When A Penny Candy Cost A Penny
I can still feel the hot wooden planks of the snack bar floor under my feet. The dripping water from my bathing suit seems to sizzle as it hits the wood. I move from side to side, hoping that this movement will keep my feet from sticking to the planks. I can hear the sound of people walking on the boards, vibrating them with each step. They are shouting to their friends and family who are still swimming in the lake to come out before the hot dogs are gone. I remember shading my eyes with my little hand, trying desperately to see the candy behind the screen. My stomach is in knots as the boys in front of me walk away with their purchases. It’s my turn now to tell the teenagers behind the counter what I want them to get for me. I place my dime on the counter and quickly ask in a “big girl” voice for ten cents worth of penny candy. As I walk back to my mother, it’s evident to my five year old self that there’s a lot more than ten pieces of candy in my paper sack. I guess it pays to be little and cute.
My brothers and I were lucky to have been able to experience the joy of penny candy. Kids nowadays can’t buy anything for ten cents. It is sad that they’ll never get to buy something with a dime and still get change back. From a child’s height, the penny candy shelf at the snack bar was enormous. Thinking back, it only held four containers: Gummy Bears, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish fish and Satellite Wafers/Flying Saucers. Of the four, my favorite was the wafers.
It is hard to explain why exactly I liked them so much. Honestly, I think it’s because of my mother and my childhood need to be like her. From what I know, they came into the picture in the 1950s around the same time as she did. As she liked them when she was little, she introduced the three of us to them. Yet, they aren’t all that tasty. In fact, they can easily make you gag. They are multicolored wafers with tiny edible candy beads (or pearls depending on who you talk to) that have a tendency to stick to both the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat. The wafer part is tasteless though some might call it styrofoam-like. As for the beads, I think they taste like lemon, but I wouldn’t fight someone who said they just tasted like sugar. Truthfully, I’ve always believed that they make better musical instruments than candy. With a bag of flying saucers in each hand, who needs maracas?
When we were little, my middle brother and I had this game that we played with them. To some people, it may be seen as sacrilege. In truth, it was just a cute game played by two Catholic school kids. Using the saucer as a stand in communion wafer, we would each take turns playing a priest and a parishioner. Given a large enough bag of satellites, we could play for hours. We played this game so often that I remember when I had my first real communion wafer, I was very disappointed and wondered aloud, much to my religion teacher’s disappointment, where the little candy pieces were.
A year or so ago, I introduced my personal religion teacher to flying saucers. Pointing in surprise at a plastic bag of them in the drug store, I was amazed that she had never heard of them. When we got out to the car, due to a force of habit, I pulled one out of the bag, said “Body of Christ” and popped one into her mouth. She gave me a truly confused look. Very embarrassed, I explained to her about my childhood game. Since then, satellites have been a frequent snack for us.
Going into a candy stores nowadays, you unfortunately cannot find a penny candy section. Well, you can, but none of the items will have penny price tags. The last time I bought flying saucers at a candy store, the store was selling them for “Just A Nickel Each! What A Bargain!” Being that I used to buy them for one cent each, this was no bargain. I remember leaving the store with my candy cigarettes feeling kind of bummed. As I drove out of the parking lot, puffing on my chalk white stick, I longed for the time years ago when my dime meant something and penny candies actually cost a penny. Suddenly, I felt bad for making fun of my mom about sundaes that used to cost a quarter.
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