I confess: I was a sugar addict when I was in grade school. Yes, I consumed large quantities of refined sugar in all forms. I remember that both my mother and grandmother baked chocolate cakes, angel food cakes, cupcakes, cookies, fudge and all kinds of pies. How could I resist?
I remember one time I ate half a box of Fannie May chocolates and washed them down with a bottle of coke. Each morning I would eat sugar-coated cereal, and if that wasn’t enough sugar, I would add a teaspoon of sugar to the bowl.
Many times after school I would buy two or three donuts at Pigney’s Bakery on Chicago Avenue and gobble them down on the way home. Pigney’s was about five blocks west of Holmes School, and I lived east of Holmes, so I went out of my way to satisfy my sugar urge.
Sometimes, too, I would walk to Zehender’s Pharmacy, which was three blocks west of the school and get my sugar fix by eating a dish of ice cream. I supported my habit by using both my 50-cent-per-week allowance and the money I earned from shoveling snow, raking leaves and mowing lawns. I believed that eating and drinking sugar-loaded products was a reward for my labors.
I imagine you’re thinking I was terribly overweight. Actually, I was not. The reason is because I played sports each day and did a great deal of outdoor physical work. When I graduated from Holmes School, I was 5-foot-7 and weighed 115 pounds. I actually looked undernourished.
When I started high school, I finally realized I had to stop gorging on sweets. I was not ill, but my teeth were in terrible shape. By the time I was 14, half of my teeth had been filled by Dr. Wirth. I had so many metal fillings that I would not go outside if I saw a bolt of lightning. I hated the constant dental visits and the pain of having my teeth filled.
Quitting my addiction was difficult. I thought I would go crazy without my daily fix, but I knew that I would have to grin and bear it. After a few weeks it got better. I substituted fruits for refined sugar products. It worked. Both will power, and the thought of the dentist’s drill really did the trick.
Over the years, I have done my best not to succumb to my old addiction, so I have become a selective consumer of sweets.
By that I mean I will eat a slice of birthday cake, and I will have an occasional bowl of ice cream, but at other times, I will decline to eat sweets.
I am positive that if I returned to my life of sugar addiction, I would have clogged arteries and every other malady that can come from out-of-control consumption of sugary products.
Suprisingly, except for four “wisdoms,” I still have all of my teeth.
John Stanger is a lifelong resident of Oak Park, a 1957 graduate of OPRF High School, married with three grown children and five grandchildren, and a retired English professor (Elmhurst College). Living two miles from where he grew up, he hasn’t gotten far in 78 years.