candy was left - take as much as you want. And we did!
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