When I was growing up during the end of the 50’s and into the 1960’s, my family had strict rules about when and how much snacks and candy and chocolate were eaten.
My dad worked the very early first shift Monday through Friday as a millwright in the huge, sprawling Buick car factory in Flint, MI. On the weekend days he would garden or make necessary repairs to our little house in the south end of Flint.
On Saturday nights my mom and my dad would host our Aunt Grace and Uncle Les to card games. That is the only time us three kids would get treated with snacks or candy.
Most of the time on those weekend nights, we were allowed to stay up late and watch television while we enjoyed drinking Coca-Cola or sometimes M & S pop (made in Flint) in icy-cold bottles. My favorite M & S flavors were their red pop, grape and their cream soda.
Then we were given a whole large bag of potato chips, usually the Paramount brand, which were made in a factory off Dort Highway in Flint. Sometimes we were also given a large tub of McDonald’s Dairy French Onion chip dip as an even extra special treat.
McDonald’s was our local dairy products of choice and I still remember the McDonald’s Dairy milkman delivering orders to almost every house on our block early each morning from his very clean white van.
I also grew up understanding that there were regional differences in what to call carbonated beverages. In Flint everybody referred to Coke or Pepsi as “pop” but down south it was called “soda”.
So my dad, who was from the boot heel of Missouri, compromised and called it “sody-pop.” And sometimes sody-pop would slip out of my mouth and I would be unmercifully teased by my school friends.
Saturday nights were the only nights we could ever have pop and potato chips or candy or chocolate. No matter how hard we begged, nope, only on that one night of the week would we be allowed to have any of those things. So we cherished our weekly treat nights!
Sometimes in the summertime before it got too dark, we were given big platefuls of juicy, icy, sweet watermelon wedges. That was another rule for eating watermelon: you absolutely had to eat it outside because us kids would always end up with most of the watermelon juice on us instead of in us!
We would have watermelon seed-spitting contests in the backyard and we always tried to make the spitter up to bat laugh and giggle so that their attempt would fail to go no further than their toes!
But sometimes in the summertime instead of being given pop, we were given an extra special treat of ice cream floats! Oh yummy joy!
We all loved the M & S pop brand of cream soda. It was so vanilla-ee and creamy tasting!
My mom made our ice cream floats like this: She would scoop out 3-4 scoops of McDonald’s Dairy French Vanilla ice cream into tall, metal glasses and then she would pour the M & S cream soda over the top of the ice cream until it was fuzzy and bubbling right up to the rim. Then she would put a straw and a long spoon into the glass and voila! Instant heaven!
Oh me, oh my, those were soooo good! The carbonated bubbles of the cream soda would fizzle and pop right under your nose when you took the few first sips of that wonderful mixture.
Then you would scoop out spoonfuls of the ice cream that was half-melted and mixed with the cream soda liquid and the combination just made you so happy!
And sometimes when you finished your first glass, you would be allowed a second glass!
But even on the rare occasions when one of us kids had a bit of money to ourselves, we were never, ever allowed to buy candy or anything else delicious with that money.
All of the neighborhood stores knew us kids and those rules only too well to let us get away with that kind of purchase.
Our neighbor across the street was Jim McKay, the owner of McKay’s Market up on Fenton Road, just a block away from our house.
One time when I was 6, I was bound and determined that I needed candy and candy I was going to get!
So I took a huge handful of Monopoly money from our board game and purposefully marched down to McKay’s Market to buy a whole lot of candy for me and for my brothers.
I walked in, went right over to the candy section, held out the skirt of my dress, and filled it up to the rim with all kinds of wonderful confections.
The clerk, standing at the cash register, knew who I was. He watched me with amusement the whole time. When I wasn’t looking, he silently signaled to Jim McKay, who was butchering meat in the back of the store, to come up to the front to see what I was doing.
But before Jim arrived at the cash register, I had gone up to it, lifted up the skirt of my dress and poured the entire contents on the counter.
The clerk, trying to keep from laughing, asked me if I had enough money to pay for that much candy and I proudly said, “Yes! It’s in here!” I pulled out my little purse and then I took out that large wad of Monopoly game money.
The clerk turned away to stifle a laugh and he waved at Jim to come up and take over this unusual transaction.
Jim came up and he asked me in all seriousness if it was okay with my mom and dad if I bought that much candy. I replied, “Well, I’m going to share all of it with Keith and Eugene and mommy and daddy always tell me that I should share good things with my brothers so yeah, it will be okay.”
Jim then came down with an attack of coughing and as he turned around so that he wouldn’t cough on me, the clerk suggested that he would ring up all of that candy to see how much the total would be and maybe I would find out that I didn’t have enough money after all.
So while Jim went back to his office to take care of his cough, the clerk slowly rang up each piece of candy I had picked out.
Impatient, practically drooling with anticipation at all those delectable goodies me and my brothers would soon be sharing, I kept dancing from one foot to another at how slow he seemed to be.
He finally rang up the last piece of candy, totaled it, and announced in a surprised voice that I had just purchased over $7.00 in candy, which was A LOT of candy in 1961.
So I carefully picked out a $500 Monopoly bill (I was just learning my numbers remember) and two $100 bills and I put them into the clerk’s outstretched hand.
With all seriousness, he bagged up all of that candy, and then he told me to please wait at the cash register because he had to go to the back and get all of the change I had coming back to me from such large denominations of bills. And he left with my Monopoly money and my candy.
So I impatiently waited at the cash register, wondering why I could occasionally hear stifled bits of laughter coming from the back of the store. Then my dad walked in.
I turned around and said, “Hi Daddy! I just bought a bunch of candy to share with Keith and Eugene!”
He said, “I heard you did. And that was very nice of you to buy candy and then want to share it with your brothers. But did you ask permission to come down here in the first place?”
Oops. I hung my head, “No, Daddy, I didn’t. But I wanted it to be a surprise!”
My dad then said, with a twinkle in his eyes, “Well, honey, it was a surprise…to both me and your mom when Jim called us, so why don’t we get one candy bar for you to share with your brothers and we’ll go home, okay?”
“But Daddy, they have all of my money and I had lots and lots of it!”
Jim and the clerk then showed up at the cash register and they handed my Monopoly money back to me, along with a candy bar.
But I refused to take the candy bar because that would be stealing since I had not paid for it.
So Jim gravely accepted one of the $100 Monopoly bills. And then he slipped into my little hand a Tootsie Roll piece of candy as well.
My dad told me to go and eat my Tootsie Roll outside while he talked to Jim and I heard both of them through the screen door.
Jim told my dad that him and the clerk had to almost bite their tongues to keep from laughing out loud when I marched in, filled up my entire skirt with candy, which then rang up to over $7, and my dad whistled at hearing that large amount.
Jim said, “Then when Jeneane, in all seriousness and, Doyne, she was trying so hard to act so business-like, pulled out her little purse and handed to us $700 in Monopoly play money, we almost started crying from keeping the laughter all bottled up! She was so cute but we had to think of something to keep her here and not hurt her feelings until you could come down and help us out of our jam.”
My dad laughed as he told Jim, “Thanks for calling me and I will have a talk with her about the differences between play money and real money and thanks for not laughing at her, that would have broken her heart because she thinks the world of you.”
I was disappointed to find out that I had been foiled in my attempt to buy as much candy as I wanted but Keith and Eugene really enjoyed the unexpected week-day treat of sharing the candy bar with me.
Since all of those treats were so carefully doled out, all three of us kids learned to appreciate them as something special.
When the McDonald’s chain of hamburger stands finally opened up in Flint in the early 1960’s, those tasty burgers and fries were also enjoyed only on very rare and special occasions.
And it took me a very long time to realize that I should have done that same frugality with snacks, candy and fast food while I was raising Tara.
Until the three of us kids had all reached the age of 18, none of us were over-weight or had had any cavities.
But once we were all earning our own money, and were out on our own, we all went a bit overboard on having snacks and candy around all the time. We all frequented, and frequented too often, the convenience of the proliferating array of fast food restaurants.
And unfortunately, we all raised our children to feel that having snacks and treats in the house, on demand, was their expected right. None of our children, or our grandchildren, are overweight but there are plenty enough cavities and dental problems. So maybe we should have made all those things a special and rare part of their growing up like our parents did with us.
Unfortunately, all of those delicious and tasty locally made treats that we had enjoyed when we were little kids are no longer made anymore.
The M & S brand of pop made on Dort Highway in Flint was bought out by the Faygo company, I believe, back in the late 1960’s, and the Faygo cream soda was okay but it was not as delicious as the M & S cream soda. Our ice cream floats were never the same again.
The Paramount Potato Chip factory on Lippincott Boulevard in Flint closed sometime in the 1970’s. That factory used to allow school groups to go through and see how dirty potatoes were turned into crisp, delicious potato chips and that was a really interesting tour! My Brownie Girl Scout Troop went on one of those tours and at the end of it, we all got a little bag of the still warm potato chips we had just seen made right in front of our eyes!
McDonald’s Dairy was bought out in the 1970’s as well by a comglomerate of other area small dairy companies and it stopped allowing tours through their dairy factory on Robert T. Longway Boulevard at that time too. My Brownie troop was able to go through there once and see how the vast gallons of freshly delivered milk from all of the area farms were processed and treated to make it safe to drink. At the end of that tour, we also got little cartons of chocolate milk to drink, yum!
Jim McKay and his McKay’s Market hung on for a few years after we had moved from the south end of Flint to Flushing Township in 1965. Whenever we came into the south end to visit our many other relatives who still lived there, we always made a point to stop in and visit with our friend. His health suddenly became bad and Jim had to sell his store in the early 1970’s and we were sad to lose him soon after that.
Even though all of those companies no longer make the treats that me and my two brothers enjoyed so much when we were little, our memories of them and of our special weekly treat nights will last forever.
Here are some of the images I fondly remember from my childhood. Please click on the images to view their larger size.
Slim Chiply was the mascot on every bag of Paramount Potato Chips and his jingle went like this: “I’m Slim Chiply, the guy you see on the Paramount Potato Chips bright red pack. I’m the flavor deputy, protecting crispness in every pack. They’re delicious, and so nutritious, yes sir’ee, they’re pips, Paramount Potato chips.” (picture and jingle from http://www.flintexpats.com/2008/03/slim-chipley-lives.html)
The Paramount Potato Chips slogan was: Slim Chiply says “Reach” for Full Flavor!
Click on this image to better see the shape of the Lower Peninsula of the state of Michigan above the “M & S” name.
McDonald’s Dairy Quality Chek’d Logo