Boomers Loved SweetTARTS

Every Halloween, boomers from coast to coast would rummage through their bag of booty for their favorite candies. Many of them were old favorites, like Milky Way, Snickers, Necco Wafers and Chuckles, while others were truly boomer candies, introduced during the prime boomer Era. One such candy favorite is SweetTARTS.

Sunline, Inc., the candy company that brought Pixy Stix to boomers in 1952, heard that parents wished for a less messy version of the popular sugar-in-a-straw candy. The result was SweetTARTS, introduced in 1963. The sweet and sour, tablet-like candies were based on Pixy Stix. The orange, grape, cherry, lemon and lime flavors gave a sweet kick like Pixy Stix, then had a sour after-note. The candy was an instant hit. By 1964, the company had sold more than $8 million worth of SweetTARTS.

Try though Mister Boomer and his friends might, it was impossible to dissolve a SweetTART on the tongue. Impatience was rewarded when a bite turned the tablets to Pixy-Stix-like dust, which was part of the fun. Kids had their favorite flavors, though Mister B didn’t mind any of them, except for not being a fan of grape.

Mister Boomer’s sister was especially fond of the sweet and sour tablets. At the height of her Halloween cravings, she would be willing to trade premium candies for a foil bag of SweetTARTS. Mister Boomer, possessive of all that he collected, would assess the quantity of SweetTARTS with which he was willing to part; after all, he was not going to barter unless he could grab some of his top favorites in return. Usually, he’d trade for Almond Joy or Snickers, if his sister was amenable. She liked Milky Way and Three Musketeers, so she wasn’t willing to trade with those. Sometimes he’d settle for extra Kits or Smarties, or maybe PayDay or malted milk balls, if candy bar chocolate wasn’t on the table. In any case, he wasn’t going to trade away his last couple of packages of SweetTARTS that he had worked so hard to attain.

This has absolutely nothing to do with SweetTARTS, but how can you resist an appearance by Bobby Pickett on American Bandstand, lip-synching Monster Mash?

Mister Boomer hasn’t had any SweetTARTS in a few decades, but hears the latest company owners have amped up the sour flavor. It seems today’s kids like sour even more than boomers did.

What memories of collecting and eating SweetTARTS on Halloween do you have, boomers?

Boomers Made Their Own Frozen Concoctions

Boomers kept cool on hot summer days, first of all by staying outside in the shade more than indoors. That being said, cool drinks and especially frozen things did a heated body good. Mister Boomer has written about how there was practically nothing better than an ice cold root beer from A & W, or an ice cold Coke from the corner gas station’s soda pop machine after an afternoon of playing baseball. Yet that was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to frozen things. Boomers cooled down with all types of ice cream, from Popsicles, Creamsicles and Fudgesicles to push-ups; sundae cups to Nutty Buddies and ice cream bars; and everything in between. Still there was more: many boomers liked to freeze candy. Frozen Milky Ways and Turkish Taffy were among the most popular in Mister B’s neighborhood. Mister B’s mom was partial to frozen Milky Ways, while he and his sister liked the vanilla flavor Turkish Taffy when frozen.

He and his sister would buy a couple of Turkish Taffy bars at the neighborhood store in the morning so it would freeze by the time the day was hottest in the afternoon. They generally stuck with vanilla, but on occasion there was strawberry or banana flavor. Once frozen, the fun happened when Mister B and his sister grabbed the bars from the refrigerator’s freezer and walked out the front door. Sitting on the porch steps, they placed the bar in the palm of their hand and smacked it on the concrete. Contained in its package, the bar shattered in irregular pieces, sometimes large and sometimes very small, but that only added to the enjoyment of crunching the frozen candy.

Even at 1950s and ’60s prices, boomers like Mister B could not afford to go to the store two or more times a day for a frozen treat. The answer for them was to make their own. Mister B and his siblings tried to freeze practically anything they drank: Hawaiian Punch, orange juice (or Tang), Flavor-Aid or Kool-Aid, and root beer were among the more successful. Mister B once had an ill-fated attempt at making his own Fudgesicles using Bosco and milk. The resulting icy cube tasted more like flavored ice than it did a creamy, fudgey ice cream bar.

Freezing stuff was easy enough that boomer kids could complete the process themselves. The only equipment they needed, other than a freezer, was some sort of sticks and an ice cube tray.

No one knows exactly when and where the first ice cube trays were made and used. In 1844, there was an American physician named John Gorrie who wanted a device that would cool down his yellow fever patients so he patented a refrigerator that would also make ice to cool his patients’ drinks. His device relied on blowing air over large blocks of ice into a cooling chamber. Of course, in the pre-electric refrigerator days, large blocks of ice were placed into the backs of “iceboxes” to act as a cooling agent, but that was not intended for cooling drinks with smaller cubes or freezing other products. Mister B’s mother never called it a refrigerator, but always an “icebox,” which is what she had in her house when she grew up.

The first U.S. patents for ice cube trays were issued in the 1930s, when people began buying electric refrigerators. Mister Boomer, like a lot of boomers, became familiar with the types of trays that were popular in the 1940s and ’50s. In Mister B’s case, they were stainless steel trays that had removable louver-like slats sitting in the tray, connected to a central lever. Once frozen, a pull of the lever-handle caused the movement of the metal slats to crack and release the ice cubes from the tray.

Mister B and his siblings would take an ice cube tray, or empty the ice from one in the freezer if none was available, and pour the liquid of their choosing into the tray. The next step was to place a stick for a handle into each ice cube tray compartment. Sometimes they had kept and washed ice cream sticks to reuse, but more often than not, they used the round, pointed wooden sticks that their mother used to make City Chicken (See: Boomers Ate Economical Dinners Like “City Chicken”). They rested each stick on the metal slat of the connected compartment, attempting to suspend the stick so it wouldn’t poke out the top when frozen. All that remained was to pop the tray into the freezer and wait.

Did you freeze your own ice pops and other things, boomers? What homemade frozen concoctions were your favorites?