Long-gone candy bar returns to make my day
The Kansas City Star
A quick trip to Walmart ended up taking me on a long journey into the past.
I can’t remember what items I went to get at the superstore or why. But I’ll likely never forget the impulse purchase I made while waiting in line.
Neatly arranged in the display by the checkout with crackers, chewing gum, Skittles, M&Ms and many candy bars was something I hadn’t seen in more than 45 years. It was a Zero candy bar — king size, in its classic gray, baby blue and white wrapper.
Without hesitation, I grabbed it for my shopping cart. Then I started texting my sister, brothers and a few friends who’d understand the significance of my find. Zero candy bars are a treat out of our distant past like Motown, the Temptations and the Jackson Five. They were a junk food staple at the corner, mom-and-pop, inner-city confectioneries. Such places don’t exist anymore. They were pushed out by convenience and big box stores.
Confectioneries were places where urban kids like me were sent for 35-cent-a-pack cigarettes for our parents. Mom and Dad liked Kools, Salems or Viceroys.
Given a buck, there was always change — 65 cents — and, “Be sure to count your money,” mom and dad would insist as I’d bolt from either our home or dad’s chemical company. But with our allowance or change we’d find on the street, we’d often get a candy bar or chips.
The choices far exceeded the coins we possessed. Sometimes we scoured the streets for soda bottles to return to stores for deposits. Remember that?
Tough times offered more environmentally friendly, reusable soda bottles, and we were happy to do our part for the planet. The confectionery clerks and owners no doubt had to spend hours washing our hand, finger and forehead prints off of the display cases that held the candy and other treats we craved.
We’d point to the lollipops, Bazooka bubble gum, Mary Janes, jawbreakers or Salted Nut Rolls always wishing we had a few pennies for more treats. If we had enough nickels, dimes or quarters, then our purchases escalated to Sweet ’n Sour suckers, Baby Ruths, PayDays, Butterfingers or Zeroes.
Fond memories from inner-city stores included racks of MoonPies and Honey Buns. There were an assortment of potato chips, cupcakes, and who could forget Twinkies and Suzy Qs?
We were all incredibly thin then so eating that stuff had about the same effect on our weight as water. Our memories included sharing the candy treats with others.
Everyone got a charge out of having just a taste of the sugary goodness. Except our parents.
As they puffed on the cigarettes they sent us to get, they clearly let us know the junk food would rot our teeth. “And who’s going to pay for that?” they’d ask.
Sometimes my sister, Renee, would say (under her breath): “Cigarettes cause cancer. Who’s going to pay for that?”
She was smart enough not to say it so either of our folks could hear her.
No warnings could stop us from saving our pennies, scavenging for bottles and making candy runs.
What’s fascinating is how some of the junk food seemed to successfully transition from the confectioneries to the convenience, drug and grocery stores and remain on the shelves. But others disappeared from places I frequent as an adult.
Zero candy bars were among the ones that vanished. I thought the company had gone out of business.
But the wrapper says it’s made by The Hershey Co. What’s unique about this candy bar is it is white fudge on the outside with a caramel, peanut and almond nougat on the inside.
I texted a lot of that to my now 50-something siblings and friends. One even remembered the advertising jingle that was used for Zero candy bars.
My older brother, who’s a physician, warned me to put the candy bar back and walk away from making the impulse purchase. My old body, he advised, can’t handle that much sugar.
Too late. When I finally got to enjoy the treat, all of the memories came back. It was a great journey into the past, but that’s a trip I can’t afford to take too often.
To reach Lewis W. Diuguid call 816-234-4723 or send e-mail to Ldiuguid@kcstar.com.