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The Candy Store: Waxy Wonders

There are some things that seem to have always existed. Items that from my very earliest memories were always—just there. The interesting thing about products like these is due to their inherent pervasive nature, I tend to ignore them. It’s almost as if there’s nothing particularly special about a candy that is perpetually on store shelves.

Such was the case with wax bottles. Every time I wandered into a corner store, I saw these unassuming little bottles filled colored syrup hanging eagerly from wall displays. I probably asked my parents about it at some point, and they probably responded with some dismissive comment like, “You don’t want those. They’re mostly just wax.” As an adult it occurred to me that they must have known firsthand, since the wax bottle candies were first introduced in the early 20th century [1].

And so I went through much of my childhood familiar with the strange candy, but never having actually tried them. After all, why would I? “They’re mostly just wax.”

That is until one fine summer day when I was out playing with some friends, and we decided to pop into a local corner store. We all dug in our pockets and came out with various coinage (no paper money here, folks). I remember one of my friends grabbing a bag of the wax bottles, and I questioned his choice. I mean, really? You’re gonna pick a bag of wax over Dipsy Doodles? Over a Fifth Avenue bar? Over a Hostess snack cake!?

Alas, young Charles didn’t have enough money for any of those particular treats, but he did have enough for wax bottles. Back outside on the hot sidewalk, we shared our food around. Some chips traded for a slug of Yoo-hoo. A bite of a Sno-ball for a handful of Nerds. And somewhere in all the trading I ended up with a wax bottle. Charles demonstrated the peculiar trick of biting the hard wax end off. He chewed it a little before spitting it out and proceeding to suck the sweet juice from the interior

I followed his lead and found the entire process far too involved for little reward. I even tried chewing on the wax, but being one of those unfortunate kids with braces, I'd known all too well the flavorless tedium that awaited. My orthodontist kept me in a lifetime supply of the stuff, doled out in tiny white containers. If the metal wire of my braces poked my cheeks too much, I'd ball up some wax and stick it on the sharp ends. That is to say, I'd had my fill.

Maybe that's the real reason wax candy never appealed to me. Or maybe it was because the novelty of the stuff never outweighed the disappointment. The closest I ever came to enjoying a wax-based novelty was around Halloween when I'd invariably get wax fangs. Again, I never quite understood the appeal. I'd of course unwrap them and pop the lips over my mouth, but then I'd be baffled as to what the distributors expected me to do with the dumb things. They were too uncomfortable to use as an actual costume. And they tasted like nothing...or maybe slightly of cherry? Was I supposed to chew hunks of it just to spit it out moments later?

I never did figure it out, and the mystery still haunts me. What haunts me even more is that this candy outlived other, much better, treats from the '80s. I'd trade wax bottles any day for another taste of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Pie.

[1] The brand name, Nik-L-Nip, was created based on the original price (a nickel) and the way you’d get to the sweet juice inside (by nipping off the end of the wax bottle).

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