Yesteryear’s Memories: What Happened to my Candy Bar?

March 22, 2023

One of my favorite things as a kid was, of course, food. More specifically, junk food. I loved the three C’s — cookies, cake and candy. A weekend delight was lying on the floor on Saturday afternoon with a comic book and a candy bar. The total cost for these was seventeen cents — twelve for the book and five for the candy bar. Seems almost crazy in light of today’s prices, but it was nevertheless true. The candy bar was definitely big enough to last a while — on occasion, I cut a bar in two just to extend the cavity-producing experience. Half now and half to be consumed on the second reading of the comic book. Even the ads for X-ray vision glasses, Charles Atlas muscle manuals, and Sea Monkeys were re-read as we kids chomped on thick chunks of chocolate and nougat and caramel. It was heaven.

As adults, we often want to re-create that feeling of freedom. Freedom from thinking about taxes, car repairs, and getting to work on time. I don’t believe that at eleven I ever saw a power bill or knew what a tax deduction was, even though I was one. Lying on that living room floor was a sheltered haven from such concerns. The only uncertainty was what was for dinner later. And would I have to dry dishes.

I guess my dream of those times got the best of me. I really haven’t paid much attention to candy bar prices. I like them but I don’t normally buy them. I went to the store to get one and planned to eat it while reading an old Archie comic book I found boxed up with books in the garage. I looked at the shelves of candy in the neighborhood convenience store. Many were old standards we all grew up with. Mounds, Kit-Kat, Payday. Many were new. I didn’t expect them to be a nickel, but I didn’t expect them to be over TWO BUCKS! I thought back to the neighborhood store that existed just about a hundred feet from where I was at this moment. I guess that was a ‘convenience store’ of sorts, too. It was close to home, it had an abbreviated selection of things that people want every day, and it was a little more expensive than the supermarket across town. But TWO BUCKS? And the kicker was that the package was just about half the size that it used to be. I started researching prices and products and that’s when I really got educated. Not only have food manufacturers taken steps to stay profitable, they have names for these practices. Ever hear the term, “Slack-fill”? It’s a real term in the industry. That’s like when you buy a bag of potato chips and open it to find the top half is nothing but air. That’s when you open a box of chocolates and half the space is pure nothing. Then there’s “shrinkflation.” That’s evident when you notice the roll of toilet paper is a half inch shorter than the paper holder it used to fit. And instead of three hundred sixty sheets, there are only two hundred ninety. When you can place two tubes of toothpaste in your travel bag that could only hold one previously. And so it goes. I don’t blame the manufacturers completely — they have to make a profit. But when they intentionally make it appear you are getting more for less, it’s not right.

I guess the only thing to be learned is that it isn’t 1966 anymore and you can’t go home again. For me, the cost of getting that nostalgic feeling was with two miniscule two-dollar candy bars and a twelve dollar comic book. Sad Sack and Archie only live in my memory now, and maybe in yellowed pages in an antique mall somewhere. But I’ll enjoy those in a recliner — lying on the floor is out of the question. It’s too damn hard to get up again.

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