Here’s some reminiscing on what life was as a young child in Western Montana in the 60s… however, my memory might fail me on some of these details.
I was asked what my favorite candy was as a child, but the question begs for some background on the times in the middle of the 20th century. I grew up on a ranch that was located 40 minutes from the town of Polson (and the nearest store) on a dirt road.
Before I was in school (and our school didn’t have kindergarten) we would sometimes only travel to town once or twice a month. I don’t recall when the first supermarket opened in Polson (it was a Safeway) but we shopped at one of the two grocery stores on Main Street. Neither of those had as big a selection of candy as a typical 7-11 or Circle K today. A Hershey bar only cost a nickel when I was a child; many young people today don’t really understand inflation. A Hershey bar didn’t change in value from then until now; the value of the currency used to buy it. So the Hershey bar that cost a nickel in 1960 is worth exactly the same as a Hershey bar today that costs $1.20.
But the Hershey bar, while a favorite, wasn’t my most favorite.
I mentioned that we lived far out of town, but we did have a television (black and white). We got exactly one channel; I think it was the CBS channel from Missoula. And that channel went off at midnight. The nearly infinite wealth of entertainment we have today would have been incomprehensible back then. I was jealous of my schoolmates who could get all three channels (ABC, NBC, CBS) living in town.
We did have on-demand movies, however, if you consider a movie theater with one screen and one showing a night, on-demand. Some things have not changed in the movie theaters; popcorn and soda are still the main staples, but they had a candy counter also. And they had some brands of candy never found anywhere but in the movie theater. I never had Milk Duds except in the theater, or a 7-up chocolate bar, or Mike and Ike candy. Like today, however, the theater prices were much higher than the store prices. Candy there cost a dime, twice as much as grocery store candy.
Did I mention that the theater cost sixty-five cents for admission? And that gas to get all the way in town was twenty-five cents a gallon? And that most of the stores were closed on Sunday? Or that my bus ride to school was over an hour long, and crossed a rickety wooden bridge going into town?
Back to the grocery store… think of a dollar store today that sells groceries; the Main Street Market we shopped at had an inventory comparable with the groceries the dollar stores have today. They did have a meat counter, however, and the butcher would weigh and wrap your meat purchase, like a deli does today. My parents had chickens on the ranch and they would sell them at the grocery store for the store to resell.
Soda was only in bottles, and was a rare treat.
The restaurant fare was typical diner food, with one steak house in town. There was an A&W drive up restaurant, and the local “Burgerville” drive thru (which amazingly, is still there) as well as a “Tasty Freeze.” There was no McDonalds anywhere near (on a trip many years later I saw a McDonald’s on the east coast, with “over 100,000 sold” on the sign). I never tasted Mexican food or saw a Mexican restaurant until years later. There was a bowling alley (with 8 lanes, I believe) on main street. And the bowling alley had candy too, but none like the theater had.
By the way, to answer the question that spawned this article, the candy that was my favorite — and was only available at the theater — was Hot Tamales.