No childhood memories are quite so evocative as those of the sweets (in the UK), candy (in the US) or lollies (in Australia) which were such a big part of our life when growing up.
“Who knows the secret of the Black Magic box?”, “And all because the lady loves Milk Tray”, “The Bounty Hunters – they came in search of paradise” . . .
Utter these phrases to your friends the next time you’re out for a drink or a meal and see how many hours pass before you run out of sweet memories and wind up lamenting that, although some of these delicacies are still around, alas they are much smaller than they used to be . . .
What follows is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every piece of confectionery available in the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s – it is really a recollection of some personal favourites (many of them sadly now gone-but-not-forgotten) and some which have become legend.
- Chocolate stuff
- Biscuits masquerading as sweets
- Minty and fruity stuff
- Chewy stuff
- Hard stuff
- Fizzy stuff
- Cheap sweets
- Bubblegum/Chewing gum
- Miscellaneous and bizarre
- Vague memories
Introduced to Britain’s sweet shops by Rowntree’s way back in 1935, Aero has remained a firm favourite with the British public ever since. The popularity of bubbly chocolate spread quickly, with Aero bars being exported to the US from 1936.
“Who knows the secret of the Black Magic box?”. I do! Get stuck into too many Walnut Whip’s and you will too . . .
“The Bounty Hunters – they came in search of paradise . . .”. Coconut and chocolate bars that offered ‘a taste of paradise’ . . . and a crafty butchers at scantily-clad birds.
The exotic coconut taste of Bounty arrived in 1951. Unfortunately, the little individual black card trays have gone from the packets these days . . . but the fact still remains that anything combining chocolate and coconut just can’t lose!
Cadbury concoction of the sick-making variety. Coconut, caramel and whole cherries encased in milk chocolate – uuurrgh, no more for me, thanks. Lasted for about a year in the early 80s.
CADBURY CREME EGGS
CADBURY’S LUCKY NUMBERS
From the US. A thick chocolate bar with air whipped into it. “Chocolate never tasted thick and light as Chocolite”.
Crunchie was originally launched in the UK by JS Fry & Sons in 1929. It was an instant success.
The method of making the crunchy, sugary honeycomb centre was a complicated secret, but in 1935 the management of Rowntree’s received a package promising to reveal the secret in return for £5,000. Shocked by this treachery, Rowntree’s immediately ratted out the sender to Fry’s back in Bristol.
Cadbury’s took over production bars in the early 1970s.
The infamous 70s ‘choc-as-phallic-symbol’ splendour of “only the crumbliest, flakiest chocolate.”
FRUIT & NUT
“Everyone’s a Fwuit and Nut case”
FRYS 5 CENTRES
Mathematically fascinating (not to mention a mite confusing) in that they had 5 centres (Orange, lemon, lime, raspberry and . . . erm . . . another one) but 7 segments per bar.
You could work out which segments would have 2 flavours in and which wouldn’t (if you were very sad), and it was always a bit annoying if a flavour you liked got mixed with one you didn’t. Fry’s Five Centres was discontinued in 1992.
FRY’S CHOCOLATE CREAM
First made in 1866, this is Cadbury’s oldest established brand. Hawked by cut-price Bond George Lazenby (“Big Fry! Big Fry! Big Fry!!!”) with a giant model bar. The Fry’s chocolate cream bars in Orange and ‘plain’ outlasted the classic five-segment Rainbow Bar – a multi-fruit flavoured choccy bar (See Above).
British TV ads featured a sophisticated country lady chomping leisurely on her cream bar at an auction before coolly swooping in at the very last moment with the winning bid.
These were button-shaped bits of Galaxy chocolate, and they were delicious, but they stopped selling them on their own for some reason. Now you can only get them in packets of Revels.
One word . . . Yummmmmmm! And it always seemed that you still had a full box of the things, even when you would suddenly discover it was “empty”
“And all because the lady loves Milk Tray”.
The pluckiest man on television was the chap who would leap on to moving trains, swing from a helicopter, even brave the January Sales – ”All because the lady loves Milk Tray”.
The actor performing these exploits was Australian model Gary Myers, and initially, he did most of the stunts himself before he became too valuable to risk.
He says; “I had to do some pretty hairy things. I was supposed to do the great dive into the Blue Grotto in Malta, but a stuntman had already broken his back doing it. Then there was the time I was supposed to be chased by a wolf, swing across a crevasse and land on a three-foot ledge. The producer decided to bring in a stuntman – he missed the ledge, fell fifty feet and was badly injured”.
MILK TRAY CHOCOLATE BAR
A bizarre choccy bar made up of the most popular Milk Tray chocolates of the time. You had to very carefully break off the one you wanted, making sure you didn’t get a bit of Turkish Delight with your Strawberry Cup.
In 1962 a puny, freckle-faced child in NHS spectacles and a cowboy suit strode through a set of saloon doors and yelled: “The Milky Bars are on me”.
Milky Bars were advertised in a very different way in the 1950s: “Surprise! Delight!! It’s Milky White!!!”
A dual-bar delight from Terry’s of York featuring dark chocolate rippled over mint cream with mint crunchy sugary bits throughout.
Chocolate covered shards of mint-flavoured car windshield. TV Adverts had a skiing theme (that was 1970s originality for you. Ice/snow/winter sports etc = any kind of mint choccy bar or toothpaste) and also Noel Edmonds, though possibly not together.
“Genuine Cadbury’s stuff”
PINK PANTHER BARS
Franchised strawberry-flavoured chocolate. Pink coloured with an overbearing, sick-inducing taste.
First appearing in sweet shops in 1936, Quality Street was the brainchild of Harold Mackintosh, son of company founder John Mackintosh. The name was inspired by the popular play written by JM Barrie and first performed in London in 1902. The promotional characters (a soldier and a lady) were aptly named “Miss Sweetly” and “Major Quality”.
“A box of chocolates in a bag”. Or for those with nut allergies, “Russian Roulette in a bag”!
For that Christmas day pig-out!
Kids counted their Smarties in 1961 and exclaimed “Wotalotigot”” . . . adding strangely, “Buy some for Lulu” (who wasn’t even famous at the time!)
“…and triangular honey from triangular bees…”
Introduced in the 1960s, Treets came in three varieties – peanut (yellow bag), toffee (pale blue bag at some point) and chocolate (brown bag). They were near-spherical chocolate/nut/toffee lumps “sealed in a crispy shell”.
They could be stored in the inside pocket of your suit without any risk of stains – hence their slogan “Melt in your mouth, not in your hand”.
Ousted by M&Ms and Minstrels in the 1980s.
“Full of Eastern Promise”. A grown-up chocolate bar that hinted at naughty exoticism. The TV ads featured camels, sheikhs, sand and semi-naked veiled women doing a belly-dance.
WORLD’S FINEST CHOCOLATE
The makers of the chocolate that you schlepped for a buck a bar to raise money for your team, club, band, school and various other geeky organizations. There was usually a coupon for Burger King or somewhere inside the wrapper as an added incentive.
The milk chocolate brick. Much favoured by long-distance lorry drivers.
Biscuits masquerading as sweets
Bog-standard wafer biscuit with Bill Oddie ‘gringo’ advert. “You can’t stand it with Bandit/Get your head off the floor/Great big bar Bandit is as big as a door!” Or something. “Oh no, the Federalés are putting it all back!”
Similar to Kit-Kats. Rather dull. The kind of confectionery product only ever to be found in workplace vending machines and canteens, along with (“Bridge that gap with…”) Cadbury’s Snack.
As with Bandit, a dull, dull chocolate wafer, this time with Mike “Mr Spooner” Berry warbling the tuneless song until distressed wife hands equally pissed-off son the bar in question to take to Dad and get him to shut the f**k up. “I got those, can’t get enough of those Blue Riband blues/Blue Riband’s the milk chocolate wafer biscuit I always choose/When my woman treats me right/She buys me Blue Riband wafer biscuits crisp and light/I got those, can’t get enough of those Bluuuuue… oh, thank you!”.
“If you Like a lot of chocolate on your biscuit join our club”.
Wafer = Jack of Clubs; Milk Chocolate = Dark Blue wrapper with a picture of a Golf Ball; Dark Mint = Dark Green wrapper with Mint Leaf; Milk Mint = Lighter green wrapper; Plain = red wrapper. Raisin = Purple wrapper with a picture of a bunch of grapes.
They’re still around but the foil has disappeared and plastic wrappers have been introduced instead. Now the joy of embossing the Kit Kat logo into the foil with your thumb before sliding your thumb nail down the crack in the middle to snap the thing in two is consigned to history . . .
With the memorable animated advert:
I am Stan, I am a fan
And I’m delighted
to eat United
We are the fellas,
The shouters and yellers
And we never miss
that crunchy candy crisp
I am the Boss, and some things make me cross
But even I’m delighted
to eat United
WE’RE ALL DELIGHTED
TO EAT UNITED!”
Introduced in 1954 and originally 3¼ inches wide.
Minty and fruity stuff
A chewy fruit candy that had two colours per flavour (an outside colour and a colour hidden underneath). For example, the watermelon flavour was green with pink inside
Made by Dentyne, these were an obvious copy of Tic-Tacs, but with the box in a “landscape” orientation. Besides “Regular” they also came in Orange, Cherry, Lemon & Lime and Grape.
FOX’S GLACIER MINTS
Manufactured by Fox’s Confectionery in Leicester since 1918, these best-selling mints were developed by Eric Fox, one of the original founders of the company.
Since 1922 the mints have been sold with the Peppy the polar bear icon, depicted standing on one of the mints (which resemble miniature blocks of ice and are translucent).
The original slogan was “Don’t forget the Fruit Gums Mum!” but the powers that be forced Rowntree to change the slogan (because of unfair pressure on mums).
The marketing department cleverly came up with the alternative “Don’t forget the Fruit Gums, chum!”.
Originally manufactured by William Nuttall in Doncaster, Nuttalls Mintoes were a favourite in the 60s and early 70s.
Sadly after many company amalgamations and buyouts, the Nuttalls Mintoe disappeared completely.
Nuttall used his wealth helping the poor of Doncaster.
“The too good to hurry mints”.
The original Jingle was recorded by The Stargazers. Cliff Adams and the Stargazers once appeared on Sunday Night at the London Palladium and ended their act in bearskins, re-enacting the commercial on the stage.
Then they threw packets of Murray Mints to the audience. It caused a sensation.
First introduced in 1959 and “made to make your mouth water”. Sadly they have now been renamed Starburst.
Opal Fruits, made to make your mouth water
Fresh with the tang of citrus
Four refreshing fruit flavours
Orange, lemon, strawberry, lime
Opal Fruits, made to make your mouth water
OPAL MINTS (PACERS)
Opal Mints started off with a spearmint leaf motif on the wrappers as a purely white minty alternative to Opal Fruits (with lots of ice-oriented TV advertising). Then along came a name change and then three green spearmint stripes.
The adverts for the new look Pacer featured the old trusty people in white on ice skates suddenly being hit by green, at which point their t-shirts became green and white striped. Tasted like a tube of Colgate toothpaste dissolved in a swimming pool.
The Celtic football team were nicknamed “The Pacers” at one point because of the similarity of their kit to the sweets.
The brand was discontinued in the 1980s.
POLO FRUITS (LIFESAVERS)
Lifesavers was the original name of Polos when they were first brought to Britain by American Servicemen, as they were shaped like a lifebelt. When Rowntrees of York began making them, they changed the name to Polo. They are still known as Lifesavers elsewhere in the world.
The peppermint flavoured Polo was first manufactured in Britain in 1948, by employee John Bargewell at the Rowntree’s Factory in York.
A hard candy that came in banana, orange, strawberry, apple, and lime flavours and were in the shapes of the fruit they represented.
Launched in 1948 as “assorted crystal fruits”, nothing on earth (and probably in space) ever tasted as weird.
“Spangles gives you three kinds of mint to choose from”. Soft Centre Ice Mints, Golden Mint and Peppermint. “Suck a Spangle, be happy”
Despite the slightly unfortunate advertising slogan, “The sweet way to go gay!” Spangles were always a favourite, partly because they only needed one ration token rather than two (sweet rationing was finally lifted in the UK in 1953).
“Trebor Mints are a minty bit stronger” (Stick ’em up yer bum and they last a bit longer). Founded in 1907, Trebor was once one of Britain’s biggest confectionery makers and made all manner of sweets, including Refreshers, Black Jacks and Fruit Salad.
AMAZIN’ RAISIN BAR
Available from 1971 to 1978. Cockney pie and mash type song – “It’s amazin’ what raisins can do/All that goodness and it’s all fo’ you/You just ‘ave ta do what ya gotta do/It’s amazin’ what raisins can dooooooooo… Oi!” Cadbury concoction of raisins and chewy stuff and rum. Yes, rum! 0% proof.
Cadbury’s incorrect answer to the Mars bar – a simple concept that didn’t last. It was a sausage of fudge with peanuts stuck to the outside. The peanuts usually fell off and it had no chocolate in it, which was unusual.
TV Adverts were filmed on location on an Aztec pyramid. Available in Britain between 1968 – 1977
Aniseed flavoured chews made by Trebor Sharps in Maidstone, Kent.
A soft, chewy crochet of toffee and chocolate which was advertised by a forty-year-old man (Terry Scott) dressed as a schoolboy.
FOREVER YOURS BAR
“Let’s get it together”. Like a Milky Way with dark, dark chocolate and a white vanilla nougat and caramel. Good, but kind of rich after a while. Revived in 1990 as Milky Way Dark.
The British Cheggers-fronted TV ads, with their vox pops from cab drivers and the like (“It’s nuts, nugget (sic), milk chocolate . . . in between meals it’s faaahntastic!”) and tempting animated “comes up peanuts – slice after slice” bar cut-up, meant more to the good folk of the UK than any weak double-entendre beginning with ‘s’.
It’s not too late to reconsider the name change, you know.
“A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play”. Yes, but what about the acne and weight problems?
“The sweet you can eat between meals without spoiling your appetite”. Cunning marketing ploy guys, but my mum didn’t fall for it
NOW’N’LATER (banana ones!)
These things pull your fillings out (Of course, eating stuff like that will ensure that you’ll have fillings to begin with).
Caramel and nuts (as advertised by Kenny Everett in the 1970s – “Cadbury’s Picnic has so many nutty bits it won’t stand up on its end! Look!” (cue bar falling over) – repackaged as Lion Bars. Originally introduced in 1958. See also Rowntree’s rival Nutty Bar.
A chocolate-coated bar with four “compartments”, each containing a different flavoured filling; Marshmallow, Peanut butter, Caramel, and Fudge.
Rowntree-made chewy, striped thing with a different pseudo-fruity flavour in each stripe. “Four times the flavour, four times the chew!” ran the multi-coloured wedding advert.
“A mans gotta chew what a mans gotta chew”.
The Mighty Chew. A chocolate-covered nougat bar from Rowntrees which you could stretch to the floor whilst still attached to your teeth. Red Indian/Mexican firing squad-baiting TV adverts (“Hold on there, bald eagle! You wouldn’t light that fire until I open my Texan Bar, would ya?”) are the stuff of legend.
It was withdrawn from sale in the 1980s but relaunched as a limited edition by Nestle in 2005 after being voted “the favourite sweet of all time” in a 2004 survey of sweet shop customers.
“Someone should’ve told him – a Texan takes time a-chewin”.
You had to smack it on the ground to break it up before you could eat it.
Long pink chewy things with bits of yellow and green fizzy bits according to flavour. Also the highly addictive Wham! chews.
Much fun was to be had by sucking aniseed balls and then gobbing what appeared to be blood all over the place.
Along with Humbugs, these were every Granddad’s favourite. You could crack your denture in half if you tried to do anything other than suck them though!
See Bullseyes above . . .
Lovehearts were originally produced by confectioners Swizzels-Matlow as a novelty Christmas cracker filler in the 1950s. They were eventually sold as fizzy sweets (which tasted like three-day-old Dr Pepper) which had cute love messages on them. English girls would send them to David Cassidy and Donny Osmond addressed simply ‘America’
“Action Candy” (?) that fizzed in the mouth. The big rumour going around school playgrounds all over the western world at the time was that a combination of Pop Rocks and Coca-Cola was fatal.
In the US, urban legend had it that “Mikey”, a small child who appeared in commercials for Life cereal, had died after ingesting this combination!. SEE ALSO: Space Dust.
“Refreshing” how exactly?
A bag full of sugar from Barratt’s with a cardboard lolly which always got soggy. The bag was yellow and red for normal sherbet and yellow and green for the lemonade version (all bags had a pic of the red lolly dipping into the sherbet).
SHERBET FLYING SAUCERS
A minimalist yellow paper tube full of sherbet from Barratt’s with one woefully inadequate liquorice stick in the centre as edible ‘cutlery’.
Came in orange or strawberry with a picture of the moon on the front of the packet. Space Dust was almost uncontrollable when combined with Pepsi, Cresta or Coca-Cola. Has been known to explode out of the nose and make a right mess. SEE ALSO: Pop Rocks
SWIZZEL’S DOUBLE DIP
From the mighty Swizzel/Matlow empire, with patented “Swizzel Stick” and those two kids on the packet. Also gave rise to the Swizzade drinkie offshoot. Free packet given away with Buster comic on the occasion of its merger with Jackpot.
“Carmella gusto uva frizzante”. An innocent hard candy filled with explode-in-your-mouth Alka-seltzer type jizz in the centre. They came in long string-like packaging. They packed a punch, made your eyes water, and were hell if you did them on acid!
Vast banks of penny sweets under the glass counter at the local sweet shop/tobacconist (or high on the shelves behind the shopkeeper); the little white paper bag and the decision of whether to allow the shopkeeper to choose your sweets or to pick your own ‘custom’ mix. “I’ll have one of those… two of those… no… er… one of those… three of those… no, put one back…”
The one sweet that parents were happy to buy their kids – because it did exactly what it claimed to do . . . stopped your gob from speaking/moaning/complaining. Gobstoppers were massive and filled your entire mouth. They couldn’t be crunched or chewed because they were just too solid. Which is why Americans called them “Jawbreakers”. You can still buy them, but they’re not as popular these days – mainly because they are unquestionably a choking hazard. Henry Heimlich introduced his famous manoeuvre in 1974 just as gobstoppers were at the height of their popularity. It doesn’t take a genius to make the connection there.
LUCKY BAGS/JAMBOREE BAGS
A smattering of mediocre ha’penny sweets, a fractionally more substantial piece of confectionary, and a few misshapen blobs of brightly coloured plastic (a la Christmas Cracker novelties). Also known as Jamboree bags in some parts of the South of England.
Since the 1930s, Sweet Cigarettes had been popular with children. White sticks of candy with a splodge of red at one end. they came in a rough facsimile of a fag packet and even had collectable cigarette-style cards in them. But attitudes to smoking were changing, and by the end of the 1970s, sweet cigarettes became ‘candy sticks’ and the red tip disappeared.
SWEET NECKLACES AND WATCHES
Made up of a thin piece of elastic threaded with these rock hard Love Heart type sweets. Excellent weapons when holding the sweet between your teeth and stretching the elastic in a catapult fashion, biting hard and firing at people, cars or low-flying aircraft.
Had a tiny cartoon strip between the wrapper and the gum. There were also things you could buy (like . . . er . . spy cameras?!?).
The original container was like a chewing tobacco canister. Eventually, the manufacturer became PC and the tobacco box went and the box was fashioned into a tape dispenser.
Originally came in grape, bubble gum, and cherry. Other flavours followed.
From Anglo-American Chewing Gum Ltd, Halifax, Yorkshire.
Chewing gum that came in a long stick? The smell of the sour apple was enough to make you gag.
“The chewing gum that makes chewing fun”
This sugar-coated gum came in Fruit flavoured, Spearmint, Peppermint, and Menthol. 12 pieces for 6d. 5 sticks for 6d.
Chewing gum pieces that had thick liquid gloop in the middle. That wonderful liquid centre ran down your throat. The chewing gum part was pretty second rate, but the gloop was ace.
“Big Bubbles, No Troubles” – This bubblegum first hit American shelves in 1979 but is most associated with the 1980s when the fun flavours and non-stick bubbles made it a must-have treat.
Introduced in 1893, Juicy Fruit helped the American Wrigley company to become the most popular and successful chewing gum company in the world.
Juicy Fruit was taken off of the civilian market temporarily during World War II because of ingredient shortages and the demand for the gum to be included in C-rations for American troops.
SMOOTH ‘N JUICY
Bazooka’s late entry into the soft bubble gum market. Very short-lived.
Named after Philip K Wrigley (1894–1977) who assumed his father’s position as CEO of the Wrigley Company in 1932 and dedicated the entire output of Wrigley’s Spearmint, Doublemint, and Juicy Fruit to the US Armed Forces during WWII.
Wrigley’s launched their Spearmint brand in 1893. As the name implies, the gum is flavoured with the spearmint plant. Originally given away free with the purchase of baking soda, the gum became so popular that it was eventually sold separately.
Miscellaneous and bizarre
Very sweet, pellet-shaped candy in a box.
Sweet-Tart candy in the shapes of pieces of rubbish, all in a plastic garbage can.
Stormed the sweet market in the early 80s in assorted colours and flavours. Depending on the brand they were either super soft or rock hard.
Vaguely breast-shaped sweet popcorn which had Arthur Lowe in the TV ads sat on a park bench beside a woman indulging in a little double entendre. “Would you care for a little Hanky Panky, Madam?” Smacked with a handbag! “I only offered you a little nibble!” Smacked harder with a handbag!…etc.
Had a picture of a bird on the wrapper. The music was played by moving a stick located in a hollow area of the plastic stick the sucker was attached to while blowing in the top (like a recorder).
Created in 1927 by Austrian, Eduard Haas. It was originally a small candy mint which he named after pfefferminz (the German word for peppermint). The peppermints were stored in a small tin and sold well for more than 20 years as an alternative to cigarettes for people trying to quit smoking. In an effort to boost sales, the first Pez dispensers were introduced in 1948. The original dispensers did not have the trademark heads – These were introduced in 1952.
A small rectangular red packet, supposed to resemble an old seafaring type blokes brand of tobacco. Open up the pack and you are greeted with some brown wormy looking stuff that was trying to look like tobacco – not particularly visually appealing to a small child but the taste was sweet as sugar (that would probably have been the sugar) with perhaps a hint of coconut. Oh, the taste…
- ATOMIC FIREBALL
- BUN BARS
- MARY JANES
Big thanks to Nicola Murphy, Pat Lynch, Mark Scott, Michelle Roberts, Tom Murphy, Louise Pepper, Clare Sudbery, Iain Griffiths, Peter Hill, Chris Hughes, Clive Shaw, Matthew Bullen and all of the old TV Cream and Bullet list members.