Posts filed under ‘War’

Let’s Play War Candy!

Toy soldiers on market stall, customers in background (focus on toys)

What do you tell your children about the war? In my house, we try to avoid talk of violence, terrorism, torture, guns and bombs. My daughter is only six, and somehow I cling to the idea that I can shield her from the harsh realities for a little while longer.

So when I found ads for children’s candy from the era of World War I that emphasized war and weaponry, I was a bit surprised.

Zatek Milk Chocolate Eatmors were chocolate drops (similar to Hershey’s chocolate kisses) sold in a tube. Before WWI, ads for Eatmors suggested that kids could use the tube as a megaphone when they were finished with the candy. Then in 1916 they started a new campaign with a new toy idea:

Boom! the War is on. Children all over this peaceful land are having the time of their lives making toy cannons out of ZATEK Eatmor tubes and playing war. Each Eatmor cannon is loaded with 24 or more ’solid shot’ of pure, sweet, creamy milk chocolate.

The ads included diagrams showing how kids could turn the tubes into little play cannons by adding paper wheels, and a scene with brother and sister down on the playroom rug surrounded by toy soldiers and the Eatmor cannon.

The R.E. Rodda Company of Lancaster PA took the theme of national war preparedness for its 1916 line of penny candy novelties. Children could have 6 submarines, or 5 torpedo-boat destroyers, or 4 battleships for their penny purchase. Their ad copy featured a parody of the war-time news reels and tabloid headlines of the day:

Almost since the day the phrase, ’National Preparedness’ was born, we have been building (?) Battleships, Torpedo-Boat Destroyers and Submarines, until now we have a fleet second to none, and can supply each man, woman and child with a navy of their own. This is– National Preparedness.

Don’t wait for this ’bomb’ to drop in your territory–’arm yourself’ with a stock of these goods at once! Don’t ’defeat’ your opportunity for ’an overwhelming success’ this season, by running into doubt ’entanglements.’ Get busy! ’Mobilize’ your forces and begin ’the attack’ on the trade. ’Fire away’ with your orders–as stated before–we are Prepared!”

The U.S. joined the war officially in August 1917. But these advertisements from 1916 give a good idea of how deeply the feeling that war was coming had penetrated into the national spirit. We get a sense of jauntiness and confidence from the language of these ads: war is a good adventure, with little to fear. Candy cannons and submarines seem to transform war into a big game: its fun, if you know how to play.

For us today, the message “war is fun!” seems a little uncomfortable. Even more uncomfortable for me as a parent is the use of candy to encourage children to see the war as normal and fun. The “unconscious” work of these war candies and their advertising is to make every citizen, no matter how small, a participant in the war effort.

On the other hand, war is real. Are we doing more harm than good by sheltering our twenty-first century children from anything that would hint at the brutal truth?

Sources: Pennsylvania Chocolate Company ad for Zatek Eatmors, Confectioners Journal May 1916, p. 27; R.E. Rodda Candy Company ad, Confectioners Journal April 1916, p. 19.

January 13, 2010 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

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

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