The demise of the ever-popular Sweethearts, Valentine’s Day heart-shaped candy that featured messages like “BE MINE” and “TRUE LOVE,” has surprised almost everyone.
The company that has been selling them to the public since 1902, Necco, went out of business last year. As a result, the perennial conversation hearts are no longer rolling off conveyor belts.
According to The Wall Street Journal, some fans of the candy hearts have resorted to the black market to buy up the last few batches they could get their hands on. Even some teenagers are reportedly bummed to see them go.
Please don’t count me among these fans. I always found Necco hearts sickeningly sweet and almost chalky whenever I bit into one. Instead, I’ve unashamedly preferred candy hearts made of chocolate. Any kind of chocolate.
But the news about Necco hearts has reminded me of a treasured family story. Growing up in a modest home in East Cleveland, my husband Herb exhibited his smarts very early in life. The smarts that later propelled him from East Cleveland to a scholarship at Harvard College, a Ph.D. at Berkeley, and the life of a math professor at several leading universities.
Herb would tell me that when he was a little boy, he liked being pulled around in his red-painted wooden wagon by a neighborhood kid who was happy to do it in return for Necco wafers. Doling out the pastel-colored wafers like shiny pennies, Herb happily rode around the neighborhood in his wagon as it was pulled by the other kid.
If your first reaction is dismay that a young boy may have exploited his neighbor by giving him candy wafers in return for a cool ride in his wooden wagon, please step back for a moment. The situation was really a win-win for both boys, probably an agreement reached at arms’ length. Herb got his joyful wagon ride while his neighbor got a joyful bunch of candy wafers in return.
When Necco’s financial troubles led it to close its factory last summer, another candy company bought Sweehearts, Necco wafers, and some other brands. The new company, Spangler, couldn’t ramp up production of the hearts in time for this Valentine’s Day, but it may produce them next year.
I can wait. But if you want to tell me that I “LOOK GOOD” and that you “LOVE ME,” please don’t wait for production of Sweethearts to begin again. Just go ahead and tell me. Those messages are still as welcome as ever.
You do look good (for your age), and I do love you. I only liked the chalky and overly sweet heart-shaped candies for their messages. But I was surprised to learn that they are no longer around since I didn’t miss them. Now I miss them.
Another lovely piece of nostalgia from the person who has catalogued them for years. We all need you, Susan, to help us be in touch with those sweet little moments of childhood that seem to go “poof” in our daily lives.