A Csoki Bar for every Proletarian Kid - and at a Proletarian Price - UPDATED
Photo: Brought to you by Comrade Workers of the Budapest Chocolate Factory and in Celebration of the Biggest Industrial Investment of the early 50s - the Inota csoki bar.
One of the unexpected delights of writing this blog is the feedback from readers, which sometimes contains humorous, insightful or thought provoking content. I think this example illustrates all three.
A week or so back, Zsolt Maroti came out tops in KesterTester73 - which featured a grim, desolate black and white shot of ... a power plant and its environs. (scroll down four posts)
Not the kind of scene you'd normally find on a holiday postcard, and not many could locate it. The November 7 Power Station - later to be renamed as the somewhat cooler Inota Power - used to churn out megawatt-hours, along with a copious toxic tonnage of carbon, sulphur and nitrogen oxides, in the hills about half way between Székesfehérvár and Veszprém. I used to write about energy in the 1990s, and I remember someone from state power company MVM telling me it was the most inefficient, polluting plant in Hungary.
Well, Zsolt has probably been fighting off his adoring fans ever since his Tester achievement, and we thought that was that (not that I've got my two beers yet :) )
But then, by coincidence, he came upon a story on website 24.hu this week which featured nothing less than the Inota chocolate bar - and he sent me the link. Yes, folks, the kids of the 1950s could rot their teeth with sweet chocolate branded by the worker government's greatest industrial investment of the day!
But in fact, not only rot their teeth - but break 'em too. Miklós Vincze, the diligent 24.hu reporter, managed to locate a contemporary story of an "innovative" filling in the bar - not nuts or nougat - but a 2 centimetre long piece of steel :)
The story is here.
What's more, this cathedral to workers' power and pollution also doubled - if I've understood the Hungarian properly - as the secret hiding place for some sort of covert KGB operation.
Miklós Vincze's story is not all about Inota, but rather the way confectionery was imbued with political propaganda of the day. It's worth a look, even if you don't read Hungarian. However, mirroring the changes in the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party of the day, fortunately csoki bar branding veers away from Stalinist to more 'normal' themes through the decades.
Here, for example, is a candy bar (to use the American term, out of respect for our cousins over the water) celebrating the Children's Railway - or Pioneer Railway as it was known back then.
Photo: The rather delightful Pioneer Railway choccie bar wrapping from some time in the 1950s. Not sure if it's good practice for the despatcher with the ponytails to be looking away from the direction of traffic, but we'll put that down to artistic licence.
One thing to be said in favour of proletarian sweeties, however, is the cost. Observant readers may have puzzled over the price on the Inota bar, which might appear to many as HUF 80 - a cheap enough price today, but sum which in the early 1950s could well amount to a day's wages.
Those of us slightly longer in the tooth, however, will realise the real price was a mere 80 fillér - one hundred fillér being one forint until 1999 - by which time the value of the aluminium in the coin was probably worth more than its face value, and the final fillér was withdrawn from circulation.
Some might note too that the Children's Railway choccie bar retailed at HUF 1 - a full 25% more than the Inota bar.
Whether that was down to inflation, or just that the ingredients had got more costly, hopefully having stopped including bits of steel scrap, is hard to tell.
One thing for sure, it wasn't that the Comrade Workers of the Budapesti Csokoládégyár were out there making "extra profits". :)
Have a great weekend, and special thanks to Zsolt Maroti for sending me the link to 24hu.
UPDATE: - from Misi, an ardent reader of Perspectives Budapest
I do remember this Inota chocolate, and, having a sweet tooth, had consumed quite a few bars when a child. I liked the stuff.
Now we are on the topic, after Yuri Gagarin had gone into space (in 1961) - the first man to do so - one of Hungary 's confectionery companies brought out a chocolate bar called Űrhajós (Cosmonaut in English, as Gagarin was a Soviet, not an American space traveller) to mark the event.
It was plain chocolate with small pieces of dried orange in it and tasted really good. Űrhajós was available for quite a few years, and I was not the only one to feel sorry when it eventually disappeared from the shops.
This memory reminds me of a joke:
When Gagarin returns to Earth, he's asked if there is life in outer space, and
he says, "No, there's no life there either."