The Candies of Our Fathers

Not sure if I’ve ever actually seen anybody with a roll of Necco wafers except my father. These were the sort of thing you would find inside his coat pocket, along with a Zippo lighter, a pack of Parliaments, and a handkerchief.

Necco Wafers are an old timey treat that are decidedly odd with their strange flavors and chalky consistency. They don’t seem to be the sort of thing craved by children — not these days, anyway. According to a timeline on the New England Candy Company site:

1913: Explorer Donald MacMillan takes Necco Wafers on his Arctic expedition, using them for nutrition and as rewards to Eskimo children.

If you’re used to eating seal blubber, Necco Wafers look pretty good!

In 2009, the company tried to update the classic candy by switching to “natural flavors.”  According to a story in The Atlantic, they did this because:

All-natural flavors and colors, the company thought, would draw young mothers concerned about their children’s diet.

By the way, Necco Wafers contain gelatin, which means they aren’t Kosher — and off limits to strict vegetarians.

It’s surprising the way little things can bring you back. A certain smell or taste. A song. Or even the way that translucent wrapping of a roll of Necco Wafers feels in your hand. Now whenever I see a roll of Necco Wafers I grab them. And I think about my father.

34 thoughts on “The Candies of Our Fathers

  1. We use them on road trips – takes awhile for them to eat them, and if you find a roll with only chocolate – score!

    Stewarts usually stocks them

  2. O, spot on, HokieMom.

    Finding an all-choco roll o’Neccos was orgasmic before I even knew what the word meant.

  3. Both types of Necco wafers — flavored and chocolate — are sold at Cracker Barrel stores. They have plenty of stock of them all the time.

    A rememberance of my father is he always carried a coin purse. You know the little rubbery plastic kind that you had to squeeze for it to open. He carried all his change in there. And when one would start to rip, he would grab another from a supply he had because at one time he couldn’t find them anywhere.

  4. I’ll trade any chocolate Neccos for other flavors! Thanks for the flashback to another decade in another city.

  5. At Dylan’s Candy Bar in NYC, I recently found a 4-flavor chocolate roll: milk, dark, white, and mocha. I’ve never seen this anywhere else.

  6. The trading is part of the fun, I believe.

    Somehow I think the intent of your writing was how/with what object you remember your Dad, sorry about the hi-jack

    I can’t think of any smells or items that remind me of my Dad – just scratchy wool suits (try sitting on that lap for an hour in church, with a dress – yikes, let me down). And when we all get together, we must have ice cream – any flavor is good

    Thanks for jogging my memories

  7. Dean: I deleted your comment, not because it was completely off topic, but it talked about where I work. My employer asked me not to identify where I work, and I will honor that request.

    That said, let me address your concerns.

    Where I work and how much I earn: As a public employee, my position and salary are a matter of record. Anyone can look them up — as you apparently did. I don’t think I’m overpaid considering my experience and knowledge, but that’s a matter of opinion.

    When and where I write this blog: I do some writing early in the morning, some in the evening, and some during lunch. I also carry notebook (how quaint) and jot down ideas. I do not write it when I’m supposed to be working.

    Lunchtime is key, for that is when I generally publish. I take my laptop and sandwich and often go to the Starbucks at State and Pearl. It is well known to the friendly and efficient staff that I order either a non-fat latte, a tall brewed with room for cream, or an iced green tea. They call me, “The guy who sits in the corner.” The corner’s a lousy spot, but there’s an electrical outlet.

    You should stop by and see me some day. You can look over my shoulder as I work or help me take pictures, like the one I took today of the Necco Wafers. If you are polite, I’ll even let you contribute some ideas and critique my work. It sucks not having an editor.

  8. Thanks, everybody! I’m OK with this turning into something about Necco Wafers; Hokie Mom, that’s fine.

    Rite Aid, where I bought the ones shown in the picture, had boxes and boxes of the chocolate ones, by the way.

    JES: My dad used Vitalis back in the days of hair tonic. I might get some just to take a whiff now and then.

  9. Necco wafers also worked in place of tokens in NYC Subway in the early 80s. Supposedly still work on I-94 Tollway in Chicago, between O’Hare and the Wisconsin line.

  10. Kevin: That’s hilarious!

    Thanks for commenting; I’ve been reading your posts on the Tea Party Blog; there seems to be quite a bit of interest.

  11. We almost had a few more bloggers quit when I started attacking Sarah Palin.

    Anchovy redux!

    Feel free to stop by any time and comment when I am not throwing bombs and being outrageous. I haven’t quite mastered this ‘satire’ thing so a lot of what I post gets taken pretty seriously.

    I love it. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t abuse the audience.

  12. The dad scent for me was (and remains) Royall Bay Rhum, which my father splashed on with aplomb. When I was in Bermuda a couple of years ago I bought a couple of big bottles for myself. Made me feel like a grown-up, sorta . . .

  13. Rob, that’s good to see a (sort of) similar satire piece….it just tells me that I am already on my way to becoming a man…of a certain age………’s hoping I can blog up to the standards that you and J. Eric Smith have set.

  14. That’s the way I feel about butter rum flavored Life Savers. My nana always had a roll in her purse and as long as you picked the flecks of tobacco off, they were yummy. On more than one occasion I popped one in my mouth only to feel the disturbing presence of a fleck of tobacco. Yuck.

    It was better when she switched to Werther’s. They were wrapped and she kept them in a baggie, so no tobacco.

  15. My father’s scent was the Original Old Spice After Shave, and after 4 kids he downgraded to Dickinson’s Witch Hazel, not Rexall, or any other private label. It had to be Dickinson’s. He was not much of a candy guy, save for those little tiny individually wrapped, pebble hard black licorice things, What were they called, ‘Nips’? Now I had an uncle who always had a couple of belts in him no matter what the time of day, and he carried ‘Sen-Sen’ with him 7-24. He could get a lot of yardage out of a pack of those little buggers. Anyone know if they still make those?

  16. I remember a black version of Necco wafers mixed in with the bunch – not chocolate. More like – well, I can’t remember what it tasted like. I’d say faintly like black licorice?

    I so do use the Dickinson’s Witch Hazel – it’s great for your skin’s ph before using moisturizer. No, I’m not old, but that stuff makes me think of summer and mosquito bites!

    My dad? Loved Swedish fish and those fruit slices from Fanny Farmer.

  17. I used to dust the shelves in my Grandaddy’s pharmacy for a nickel to buy some Necco wafers. A NICKEL!
    Brylcream (is that how you spell it?) is long as we’re remembering things.

  18. Mmmmm, Necco wafers. If you don’t remember them as a kid, well, that certain age isn’t a baby boomer (as if we couldn’t tell that by the pic). Actually, I hooked my daughter on them to. She saw the pic over my shoulder and said, great, now I want some Necos.

    The black licorce ones! Yuck! But the chocolate were the prize.

    My dad used to sing “Beautiful Dreamer” to me because I was such a daydreamer. It annoyed me. I’d be lost in some nice daydreamer and out of nowhere would come, “Beautiful dreamer, awaken to me…”

  19. The all time “Dad” smell has to be old spice after shave. You know you’re a Dad when you get old spice as a gift! As far as candy is concerned my father never really had a favorite but my Grandfather on the other hand had his jujubees!

  20. They don’t have a smell to them, but my dad to this day always has Canada Mints nearby. I actually enjoy them and now my kids have started on them.

    In terms of a dad odor you can’t forget, even though my dad stopped smoking a pipe before I was 10, I still can smell fresh tobacco and think of him.

  21. I forgot to mention that the Vermont Country Store has a boatload of the old-time candy favorites – including Necco Wafers. Here’s their link:

    They also have Chuckles – I was addicted to that candy.

    A few years ago, I bought the tin of Charles Chips and was a bit disappointed. They were stale and tasteless. (Sure hope they weren’t from the original batches in the 70s…) I now use the tin for storing cat food.

  22. Hmmm, I just submitted a comment about the Vermont Country Store having all kinds of candy, and it disappeared. (Usually you can see your comment “awaiting moderation.”)


  23. Dear Owners of Necco~

    I have bought neccos all my life and all our kids had them too but now the flavor isn’t
    the same?? Did you change it? I am so disappointed as it doesn’t have that great sweet
    flavor that it always had. Even the necco hearts have changed – would like to know what
    was changed in your recipe?? Please advise~~~ I bought the outdated supply of neccos
    at Big Lots and they are the original but I am running out with two left on the shelf~~

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