Why Dum Dums Are Special to Me

Starting this school year, the Coastal Carolina University campus went tobacco-free. While most people immediately think of the students, and as they should, others are impacted as well. In my office I have the privilege of working with a fine editor named Joanna. She is a longtime smoker. When the tobacco ban took effect, she had to figure out some way to make it through the day.

In a drawer in Joanna’s office is a gigantic 300-piece bag of Dum Dums lollipops. When a craving comes she tears the wrapper off one of the suckers and pops it into her mouth. Although I can only imagine how much it pales in comparison to the satisfaction that a shot of nicotine would provide her with, she is making it through the day. Although Joanna doesn’t have plans to quit smoking now, she is doing her part to make our campus tobacco-free while at work.

Joanna and her BIG bag of Dum Dums.

Joanna and her BIG bag of Dum Dums.

The best part about Joanna’s Dum Dums regimen? She hooks me up with all the suckers I want! That’s right, on my desk I have a supply container that is filled with Dum Dums. I like them because they give my desk area a little bit of color. I like them because when I forget to bring gum they provide me with an alternative breath saver. I like them because in the middle of a long day they provide me with a little bit of relief. But I like them most of all because they let me reminisce.

These are the Dum Dums on my desk that Joanna gave me.

These are the Dum Dums on my desk that Joanna gave me.

My family owned an Italian restaurant in Walla Walla, Washington. Called the Pastime Cafe, my grandpa and uncle ran the place all through my childhood. Before my grandpa and uncle, my great grandpa operated the place. The restaurant was in operation for over 80 years, all under the ownership of my mom’s family (the Fazzari family…can you get more Italian than that?)

The Pastime Café, the restaurant I grew up in.

The Pastime Café, the restaurant I grew up in.

Anyway, when you walked into the restaurant there was a glass counter case directly to your right that contained every candy bar you could think of. Sitting behind the glass case was the person who operated the antique cash register (usually my Aunt Becky). The register rested to the left of my aunt, and underneath it was a sliding wooden door. Inside that wooden door were two things: Dum Dums and Andes mints. Now I loved both of those candies, but the Dum Dums hold more sentimental value for me.

This is my great grandpa at the cash register. As you can barely see, the glass counter case is visible at the very bottom of the picture. The wooden door is also visible.

This is my great grandpa at the cash register. As you can barely see, the glass counter case is visible at the very bottom of the picture. The wooden door is also visible.

After we ate dinner my mom would let us pick out a candy bar (we could only eat half of it) and also choose a Dum Dums. Back then there weren’t 16 flavors like there are now but it didn’t matter because my brother and I would always pick out the same one over and over: The Mystery Flavor!! Wrapped in paper with purple question marks all over it, my bro and I thought it was the coolest option. Of course I look back on it now and think what idiots we were; why not just choose a flavor we really liked instead of leaving it up to complete chance? Dumb kids.

Me with some Dum Dums.

Me with some Dum Dums.

For the hundreds of times I ate at the Pastime and the numerous times I went with my grandpa on Sundays when the restaurant was closed, I always got a Dum Dums sucker. I became convinced that our restaurant was keeping the Dum Dums factory in business.

As a 27-year old man, I no longer think that Dum Dums are unique to a small Italian restaurant in Walla Walla, Washington. However, you better believe that whenever I suck on one I immediately think of some of the best memories of my childhood. To get some of those sweet thoughts while living 3,000 miles away from “the town so nice they named it twice” is pretty cool and comforting. Thanks for the suckers, Joanna. Don’t Blink.

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