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Candy Land is a celebration of childhood fantasy

By Toni Russo
Special to the Economist
SOLON– The chocolate leaves are falling from the lollipop tree. An icing wind blows down from the Gum Drop Mountains and covers the roof of the gingerbread house with pink frosting. In the Molasses Swamp, the pecan turtles and jelly sugar fish hide behind tall stalks of caramel slow pokes. The gingerbread children are at the crooked old peanut brittle house, and the game begins.
The Solon Public Library has a new display for the holidays– a spun sugar fantasy of gingerbread, lollipops and gum drops, complete with a chocolate bonbon tree and a molasses swamp. The display is modeled after one of the most popular board games of all time. The original Candy Land, which appeared in 1949, became a toy icon along with other post-war games like Cootie, Clue and Scrabble.
Board games were historically games of strategy and war, played by men. In the mid-1800s they evolved into games appealing to women and children, largely with a moral message.
Chinese Checkers was popular throughout the Depression, along side board games about money and property, like Monopoly. During the war period, many common toys, like bikes, were unavailable due to shortages to support the war effort, but the board games remained in great supply.
In 1949, Milton Bradley’s Candy Land, with its colorful board of assorted candies, appeared on the market. To this day, it remains as one of the most cherished of childhood games.
A California woman, Eleanor Abbott, was recovering from polio in the 1940s and wanted to help children with the disease to feel better. She gave her idea to Milton Bradley, who sold the first game for $1. His ads for Candy Land targeted the “sweet tooth yearning for the younger set without the tummy ache after effects.”
The Solon Library display has a special addition– authentic gingerbread houses for the Crooked Old Peanut Brittle House and Home Sweet Home. Solon’s Mark Mueller, who is known for his spectacular entries in previous library gingerbread house contests, has made these houses for the display.
Candy Land is dedicated to Grammy’s Store, the beloved antique second hand store in Iowa City. Operated for almost two decades by owner Peggy Schroder and her family, the store closed in June 2008. The giant Santa head welcoming visitors to the Friends’ Holiday Sale is a Granny’s icon.
Candy Land is a celebration of childhood fantasy. The Solon library display team wishes everyone a happy holiday and “visions of sugar plums” in their dreams.
The display will run from Dec. 3 until Jan. 14, 2012.