By Raymond Lesser
I spent my childhood as a kid in a candy store. No ordinary candy store, B & B Candy Company didn’t just have a shelf or two of chocolate bars, gum, and Life Savers, but literally tons of candy lining the walls of its wholesale warehouse. My dad sold the candy to many Mom and Pop groceries, drug stores, soda fountains, and diners in Cleveland.
There was alway candy in our house, usually several different kinds. Dad would constantly be bringing samples of all sorts of new treats that candy manufacturers would send him to try, in addition to whole boxes of some of the family’s favorites like Mounds bars, Milky Ways, or licorice that may have gotten dented or damaged in shipping. OK, occasionally Dad brought home a stale box of candy that might also be full of bugs. This just made us more careful, and we always broke candy bars in half before we bit into them to make sure there was nothing crawling around inside. Dad was sad about all this wasted merchandise, but my siblings and I were more than happy to eat his profits. Of course the neighborhood kids also loved hanging out at the Lesser home. Besides the boxes of candy laying around for anyone to grab my mom was an incredible baker, and Dad brought her an endless supply of chocolate chips.
One of the Big Four holidays for candy sales is Halloween. Back when I was growing up the big manufacturers hadn’t yet started marketing bags of fun-size and other mini bars. A lot of grown ups still made things like homemade cookies or caramel apples to hand out. But at some point, an urban legend apparently got started and swept the country that some real life witch had put razor blades in the apples. Actually, in 1959 a California dentist named William Shyne was arrested for distributing 450 laxative-laced candies to kids, 30 of whom got sick, although it’s not clear whether they were sick from the laxative or from gorging on all the other candy in their sacks. It figures that a dentist would be the one who would try to ruin Halloween for the rest of us. In fact, there’s a dentist in our neighborhood who still hands out toothbrushes for trick-or-treat, although at least he’s smart enough to also give out generous portions of candy to make sure he doesn’t wake up on November 1st with a case of toilet paper ringing his rose bushes.
Considering my upbringing I’m surprised that I still have almost all my own teeth, though with plenty of gold invested in some of them. When I got old enough (12) I started working with Dad making deliveries and on Saturdays in the warehouse. Even with access to this motherlode I don’t think I ate as much candy as most of my friends, certainly I wasn’t obsessed with it as some of them were.
Given my heritage I was delighted to find out recently that my oldest son carried on with Halloween candy sales when he was a kid, but never told us about it until now. Apparently, he would go out and collect a huge amount of candy every Halloween, but then what kid wouldn’t? I remember him sitting after trick-or-treating and trading candy with his friends and siblings, but I didn’t pay much attention to the actual trades, assuming that each kid was just trading treats they didn’t like for ones they did. But Ari had a different strategy, he traded quality for quantity. Besides a few of his favorites, which he kept and gorged with the other zombies and superheroes, he stockpiled as much candy as he could at Halloween. Then he hid it somewhere none of us knew about for several months. Once all the Halloween and Christmas candy had been depleted in other kids homes, he became a candy baron. He would take part of his stash to school every day to sell or trade for premium prices and snacks. When the spring drought in the school kids candy supplies came, even the crappiest brands, like Candy Corn, Smarties, Necco wafers, and Swedish fish sold like $100,000 Bars.
The family candy legacy continues. Ari told me he woke up late one Saturday morning and found that Benny, one of his sons, had broken into their candy safe. Yes, they need to have a candy safe to lock all sweets away. Otherwise, the boys would be bouncing off the walls (or rolling around on the floor with bellyaches) every time a new purchase was brought home from the candy store. Apparently, Benny had spied on Ari while he was opening the safe and memorized the combination. So, in the early morning with their parents asleep, the boys proceeded to take all the candy out of the safe and stash it into a cooler which they hid in remote corner of the basement. Benny definitely has the potential to be a criminal mastermind, or, more likely, the next generation Candy Man.Read the Nov 2023 Issue Online