Answer Man: What famous candy was made in Southern Illinois?

News-DemocratApril 24, 2013 

Q. I remember a candy factory in Southern Illinois in the 1950s and '60s, but I have a friend raised around Benton who says he doesn't remember it. Who's right? (We remember the Nestle's in Granite City.)

-- Lionel Woolfork, of Venice

A. I have not one, but two possibilities that might satisfy your memory's sweet tooth.

On Jan. 7, 1914, the Heath brothers opened a confectionery in downtown Robinson, which is southeast of Effingham near the Indiana border. They became so popular selling their fountain drinks and homemade candies that salesmen from all over the Midwest would stop by during their travels.

Eventually one of those salesmen shared a recipe for Trail-Toffee from some Greek candy makers in Champaign. If you're familiar with candy, you probably can guess the rest. For months, the Heaths toyed with the recipe until, in 1928, they declared their Heath "English toffee" to be "America's finest."

America agreed. Even during the Depression, the Heaths' new toffee bar flourished and, during World War II, it gained an international foothold. Even after the family sold out to Leaf Inc., in 1989, Leaf expanded the Robinson plant by 234,000 square feet and added 300 employees the very next year. In 1997, Leaf was acquired by Hershey Foods.

But now I have to tie in a tale that doesn't end as sweetly. In 1938, folks in Centralia starting singing "Hooray for Hollywood!" when Frank Martoccio moved the operations of his Hollywood Candy Co. to this Southern Illinois town of 13,000.

For more than 50 years, the company would satisfy the nation's candy cravings for such favorites as Payday, Milkshake and the eponymous Hollywood bar.

But the Martoccios sold out to Consolidated Foods (Sara Lee) in 1967, and the plant was damaged by fire in 1980. Production eventually resumed until 1996, when Leaf acquired the plant and moved its operations to -- guess where? -- Robinson. Centralia lost its Payday (in more ways than one) and the remaining Hollywood brands are now in the Hershey fold.

I hope one of these companies is the one you're trying to remember.

Q. I have two Bibles that belonged to my mother. She died three years ago at 93, and I would like to have them repaired. Are there any bookbinders locally? I also have a dining room chair that my mother purchased about 1950 and a leg was broken in shipment. I just want to have a complete set.

-- G.J., of O'Fallon

A. I'd waste no time booking an appointment with Mary Henry at the Book Bindery in Belleville, who gets business from around the world even though her shop apparently still flies under the radar here.

She's been around bookbinding ever since she was adopted at age 10 in 1960 by a couple who began Commercial Bookbindery here in the 1940s. So if you're edgy about entrusting her with family heirlooms, don't be. Her years of meticulous work have included restoring a 400-year-old copy of "McKay on (the Gospel of) Matthew" for William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.

She also once spent two years restoring a 1562 Calvin Bible at a cost of $4,000. But you likely won't need a second mortgage for your task. If possible, she will try to simply restore your Bibles for about $20 each. If necessary, she will rebind them for $35 each, although prices may vary depending on the work and materials needed. She's easily found at 1325 Commercial (just west of 161 and Lebanon Avenue), so give her a call at 233-4030.

As for your damaged chair, I suggest looking under "Furniture Repair & Refinish" in the Yellow Pages. I can't personally recommend any, but Illinois Refinishing in Belleville (233-4003), which has been in business for 65 years, looks as though they could do your mother proud.

Today's trivia

What was unusual about Arvind Pandya's trip from Los Angeles to New York in 1984?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: It bore little resemblance to what we cheer on today at Busch Stadium, but on July 1, 1859, Amherst College overcame an early 9-2 deficit to slaughter Williams College 73-32 in what is often regarded as the first intercollegiate baseball game. Played on a square, not diamond-shaped, field, the pitcher stood 35 feet from the batter, who did not stand at home plate but instead was only 30 feet from first base. Bases were just 60 feet apart, any ball hit was fair no matter where it landed and there was only one out per inning. Outs were made by either catching the ball on the fly -- or hitting the runner with a thrown ball as he made his way to a base. And here's the clincher: Each team was allowed to use its own ball. Amherst's was 6 inches around and weighed 2 ounces while Williams' was 7 inches around and intentionally covered in leather of a pale color that reportedly was hard to see. For more details, go to athletics.williams.edu/sports/bsb.

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or rschlueter@bnd.com or call 239-2465.

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