Orange Swits ... yum yum! Grade school days and sharing them with my friends Tricia and Chay.
Bazooka Bubble Gum ... wheee! My brother and I collected those little comic strips.
Tarzan ... sigh! I used to buy those at the store next door. St. Ignatius Village, Avi and the Korean girls.
Tootsie Roll ... aww!
And then it mentioned Iced Gems. Ick. Iced Gems was a kiddie snack? I never thought of something so disgusting as a snack for children. As a kid, I disliked Iced Gems with a fury; in fact I still do. I can't help but associate them with childhood memories that are anything but warm and fuzzy. Blech. For that matter, I lump them all together with those ugly, plastic-packed, mass-produced, local-brand baked items that call themselves "biscuits".
Okay, i get that they're cute, but I saw them more as something to play with rather than something to eat. I used to scrape off the frosting part with my teeth before putting the cookie part in my mouth, just to see how the cookie looked naked.
Some time ago I was with my friend G and we watched this kid eating Hi-Ro cookies. He had this I-don't-know-if-I'm-about-to-laugh-or-cry look on his face and he couldn't help sharing why. He explained that those brown-and-white Hi-Ro cookies in their orange plastic packaging triggered some not-so-good childhood memories. As he was bout to apologize, I said I knew exactly how he felt. We went on to enumerate those
We - and many other children of the 80s, I'm sure- both shared the fate of being the offspring of struggling middle-class parents who opted to send us to private schools. Our parents also chose to save money by packing our lunchboxes with cheap, bland cookies for snacks.
Back in those childhood school days, I would open my ratty plastic lunchbox during break time to reveal an embarrassing Jolly, Hi-Ro, Iced Gems or an offensive Jack n' Jill Pretzels. I also had a pathetic little thermos of water that I hardly opened. If I was lucky I had a tetra pack of cheap juice. My Dad never believed in investing in expensive, good-quality snacks - for him the flavor and appearance of food were irrelevant; the sole purpose of food was to fill the tum. It was bad enough that I was stuck with stuff that tasted horrible day after day; I had to watch my classmates eat their rice meals, fruit, imported cookies, pudding, yummy chips or jelly sandwiches. And their Magnolia fresh milk or Chocolait, which came in glass bottles back then.
My parents didn't believe in giving a child money to buy lunch either, so I watched my friends buy - and eat - their brightly-colored, sugary desserts. Slushies, Sour Balls, Twin Popsies. Frosted cookies, waffle cheese, lollipops.
I wondered why my Dad insisted on buying that rubbish over and over again when nobody even liked to eat them. I felt sorry for myself for having such flaaaaat, cheap food that I hardly even ate. It made me feel like a poor, underprivileged kid in a roomful of rich, private school snobs. I'd go home hungry and with my plastic-wrapped snacks untouched, and I had the exact same pack of preservative-padded crap in my lunchbox the next day. I never wised up into that lunchroom vice of swapping snacks, but I brazenly asked for bits and bites from others' food stuff. "Can I try that?," "Can I have some?" My spoiled, imported-cookie-eating classmates never teased me for eating cheap food, but they did let me have it for being such a beggar.
It was only after the second grade when my Dad finally allowed me to carry cash for buying lunch at school. By that time those brightly-colored Sour Balls I'd always wondered about (and still wonder about to this day) were no longer being sold in the school cafeteria, but there were a lot of other goodies like sizzling meals, creamy cakes and chocolate truffles. It was a relief to finally graduate from those darned biscuits, but their memory still followed me around. I did have them day after day for a couple of years, and that was enough for a good deal of reinforcement and trauma that I carry until adulthood. One more time for the Iced Gems: Blech.