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Posts tagged ‘Kets’

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.


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.

Candy “Smokes”

Candy Cigarettes from the 50s

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.





Chewing Critters

When I was younger I used to love all of the Trolli gummy candies.  They were always my favorite type of candy – I loved gummies and I loved sour candy, so it combined the best of both worlds for me.  They were sold everywhere and they were cheap.  While there were always the classic “O’s” (apple, peach, melon, etc.) they also marketed their candy as bugs and critters for kids to eat.  There were the Trolli “Brite Octopus” as well as the “Brite Crawlers.”  Not only did they have these critter candies, but they also made “Brite Crawler Eggs” – they marketed the eggs of these critters.  In theory, this is pretty disgusting to think about.  However, when I was younger and I got these kinds of candies I never thought about what the gummies represented, I simply ate them because they tasted delicious.

I never really thought about it until I read Confections, Concoctions, and Conceptions by Allison James and we discussed it in class, but there really are a lot of gross candies that kids eat.  Whether they are gory (fake blood), dirty (bugs and critters), or just plain gross (scab candies, feces candies, etc.), the people in the marketing of these companies may have struck gold.  Kids tend to like and do what is usually not socially acceptable (eat bugs, not have good hygiene, etc.) simply because most kids find it somewhat amusing to see the reactions of adults when they do things wrong.  These candies cater to this quality in the kids, however it is very subtle, as most people do not even think about it.  Most people just think of them like any other gummies or candies, but they attract the kids’ attention by reaching the desire to rebel within them.

Trolli Sour Brite Crawler Eggs,