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Posts from the ‘Archive of Childhood’ Category

Fight Like a Girl!

When I was younger my house was always chaos, mostly because I had six other siblings. Of the five girls in my family (fours sisters, two brothers, plus me equals seven), I was always labeled the tom boy and playing rough came with the title. Because of my love for rowdy play and wrestling, I remember receiving one of my favorite Christmas gifts of all time, the Sock’em Boppers!

Sock’em Boppers were inflatable boxing gloves that children would blow up and place over their fist then proceed to punch each other. They were very popular among kids of the 90’s but were produced in the 70’s. They resurged in the late  90’s with a slightly different name, “Socker Boppers.” They can still be purchased at any major toy store and can even be bought on amazon.com for around thirteen dollars.

Despite the unavoidable fight that came with every purchase of this toy, the commercial ads depicted Sock’em Boppers as nonviolent play and even used the slogan “more fun than a pillow fight.” Honestly, I can remember on numerous occasions being “socked “in the faced with in one of these and it was not always pretty. Of course this toy was supposed to be played in the presence of adult supervision who could advise the “not in the face” rule but let’s get real; when two kids are alone playing with these oversized fists of fury it can get pretty brutal.

So who was it that said television, games are what make/made children wiolent?

Lynn Spigel, author of “Welcome to the Dreamhouse: Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs” argued that “so long as the young are protected from certain types of knowledge” they will stay an “innocent and pure” youth (146).  By “certain types of knowledge,” Spigel meant television. But while television may have been the source of commercialization of toys such as Sock’em boppers, the act of playing with this toy was the form of violence that altered the “innocence of youth”. This leads me to another reading that blamed the rotting of children on Television and technology, Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt.” Bradbury’s story also creates the technology in George Bradley’s house as the antagonist. The conclusion of the story outlines the children’s vicious act in forcing their playroom to eat their parents.

In the end, I am simply arguing that while television, video games, and other technology may have some violent affect on the nature of children; let’s not forget that playing outside with a pair of Sock’em Boppers can force children to think and act just as violent. Rowdiness and aggression is many times an inherent nature of some children, and ultimately as a child, how they release that inherent nature of rowdiness lies in their own hands, with slight parental supervision of course.

Here’s is a commercial ad from 1997 of the Sock’em Boppers.


Just a quick side note, I find it funny that there is not one single girl in this commercial.

Mega Jawbreaker


Weighing in at one pound and 2.25 inches, the Mega Jawbreaker is a candy ball made purely of sugar, is impossible to bite, and lasts for days. The game of it  not fitting in a small mouth but has to be sucked to dissolve is what makes it loved by children. The Jawbreaker is a generic candy that can be found in candy stores today and it comes in varying sizes, shapes, and flavors. Ferrara Pan is one of the first companies to mass produce the candy in the 20th century, naming it the Jawbuster. Today they are sold by the pound and average about four dollars per jawbreaker.

 

Growing up, I was not allowed to buy this candy, but I would always find a way to get it when I was away from my parents. My friends and I loved to compare the different colored layers that we got. It was also a fun game to see who could eat their Mega Jawbreaker the fastest, which was usually a few days. Thinking back on it, the idea of sucking on the same piece of candy for days grosses me out.

According to Allison James, the Jawbreaker would definitely be labeled “Ket.” She uses this term to refer to sweets, especially cheaper ones that are usually only consumed by children. Some of the descriptions she gives ket are of having unnatural colors, blue, purple, green, yellow, being purely sugar with no real flavor other than sweet, and being sticky or messy. The Jawbreaker has all of those features. Since it lasts for days, children suck on it, put it away, and suck on it more leaving room for many germs to grow over the days. Its layers are all different colors of the rainbow and its only flavor is sweet. It is not likely that you will see an adult go into a candy store to buy a Mega Jawbreaker for themselves. From my experiences, I can definitely relate to James’s idea of Ket and agree that as an adult I couldn’t imagine trying to consume this icky candy.

 

The Walk to Harry’s

Growing up in downtown Brooklyn, one of the greatest rites of passage in the neighborhood was being able to walk to school on your own. Most kids accomplished the goal of convincing their parents that they were mature enough for “The Walk”—as my friends and I called it—by about the fourth or fifth grade. However, while most parents saw the Walk as a symbol of maturity and responsibility, my friends and I saw it as just the opposite. To the neighborhood kids, the symbol of maturity and responsibility that the Walk evoked was irrelevant; what we really cared about was the opportunity to explore previously uncharted territory, which for every kid I knew, was the local candy store, Harry’s. Harry’s was not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill candy store, but rather, it was the mecca of all candy stores, appealing directly to children (and purposefully excluding adults) by providing only the newest and nastiest kets around.

Kets

As soon as my friends and I earned the right to embark on the Walk on our own, we made it a point to stop at Harry’s every morning. We knew that our parents despised the place due to its reputation for shelving such a wide variety of kets and definitely would not approve of us spending our lunch money there, however, this only made Harry’s all the more appealing to our ten-year-old, thrill-seeking minds. Although the prices at Harry’s were hardly steep (it was a mere five dollars a pound), my friends and I always managed to leave with empty wallets and massive sacks of ketty-goodness.

Walking into Harry’s every morning with my friends was like walking into a theme park; everyone was utterly entranced, not knowing where to begin looking first. Immediately, my friends and I would grab a plastic bag and begin to rummage through the various jars of candy, deliberating on what looked best as we went. My friend James would call out to me from one end of the store, “Hey! Have you seen the new Twisted Tornado bubble gum?” to which I would reply, “No! But have you seen these Moth Balls? They look gross!” Conversations like this became commonplace in Harry’s, but the joy elicited from walking into this ket-heaven was never worn out. By the end of the trip, my friends and I would be lugging hefty ket-filled sacks that would often be substituted as lunch for the day.

At lunch time, my friends and I would find a large table in the school lunchroom and pour out our kets, much to the chagrin of our onlooking classmates who either did yet not have the freedom, or otherwise had forgotten that morning to make such purchases. We would sit at the table throughout our lunch period, swapping various sweets and trying to decode the flavors of ambiguously named kets; reveling in the attention we received for having such sought-after sweets.

This childhood experience of mine directly echoes the assertions made by Allison James in her scholarly article, Confections, Concoctions, and Conceptions. For example, James’s claim that, “sweets, for adults, are regarded as an adjunct to ‘real’ food and should not usurp the place of meals. For the child…the reverse is true: it is meals which disrupt the eating of sweets “ (James, 379) is a holistically accurate assumption, as my classmates and I viewed Harry’s sweets as the main meal of the day, with breakfast and dinner viewed merely as familial obligations, rather than valued meals. In addition, James’s argument that because “[kets] are despised by the adult world, they are prized by the child’s and become the metaphoric meals of childhood” (James, 383) is one to which I can attest, as I feel that the enjoyment my friends and I experienced from walking into Harry’s every morning stemmed almost as much from our sweet-tooth cravings as it did from our desire to experience the thrill of doing something that our parents clearly would not approve of.

The Power of Power Beads

Power Beads, although originally created for people to harmonize their inner power, grabbed the attention of some children one day and became an instant hit. I remember, as a fourth grader, seeing the colored beaded bracelets pop up on everyone’s wrists and gain popularity by the day. Suddenly, these bracelets became the “it” topic and every kid had to have them. Whenever we could, we would be comparing colors and deciding we needed more. If your best friend had the cool new silver pewter beads that represented Wisdom, your green beads of Hope were suddenly boring. It wasn’t uncommon to see kids walking around with half their forearm stacked with these smooth beads, and as much as I hate to admit it, I sometimes fell in that category. The strand of meaningful beads was a Hindu invention, and traveled through religions and eventually turned into a pop culture thing more so than a spiritual thing. When it did hit big with young school children, every kid became obsessed with the beads lining their arms.

Hope Beads from Google Images

However, as the ideal beads weren’t the crappy ones you could buy a bundle of for 99 cents, the beads that every kid wanted were the smooth, semi-precious stone bracelets that happened to be expensive. As kids are very forgetful and accidental, most parents aren’t okay with throwing out 5 dollars for one bracelet for their kid, especially when the kid wants the bracelet in every color. This statement goes even more for the children that didn’t have very privileged lifestyles. As we discussed in lecture, it does cost money to involve yourself in culture and your surroundings. The children that weren’t able to afford the trendy beads were the one that were left out in the trading, comparing, and discussing of the beads. Just like we discussed, some kids aren’t capable of interacting with others because integration is hard when there’s no level of equality and something to share and bond over. These beads were a prime example of this separation of classes and how it affects the kids in many ways. It also serves as a small proof that money sometimes does buy you friends.

Shield Beads from Google Images

Warheads

Logo of Warheads candy as found on 24-7pressrelease.com

Logo of Warheads candy as found on 24-7pressrelease.com

When I think about Warheads candy, I recall the days of elementary school throughout the 1990s and the sacred time after lunch: recess. My classmates and I would dare each other to put multiple Warheads in our mouths and see who could bear it the longest. Accepting the dare was customary and our faces would contort until they were relieved by the sweet flavor underneath the sour layer of the Warheads. Afterwards, we would be overcome by laughter and describe how it felt to have multiples of these candies in our mouths, as if they were actual war stories. Our parents never quite understood the appeal of these delightful and daring candies, but often conceded to buying them on occasion at the grocery store.

Warheads emerged in the U.S. in the early 1980s and are manufactured by Impact Confections. According to descriptions of ket from our class discussion, Warheads are a prime example of ket. The way Warheads are marketed is supposed to elicit the thought and feeling of a nuclear warhead going off in one’s head during consumption of the candy. This very real object (a nuclear warhead) is clearly not to be eaten; because the Warhead candy is eaten and enjoyed by children, it gains ket-like qualities. Warheads come in fruit flavors like apple, black cherry, and watermelon, but unlike fruits the candies have unnatural colors and textures. These candies are without nutrition and are extremely childish. Never have I met an adult who would even touch a Warhead without spitting it out. The sensational sour taste provides amusement for children while disgusting their parents. As my memory recounts, kids eating Warheads on the playground also provides the social aspects of this ket.

As far as I am concerned, Warheads “[belong] exclusively to the world of children” and are a fond memory of my childhood days (380).

Candy “Smokes”

Candy Cigarettes from the 50s

http://www.oldtimecandy.com/candy-cigarettes.htm

As a child growing up in the early 70′s, I was surrounded by adults who smoked.  Besides my parents, extended family, and neighbors, the actors and actresses on the television were smokers too.  Everywhere you went, there were ashtrays and vending machines full of the major brands.  Thinking back on this, I’m not really surprised that one of my favorite kets was candy cigarettes.

Kids could buy them at the convenience store right there with the other candy.  They came in paper boxes that were printed to look like the real name brand cigarettes that our parents smoked.  Winstons were my favorite because that was Dad’s brand.  You got 10 in a box and the ends were painted red to look like they were lit.  These white sticks were pure sugar and would melt in your mouth rather quickly.  It was easy to finish a pack while you walked  back home from the store.

All the neighborhood kids I played with, enjoyed “smoking” these candy sticks and pretending they were cool.  I remember how we would mimic the way adults would hold the real things between two fingers and pretend to blow out smoke.

According to our class discussion about kets, these candies belong exclusively to children and have the power to disgust adults.  In the case of candy cigarettes, kids felt empowered by pretending to engage in a forbidden behavior that was reserved for adults.  It made parents real uncomfortable if you “smoked” in front of them, and there was always some comment about how you better never take up the real habit.

2006 Harris Poll Online survey  claims that children who grew up eating candy cigarettes were more likely to become adult smokers.  I personally disagree and feel it was simply a way for children to act out their fantasies about how it might look and feel to be older.

 

 

 

 

Ket Candy Necklaces

 

Candy Necklaces, from Amazon.com, $5.99 for 12-ct

Candy Necklaces were invented in 1958, although the inventor and location are unknown. The price now is incredibly cheap, ranging from $0.39 to $17.99 for a 60-ct. I now understand why I always ended up with at least one in goodie bags for birthday parties or in my Halloween candy bucket (ahem-cheap parents).

Candy necklaces were a big part of my childhood, although now I wonder why. They’re sticky and not hygienic in the slightest. The idea of a necklace that you eat, and the parts that you leave for later that stick to your skin, is simply revolting. When I read the piece by Allison James on ket, these were all I could think about.

These brightly colored, stretchy necklaces are prime examples of ket for their cheapness and the fact that an adult wouldn’t eat them under any circumstances other than to appease her child (my mom once did this and I distinctly remember watching the expression on her face and wondering why she didn’t like the gift I was graciously sharing with her).

These edible jewelry treasures are obviously not meant for adults, which is part of the appeal of ket to kids, or so James says (397). I, personally, never really noticed or cared what my parents thought of the types of candy I was consuming, although my brother did. After Halloween, he always knew that if he wanted something, he could bribe my mother with some of his chocolate candy. Never once did he offer her the “lower class” candy of ket. He enjoyed his ket, just like the rest of us, and so when he wanted to trade one of the kinds he didn’t like, he would wait for friends or neighbors’ kids. This agrees with the argument James makes that ket is used as a socialization tool for kids (400). Although, it would be amusing to watch two adults try to trade a gumball for some jelly beans.

I suppose that what James says about ket rings true: adults prefer their chocolate or “sweets,” while ket is left to the world of kids. The two worlds are separate, and while I certainly thought I would never grow tired of the bright, fun candy, I guess I’ve risen to the dark side: chocolate. I think I’m okay with that.