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What are penny sweets?
In the 60s, 70s and 80s it was common for sweets to be sold individually in shops, each sweet costing a penny or two, hence the name penny sweets.
Many sweet shops had a tray on the counter displaying all the different kinds of sweets - maybe up to 20 different kinds of sweets on view.
The sweets often had interesting sounding names and shapes and many became playground favourites.
Pocket money was often spent on a careful selection of penny sweets and many a shopkeeper was irritated by the length of time it took the youngsters to make their choices.
Examples of penny sweets
Black Jacks – aniseed flavoured chews which would stain your tongue inky black
Love Hearts – a packet of fruit flavoured sweets each with a romantic message written on it such as ‘Kiss me’, ‘Hug me’, ‘Forever yours’
Flumps – vanilla flavoured marshmallow strips
Flying Saucers – shaped like a flying saucer and filled with fizzy sherbet
Traffic Light Lolly – a round candy on a stick that would change colour from red to yellow to green as you licked it.
Sherbet Fountain – a cylinder filled with sherbet with a stick of liquorice. To eat the sherbet you would need to lick the liquorice stick, dip it into the sherbet, then lick it again.
Fruit Salad – sticky pineapple and raspberry flavoured chews.
Rachel: Occasionally when maybe we’d been good my mum or my dad would give us 10p and we used to go round to the corner shop – it was like a tiny little shop that sold everything, especially sweets, there was a whole counter of sweets, which looked something like this.
Cola Bottles and then you’d have the more sugary Cola Bottles, and then Plastic Dummies, and Flumps.
Christine: Black Jacks – Black Jacks are the epitome of penny sweets.
Christine: Look at them, but they even stuck to the paper…I mean, is there any chance for your teeth? Look at that!
Alys: And actually I always kind of remember them being a bit like this. It looks really, really unappetizing, it looks like tar, but it’s not - they’re actually really delicious.
Colin: It’s made from the same stuff they make roads with I reckon.
Christine: It’s tar macadam, completely, but with a liquorice flavour. I can’t even get it off the paper.
Interviewer: Do you like it?
Interviewer: Are you sure? You don’t like it, do you? I don’t like them.
Mother: If you don’t like it, plop it in my hand.
Alys: OK, so this is what happens when you eat a Black Jack.
Alys: So they have little messages, so like ‘I love you’, or ‘email me’ I don’t think they said ‘email me’ when I was a child.
Christine: Is he going to go out with me? Let’s have a look – is he going to go out with me? ‘True Lips’.
Interviewer: Now would that have meant yes or no?
Christine: Definitely yeah … well, they all meant yes.
Christine: I always used to go for the Flying Saucers. You put them on your tongue and you can feel them disintegrating.
Simon: Mmm…very good and a little bit sour as well, but ultimately satisfying…very nice.
Christine: It’s lovely … it kind of just melts and it’s also got … it’s gone.
Colin: Blown away like a flying saucer.
Christine: It just evaporates – they’re amazing. I tell you what they are very similar to, when you go to church and you have your communion and you get that little bread – it’s very, very similar texture to that.
Alys: Ohhh Parma Violets, I love these, I haven’t had them for years though. My mother used to eat these as a child, well she used to eat these when I was a child and she said that they were really…help you to calm down. Apparently she once gave them to her friend who’d failed her driving test 5 times and she told her it was special medicine to calm her down, but it was actually Parma Violets. And she passed! So Parma Violets make you very calm.
Christine: Very sharp isn’t it?
Colin: It’s not that, I can feel my fillings being pulled out.
Simon: Because of how I am I used to arrange my teddies in colour order and eat the ones that I had the most of first and then go up and generally you wouldn’t have quite so many of the nice ones like the red ones, so I’d save them till last. But that’s another thing that’s changed ‘cos now I like yellow ones and I don’t like red ones any more of any kind of sweet, fruit gums or anything. Does this say something about me psychologically?
Colin: I would suck them right down till there was nothing left.
Christine: Right, cos that’s the difference between me and you. I used to chew them and actually this is what I’m very much like in later life. I actually inhale my food now, I can’t chew. It literally goes in my mouth and it’s gone in a second. And that’s what I used to do with sweets – I used to shovel them in, crunch them as fast as I could and get another one in.
Rachel: Most of the sweets were 1p, so for your 10 pence you could choose 10 ten of these little sweets. Some of them were 2p, some of them might be 5p – like special ones might be 5p. So it was ermm…back in those days it was really special ‘cos that really was the only big decision that you had to make.
Christine: Come on now we’ve got 5p now and that’s your 1p gone. Colin: I’ll just have 5 of them.
Christine: Oh you’re so unoriginal!
Colin: No, I’m not, you know what it is?. It’s knowing what you like. Cos a lot of people, no…. if I can finish, it’s my turn. A lot of people what they do in life is they always go for variety and think variety is going to make things interesting, but actually you’ve got to find out what you really like and just do it to death.
Simon: I think at that time as now I think I chose the same things each time – I think I decided which things I liked and then I stuck to that. Which is a shame because a lot of the other ones liked Acid Drops for example that I really loved, I only really discovered that I like them quite late on and then they sort of disappeared out of the world. So, I think choosing the same ones each time and arranging the teddy bears, I think they are very much things that are still part of me.