Sen-Sen

“And bragging about how they’re going to cover up the tell tale scent with Sen-Sen.”

Sen-Sen

Music Man Reference

When I taught American history one of the activities I did was have the students watch and dig into the Robert Preston-Shirley Jones version of The Music Man (the more modern version is simply dreadful, avoid it if possible). The movie is literally chock-ablock full of popular culture references of the day, from the changing transportation and the shift to shopping in population centers instead of the general store to the pest house, it paints a full picture of what everyday life was like in an American small town at the beginning of the 1910s. (If you haven’t seen the movie yourself, go and watch it, I’ll wait…… if you have watch it again and really pay attention to every word they are all in there for a reason.)

Discovering Sen-Sen

The line above is from the wonderful song “Trouble” where Professor Harold Hill professes the danger the town is in without a boys band. I didn’t know anything else about Sen-Sen than that line, what it is, or what it was used for.  So imagine my shock on trip to the Stringtown Grocery in Kalona when sitting on the counter was a box of foil packets of Sen-Sen. Well, of course I just had to get a packet.

What’s Sen-Sen Like

I opened it up and inside are little black pieces kind of like a thin sheet had been hit on something with a straight edge and broken into irregular pieces. The surface is matte and it’s harder than licorice. I put some in my mouth and I immediately understand the reference. It takes a little like licorice, but laced with a flavor similar to straight liquid smoke. It would definitely mimic the smell of cigarette on your breath. Here I thought it would cover it up with like a peppermint, but it’s just an excuse for the scent. Sen-Sen wasn’t all that pleasant to me, but it’s still manufactured and you don’t have to go to Stringtown to get it, so some people must like it. It was apparently a big seller in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Read more about its history below:
http://www.oldtimecandy.com/discontinued/sen-sen

UPDATED November 22, 2015: I found that the link was broken and sadly they no longer offer sen-sen, but you can still read its history at the link above. I also added headings.

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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trundlebedtales

Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

2 thoughts on “Sen-Sen”

  1. This version of The Music Man is my mother’s go-to when she needs cheering up and my siblings and I know every syllable by heart. Imagine our surprise when my brother, who teaches languages in a high school in greater Boston, *insisted* we all go to see his students perform it with the school’s (locally-famous) theatre troupe. Now, I HATE musicals. They are pure torture to me. I cannot explain it, but they grate on my nerves something fierce. But, for the sake of the potential for high comedy at a high school play when we all know the thing insode out and backwards, I agreed. So, Mom, myself, and 2 of the siblings attended, and it was uproarious. The kids did it more than justice, and we were most impressed with the professionalism of the production. Several of the kids were outstanding; I think the girl who played Marian has a serious career in theatre ahead of her. For once, I was actually enjoying a musical. Never thought I’d see the day! But best of all, I found that throughout the show, we were all of us mouthing the lines and singing the songs!

    “He gave River City/
    The library building
    BUT HE LEFT ALL THE BOOKS TO HER!”

    “The Wells Fargo Wagon is-a comin’ down the street…could be my raisins from Fresno…or a double-boiler…”

    “My old lady’s corset cover!”

    “All of your tomorrows will be empty yesterdays…”

    (And a few risque lines the younger siblings never thought about suddenly clicked and we had some great laughs discussing those over dinner!)

    “Pick a little, talk a little, CHEEP!”
    Indeed…

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