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Easter Then And Now

What is your favorite kind of Easter candy? People must like “peeps” because they recently celebrated a notable anniversary.

One thing I was unable to find this year was the pectin jelly beans. I used to buy the Russell Stover ones, but the stores that had other Stover products did not have jelly beans.

Some of the other companies have begun to make small fruit-flavored jelly beans that are pretty good, but they are not the pectin variety.

When I was young all of the candy I got for Easter came from a small candy shop in town that made everything from scratch. Now that I am grown and know how hard it is to make candy I do not see Mrs. Rapp did it. Her shop was a delight of sweet confections at Easter time. They were a visual delight as well.

She had some shapes that she called French cremes. They were colorful and very creamy. There was no chocolate at all in these. My favorite flavor was cinnamon. You bought these figures by the pound and picked the ones you wanted.

It was the same with the chocolate-covered Easter eggs. Each egg had a colorful flower and some sprinkles. She made large eggs and small ones. The same was true for the all chocolate rabbits and chicks. In Mrs. Rapp’s day white chocolate had not yet come on the scene. She offered only dark and milk chocolate. Even as a child the dark chocolate was always my favorite.

As soon as I had some money of my own I filled baskets for my mother and my grandparents. Of course, I patronized Mrs. Rapp.

One season that I shopped, I was able to drive. I parked the car, grabbed my purse and locked the car door behind me. When I finished picking out all of my goodies I discovered that I did not have the keys. They were safely locked in the car on the seat. I had to call my mother at work. Somehow she got a set of keys to me so I could drive home. There was no Easter secret that year.

Mrs. Rapp ran her candy shop until the late 1960s or early 1970s. My mom filled baskets for my children with the candy that I grew up with. It was a sad day when Mrs. Rapp gave up making candy. She did not sell the business. She just closed the doors.

Easter was never the same for me after that. I had to buy the old standards that the companies disguised as Easter candy in pastel wrappers. That was when I decided to try my hand at making my own candy. I found a recipe for fondant that you cooked and shaped. I used many flavors to make my eggs. I did that for many years.

My mother-in-law also made Easter eggs. Her eggs were the fruit and nut variety. They were good, but they were awfully sweet. The year we got married my mother-in-law got out her eggs to share when I brought my friends over to see where the rehearsal dinner would be. She had all of the candy in a box like you got from a clothing store. When she turned, the box shifted, and a bunch of the eggs fell on the floor. She was so embarrassed. She hated to throw away all of her hard work.

Hiding the baskets was half the fun. In our first year at Hickory Heights finding a place to hide things was a challenge. We had little furniture in those days.

One year when we were attending the Gouldtown Community Church we had an interesting egg hunt. My mother and I hid the eggs while the children practiced. It was a very warm day. Before the children got to the hunt, the candy melted. We instructed the children not to unwrap anything.

Family celebrations always included an egg hunt. We even hunted eggs in the snow. One year part way through the summer I found a couple eggs that had been left behind. The lawnmower had spit them out as it passed by.

The year my husband and I married Easter was the day after our wedding. Unlike this year with everything buried in snow the day was warm and sunny even though it was an early Easter. Our honeymoon trip consisted of a ride up Route 62 to Hamburg, then a trip back around the Kinzua Dam. On our way around the dam we stopped at one of the lookouts. My cousin and some friends were there, too, so we visited with them. We both had to go to work the next day so an Easter dinner was the best we could do.

Although I focused on the secular things for this piece, they took a back seat to the religious aspects of Easter. We attended the weekly services besides the Sunday service. One year I persuaded my mother to take me to the sunrise service at the local football field. I remember it was cold, but it was so impressive with the sun just peaking over the horizon.

At church the day was a celebration. There was an abundance of flowers and there was familiar music. The big cross that decorated the sanctuary was now draped in white to remind everyone that Jesus triumphed over death. He was dead, but now he was alive once again.

The Sunday school put on an Easter program following the service. Everyone enjoyed watching the young ones sing and recite their poems. Sometimes a play was involved. Whatever the children did it was fun for the rest of us.

May you experience the joy of the season and revel in the resurrection from the dead that ensures us that our sins are forgiven. Make church a part of your Easter tradition. It is, after all, a religious holiday.

Happy Easter to all.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.