Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Cough Drop Kid

I knew a kid in grammar school whose favorite candy wasn’t candy at all, but a cough drop. It was, however, displayed and sold alongside the Sweet Tarts, Razzles, and York Peppermint Patties—so perhaps it was candy after all. The candy store proprietors in the neighborhood didn’t mind that ten- and eleven-year-old kids were purchasing and eating cough drops like they were Milk Duds and Mary Janes. They didn’t request purchaser evidence of a cold, allergy, or scratchy throat. And nobody suggested, then or now, that there was anything wrong with selling cough drops in the same fashion as Bubble Yum, Good & Fruity, and Starburst.

When it was time to graduate from said grammar school in 1976, graduates one and all were asked to share a fond, funny, or noteworthy remembrance—from their first-grade to eighth-grade educational experiences—for possible inclusion in the class yearbook. You know, for the montage page of fond, funny, and noteworthy remembrances—like the time the bee flew up Suzy Q’s uniform dress during recess, or the time Frankie McGuirk got bus sick—and lost his cookies—on a class field trip to an amusement park in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey. I submitted the memory of the Cough Drop Kid, who was renowned for both loving a particular brand of cough drops and John Wayne. My special memory didn’t make it into the yearbook—the school censors, I guess, didn’t think it appropriate or interesting enough. And the memories competition was pretty stiff in my esteemed graduating class.

Fast forward almost thirty-seven years since grammar school graduation day—and forty years plus since the Cough Drop Kid indulged in his favorite candy. It’s 2013 and, as fate would have it, I spoke with the Cough Drop Kid today. He’s still alive and kicking. We chewed over his peculiar childhood addiction to a certain cough drop. Funny, but in middle age, we both couldn’t remember the brand name. It definitely wasn’t Smith Brothers—we were certain of that much.

Courtesy of the vast wealth of accessible information now at our fingertips, I Googled the phrase “soft cough drops.” I remembered the Cough Drop Kid’s preferred product was different from the competition. They were not rock-hard lozenges, but chewy. And, lo and behold, there they were: Pine Brothers. I recalled immediately their familiar 1970s box and the drops special shape and texture. While they were reasonably soft as a rule, sometimes they could be quite hard and they always stuck to your teeth. The Cough Drop Kid harked back to a lost love. I refreshed his memory, too, that a classmate, who had him as a “Kris Kringle” at Christmastime, bought him a box of cherry-flavored—his personal favorite—Pine Brothers cough drops.

The Cough Drop Kid and I were now left to wonder if Pine Brothers cough drops were still around. Neither of us had seen them for some time, but then we weren’t looking for them. Happily, we can report, they live on, although these unique cough drops evidently went on a hiatus for a spell. They are being pedaled in the new millennium as “Softish Throat Drops”—and oddish description. Perhaps the Cough Drop Kid will revisit the Pine Brothers cough drop—this “softish throat drop”—in the near future and report back as to whether or not the magic is still there.

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