Were these questionable retro candies part of your childhood?

Some of these candies have been around for more than 100 years and might bring back great memories of childhood, but columnist Tracy Briggs has a question: Would you eat them today?

Herbst Candy
The Herbst Department Store candy department in 1966. Does some of the retro candy sold deserve a second chance, or should we leave it in the past?
Contributed / North Dakota State University Archives


Audio Embed for Retro Candy 4/13

FARGO — When pollsters ask Americans to name their favorite candy (so much more fun than naming your favorite politician), the most common answers are usually Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and M&M's. It's pretty clear why those two candies have been around so long.

While some candy, like Reese's or M&M's, have endured through the years because of their deliciousness, it seems like others have survived in spite of it.

Often topping polls about America's least favorite candy, here are eight candies that sometimes inspire comments like, "Ewwww, I hate those," but apparently are liked by enough people to survive a century or more either in retail stores or specialty online outlets.

Should these retro treats go by the way of lead paint and smoking on airplanes, or do they belong in our future as much as our past?

Vote in the poll at the bottom of this story.


Black Jack gum

Candy black jack gum.jpg
It seems like you either love or hate Black Jack gum, but if you like it, you can buy retro tins of the stuff on Amazon.
Contributed / Gerrit J. Verburg Co. / Amazon

It's pretty simple: If you like black licorice, you probably liked Black Jack gum. It goes way back to 1871, when exiled Mexican President Antonia Lopez de Santa Anna brought Mexican chicle to his new home in New Jersey with the hopes of selling it. His American partner, Thomas Adams, wanted to use it as a rubber substitute, but it didn't work. However, Adams noticed Santa Anna liked to chew on the chicle, and Black Jack gum was born. It was widely sold for nearly 100 years before sales dropped in the 1970s. Those who love it still can order it online.

Circus peanuts

Circus Peanuts
Circus peanuts are still available to buy.
pamela_d_mcadams / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Steve Almond, a self-described "candy addict" and writer of "Candyfreak," calls circus peanuts "a mixture of fascination and disgust." First invented in the 1930s, they're orange, but taste like banana. They're chewier than a marshmallow and those who do like them debate whether they're better fresh from the bag or left to get stale. Others say it doesn't matter — they just belong in the garbage.

Wax lips/wax bottles

Red Wax Candy Lips
Red wax candy lips. Remember these from your childhood?
juliaf / Getty Images / iStockphoto

According to, wax candies like the lips (pictured above) or the little wax bottles containing a tablespoon or so of sugary liquid are the direct result of the 1859 birth of the oil industry in America. A byproduct of kerosene distillation is paraffin, which some ingenious sweet-eating capitalists soon figured out could be used to make candy treats. By the 1990s, the wax candies were harder to find in stores.

Candy corn

Halloween candy corns in bowl on blue wooden background
While Peeps might be America's least favorite springtime candy, candy corn takes that honor for autumn.
5second / Getty Images / iStockphoto

They're a staple of Halloween, yet they continue to top lists of the most hated candies in America. Candy corn was invented in the 1880s when America was an agrarian society. While it used to just be produced during Halloween, it is now widely available all year, much to the disdain of some.


Peeps are the number one Easter candy, despite getting mixed reviews
Forum file photo

They invade store shelves every spring with their neon colors and squishy bodies. One of the younger candies on the list, Peeps were born in 1953. While they adorn Easter baskets all over the world, some people have tried to find a better purpose for them. Peeps pie? Peeps pizza? Others say there is absolutely no purpose for these treats.

Here are more little-known facts about about Easter candy.


bit o honey.jpg
Bit-O-Honey is honey-flavored taffy first invented in 1924.
Contributed / Public domain

Bit-O-Honey, a honey-flavored taffy, was invented in 1924. They're still available today and because they don't melt (similar to Tootsie Rolls), they're often handed out at parades. However, those who dislike them will tell you it's OK if they get run over by a float.

Necco Wafers

Necco Wafers have been around since before the Civil War. This advertisement for the candy appeared on a trolley car.
Contributed / Public domain

A funny thing happened when the company that made Necco Wafers (kind of like Sweethearts or Smarties) stopped making them in 2018. According to The Wall Street Journal, while some people claimed they tasted like "drywall," when they found out they were going away, they started hoarding them. They didn't need to: the company started manufacturing them again in 2020.


Peanut Butter Kisses

pb kisses.JPG
Born in 1914, the Peanut Butter Kiss also contains molasses.
Contributed / Candy Warehouse

While Reese's Peanut Butter Cups often top the favorite candy list, its cousin, the Peanut Butter Kiss, is usually a bottom-dweller. A peanut butter taffy combined with molasses and a peanut butter center, it's often the last candy left at the bottom of the Halloween basket. In fact, High Point, N.C., jokingly banned its residents from handing them out at Halloween, stating, "No one likes them."

What do you think of these questionable retro candies?
Some of these candies have been around for 100 years, despite them not being universally adored. Should we bury them in the past or keep them forever in our cabinets? (In other words "hate 'em" or "love 'em?")
BlackJack Gum
Circus Peanuts
Wax Lips/Wax Bottles
Candy Corn
Bit 'o-honey
Necco Wafers
Peanut Butter Kisses

Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
What To Read Next
"Sheer force is just one type of strength. There are other ways to be strong," writes Jill Pertler.
"Life is short, ends in a moment, and we don’t think much about it some days. ... It’s a scenic highway, and we should keep it that way, go a bit slower, and enjoy life."
With its soft and gooey center surrounded by a crisp exterior, kladdkaka is the perfect cross between a brownie and a molten lava cake.
"I’ve been out on that trail. I know what the hills are like, I know what the conditions are like. ... I have so much respect for them," Mallory Cummings of Duluth said.