When I was a little girl, the ushers would walk up and down the aisles looking for people sneaking candy in church. If caught in the act, children would be forced to spit it out immediately. That’s when and where learned how to eat discretely. Not in class. In church.
I remember, all children would enter the sanctuary with mini brown paper bags filled with peppermints, Choward’s Violet Mints, mini gummy hamburgers, mini gummy pizzas, war heads, tootsie rolls (only chocolate), sour gum, winter-fresh, and the list goes on. The girls would hide the bags in their purse and the boys would place it in their suit jackets.
In those days, you only needed a dollar or two to fill a brown paper bag. Offering money went to the man at the store across the street (we never said corner store because it wasn’t on a corner and we had to stress that it was across the street because only certain children were allowed to cross the street). If you were like my friend Angela who could not go across the street, then you went to Mother Woods who was the alternative. She ran her own candy store inside the temple. Which was where you got more for your money. She supplied everyone with candy for Sunday night service.
We ate so much candy, rules were created. Gum chewing was the greatest sin. Teens would chew gum and place it under the pew. Then, children would scratch the chewed gum off and place it in their mouths. If caught in this act, you were made into a laughing sport and everyone crossed their fingers and whispered cooties. This only lead to someone being escorted out of the service to be spanked.
There were also ways to pop candy into your mouth- act like you are coughing and then put the candy into your hand and place it in your mouth or bend down like the adults would do. And the instructions to how to eat a huge peppermint ball some still follow now. Find someone with strong teeth (those days my strong person was Patrick ) and ask him to bite the mint. This rule was created because of kids choking on hard candies.
Finally, the demographics of the church changed and the new temple was built and just that fast, the store across the street went out of business.
I remember my last talk with the man across the street. I was now a teen and could go across the street anytime. He said to me, after your pastor died, not many people come anymore. Why?
I don’t remember my answer. But I remember a feeling of sadness being washed over me as I walked back into the temple.
A couple of years I stopped eating candy. This doesn’t stop people from offering or asking me for candy. Every Sunday after church, my purse has five more soft peppermints; which I save until Sunday night broadcast, for choir members who ask for candy.