Sweet Treats And Cigarettes

In today’s GenForward living legacy free online genealogy website blog, I am casing my mind back to the days of my childhood and looking at some of the sweets and snacks that we grew up with and loved as kids, some of which are still around, but some of which would no longer be considered politically correct:

I have always had a bit of a soft spot for coconut. The first of my personal favourites from childhood is one the certainly falls under the not politically correct heading.

Spanish Gold was basically kind of crunchy sugar coated coconut strands. All exceedingly unhealthy I’m sure but the main issue was it was packaged and sold to represent chewing or rolling tobacco. I loved the stuff and to be fair I’m really not sure how much of an effect the tobacco advertising element really had on me. First off, if you eat tobacco it doesn’t really taste sweet and coconutty, second well pretty much everyone was smoking anyway so there were plenty of other images that could lead us young children astray.

I’m not really sure what else the stuff could have been packaged as to be fair. Worms maybe? Either way despite tasting nice it looked like something that had been swept off the floor after a heavy night down the pub (although in the 1970’s the mix would also have contained about a million cigarette butts).

This was not the only cigarette based sweet we had to lead us astray, there were also actual “Sweet Cigarettes

These were a kind of hard white fondant with a red bit put on the end to make it look lit. They were clearly packaged to familiarise kids with positive images of cigarette type packaging, although again I’m not sure how far this advertising would hold up given the flavour difference experienced the first time said child tried to eat a lit cigarette.

Either way, both of these 1970’s classics are likely to be forever condemned to eternity in sweetie purgatory for their supposed corrupting influence on kids.

Next up on the list is that old favourite to stick in another child’s hair…….Bubblegum!

The main staple of the bubblegum experience in the UK in the early to mid 70’s was Bazooka. You got a gum and a little comic strip featuring Bazooka Joe and his adventures. They were only about 1 or 2p each. I’m really stretching my memory now but I also recall at some point that they may have contained “tattoos” as well (smoking, tattoos, just drink and sex to go before we were fully corrupted children!).

These tattoos were the kind where you licked your arm and then plonked your transfer onto your spitty arm and held it as still as possible for as long as possible before revealing the result, which was just a messy spitty smudge about 75% of the time. I might be wrong on that though, may have been another brand of bubblegum but it was certainly a reason to purchase.

The other bubblegum that we always bought was Gold Nuggets or there was another similar thing called Gold Rush.

This stuff was basically gum coated in a hard yellow shell. This being the 1970’s I can only tremble as I think of what manner of toxic ingredients went into creating that vivid yellow crust, but my money says it’s wasn’t particularly eco friendly or organic, or probably even edible for that matter. All of this was way before the invention of “flavours” for bubblegum. It came in one flavour, “Bubblegum Flavour”. Like it or lump it.

 

Next up we had what we used to refer to as the “penny chews” section. Effectively this was loose candy that was sold by the piece. There would be a big glass counter in the sweet shop where you could go in and look at the sweets that were laid out and then you would point them out one at a time to the shopkeeper till you’d spent the 10p or 20p that you’d been sent tot the shop with. Prices started at ½ pence each and the most expensive things were probably 2p.

There was always a lot of choice in the penny pick and mix section but the stuff pictured here was the real staple of the experience. From top we have:

Teeth, made of a kind of hard milk gum. Specifically designed to replace the teeth you no longer had left after eating them I guess.

Mice, these were simply shaped white chocolate.

Shrimps, a kind of hard pink foam thing but really sweet.

Flying Saucers, total mystery as to why we liked these because they were basically awful. The outside was made of something that on contact with your mouth removed every trace of saliva and turned into what tasted and felt like melted plastic. Then there was a sherbet bit in the middle (if your saucer hadn’t leaked) as a kind of consolation prize.

Licorice Pipes, another smoking related sweet destined never to be seen again.

Dazzle Drops, chocolate buttons covered in tiny hard balls of coloured icing designed to break tooth enamel.

Bananas, basically the same stuff and the shrimps but in banana shape with banana(ish) flavour.

Trebor Fruit Salads and Black Jacks. I only really like the fruit salads. The blackjacks were just chucks of jet black chew that tasted of aniseed and made your mouth and teeth black. Think these are still around but certainly not in the same wrapper!

Fizzy Cola Bottles, cola flavoured jelly covered in sour tasting sugar stuff that was supposed to simulate “fizz”, probably sulphuric acid based knowing the 1970’s.

Cola Cubes, again more cola but this time in brick hard crystal form, useful for eating, building with, and creating cavities in your teeth.

 

Another invention straight out of the 70’s……….Space Dust

All things space were cool in the 70’s. To go with our Flying Saucers, Space Hoppers, Space Invaders, and Zoooooooooom! rocket shaped ice lollies, we had Space Dust. I’m not quite sure what the “Space” relationship was, beyond just a marketing thing to make it cool. The “Dust” bit however did hold up to closer scrutiny as that’s essentially what it was. A packet of toxic coloured dust that crackled when you put it on your tongue.

For months after this stuff came out there was not a school playground where a child was running around with their mouth open and tongue out trying to get their comrades to listen to it pop. That fad eventually came to a close as the new fad of hitting any such approaching child under the chin so they practically bit their tongue off, took hold. For the record, Space Dust also fizzes on contact with blood, not just saliva.

 

Whilst we also had Fruitella and Opal Fruits (Original Starburst) the one that I always remember from trips in the car that seems to have vanished is Pacers.

These were basically the same chewy plastic gum as an Opal Fruit, but instead of nice fruity flavours they were mint. Despite the fact that us kids always preferred Opal Fruits, our parents seemed to have been told that Pacers as an alternative provided some kind of health benefit because they ALWAYS got those instead for the long car journeys. Given that I was always sick on long car journeys as a child, being sick and Pacers are always inextricably linked in my mind.

 

Two last sweets before I move onto a couple of snacks that stick in the memory. Spangles and Double Agents.

No trip round 70’s sweets could be complete without a mention of spangles. These were fruit flavoured clear boiled sweets. If you bit into one it exploded into shards so sharp it was akin to chewing on broken glass. But we were tough in the 70’s so we loved them.

Double agents were a later addition and were effectively the same thing but with a chewy or soft centre of a contrasting flavour to the coating.

 

On the snack front, there were a few stand outs from the era.

Although there were a great many crisp and snack based inventions in the 1970’s, such as Monster Munch which are still around today, these were the ones that seems to have died and gone to snack heaven.

Football Crazies were basically corn puff balls. I think the only flavour they came in was bacon. It’s certainly the only one I remember and they were great because you could get 2 bags for 10p (unlike the aforementioned monster much that were 10p a bag). We used to live on these things till the craze for Walkers Snaps hit.

Snaps were kind of like a Cheese Quaver (I use these as reference because they are still around today). A hard, fairly flat slab of potato puff that sort of bubbled as it went to slush if you held it on your tongue. Unlike Quavers at the time that only came in cheese flavour, these came in a number of different varieties. The best by far was the tomato flavour as far as I’m concerned.

Horror Bags were another fad that came and went. Basically we’re back to the same corn puff but this time shaped into bats, claws, bones or ribs depending on the flavour you wanted. They must have invented some kind of puffed potato shaping process in the 70’s because so many variations on the same theme seemed to pop up. The “Horror” bit was in the form of a Dracula or Skeleton or whatever on the front of the bag, or maybe when you looked at some of the 1970’s ingredients on the back (we didn’t have nutritional information labels like today, perhaps there was no nutrition in any of it).

 

Obviously I could go on forever with Texans, Curly Wurleys, the big jars of sweets behind the counter (coconut mushrooms and coconut teacakes, yummmmm!), but I’ll leave you to fill in the gaps as that’s half the fun. Might also be interesting to see how far this was from the child confectionary diet in the USA at the time as a lot of these brands were British.

Regardless, we somehow survived without an epidemic of diabetes hitting and with some of the teeth remaining in our young heads so not too much harm done, despite some of the stuff that was in some of those flavourings and colourings back in the less enlightened days of 1970’s. We now also know that sugar is in fact spawn of the devil so yet again, I’m fairly impressed that any of us survived the 70’s childhood given such a rich supply of the stuff. Never mind the sweets, “diet” sodas didn’t really exist either so it was always full sugar all the way!

tom@genforward.org

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8Comments

8 thoughts on “Sweet Treats And Cigarettes”

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