How Google saved Valentine's Day

Categories: Cafe Society
candy hearts.jpg

I'm a fan of Valentine's Day. But not because of any love stuff.

It's because of conversation hearts, those super-sweet wafer-y candies with the fun sayings like "Mad 4 U" and "Lover Boy." I'm also a fan of Halloween because of candy corn and of Fourth of July because of Cool Whip.

But this morning I had a conversation-heart scare. When I dumped my bag of hearts onto a discarded press release at about 10 a.m. (what, like you never eat candy in semi-unsanitary ways at your desk before lunch?), I noticed a startling omission. While there were hearts that said, "Soul Mate," "XOXO" and "Too Hot," the best saying of all -- "Fax Me" -- was missing.

Somebody call Nancy Drew.

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I jumped on Google and typed in, "fax me conversation hearts," expecting to find a blog where weirdos like me were bemoaning the loss of the most out-of-date, funniest-to-picture and least-sexy conversation heart of all time, shaking their fists at the oppressive candy magnates. But instead I found that, horrors!, I'd been eating the wrong brand of conversation hearts.

Turns out that Necco is the company that makes the "Fax Me" hearts. The only company. They're also the inventor of the conversation heart, which dates back to 1902. The brand I had been eating, Brach's, got into the heart game later. To make matters worse, judging by my limited research, none of the Brach's sayings have anything to do with faxing.

If there's a silver lining to this confectionary catastrophe, it's that the Necco website, where I went to solve this mystery, is full of fun facts and bold statements, such as this one: "From old tech, 'Call Me,' to new tech, 'Email Me,' Sweethearts (which is Necco's brand name for its talkative candy) keep the pulse on the heartbeat of the nation." True that, Necco.

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Here are some other fun Sweethearts facts:

1. The first popular word-y candies were known as "cockles." That's right: cockles. Necco describes them as "small crisp candy made of sugar and flour formed in the shape of a cockle or scallop shell." These candies had "mottoes" printed on paper rolled up inside of them.

2. Necco began printing sayings directly on candy in the 1860s. Marketed to grownups, they even had "wedding-day lozenges" with somewhat naughty, somewhat mean sayings such as, "Married in pink, He will take to drink" and "Married in satin, Love will not be lasting."

3. In 1902, Necco made "conversation mottoes" in different shapes, including baseballs, horseshoes and watches. Who would want to eat a watch? And what would it say? "It's 12:30!"

4. In the 1990s, Necco vice president Walter Marshall decided to give Sweethearts a hipness makeover. The first new saying he came up with was "Fax Me," which is how people said "I love you" in the '90s. Had it been a century earlier, he probably would have gone with "Morse Code Me."

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