The Significance of the Object

I bought this box of ribbon candy for my husband after he spotted it in a catalog and recalled how his grandparents always had a box at Christmas.   Ribbon candy seems to have made a bit of a comeback lately, probably more for its lovely design than for its taste.  I’ve seen it featured this year dangling from the Christmas trees in several style and how-to blogs.  And that’s great, because I  hate to think of this traditional 20th century treat as passing into obscurity.  And because this is mainly a holiday candy, I’m sure many families have stories associated with it.  And here is ours:

My mother was 13 in December, 1944.  My grandmother was in the new hospital of our little town,  having given birth to my Uncle Neil.  Every day after school my mom would walk from her school to downtown Canton to see her mother and the new baby.  For some odd reason, after centuries of women giving birth at home, it was somehow determined that a week-long hospital stay was now necessary.

One day in mid December, when Mama arrived at her mother’s room,  Mamaw was waiting for her with a dollar.  She handed to her daughter in a hurry, with instructions to run to the Company Store, as a rumor was going around town that there was candy to be had.

I can just picture my 13 year old mother running the three blocks to the store, as she (and no body else in the country!) had had any real candy in several years.  To her delight, there were boxes of ribbon candy, and though people were mobbing the counter, she was able to get her hands on a couple of boxes.  It was a happy day for the Bumgarner children, and for my grandparents as well.

My mother had a life-long sweet tooth, and I can’t help but wonder if  the absence of it in her late childhood somehow stuck with her – that even after candy was plentiful again she never lost sight of how very special it was.    I just hope that in our lives of plenty, that we all take the time to appreciate the specialness of the gifts we’ve received.


Filed under Holidays, World War II

7 responses to “The Significance of the Object

  1. Jennifer

    Fascinating to hear your story. I like ribbon candy, though I honestly can’t say it’s my favorite taste. It just reminds me of childhood. There’s another kind of candy I don’t see anymore either. It was small hard candies, a mixed variety. Some would be round with flat sides, and would have flowers on the flat sides.


  2. Amanda

    Neat story. I don’t care for ribbon candy. As a child I was always cutting my tongue on the darned stuff. (Slow down Amanda). The Vermont Country Store tends to carry all kinds of “old fashioned” candy.


  3. Wow! I’ve never seen ribbon candy before. If you had just shown the candy without saying what it was, I would have assumed they were decorations to hang on the tree or something. So beautiful!


  4. Vireya, You can actually buy glass ornaments that look like ribbon candy.

    Jennifer, I think I know that hard candy with the flowers. Doesn’t it have a runny center??

    Amanda, I do believe it was in the Vermont Country Store catalog that he spotted the candy. But I was able to buy it locally in our own version of the catering-to-the-nostalgic in all of us, the Mast General Store.


  5. I’m so glad I came across your blog! I love antique and vintage as well and was doing research for an oil painting involving ribbon candy. A woman who follows my work said one of my paintings made her cry because of the memories evoked by the candy bowl in it. She proceeded to tell me the backstory about her grandmother’s bowl (just like mine evidently) and how it was always filled with fancy candies including ribbon candy. For some reason, ribbon candy has become scarce this year and I decided to learn to make my own so I could paint this memory of hers. That’s when I clicked on a beautiful image which led me to your blog. What a delight it was to read! When I surprise her with a signed print of the finished painting I’m going to include a link to your blog. I know she will enjoy it as much as I do!


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