Just a word of warning, this post will contain a bunch of loosely associated memories with no real point to my sharing any of them, beyond just getting them out of my system so I can feel better. Nostalgia is kind of like barfing that way.
What started as a conversation about whether or not it’s possible to make alcoholic rock candy (the internet says no, but I’m not ready to rule it out just yet) sucked me into a vortex of nostalgia, recalling childhood vacations to Ocean City, Maryland where I would blow all my allowance money at the Boardwalk buying cheap souvenirs and candy. Once I decided I needed that dead baby shark in a jar, nobody could convince me otherwise.
No trip to the beach was complete without stopping in a Candy Kitchen store, instantly recognizable by its creepy logo of a sun smiling smugly down at dumb kids like me who spent our hard-earned money loading up on peanut butter fudge, rock candy (non-alcoholic), salt water taffy, and those sugary, jelly fruit slice thingies–seriously, what the hell are those things called? All I know is those scrooges behind the counter never gave me nearly enough of the pink grapefruits.
Candy Kitchen is kind of an Ocean City institution, having been around since 1937. I was negative forty-four years old in 1937. Though I don’t get down to Maryland’s beaches much these days, it feels comforting to know these stores–and their creepy signs–are still around, compelling whole new generations of kids to trade their allowances for sugar.
Back in the 80s or early 90s (I honestly don’t remember because it could have been any of those years) Candy Kitchen ran a commercial on the local Ocean City tourism channel that had a fantasticly catchy jingle I can still hear clearly in my head, and almost remember all the lyrics to:
It’s a wonderful world of,
A wonderful world of,
A wonderful world of _______________?
The blank is the part I can’t remember. Whenever this gets stuck in my head, I fill in with the word “sweets” because that’s a logical substitution, this being a jingle for a candy store, right? But I can’t be 100% SURE that’s the correct lyric, and you have no idea what that kind of uncertainty does to me. What I wouldn’t give to find a recording of that commercial just to hear this stupid jingle one more time. So if anyone out there happens to be sitting on some goldmine of local cable footage aired in Ocean City anywhere between 1985 and 1993, please scan it for Candy Kitchen commercials. I hope it’s not too unreasonable to expect such a thing is possible.
Speaking of unreasonable, one time I made the mistake of begging my parents to buy me one of those giant, rainbow-swirled lollipops bigger than my head which I ended up not finishing–not because it didn’t taste good, but because licking that much flavored corn syrup is a ridiculous expectation to put on a child, let alone carrying the behemoth around while avoiding hair, bugs, car upholstery, and other things that tend to stick easily to giant-ass lollipops.
The first five minutes of licking that sucker were among the happiest of my life, and the last five minutes before my Dad yanked it from my trembling hands to throw into the nearest trash bin (while uttering obscenities and something about having just wasted $20) were among the most terrifying. You know that scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation where Clark cuts off the newel post with a chainsaw? That’s totally my dad.
Here’s a picture taken sometime in the late 80s, after having just returned from one of these vacations. You can tell it’s post-vacation because of how tan we all are, but more tellingly, because of the look on my face that says, “I’m done.” Also, you can tell it’s the 80s because of the combination of neon and bad perms.
Phew, I feel so better now that I’ve finished blowing nostalgia chunks. See what I mean?