The brother of a friend of mine, recently made a few posts on Facebook, picking many of the things that he remembered, when growing up and it kind of prompted me to blatantly steal a few of his memories, which of course I also shared. The first of these memories, is a particular favourite and something for which I am still fond.
To Americans they’re candies, but to kids growing up in the UK they’re sweets. When I was a kid, much of our time was spent in sweet shops, all of which had names. Within a 10-15 minutes walking distance to me, there was Sid’s, John’s, The New Shop, The Candy Shop, Ben’s Snackbar, to name but a few. Sid’s was the one that I had pledged my allegiance. OK, so that’s probably overstating things a bit, but Sid’s was very good to me growing up, letting me on many occasions run up a tab. Mind you I used to have a multitude of computer magazines on order, so while they knew I would always pay up or not get my magazines, there was more to it than that. I suppose going to the same sweetshop for over nearly 15 years, from about 3 to 18, also had something to do with it. The funniest thing was, although we called the sweetshop Sid’s I don’t think there was a Sid amongst the Indian guys that worked there. It was always rumoured that the whole parade of shops on the lower end of Bath Street, were going to be pulled down and something built in their place, but this seemed to be a persistent rumour that went on for a few years. Unfortunately one day, the rumour turned to reality, the parade of shops seemed to disappear overnight. Some of the shops had long since closed down, among them, Sunny’s the grocers, the Mecca cafe, the Balmoral chip shop, and Haverstiches I think it was called, which was a kind of mini mart. Once the shops got demolished, there was a rumour that a parade of shops was going to be part of the new structure, but it soon became obvious that this was not going to be the case, when the new structure, an extension of Moorfield Eye hospital began to take shape. I always felt a kind of regret, in not getting to say goodbye to the guys that serviced me with sweets, magazines and on occasion refuge from the odd skirmish.
Anyway where was I, oh yes sweets. Buying sweets back then was such an experience. Sid’s, had shelves of sweets in large glass jars, which they sold by the quarter of a pound. Some of my favourites were Rhubard and Custard, Army and Navy, Strawberry Sherberts, Kola Cubes, Pineapple Cubes, Midget Gems, Aniseed Balls and Pear Drops. I would estimate there were about 40 or 50 different jars of sweets to choose from. In addition were the usual staples that came in packets, like Curly Whirly’s, Mars Bars, Marathons, Opal Fruits, Spangles, Murray Mints and Pacers.
The final category of sweets were the penny sweets. I can remember when you could buy 4 of some of these for a single penny. Some of the favourites were Black Jacks, Fruit Salads, Flying Saucers, Keys, Gob Stoppers, Bazooka Joes bubble gum, Sherbert Straws, Licorice Catherine Wheels and Licorice Pipes. Also with the penny sweets were a few other things that were there for the impulse buy, some of these like the licorice Pipes, now deemed politically incorrect, like Sweet Cigarettes and Gold Rush Chewing Tobacco, which was coconut flavoured. I’m sure I’ve missed many peoples favourites, but these things come back to you the more you think of them.
Apart from sweets, crisps also used to take a fair whack of our school and pocket money. I found myself thinking of Monster Munch recently, specifically the roast beef flavour. Some of my other favourites were prawn cocktail, Fish and Chips, which had the greatest salt and vinegar flavour, Quavers, Wotsits and Potato Puffs, I think they were called, always a favourite with my brother.
I don’t think drinks have changed that much over the years. We had Coca Cola, 7up and Sprite. Courtesy of R Whites, one of the leading drink makers, we also had Lemonade, which had an unforgettable TV commercial and Cream Soda, which is quite different from the Cream Soda you get here in Canada, the one in the UK being clear and the one here, being a deep pink colour. In England we used to add milk to ours, not something I’ve ever been in a hurry to do here. We also had some quintessentially British drinks like Tizer, Irn Bru and Dandelion and Burdock, the latter I’ve been able to find in our grocery store here on the odd occasion.
I couldn’t finish talking about sweetshops, without mentioning Jubblys. For 2p you could get a frozen kind of diamond shape in various flavours. Man I used to devour many of these in the course of a day. I think they tried to reintroduce them again recently, but I don’t think they took off, mainly I think because they were much smaller and also considerably more expensive than their 70′s counterpart. You used to have to choose which end you wanted to chew the seem off, to gain access to the frozen treat within. One side was always kind of weak flavoured and rock solid, the other side was always full of flavour and fairly easy to chew on. I always like to eat the hard side first, which kind of made the softer side even nicer.
Other favourite frozen treats were ice poles, long sticks of flavoured ice and the usual ice lollies. Ice creams were also popular, but I’ve never really been into ice cream, even to this day. “Just one Cornetto, give it to…” someone else, to slap the old TV commercial in the face.
So there goes a whole raft of childhood memories, loosely related to sweets. All is not lost. Although many of the sweets mentioned earlier have disappeared from the shelves, there is still somewhere, thanks to the Internet, that you can go, to relive all those childhood, memories. A great company called A Quarter Of, which I’ve been keeping tabs on for a while, but alas they don’t ship to Canada, and even if they did, the cost would prove to be pretty expensive. For you lucky gits in the UK, binge away.