You can fill a landfill with today's candy, and vice versa


In the book "About Three Bricks Shy of a Load," a chronicle of the making of the Pittsburgh Steelers football dynasty, author Roy Blount Jr. tells of an exchange with head coach Chuck Noll that revealed a playful side of his stern football mind.

Coach Noll, overhearing Blount, Sports Illustrated photographer Walter Iooss and Steelers defensive back Mike Wagner recalling candy names in a motel hallway before a road game, offered this:

"Mr. Clark Bar took Miss Hershey back behind the Powerhouse . . . . He said, 'Forever Yours.' She said, 'Butterfingers.' "

Leaving them slack-jawed, Coach Noll walked on.

He deserves a place in the Candy Hall of Fame (there is one) for that, but he would be hard-pressed to duplicate the moment today without sounding like both sides of a playground fight.

Nerds. Dweeb. Dork. Crybabies. Runts. Maggot. Airhead. Candy names all.

Charming. Just charming. I don't know what is more disgusting, the stuff my kids are putting in their mouths, or what comes out of their mouths when they ask for it.

Treats such as Hershey Bars or Lifesavers are too boring for a generation of 6- to 13-year-olds who want things that either gross out a parent or explode in their mouths.

Novelty candies are today's hot sellers, but they have all the staying power of chewing gum on your bedpost overnight. Kids are onto something new before the wrapper hits the floor. See ya later, Now 'n' Later, Laffy Taffy has pulled ahead.

The candies that once conjured such cheerful images are the ones still on the shelves: Hershey Kisses, Charms, Good 'n' Plenty, Chuckles. Three Musketeers recalled you and your buddies. Milky Way sounded almost healthy. Raisinettes. How dainty. Jawbreakers. So precise.

Even those notorious candy cigarettes have been replaced by Big League Chew bubble gum. We are raising a generation that may never smoke, but will feel lost without a spit cup.

Gummi Bears have given way to Gummi Worms, Frogs, Fish, Sharks and Gummi Maggots. (For the conscientious parent, there are Gummi 123's and Gummi ABC's.) Sweet Tarts are now Shock Tarts.

Those who market to kids with 10-second attention spans are pushing the outside of the envelope. Mouth Muck. Tonsil Tainter. Wurmz in Dirt. Swamp Stuff. (Shaped like a toe, you dip it in sour powder and suck. Does Fergie know about this?)

Their marketing focus groups have revealed that kids care less about how a candy tastes (although sour, really sour is in), than how it will offend their parents.

Candy manufacturers are not only picking kids' brains, they are picking their noses: Super Nauseating Obnoxious Treat. A slimy candy that comes packaged in a plastic nostril. Wow. I'll bet somebody was up all night working on that project.

How about Tongue Splasher? It comes in little paint cans and turns the inside of your child's mouth red, blue or black. Teeth, too. Put me right over the edge.

When we were young -- well, I guess our candy favorites were just as idiotic. Nonpareils. What does that mean? Why would you name a candy that? Jolly Ranchers. What is a Jolly Rancher?

Pez dispensers look pretty simple-minded next to candy in a plastic cellular phone or a plastic beeper. And how many Candy Buttons did you have to eat before you got sick of all that paper on the back? M&M;'s melted in our mouths, not in our hands, but you can step on Skittles and they don't break. Chocolate-covered ants. We have no room to criticize.

Candy is the dividing line in my house. My son does not eat any chocolate, but if you put a king-sized Snickers at the finish line, Jessie would win the Goodwill Games. She hoards her Halloween candy until Easter.

There is a candy gene, I'm sure, and she has inherited it from her father. If you laid all the candy my husband has eaten side-by-side, it would cover a gymnasium floor. He was still asking for Easter baskets in college. So he and Jessie have this shared language, this secret life, from which Joe and I are excluded.

Not that I want any of that stuff. Hot buttered popcorn gum? Gumballs filled with peanut butter and jelly? Spare me.

I know how to get our kids to swear off this junk forever. Create a new candy and call it "Parents."

To hear Susan Reimer read one of her columns, call Sundial and punch in the four-digit code 6156. See the SunSource directory on Page 2A for your Sundial number.

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