It’s September and candy is sitting prominently on the shelves, in hopes of a wondrous Halloween season. Go down the candy aisle, where the familiar and tasty catch your eye. Now where is the WATCHAMACLLIT?!
Ahh… that fiendishly good candy bar that debuted in 1978. I’m reminded of that candy bar’s debut…
My grandparents opened Matt’s Delicatessen in the fifties. It stayed in the family until the late eighties/early nineties. I liked spending time there as a little kid. The store had comic books (oddly enough, I wasn’t encouraged to read them), penny candy, etc. When I was old enough, I had to help with mopping the store, breaking down boxes, etc. My grandfather was fond of saying “Matt’s Deli is good for your belly!” I think I laughed every single time I ever heard that. It had to be his delivery. My grandmother’s distant cousin had a smaller deli named Bonks. I ‘m not sure which deli came first, but, I know we walked by and stopped at Bonks every week, on our way to and from piano lessons.
In 1978, Hershey unveiled the WATCHAMACLLIT with a funny ad. “You forgot the name?!” and so on. It caught on. It also confused some people. Heck, it confused my grandparents! My grandparents started getting requests for the oddly named candy and they thought kids were trying to get the best of them. Kind of in the same vein as “Do you have Prince Albert in a can…?” But, they got it straightened out. I remember being at their deli and kids asking for it, then the Abbott & Costello type conversations started. It was either a cousin or uncle that beat me to the punch and told them about it. My grandparents did eventually get a kick out of it and started to razz some of the candy seeking kids. They let the Bonks know about it. I think they were baffled, too. The Bonks were Polish or German, didn’t speak a lot of English, and the term wasn’t translating well for them. I don’t remember them being as amused. Going there meant getting your cheeks pinched by old ladies wearing babushkas, and scowled at by old men. Ahhh… that’s the old neighborhood!
Now, the WATCHAMACLLIT did undergo a slight revamp in 1987. Additional flavoring (caramel) was introduced and some packaging redesigns came out. It was still delicious, so that was not a problem. It even had a follow-up bar named the THINGAMAJIG. Honestly, I don’t recall that one at all. Not sure if I ever ate one. I don’t know how many WHATCHAMACALLITS I have had over the years. Definitely more than a few. I do know that every one of them was enjoyed by me and bunch of candy lovers everywhere!