Son Bud asked me some weeks back where we could find a really good sour lemon candy. We were shopping at the time. Easy, I figured. Just go get some Regal Crown sour lemons. A short bit of scouring candy counters showed me — once again — that a dependable product of my past life had disappeared.
Regal Crown sours were wax paper-wrapped fat lozenge-shaped candies, available in rolls of lemon, lime, and perhaps a few other flavors as well, and they were sour. Very sour. So sour they were almost bitter. Perhaps they can be bought in the U.K., whence they came. Google reveals “new and used” Regal Crown items on Ebay (coins and pendants and such) and a Regal Crown cricket ball, apparently a quite desirable brand.
But no sour candy. Gone.
Not too far back, one of my big toenails grew in at the corner, a classic ingrown toenail, and I hied myself to the marketplace to get Outgro, in the past a quite reliable product something like a pinkish liquid glue. Used several times, it would harden the skin under the ingrown nail, relieving the pressure and making the nail easier to pry up and file off. Relieved pain, too.
Outgro still exists, but the modern form calls for some acronym like OINO, for Outgro in Name Only. The new stuff is a watery topical anesthetic. What happened to the reliable old home glue version? Consumer products legislation, I can only presume.
Two of the fabulous catalogs of my boyhood, Herter’s, from Waseca, Minnesota, and Wrangler of Cheyenne, are gone, too. What is there like Herter’s today? It used to be filled with backwoodsy, corny copy, and with outdoor gear of all kinds, a kind of primitive L.L. Bean. Its only surviving reference appears in its long-unavailable pipe tobacco, which apparently exists somewhere, in some review or other (I once turned it up in an Internet search). There is a picture of me and three college friends, taken on New Year’s Eve of our freshman year at Columbia University. We are draped and posed, quite drunk, the four of us, on the statue of Alma Mater in mid-campus. I am wearing a Herter’s Alaskan Tuxedo jacket, a kind of ur-Banana Republic garment. But the real thing, not a kicky copy.
Wrangler, of course, offered western wear and gear, Stetson XXX beaver hats, Tony Lama boots, jeans, shirts — wonderful quality, too. I have gone so far as to call Cheyenne, Wyoming information. Nope. No Wrangler of Cheyenne anymore.
Even the classic businesses have given up. Dunhill’s store on Fifth Avenue used to maintain a giant handwritten Domesday Book of custom tobacco blends, an old-fashioned Dickensian cloth-bound ledger. Up through the mid-1980s, I could call Dunhill’s and order a pipe tobacco created by a friend of mine years before, listed as A16960.
The Dunhill’s clerks scarcely remember that book anymore. Apparently it got so little use they simply threw it away.
They threw away history. They threw away something that should have been placed in a museum of popular culture. They threw away pipe tobacco blends made for Edward G. Robinson and Raymond Chandler, Bennett Cerf and Albert Einstein, Clark Gable and Ira Gershwin.
It’s all of a piece. Policeman and doctors have been younger than I for a couple of decades. One of these days, some family practice physician will roll her eyes at some question of mine, and say, “Du-uh!”
It won’t be long now.