The scariest part of Halloween for many parents is the prospect of all the candy their children will consume once they’ve brought home their haul.
In mid-century America a Snickers bar would have been greeted with the same encouragement as chowing down a serving of kale.
Nothing to Snicker At
It may be hard to swallow but once upon a time candy was not the unhealthy villain it is viewed today but a wholesome food. Through the first half of the 20th century, sweets and sugar were deemed essential to health- good tasting and good for you. “Modern nutritionists agree,” we were happily informed, “that when the body calls for energy, candy is one of the quick and happy answers.”
Candy Will Win the War
Eating candy was also downright patriotic.
Adding candy to your diet was considered good wartime eating rule.
In fact during WWII sugar was sanctioned by Uncle Sam as part of the 7 essential food groups during WWII. No wonder the government rations for our fighting men included candy as a dietary supplement.
And those on the home front were urged to keep candy handy to help through long hours of war work. “Running a welding torch or typewriter, pushing a pencil or a hand truck, making meals or machines of war today’s work is longer harder and calls for extra energy,” read the copy from the Council on Candy of the National Confectioners Association Candy in an ad touting candy for war work.“There’s a good wartime rule add easy to eat good to eat fatigue fighting candy as your food for extra energy.”
Rosie the Riveter made sure to keep a snickers bar handy while wielding that blow torch.
Flush with victory after the war, can-do– Americans were ready to surge into the post-war future and candy would be there to facilitate the rush. In a nation of can-do Americans, nothing was more can-do than candy! And conscientious mothers made sure America’s youngest citizens had adequate supplies of this energy producing miracle.
In 1946 Dayton,Ohio housewife Dotty Draper was an up to date homemaker, schooled in the latest scientific nutritional facts.
As chief cook and dietician, she understood that if hers was to be the perfect American family, her husband and her children must be perfectly fed. All those home-ec classes she had excelled in during High School would really come in handy.
When Dotty’s thoughts turned to preparing her children for life of course she thought of their health – to keep them rosy, robust, chubby and strong.
Sometimes she felt as if the bold headlines of the advertisements in her magazines screamed out just at her: “And remember if a child becomes thin and nervous, frail or under par, the cause is your fault mothers, faulty nutrition. Remember always that the most common correctable cause is faulty nutrition- even among supposedly well fed children. And this cause is one that you the mother can do something about”.
Dotty understood that an active child might need twice as much energy food as an adult and according to the experts, a child’s craving for sweets shows that this need is unsatisfied. The answer: Candy.
Real nourishment which quickly translates into action.
“Candy contains not only pure sugar for energy building,” she would read, ” but from orchard and field, and from dairy farms, it takes the products that make candy the wholesome, flavorsome colorful food that it is.”
Dotty had taken a solemn oath: “There is nothing more important in this world,” she was fond of quoting to her brood of freckled face kids,“than the feeding of your ladies and gentlemen of tomorrow! And your fathers and mothers realize too that on your healthy strength and growth depends not only the happiness of the family but the future of the nation.”
That’s why in-the-know-Dotty was sure to load the kids up on plenty of wholesome candy!
When Dotty was a child during the late 1920’s, nutritionists began touting candy as a good source of nourishment, a handy and quick source of nutrition. As healthy as an apple or a glass of milk.
Candy was good for the whole family, as described in this 1927 ad for baby Ruth:
When the chill blasts of winter keeps you inside, there is always cozy comfort with baby Ruth around. The whole family – grandma, dad, mother and the young folks, even the tiniest tot-enjoys this delicious candy and finds real nourishment and health building energy in its wholesome goodness.
By the 1930’s candy’s place in the diet had been firmly entrenched with the dietary authorities recognizing its nutritional food value. Home Economists – especially those in the employ of candy manufacturers – were quick to point out the nutritional value of candy aiming to show candy as good wholesome food..
Modern nutritionist’s called it a muscle food. It’s carbohydrates “were as important to the human body as coal or oil is to the furnace.”
Full Steam Ahead: Stoking the Engine
All Mothers understood that food was foremost fuel.
Because we were told to think of our body as an engine, mothers were instructed that they were the engineers of the worlds finest kind of engine- their childs.
Before you fill your child’s tank again, mothers were warned, you better read and learn and remember. A good railroad engineer or automobile driver, knows what fuel is best for his engine. So if you wanted to be a good mother it was imperative to learn what fuel is best for your child’s engine to keep your children streamlined and in good condition.
The best fuel was the food which gives your child engine muscle, heat, and energy.
Candy was wholesome energy food with muscle-building protein and health protecting minerals. “You’ve burnt up energy you need energy refuel. That’s the fundamental story of candy-quick energy for bodies that need energy more.”
“If your body never sent out an “SOS” for energy there would be no call for candy…except for pleasure purposes. But bodies do need energy, and candy is steam on the job, whether you’re working at a factory, on the job in an office or at home, or playing football on the corner lot.an energy food.”
“Yes, America, we are growing beyond those stern days which ruled, “If it tastes good to you, it mustn’t be good for you.”
In the know-modern nutritionists now agreed that when the body called for energy candy was one of the quick and happy answers.
Candy Land Trick or Treat
In 1946, The Council on Candy of the National Confectioners Association ran an aggressive ad campaign titled: The Crave for Candy is a Call for Energy.
Headquartered in Chicago The Council on Candy was “an organization devoted to maintaining high standards of quality in candy and the dissemination of authoritative information on its use as an energy producing, morale building food.”
“Isn’t it true that you often have a hankering for candy”? the Council on Candy asks in one of its ads.
“Well here’s the reason.”, they explains. “Scientists have learned that bodies hanker for foods that contain elements they need when they need them. Whether your golfing mowing the grass or going to the store, you need Can Do– and Candy is the can-do food!”
“Modern nutritionists now agree that when the body calls for energy candy is one of the quick and happy answers. That’s why we remind you in rhyme when its energy time: Candy’s Dandy/ Keep it Handy !”
Nutrition You Should Know
The Council eagerly provided a handy quiz for parents on the value of candy.
It explained the wholesome, nutritious value of candy:”Candy contains not only pure sugar for energy building but, from orchard and field and from the dairy farm it takes the products that make candy the wholesome, colorful food that it is.”
“When you know the answers don’t you get a brand new picture of candy’s place in nutrition?” the ad asked the reader.
“Yes, candy has a definite part to play. Naturally its outstanding usefulness is providing quick energy in a most inviting pleasant and handy form. “If you followed the experts advise “you would send your children off to school with a surge of power that will thrill you!”
“We call this the can do” of candy.”
Wholesome candy…trick or treat? You be the judge.
© Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sally Edelstein and Envisioning The American Dream with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.