A taste of the pastNicole Doster/Taste of Home
Cruise down a commercial highway in West Allis, Wisconsin, and you might not notice Half Nuts. Hidden between a bait-and-tackle shop and an empty lot is one of the country’s last vintage candy shops. Step inside and you’ll see a store decked from floor to ceiling with hundreds of old-school sweets. Think Necco wafers, BB Bats, wax lips and lollipops the size of your face. And the shop has a pretty impressive selection of chocolates. (Got you drooling? Settle your sweet tooth with our favorite recipe for chocolate truffles.)
During a recent visit to Half Nuts, I had an opportunity to glimpse the Willy Wonka-esque arrangement and meet owner (and fifth-generation candy maker) Mary Ziegler. Shoppers often tell her they haven’t seen some of these candies since they were five years old. As a 20-something, I found these candies all but foreign. It was time for a sweet, sweet investigation. Itching to get a taste of the past, I asked the shop staffers to help me pick out some of the most popular candies. (Here’s what breakfast would be like if you lived with Willy Wonka.)
Read along as I unwrap a few sticky truths (and incredibly sweet factoids!) about some of the country’s most-beloved vintage candies.
Abba-ZabaNicole Doster/Taste of Home
Tear open the checked wrapper and you’ll find sugar-sweet white taffy with a peanut butter center—yep, you heard that right—peanut butter! I was sure the super-sticky combination would be next to impossible to eat. Thankfully, the candy melts in your mouth in the most satisfying way. Now I’m an Abba-Zaba believer—and I’m in good company, too. John Wayne was a big fan of the candy. In an interview with Closer Weekly magazine, his daughter Marisa reminisced, “He used to keep a stash of Abba-Zaba taffy in his drawer.”