Bit-O-Honey is a heavenly, honey-flavored taffy that in five years will celebrate one hundred years on the planet. Thank God. To my surprise, I recently discovered that many people have Bit-O-Honey stories. Pearson’s Candy should get on this and have a contest for the Best Bit-O-Honey stories for the grand Bit-O-Honey Century Celebration which I’m certain will take place in St. Paul.
I recently participated in a writer’s festival. As a lure to entice people to stop at my table, I had a bowl of candy. This was not an original idea. Nearly all the tables had candy. But as I walked around the room, I realized I was the only one that had presented Bit-O-Honey. People came to a dead stop when they spied it, and only marginally hesitated when they made eye-contact with me, worried about the possibility of an awkward interaction and sales pitch, before they bravely walked up and grabbed a piece. At that point, many of them, being ever-so Minnesotan, felt the need to explain why they were taking a piece of the free candy. Guilt and manners—it’s exhausting.
But they stood in front of me looking at the Bit-O-Honey with a smile on their face and told me their stories. One woman talked about how every month, her father would come home from his job that required him to be away. Upon return, he would bring a bag of candy. Six different bars, one for each of his children, and of course, one of the bars was Bit-O-Honey—the full six-piece bar wrapped tightly in wax paper and then again in the signature red and yellow packaging. My table-visitor told me she always chose the Bit-O-Honey. It was a fond, happy memory. All of them were. Eyes were rolled heavenward, people expressing their delight at seeing them, loving them as a youth. Everyone had a happy story, and I thoroughly enjoyed them then doled out the unrequired emotional pardon for stopping to take a piece without purchasing my books. What I didn’t do was share my story. Mine wasn’t as pretty.
I was in first grade, so possibly six years old, and had been given a small, simple purse for Christmas. A sweet accessory, and one the first of many in my life, which made my girlie heart flutter with happiness. I didn’t have a lot of stuff to throw in my little bag at the time, but I had a Bit-O-Honey. The full bar, with the sticky pieces attached to the wax paper. I have a recollection of sitting at my school desk, raising the top slightly to reveal my stuff inside and pulling the purse onto my lap.
At that point I was officially distracted from whatever the teacher at the head of the classroom was trying to teach me, and completely focused on how to get a piece of the taffy silently unwrapped and into my mouth. I’m certain my eyes were too huge, my poker tell clearly visible to anyone looking my way, literally shouting that I was up to no good. Determined, however, I managed to get a piece loose and into my hands, but not without alerting the teacher.
She scolded me and told me to put whatever I had in my hand—hidden oh-so-cleverly under the desk—away. Knowing myself and the frightened and shy child I was then, I’m a little surprised by what I did next. I put my purse in the desk but kept the piece of taffy out.
Shamed, but with taffy warming in my hand, I was faced with a terrible decision. The blond headed six-year-old put her head down to the desk, hair cascading around her face and put the candy in her mouth. She kept her head in that position while she chewed, but the teacher wasn’t fooled, and she wasn’t having it. I’d defied her.
She told me to stand. I’m certain I did, and at that point alone, I was a spectacle to my classmates. The teacher asked me to come to the front of the room. I don’t recall what she said, but she grabbed a piece of chalk and drew a circle on the blackboard. She pointed to it and told me to put my nose on the board into the circle and stay there for the rest of the class time.
Utterly shamed, I feel sorry for that poor little girl to this day. It was commendable that I did not wet my pants as I stood there, but I remember crying. It was a terrible punishment. And it should not have happened. Especially to me. The teacher must have known that I was almost pathologically shy and that being put into the public stocks was cruelly heavy-handed. Where are you today sister-teacher? Why did you do this? I wonder if future events would have changed if I hadn’t had so much rage to purge from the childhood, this one included. It took me many years to overcome my painful shyness, but somewhere in my teen years, something hormonal must have snapped and turned me into a wild adolescent. But that is a story for another day.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the image of this little girl, and what she did for love. For the love of Bit-O-Honey. It’s that good.