Do You Remember Choo Choo Charlie?

I know black licorice isn't for everyone, but I love it. I'm happy with plain old black licorice, but what I really love is Good & Plenty candy. You get the hard candy shell for some crunch and chewy black licorice on the inside for a perfectly balanced candy. Even if you aren't a Good & Plenty fan, you know the box the candy comes in. You might also remember the vintage advertising for the candy that featured Choo Choo Charlie, one of the best candy mascots ever.

Good & Plenty is truly an old-fashioned candy. In fact, it's thought to the oldest branded candy in the United States. First appearing in 1893, it was made by the Quaker City Confectionery Company in Philadelphia. While the candy chugged along, it wasn't until the 1950s that it gained its memorable mascot.

Lester Rosskam came home from World War II to join the family candy business. Realizing the growing power of television, he helped create the Choo Choo Charlie advertising campaign in 1950. The iconic mascot was based on a college football player Rosskam actually knew. Choo Choo Charlie was a train engineer with a blue and white striped conductor's hat that powered his locomotive with a box of Good & Plenty licorice candy.

Beginning around 1950, a cartoon character named "Choo-Choo Charlie" appeared in Good & Plenty television commercials. Choo-Choo Charlie was a boy pretending to be a railroad engineer. He would shake a box of the candy in his hand in a circular motion, imitating a train's pushrods and making a sound like a train. You can imagine the sound of an old train with the candy sliding around in the box, right? Advertising executive Russ Alben wrote the "Choo-Choo Charlie" jingle based on the popular song "The Ballad of Casey Jones".

But Choo Choo Charlie was more than a visual image; what you might remember most is the jingle that went along with the mascot.

"Once upon a time there was an engineer,

Choo-Choo Charlie was his name we hear.

He had an engine and it sure was fun,

He used Good & Plenty candy, to make his train run.

Charlie says, 'Love my Good & Plenty!'

Charlie says, 'Really rings the bell!'

Charlie says, 'Love my Good & Plenty!'

Don't know any other candy, that I love so well!'"

Advertising executive Bernard Russ Alben wrote the wildly popular jingle, basing it on "The Ballad of Casey Jones," a popular song about a real-life train engineer, Casey Jones, who died in 1900 saving people during a train collision.

The jingle was so popular that Choo Choo Charlie started showing up in board games and comic books. It stuck in the minds of kids (and adults); in fact, there's a great tribute video from the 1980s that honors the jingle.

There's even a children's book about him, "Charlie the Choo Choo," by Beryl Evans (who's actually Stephen King's pseudonym). And nowadays, Choo Choo Charles is an open-world indie horror game from the developer Two Star Games.

Good & Plenty is still a well-known candy today and can be found on Amazon for accessibility, even if it mostly shows up on the list for Worst Halloween Candy every year (which is fine, that means more for me). If you haven't tried the candy in a while, and you can't wait for National Good and Plenty Day on October 24, grab a box and shake it in honor of Choo Choo Charlie today.

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This post was originally published on November 2, 2020.