As a child I was a manic sugarfreak, sneaking into the kitchen whenever I could to smear bread with butter and pour sugar on it - or to just eat it out of the bowl by the spoonful. A 50's baby boomer, I became intimate with all the sweet cereals Messieurs Kellog, Post and that old Quaker fellow could invent. In fact, my favorite desert was a bowl of Cap'n Crunch. For most of my childhood we were a one-car family living in one of those hopscotch suburbs that required the mama to drive into the city to pick up the daddy around 5:15. The last bus stop in Richmond was the Westover Hills branch of the public library - which was right around the corner from one of those Five and Dime stores that still sold candy by the pound ... or ounce, if your allowance was only a quarter a week. When I was 10 I would stock up on wax lips and mustaches and sell them for a profit at school the next day. Till I got caught, probably.
When I was 11, though, we moved into that Westover Hills neighborhood and I could walk to the library and the Five and Dime which was a thrill beyond description. To go from having to sneak out the back door of the library while Mama wasn't looking and dashing to the candy store and back, before she noticed I was gone, to just stopping by the candy store on the way home was a little like going to heaven. No. It was a LOT like what I imagine heaven will be someday. For the next few years I lived in a perpetual sugar high built on red hots, candy corn and nonpareils. I loved the way red hots would clog into a cinnamon sugar lump between your back molars if you stuffed enough of them into your mouth at once. Candy corn, otoh, was something to be savored in all it's tri-colored flavors, first the little white bit that melted quickly on your tongue, then the yellow slice that introduced the mellocreme texture and finally the orange base which was always the biggest bit of sugarjoy in each kernel, prolonging the candylove. Nonpareils were another slow-eating candy because if you had the patience to Not Bite - the chocolate would melt on your tongue and eventually leave you with a mouth full of the little white sugar beads.
Yes. I too, was a candyfreak. Because the inspiration for our Valentine's Day display at the library this year was Steve Almond's book Candyfreak. I first heard him speak about candy at a library director's meeting in Richmond, sponsored by the Library of Va. He owned me within the first sentence when he proudly proclaimed that he has eaten candy every day of his life. I am so jealous. Almond has since gone on to become one of my favorite authors, with a fabulous blog, hilarious self-published books and and a racy romp through rock and roll. He was the guest speaker at VLA last fall and cemented my devotion. Re-reading Candyfreak in November I was prompted to see just what historical and retro-candy I could dig up, proving yet again that you can find it on the Internet. Which I did - at least, enough of it to make up a 9-decade display of sugared love. And yes. I did buy the candy cigarettes and let me tell you - they were the first to disappear.
Actually, all I did was wield the Visa card. Iris, my artistic circulation staff and Diva of Displays did the rest, including making this little video clip of CandyLoveSugarJoy at the library. And yes. I was dragging yesterday, with a swollen puffy face, when I wrote most of this, which is why I'm only getting around to posting it today.