Without doubt the most enticing part of my occasional visits to my grandparents’ home was the box of Hershey candy bars Grandpa had stashed under some papers in the middle drawer of his roll top desk.
Grandpa (E.C., as he was known near and far) was an old man, at least 70. Because of his advanced age he kept his daily routine to a morning four block stroll up town and back and an afternoon walk of the same distance. Apart from those two ventures, he could always be found in his den pouring over printed matter. His crown of snow white hair sitting on his wrinkled but kindly face was a pleasing sight. Forty years of railroading had taken its toll on his body, but not his mind. He constantly had a book in hand.
Not the sort of individual who indulged in many vices, E.C. was smitten by his love of chocolate. Like many men in the late 1940s, he had been a smoker, but remedied that habit by switching from cigars to candy bars. The new vice had met the whole-hearted approval of his 9-year-old grandson.
For an hour or so on many afternoons as E.C. read aloud tales of bravery and daring, I sat at his side consuming a large part of his cache. It seemed to have been a bottomless box, because each time I arrived it was always full.
Those memories came rushing back recently as I read the headline on an internet news site. It claimed the world will run out of chocolate by 2020. The account goes on to state cocoa beans, the chief ingredient in chocolate, are becoming increasingly scarce, and demand will soon out production. Eventually real chocolate will become a luxury item.
With that news slowly sinking into my cluttered mind, I rushed to purchase a box of Hershey chocolate bars of my very own. Later, as empty candy bar wrappers cluttered the floor around my desk, I realized I had probably paid more for that box than my grandpa had invested in a year’s supply.
Not being much of a chocolate consumer these days, I decided to do a little research. I found the results of that investigation eye-opening.
The Hershey chocolate bar was first introduced to the American public in 1894 and sold for 5-cents a bar. The price of a Hershey bar remained the same through 1969 – 5-cents. Of course, that price has now steadily increased over the years
Hershey bars were an important part of the war effort during World War I and World War II. More than a billion bars were provided to the troops as part of "K" rations. On another front, Hershey’s machine shop produced parts for anti-aircraft guns.
Today, Hershey produces more than 80 products that are sold in more than 70 countries. Hard to believe that in just seven years they’ll run out of chocolate. At least that’s what the internet says.
(Ed Rood is the former publisher of the Tri-County Times. He lives near Cambridge.)