Spangles

Their name was evocative of bright lights, bewitching dazzles of sparkle on tulle, glitter under the chandeliers as you drank your champagne. Items that were in short supply when these sweets were launched in 1948, the same year that George Orwell looked into the future and saw nothing but a grim dystopia. Champagne, shoulder pads and sugar were perhaps in overabundance when the confectionery giant Mars discontinued the spangles in — naturally — 1984.

Spangles were square boiled sweets with rounded edges and a dimple in the middle. That was all there was to it, really. As you sucked their translucence into nothingness, they briefly became a square with a little hole in the middle where the dimple used to be. You could stick your tongue through it. That was as exciting as sweets got in 1948.

Spangles were born in a Britain still on the ration book after the second world war. The de-rationing of sweets didn’t happen until 1953.

Crucially, Spangles became popular as you only needed one ration token instead of two to buy them.

Spangles meant a lot in a sugar-starved world.

Over the years, various flavours of Spangle came and went: blackcurrant, strawberry, tangerine, cola, barley sugar. For a while, we had “Old English” Spangles, with the flavours of even older traditional boiled sweets such as pear drops and mint humbugs.

Then they went away. Not enough sales. We could get our sugar elsewhere, and none of it was rationed.

The memory of Spangles became a barometer of nostalgia in millennial Britain. The Telegraph opined that comedian Peter Kay could get an entire hour’s worth of material just from asking, “Who remembers Spangles?”

Enough of us did for Mars to briefly resurrect them for a nostalgia-fuelled reprise-experiment in 1995 in Woolworth’s (remember Woolworth’s?). Then they went away again.

I don’t think they’ll be back, no matter how many petitions we sign. Bottom lines rule. Not nostalgia.

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