Friday, December 5, 2014

My First Job....Fannie May Candies at Golf Mill in Niles, Illinois

When I was 16, I got a part-time job at Fannie May Candies.   At the time, this was quite an undertaking as it was a very prestigious company to work for.  My sister, Pam, was already working there when I got hired.  Fannie May was started by H. Teller Archibald in 1920 in Chicago, and by 1935, had expanded to 4 dozen stores over a few states.  All of the candy, at the time my sis and I worked there, was made in the factory on Jackson Street, under the el, or elevated train tracks, near downtown Chicago.   Every Friday night the inventory would come to each store and we would have to account for every tray.  We sold many different selections in boxes; some that came pre-packed, but most we packed by hand at the store.  There were charts to follow for each selection, and each piece of candy had to be cupped as well.  The paper cups came in either brown or white, depending on which candy you were working with, and they came in stacks...you would put a stack in one hand, and start pushing them out with your thumb on the other hand, like a card dealer.  In the wintertime, they were deadly.  As you washed your hands many times at the store because you would handle candy and then the cash register (we didn't wear latex gloves in those days), your hands would be dry, and you would get many, many, and many more paper cuts.   There was a confection called Heavenly Hash, which was a combination of whipped light chocolate, marshmallow and pecans, and it came in a half sheet tray and had to be cut into squares, wrapped and priced.  Fannie May made three different kinds of fudge...chocolate, chocolate nut and maple nut.  Each came in a large square and would have to be cut into smaller squares, then cupped for the customer.  Since this particular store was in an outdoor mall (back in the 1960's, many of the malls were outdoors, which was actually nice), we could get quite the business.  When I started, most of the selections which consisted of creams, ran 1.95 per pound.  When I worked a Sunday, which was usually by myself, I would take in 400.00, which at that price per pound, was a lot of candy, and a lot of hard work.  There were times that I would line up a dozen boxes on the counter to pack, but sometimes the best laid plans in trying to pack those 12  boxes went by the wayside, as you would continually get a customer.   And, as it usually worked out, the boxes you were trying to pack in between each customer was just what they wanted, and not only did you not have them finished, once you packed one of those boxes for a customer, you were down a box that you were trying pack for your inventory.  Valentine's Day was my favorite holiday to work.  Fannie May had beautiful satin hearts with a thin layer of stuffing underneath the lid...they had large hearts that held 3 pounds of candy, they had small hearts that held a quarter pound.  The color of the hearts ranged from red to pink to yellow...they were gorgeous!  And, if you were creative, you would pack the inside of the heart and start with the outer rim first, trying your best to evenly arrange the candy so it would look like a reflection of itself on either side.  We had some candies that had beautiful colored shells...caramel bon bons that were white on the outside, apricot bon bons that were bright yellow on the outside, trinidads that were a cream color with toasted coconut on the outside and pink ladies that were pink with coconut on the outside.   We also had wrapped caramels, hostess mints, which were rectangle pieces of candy that had three layers...chocolate, light green in the middle, and chocolate again, all mint flavored, and peppermint ice that was the same shape as the hostess mints, but was white chocolate tinted a light pink and had crushed peppermint in it.  You could pack a truly beautiful heart with all the choices you had.   Easter was another favorite of mine.   We had cream-filled eggs that were to die for...white buttercream, pink buttercream with chopped cherries and walnuts, and chocolate buttercream, as well as chocolate covered marshmallow eggs.  Fannie May's marshmallow was, bar none, the best I ever had.  It wasn't gummy, like some, but had an almost creamy quality about it.  It was fantastic!  There were also solid chocolate bunnies, and the quality of the chocolate used for these was top drawer.  I remember one year while working at Fannie May giving up candy during Lent, which lasts 6 weeks until Easter Sunday.  Talk about difficult...it was so difficult, I blew it the week before Easter...yes, the week before Easter.  I was so mad at myself, that the next year I did it again, and made sure I was on the schedule to work Easter Sunday.  Yes, we were open on Easter Sunday as that was a very busy day for candy sales.  Anyway, that year I made it all the way to the end, and while at work on Easter, decided to go for our biggest solid bunny, which was 15 oz. at the time, and on our highest shelf.  I "accidentally" knocked the box over so it fell on the floor and broke.  Well, can't sell that and yes, I pretty much finished most of it before I finished my shift.  We also had a fudge sale every fall and the factory would deliver pre-poured one pound boxes of all three kinds of fudge.  That stuff flew out the door..we would sell hundreds of pounds.  Some of the other items that we were famous for was our colossal cashews and our bridge mix.   I worked at Fannie May for a total of 4 years.  It was a job that could be very stressful, especially when you were working by yourself.  Even sometimes when my sister and I were working together, we could have 10-15 customers in the store at one time.  I did have a streaker one evening.  I was putting together a box of candy for a customer and a man stood outside the front door, which was all glass, and opened up his rain coat.  I just kept packing the candy as if nothing happened.  Of course, my face gave me away, but by the time I told my customer, the man was gone.  People often commented to me that I probably got sick of eating candy as it was in front of me all the time at the store.  The truth was that because the quality was so high, you never did get tired of it.  And the selection of candy was amazing.  What was my least favorite...chocolate covered orange peel.  What was my favorite...a candy called carmarsh.  It was an oblong piece of candy with marshmallow on the top, caramel on the bottom and covered in dark chocolate.  Sometimes the pieces came to the store and the sides were misshaped, which told me that there was an overrun of caramel on the side, so those were the pieces I always put aside for myself.   That job helped me buy my first car...a 1975 Ford Mustang,  but I earned every penny.  You did more than just sell candy there.  You had to take inventory, pack boxes, take mail orders, make sure all your money balanced at the end of night, clean the store...quite a lot for a 16 year old...but it taught me many things...to be responsible, to be efficient, to be good with the public, but above all, to love sugar even more than I did before I started that job.   Little did I know, though, that all of that would serve me well 40 years later!   Stay tuned the next segment, Boehm's Candies...

Take it from the top clockwise...turtle, dark strawberry cream, light peanut cluster, light chocolate covered cherry, trinidad, dark buttercream and in the center, dark chocolate chocolate buttercream...I still know my stuff!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


My all time favorite at Fannie May...the Carmarsh...fluffy marshmallow on top with soft caramel on the bottom, covered in dark chocolate...



Almost all selections are still cupped, placed in the box, and wrapped by hand...I could tell you every piece in this box, except for the ones that came out after I left...

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