October 2013 Issue
Editor's Note: Sweet Memories
Root beer. As a kid, every time I went to the bank with my mother, I
hoped a root beer-flavored Dum Dums lollipop would emerge from the
It was one of those little victories of
childhood. That’s not to say getting watermelon or strawberry or
butterscotch was a problem. But receiving the exact Dum Dums flavor you
wished for was the universe smiling on you in the form of a marble-sized
ball of sugar.
Of course the value of particular Dum Dums
flavors varied from station wagon to station wagon in line at the bank,
and it often swung wildly from the back seat to the front seat of the
same vehicle. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that to be the enduring
beauty of Dum Dums lollipops: Everyone has their favorite flavor, and
absolutely no one is embarrassed about it.
My mother swears by
cream soda, while my niece loves the enigmatic Mystery Flavor. Yet
calling one’s Dum Dums preference a mere “favorite” seems too tame of a
way to describe our connection to the iconic candy.
If you want
proof of that, here’s an experiment: Take a bag of Dum Dums to work,
open it up, let them spill out a little on your desk and wait.
Co-workers passing by will eye up the lollipops. Then, when you’ve
assured them they can dig in, they’ll happily sift through the bag until
they’ve found their favorite. No one ever just randomly grabs a flavor.
So, when I traveled to Spangler Candy Co.’s Bryan
factory over the summer for a behind-the-scenes tour, where I would get
to see Dum Dums being made, I was more than happy to wake up at 5:30
a.m. to make my pilgrimage west — we’re talking a
don’t-even-need-to-set-an-alarm level of anticipation.
I knew the
basics about Spangler’s 107-year history and its ties to the city of
Bryan, but seeing firsthand what the production of 10 million Dum Dums a
day looks like is another story altogether.
is that the privately held candy company has made a profit every year
except for one during the Great Depression. But what stuck with me the
most was something the company’s vice president of operations Steve Kerr
told me as he finished up my tour — something exemplified in everybody I
met there during my visit.
“Everyone likes it,” he said of
working at Spangler. “You’re making candy for kids. It’s a neat industry
to be involved in. It’s fun.”
How many people do you know who have said that about their job lately? Now, where’s that root beer.