Sweets in the 1960s. Or, where did all those fillings come from?

Another joint post from those two characters out of a latter day ‘Just William’ novel. Barry Ward and Ronnie Hughes rejoice in the sweets of the 1960s in north Liverpool.

Well, last week’s discovery that food in the 1960s was actually quite good sparked off lots of interest on here and on Twitter. And while we were getting that one ready Barry started to reminisce about the sweets we ate (by the ton) back then.G458_The_Sweet_Shop-jigsaw-w

“I was also a lover of sweets, and some favourites from the sixties were bars of 5 Boys milk chocolate, Fry’s Five Centres and of course the ones you could only get out of jars at the ‘Travellers Rest’, near the school, such as cinder toffee, pear drops, sherbert liquourice, gob-stoppers, and treacle toffee.”

So there obviously had to be this separate ‘Sweets of the 60s’ post.

And whilst scouring the internet for images to illustrate our words I immediately found this gem:

Some words have changed their meaning since then.

Some words have changed their meaning since the 1960s.

Spangles, though were the quintessential 60s sweet. Considered by me and all my friends to be as staple a part of our diets as potatoes and milk. Basically just boiled sweets but in an assortment of fruity ‘flavours’ that I suspect had never bothered a fruit tree. Some nights though, when presented with your packet of sweets after tea (this really happened) you’d find you had the wrong kind of Spangles:

“Apart from the fruit flavoured ones, weren’t there some that tasted like cough medicine ?”

Boiled vomit.

Boiled vomit.

And get that strap line? I have no memory of dirt in sweets ever being being a problem at all.

But thinking about this nightly gift of a packet of sweets: after our tea, and after something like apple pie and custard; you have to remember that on the way home from school we’d ALREADY been to a sweetshop, much like the one illustrated at the top. In our case, as Barry says, this was the ‘Traveller’s Rest’, conveniently situated, for them and us, just outside our junior school.

_63880732_img_1438Mostly we wouldn’t buy ‘posh’ sweets from here, but loose ones, things where you could get, say, four for a penny (we’re in the old money here) like Trebor Fruits, Black Jack Chews and various flavours of ‘bubbly’ chewing gum.

“Don’t forget the dire warnings from adults about swallowing gob-stoppers (“you’ll choke to death!”) and especially chewing gum (It’ll wrap round your heart !”).

A variation on straightforward bubble gum was Football Cards. Each sealed pack contained a slither of pink chewie and a coloured photograph of a player. Everyone wanted to collect the set. But since you couldn’t see who you were going to get ’til you opened it, everyone had loads of swops. So my abiding memory of the ‘Travellers Rest’ is loads of chewing chomping kids going through their collections of football cards, saying ‘Gorrit, gorrit…’ until they found one they didn’t have and could swop for one of their own doubles.

Any excuse to include a picture of my hero.

Any excuse to include a picture of my hero.

Each card would have a lazily written paragraph of football clichés about each player on the back. So Roger, here may have been a ‘wily inside forward’ or, more likely ‘a reliable poacher.’

Barry again:

“When you think about it, the marketing for bubble-gum was fantastic, because once you’d started collecting the football cards, you had to have the complete set. As well as the football cards, I’m sure I had complete or near-complete sets of Flags of the World, The American Civil War and of course War Of The Worlds.  All quite educational.  Of course the manufacturers would only produce a limited number of certain cards which meant you had to keep on buying chewie to complete a set.”

The chocolate bar everyone mentions from the 60s, and earlier (and Barry duly did) is Fry’s ‘5Fry's-Five-Boys-1968 Boys.’ Nice though, from my memory, perfectly ordinary milk chocolate and no better than any of the Cadbury’s alternatives. But intriguing because the back of the wrapper and the chocolate itself contained bizarre Edwardian looking images of said ‘5 Boys’ going from ‘Desperation’ to eventual ‘Realisation’ over tasting the chocolate and realising that yes, it was Fry’s. It felt like eating a little piece of history. And we were. The bar was withdrawn in 1975 and has been mourned, certainly by me and Sarah (though I didn’t of course know her then) ever since.5Boys

“My favourites (after 5 Boys’) were the 5 Centre, especially after around 1967 when they brought out a milk chocolate version.  I think by this time they’d dispensed with the coffee flavour in favour of strawberry…but I may be wrong.”

Coffee still present, but this looks like the plain chocolate option.

Coffee still present, but this looks like the plain chocolate option.

“My nan would give me sweets and 2 comics (The Beano and The Victor) when we visited on Sundays, and I can remember having to give up sweets for Lent one year. The sweets were kept in a tin for the 40 days of Lent, and then eaten in a frenzy on Easter Sunday, with the inevitable consequences.”

‘Posh sweets’ were most celebrated at Christmas when Selection Boxes would be expected to turn up in the pillow case at the bottom of your bed.

It's actually a jigsaw, but looks like a mega selection box.

It’s actually a jigsaw, but looks like a mega selection box.

“Boxes of Chocolates were popular too, as you can see from the above illustration. A useful fallback for dads on their wives’ birthdays , anniversaries or, again, Christmas (I don’t think the commercialisation of Valentines Day had begun then). Again clever marketing, especially ‘The Lady Loves Milk Tray’ TV adverts. But there were always some horrible ones left over, the nougat ones with nutty bits  in our house. George Harrison’s ‘Savoy Truffle’ on The White Album namechecks some of the worst, as well as saying you’ll have to have all your teeth pulled out.”

Yes, it says 'casket' and it looks like a coffin.

Yes, it says ‘casket’ and it looks like a coffin.

I could go on and on and on. But one thing I wanted to bring you in this post was the ‘Galaxy Dark Room Test.’ Launching their competitor to brand leader Cadbury’s, Galaxy had this ludicrous TV advert:

Scene, a block of flats, from a distance, at night with room lights going out one after the other. Cue plummy but suggestive voice “The lights are going out all over Britain. Everyone’s doing the Galaxy dark-room test!” In fact, of course, they’re tasting Galaxy and ‘a competitor’s’ chocolate in the dark so they can clearly taste the superiority of Galaxy. I remember us staging ‘the test’ in our house!

Sadly a thorough scout of the internet has failed to find this gem. (What is YouTube for?) But I’m sure it happened.

Pricey. That's 4p in the 'new money.'

Pricey. That’s 4p in the ‘new money.’

But thinking of George Harrison’s dire warnings, how were our teeth faring with all these sweets and chocolate? Barry again:

“No wonder I’ve got loads of fillings. Though having said that, none of my daughters or their friends have ever had a filling. And they never went without sweets. I heard somewhere that in those days the dentists got paid by the NHS, so much per filling or extraction. And I suspect that one of the most detested people in Maghull, Mr Marshall, the dentist on the corner of Sefton Lane – who’d fixed himself up with a monopoly of dental checking in our school, made a fortune from unnecessary fillings.”

‘Surely not?’ I thought. Though I too hated Mr Marshall and the yellow dental appointment cards when they were handed out at school. ‘Surely no responsible professional would carry out medical procedures that weren’t needed?’

How wrong I was. Because over on the Dentist Forum (yes, there is one, I checked) you’ll find this discussion about the Drill and fill mentality of the 1960s. Including this frightening news:

“What he fails to mention is the over treatment by dentists to anyone who is now aged around 50 or 60 will have suffered in their younger years. Many of this age group had the drill, drill and more drilling treatment. It wasn’t unusual as a child to visit the dentist for a check up in the 1960s and be told “that’s 10 fillings you need”. If many of this age group had only visited a dentist occasionally in their childhood, perhaps only when in pain, they would have had less unnecessary treatment and their teeth might be in better shape now.

So what does this mean? It means that most people in this specific age group need dentists now more than any other age group to repair their teeth. And what do they get … rationing. The damage was done in the 1960s, you can’t go back and change history.”

There follows a discussion, and this between dentists you’ll remember, that set my teeth on edge but entirely changed my opinion about the gaps and fillings inside my mouth. It’s not me or the sweets that are to blame. It’s Mr Marshall! Because don’t forget, by the time he starts his drilling, we’ve only had our ‘big teeth’ for two or three years.

So, thus vindicated, let’s end with a few more illustrations of sixties favourites.

LIGHTBOX_IMAGE_0052_39_AZTEC

frysorangecream

7359964666_dbe1a23722_m

wagon wheels

Wagon wheels. Sweets or food, what’s the difference? And were they bigger then, or is it because our hands were smaller?

Well, there you are. Now don’t eat them all at once, or you’ll make yourself sick!

And if you like this, no doubt coming soon could be be ‘Ice cream and lemonade in the 1960s’ ‘Comics of the 1960s’ – and who knows what else is lurking in our memories!

See also the other parts of this trilogy: ‘Food in the 1960s: Actually it was quite good.’ and ‘Food in the 1960s: What else were we eating?’

Plus ‘Food in the 1970s: What went wrong?’

 

40 thoughts on “Sweets in the 1960s. Or, where did all those fillings come from?

  1. The Accidental Amazon

    Oh, LOL, Ronnie! Those old ads are priceless. Stephen Fry rhapsodizes about his sugar addiction in his memoir ‘The Fry Chronicles’ and mentions a lot of these candies.

    I still have vivid memories of one particular occasion when I was hanging out with my best friend Susie Smart at her aunt’s house. It was July 20, 1969, and later that night, Neil Armstrong would be taking his first steps on the moon. Susie and I were (almost) more excited about our being able to stock up on sweets at a local shop we called ‘The Hobbit House.’ That wasn’t its actual name, but it was a tiny, brightly colored shop with a round door. They had every kind of sweet imaginable, and we spent a fabulous hour or so loading up our paper bags with as much loot as we could afford. I think we managed to stop eating it before we got sick, but it did sure help us stay up late to watch that historic event.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      A lovely memory Kathi. A a reminder of the strong link between taste and memory. Probably every time you hear ‘The Eagle has landed’ you’re back in the Hobbit House choosing your sweets.

      Reply
      1. The Accidental Amazon

        I remember the candy necklaces and the button candy that came on strips of paper in particular, and, yes, Neil Armstrong, the Hobbit House and my friend Susie are forever linked in my memory. Susie and I are still in touch, BTW. Have known her since we were six years old.

  2. stan cotter

    I was given two rather very large bars of Galaxy milk chocolate, one from my partner’s daughter and one from her grandson, and they still go down just as well.

    Oooohh I can still taste all those sweets, especially the Spangles. Just fitted nice in the pocket. But yes mate, there were some that tasted more like medication, yuk.

    Reply
      1. Jay

        I liked Old English Spangles, and mourn their untimely passing. Do you remember you always got a Bar 6 in your selection box but I never saw one sold separately in a shop.

      2. Ronnie Hughes Post author

        You’re the first person I’ve ever known to like Olde English. ‘Boiled vomit’ is still my opinion.

        And yes, many a chocolate bar would end up having a half life in selection boxes long after they’d left the shop shelves – Cadbury’s Snack, Take 5 – making you wonder how old your average selection box actually was?

  3. cheethamlibMandy

    Thank goodness Fry’s chocolate bars are still available at a very few shops – you can get orange cream, peppermint and the one that is white. They still taste just as good.

    I remember well the dire warnings about gobstockers and chewing gum. Of course chewing gum was strictlyforbidden at boarding school,in fact there was always a faint tinge of it not being ‘quite nice’ to chew gum. But how we loved it and what a treat to score some clandestine chewie.

    At boading school we were allowed to choose 2 sweets per day (usually the choice was limited to barley sugar) but we could spend 2 shillings at the local shop on Saturdays and we could choose almost anything but chewie. Within our 2 bob budget we could get buddies, mint leaves,black cats, musk sticks yes Spanglers,Lifesavers, a packet of Fags licorice straps or we could blow the whole 2 bob on one glorious chocolate bar – Cadburys, Nestle or Frys.I remember the narrow 12 inch bright red boxes of politically incorrect ‘Nigger Boy Licorice.’ There was a picture of such a boy on the lid. Inside was a selection of different types of licorice straps i.e broad,twisted, tubular that lay glistening, ready for the feast. A box cost 2/6 and sometimes two of us sugar craving girls would pool our money to share one.

    As for drilling and filling I’m sure that was going on across the world in the 50’s and 60’s. I well remember visits to a sadistic dentist every school holiday and having to endure endless fillings many of them without an anaesthetic. Hence my fear of dentists took about 40 years to die down thanks to a more enlightened approach to dentistry.

    This was so interesting, and what fun it is to remember those iconic sweets (lollies in Australia).

    PS Did Dracula enjoy a Black Magic casket (food for thought!)

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Well, Lording it over an empire reflected clearly and unfeelingly in children’s sweets? And dentists as bullying sadists. No wonder we all grew up so well balanced!

      Reply
  4. Jacki

    I so remember the Ad for Galaxy Chocolate I was about 4 at the time and whenever I had one I had to close my eyes , even Today after coming across one in a Supermarket in Australia I still closed my eyes when eating it and Fry’s Chocolate was always a Treat from my Grandad.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Jacki, welcome to the blog.

      Taste memories go very deep don’t they? All those years and memories of your Grandad, all from 2 bars of chocolate. I’m convinced Galaxy doesn’t taste quite as fantastic as when it first came out, though I could easily be wrong.

      Reply
  5. Paula Greaves

    I remember how my 1960s-self considered Caramac to be the height of sophistication … it was definitely an acquired taste!
    For those of us who used to trek from Melling to Deyes Lane Secondary Modern School, there was a small sweet shop by Maghull Station … in the buildings that still resemble huts (opposite The Great Mogul pub).

    Reply
  6. Carl Heenan

    I once liked Galaxy chocolate very much, but now the taste has changed because it is not made with full cream milk anymore, now with skimmed milk powder, Yuk

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Knew it didn’t taste anything like back then, but hadn’t realised the reason is so basic. They used to boast about ‘creaminess!’ I’d rather have 2 full fat pieces than a whole bar of skimmed milk.

      Reply
  7. Liz

    Was doing research on sweets of the 60’s for a party our club is holding and it was great to remember the sweets I used to love. I had always suspected the dentists of my childhood gave me fillings unnecessarily as I didn’t have any new ones as an adult for many years, just replacements. If I had had the dentist then that I have now I would have very few fillings. We may have eaten sweets but our meals were healthy and we didn’t have lots of snacks in between.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      So did you have a load of sweets at the party? And lemonade, jelly and ice cream? And did you play pass the parcel and musical chairs?

      And yes, why can’t those junk phone calls about banks and building societies be about retrospective claims on the dentists of the 1960s?

      Good to hear from you.

      Reply
  8. Jacki

    We used to buy a chocolate bar in the 60’s that had a rum flavour, it was shaped a bit like a Mars bar. Wasn’t ‘old jamaica’.
    Just can’t rmember the name!
    Anyone out there remember it?

    Reply
    1. Dave

      That would be Cadburys’ “Special Recipe”, then. Soft, rummy raisin thing dipped in plain choc with slightly lighter choc swirl decoration. Came out at same time as Old Jamaica and something called ‘Velvet Blend’- seemingly a mix halfway between milk and plain- I got the taste for ‘Old Jamacy- don’t ‘ee knock it back at once!’ (q. TV ad!) recently when I found it on sale again, less than 5 years ago. Don’t know if it’s still out there?

      Reply
  9. Ian Bentley

    Was looking for the Galaxy dark room test as an illustration for a Sermon on Christmas eve and came upon this blog – thank you for doing he research and showing there are no youtube clips but more, thank you for the memories

    Reply
  10. Jay

    Does anyone remember a candy stick thing that was like a coffee coloured ridged extrusion and I think it was hollow, or perhaps filled with sherbet, it tasted brown and coffee/caramelly as well? There’s something else being dredged up from my 1960s memory too, Highland Toffee and another chewy stick type thing with lumps of fruity jelly in it … a D bar or Double D?

    Reply
    1. Jay

      I remember those circa ’68/9 ish? There was another extruded type thing that was chewy but had bits of fruity jelly in it, my childhood memory had filed that, in triplicate and with carbon paper, under Double D.

      Reply
      1. Dave

        These, my friend, were Trebor ‘Chocstix’. They had a choco like filling. They also made a similar shaped thing called just what I don’t recall, out of barley sugar. I rated chocstix very highly. (May have been spelt as Chocsticks, but I doubt it ).

  11. coriantumr

    I believe Wagon Wheels were bigger in the past. Now, I have been told that they only seemed bigger because I had smaller hands. Rubbish! I was still eating Wagon Wheels in my teens and later when I had big hands!!

    Reply
  12. Sandra falconer

    Where have the boxes of weekend and white heather chocolates gone does anyone remember them also lucky numbers

    Reply
  13. Sue Jones

    A trip down Memory Lane.Use r luv Bar 6 anyone remember mint cracknells?(tv ad Gimme mint cracknell n I don’t care!). Also boxes of Weekend variety of fondants n candy really sweet n sugary.Cant remember who manufactured em.Oh t b young again!

    Reply
  14. Maureen Trainor

    Why did companies stop making the lovely boxes of chocolates, there was always a nice picture on the lid

    Reply
  15. Dave

    I know, FWIW, where you can still buy REAL Vimto, in glass bottles- none of this low sugar, high sweetener, high juice (ALLEGEDLY) healthy bitter lousy aftertaste muck they flog us in the UK. Try an Asisn shop, around Ramadan time (June) you may get lucky. I just bought 24 bottles from Wordwide Foods in Manchester, (Rusholme) near the Infirmiary on Wilmslow road. Nichols (the makers) denied they still made it when I had one of my periodical rants at the, but they surely DO. It is double strength, too, for te Saudi market, mainly. EXCELLENT stuff.

    Reply
  16. Josephine Ansaldo-Nixoon

    Please just bring them all back especially the cordial and cream bars. Sweets and chocolate are so boring these days

    Reply
  17. Josephine Ansaldo-Nixoon

    Also why did Bassetts change the dolly mixture around 1962? They were such a lovely flavour and even though only five, I remember being bitterly disappointed when I discovered the change. The closest to the flavour was a dolly mixture by Haribo but guess what, yes, they no longer make them. Hang the artificial colours and additives, I would rather enjoy my dolly mixtures thank you.

    Reply

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