A Trip to the 80s Candy Store

by Jason Gross @SockofFleagulls

We children of the 80s can remember a time when a Saturday morning, a bike, and 3 dollars could bring a lot of happiness. Most of us had a few options on the destination to which we could spend our precious savings or allowance. If you lived near a mall, there was always a high score to be topped at the arcade. If you had a hobby shop nearby, a few comics, some Topps wax packs, or the latest issue of Nintendo Power was always on your mind. But when you wanted to stretch those 3 dollars to the max, there was only one place to go…the candy store!

I grew up in the one traffic light town of Curwensville, Pennsylvania. My store of choice was called Buzzards (named for the owners.) It was a hybrid of sorts, offering a vast assortment of candy & ice cream treats, trading cards, and small toys. A good neighbor friend and I would tell our parents of the upcoming journey, hop on our bikes, and coast down Ridge Avenue into town. It was about a 2-mile ride that was mostly all downhill. We’d roll into town and lean our bikes on the side of the building and enter candy heaven.

We had what seemed like endless options to choose from back then. There was plenty of traditional candy that was still popular like candy necklaces and bracelets, atomic fireballs, Fun Dip, Pixie Sticks, Pez, Blow Pops, Fruit Stripe gum, satellite wafers, wax bottles, fangs, & mustaches, Melody Pops (now Whistle Pops), candy cigarettes (sticks and gum), root beer barrels, rock candy, and Smarties.

We also got to experience some candy that was new in the 80s and has since withstood the test of time. Big League Chew, which was introduced in 1980, was a must-have in the dugout when I played little league ball. We always had contests to see who could have the biggest wad in their mouth during the game. Nerds broke onto the candy scene in 1983. The split box with two flavors and a unique flap dispenser made it a real fun candy to tote around. Kraft Foods bought the rights to Pop Rocks candy in 1985 and renamed it Fizz Whiz. Even though there was still the ongoing controversy of mixing it with soda, it still didn’t stop us from eating it with a swig of Pepsi. In 1986, Airheads hit the market and were an immediate hit with me, because of the great flavor and distinctive texture.

But as with other 80s trends, there is some candy that is just a memory. In 1983, Topps released Video Arcade gum with a very fun package design based on real arcade games. I remember that gum pellets didn’t have much flavor or lasting power, but the packaging was of course why we bought it. Bonkers was a chewy fruit candy with a gooey center (similar to Starburst.) It was made popular mainly due to the TV commercials of people getting large fruit dropped on their heads. Wonka released Dino-sour Eggs in the mid to late 80s, which were a version of Gobstoppers. They had a similar package to Nerds that you could dispense at will. In the late 80s, Fortune bubble gum was a personal favorite. You could usually get it for a penny and it had great flavor with a silly fortune inside. On hot summer days, we would sometimes go for a cool treat like a WWF ice cream bar. My friend and I were both wresting fans, so there wasn’t a better way to cool off then biting the head off of a “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan bar.

With our paper bags full and a cool treat in our stomachs, my friend and I would get back on our bikes and prepare for the uphill battle ahead of us. No matter how much sugar we had consumed before we reached the steep street, we usually only lasted a few minutes up the hill before riding became pushing. But of course the return trek was always worth it and never kept us from going back.

Let me know what candy you remember from the 80s!

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