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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Memories of Turkish Taffy

March 02, 2011|By Joe Puglia

I was curing olives, mixing the brine, a combination of water and salt, and then ever so gently slicing each olive to the seed and tossing them into very large glass jars.

The jars are relics of my grandfather’s one-cent candy store, opened in Western Pennsylvania in 1927. The lids, still intact, are embossed with a beaming child holding a jawbreaker. “Giant jawbreakers, one-cent,” it reads.

As I ratcheted the lids and placed the jars in a cool place, I began to think of my grandfather’s candy store. As a child, I would stand transfixed before the candy counter. I would open those very same jars and pick a brightly colored jawbreaker. Reds, greens, blues and yellows, they were the size of a Morgan silver dollar. I coveted the colors themselves as much as the pleasure they promised me.

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Traveling back to the past was a wonderful journey. I wish I could have stayed.

My friend Linda Eaton owns the Montrose Candy Company, a charming bastion of delectable treats that tempt not only the palate but also the soul. Linda chose the name because it resonated with the town’s hometown persona. The candy meshed well with the wholesomeness of Montrose.

I was anxious to take a tour. The nostalgia that permeates a candy store is a conduit to a simpler life and a simpler time. I perused shelf after shelf; each elaborately wrapped candy held a memory. The Lifesavers reminded me of my great uncle Benny, who would give me a fresh pack each time he visited. I remembered how I collected the coupons inside the wrapping of a Mallo Cup. I traded those coupons for an old-fashioned alarm clock that got me though college. Do you remember Turkish Taffy? Each time my unit was resupplied in ’Nam, someone in the rear made sure they sent a few bars of Turkish Taffy for the lieutenant. You don’t forget something like that.

I asked Linda, “Why a candy store?” Her reply was immediate: “Candy makes people happy! It takes people back to their childhood; when you were a kid in a candy store the possibilities were endless.”

I watched intently as Linda interacted with her customers. It was almost as though she were a docent in a museum. As she escorted people through the aisles she listened to customers’ stories provoked by the brightly-wrapped packages.

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