There are many things in this world we think we can count on. The sun will rise in the east. The checkout line we choose at the supermarket will move the slowest. Adam Sandler will make bad movies. We also know that every Valentine’s Day we’ll see those pastel-colored candy hearts with messages on them.
But that might not be the case anymore.
NECCO, which stands for the New England Confectionary Company, was the oldest continuously operated candy company in the U.S. I say was because it suddenly closed down last week, without any notice, leaving 230 employees without jobs. The company was sold to an unnamed candy company, and the new company hasn’t said whether they’re going to continue candy production. Some employees have actually filed a lawsuit. The NECCO website was still available until very recently, but it seems to have been taken offline.
The company also made NECCO Wafers, a candy I remember from my childhood that is always unfairly maligned. Sure, the black licorice ones were gross — black licorice candy is always gross — but there was something satisfying about having the others melt on your tongue. The company also made Clark Bars, the Sky Bar, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Mary Janes, my mom’s favorite candy, and for that fact alone I’d like to see the new company rehire all of the employees and continue to make all of the candies. I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to.
This past week could have been dubbed “Space Week” because there was so much space-related news that I couldn’t keep track of it all. There was the story about NASA’s new spacecraft TESS that is searching for new planets; the news that NASA doesn’t have anything for astronauts to wear if they go back to the moon; and the story about the first eight NASA astronauts that will be flying on Space X and Boeing space missions (hopefully they’ll have something to wear).
And if all that wasn’t enough, it’s also NASA’s 60th anniversary, and the agency made a special video to celebrate the milestone.
Jones, Morris, Hoffman, Thome, Trammell, and Guerrero
That’s not the name of a law firm; it’s the list of the men inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York, this past week.
If you’re already wondering who’s going to be on the 2019 ballot, MLB.com has posted its list of potential inductees. You’ll probably see Mariano Rivera but not Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds.
The Answer Is: Who Is Alex Trebek?
I have two questions about this story. The first one is: Why did Alex Trebek give an interview to TMZ’s Harvey Levin, of all people? Trebek told Levin that his contract is up in 2020 and there’s less than a 50/50 chance he’ll actually continue (he’ll be 80). He does offer two suggestions on who should replace him, though. (There was a rumor a few years ago that Matt Lauer might replace Trebek … but that’s not going to happen.)
Oh, the second question I have is this: Since the exclamation point is an official part of the Jeopardy! title, does that mean I need to put an extra exclamation point at the end of the title if the story is exciting or shocking? Like this: “Alex Trebek Might Leave Jeopardy!!”
These are the things that keep me up at night.
WWII Time Capsule Found
Mike Wimberley needs your help.
Wimberley is a contractor who was working on a home in Cleveland when he found a World War II–era time capsule. It was buried by a soldier named Richard Silagy and includes Silagy’s family pictures, his hat, and even an M14 shell.
Wimberley wants to return the time capsule to Silagy’s family. If he can find them, that is. That’s where you come in. Are you related to Silagy or know anyone who is? Wimberley searched on Facebook but so far hasn’t had any luck.
The Ice Cream Man
How long have you been at your job? I don’t know you personally, but I’m going to guess it hasn’t been seven decades.
That’s how long 81-year-old Allan Ganz of Peabody, Massachusetts, has been selling ice cream. Yup, he started when he was just 10, driving around in the ice cream truck with his dad, who also did it for many years. He says he might sell the truck after this summer, but would like to continue to work for the new owner one day a week. After all, selling ice cream is the best job ever.
I think the real story here is that he has listened to that ice cream truck song for 71 years and hasn’t gone mad.
RIP Patrick Williams, Bill Loud, Judith Appelbaum, and Doug Grindstaff
Patrick Williams was a prolific composer for movies and TV shows, including The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Columbo, Lou Grant, and too many others to mention here. He died last week at the age of 79.
Bill Loud and his family were the stars of one of the first reality shows, PBS’s An American Family. The show was both praised and criticized for its depiction of a real family that always had cameras filming them. He died last week at the age of 97.
Judith Appelbaum wrote one of the classic how-to books for writers, 1978’s How to Get Happily Published. It was the first book I read about becoming a writer. She also wrote for The New York Times Book Review and was managing editor for Publisher’s Weekly. She died last week at the age of 78.
Doug Grindstaff was one of the people who came up with all of the sounds on Star Trek, including the transporter, the phasers, and even the doors opening on the Enterprise. He died last month at the age of 87.
This Week in History
First U.S. Patent Issued (July 31, 1790)
The first patent was issued to a man named Samuel Hopkins, who invented an improvement “in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process.” I don’t know what that is either.
MTV Is Launched (August 1, 1981)
The very first video shown was, appropriately enough, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles.
This Week in Saturday Evening Post History: Dripping Cones (July 29, 1944)
I don’t know why the little girl in this Stevan Dohanos cover thinks she can carry six ice cream cones and get them to her friends across the street before they melt or slip out of her hands. It might make for a fun video game, though — sort of an ice cream–oriented version of Frogger.
Today Is National Watermelon Day
Watermelon is one of those foods that I love but can’t eat any other form of. Meaning, I had a glass of watermelon juice one time and I thought it was rather unenjoyable, even though I’ll eat pieces of watermelon all day long (see also: peas and pea soup).
And if you don’t like watermelon in any form whatsoever, then get out your knife and make one into a keg, a football helmet, or even a shark.
Next Week’s Holidays and Events
Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day (August 8)
I mentioned this last week, and it really is one of the stranger food holidays. It’s a way of getting rid of the massive amounts of zucchini that are grown this time of year. The best time to do it is at night when your neighbor is asleep.
Book Lovers Day (August 9)
If you have any zucchini left after the above celebration, you might as well combine that holiday with Book Lovers Day and buy the cookbook What the #@)*! Am I Going to Do with All These Zucchini???
For more about Gay Haubner’s life in the North Country, read the other chapters in her serialized memoir. The Post will publish a new segment each week.
TV, board games and toys, and school were indoor activities. But year-round, with the exception of raging blizzards, my mother ordered me to put down my book and go “play outside.” We had enough kids on Lakeview and Vermillion for a good game of Spud (very few cars went down our single-block-long street) or freeze tag. I had a particular fondness for “Mother May I;” little prig that I was, I delighted in sending kids back who forgot to ask permission. “Red Light, Green Light” was too prone to cheating, and always ended up as “I saw you move!” (a lie) countered by “I didn’t move!” (another lie). Once a summer, the ice cream truck magically found its way to our block to interrupt our street games, and I would lose my mind with desire for a Nutty Buddy only to by informed by my mother that if I wanted ice cream we had some in the fridge.
My mom was stingy with treats, doling them out occasionally and always one at a time. Each year we went to the Norshor theater to see the annual Disney feature, missing only “Bon Voyage” as it was condemned by the Catholic church for having a scene where the harried American dad is accosted by a Parisian hooker. Going to the movies was treat enough. Getting popcorn or Junior Mints from the snack bar would be gilding the lily.
It was the same at the Northland Country Club pool. Once in a great while I would be allowed to buy a frozen Snickers or Milky Way at the snack bar, at the exorbitant price of fifteen cents, five cents more than the going rate. Mostly we arrived at the pool after lunch and were forced to exist on grapes from home. But once or twice a summer my mom, my sister Lani, and I would sit up on Northland’s gracious veranda, looking out over the pool and first tee, and order divine hamburgers and golden French fries with brown crispy ends. I would slather everything on my plate with ketchup; Lani would leave most of her food for my mom and I to finish up. I later found out that my mom was afraid my dad would be mad about her minor country club charges; he was too busy losing hundreds of dollars in the never-ending Northland poker game to even notice our once a month lunches on the bill.
We were allowed hot chocolate when skiing at tiny Mount du Lac, but that bordered on a life saving measure when we came out of the zero degree cold with soggy wool mittens and frozen-over ski boot laces. The Mount du Lac “chalet” was a squat square concrete building, with window seats overlooking the three ski slopes (beginner, with the jerky tow rope that yanked me forward, landing face in the snow; intermediate, with the impossible to balance T-bar that dumped me on my back; and advanced, where I never managed to set ski on). The chalet had a jukebox and a pinball table, both of which I was dying to play (probably to postpone my return outside). Putting a dime in either of these machines was regarded by my mom as the height of wastefulness. When I finally got to play pinball, with my own dime, I was astonished at how quickly and surely the silver balls tumbled to the bottom and down the hole, failing to set off even a single bell of pinball success.
Why anyone would put money in a jukebox baffled my mother. “You can hear the same songs for free on the radio!” Pinball was even worse in her eyes: not only did you throw away a dime that could have bought an ice cream cone, candy bar, or bottle of pop, your brain cells curled up and died when you played such a stupid game.
Since all my mother’s efforts to transform me into the outgoing, cute, popular girl that she had been had failed, my mother turned her attention to protecting and improving my one asset, my smarts. She regarded comic books (except for the tedious Classics Illustrated) and Mad magazine as insidious destroyers of children’s intelligence: “If you read comics it will make you so stupid you won’t be able to read anything else.” I couldn’t get enough of that forbidden fruit. A neighbor girl stopped asking me over to play because I could not be budged from her older brother’s breathtaking collection of Mad magazines.
My preferred reading was definitely lowbrow, but I would read anything. When I ran out of library books, I resorted to our World Book Encyclopedia, or the lavishly and gorily illustrated children’s bible (heavy on the Old Testament) that somehow washed up on our living room bookshelf. There were also a few ancient children’s books that I read over and over: The Story of Live Dolls, The King of the Golden River, The Five Little Peppers, and Alice’s adventures both in Wonderland and through the Looking Glass. Eventually my mother realized that I was not to be bullied off of the couch and into the clique of popular Congdon Elementary girls. If I was going to have my nose in a book every waking hour, it should be a book that would improve my mind.
One glorious day I came home from school and found a brown box from the Classics Book Club addressed to me. Getting anything in the mail with your name on it was thrilling. I had long pleaded for my own subscription to Highlights for Children just for that reason, but that was not going to happen while my father could bring home the torn, scribbled-on old Highlights from his office. Inside this book-shaped box was a book, Shakespeare’s Comedies, the plays printed in mouse type on tissue thin paper nicely bound in gilded imitation leather. I started right in on The Tempest, reading the Miranda part out loud and understanding maybe a tenth of what was going on.
The next month brought the Tragedies. I had figured out how to skip the boring parts of the plays, which were everything except the lead female role: I dragged my finger down the page until I found lines for Juliet and Cleopatra and Ophelia, which I declaimed aloud from my sofa stage. The following month the Histories arrived which I barely cracked. Henry, Henry, Henry. Where were the good female roles?
Then came the dunning letters. Which were also addressed to me. My mother had thoughtfully put the subscription to the Classic Book Club in my name, but she had never bothered to pay for it. According to them, I owed $36.00 and my membership would be revoked and I would never receive the next book in the series — Plato’s Republic— unless they received payment in ten days. Where was I going to get the astounding sum of $36? I went to my mother in tears. She looked at the letter, crumpled it up, and tossed it in the garbage. Even more than she hated wasting money, my mother loved getting something for nothing; we had the books already, so why pay for them? But the letters kept coming, informing Miss Gay Haubner that the Classics Book Club was about to take legal action to recoup their money. For months, I expected someone to show up at the door and arrest me.
Peanuts! Get Your Fresh Peanuts Here!
Last year’s Peanuts movie was more well received than a lot of people anticipated. I think a lot of people thought it was going to harm the memory of Peanuts in some way and were pleasantly surprised. This Monday morning, May 9, Cartoon Network will have a sneak peek of a new series of Peanuts shorts. The shorts are done by France’s Normaal Animation and they have actually been airing overseas for the past two years. The series will then move to Time Warner’s Boomerang channel, where it will be shown every day at 11:30 a.m.
This could be fun. Now I just have to figure out where Boomerang is on my cable system.
Ice, Ice Baby
I have a confession to make. I don’t like it when coffee shops or bars put too much ice in my drink. Sure, put some ice in there, but don’t assume that I want a ton. Too much ice not only makes the drink more watery if you don’t drink it fast enough, it often makes the drink overflow to the point where it’s messy and the cover doesn’t go on correctly. If it’s not “cold” enough, I’ll take full responsibility for my bad ice decision.
Now, having said that, it would never occur to me to actually sue the place that gave me too much ice, but it did occur to Stacy Pincus, who is suing Starbucks for $5 million. But she’s not suing because the drinks are watery or too cumbersome. She says that the chain advertises how many fluid ounces are in their drinks, but that the number includes the ice that is in each tall, grande, or venti cup. She thinks this is a rip-off.
The company says that customers know that an iced drink has to have ice in it.
Maybe the woman should get Jackie Chiles to represent her.
Thinking Outside the Box
Hey, remember the prizes that come in Cracker Jack boxes? Well, you’ll have to remember them, because they’ve gone away.
Instead of getting a prize in every box, you’ll now have to download an app and scan the QR code that will be on a sticker inside the box. It’s all part of Frito-Lay’s attempt to make the beloved snack and its packaging more contemporary.
If you don’t like this, go Like the Facebook page that someone set up to protest the changes.
Is this change really necessary? Are Cracker Jack boxes not flying off the shelves fast enough, and Frito-Lay thinks it’s because of the prizes inside? Are Cracker Jacks so delicious that no one cares about the prizes anyway so they might as well get rid of them? I can’t imagine any kid who would rather scan a code than actually get the prize right away. In this day and age when everything is going digital, you’d think that Cracker Jack would want to stand out a bit and still retain their prizes for fans. Now it’s just another digital “product.”
Hopefully, this will turn out to be just an experiment, a test for baseball season to see if customers want it permanently. If the comments on the official Cracker Jack Facebook page are any indication, people already hate it. I mean, a box that says “Prize Inside!” is a lot snappier than one that says, “Download the App and Then Scan the Bar Code for a Mobile Digital Experience!”
Because I know that’s what I want when I buy my snack foods: more “digital experiences.”
And the Nominees Are…
I don’t know anything about the Tony Awards, other than that they’re named after Frosted Flakes cereal mascot Tony the Tiger, but I think I can summarize this Broadway season rather succinctly:
Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton, Hamilton,.
The acclaimed musical set a record with 16 nominations, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical (Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom Jr.), and several costume/design/lighting nods. The previous record was held by The Producers in 2001 and Billy Elliott in 2009, each with 15 nominations.
The Tony Awards will be broadcast June 12 on CBS.
RIP Mister Softee Songwriter
His name was Les Waas, and he was the adman who came up with the ice cream truck jingle you’ve probably heard 100,000 times every summer (and one you won’t be able to get out of your head the rest of the day if you watch this video — sorry in advance!):
It was originally written for Mister Softee ice cream but now it’s everywhere.
Waas passed away April 19 at the age of 94, though his death was first reported last week. He wrote almost 1,000 other jingles for various companies, and was even president of the Procrastinators Club of America.
Is There a Mistake in the Iconic Iwo Jima Photo?
This picture of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima in 1945 is one of the most famous photographs in history. But what if we’ve been wrong about it this whole time?
An investigation has started into the identity of one of the Navy men depicted in the photograph after two historians raised questions back in 2014 about who was and wasn’t in the photo. The picture was taken by Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press. The historians aren’t sure that Navy Corpsman John Bradley is actually in the photo, based on where he was stationed, what his job was, and what equipment is being worn by the man in the photo.
One interesting piece of trivia people might not know is that the picture actually shows the second flag that was raised on that spot that day. The first was raised and taken down and replaced with a larger flag.
Our New National Mammal
Have you wondered what our National Mammal is? Well, we haven’t had one until now. It’s going to be the North American bison.
A bill to make the bison the first National Mammal of the United States has passed Congress. Now all they’re waiting for is a signature from President Obama. If he signs it, the bison will join the bald eagle a our national animal representative. As National Bison Association Executive Director Dave Carter says, “The National Mammal Declaration not only recognizes the historic role of bison in America, it celebrates the resurgence of bison as an important part of the American environment, diet, and an emerging part of the agricultural economy.”
The bison almost became extinct in the 19th century. At one point there were fewer than 2,000 in the U.S., and now there are half a million.
It’s National Barbecue Month
You know the warm weather is coming when everyone starts to bring out the barbecue recipes. Here’s one for Baked Barbecued Chicken — Spicy Southern Style. Here’s one for Hoot ’n Holler Baby Back Ribs. If you’re more of a shrimp-on-the-barbie type, this Spicy Chipotle Grilled Shrimp might hit the spot. And if you don’t know what the heck you’re doing on the grill, here’s our handy guide on what to do and not do.
I’m actually using some barbecue sauce in the dinner I’m making tonight, but it’s a total coincidence. I’d be using it even if May were National Chocolate Custard Month.
Oh, by the way, May is also National Chocolate Custard Month.
Upcoming Events and Anniversaries
Mother’s Day (May 8)
Who’s the woman behind the third–most-popular day for sending greeting cards (after Christmas and Valentine’s Day)? Her name was Anna Jarvis.
President Harry S. Truman born (May 8, 1884)
Did you know that the “S” really doesn’t stand for anything specific other than a tribute to both of his grandfathers?
Astor Place Riot (May 10, 1849)
in this major New York City event that a lot of people don’t know about, 25 people were killed and 120 injured.
Nelson Mandela becomes President of South Africa (May 10, 1994)
Mandela promised to serve only one term, and he stepped down in 1999.
Irving Berlin born (May 11, 1888)
In 1951, the songwriter told The Saturday Evening Post how surprised he was by the success of “White Christmas.”
Katharine Hepburn born (May 12, 1907)
The actress rang up an impressive list of award wins and nominations, even if Dorothy Parker didn’t think much of her Broadway work.