Posts filed under ‘WWII to 1960s’

Candy is Life: Korea, 1952

In the 1950s, Edward R. Murrow was the nation’s pre-eminent television journalist. His CBS program See it Now pioneered the TV newsmagazine format that spawned familiar programs like “60 Minutes” and “20/20.”

Detail of a Map of Korea

Murrow was suspicious of the new medium of television, and insisted his program actively involve itself in the issues of the day. To insure the most engaged and accurate reporting See It Now maintained its own camera crews to coordinate filming on location and used 35mm- cameras to record the most striking images.

In a March 1952 report from Korea, “See it Now” reporter George Herman focused on the effects on the civilian population of the Korean War, which was entering its third year. Candy was part of the story.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the candy industry and candy enthusiasts had promoted candy as “good food” and a good source of energy. In times of plenty, candy was consumed along side all sorts of other foods, and the emphasis was on enjoyment and pleasure. The positive message about candy was something like: Candy is good energy food, so why not enjoy it?

But when the economy was down, candy for many was more than just pleasure and fun. Candy was also, calorie for calorie, incredibly cheap. During the years of the depression, candy bars with food names like Lunch Bar and Chicken Dinner suggested that for many, a candy bar was a way to sate hunger in the place of a proper mean. By the 1940s, candy bars were being fortified with vitamins and sold as “packed with nutrition.”

Even in America’s darkest hours, candy always promoted a positive, fun image of enjoyment and pleasure. “See it Now” put candy eating in a different light.

Herman explained,

Candy is no joke in Korea. In a country where people just barely survive the winter every year, where sugar is scarce and calories are counted in tens rather than in hundreds, candy can mean the difference between surviving and succumbing to tuberculosis or pneumonia or some of the other deaths that cold and poverty reap per year.

As Herman described the suffering of Korea’s population and their economic hardship, the camera showed images of Korean children, scrambling for candy.

In the first and second World Wars, American soldiers would often carry candy to give out to civilians as a gesture of friendship and good will. The reporting from Korea suggested a more disturbing and desperate story. For those Koreans who were lucky enough to grab something in the candy scramble, candy wasn’t just a treat. Candy was, in wartime, life itself.

Source: Candy Industry April 1952, p. 1

December 2, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Movie Candy

candy and the movies

1951 Movie Concession Sales

If you’ve been to a movie theater lately, you’ve probably noticed the candy counter at the concession stand. At my local cine-plex, big boxes of gummi bears and Junior Mints can be had at $3.00 a pop. It’s a lot more than what the drug store down the street is charging, but I’m a captive audience. Besides, what’s a movie without a huge candy overdose? Pricey, absolutely. Concession sales today account for over 40 percent of movie theaters’ net revenue.

The first movie theaters were the nickelodeons of the 1900s and teens, simple affairs where 5 cents could by any news boy or seamstress a few moments of magical escape. It was a popular entertainment: by 1914, 27 percent of Americans were regularly attending the moving picture shows.

Early theaters did not sell refreshments. As nickelodeons gave way to more opulent movie palaces in the 1920s, operators wanted to keep the atmosphere “classy,” and lip smacking and litter didn’t fit. But by the 1930s, the economic squeeze of the Depression was affecting revenues. New theaters were smaller and less luxurious. Selling candy, popcorn, and sodas was a way to bring more money into the theaters. By the 1940s, concession stands were in every theater, and sales of food and drink were a big money-maker.

Conecession sales took off fast. In 1951, concession sales were accounting for 22 percent of the gross revenues at the nations 19,500 indoor theaters. 3 out of five theater patrons were buying refreshments before or during the show. At the 2,500 drive ins around the country, the numbers were even higher, with concessions bringing in 45 cents for every ticket dollar.

Popcorn was the biggest seller, bringing $193 million to theater coffers that year. Candy followed a close second, at $135 million. That amounted to $2.5 million each week spent on candy at the nation’s movie theaters.

In many of the theaters, kids were the biggest buyers of candy. The most popular items were the “nickel bars” and other five-cent items including chewing gum. As many in the candy trade agitated to move to a more lucrative ten-cent candy bar, the theaters were against it, even if it meant making the nickel bars smaller. Movie theaters prized the ‘kids trade,’ and feared that “a boost in price to a dime would drastically reduce sales to children.”

The big competitor for the movie-goers dime was popcorn. Sugar had been rationed during the second world war, and popcorn had become more common and more popular as a result. One candy industry booster thought popcorn should go:

I venture the opinion that one of the reasons for the ’death’ of movie houses is because of the odor and noise from popcorn. As to the quality of motion pictures presented, that is a question open to debate but smell is smell, and noise is a noise, and my guess is that some of those who may be reading this editorial have been annoyed just as much as I have through smelly and noisy popcorn and stay away from movies.

Smelly, noisy popcorn vs. fragrant, soft candy… no contest!

Source: “Theatre Field Prefers Five-Cent Candy Bars” Confectioners Journal July 1951 p 30; “Movies and Candy and Popcorn,” Confectioners Journal Aug. 1953 p. 63; Jill Pellittieri, Make it a Large for a Quarter More? A short history of concession stands. Slate, June 26, 2007

November 30, 2009 at 7:46 am 1 comment

Candy Lunch Bars

If you’re getting hungry for some lunch soon, I thought you might enjoy these. Don’t worry if you’re a little short this month, three cents is all you need to enjoy a delicious Lunch Bar (1949). And if you have a nickel, perhaps you’d prefer the Chicken Dinner (1947) or the Denver Sandwich (1947). Bon Appetit!

klein lunch bar 1949sperry denver sandwich 1947

November 9, 2009 at 11:11 am 25 comments

Laxatives and the end of Trick or Treating

Halloween is here, and once again we mourn the death of Trick or Treating. It happened exactly fifty years ago, today.

Thinkstock Single Image Set

Halloween 1959. Dr. William V. Shyne, a dentist in Fremont, California, was having an off day. Maybe his wife just left him, maybe his pants were too tight, maybe he just didn’t like people. Or rather, maybe he just didn’t like kids.

Kids came around to his house that night, ringing the bell and calling Trick or Treat! Lots, maybe a couple hundred. In 1959, every kid in America under the age of 10 or so was out on Halloween night, making the rounds. They would go in gangs and groups, the older ones on their own, the littlest ones with older kids or their parents, ringing bells and gathering candy loot and howling and hooting.

Dr. Shyne answered the door. And he gave out treats, all right. But his treats turned out to be a mean and nasty trick. Police investigators discovered he had “dispensed” 450 candy-coated laxative pills into kids’ outstretched bags. Thirty of those kids became very, very sick.

Dr. Shyne was charged with “outrage of public decency” and “unlawful dispensing of drugs.” They should have charged him with murder. Because after that, Halloween was never the same.

Halloween 1960 began the era of “Halloween sadism.” Was it safe to Trick or Treat? What maniac might put a LSD tab, or a poisoned Tootsie Roll, or a razor-spiked apple, in little Suzy’s bag? Stories surfaced of pins, needles, razor blades, but they would fade away under closer examination. Nevertheless, Americans came to believe that kids weren’t safe at Halloween. Parents scrutinized their kiddies’ loot and confiscated anything “wierd.” No cookies, no apples, no unwrapped candies, that was obvious. Some towns set up X-ray stations at hospitals to “check the candy.” The festive and free romping of the streets for Trick or Treat faded into a circuit at the mall, a party at church, a supervised promenade to select neighbors homes.

But through all of that, even up to today, there has never been a single substantiated instance of an anonymous sadist causing death or life-threatening injury. Not one.

Dr. Shyne was the first, and only, of his kind.

RIP.

PS. I hear, contrary to the boo-hoo-ers, that in fact in many neighborhoods trick or treat is alive and well, with the proper supervision and safeguards. Like the vampires and zombies of Halloween, Trick or Treat rises from the grave!

October 30, 2009 at 7:09 am 13 comments

Candies For Trick or Treat in the 1950s

Close up view of a Halloween bag storing candy sweets

Halloween is coming. Trick-or-Treat and … CANDY!

It’s hard to believe, but back in the 1950s, Halloween wasn’t really a candy holiday.

Before the 1940s, most Americans had never heard of trick-or-treat. And as trick-or-treat caught on after World War II, treats were various and mostly not candy. Typical treats included cookies, popcorn balls, nuts, coins, and also jelly beans and candy corn, loose and unwrapped. And of course the occasional rock.

Life Magazine doesn’t have any ads for candy that mention trick-or-treat before 1953. In the October 26, 1953 issue, Fleer Dubble Bubble ran an ad that said “Treat the Kids this Halloween with Dubble Bubble.” The accompanying drawing features a woman handing gum to a pack of costumed kids. There’s a little black cat sitting at her feet. Think “Bewitched” but brunette.

Mars, Inc. was another of the very early manufacturers promoting candy for trick-or-treat. The October 25, 1954 issue of Life features an ad for Milky Way bars promoting the “Haunting Flavor” of its “three layer treat.” The image shows a ghost eating a Milky Way. Fleer Dubble Bubble also ran an ad in the same issue with a masked trick or treater ringing a doorbell, a clever visual reference to the early “gangster” origins of trick-or-treat.

The association of candy with Halloween was not obvious to everyone, though. Other products pitched trick-or-treat  as an occasion to spread their own kind of goodness. The October 25, 1954 issue of Life included a Kellogg’s ad for cereal Snack-Paks that reads “Sweet treats for little kids!” and shows a woman handing a box of Frosted Flakes to the Trick or Treaters. In 1959, the October 26 issue featured trick-or-treat theme ads for Hawaiian Punch (“treats for thirsty tricksters”), Kool Aid (“loot for the trick or treaters”), and my own personal favorite for weird Halloween tie-in, Dutch Masters Cigars (costumed kids hold a cigar box out to dad: “No trick…all treat”).

Anything could be a Halloween treat. And candy advertised around Halloween might not even make a Halloween reference. In 1954 and later years, Brach’s ran an ad for chocolate peanuts which made no mention of the season or the holiday. Mars ran an ad for the Mars bar in the October 29,1956 issue, but it is a general ad that makes no reference to Halloween.

Most candy in the 1950s, even if it was advertised for Halloween, didn’t have any special  packaging or wrapping. The first ad I’ve found for specially packaged trick-or-treat candy bar miniatures is from Curtiss, in 1960: “the goblins ‘ll get you if you don’t treat ’em right!” Mom is holding a bowl with assorted Baby Ruth and Butterfinger bars. They are “miniature” compared to regular, sure, but kids in those days were getting a “mini” about three times the size of today’s Halloween treat size!

(CORRECTION Oct 15, 2010: I have since found ads much earlier mini-bars advertised for Halloween, as this from 1951 (Hershey’s “mini,” “small size” Baby Ruth and Butterfinger [Curtiss]. Were there others in the 1950s? When did the mini size become wide spread?).

I found these pictures of some of the earliest candy packages that refer explicitly to trick-or-treat, both from the mid 1950s:

Heath halloween package 1955

This Heath package is from 1955. It is a regular 24 box of Heath bars, with a special sleeve that could be removed if the merchandise stayed on the shelf after the holiday. This kind of multi-purpose package suggests that Halloween wasn’t sending candy flying off the shelf.

halloween package 1956

This hexagonal carton is an award winning package distributed by the Sierra Candy Company in 1956. Its terribly clever: ears sick out the sides for a comic effect, while a menacing toothsome grin and googly eyes offer a peek a the candy inside.

Sources: Life Magazine courtesy of Google Books (tip: to see a larger image of the ad, click on the single page view in the Google viewer after clicking my link); Confectioners Journal Sept. 1955 p. 24, April 1956 p. 36.

October 26, 2009 at 6:50 am 9 comments

A Musical TV Tribute to Candy, 1951

By 1951, candy was fully committed to a television future. TV viewers on the night of December 1, 1951, enjoyed a full-length musical tribute to candy, as featured on the popular Ken Murray Television Show. There were specially written songs, special costumes and scenery, and a unique candy dance extravaganza.

Family watching TV

Viewers would be entertained, to be sure. But they would also be educated. The Candy Show was a promotion for candy, after all. The 14 million viewers learned about the important part candy plays in food and nutrition, the tireless efforts of candy manufacturers to improve their products, and the “constant efforts being put forth to provide the buying public with delicious and wholesome candy.”

The Ken Murray Show’s sponsor probably had something to do with the plans for “one of the greatest good-will promotions in the entire history of the candy industry.” The sponsor was Anheuser-Busch. The Anheuser-Busch Corn Products Division was a major supplier of corn syrup to the candy industry (see CandyProfessor:  “Beer and Candy III”). So what was good for candy was good for corn products, and what was good for corn products was good for Anheuser-Busch.

Source: “TV Show to Promote Candy as Food,” Confectioners Journal Dec. 1951, p. 27

October 23, 2009 at 6:55 am 2 comments

Candy Discovers Television, 1950

In 1950, candy woke up to a whole new realm of candy selling and candy eating possibilities: television.

Watching TV

5 million television sets were in use in 1950, with another million expected to be added by years end. In the days of “family viewing,” that meant 15-20 million Americans gathered around the black and white hearth.

But what really caught the candy industry’s eye was this: families gathered around the television were eating candy. Lots of it.

TV was a perfect candy eating opportunity. TV created “a concentrated attentive audience, in a relaxed pleasure seeking mood. An audience that should be receptive to eating candy.”

Marketing professionals had some advice for exploiting this new opportunity. Henceforth, candy manufacturers would

1. sell the consumer on the idea of eating candy while watching television.

2. create special television candies and packages

3. investigate the potentials of television as an advertising medium for candy.

The observations of a reporter for Candy Industry proved prophetic:

As a new confectionery outlet it is still in infancy, if not the incubating stage. But it has taken root, and if properly developed, it may well have a terrific impact on the candy business in the months and years to come.

Source: “Television Opens New Candy Market.” (p 1, 31) Candy Industry 25 April 1950, 1, 31.

Related Posts:

  • Howdy Doody, brought to you by Candy
  • A Musical TV Tribute to Candy, 1951
  • October 21, 2009 at 5:03 pm 1 comment

    Older Posts Newer Posts


    Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

    Welcome to Candy Professor

    Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

    (C) Samira Kawash

    All written contents protected by copyright. Except where noted, Candy Professor is my original research, based on archives, journals, magazines, newspapers, and other historical artifacts. You do not have permission to copy or re-post my content. If you want to refer to my work, please create a link from the blog entry and also write out the citation:
    Samira Kawash, "entry name," candyprofessor.com, entry date.

    If you would like to copy, re-post, or reproduce my work, please contact me for permission.

    Categories

    Header Image Credit