Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Life Savers Building, Port Charles NY

Here's something kind of different! Steve Stuart ("Nanook") put together this little photo essay (with words of course) featuring the factory that made Life Savers candies for so many years. Even today I like Life Savers a lot - I remember messily crunching Wint-O-Green Life Savers in the dark bathroom so that I could see the mysterious sparks that would result ("triboluminescence") in the mirror. I was also particularly fond of the wild cherry and tangerine flavors, and my grandma often had a roll of "Butter Rum" candies in her purse. Here's Steve:


Sometime [I’m guessing] around 1984, and undoubtedly through a Disney connection of some sort, I ended-up meeting someone who had recently been in Port Chester, New York, and took several pictures of the original Life Savers factory, and happily sent me copies of those images of the building’s exterior.

As you are about to see, a part of the rather lovely original architecture of the building (1920) has been decidedly upstaged by five appendages in the form of giant Life Savers rolls.  On the side of the building running parallel to North Main Street, three Life Savers rolls are featured – which appear to be Pep-O-Mint, Orange and [perhaps] Wint-O-Green. 

And on the Horton Avenue side, Wild Cherry & the Five Flavor rolls are strutting their stuff. 

As you can see from this postcard view from around 1939, if compared to the current day view, during 1948-1949 the factory was enlarged along Horton Ave.

And here’s my “translation” of the message written on the reverse-side of the post card:  Print your name for me.  Dear friend.  I reed (sic) card.  Very glad to exchange (?) with you.  Do you like pen pals.  Perhaps we could be good friends.  I will have to send to N.Y. City to get a card with state capitol on it.  I like views and water views.  Sincerely.  Those of us who collect post cards are quite familiar with odd-ball messages, or more commonly – ‘the best laid plans’: messages started, never finished, and never mailed.  As you can see, in this case, the card was successfully mailed to Prospect, Ohio.

As an aside to the factory building itself, here’s a little bit of Life Savers trivia…
The Life Savers factory moved to Holland, MI., around 1984, when they abandoned their original home in Port Chester and in 2002 moved to Montreal, Québec, Canada.  (And at some point in their history, there was also a factory in San Jose, CA.)  I hadn't realized their checkered ownership past, including Beech-Nut (E.R. Squibb); Nabisco; Kraft; and now Wrigley's - which essentially means M&M Mars - as they own Wrigley's.  These days, Life Savers continues to offer their ‘traditional’ flavors in hard candy, but has also added Life Savers Gummies.  Here are some blast-from-the-past flavors:  "Wint-O-Green, Cl-O-Ve, Lic-O-Rice, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-Let, Choc-O-Late, and Malt-O-Milk – not to mention Cola & Musk-!  In 1935, the classic "Five-Flavor" rolls were introduced, offering a selection of five different flavors (pineapple, lime, orange, cherry, and lemon) in each roll.  This flavor lineup was unchanged for nearly 70 years, until 2003, when three of the flavors were replaced in the United States, making the rolls pineapple, cherry, raspberry, watermelon, and blackberry.  However, orange was subsequently reintroduced and blackberry was dropped. (The original five-flavor lineup is still sold in Canada). In the late 1930s and early 1940s, four new mint flavors were introduced: Molas-O-Mint, Spear-O-Mint, Choc-O-Mint and Stik-O-Pep".  Who-O-Knew-??

Following Life Savers move to Michigan, a developer purchased the building and converted it into a 198-unit condominium, re-christened “1 Landmark Square”, and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

And now for something completely different…. apparently on that same trip, our photographer was passing through Hellam Township, Pennsylvania, (very close to York, PA) and happened on Shoe House Road (and why not-?) and this unique roadside attraction.  According to our friends at Wikipedia, The Haines Shoe House was built in 1948 as a form of advertisement by Mahlon Haines, a shoe salesman – often referred to as “The Shoe Wizard”.  The house is 25 feet tall and contains five stories (I guess you have to ‘lower your head and watch your step’ while traipsing-through the house, or not-?), and at one time was rented out to couples.  Presently it’s open for public tours.  Haines had the building built by handing a work boot to an architect saying, “Build me a house like this”.  Geez – the exact same way Walt had Disneyland built-! 

THANK YOU to Steve Stuart for this fascinating side trip down Candy (and shoe) Lane!


TokyoMagic! said...

Well, that was fun! I wonder if the giant rolls of candy found a new home at the new locations. And is the name "Life Savers" still above the doorway of the condominium complex? I couldn't make it out in the "current" pic.

Why on earth would they eliminate the lemon and the lime Life Savers from the original 5 Flavor roll? That's reminds me of when M & M's got rid of the "light brown" M & M's and replaced them with "blue" ones. To me, these are the kind of decisions that "Disney" would make!

K. Martinez said...

Those giant Life Savers rolls are very cool, right down the foil peeling off. The Five Flavor roll was such a classic with it's colorful wrapper. The Wild Cherry two-color roll is pleasing to the eye too. I also like how the candies are coming loose from the Orange flavor roll.

I remember during the holiday season in elementary school there would always be a gift exchange and several students would get one of those Life Saver "books" with the various rolls of Life Savers candy in them. Those seemed to be very popular during the holidays back in the day.

I really enjoyed your article today as well as the essay accompanying it. Nice job. Thanks, Steve.

Unknown said...

Boy, I feel like the guy who never gets a joke: After all of these years I finally realize why Life-Savers was misspelling things like Pep-O-Mint. The "O" represents the candy shape!

Jim Menick said...

I was raised in Port Chester. In the 50s, the smell of butter rum candies filled the entire town, usually on Fridays, if I remember correctly. Life Savers were our village's major claim to fame.

Anonymous said...

I love the "Oldenburg" sculptures, that's a great idea. This is a fun post, Major. Thanks to Nanook of course.

I can confirm that most architects receive design information from their clients in the form of footwear.


Nanook said...

@ TM!-
The Life Savers name still exists above the main entrance, within a 'frieze' surrounding the entrance - as you correctly surmised.

@ Ken-
You're welcome.

@ Patrick Devlin-
Turns out the larger-than-life Pep-O-MInt roll is displayed on a sign in Gouverneur, NY, birthplace of Edward Noble, co-founder of the Life Savers Company. Just LOOKIE HERE...

@ Jim Menick-
I remember reading when the condos in the 1 Landmark Square building opened how folks commented on the smell of peppermint still permeating the air.

@ JG-
You're welcome, too.

Unknown said...

Nicely done, Steve. Thanks for the work. If I could look at that linked image and NOT get the joke, then I'd be worried. Thanks so much.

CS said...

I just stumbled upon this Life Savers post and realized that I took these very photos (Life Saver rolls and Shoe House) back in the early '80s! Please let me know how I can contact Steve Stuart. Thanks very much.

Major Pepperidge said...

CS, if you can please send me your email address, I will forward it to Nanook - I'm sure he will be happy to contact you. See the email info beneath my "moon man" avatar at the top of the page.

Donald Purple Preacher Adams said...

I was born in Port Hester in 1959, and spent my early childhood days going to Horton School til the age of 9! The best thing about Lifesavers Building is, my Father and other family members were employees! My Dad always smelled like candy, and bought us globs of unprocessed (unmolded) candy and those gummy Pine Brothers cough drops. I remember so many days when my 2 friends Wayne, Tommy and myself would walk down Main Street at age 8 and go climb up into those giant rolls, until we'd be chased away! My Dad retired after many years just prior to the building closing. Those were such SWEET memories!😍