Bazooka Bubble Gum, Twizzlers, Dots, Candy Necklaces, Pixie Sticks, Neccos, Bull’s Eyes, Chico Sticks, Candy Buttons, and Rock Candy on a stick. If you are my age, you will recognize these as the piece de resistance from any little league stand throughout the nation. You remember...little league, Saturday afternoons, downtown ball fields? The parents would give us a quarter and we would head to the stand and pick out our favorites. Hours later, the stickiness of left over red licorice shoelaces outlined our lips, we’d head home for dinner and bed, knowing full well that the next week we would do the whole thing over again.
I came from a small town. Every Saturday, the fields behind Jefferson Elementary would be overrun with little leaguers, decked out in their official team colors, running the grounds like ants poked in a nest. Constantly moving, they would warm up in preparation for battle.
The parents and siblings would haul chairs and blankets out from the back of the family station wagon. Coolers with drinks and sandwiches were placed on the corner of the blanket, marking the spot where the family would spend the afternoon. Extended family members would show up as smoke from the hamburgers and hotdogs at the concession stand would waft through the grounds, reminding the kids that it was quarter time.
We would all converge. Even though it was the same candy every week, we would stand there like pirates looking over their bounty. We all tried to ensure that we got as much bang for our bucks as possible. One time, I thought getting ten fireballs for a nickel was a great buy. Then I ate the first one; let’s just say fireball was an appropriate name for the candy. My face turned red and tears ran down my face. Lucky for me I had a Dad who always said, “The hotter the food the better.” He bought the fireballs and I headed to the stand for a Snow cone to tame the heat. I got what we called a "suicide cone," covered in every color and flavor, a perfect cure for the intense heat that was burning my taste buds. To this day if someone is eating a Fireball the smell will cause my eyes and mouth to water.
The ball field was also located right next to Dairy Queen. If you were smart enough or had the ability to hold back a nickel from the concession stand, you could get a junior vanilla, chocolate or swirl cone. Most of my friends went with the swirl, but I have always been a vanilla girl and still am to this day.
With the whole world talking about childhood obesity, I find it interesting that we would scarf down all that candy and ice cream and still stay healthy. Maybe it was because we were allowed to eat the bad things that one day only. Soda was a special treat we got on Friday night when we had pizza. Candy was allowed only on Saturday at the park. We also spent most of our free time riding bikes around town, hanging at the pool in summer, playing tag or hide and seek. We were constantly in motion, not sitting in front of a computer where our only friend is the avatar we have created in our image to fight the battle looming on the set in front of us.
Maybe that’s what made the Saturday concession stand so special. We weren’t permitted candy during the week. It was the one day we were allowed to travel outside the rules and fill up with the abundance of sugary sweets. It made us appreciate the moments even more. As for the mathematical implications...when you’re trying to get as much of the sugary treasure as possible you learn to budget accordingly. It was a lesson learned early in life, and the best tasting lesson ever.