If you’re a child of the 80s, you have memories and loves that no other generation can understand …
The allure of big, wispy, spiky hair.
The smell of mimeograph fluid in the morning.
The birth of safe sex (see what I did there?) and of saying no to drugs.
And candy. Lots and lots of extremity-numbing, teeth-rotting, hallucination-invoking, coma-inducing candy presented in a dizzying array of colors, flavors, shapes, aromas, and purposes.
We all had our favorites, and we all had our *icks*, but just about any 1980s candy list would have to include …
Atomic Fire Balls
Atomic Fire Balls were one of the rites of passage if you wanted to be a proper smartass teenager in the 1980s.
I mean, if you couldn’t suck on one of these hunks of flame without batting an eye, all the while badmouthing your teachers or your parents or just the man in general, then you could forget about being cool.
Bonus points if you a) bit through the thing without wincing or b) swallowed it whole without dying.
Depending on your dentist’s sense of social responsibility, he viewed Bit-O-Honey as either the scourge of humanity or as a nice little profit center.
Along with those flat Jolly Rancher strip things that you could suck into a shiv, Bit-O-Honey welded more teeth together than all the braces in North America combined during the 1980s.
And, if you didn’t realize your teeth were sunk into the thick gooey stuff and thus stuck together, you risked dislocating your jaw, breaking your jaw, extracting a tooth, popping a filling or three … or all of the above.
And … there was just enough real honey in these to make the allergic feel a bit uncomfortable and scratchy .
Did candy cigarettes glorify smoking?
Hell yeah, they did! But more than just smoking itself, these babies glorified the rebels of our youth, and of our parents’ youth.
You know …
Look, I get it … smoking is bad. Smoking kills.
But for decades, everybody smoked, and candy cigarettes were an easy prop to let the world knew you were a kid playing the part of an adult.
You know, like for dress-up days at school.
Or for a play.
Or for when your dad sent you to the corner store to buy cigarettes for him.
Innocent stuff like that.
Candy necklaces were awful … pasty, sweet (but not good sweet), frustratingly small (the individual pieces), and they were necklaces.
My friends were boys who only wore necklaces when they wanted to get into a fight and girls who wore real necklaces that turned their skin green.
We wanted Reese’s Cups or Gobstoppers (see below) or Atomic FireBalls (see above), and we got plenty of those. But every once in awhile, some mom or another would break out the candy necklaces.
And we’d grumble … and take them.
We’d eat them, too, but only after we used them to strangle and candy-whip each other, and only after they had the proper amount of dirt rubbed into their godforsaken bejeweled surfaces.
Gobstoppers were as close to “truth in advertising” as candy ever came.
I mean, candy cigarette boxes didn’t say anything about lung cancer, and Spree was not named “Diabetes.”
But Gobstoppers put it right up front there — one wrong suck on one of these little bastards and you’re going to freaking die. Hope oxygen is not your thing.
The reward was worth the risk, though, what with the multiple layers of multi-colored jawbreaking sweet-sourness, and the powdery tarty treat that lay inside.
Breathing be damned … pass me that box of Heimlichs!
If you were not interested in pulling all your teeth at once, a la Bit-O-Honey, and if you insisted on keeping your airway free-flowing by steering clear of Gobstoppers, Lemonheads were a reasonable compromise.
Pea-sized drops of totally natural-looking yellow kid sap, Lemonheads were soft on the outside, and hard, white, and sour on the inside.
Each box contained approximately 31 pounds of the little insulin spikes, so you could work on rotting your teeth for days at a time.
Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip
There has been a lot of debate over the centuries about what exactly the snake offered Eve back in the old Naked Garden.
You usually hear it referred to as, “The Forbidden Fruit,” and most folks take it literally.
It was an apple.
It was a grape.
It was one of the Fruit of the Loom guys.
That’s all wrong. It was Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip.
The powdered part is basically flavored cocaine, and the stick part is vanilla sex.
No mere mortal can resist any of it, even if that means you have to put clothes on afterwards.
The truth is, Pop Rocks have always tasted pretty lousy.
They’re basically the “candy” equivalent of Super Elastic Bubble Plastic, which is responsible for more fantasy novels by Gen X authors than all of the Bible lessons from the last two centuries combined.
But if you could develop a tolerance to the toxicity, blissful mouth feels awaited you.
Well, blissful and painful, but still.
And the urban legends alone are worth the price of admission (and dialysis).
Evidently, Gobstoppers and Lemonheads didn’t slide down little gullets quite easily enough for candy researchers in the 1970s, so … Spree!
For the uninitiated, Spree are tart candies, each roughly the size of your average mid-century penicillin pill and each coated with a high-shellac, very natural looking (*wink*) coating that made the candies shoot down your throat like Clark Griswold on his souped-up trash-can-lid sled.
They did taste pretty good, though, if you could get in a lick or two as they rocketed past your tongue.
If you like to disappoint children, go ahead and give them wax lips when they ask for candy.
Sure, wax lips look fun and colorful, and it’s OK enough to hold them with your teeth and pretend you have the lips of a bee sting victim for a couple of minutes.
But then …
Well, that paraffin smell starts to smell not so natural.
And then you remember that you want candy, damn it.
And then you try to make the best of the situation by chewing the lips.
And then … candles for dinner, anyone?
Wax lips are iconic, but still a sumbitch way to treat your kids.
So … what’s on your 1980s candy list? Let me know in the comments below.