There was a time when there were no sweets. Adults used to talk about Mars Bars, Kit Kats, Gobstoppers and Acid Drops. I had no idea what these were but they sounded desirable.
During WWII there were no sweets.
If you were lucky and could put on a cough, there may be a few pence worth of cough sweets. There were like the Fishermen’s Friends you can get today but bigger. You could suck one or maybe two but no more. They were good currency in the playground, you could swap one for a cigarette card.
Grandfather managed to find a source of sweets down in the city. Someone could make mint rock. This was hard and angular and tasted hot and cold at the same time. Then he began to get Humbugs, these were a bit better but sticky in your mouth.
Times were getting better when he came up with Mint Imperials and sometimes toffee. I did not know at the time but he was friendly with someone in the Thornton family who began their business in Sheffield, my home town. The toffee was prepared and poured into cooking trays and allowed to cool. The shopkeeper had a small hammer to break up the brittle toffee to sell in smaller portions.
By now some shops sold ice lollies to us kids. This made a change from chewing liquorice root. Then we discovered Sherbet, dip your finger in, suck it and the sherbet fizzed and bubbled in your mouth and was so sour you closed your eyes.
School sweet ration
Then I was sent away to boarding school. The rules said boys were allowed to take sweets but they must be handed in to the headmaster on arrival. I was mortified that I did not have any sweets to take but when we changed trains on the way there my Father managed to buy a packet of large Fruit Drops on the station platform.
I duly handed in the Fruit Drops. On the first Saturday of term the Headmaster allowed us to look into the sweet tin where everyone’s sweets had been mixed together and invited each pupil to select four. My fruit drops were popular because they were bigger than most other sweets. On Sunday, after lunch, we were allowed 6 sweets. Toffee pieces were popular because they often stuck together. If you got too big a piece, it was refused or counted as two sweets.
As we new-boys learned the ropes we became adept at taking 4 sweets by a simple finger and thumb grip. Meanwhile fingers 3, 4 and 5 grasped whatever they could and concealed it in the palm. The war was over by now and we had been reading of the tricks prisoners of war played on their captors.
A Time of Plenty
By now foods were available for purchase. Bread was still on ration but who wanted bread when you could buy sweets? Now we knew what Kit Kats were, we had seen, if not eaten, a banana. Oranges appeared at Christmas. The sweet shop would weigh out as many sweets as you had money for and put them in a bag. The only bad thing was that your parents insisted that you shared them with your sister and friends. All this plenty was, to us children, the fruits of victory – why we had fought the war.
One night before Christmas I was out with friends and we met some girls. In the dark, on the path through the woods on the way home, Anne Nicholson kissed me. Oh bliss. I must have been 13 or so. Determined to give expression to my new love, I bought her a box of Cadbury’s Milk Tray. I hid it under my bed until I could give it to her at Christmas.
It was a cold night and I had been awake until late reading by torchlight, probably The Adventures of Biggles. I had the hunger that goes with fatigue. I was still young enough to think Biggles’ exploits were so much more exciting than girls. And I needed something to eat.
I ate the coffee cream first and wondered whether the Milk Tray would still be an acceptable gift. I could say one fell out accidentally. I couldn’t really say that could I? Anyway, by now the pineapple fondue had gone, then the hazelnut crunch followed by the marzipan, the chocolate whirl and the strawberry cup. Anne Nicholson, bless her, never got the chocolates.
A few years later my Father had a contract to transport Bassetts’ Liquorice Allsorts from the factory in Sheffield to a warehouse in Glasgow. He also had the problem of what to do with me during the school holidays so he sent me as driver’s mate. I made several trips with 7 tons of Allsorts on the back of the lorry.
At the beginning and end of a manufacturing run of Liquorice Allsorts there are a number of misshapen, deformed, wrong sized and in other ways, grotesque sweets. The drivers were given a large boxful of these. During the long drive to Scotch Corner, over the Pennines in the depth of winter, grinding up Shap and over Beattock Summit we ate liquorice. It was many years before I could face eating an Allsort again.
Kandy Kingdom in Chandler’s Ford
I understand how 14-year-old Epicduda feels about Kandy Kingdom, a sweet shop on Bournemouth Road in Chandler’s Ford.
To the teenage boy, one of the special things about Chandler’s Ford is this sweet shop.
Kandy Kingdom reigns since February 2014 in Chandler’s Ford. You’ll find a wide range of traditional, nostalgic sweets there.
I still retain a taste for those childhood sweets. The sour Acid Drops and aliphatic Pear Drops. Chocolate is OK but does not last long in the mouth. Manufacturers are now inclined to make golden pyramids of promises but they do not match the good old-fashioned sweets found sticking to your pocket.