Five Below Finds #1: The Endurance Test of the 90s

I love Five Below. There's no reason to even mince words there. What I love about it is that they have a great revolving door of inventory and none of it more than $5. It's like an upscale dollar store except, you know, with stuff that you would actually want. Every time I go in there, my eyes fall on something new, something that I'd never seen before, like the Ninjabread Cookie Kit that I got around Christmas time. I buy so much interesting crap from there that I can start a new feature here at Caution: Idiot At Play showcasing all of that stuff. In fact, that's actually a pretty good idea!

You can tell it's Easter because of the hipster chicks.
When I walked into my North Brunswick Five Below this part weekend, the first thing I spotted was the Easter setup in the front of the store. With Easter just about a month away, they're making a hard push to sell all of the essential basket stuffers like Peeps, Cadbury Creme Eggs and Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs. But what really caught my eye was down at the side, next to the Edible Easter Grass, segregated in tiny little buckets of like-minded candies. No, it wasn't the Smarties or the Sweet-Tarts. What I found was much, much better.

Atomic Fireballs and Cry Babies.

They're like tiny bags of memories.
If the majority of your childhood took place in the 90s like mine did, then you no doubt remember Atomic Fireballs and Cry Babies. These candies were everywhere in middle school. Seriously, they were pretty much the currency of the school yard. There wasn't any trouble you got into that you couldn't buy your way out of with a handful of Cry Babies.

Now, the Atomic Fireball far predates their wave of popularity in the 1990s. They were originally created by Ferrara Pan in the 1950s. It's basically a cinnamon-flavored jawbreaker but, true to its name, the cinnamon flavor is so intense that once you start sucking on it, it starts to burn your mouth. Cinnamon candy is kind of an acquired taste, mostly because of the burn associated with the flavor. Atomic Fireballs aren't the only cinnamon candy on the market but they are my favorite, if only for the nostalgia.

Cry Babies had themselves a different kind of burn. Made by Dubble Bubble, Cry Babies are a super sour gum that make you pucker as soon as they hit your tongue. Usually the sour part gets diluted once you start chewing the gum but you were usually so distracted by the pain to think about that. They come in a variety of flavors like...well, red, blue, green, yellow and orange. Yes, I know those are colors and not flavors but the gum is so intensely sour that the flavor is irrelevant. Cry Babies are similar to Fireballs in the sense that both of them really do a number on your mouth.

So why would a bunch of 12-year-olds want to deal in a candy that numbs their taste buds?

It became a sort of endurance test. Kids would dare each other to pop two or three candies at once and whoever could stand the pain the longest would win. I tried it a few times, with mostly mild success. But if you knew a kid that could kill three Fireballs at a time, beating out everyone else in the class, then you didn't mess with them. Even though the ability to stand having your mouth feel like you've lit an entire box of matches at once in it doesn't necessarily translate into physical prowess, you still knew better than to give that kid shit. You owed them that respect.

And let's not forget the kids with the entrepreneurial spirit who traded in candy. These are the kids that would convince their parents to buy them the big bag or even a tub of the single serve balls and take them to school to sell them for 25 cents apiece. Those kids would make a killing with how everyone fiended for Fireballs and Cry Babies.

So if you were a 90s kid like me and want to relive the burn you remember from Atomic Fireballs and Cry Babies, get yourself to Five Below. Not only do they have the definitive candies of your adolescence but they're only 10 cents a piece. Yeah, the price actually went down after 20 years, or least it compared to those soul-sucking, rip-off artists on the playground.

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