Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Moonlight Motel Guest's Best: Ryan M.'s Top 10 Retro Candies for Halloween

Hey folks! We have another special article today from another of our favorite, frequent guests here at the Moonlight Motel! This time, Ryan M. takes a stab at writing a feature for us with his top 10 list of retro candies for the Halloween season! We'll get going with that in a sec, but first...

Did all of you read the review I did on Annabelle last night? Well, at the end, I did a little update about Halloween plans here on the site and elsewhere. If you are a regular guest of the Moonlight Motel, you may wanna go back and check it out, even if just that post-review bit at the end. Aside from mentioning some important and interesting stuff about site plans and issues and the great lineup at the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin for this month, I also mentioned that there are some great treasures to be found in stores right now for the Halloween season, and Wal-Mart is being particularly good to us this year with their Halloween DVD selection! Again, I still need to check Best Buy, and Target was a bit underwhelming aside from a couple of things, but Wal-Mart was full of goodies, both for Halloween and not. But, I forgot to mention a very specific one. So, really quickly, since I don't want to hold Ryan up, here it is:

Yep, you may or may not know it, but this much-loved Halloween special from 1978 is finally out on DVD! "Witch's Night Out"! You may remember this trippy special from its many Disney Channel airings before the network became completely tween-centric. Once you get used to its weird 70's-ness, it is a pretty cool little special! I hope to pick it up soon myself! It runs about 9.99, but at the time I took this photo, I already had the Bugs Bunny Howl-oween Special in my cart (5.00) along with Mickey Mouse season 1 (9.99), but hopefully I'll get this one before the month is out. It also has a stack of spooky public domain shorts, which is cool, since I don't think I have those on DVD yet. Anyway, I know this DVD has a fan base, so I really wanted to point this out for anyone who wasn't aware of its release yet. Apparently, there is a Christmas special from this company in this style too, and it's coming to DVD soon as well.

Okay, just wanted to share that, because I forgot to last night, but make sure to read anything I post this month, as there may be more little Halloween updates like this stuck in here and there. Maybe at the beginning of an article, maybe in the middle, maybe at the end. Not everything requires its own article, or sometimes I just forget to mention stuff, so expect some piggybacking, ha.

Now, on with Ryan M.'s  top 10!


Moonlight Motel Guest's Best - Ryan M., the Candy King

My Top 10 Retro Candies for Halloween

Before I begin my actual article, I would like to take a moment to introduce myself. My name is Ryan, but you may call me The Candy King. Corny, I know, but I do love candy and have made it a point to try as many candy products as I can, both current and retro. I am good friends with Monty Moonlight and share many of his interests, namely Disney, fairy tales, fantasy, horror, and the holidays. I would like to take this moment to thank Monty for giving me the chance to write for his blog. I have been a devoted reader of his blog for over a year now, so it’s an honor to have my article published here at the Moonlight Motel.

The Halloween season is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: candy! When one thinks of holidays that involve candy, Halloween should be the first one to come to mind. Sure, Easter has its chocolate bunnies and Christmas its assortment of peppermint-flavored hard candies, but none of those other holidays feature candy as prominently as Halloween does. Halloween = trick-or-treating and trick-or-treating = free candy. Thus, Halloween is the undisputed king of the candy holidays.

Now that we've done the math, I'd like to get to the point of this article. When one thinks of candy for Halloween, the usual suspects should immediately spring to mind. Snickers, Reese's Cups, M&M's, Kit Kats, Hershey Bars, and . . . you get the idea. Those delicious candies have been satisfying our taste for sweets for decades now. But what about the other tasty candies that have been forgotten through the passage of time? Some of the most popular candy products from the golden age of trick-or-treating have become obsolete in today's Halloween celebrations. Candy that was once handed out by the handful is now relegated to the niche market of "retro" candy. Despite the fact that these “retro” candies were introduced roughly around the same time as your Snickers and Hershey Bars, they have not attained the same status as the big boys. And that is what separates your Snickers from your Zagnuts: popularity. I think it’s a real shame that most kids today will never know the simple pleasures of a Sky Bar or a Mallo Cup. The goal of this article is to remedy that situation. And what better time of year to remedy it than Halloween? The one time of the year when it’s okay for kids to indulge their sweet tooth. So, grab your pillowcase or your plastic pumpkin pail (or whatever you choose to carry your treats in), and let us take a sugar-fueled trip back in time.

Before I begin the countdown, let me explain a few things. Because many of these products fall under the category of “niche market”, don't expect to find them all at your local supermarket. While I have experienced some luck searching for retro candy at larger chains and supermarkets, I often find that you have to travel off the beaten path to find the goods. So expect to go treasure hunting, scouring your local drugstores, dollar stores, and specialty candy shops (if you're lucky enough to have one in your area) for these hard-to-find cult candies. I am lucky enough to have a drugstore located close to me that stocks pretty much all of the following. Secondly, please note readers, that I am writing this article from an East Coast perspective. You will not find Abba Zabas, Rocky Roads, Big Hunks, or any other West Coast favorites on my list. It’s not that I don't like those candies (I've had a couple of ’em before and they're quite delicious), it’s just that I've experienced little luck finding them here on the East Coast. Just thought I would give you readers a heads up, in case anyone would note the absence of those aforementioned treats. And finally, if you do have an old time favorite that’s not on my list, be sure to champion your favorite retro candy in the comments section below! So without further ado, let us begin the countdown!

Bonus Entry: Wax Bottles/Lips/Mustaches/Fangs

I couldn't write this article without mentioning this family of Halloween favorites, so consider this a bonus entry. A favorite of Halloween celebrations and birthday parties for many generations, these variously shaped wax confections are one of the most unique and peculiar candies ever to leave a mark on pop culture. These retro favorites are more of a novelty than an actual candy, but I still felt it necessary to mention them. Out of the four shapes, the Wax Bottles (aka Nik-L-Nips) are easily the most edible. They are filled with a fruit-flavored syrup that’s meant to be drunk much like a liquid beverage. The other three shapes are merely colored and flavored wax molds. Out of the shapes, the fangs are the most seasonally appropriate. One can chew the wax very much like chewing gum, though the wax can become rather hard and sharp. While wax candy is most likely too quaint and old-fashioned for today’s generation, the mere sight of a pair of bright-red wax lips should be enough to stir up fond memories in any person old enough to remember the golden age of trick-or-treating.

Additional Honorable Mentions: Candy Necklaces/Bracelets, Jujyfruits, Dots, Chick-O-Stick, Jawbreakers, Chuckles, Dubble Bubble bubblegum, Smarties, Turkish Taffy, Necco Wafers, and Oh Henry!

10. Mary Jane Peanut Butter Kisses

 Sure to be a contentious choice, these little globs of peanut butter goodness have divided the masses for many Halloweens now. Some people love ‘em, and some people hate ‘em. Nobody really seems to be indifferent to these little suckers. I'm actually rather fond of them however, for a couple reasons. For one, the very sight of them invokes pleasant memories of Halloweens long since past. With their black and orange wrappers, these candies are the very epitome of Halloween cheapness. Secondly, they are actually edible, and not entirely worthy of their negative reputation. They are basically peanut butter salt water taffy, so how could you go wrong? If you love the taste of peanut butter (and I know I do), then how could you not love these cheapo favorites? Mary Jane seems to be the exclusive manufacturer of this product, though I can’t recall seeing the Mary Jane brand on the wrappers growing up. I seem to remember them being packaged in plain ol’ black and orange wrappers, with no particular brand attached to the candy. This generic status made them seem even cheaper back in the day. In either case, it’s not Halloween without ‘em. Whether they bring up fond memories or bile in your throat, there’s no denying they are as much a part of Halloween as jack-o'-lanterns, spooky cardboard cutouts, and old Halloween TV specials.

09. Candy Buttons

Yes, these classic candies are little more than small rounded pegs of pure sugar, but then again. what kid wouldn't love that? Candy Buttons are essentially candy boiled down to its most basic element: sugar. I'm not even sure if there’s actual flavor to the candy buttons. They are multi-colored, but that may very well be for pure aesthetic reasons. Because they come attached to a strip of paper, the likelihood of getting small bits of paper in your mouth while eating the buttons is rather high. Looking at sheet after sheet of brightly colored sugar buttons, one gets the impression of a Wonka-esque assembly line putting these things together. What could be cooler than that? Just don't spend Halloween night eating strip after strip of these little suckers. You're liable to end up on a sugar rush that will keep you awake until next Halloween.

08. Charleston Chew

Named after a now-forgotten dance craze and still packaged in an unmistakably retro wrapper, a Charleston Chew is an extremely tasty blast from the past. Two things stand out when eating a Charleston Chew. One is the sheer size of the thing. Roughly the length of a ruler, this candy obviously provides more bang for your buck when compared to other candy bars. The second unique thing about them is that they're essentially faux chocolate (or mockolate) covered taffy. They possess that same light, chewy texture that one gets with taffy, which means you can stretch one bar out for a couple days before completely finishing the thing. I have yet to find another chocolate-covered taffy product. Most people seem to prefer them frozen (TRY FROZEN! is even printed on the wrapper in big bold letters) so you may want to consider that when eating one. Additionally, the candy is available in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry flavors (the nougat that is, not the faux chocolate coating) though the vanilla nougat variety seems to be the most common (it’s even available in a popular bite-size movie theatre box version). If you find yourself craving a melty, chewy bite of nostalgia, just remember: you can't go wrong with a Charleston Chew.

07. Pixy Stix

Many would consider candy merely a vehicle to deliver sugar to children, and in the case of Pixy Stix, they couldn't be more right. Pixy Stix are pretty much fruit flavored colored sugar served to you in a wrapper that resembles a drinking straw. Which is ironic, considering the powder was originally conceived as a drink mix. The powder has also served as a solid foundation for some other confectionary classics, namely Lik-M-Aid, aka Fun Dip, which adds edible candy sticks for dipping, and SweeTarts, which are pretty much a solid version of the powdered formula (intended as a less-messy alternative to the aforementioned products). With absolutely no nutritional value and a sugar content that borders on obscene, Pixy Stix are candy in excelsis. The one negative (besides the risk of sugar-related diseases)? When you had Pixy Stix in your trick-or-treat bag, they had a tendency of snapping in half due to the weight of the other candy. As a result, the bottom of your trick-or-treat bag (or whatever you used) would be filled with rainbow sugar dust. I'm not sure if this was a common occurrence for other kids, but it was for me.

06. Zero Bar

Don't be fooled by the name. That "Zero" part does not refer to an absence of calories, but rather goes with the whole idea of marketing this candy bar as a cool, refreshing treat. I'm not sure why they market this product as a wintry candy bar. It could be the white fudge coating gives off the impression of snow. It could be the silver wrapper that gives people the impression of winter (much like the wrapper of a York Peppermint Patty). Or maybe it's because a lot of people enjoy popping these hefty bars in the freezer and enjoying 'em as a cold treat (though that's true for many candy products). I'm not entirely sure, but one thing I am sure about is that there is no other bar like a Zero Bar on the market. The look of the bar itself is strikingly different from your average milk chocolate bar. How often do you see white chocolate/fudge covered candy bars? Now I'm not a huge fan of white chocolate by any means. It's easily my least favorite of the three main kinds of chocolate. My order of preference goes: milk, dark, and lastly, white. That's not to say I do not enjoy white chocolate from time to time. In the Zero Bar's case, the white fudge coating does its job well. It's soft, sweet, and provides a protective coating for the interior of the bar, which is a combination of caramel, peanut and almond nougat. One is reminded of a Snickers bar when looking at those ingredients, and much like a Snickers, the individual components all come together to make this a very delicious and filling candy bar. Don't wait for winter to give this unique treat a try. It's a perfectly delectable candy bar any time of the year, and that includes Halloween! Just imagine that the white fudge coating is a ghost sheet for the scrumptious filling inside.

05. Sugar Babies/Sugar Daddy

I'm gonna be honest here, and admit that I ranked this entry based strictly on my love of Sugar Babies. In my opinion, they are one of the best poppable candies on the market. There's nothing quite like popping a handful of Sugar Babies in your mouth and enjoying that initial crack of their sugary shell exterior followed by the rich, sweet taste of delicious caramel. One also gets to enjoy that pleasant, long chew typically associated with caramel candies. And they're extremely versatile as well! Pair 'em with a salty snack, like popcorn or pretzels, for a nice movie time snack. Sprinkle several over your ice cream for an extremely decadent treat. Additionally, Tootsie's website includes a tasty-sounding recipe for Sugar Babies Molasses Cookies. Of course, there's nothing wrong with a Sugar Daddy pop. It's pretty much a large slab of caramel on a stick. The kind of candy kids with little pocket money bought to ensure they would have something sweet to snack on for several days. They have that rich and distinct caramel flavor we all know and love. Apparently there was a chocolate-covered variant of the Sugar Daddy called (you guessed it) a Sugar Mama, but they were discontinued in the 80's. I never had a chance to try one, but I don't see how they could be anything but delicious. I would love to see a Sugar family reunion so each individual member of the family could have a chance to shine.

04. Sky Bar

Are you the type of person that struggles when making important decisions? Nothing is tougher than standing in the middle of the candy aisle faced with a plethora of sweet choices. Do you want something that’s filled with creamy, delicious peanut butter? Or would you prefer your sweet milk chocolate balanced out by the addition of salty and creamy peanut butter? Maybe you find yourself wanting to indulge in the sickeningly sweet pleasures of a delicious piece of fudge. Or perhaps you're feeling a little crazy and want all those flavors in one out-of-this-world candy bar. If that’s the case, then the good folks at Necco have you covered. The Sky Bar was made for people who simply can't make up their mind when faced with multiple choices. A Sky Bar is a chocolate bar that’s separated into four domed sections, each with a different filling: caramel, vanilla, peanut, and fudge. Each filling represents its particular flavor quite well. The caramel section has that perfect balance of sticky sweet goodness balanced out by a nice salty finish. The vanilla section is a slightly runny goo that’s more sugar than anything. It’s probably my least favorite section, I must admit. However, the peanut section is the pièce de résistance of this bar. It’s unlike any other peanut filling I've ever tasted. It has the consistency of caramel but the delicious salty taste of roasted peanuts. Lastly, there is the fudge section. I've never been a huge fan of fudge (I often find it cloyingly sweet), but this filling is actually decent. It sorta blends in with the chocolate surrounding it, but at least it’s not overly sweet like most fudge. This bar would probably take the top spot, except that the milk chocolate used to enrobe each filling is the substandard kind that one often finds for the holidays. I'm no chocolate snob by any means, but I do wish Necco would go with a higher-quality chocolate with this one. A bar as unique and with as many delicious fillings as the Sky Bar deserves to be made with good quality milk chocolate. In any case, it’s still an excellent choice for the indecisive candy buyer in all of us.

03. Mallo Cup

What could be better than Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup? Well . . . not much really. That simple but scrumptious combination of creamy peanut butter and melt-in-your-mouth Hershey’s chocolate is one of the candy world’s greatest concoctions. That’s not to say there’s no room in this world for other cup candies. The confectioners at Boyer Candies have pretty much stuck to the soft center cup candy formula ever since they started their business back in the 1930’s. Yes, they have their own version of the classic chocolate peanut butter cup, but it’s their more unique products that make them stand out as far as smaller candy companies go. One of their tastiest products is the Smoothie Cup, a delicious confection that features a peanut butter center covered with a delectable butterscotch coating. It’s unlike any other cup candy on the market. Their flagship product remains the Mallo Cup, which consists of a milk chocolate cup filled with whipped marshmallow and some toasted coconut bits. It is quite similar to other marshmallow cups like Valomilks and Cup-o-Golds, but in my opinion, the Mallo Cup reigns supreme. As any Reese’s Cup fan knows, the filling to chocolate ratio is key. A Cup-o-Gold is more chocolate than filling and a Valomilk is more filling than chocolate (and it’s very messy to boot). But the Mallo Cup finds the right balance between the two, and thus stands as the king of marshmallow cups. The individual flavors are all well represented in a Mallo Cup, with the creamy chocolate, sweet and soft marshmallow filling, and the nutty chew of the coconut all contributing to the overall greatness of the candy. So next time you wanna take a break away from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, just keep Boyer Candies in mind. Their cup candy is truly scrumptious.

02. Zagnut

The definitive cult candy bar, the Zagnut has built itself a small but loyal following over the years. If you're willing to forgive the absence of milk chocolate, then you'll find that this is a very delicious and unique candy bar. It's actually a rather simple candy bar; just crunchy peanut butter covered with delicious toasted coconut. There may be a few more trivial ingredients, but they don't affect the simple and effective combination of the star ingredients. The peanut butter inside has the perfect amount of crunch and flavor, with rich molasses notes and a nice, salty finish. The toasted coconut outside works exceedingly well with the peanut and molasses flavors and provides the perfect amount of sweetness to balance this bar out. When your core components are this good, there's no need to clutter the bar with any other superfluous ingredients. This bar also has some serious Halloween connections. Besides its rather festive orange color, the Zagnut makes a highly memorable appearance in Tim Burton's darkly humorous classic, Beetlejuice. Remember when Beetlejuice is using a candy bar as bait to land a juicy fly morsel for lunch? Well, that candy bar just so happened to be a Zagnut. Considering Beetlejuice is one of the best movies to watch around Halloween, you can plan a pretty sweet Halloween-themed movie night. Beetlejuice on TV and Zagnut bars for everybody!

01. Clark Bar

The irresistible combination of creamy peanut butter and smooth milk chocolate has been popular with the masses for decades now. They both taste amazing on their own, so common sense would dictate that the combination of the two would produce results that are divine. Such is the case in the world of candy. In fact, there are three candy bars that follow the same basic blueprint. I am talking about the trio of chocolatey peanut butter crunch bars: Nestle's Butterfinger, Hershey's 5th Avenue, and Necco's Clark Bar. Butterfinger is easily the most well-known of the three, but do you remember the old saying: just because something is popular, doesn't make it right? That couldn't be more true in this case. The Clark Bar is not only older than its two competitors, it's also better. But I must specify that I'm talking about the current incarnation of Clark. The one that adheres to the original recipe (I'm not sure if it's the exact original recipe). When I first met Clark several years back, it was clearly a shadow of its former self. It was smaller than either of its chocolatey peanut butter crunch brethren, and it used an inferior, low-quality, faux-chocolate coating. I still bought 'em from time to time to support an old favorite that had faded from the public eye, but I just knew they could be better. Then, something magical happened. Necco made the change to an all-natural formula with real chocolate to coat the crunchy peanut butter goodness. These new bars beared the slogan "GET REAL" in big, bold letters on the wrapper. Finally, Clark was back on top as king of the chocolatey peanut butter crunch bars! With a noticeable molasses flavor, the taste of fresh roasted nuts, and a melt in your mouth chocolate coating, this Clark Bar was royalty restored to its throne. It's the perfect candy bar for Halloween, and if you don't believe me, then just remember this: Clark Bars were referenced in the greatest Halloween movie ever made - Hocus Pocus. Butterfingers and 5th Avenues weren't. I am of course talking about Mary Sanderson's classic line: "Its the chocolate covered finger of a man named Clark!"

So, there you have it, folks! My Top 10 Retro Candies for Halloween! I hope I managed to introduce some new candies to today's generation, or perhaps stir up some fond memories for some old-timers. Most of all, I hope it was a fun read! So remember, this Halloween, give some retro candy a try! Support some underdogs and indulge your sweet tooth while doing so. Just watch your Halloween night candy intake, or you'll end up with a mean sugar hangover on the morning of November 1st. Happy hauntings, folks!


Monty here! Wow, awesome article, Ryan! I think I've tried at least 2 or 3 of those delicious, retro candies, and I certainly wanna try a few more you mentioned! Peanut Butter Kisses have long been a fave of mine for passing out to trick-or-treaters. I love the black and orange wrapping and the overall retro and simple style. They look like the kind of candy you'd see in a cartoon like The Great Pumpkin or Garfield's Halloween or something! Anyway, for my friends here in Austin, TX who are looking for retro candy like this, one sure bet to find these selections and more is the Big Top Candy Shop (and soda fountain) on S. Congress. If you've never stopped into that place, you really need to! Exploring their tons of retro, imported, and weird (as well as more commonplace) candies is great fun!


I'll have to do an article on that place sometime soon. Also, something most of us can find just about anywhere in the U.S. by now, I'm guessing, is good ol' Cracker Barrel, the old-fashioned country store/restaurant chain. They've got some of these great vintage candies there too. 

Anyway, if you'd like to read my own list of Top 10 Halloween Candies (non-retro, just my top ten faves to keep for myself while I give the trick or treaters Mary Janes and Tootsie Rolls), here's the article I did a few years back: Monty's Top Ten Halloween Candies! Searching through our past articles, you'll find a lot of great ones dealing with the Halloween season, especially in the Management Recommends section, so check them out when you have the time. Those articles are always fun! We around here at the Moonlight Motel have a real passion for holidays, and Halloween is a particular fave of both guests AND staff. I wonder why? Catch you guys later!


  1. NECCO's factory is right now the street from me - and they have a discount factory store. :) You can also get slighty-not-perfect candy in bulk :)

    1. That's awesome! I would love to live down the street from a candy factory. It would make me feel like Charlie Bucket. :) Not to mention all that discount NECCO candy, like Clark Bars, Sky Bars, Banana Splits, Wafers, etc.