Childhood Penny Candy Decisions

by Nat Bodian


As a youngster in Newark's old Third Ward in the 1920s, life was relatively uncomplicated. But I do remember that occasionally I would have to make a difficult choice: buying the right piece of penny candy.

It didn't happen often, but occasionally a penny came into my hand, and before it could get warm I would hasten to the confectionery store on my block to dispose of it.

Up the three wooden steps to the store entrance and over the plank wooden floor to the rear of the store where the glass showcase stood displaying shelves of trays with various penny candies.

The problem was making the many choices.... so many candy many colors and different packages....and all so inviting.

Early on, I went for the most-for-your-money buys -- things like licorice cigarettes (in a box), or the long strips of paper dots (different colored candies pasted on a paper). But more often, I like to pick from the smaller loose candies. Your selection would be scooped up by the store proprietor with a small wooden cup and spilled into a brown paper bag.

These selections -- there were so many -- include jujubees, candy corn, chocolate babies, jelly beans, and green spearmint leaves.

Other times, I might go for the Mary Janes (molasses and peanut butter nougats), or the small white wax bottles (with colored syrup in them). After you swallowed the contents, you chewed the wax like chewing gum.

For real candy longevity, I'd go for the jawbreaker, a round hard sucking candy the size of a walnut.

Some of the other penny novelties that made spending a penny difficult were the long black and red licorice strips, the dome-shaped vanilla and maple creams, the rock candy on a string, and the lady fingers.

Those days of the penny candy are long since gone, but the coin with Mr. Lincoln's face on it, first issued in 1909 *, is still around and still being churned out by the U. S. Mint at the rate of one billion a month. The big question is: What can you buy with one today?

* The 100th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.


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