Boomers Loved Valentine’s Day Conversation Hearts Candy

For boomers, every major holiday had its own type of candy associated with it. There was Halloween, of course, the mack daddy of all candy holidays, with a cornucopia of candy favorites. Christmas cornered the market on candy canes and chocolate bells, while Chanukah had chocolate gelt; Easter had chocolate Easter Bunnies, jelly beans and marshmallow chicks (Peeps). Then there was Valentine’s Day. Though chocolate truffles and chocolate-covered cherries proliferated among young boomers, the most nostalgic of Valentine’s Day candies today remains the conversation hearts.

Officially called Sweethearts, the candy has actually been around since 1902. Made by the New England Confectionery Company (Necco), the earliest iterations were shaped like sea scallops and contained a paper conversation in them like a fortune cookie. In the early 1890s, a machine to print vegetable dyes was invented. Necco began printing conversations on shapes that ranged from baseballs to horseshoes, watches to postcards. The early 1900s saw the addition of heart shapes.

Chances are, boomers had their first taste of Sweethearts in grade school. By the 1960s, it became commonplace for boomers to exchange Valentine’s Day cards to each member of their classroom. Teachers might distribute small boxes of conversation hearts to her pupils, or families that were of means might give their children packages of conversation hearts to distribute in their classrooms.

Let’s face it, the things tasted like chalk, but in prepubescent times, the conversations were the main issue. The “wrong” conversations were fraught with grade school significance that could amount to razzing from fellow classmates. The wrong conversations for Mister Boomer and his young cohorts to receive were the ones that hinted at being liked by girls. Nonetheless, like Necco Wafers, the candy had its fans. Sweethearts became the company’s best selling candy, with millions of pounds sold in the six-week period leading up to Valentine’s Day. To this day, the candy’s marketing manager states that the main market for the treats are moms, kids and teachers.

The conversations themselves have changed through the years, from the “Be Mine” and “Cutie Pie” of the boomer years. Last year was the first time Necco accepted suggestions, which resulted in modern updates like “Tweet Me.”

In May of 2018, Necco declared bankruptcy and the company was quickly sold. The new owners, a Los Angeles-based investment firm, leased the Revere, Massachusetts facility back to Necco, but the factory doors were shuttered in July of 2018. The new owners sold off Necco’s iconic brands, including candy dots, Clark Bar, Mighty Malt Milk Balls, and of course, Necco Wafers and Sweethearts. The company now in charge of producing Sweethearts for the next generation is none other than the Spangler Candy Company of Ohio. Boomers remember Spangler as the maker of Dum Dum suckers.

Since the brand was sold last summer, the new owners could not gear up production in time for this year’s Valentine’s Day. After all, according to Necco, Sweethearts made up 40 percent of the Valentine candy market. The candies that Necco were able to produce before closing are available online and at various retail outlets, but in seriously curtailed quantities.

If boomers want a fix of their original Sweetheart conversation hearts this Valentine’s Day, it’ll cost them since the price is reflecting the old saying of high demand and low supply equals higher prices.

What memories of Sweethearts conversation hearts on Valentine’s Day do you have, boomers?

Boomers Learned to Deal With Passcodes

Hard to believe, but Mister Boomer does not earn enough income from his site to support the lavish lifestyle to which he and his spouse have grown accustomed. Therefore, he works a full-time job. The restrooms at his place of employment are shared by other businesses on the same floor, so the doors have keypad locks on them for access, as does the door returning to his employee space. Mister Boomer realized, after mindlessly punching in the two codes, how common it is for all boomers these days to have committed passcodes and passwords of all types to memory, to the point that they become automatic reflexes — until, one day, the brain freezes and you develop a case of CRS (can’t remember “stuff”).

According to a recent study by Intel Security, the average person keeps track of 27 passwords for email, social media accounts, banking, phone access, online shopping, health insurance, computer logins, specialty sites and more. The same study states that 37 percent of people forget a password once a week. That would explain why the vast majority do not keep entirely different passwords for every account they have, a practice that lights warning signals among security experts.

For boomers still working, the password memory test is even worse. One study stated that the average business employee had to recall 191 passwords; computer logins, email, software access, printer access in some locations, proprietary system logins, and more, to say nothing of building and restroom access. In the department of teaching old dogs new tricks, the fact that boomers went with the flow over the past twenty years, and adapted to the new environs, seems pretty impressive to Mister Boomer. Yet it certainly wasn’t always this way for boomers.

In the boomer years, Password was a game show (1961-1975), where a celebrity and a “regular” person were teamed together to face another team. Members of the team traded giving each other one-word clues to guess the secret word — the “password.” Little did we know that the show was the blueprint for cyber hackers in years to come. And none of them had to prove they weren’t a robot.

Then there was the matter of locks for school. In Mister Boomer’s experience, boomers had to supply a lock for gym class. More often than not, the lock was a Master combination lock. The combination was printed on a piece of cardboard that was attached to the lock when it was purchased. Once in use, if the cardboard was misplaced or the combination forgotten, there was only one recourse to “recover” this password: clippers the size of the Jaws of Life were brought to bear on the offending lock, which was then snipped to oblivion and ergo, the “password” was reset by buying a new lock. Fortunately for Mister Boomer, he never had to suffer the humiliation of having his gym teacher slash the lock into scrap, an action that appeared to be a form of sadistic enjoyment for the Leader of the Jocks. Consequently, Mister B was able to keep the same lock (and therefore “password” combination) for all four years.

While the gym lockers required each student to supply a lock, his high school lockers had their own built-in locks. If a student forgot the combination, a trip to the school office could retrieve the code.

Then there was Mister Boomer’s bike lock, a chain permanently attached to a barrel combination lock. The numbers rolled around a cylinder like a primitive Rubik’s cube, until the right combination of numbers opened the lock. Again, it was one Mister Boomer kept for many, many years. So, in his school days, Mister B only needed three passwords: his school locker, gym lock and bike lock. Not too tasking on a young boomer’s brain.

Recently, Mister B ran across his combination lock in a box of his memorabilia. He had, with some foresight, written the combination on a piece of paper and poked the lock through it before he had locked it for what turned out to be decades. Nonetheless as he turned the tumbler: 24 left – 4 right – 13 left – 18 right; it all came back to him when the lock snapped open. In a flashback he saw himself opening the lock over and over. Then the combination to his bike lock appeared in his mind’s eye as well. He remembered them like it was yesterday. It occurred to Mister B that if he could remember his lock combinations all these years, then he had better change some of the umpteen passwords he has today to something he already knows. You won’t tell anyone, will you?

How have you solved the ongoing dilemma of creating distinct passwords, boomers?