Curtis Allina was born Aug. 15, 1922, in Prague, and raised in Vienna. Between 1941 and 1945, he and his family, Sephardic Jews, were forced into a series of concentration camps. Mr. Allina emerged at war’s end as his family’s sole survivor in Europe. Making his way to New York, he worked for a commercial meatpacker before joining Pez-Haas, as the company’s United States arm was then known, in 1953.And so, we Boomers were turned away from cigarette-oriented play and into the world of pop culture characters... by a man who emerged from the Holocaust.
Pez was invented in 1927 by Eduard Haas III, a Viennese food-products mogul. Small, rectangular and mint-flavored (the name is a contraction of pfefferminz, the German word for peppermint), the candy was marketed to adults as an alternative to smoking. Originally sold in tins, Pez was repackaged in the late 1940s in plain, long-stemmed dispensers meant to suggest cigarette lighters.
January 3, 2010
Curtis Allina. A classic obituary, depicting a man you're only hearing about because he has died. He was 87. The heads went on the dispensers in 1955. I'm old enough to have had a pre-head type Pez dispenser, and though the obituary says "In 1955, at his urging, what had been an austerely packaged Austrian confection for adults took on vibrant new life as a children’s product," we kids thought the original dispenser was really cool. Did I get a Pez dispenser with a head when I already had a Pez dispenser? I think I did. I think I had Popeye. But this isn't the place to tell you how much I loved Popeye. This is a post about candy... and packaging... and writing about death.