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William J. Dagendesh

As a boy with a flair for adventure, Halloween was a time of colorful costumes, soapy windows and, of course, tons of free, mouthwatering trick-or-treat candy.

I remember well the candy of my youth — sweet caramel squares and Tootsie Rolls, crunchy, roasted peanuts and gooey Bazooka chewing gum. It was a time when candy cost a quarter and offered hours of lip-smacking pleasure. Oh, to be young and so candy-conscious.

Welcome to 2020 where overpriced, sugar-filled products, and lack of true taste make for a less than fun, flavorful Halloween experience and frequent visits to the dentist. Whatever happened to the rich, fruity flavor of Chuckles and the licorice sass of Good and Plenty?

Recently, my wife, Peggy bought a package of chocolate-covered raisins that tasted like sugar-coated cardboard instead of the palate pleasers of yesteryear. Disappointed, we reminisced about the sweet-tasting tonsil ticklers of yore.

We recalled how as children we visited the local candy shop where the rich, collective aroma of our favorite sweet treats greeted our lungs the moment we entered the building. Sticky saltwater taffy and spicy Red Hot Tamales stuck to our teeth, offering hours of candy heaven. Nestle Crunch and peanut brittle, with its crunchy texture, also provided sweet memories.

I recalled my siblings and I dumping our treasures on the living room floor, the sweet scent of Almond Joy, Baby Ruth and Sugar Babies rushing upward to invade our nostrils as we chomped on the goodies we worked so hard to collect.

Like most candy lovers, I craved anything chocolate, especially the Mars Bar and its accompanying comic relief. What do you call a dog standing on a Mars Bar? A Rover. Where did the alien go to get a drink? A Mars Bar.

Dad’s comic wit enhanced the gaiety of the moment. “A cow that can’t moo is not called a Milk Dud (another popular candy). However, stolen Milk Duds are hot chocolate,” he said.

Speaking of hot chocolate, I once received a Swiss Miss packet on Halloween. Although thrilled, I wondered why someone would give me a treat often associated with Christmas. Incidentally, adding a peppermint stick enhances this lip-smacking treat.

“Why don’t prisoners drink hot chocolate?” Dad asked. “Because they break out,” he replied. (I think we saw that one coming).

Cracker Jack, with its caramel-covered popcorn, peanuts and toy surprise was a personal favorite. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Cracker Jack in years and wonder if it is still being manufactured. If so, is the toy surprise still included?

Also, there was Life Savers, a popular life preserver-shaped candy. Naturally, Dad made light of these treats whenever I splashed about in our lawn sprinkler. “Let me throw you a life saver,” Dad shouted as he tossed me one of the ring-shaped goodies. Now, instead of a mouthful of fruity flavor, I detect a chalky taste in this once “Hole lot of fun” treat.

Although the candy industry still manufactures many of these products, the tasty, nostalgic experience is gone. And that’s sad because taste is what Halloween should be about. It was a time when families launched the fall season by engaging in good, old-fashioned child-like fun and gorging themselves on some of the tastiest candy ever produced.

Today’s youth have no idea what they’re missing.

William J. Dagendesh is an author, writer and retired U.S. Navy photojournalist and editor. He has lived in southern Colorado 21 years. Contact William with comments or ideas for his column at

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