National Treasure

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. The costumes, the creativity, the weather, and of course...the candy! While I've been a little too preoccupied to host a Halloween party the past couple of years, I find that every day is a treat with this 1964 National Vendors candy machine in my home office.

Flashback to 2012 when I was browsing Craigslist for random mid-century items. A plethora of items appeared in my search for "vintage," but one of the first listings to show up was a candy machine in Santa Rosa. It was perhaps a little worse for wear, but the price was $100. There was no hesitation. I was on my way to pick up this machine come hell or high water -- nevermind the fact that I owned a convertible VW Beetle at the time. I was determined to make this work.

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On the Move

Upon arriving at a gas station lot just through town, I briefly chatted with the owner. As we maneuvered the 2-ton steel monster onto the lift gate of his truck, he squinted at my car as he pointed, saying, "You're putting this into THAT?" I replied nonchalantly, "Yep." With the generous help of an unsuspecting bystander, the three of us somehow hoisted the sweet beast into the back of the Beetle. It was in, and I was relieved. The owner and I had a few laughs afterward (mainly at my expense), and he told me a little about the machine's history. Apparently it spent several years in the nearby Ponderosa Steakhouse through the '80s, and before that, it belonged to the Volkswagen dealership!  Nearly 50 years later, I found it fitting that the machine was now in a VW. He also informed me that a family of rats had made the candy machine their home since he put it into storage. This only added to its charm in my mind. One of the best things about collecting vintage items is the story that goes along with with them. I love being able to chat with people about the items they own to get a little insight to how it was used and loved (or neglected) over the years.

With that, I was on my way back toward home, top down and rat-free. The cautious, 2-hour drive on the freeway was slow going and rather nerve-racking, but I made my way with lots of passersby gawking and shaking their heads. Haters do not get candy.

Heavier Lifting

I put in some pretty extensive hours disassembling and cleaning to get the machine operating smoothly and free of rat evidence. The beauty of solid, manual-driven equipment like this is that parts can be cleaned up, greased and good as new -- no computers or messy electrical issues to contend with. Every collapsible tray inside the machine was thoroughly scrubbed, and every spring oiled. The pull knobs were all scrubbed with degreaser and a toothbrush, then lubricated. I gave the matte brown exterior a fresh pop of color to make it a little more exciting. It is a giant machine full of candy after all! The coin mechanism needed a little work, but I got it running smoothly after some additional cleaning. The quarter coin operation was installed in the '80s, but it also came with the original nickel and dime mechanism. I made up some new price tags as some of the originals were missing or yellowed from decades of nicotine exposure. To my amazement, the fluorescent light bar inside still worked, and all of the graphics and foil text were pristine.

With the right care and attention, this piece was looking like the day it was delivered to the Volkswagen dealer. The rehabbed Crown Series CC DeLuxe model machine made its debut at my Mission to Mod Halloween Party in 2012 where guests took part in a fun-filled evening of '60s style outer space antics.

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I now keep the vending machine in my office as it comes in handy for late-night design work and the occasional need for a sugar binge during blog entries. For anyone who visits my home, a vending session at the candy machine is a must, and there are always plenty of quarters on-hand. This year has seen a record number of guests, so I'm currently running low on some of my favorites, which means I'll be restocking the insides very soon. Until then, I'm cozying up for the Stranger Things 2 marathon and a bag of Whoppers...and M&Ms...and...

Happy Halloween, everyone!