Hershey Bars And Live-Savers, by Toni Weller
During the war we were starved of confectionary. Sweets and chocolates were rationed, and in war-safe Winchester there was no black market. When I saw an American soldier, I didn't see his face, all I saw I saw Hershey bars, thin sweet melt-in-the-mouth chocolate bars, and Life-Savers: aromatic sweet Polo lookalikes with sugar bubbles on the outside, on glassy delicious boiled sweets. They were always sucked, never crunched, and filled my mouth with their flavour. I made each one last as long as possible and I breathed out sugar and sweetness. I think Auntie Ann, Ann Davis as she was at the time, must have found this a great relief. “Get away from me, you stink of Marmite!” she would usually shriek when she saw me.
The GIs went home after the War, and some years later sweets came off ration. Immediately, Mum (Frances Lynn, daughter of Abraham Jacobs) went on a spending spree: slabs of Cadbury's Milk, tins of Quality Street... The spare bedroom was filled with these heavenly concoctions. Sweets went back on ration again very quickly, and I always believed this was largely due to my mother's sweet tooth.
Fast-forward to 1957. I had just started teaching in London, and returned home for Rosh Hashonah.
We were staying the weekend with Reverend Gordon's daughter, Mum's friend, Bertha Weintraub and her family in Southampton. On the steps to the shul, I met a young Jewish sailor from the aircraft carrier Forestall. He was invited to join us for the feast, along with a friend, as Bertha had a daughter, Judith, the same age as I was. We double-dated a few times, and one day I heard the magic words “Don't English girls shave their legs?” Twenty years old, going on 14, Judith and I shaved our legs as soon as they left, giggling and bleeding all over the bathroom floor. My sailor gave me a bottle of very expensive perfume, but back in London I suffered an attack of burning the candle at both ends, a bronchial chill, which brought me back to Winchester, and he was due to return to the USA. “What can I send you from the States?” he begged. “Oh,” I said yearningly, “I'd simply love some Life-Savers.”
In due course a package arrived. I was a bit disappointed to find mint, barley sugar, and some kind with nutty bits in them, which got between my teeth. But finally I found them, lovely, lovely boiled sweet Life-Savers. Positively drooling, I closed my eyes and put one in my mouth. You know what?
It was nothing special.