Remember when: Candy pulling in the 1930s

Published 9:53 pm Saturday, November 4, 2017

The McGuire Sisters made this song popular in 1958. I remember hearing their harmonious version and seeing it in color performed on the new “television” show on Saturday nights, “The Hit Parade.”

     “Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening , sugar at suppertime. Be my little sugar and love me all the time…”

Back in the early 1960s, our youth group at church one summer had a taffy pulling. I don’t remember one since. In the 1933 newspaper, The Covington News, several articles appeared that reminded me of that activity. Sidney Waits, researcher and writer extraordinaire of Covington County history, forwarded this with me to share with you readers.

February 16, 1933Old Time Candy Pulling to be Staged Here SoonDr. S. C. Hamner makes the suggestion that everybody pull together. He has reference to an old time old fashioned candy pulling. Dr. Hamner has a great quantity of syrup to contribute but not enough to supply the needs for such an occasion. Such an entertainment will draw a tremendous crowd. There is no entertainment that carries more sociability than an old fashioned candy pulling providing everybody pulls together.”

“Everyone who feels inclined to contribute to the affair is requested to bring a gallon of syrup to the news office. Their name will be placed on the can and when sufficient syrup is secured to justify the undertaking, an old fashioned candy pulling will be announced, and it will be a general invitation to all who are willing to pull together.”

Mr. William R. Daniel, the expert candy maker, has offered his services for such an entertainment. Mr. Daniel is an expert in cooking candy. He can cook it where it will pull for an hour, two hours, or as long as one might want to pull. And appropriate place will be selected to cook the syrup where everybody will have plenty of room to pull. A large kettle has already been secured for the occasion. (Mr. Daniel lived at 208 Sixth Avenue and operated his candy business from his back yard. The Ennis family lives in that house today.)”

     February 23, 1933“Many Contributed Syrup for Old Fashioned Candy Pulling – News is taking like hot cakes after last week’s announcement about the old fashioned old time candy pulling. P. Lewis, popular jeweler, was among the first to donate a gallon of syrup. Mr. O. L. Benson also proposed to donate what syrup that may be necessary after all other contributions have been made. Benson has tendered the use of a large kettle. With a few more contributions of syrup, sufficient progress will have been made to make a more definite announcement as to the date and place.”

Judge H. J. Brodgen and Judge J. M. Robinson are among others who have offered syrup and both see in it as a great get together meeting where everyone will pull together and forget for the time being the Depression. Judge Robinson ventured the suggestion that he would eat a great deal of the candy after it was pulled white. He said that back in the early days when homemade candy was about the only candy in the country that he learned to love it.”

“Several locations have been suggested among which is the Scout Camp (Gantt’s Shack) on the banks of the Conecuh River where electric lights, buildings in case of rain, and other conveniences will be found. There is nothing more conducive to the well-being and advancement of an undertaking than the coordination and spirit of pulling together. It takes pulling together to make any undertaking a success, and that is why this candy pulling is going to be a decided success. All who participate in it will pull together.”

“Bring on your syrup for the occasion will offer an opportunity for many small children who will otherwise be deprived of such a pleasure to enjoy a stick of homemade candy. “

“The suggestion has been made, and it is meeting general approval that the candy pulling be concluded with an old breakdown dance. It has been further suggested that everyone present should either pull candy or dance. It may be that some of the older and well as younger people who will attend this occasion will prefer to dance other than pull candy.”

March 9, 1933 “Date, Place Named for Candy Pulling – The candy pulling heretofore announced in these columns will take place Friday afternoon, March 17 at the Scout Camp on the banks of the Conecuh River three and half miles west of Andalusia. Take a left hand road at the Benson Brick Yard on the Andalusia-River Falls highway, and it winds around to the Scout Camp. Pulling candy should be in full progress by five o’clock in the afternoon. It is a beautiful place for the occasion, and the hope is entertained that all who attend will be well behaved and orderly. The management asks for but one guarantee, and that is the buildings shall not be messed up with candy. All will be expected to remain in the open to pull candy, and no one shall be expected to enter the buildings during the process.”

“Syrup will be accepted up to the time the last kettle is placed over the fire to be cooked. Those who cannot bring syrup and have butter to spare, bring it along as candy will be made several ways. The little folks must be cared for.”

     March 16, 1933“Program Complete for Candy Pulling – Everything is in readiness for the candy pulling tomorrow afternoon at the Scout Camp on the banks of the Conecuh. It is to be thoroughly understood that it is not an Andalusia Candy Pulling but a Covington County Candy Pulling. A cordial invitation is extended to everybody to attend. The project should be well underway by five o’clock in order to make room for the square dance which will take place in the reception room.”

     March 23, 1933“Old Time Candy Pulling Proves Successful Event” – The conclusion of this story is hard to read in the old newspapers on microfilm at the Andalusia Public Library. Archivist Linda Grimes Harrell helped in this endeavor.

“The candy pulling and the dance staged at the Scout Camp on Friday night of last week was no small event. The occasion was enjoyed by hundreds. By five o’clock the crowds began to gather and before dark, candy pulling was well underway. The affair was lively and represented by the rural districts as well as the city. There was no way of telling the number who attended since people came and went as late at ten o’clock. “

“Over 30 gallons of syrup was boiled and cooked to the pulling stage. Mr. W. R. Daniel, the candy expert, was in charge. He did the cooking on a gasoline stove with a copper kettle. Coleman lamps illuminated the scene. Many were forced against their will (This is 1930s humor!) as they were handed a ball of hot candy to either pull or lay it down and, of course, they pulled!”

Peanut brittle was made and a half bushel of shelled peanuts were used. This was a great favorite and especially popular to the kiddies as well as the grownups.”

“The dance was a great success, too. Shorty Crosby was on hand with his string band. A fee was charged for the dance so the fiddlers could be paid. All in all, the affair went over strong as the citizens, young and old, men and women, boys and girls pulled together and forgot their troubles for the time being!”

Well, here it is, readers, on Halloween Eve that this column is being written. It is just about time to head home for trick-or- treaters in our neighborhood. The packaged candy is ready to give out to the ghosts and goblins, princesses and pumpkins, witches and zombies, all dressed up for a memorable evening of fun. I hope the little devils don’t pull the same pranks as my friends and I once did with our Three Notch Court neighbors. I REMEMBER WHEN on Halloween night we filled up those milk bottles by the front door with sand when the dear little older couple didn’t come to the door, bless their hearts! Oh, to be young again! Oh, to be able to go to a candy pulling! As Sidney Waits said, “Sounds like a great party and maybe we should do it again!” For now, let’s make every effort to do as Dr. Hamner suggested some 84 years ago – “Everybody pull together!”

Sue Bass Wilson (AHS Class of ’65) is a local real estate broker and long-time member of the Covington Historical Society. She can be reached at