The Little Red Candy Hearts
by Louis J. Barbier, BHS 1957

Love the little red candy hearts that come with Valentine’s Day. They are so colorful and tasty too!

Yes, red has always been my favorite color in sweets. You know cherries, strawberries, cheery cokes, tutti-frutti, RC Cola, candy hearts, red Jell-O, Neapolitan ice cream the red stuff, red candy popcorn, and so on.

It all began way back when I was a little kid. The Panama Canal Commissary brought in most things in bulk. Rice at Balboa in the breeze way going to the sporting goods store was broken down into 2 pound and 5 pound sacks. These were brown paper sacks tied with string to hold all the rice. Red kidney beans something. But that is not what this little story is about.....lets talk red candies.

For you people who lived in the Canal Zone in the 1940’s, you can all remember the fabulous soda fountains and candy counters. All the candies were on display behind glass with a nice lady who weighed your selections from the bulk display bins. There were red and yellow cones the size of your small pinkie. There were also licorice sticks and red & white peppermint sticks. And my favorite jawbreakers the size of my little fist. Not to mention lollipops, tootsie rolls, chocolate kisses, and white wafers. Now the wafers came already in a roll. Now the reason I mention the flat white wafers is that I was born into a practicing Roman Catholic family. Mass every Sunday and catechism every Wednesday evening at Saint Mary’s in Balboa. Now little kids watch everything. Nothing escapes them. We would watch the grownups at church and the priest during the saying of the mass. Now there comes a point in the mass where the priest distributes communion. Well, guess what? We too........would perform with our friends using the little white wafers. We had it down pad with the mumbling for the part we didn’t know in Latin. My Mom caught me once and ask me what I was doing. I had the whole neighborhood lined up and I was distributing the wafers. Well, my mother told me that the mass was something very special and one had to go to a seminary to get the instruction in order to become a priest.

After that I stopped and took to eating Oreo Cookies from Nabisco with my friends. We all ate them in a special separate them and eat all the white gooey sweet stuff first. Later I discovered a desert called "Pay Dirt" could be made with Oreo cookies. It was served in a toy beach pail and served using the little shovel. Quite a treat and will start a conversation in a heartbeat when you mix in some delicious little red candy worms. Oh, my you get the people’s attention right away with that desert dish.

Back then Saturday mornings were set aside to go to Balboa Commissary. My Dad, always let me hit the candy counter and take home a handful of sweet goodies. Shopping at the commie was always a great adventure for me. With five dollar coupon book we could load up the woody and still have money left over to hit the service station and fill up with gas. Gas back then cost 8 cents a gallon. After that we would go out to La Boca point to catch the ferry. We lived on the next side of the canal in Cocoli. Yes, Cocoli where the living is easy...... and those happy days I thought would last forever.........