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Everyone knows what did in thedinosaurs. Hello, asteroid. Goodbye, T. Rex.

But whatever happened to Black Cow candy suckers?

Or, for that matter, what became of the countless other items that once crowded store shelves but now can't be found?

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The answers to those questions vary, according to Colleen Chapin, who founded Hometown Favorites in 1996, an Internet company that aims to connect consumers with hard-to-find merchandise.

"An item disappears mainly because it wasn't selling, but sometimes the equipment used to make that product is no longer available or it wasn't worth updating the equipment. We find that a lot with candy manufacturers," Chapin said.

The Black Cow sucker, a chocolate and caramel confection popular in the '60s and '70s, is a perfect example, she said.

"Gilliam owned it," she said, referring to the company that controlled the rights to the sucker.

"The equipment they were using to cover it (the sucker's caramel core) with chocolate was very old. In their mind, it was not worth updating the equipment to continue producing the sucker," Chapin said.

While products can vanish, their nostalgic appeal often lives on.

Chapin founded Hometown Favorites after embarking on a search for a type of candy she enjoyed as a child.

She discovered it was still made, but only available in Wisconsin.

"You start talking to people and everybody said, 'You know what I wish I could get?' Or, 'You know what I can't get anymore?'

"All of a sudden, I had 50 products that were coming up consistently as hard to find. Nine years later, we're closing in on 2,500 products," Chapin said.

While many retail stores have become temples to the new and trendy, independent drugstores remain bastions of the obscure and arcane.

"Our general policy is, if a person wants it and we can get it in a reasonable manner, we'll certainly order it," said Dale Whitehead, a pharmacist at Moorhead Drug.

The store stocks some items based solely on the needs of a few longtime customers.

"It would be things like liniments, ointments and some hair tonics," Whitehead said.

For many years, the store stocked tooth powder to accommodate two customers.

"That's what they used to brush their teeth with and that's what they got here. But then they died, and there went the demand," Whitehead said.

When it comes to nostalgia, a product doesn't have to be loveable to be loved.

Glenn Tornell, director of News Service at Minnesota State University Moorhead, keeps an unopened can of orange Moxie soda on his desk.

Tornell, who grew up in Lawrence, Mass., drank the stuff as a boy.

He later told a friend stories of how awful he thought the soda tasted.

The friend encountered Moxie while on a trip to New England five years ago and returned with a can of it for Tornell.

"It tastes like a mixture of cough syrup and sarsaparilla," Tornell said, recalling the soda's flavor.

While he's not charmed by the taste of Moxie, Tornell said looking at the soda's logo has the power to transport him back to boyhood.

"It's just and old-fashioned can with a picture of a guy in an orange suit pointing at you," Tornell said.

Fargo resident Gloria Bohnenberger still pines for products she hasn't been able to find for years.

Kraft Miracle Salad Dressing was a critical ingredient in a favorite recipe and Faberge Tigress Perfume ruled her vanity.

Tigress was special, she said, because it was one of the few scents she is not allergic to.

"I would kill for a bottle of that," said Bohnenberger, who wrote to Faberge when the company stopped making Tigress.

"They sent me a bottle, probably the last bottle they had. But that was like a hundred years ago," she said.

Once a product is gone, it's usually gone for good, Chapin said.

"We get asked all the time, 'How do I get them to bring this back? I really love this product.'

"We write back and say, get 10,000 of your friends to contact the manufacturer. One or two people calling means nothing to them. Two hundred people calling means nothing to them," Chapin said.

As a baby boomer, Chapin said she understands the appeal of vintage products.

"It's the look of the package. It's the smell of the candy. It brings back instantly the memory of where you were when you had that."

And new memories are being minted all the time.

"We get e-mails now from kids who are 14 years old and they're saying, 'I had this candy when I was 5 and I can't find it anymore and I gotta have it.'

"It's hilarious," Chapin said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

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Dave Olson
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