What Ever Happened To…Penny Candy?

Why is it that as we grow older, the more we wax nostalgic for our childhoods? Could it be because the older we get, the more we appreciate the innocence of our youth? Maybe it’s because we become more aware of our own mortality.

I don’t know why for sure, but when I reminisce about my childhood, certain things creep into my memory. And they always make me feel comforted and yet sad. I’m comforted in the thought that it brings me back to a simpler time, yet sad because the feelings these memories represent. I know that I’ll never get to experience these times again.

And one of those memories is that of the neighborhood five and dime, Ben Franklin.

This looks much like my childhood Ben Franklin, though it's probably been turned into a parking garage.
This looks much like my childhood Ben Franklin, though it’s probably been turned into a parking garage.

As a small child in the late 60’s and early 70’s, I used to walk the few blocks from my house, my small hand clutching as many pennies as it could hold, to the Ben Franklin. There, I would push the glass door with all the strength my small frame could muster. Once I made my way inside, I would move as quickly as my little legs would take me to that magical aisle. That one aisle that made my eyes open wide and filled my heart with joy.

Yes, the penny candy aisle.

Ahhh buckets and buckets of candy!!!!
Ahhh buckets and buckets of candy!!!!

With only my small fistful of pennies, I could pick out a bucket of candy. All kinds of candy.

There were containers of Tootsie Rolls, Bazooka Bubble Gum, Sixlets.

Still the best tasting bubble gum out there...
Still the best tasting bubble gum out there…

There were Dum Dum’s, Swedish Fish, Candy Necklaces.

I always wound up with a mixture of food coloring, sugar and spit on my neck...kinda gross, eh?
I always wound up with a mixture of food coloring, sugar and spit on my neck…kinda gross, eh?

Red Licorice Whips, Wax Lips, Kits Taffy.

Nik L Nips, Candy Cigarettes, Pixie Stix.

BBBats Taffy, Candy Dots, Satellite Wafers

You can still find many of these in small Old Fashioned Candy Stores. Cracker Barrel even has some. But it will never be the same.

For one, nothing will ever be sold for a penny again. Now it’s more like 3 for $1.00.

Nor will our children be allowed to walk the few blocks from home to the local Five and Dime. Our neighborhoods are no longer safe, and the Walton’s have decimated small businesses everywhere. Instead of walking to the park, playing ball or cops and robbers, children will be on their IPhones and Xboxes. Instead of heading down the block, they get their parents to take them to Walmart or order from Amazon.

We need to go back to this.
We need to go back to this.

I’m lucky. I grew up with penny candy. And all the memories associated with it.

And whenever I start feeling things around me are moving too fast, I lay down on the couch and close my eyes. There I methodically pick candy dots off their paper backing, and pop them in my mouth. And I go back to a simpler time. When penny candy ruled, and Facebook didn’t exist.     k



What Ever Happened To…Plain, Old, Fast Food Shakes?

I love shakes. Any size, any flavor. Anything resembling a frozen dairy treat, and this girls in.

In some ways, I’m a connoisseur of all that is ice cream. I love it by the container, by the cone, embedded upon a stick. To me it’s pure joy.

So you would think that I would be okay with the trend that the fast food chains have adopted regarding my favorite little treat. You know what I’m talking about. The need to make their drinks fancy and ‘Old Fashioned’.

So instead of using a ‘prefabricated’ flavored shake mix that is dispensed from a refrigerated unit into a cup, we now make them the ‘Old Fashioned’ way.

Which is dispensing ‘prefabricated’ ice cream mix into a blender, adding flavoring and combining the two. We then transfer the concoction to a fancy clear plastic container. Then we add whipped cream and a cherry. And then we charge you a boatload more money, because it’s well…’Old Fashioned’.

Oh, yeah. They give you a fancy lid and a long handled spoon, too.


Two fine examples of the 'Old Fashioned' shake. Notice the fancy lid.
Two fine examples of ‘Old Fashioned’ shakes. Notice the fancy lid.

I was fine with the original shakes. To me they were awesome. Went perfectly with my Big Mac or Whopper. I didn’t need no stinking cherry. Or whipped cream for that matter. Just give me a straw, and I was golden.

And, if by chance, I wanted an ‘Old Fashioned’ shake, I would hit up DQ, or Baskin Robbins.

These do look pretty yummy...but that's why I hit DQ up. They rock when it comes to ice cream.
These do look pretty yummy…but that’s why I hit DQ up. They rock when it comes to ice cream.

I wish they would of left well enough alone. I don’t want to wait 10 minutes while you ‘craft’ me a shake.  Hell, my foods gonna get cold. And I could get a 20 piece order of nuggets for the same price.

Just pop open the spigot and let the ‘prefabricated’ goodness flow. It was faster, cheaper, and complimented my Quarter Pounder with cheese quite nicely. Slightly grainy with just the right amount of chocolate flavor.

Until then, make it a large Coke.    k

What Ever Happened To…Planter’s Cheez Balls?

Hmmm…Planter’s Cheez Balls. Where did those tasty little neon orange spheres of goodness disappear to???

My friend Steve came up with the suggestion of this beloved snack for my ‘What Ever Happened To…’ series. I, too, am curious where these little guys went.

Do they not look mouth watering??? Don't lie, you know you want some...
Do they not look mouth watering??? Don’t lie, you know you want some…

So I started to investigate. And do you know what I found out??? That they were discontinued in 2006. That’s it. No explanation, just gone.

Even went to their web page. Tried to search for it, but it came back with ‘Looks like we don’t have what you have searched for.’  I know this. I even tried asking ‘Why did you discontinue Cheez Balls?’. Same response.

And there are none to be found. Not on Amazon. Nor ebay. I did find out you can get a case of 6, 6.5 pound packages of Cheez Whiz on ebay for $174.30 with free shipping….if you’re interested.

You can purchase Utz cheeseballs. A 23oz container will set you back about $6.00.

Not as cool as that blue can....:(
Not as good as Planter’s Cheez Balls, but a cheese ball none the less.

According to what I’ve read and heard, they are about as close to Planter’s as we’re going to get.

What is interesting though, is the that the many fans of Planter’s Cheez Balls have started a petition to bring back their beloved snack. It’s located on causes.com, and has 611 current signers.

There’s also a post concerning a Cheez Ball sighting in Baton Rouge, LA in 2009. Probably just a hoax. Those Cajuns are such little pranksters!

Unfortunately, there does not appear any chance of Planter’s bringing back these tasty, little balls. By the looks of their web page, they appear to be focusing on nuts, not balls.

It’s a shame. They really could of had the lions share of the nut and ball market. Would of made for some awesome T-shirts. Just throwin’ it out there, Planter’s.    k


What ever happened to… Zima???

What did become of Zima, that lovely, lightly carbonated beverage of the ’90’s???

Before I answer that question, let me explain to the few who are unfamiliar with this clearmalt. Just what it is exactly, and why was it for a short time so popular.

Zima was introduced to the public by Coors Brewing Company in 1993.  It was 4.7-5.4% alcohol by volume and was categorized under the popular term of the day, ‘alcopop.” I prefer ‘bitch beer’ myself.

Ahhh...the beloved Zima!!!
Ahhh…the beloved Zima!!!

This lemon-lime beverage was created during the ‘clear craze’ of the nineties. Remember Crystal Pepsi and Tab Clear??? They were obviously equally successful. Yummo. It was also created to compete with the increasingly popular wine cooler, such as Bartles and Jaymes.

'Thank you for your support.'
‘Thank you for your support.’

Zima had a tough time appealing to the male crowd, despite a 1995 marketing campaign for Zima Gold which contained a ‘hint’ of bourbon. The amber colored beverage was a failure, and soon disappeared from shelves.

'nuff zaid.
’nuff zaid.

Even with the rumors that Zima actually contained no alcohol and that it would fail to show up on a breathalyzer test, it continued to decrease in popularity. It was consistently parodied on ‘Late Night with David Letterman’ and could never escape the stigma of being considered a ‘girly-man’ drink.

Then in 2000, Smirnoff introduced Smirnoff Ice, and Zima all but completely fell out of the limelight. Coors finally stopped distribution in the United States in October of 2008.

But all is not lost for Zima. Seems the Japanese love this beverage!

In Japan, real men drink Zima...I guess.
In Japan, real men drink Zima…I guess.

You can find it in the vast majority of bars in Tokyo. And the men drink it. And they’re not embarrassed. Why not ??? I’m not sure. They’re Japanese, and I do not understand the Japanese.

Unfortunately though, for all the Zima lovers still left in the States, you’re SOL. You can’t have it shipped from Japan, as it is illegal. I guess you’ll just have to suffer through a few bottles of Smirnoff Ice instead.

And that my friends, is what happened to Zima. The end.     k