Saturday, March 3, 2012

Gum Balls and Candy Necklaces: Triggering Memories From Childhood

It looks like there's hundreds of them.  Pretty little prizes in cute, little, clear containers. I put in my quarter, and down one goes.  I open the slot and take out my prize.  I start ripping it open, I can hardly wait to see what's inside. I hope it's a ring, I hope, I hope, I hope.   Yes! It's a beautiful, shiny ring.  Just what I was hoping for.

Remember those gumball and prize machines from our childhood?  I remember asking my mom for quarters to get a prize and the thrill of finding  a ring inside of the tiny plastic container.  You would have thought those rings were valuable jewels. So funny... childhood memories.  I wrote this for my Facebook status this morning.  My phone was handy and my computer was at home.  My plan was to use this as the theme for my Slice Of Life Story.

A friend commented, "We won't talk about the candy rings and the candy necklaces..."

My response was, " I loved those candy necklaces!"

A second friend commented, "I remember wearing my candy necklace to bed and waking up with it stuck to me and having candy bead stains all around my neck!"

A third friend commented, "Those machines are how I convinced my daughter that she really should actually do her 3rd grade MEAP tests.  After 1 day of her sitting and not picking up a pencil for 45 minutes and then going home "sick", I told her I'd give her lots of quarters and  drive her around to her favorite "machines" to buy prizes if she actually did the rest of the MEAP tests.  She loved those valuable jewels too, Val!  I was grateful for those machines during her MEAP weeks  that year!"

My response was, "That would have motivated me too.  Ha ha.  We should get Chris (Chris is a teacher in our building who buys pencil machines loaded with holiday pencils that the kiddos love to purchase.) to buy some prize machines for the school.  Our students would love it!"

My daughter loves to hear stories about my childhood.  Sometimes new ones are difficult to conjure up.  Usually, something else triggers one of these stories.  She had asked me about the first boy I liked.  I told her he was in my 3rd grade classroom and had given me one of those rings you get from a gum ball machine.  That's all it took to trigger those childhood memories of those amazingly enticing machines.

I'm starting to get a sense of how difficult it is for my students to conjure up ideas for new stories.  Perhaps they need a trigger too.  We've been using our Topic Grids to effectively come up with new stories.  Yet, it's amazing how one story often triggers another, and another.  Providing students with the opportunity to share their stories with peers is a vital component of our writing community and one I will not take for granted.


  1. Valerie,
    Slicing is definitely making me aware of how hard it is to come up with an idea. It's also making me realize that even once you have an idea it takes a bit to figure out what that idea will look like on paper.

    Your post definitely triggered a zillion memories for me. I remember getting things from these machines and hoping I was going to like it. I remember I rarely got the item I had hoped to get. My husband tells stories of saving his lunch money so he could get all of the helmets in a plastic helmet football series. Oh, the memories. Thanks for making me smile this evening.


  2. Hi Cathy,
    I had forgotten about the helmets until I read your post. I remember not wanting to get one of those:) Thanks for sharing that memory, it really made me laugh. Slicing is not as easy as it sounds. I'm sure the benefits will make it all worthwhile. Your comment was one of them. Thanks:)

  3. My word, how awesome that your facebook status triggered such a response - what a great idea that I'll have to use myself! Yes, it is harder than I thought to think of something worth committing time to every single day, but I love how we're all on this journey together, standing by and triggering ideas for each other. Thanks for the gumball machine memories!

    1. Thanks for the comments, Wendi. This is a journey, isn't it? I'm starting to experience the benefits already. A little discomfort is a small price to pay.

  4. What a deprived childhood I must have had. We did have gum machines but I don't remember prize machines existing when I was a child. I probably pre-date them. :)

    We did have gum machines and, for a penny (Australia's pre-decimal currency penny) I could get a small pack of gum knowing that about one if five or six would be a special fruity flavoured pack.

    We didn't have candy necklaces as I remember but, again, for a penny we could get a small pack of candy containing pieces only about 1/4" across. If we were careful, the small pack would last a long time.

    The slices of life idea is a great way to keep us thinking. I always enjoyed making up spur of the moment stories for classes and now write perhaps thousands of words a day when commenting on blogs.

    One English training session at one of my schools had many stumped when the leader gave us a topic and asked us to write a story. By the end of the time allowed, only a few had made a start. The leader was emphasising how hard it can be to simply come up with a story when given a topic. Slices of life teaches us the same lesson. :)

    Teacher, NSW, Australia

    1. Hi Ross,
      I remember penny candy. It's too bad kids today can't buy anything for a penny. It really IS hard to come up with a story when given a topic. This challenge is giving me a new appreciation for what my students contend with. I love that you comment on so many blogs. My students love when you stop by our classroom blog. Thanks for sharing your memories with us.