I am a writer, teacher, and parent. As a child of the 1960s, I'm also someone who appreciates a bit of sweet nostalgia.
Remember These Sweets From the 1960s?
Whether you're young or old, candy from the 1960s is pretty fascinating stuff. There's the oddly flavored Teaberry gum, the weird (and frosted?) Zero Bar, and the Fizzies tablets that you drop into a glass of water to make your own soda pop.
I have gathered together some of the most popular candies from that decade, from the great (Chuckles!) to the not-so-great (Bit-O-Honey, anyone?). No matter which candies were your personal favorites, you'll certainly remember many of these. For all of us children of the 1960s, here are some sweet memories. Enjoy!
Good & Plenty
Ah, Good & Plenty. The grand old man of modern American candy. They got their start at the end of the 19th century, when some candy still came in the ever-popular "musk" flavor (see candy hearts).
Choo Choo Charlie, seen below in a clip from one of those unforgettable TV commercials, shook the box in time to the chugging wheels—"Charlie says!" According to at least one source, the lovely pink color of these candies comes from the crushed bodies of a certain kind of insect. Yummy! Still, as Charlie says, "love my Good & Plenty!"
Boston Baked Beans
This is a pretty weird name for candy, right? Baked beans—ooh, give me a big handful! But these were kind of good, certainly not like any other candy out there. Little Spanish peanuts with a kind of burnt-tasting shell, just this side of awful, but somehow delicious, these Ferrara-Pan concoctions have been around for quite awhile, surviving despite their weird name and out-there flavor. You can still find them lurking in candy machines by the doors of local businesses, though I can't really vouch for the freshness of those...
Who needs to be a proud papa to get a kick out of a bubble gum cigar? Not us! When we were kids and we could run around all afternoon gnawing on one of these monsters, pretending to be old men or gangsters. Chewing an entire bubble gum cigar was just about impossible given its size, so we kind of whittled them down in the course of a day or two. Could there be a connection between that habit and the mouthful of cavities we eventually wound up with?
Space Food Sticks
OK, so these aren't exactly candy, but if there's one snack that really nails the 1960s for me, its these little things. Kind of a precursor to Power Bars, Space Food Sticks were tubes of, I guess, food. They were a bit like a candy Slim Jim, wrapped up in heavy, space-age foil packaging. The box was pretty hilarious, and the super-serious TV commercials made these things sound like the only sane choice for snacking in this or any century. We could go through a box of 12 in less than two days.
The Classic Candy Necklace
Introduced in 1958 but not really popular until the '60s, when pre-teens like me and my brother wore them to show some kind of solidarity with the hippies we saw on TV, candy necklaces were pretty much a failure as both a candy and a necklace. Not tasty at all—a little like super-bland SweeTarts—and oddly uncomfortable to have around your neck all day. Plus if it was hot your sweat melted the candy, leaving little color marks around your neck for a few days at least. Nice from a nostalgia point of view, but not really a big win for the candy industry.
Mini Chiclets were pretty much the sweetest thing going, no? The ratio of candy shell to actual gum was high, which meant these little things are basically just a mouthful of crunchy candy with a gum afterthought. My brother loved these but I thought they were kind of a waste of time—why not just get a roll of bottle caps and a thing of Big League Chew and follow one with the other? You would get the same effect as Mini Chiclets, only on an epic scale.
Yay, Fizzies! Not really candy, and really not soda pop. Fizzies was the misbegotten offspring of Speedy Alka-Seltzer and the Hey Kool-Aid pitcher, with none of the flavor appeal of Kool-Aid or the headache-reducing power of Alka-Seltzer. But we loved them, anyway! The little tablets fizzed up and made a gross drink in a horrid purple color (try two together for real wrongness), and we downed them all summer long. This was one treat our mom in particular hated, and now that I'm a parent I can see why.
Zero Bars were weird—the hands-down weirdest candy bar going, and also pretty rare where I grew up in the northern Midwest. I think maybe Zero Bars were more of a Southern thing. What was that white coating? What flavor is white? It was kind of like a Three Musketeers turned inside out, right? No one that I knew ate these, but once in a while we picked one up for the sake of novelty. I could not tell you I remember what they taste like.
Lemonheads! This is one candy that has aged not one bit. The sweet-sour punch was simply addictive, and the crumbly sugar coating somehow summed up summer and childhood. I'm actually about to get up and walk down to the 7-11 and pick me up some now...
In retrospect, Sugar Babies very much underrated by my friends and me. These little sugar-coated caramels packed a serious does of sweetness, something I always forgot until I was halfway through a bag and my teeth were starting to actually hurt. One of the few candies that we rarely finished in one go; there always seemed to be a bag with about a third left in it, with the top twisted closed. One of my favorites, really—I think I might need to buy a few boxes!
OK, Chuckles just flat-out ruled! Even the licorice ones. I would maybe trade a red Chuckles for, say, a stick of Black Jack gum, or maybe a Reese's, but overall Chuckles were above reproach. Generous amounts of sugar, divided so you could save some for later, and impervious to heat or, mostly, back-pocket squashing. Give me my Chuckles!
My crazy brother loved these—but I think partly because he could be sure that no one would steal them from his trick-or-treat bag. Why? That would be because no one liked them. Just not sweet enough, and there was a nut-like flavor that just did not work with the honey taste. Plus they were even harder to chew than Now and Laters. Not only did no one steal his Bit-O-Honeys, we all gave him ours. Smart kid!
Now that I'm older, I'm very careful around these, as well as Now and Laters, because I value my fillings and I know how much it's going to cost to have them put back in. Living life with a mouthful of sticky sugar is great when you're 11, but 50 years later the chickens very quickly come home to roost. Some parts of youth, it turns out, are not really wasted on the young.
Sorry, but these were too sweet for me. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups filled with marshmallow fluff—I get the shudders just thinking about them. My brother liked them, but I couldn't be in the same room. I tried one recently, just to see if I had recovered from my aversion, but no—they're still the sweetest thing under a wrapper. You have to be a special person to appreciate Mallo Cups, I guess.
Teaberry? What on earth is a teaberry? The few times I tried this I had the sense of being medicated by an aged relative—and sure enough, this gum dates back to 1900.
The odd flavor is genuine—the strangely wintergreen-like flavor comes from the leaves of the eastern teaberry, a plant you're not likely to chew on just for the heck of it. No, someone had to put it into a stick of gum first. The wax paper wrapping of each stick, like all of the Clark's gums, gave it a kind of antique feel. Not really what me and my neo-hippie pre-teen friends were into.
On the other hand, Teaberry gum did have an awesome TV commercial campaign, featuring a song by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Check it out and see if it doesn't stir up some memories.
Do the Teaberry Shuffle!
Simply one of the greatest of all candy treats. The gum itself was pretty great, a little like mini Chiclets, in that a big mouthful of super-sweet candy bits metamorphosed into a big mouthful of super-sweet gum.
What flavor was that? Gold? Who knows! All we knew was, it was sweet. But even better than the generous amount of sweetness was the awesome, honest-to-goodness cloth bag with a drawstring that it came in. These were perfect for cool rock collections, or coin banks, or marbles—pretty much anything small and worth saving. We always had a few on hand, full of our childhood treasures.
What exactly are these, anyway? They tasted kind of like peanut butter, but kind of not—there was also a crunchy-sweet thing going on, not unpleasant, but not, somehow, real. Maybe it was the coconut powder dusting the stick itself, and maybe coconut and peanut butter isn't the greatest flavor combo ever. Seriously, who comes up with these?
Well, as it turns out Chick-O-Stick have been around for a long time, perhaps even as far back as the Great Depression. The original wrapper had a chicken wearing a cowboy hat (well naturally, since it's peanut butter and coconut flavored . . . wha?), which at least made sense of the name. But soon the chicken was removed from the label, leaving just the name. I remember not being sure if it was a chicken-flavored salty snack or candy, and so we rarely bought them. Our loss, as it turns out, because they're really quite tasty.
That's All, Folks!
I hope this article brought back some sweet memories because it certainly did for me as I was writing it. If I've missed one of your favorite candies, please share it below in the comments!
More Memory Lane Candies
- Retro Candy From the 1940s, '50s, and '60s
Come take a trip down memory lane with me. Those candies from the 1940s, '50s, and '60s were the best!
- Candy From the 1970s: Remember These?
Pop Rocks, Wacky Packs, Now and Laters—all the great candy of the 1970s is right here. How many of these do you remember?