Podcast Episode 90: The Candy Bar War

candy bar war

In 1947, the price of a candy bar in British Columbia rose from 5 to 8 cents, and the local teenagers organized a surprisingly effective “strike” that soon spread across the country. In this week’s episode of the Futility Closet podcast we’ll follow Canada’s unlikely “candy bar war,” which gripped the nation for 10 days before ending with a surprising twist.

We’ll also take a grueling automobile ride across 1903 America and puzzle over the intentions of a masked man.

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Our feature on Canada’s candy bar war of 1947 was suggested by listener Randy Banderob. Sources:

Tom Hawthorn, “From a Shop in Ladysmith, Chocolate Strike Affected Sales Across the Country,” Globe and Mail, April 23, 2012.

“Auld Lang Syne,” Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle, May 4, 1977.

“Putting Their Three Cents In,” Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle, June 12, 2007.

“‘War’ Fought Over Chocolate,” Now, April 18, 2007.

Dave Obee, “Candy Price Hike Sent Kids Into the Streets,” Victoria Times-Colonist, Dec. 7, 2008.

Travesty Productions, The Five Cent War.

Burnaby History Tour: The Five Cent Chocolate War (accessed Jan. 3, 2016).

Lenny Flank, “The 1947 Candy Bar Strike,” Hidden History, July 28, 2015.

Listener mail:

Sources for our story on Horatio Nelson Jackson and his 1903 auto journey across the United States:

Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns, Horatio’s Drive, 2003.

Horatio’s Drive (DVD), 2003, written by Dayton Duncan, directed by Ken Burns.

Here’s a photo of Bud the transcontinental bulldog:


Sources on Dwight Eisenhower and the Cross-Country Motor Transport Train:

U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “Why President Dwight D. Eisenhower Understood We Needed the Interstate System” (accessed Jan. 15, 2016).

David A. Pfeiffer, “Ike’s Interstates at 50: Anniversary of the Highway System Recalls Eisenhower’s Role as Catalyst,” Prologue, Summer 2006.

This week’s lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Craig Murphy.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at http://feedpress.me/futilitycloset. Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at podcast@futilitycloset.com. Thanks for listening!

Long Takes

Robert Altman’s 1992 film The Player opens with a continuous shot that’s eight minutes long. Altman told one interviewer, “I wanted to make that ridiculously long opening shot because so many people talk about these long opening shots as if they are some achievement in themselves.”

At 1:17, Fred Ward refers to Orson Welles’ 1958 film Touch of Evil, which opens with a three-minute tracking shot of its own (below). Several takes were ruined when the customs man at the end forgot his line, which ruined the entire take. Charlton Heston remembered Welles telling the man, “Look, I don’t care what you say, just move your lips, we can dub it in later. Don’t just put your face in your hands and say, ‘Oh, my God, I’m sorry.'”

Starting Early


Shortly after Pearl Harbor, a 12-year-old boy walked into an Arizona recruiting office and said, “I want to join the Army and shoot some Japs. Sure, I’m 17 years old. You enlist men 17 years old, don’t you? I don’t need my mother’s consent … I’m a midget.”

He didn’t get in, but other boys did. In 1942 the Marines issued an honorable discharge to William Holle of Eau Claire, Wis., who had enlisted the previous year at age 12. And 13-year-old Jackie MacInnes of Medford, Mass., took his older brother’s birth certificate to a Boston enlistment office, forged his parents’ signatures on the consent papers, and reported for duty at Newport, R.I. “Everything was going fine,” ran one news report, “until he wrote a letter home.” His parents came to pick him up.

At least one underage enlistee escaped detection — in 1988 Ronald Reagan signed a special bill granting disability benefits to Calvin L. Graham, above, a Marine veteran injured at Guadalcanal. The Navy had denied them because he’d lied about his age when enlisting. He was 12.

(From William M. Tuttle Jr., “Daddy’s Gone to War,” 1993.)

French Surprise

An attractive woman approaches Sylvester in a bar. She has a proposition: For a single payment of £50, he can have a passionate weeklong holiday with her in Nice. Everything else is covered: travel tickets, a first-class hotel, and her attentions. There’s one further condition. She’ll shortly say something important, which we’ll call the “key.” If the key is true, then she keeps the £50 and Sylvester gets the holiday at no further cost, as explained. If the key is false, then Sylvester must accept the £50 back, but he still gets the week’s holiday with her for free.

“How can he lose?” asks Peter Cave in How to Think Like a Bat (2011). “Either way, with regard to whether the key is true or not, he is bound to have the splendid trip and the passion. At worst, it costs him a mere £50.” He gives her the £50, and she gives him the key:

Either I shall return the £50 or you will pay me £1 million.

For an either/or statement to be false, both elements must be false. So for the key above to be false, the woman must not return the £50. But under the agreement she must. So this yields a contradiction, whether or not Sylvester pays her £1 million; the key cannot be false. On the other hand, if the key is true, then the agreement requires that she keep the £50 … which means that he must pay her £1 million.

“Once we have contradictions involved in conditions,” writes Cave, “we may find ourselves trapped into all manner of things.”

Down in Front


In 1924, as today, it was troublesome and embarrassing to have to excuse your way down a row of theater patrons to get to your seat. Massachusetts inventor Louis Duprey offered this improvement: The whole auditorium is built atop a “loading compartment” where each patron can take his seat, which is then raised on a giant plunger into the theater.

During a performance, any seat occupant may depart by merely turning the handpiece, causing the seat to be lowered into the lobby or loading compartment, and in like manner he may again re-enter the auditorium without in any wise disturbing, or interfering with the view of, other patrons.

A side benefit is that “in case of fire or other panic” all the seats can be lowered into the loading chamber, which is fireproof and designed to accommodate an orderly mass exit. You can even retrieve your hat from the underside of the trapdoor as you take your leave.

Hidden Sum

A problem from the 1973 American High School Mathematics Examination:

In this equation, each of the letters represents uniquely a different digit in base 10:

YE × ME = TTT.

What is E + M + T + Y?

Click for Answer