After watching Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as a child, I thought nothing would be cooler than making candy. To be surrounded by all of that chocolate seemed like a dream come true.
So when I got the chance to work at Purity Candy, 18047 US Route 15, Allenwood, I took advantage of it. What better time to do it than before Valentine's Day? Even though February had just begun, the employees already were gearing up for Easter. There were no geese laying golden eggs though.
My experiences helping out became more like when Lucy and Ethel worked at the candy factory in I Love Lucy. The unwrapped candies kept coming down the conveyor belt so fast that they had to stuff the candies in their mouths, hats and shirts so that none passed them.
Above, Sun-Gazette reporter and “Messy Business” columnist Alyssa Murphy, middle, helps candy makers Kim Long with making cinnamon heart pops at the Purity candy factory in Allenwood.
Now don't worry. I didn't do anything like that. The very helpful employees picked up my slack during my different tasks.
My first job was where I kept falling behind. Since some of the chocolate-covered candies look the same, I had to mark the vanilla butter creams with a little line. Dip a gloved finger in the chocolate, lift the finger and drizzle the lifted chocolate to the other side of the candy.
Either my line was not long enough or I just could not keep up with the treats, but the tiny eggs kept coming down the belt. Luckily, Rhonda Hornberger, manager, was there to get me ahead so I could fall behind again a few minutes later.
When I finished that, I was handed a knife and told to cut off the excess chocolate from an egg to make it smooth before it was covered in chocolate again.
Chocolate is tough.
I kept getting my knife stuck in the chocolate as I moved my hand away, weary of cutting myself since I am so accident-prone.
By this time, I had melted chocolate covering my arms and chocolate flakes covering my hands.
Next, I saw how lollipops are made. I never saw how it was done as a child, but it is very labor intensive. The liquid material hardens on a marble table and is stretched, colored and cut to form the Valentine's Day wintergreen heart pops.
My task was to fold the form and put a stick inside it before it hardened. The lollipops were warm even through my cloth glove. Then like a bartender in a movie with a mug of beer, I slid the lollipops across the table to later be packaged.
At the very end, they let me do the best part of candy making - the decorating.
I previously have never done much food decorating. I probably never did more than throwing some sprinkles on brownies or ice cream, so when I was given a tube of icing and told to make green squiggles for grass, well, it did not look too good.
The icing barely squeezed out because I was too afraid that if I did it too hard I would get icing everywhere. Covered in chocolate is one thing. Covered in icing is quite another.
Working in a candy factory was everything I ever imagined as a child. The large room smelled amazing. There was chocolate everything. Sure, there were no Oompa Loompas, but their singing probably would have distracted me even more.