In the late 1980s, I worked for a wonderful woman who decided to give each employee a PEZ dispenser and candy one Easter. After the candy was consumed, the dispensers eventually made their way to a basket on my desk — the PEZ hot tub. I’m sure ours was not the only office to have the familiar candy dispenser hanging around and it’s quite possible that you have some of the part-toy, part-treats hanging around your house. But PEZ wasn’t always about the dispensers; in fact, they weren’t originally aimed at kids at all.
Originally, they were mints — the name PEZ comes from the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz — and when the dispensers arrived on the scene, they were supposed to resemble cigarette lighters as the candies were marketed as an alternative to smoking. Then along came Curtis Allina who, back in 1955, convinced the PEZ company to put the whimsical heads on their dispensers. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The dispensers are loved by kids and collectors and even adults dig them. They are a part of our culture, having been featured on an episode of the Seinfeld TV show, claimed to be the motivation for starting internet giant eBay, and even the subject of a museum near San Francisco, California. The European-born Allina, a holocaust survivor, began working for Pez-Haas in 1953 and was the key figure, according to Pez historians, in getting the idea of figural dispensers adopted by the company. Allina was 87 and passed away at his home in Olympia, Washington.
May he rest in PEZ.
Photo: Daniel Spils