One of the best things about living in a small city is no matter what store you find yourself visiting in December, you won't be in much of a crowd as we just don't have enough people. So it was, mid-December that I found myself in a nearly deserted Target at one in the afternoon on a Wednesday looking for a frozen turkey loaf (very long story, but obviously I won't be eating it). A frozen turkey loaf should be the simplest of things to find, but I guess a lot has changed since the late 1970's which was the last time I went looking for one. The all white meat loaves are simple enough to find, but the half-dark half-light pressed together loaf that so delighted us as children in the early years of industrial convenience foods was a challenge to locate. After a bit of internet searching we discovered the Target in West Omaha did indeed stock the turkey loaf we sought. I wouldn't say we tore up West Center road in our hurry to ensure we secured one, but we did make a point of getting over there in a reasonable amount of time.
Having found our pressed, frozen turkey brick, we were on the way out when I saw the Hickory Farms display with cheeses, sausages, and mint melt away candies.
"Hey Danny, look!" I shouted. Bored, he shrugged and replied, "At what?"
I shouldn't expect a child in 2017 to get excited about mint melt away candies that if I'm honest always taste a bit waxy and stale. The turkey loaf might have started me thinking about the 70's, but the Hickory Farms display brought on a full-blown Proustian style slide into childhood except I am not writing this from my bed, and I should be able to keep it reasonably brief.
My dad was a wholesale food distributor. In plain English, that means he sold foods to restaurants, hot dog stands, hotels, and places like Hickory Farms that sold specialty foods from chain stores in malls. At one time, Hickory Farms was in practically every Midwestern mall, and my dad sold pickles to most of them in Illinois and Wisconsin. They were easy deliveries-he'd drive up to the back of the mall, unload his merchandise and then wheel it to the shop by the back hallways. Sometimes life conspired against him and he'd have to take it around front, and I seem to remember him once hauling a barrel of pickles on an escalator at Randhurst. Knowing my dad, he probably left a trail of dripping brine in his path. People liked him (people that didn't live with him, anyway) and at Christmas they would send him home with treats for his kids.
One particular Hickory Farms store-and I don't remember which one, had a manager named Donna (or Ladonna). At least, I think that was her name-it was over 40 years ago. She somehow found out I liked tea, and would send home small tins of teas that would have been considered exotic in the late 60's/ early 70's along with flavoured honey and those waxy/dusty/pastel melt away mints. I didn't get much candy as a child and those melt aways were like a year's worth of sugar in a bag. I don't remember what she sent for my sister, but I'm sure it wasn't fancy tea in tins.
I wasn't able to locate any Christmas photos from that time so here's one from the 80's when my mum talked her (adult) daughters into a photo with the mall Santa. Sigh, the things you'll do for your mum.
I also found some great photos of my parents and sister in a typically awful Chicagoland winter. No idea where I was-they probably tried losing me in a snowbank).
Anyway, back to the mints.
I picked up the bag of melt aways and showed it to Danny muttering something about my youth and "We used to..." before he cut me short with a look that said, "Oh god, she's going to talk about the 70's." I put the bag in the basket to keep the turkey loaf company and decided to save my charming stories of childhood for sharing on the internet with people who come to my blog looking for charming stories about my childhood and kindly Hickory Farms store managers in the 70's. Or maybe you just come here for the run-on sentences? Donna or Ladonna (if that was your name) thank you, wherever you are for sending all those treats, they were appreciated more than you ever knew.
I tore into the packet of melt aways expecting something much more than any candy could possibly deliver, but that's nostalgia for you! As I was about to whine that they "Just aren't the same" I knew that they were in fact, exactly the same-they never were anything more than mint flavoured hydrogenated oil and corn syrup. The bag says it contains eight servings, and I'm sure they will be gone by morning, consumed entirely by myself as no one else will come near them having better quality candy in the house.
Now if it would just snow...