Have you ever given half a shit for Lufkin, Texas? I’m sure they’re lovely people there. Don’t get me wrong. But have you even heard of Lufkin? With a population hovering in the mid 30,000’s according to recent census reports, it’s kind of a small place. They have a little bit of industry, including the poultry processing powerhouse of Pilgrim’s Pride (which is ironic in a way I’ll touch on later), and they’re also the nation’s leading supplier of creosote-soaked utility poles. And then there is little ol’ Atkinson Candy Company, operating out of a 100,000 square foot facility built in early 1960’s. The company has been around for longer than that, however, founded during the Great Depression in Lufkin by a husband and wife after he was laid off from the foundry.
Enter the delightfully different Chick-O-Stick, named (or so legend will have you believe), because of it’s resemblance to fried chicken. The early packaging even had a chicken with a cowboy hat and the Atkinson logo worn like a badge. See, told you that Pilgrim’s Pride thing would come back, didn’t I? At first glance, to me anyway, it brings to mind Ben Grim, The Thing, from the Marvel comic Fantastic Four – orange, possibly inedible.
But there’s no chicken in Chick-O-Stick. No, imagine the core of a Butterfinger, but thinner and rolled in ground coconut. That’s a Chick-O-Stick: a flaky, crunchy morsel of nutty sweetness. The only other candy out there like it is the Zagnut (a full sized bar that passed through many hands before ending up at Hershey where it retains a niche status due to uneven distribution). The Chick-O-Stick comes in a variety of sizes, even little bite-sized pieces that come individually wrapped in bags distributed by Sathers in the 2/$1.00 or 59 cents each model. It doesn’t matter the size. This is a sublime, crumbly mouthful of goodness.
Now here’s the strange thing…at least for me. I don’t remember my introduction to the Chick-O-Stick. I don’t have any specific memories around them. They were just there, always available at the local Circle-K down the street. I know they must have stood out visually, since they weren’t wrapped in those opaque cellophane wrappers like candy bars, or in boxes like Hot Tamales or Junior Mints. The wrapping is clear, displaying the weird, mummy-finger candy plainly. And even as a kid, I was drawn to the weird. And let’s face it, kids aren’t that discriminating. Candy is candy, sugar is sugar. Unless it has some strong, weird flavor like black licorice or the bitterness of Hershey’s Special Dark, most kids would suck down anything marketed at candy. And I happened to like the black licorice and dark chocolate (and this will be the subject of separate post down the road).
And the Chick-O-Stick is crunchy with a hint of saltiness from the peanut butter. Something about that hint of salty with my sweet is a continuing factor on my candy choices. And the ground coconut is fine enough that you get the flavor and a hit of the texture without that sensation of chewing sweet wood pulp. All things considered, that makes this little Texan treasure A-Ok in my book. And it’s at least one reason to give half a shit for Lufkin.