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Last week, we asked our Facebook friends about the candies their grandmothers kept in their purses. The response was amazing! Not that I was surprised. For generations, Grandmothers have given kids candies always appreciated and rarely forgotten. Some were retro. Some were even older than retro. Some have vanished. Some remain. As for the reasons why candy was so
Grandmothers and grandfathers, too, gave candy for a few surprising – and poignant – reasons. First candy had long been used as a treat, a medicine, or both.
So, grandparents considered those butterscotch drops, Lifesavers, and other hard candies good for sore throats. Canada Mints, once known as “soft paste” medicines, were considered good for upset stomachs – my Grandfather
used them to treat his ulcers. Chewing gum, from Teaberry to Double Mint, freshened the breath, cleaned the teeth, and also alleviated stomach distress. Others, such as Circus Peanuts, were made for fun, fun, fun (later to be morphed into Lucky Charm cereal!).
Reason #2: People living in the first half of the 20th century had to deal with sugar shortages due to the Great Depression and two World Wars. No sugar – no candy. When candy returned after years of absence, it became a symbol of affluence, well-being, and a sign that all was right in the world. When grandparents gave their grandchildren candy it was a gift of all that and a symbol of love.
I remember trips to visit my grandmother and her sisters in Boston. We usually started at my
great-Aunt Eunice’s, whose apartment was on the third floor of a brick building, an immense
and wonderfully sophisticated amount of steps for a suburban kid such as me. My grandmother
and her sisters would sit on a couch, knitting and chatting, while the kids – my cousins, my
brothers, and I – did our kid things, frequently involving comic books, bubble gum, and secrets.
The living room, actually the living room couch, was the place to visit. Without exception, I’d
ask my grandmother and her sisters for candy. The response was always the same: “Get my
purse.” The purse was inevitably black, with a clasp, and within it a handkerchief, wallet, and
plenty of who-knows-whats, and more to the point, sour balls, Starlight Mints, and Lifesavers.
They’d reach in and hand us as much as we wanted, with one, of course, for each of them. Then, with candy in mouth, I would snuggle in beside my grandmother or my great-aunt Helen. The knitting would stop so she could rub my back, my arm, or smooth my hair. And all in the world was right and all in the world was good.
We heard about a lot of candies from our Facebook friends, and even a bit about grandmothers
who didn’t give candy! Milania Pearl said “No candy. She always gave me money.” All was well
– Milania “…bought cassette tapes for my radio and shoes -lunch money, too, for Burger King.”
Some of the responses were sad, such as Barbara C. “Don’t know, never went anywhere with
one Grandmother and the other one passed away when I was very young.”
Said Karen Lester Flynn: “I don’t believe my grandmother had any sweets in her purse….
However she had a cookie drawer with those cookies in the blue tin sometimes she would have
sugar wafers” We say: Yum!
Sorry to hear this from Molly K. Varley: Cigarettes and bitterness.
Butterscotch was made in England, as a kind of toffee… made with lots of butter!
Peggy Warren: She always had butterscotch lifesavers in the roll. I used to love when she pulled
it out to give me one. And she had wrapped peppermints and Werther’s caramels. They bring
back wonderful memories of her. Lovely!
Paula Mallory. Angel Mints, Granny always had them in her purse. If I got fidgety while out
shopping, visiting family and friends, after dinner in a restaurant or in church, she’d start doling
out the Angel Mints Found them. Still around, made in Texas, but only sold wholesale. We’ll get
some – can’t wait to start selling them.
Nola Coons. Usually gum in her purse. But best was the candy dish on the dining room buffet
that was always full of small candies, usually a variety of Brachs! We’d always head to the
candy dish to see what Grandma had filled it with! Candy bowls were immensely popular,
usually fancy, and always full. A testament for the importance of candy. Brachs is still around,
although no longer owned by the Brach family.
Molly Dewees Brockett: My grandfather always had hard butterscotch candies and the blue
mints in his glove compartment and he called them scratchy throat medicine. Yes! Medicine!
Andrea Blavat: My big sister always had the tropical fruit assorted Lifesavers in her purse. They
were so good! Lifesavers were originally made in 1912 and used as a breath cleanser in
Thomas Miess- Mc Donald: My Grandfather always had Sen Sens and Hard Licorice Stick.
Both licorice flavored – sad to say Sen Sen is no longer around. It might come back. We hope
Heather Scott Penselin: As a grandma I have no candy in my purse but I do have mints in my car
and lots of ice cream in my freezer. Cool Grandma!!
Jennifer Wyatt. Gum or mints. She had the aqua blue mints that were wrapped in clear
cellophane in a candy dish in her house, always! Thanks Jenifer! Those are the blue ice candies.
We never carried them, but will now!
Heather Scott-Penselin: Usually Ice Breakers but I can’t find the peppermint flavor anymore so
Altoids at the moment. Sometimes Green Tea ones from Trader Joes. Altoids – originated in
1780. Who knew??
Jennie Gist. Mine didn’t carry candy in her purse, but whenever we visited her, she’d send us kids
to the corner store where they had everything from Nik-L-Nips to wax lips to Atomic Fireballs.
A bagful of fun! YES! Nik L Nip was made in the lead-up years to Prohibition. Nik – for a nickel
a bag. Nip for a nip of whiskey.
Jennie Gist True Treats Historic Candy there were 5 of us kids and someone must have been
eating the wax, but not me! Now, wax lips … that’s a different story! First made in Pennsylvania
using Paraffin Wax, the remains of the petroleum industry, which started in Titusville, PA. in
These gums were made in the late 1800s- to early-ish 1900s. ALL made with tree resin until
World War 2 when supplies diminished and companies shifted to latex.
Sue Pace Grau: A pack of Juicy Fruit gum. We (her grandkids) each got a half piece. To this day
I think of her when I see that gum in the stores.
Jeanna Burdette: Chiclet gum and lifesavers.
Dani Rose Perez: Peppermint, tamarind and double mint gum.
Cindy Neel: Not candy but chicklet gum.
Janet Latimer: None that I remember, but granddad had lemon drops in his truck that the cousins
and I would sneak.
Amanda Vierling: My grandfather kept butterscotch candies on hand.
Patricia McGinn: Never my grandma. My grandfather always had a roll of butter rum Lifesavers
in his suit pocket.
Katrinna Rich: Those little strawberries with the soft center!
Dana Perkins. My great grandmother always had those hard strawberry filled drops in the
wrapper that looked like a strawberry! Good memories!
A top seller for us today! A true classic.
Carol Cross-Hooper: Wrigley’s peppermint. But she’d give you a half of stick.
Michelle Hum: Peppermints, or some call them starlight mints
Dare Nettles: Nothing but at home she had a tin full of black licorice
Betty Bunting: Crystal Mints. They used to be a flavor of Life Saver and came in a roll. I haven’t
seen them in years and years… I’m sure they’re not made anymore.
Marylouise McKillip: Butterscotch hard candy. Every so often, I buy a wee bag and I think of
her when eating each piece.
Cathleen Norris: Peppermint lifesavers… always.
Allison Dame Ryan: Brach’s Butterscotch candies or peppermint ones!
Butterscotch Hard Candy
Strawberry Filled Candy
Butter Rum Lifesavers
Ice Blue Mints
Pink Wintergreen Mints
Watermelon Hard Candy
Cream Cheese Mints
Double Mint Gum
Root Beer Balls