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10 August 2016

Mother of mercy, is this the end of Milk Duds?

MilkDuds320
(Courtesy: google.com)

The temperature was pushing triple digits as I drove across town around noon, weaving in and out of traffic, heading for the local movie art house.

It was hot enough to fry an egg on a shrinking block of melting ice, but I didn't care.  I had one thing on my mind:

Milk Duds.

We go back a long way, those unfortunately colored morsels of caramel covered in light-brown chocolate.  I grabbed a box of Duds on my way into the darkened abyss of a Harlingen, Texas movie theater to review my first film as a professional critic in 1980.

I wore blue jeans and a pullover shirt.  The now classic comedy spoof Airplane! -- enjoyed with a pinched glob of Milk Duds between my cheek and gums -- wore me out.  I didn't really even need to take my used Fiat X-19 back to the office of the Valley Morning Star newspaper.  I could have sprinted the mile or so back.  I was floating on an explosion of double ecstasy.  Not the drug, but that rare, and, frankly, never matched combination of sugar high and cinematic glee.

So that was it.  From then on, whether I was was about to review a movie in Harlingen, San Antonio, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, Toronto, Paris, London or Cannes, a box of Milk Duds and my pocket-sized notebook always came along for the ride when possible.

Oh, we've had our spats.  I was still finding my voice as a budding critic in Harlingen in the early '80s when I noticed that the number of Milk Duds in the familiar yellow box seemed to have decreased in number.  This came not only as a shock to me, but imagine how terrified dentists all across our great nation must have been.

Do the math and it comes out something like this:  Fewer gooey globs of filling-rattling and cap-loosening Milk Duds for me and you, about a 30 percent drop in run-in (teary-eyed) business for dentists too smart to ever even touch the stuff themselves.

You know what nine out of 10 dentists do at the movies when the lights go down?  They floss.  That's right, listen closely when the sound pauses on the screen.  You'll hear mint-flavored plastic string swishing back and forth, back and forth.  It's faint, but it is there.

So while other crusading journalists were digging in to investigate and shine a journalistic light on the Savings and Loan Scandal of the 1980s, I got on the phone to talk to someone at D.L. Clark, the candy company that gobbled up Holloway and was supplying all those needing a Milk Duds fix at the time, long before Hershey took over.

I forget exactly what the sweet-voiced young woman from marketing said, but it was something like, "Oh no, there's still the same amount of Milk Duds in the box, we just enlarged the size of the box a bit."  To give the little chewy critters room to breathe, I suppose.

It was not the Great Milk Duds Scandal of the Early '80s that caused my painful split with my ever-faithful movie companion, though, it was this phrase spoken by the kid behind the concessions counter at a trendy movie house in Plano, just north of Dallas.  He responded to my request for a box of Duds by saying, "That will be $4.25."

It might as well have been the sudden appearance of the Berlin Wall between me and him, or the fence dividing North and South Korea or  Col. William Travis drawing the line in the sand at the Alamo.

"You're kidding, right?"

That's all I could say.  My long partnership, relationship, dependency, craving, dentist-supporting love of Mild Duds ended right there, probably about eight years ago.

I stood my ground, too, substituting Whoppers or whatever was available for years, until a sudden craving took over as I motored around the loop to San Antonio's art house, The Bijou, a couple weeks ago.

I have no idea what set it off, except that I longed to heal old wounds and make it right with Milk Duds and that sweet-voiced marketing lady before it was too late, but mostly to get that sudden sugar rush missing from my life for so long.

But, my friends, it was already too late.  When I got to the front of the line at the concession stand where I must have purchased a thousand or more boxes of Milk Duds over my movie-reviewing career and asked, almost feverishly, for my old caramel and chocolate pals in the yellow box, I was greeted with a blank look on the guy's face and a, "You want what?  Oh, we don't have those anymore."

I could buy a salad, or a gourmet coffee or a slice of chocolate cake with even more chocolate swirled on top, but I could not buy a box of Milk Duds at this movie theater.

I make my living speaking, but all I could manage out of my mouth was, "You're kidding, right?"

Forgive me, all the folks trying to make a living in Hershey, Pa.

I fear I have single-handedly killed the Dud .

 

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