Today I’m going to step a little sideways and cover a topic of confection that is just on the edge of candy – Harmon’s flavored toothpix.
Some of you may be old enough to remember the happy toothpick mascot on the small wax-paper packets that contained Harmon’s Fire Pix. Produced in McCook, Nebraska for nearly half a century, Bob Harmon ran the business until his retirement. A few years later, he would briefly return to selling flavored toothpicks, before his passing in 2008. The Harmon’s Webstore is no longer selling product, though the website remains here. [Edit: I’m told that Bud was Mr. Harmon’s first name, not Bob.]
I’ve talked about my love of cinnamon-flavored candy here on the site many times, so it should come as no surprise that I was a longtime fan of Harmon’s Hot Cinnamon Fire Pix. Since I grew up in Nebraska, they were always readily available at just about every sales counter in town.
I’ve always had fond recollections of them, but as a collector I learned that Harmon’s produced more than just the cinnamon-flavored Fire Pix – so I set out to get them all. After years of collecting I finally completed my set of Harmon’s flavors, and now I’m going to share them all with you. Here we go:
From everything I’ve been able to turn up in my research, those are all of the flavors of pix that Harmons ever produced.
I have one other piece related to Harmon’s flavored pix – a vintage candy trade ad. This showcases all of the flavors that were sold at the time [It would seem that the Lemon and Anise pix were introduced in 1973]:
And that’s everything I’ve got for today. See you next time!
There was a kid in my grade school back in the ’70’s who sold cinnamon-flavored toothpicks 3 for a quarter. He said he made them. Now I wonder if he was buying 12 packs for 10 cents and making a killing in profit!
My friends and I were making cinnamon-flavored toothpicks and sold them at school when we were kids. You could by somewhat diluted but flavorful cinnamon flavor for about a buck or so or you could spend the same amount on a tiny little vial of cinnamon oil. This stuff was HOT but the real thing. Many kids would put them in the cheaper stuff for a few hours. We liked to soak them in the cinnamon oil for days. It would be a challenge to keep the picks in your mouth, they were so hot.
Thanks, I enjoyed reading the article and remembering the pleasure of cinnamon toothpicks. There is one minor correction, “Bud Harmon”, not Bob, was the owner and creator of these great treats. I know this as I knew Bud and his wife personally and was friends of several of all his family while growing up in McCook, NE.
Thanks for the correction and your recollections. I’ve made an editorial note reflecting as such.
Jason, very impressive collection you have there. This magnificent man you speak of was my Grandfather and absolutely incredible. He to would be thrilled to see someone has some of this old school packaging.
All my love, Anne
Oh wow, that’s really awesome. Thank-you so much for commenting.
It’s great to hear from you and thanks. The product he created and made for so long left lasting, happy memories.
I wish they were still made today as a convenience. As a substitute for smoking or an after dinner helper, or just a driving boredom aid I like the idea.
Amazing man and sorry he must no longer be with us to make them.
I work there with my stepdad Lonnie Caffety for ten years he was there longer.We also made a single wrap pix in the flavors of cinnamon, mint, lemon and chocolate cream de’mint.
Thank-you for the comment, John. Chocolate Cream de’mint you say? Sounds amazing!
I Love You
My Daddy Lonnie spent many years working for Bud and Betty. They were always very nice and patient with the little builder that was always there eating some fun snack like sizzle seeds, gummy stuff or salmon jerky! I remember the Citric Acid came in 50 Gallon drums. For some stupid reason, I thought I needed to try it….YUCK! I remember meeting some of Dads longtime friends- Ryan Davis, Billy Olson. I loved spending time with my Dad. I remember several of the songs wed sing together and Him, Mom, & I dancing in the machine room to Neil Diamond. That place has a lot of happy and loving memories for me. Now, I think my dad had the MOST AWESOME job ever!! Thank You Harmon’s. ~Katrina
Mike Harman was his son and took over after his dad. I knew Mike and his wife back then and several people who had worked there. The tooth pics were soaked in 5 gal buckets of cinnamon oil, dried and packed by hand. If you were new it would burn your hands and arms just from the fumes, and the most people that ever worked there outside of family, was 10.
Mike Harmon is my Dad. Although there was much talk about continuing on with the flavored tooth picks in our family, the business was not taken over with the passing of my Grandparents.
As we can all see, My Grandpa’s legacy continues to live on. Thank you Jason Liebig for collecting and sharing my Grandparents life’s work.
Hi Heather… Would it be possible to get a phone number to speak with you about the tooth picks? It would be much appreciated.
I’m interested in speaking with you about the legacy of your Grandfather’s achievements and even the lives he saved by helping smokers kick the habit. I’m on Facebook-black and white profile pic and in Toronto
My father worked for the Harmon’s for many years. I too grew up with these wonderfully flavored toothpicks and the Harmon’s were and are lovely people. They would give me “jobs” to clean or other things so I as a young child could understand the meaning of earning a dollar and appreciating it. I babysat for their daughter, their grandkids and was so accepted as apart of the “extended” family that I never felt like an outsider. Class acts all the way.
My Mom worked for Harmon’s for approximately 30 years. I worked for them while I was in high school the summers of 1973, 74 and 75. My senior year I also worked there on weekends. The first summer that I worked they actually had more like 50 workers. We set at rows of tables. They would bring in the tooth picks, after they soaked in the oils, in wood trays with a screen on the bottom for draining and drying. We then took a the toothpicks and put what we could in a glass, with our hand over the end of the glass we shook the glass until the toothpicks laid nice and flat and then we laid the toothpicks in aluminum ice cube trays without the inserts. The people on the outside of the tables then picked up the toothpicks with our fingers and put them in the bags and folded the bags over. We actually got to a point where we could pick up 10 to 12 toothpicks every time. The more you could package, the better you were paid. The people who set on the inside of the tables took the packages and put them on display racks (50 pkgs to a rack) that were sent to the retailers. Then in late 73 or early 74 Harmon’s got two machines that dropped the toothpicks into the bags and sealed the bags. It took one person to feed the toothpicks into the machine, so that eliminated a large percentage of the workers. (They still needed the workers to put pkgs on the racks). My mom was one of the people to run the machine. She lost the tip of her finger trying to fix a miss feed of the packaging. My second summer, when I went to apply for a summer job, Mike said that they didn’t need anyone because of the machines, but as I was leaving Bud saw me and put me to work stapling tattoos onto a display card, And the third summer I ran one of the machines that packaged the toothpicks. The Harmon’s were great people to work for.
I had no idea you worked there Aunt Betty. That is awesome. I do have memories of visiting Grandma at work and get getting a package of toothpicks. I loved that place. It was so amazing. I miss those toothpicks.
Hi Betty can you please contact me on Facebook I’m in Toronto and the profile pic is black and white and I am in Toronto. Thanks. Kevin Parkes
When I was a student at McCook Jr. College in 1961-62, I had a friend who was disabled. Bud Harmon would bring the “smelly” toothpicks to her home in large trash cans. It was our job to package them. You can’t believe how strong that snell was and you had to wear gloves to protect your hands. My roommate, a different friend, dated Mike (Bud’s son) and I dated a friend of Mikes for a while. We spent many wonderful times in Bud’s home. Oh, the memories!!!!! I still see Mike occasionally, he hasn’t changed a bit.
I moved to McCook in the spring of 1982, I was just about to turn 6 yrs. old. It was just a few days after me and my family arrived that I received my first cinnamon stix, after that it was a daily addiction that was as easy to find as water out of a garden hose.The packets were everywhere almost all the stores, Benjamin’s, Alco, Hinky-Dinky even the Pizza Hut had a basket full, not to mention the bowling ally, Barber shoppes,Movie Theaters etc. As a matter of fact if the store no matter what was sold there was locally owned you could most likely find a basket full at the register. Heck even the candy man\ice cream man (if ya went Center School, Jr. High,or High school in McCook in the 80’s and or 90’s they’ll know green and white van) had every kind they offered.
I can’t honestly tell you if the true story here is in fact the love of HARMON’S Cinnamon Hot Stix. The people that left you the above comments are real some of them parents or grandparents of kids my sisters and me went to school with, even one of the great women that also spoke above I went to school with. I believe it was that town and its people that made those dam toothpick so good, its was an amazing place to go up in, and will remember the McCook for the rest of my life.
We left McCook in 1992 i was 16 and on that way out town going south in ’92 Harmon’s was the last business you saw, with that said I never knew Bud or Betty but anyone who ever spoke of Bud and Betty Harmon it was highly and with the utmost respect.
To the town of McCook…I grew up there, I learned to sled and how to play baseball and football, I got in trouble by the police for the first time there, I fell in love there, I learned to drive there, I still talk to friends there. What great memories,What great people and what a great town; McCook Nebraska 69001
Awesome comment, Daniel. It’s been an unexpected treat hearing from all the folks in McCook who knew the Harmons or who worked there. You’ve all painted a wonderful picture for me and bright so much life to my historical piece. Thanks for sharing your recollections.
I was 10 year old in 1974 I went to 7 11
Stores I pick the cinnamon toothpicks
Now I’m made my own I’m missed him
Bud Herman his beloved wife I will get
Cinnamon toothpicks business about about that
Bud Harmon was my Grandfather! He manufactured and marketed his famous toothpicks, along with a few other items. Some may remember his sizzle seeds!
Thank you for collecting and sharing, as it makes me very proud to see his legacy live on!
Thank-you so much for commenting, Heather! It’s wonderful to see how many people have a deep fondness remembering your grandfather’s products, but also how much people loved working with and knowing your family. It’s an extraordinary legacy.
If he was your grandfather then why didnt you continue the legacy ? There has never been another flavored toothpick like his in this world. Seems to let the most perfect opportunity slip right through your fingers. Why didnt you stand next to grandpa every single day asking him to show you detail by detail how to make them and let him know you wanted to carry on the legacy one day when he’s gone? I will never understand families that have such opportunity as this and just let it die. I come from a poor family and if i had this kind of genius in my family, i would bend over backwards to learn it all…….and continue his great products.
do you want direct answers to your questions in sequence ?
Have you ever worked with the stuff? You need a hazmat license just to handle it. Family has had enough of the recertification pains.
Some manufacturers have had to limit their production to the amount of chemical they have on hand that needs no certification, likely only four ounces. It is a major irritant, burns just by fumes.
How much the man put himself through, it’s amazing.
They told me the secret, and I tried it, and it’s exactly the same as I remember. It’s not a surprise. This flavoring oils company existed well before Harmon started packing his entire toothpick line.
As for distribution, Amazon and eBay are the ways now, that network has improved, especially with social media video.
The other toothpicks online, are no good. One of them uses the most horrible Chinese flavoring. It’s like irritant flavor.
Such a fun product and, very nice to hear stories from people who were part of the company and family!
A question for those of you then — Did the toothpick mascot character have a name? It would be fun to know more about the origin of the mascot.
Man..25 cents went a long way in 1971 at the local store Pops in west Toronto. Two candy bars, a can of soda two pixie sticks AND four packs of Harmon cinnamon toothpicks! Great memoriex
When I was in 5th grade, back in the mid-80s, I introduced my friends to these Hot Pix. We began selling them at school and were making lots of money (for kids). There was only one store in the town that sold them and I was the only kid who knew about it. Within a few weeks, our principal banned the toothpicks and went to every classroom in the school to talk about it. During his infamous lectures about the toothpicks, he was holding a pack in his hand. He had a habit of rubbing his thumb and his pointer finger across his mustache and down his face on each side of his chin. By the end of the day, his face was red in that area below his mustache because the cinnamon oil got on his fingers. Hilarious! We later revived our sales in 9th grade to the same great sales. What a funny memory!
I grew up in Antioch, CA (about 45 minutes east of San Francisco) in the 80’s & 90’s. I remember being no older than 8 years old walking with daddy to the Circle K across the street from our apartment complex he’d pick his smokes and I’d get my beloved cinnamon toothpicks. My favorite part was sharing them with all my neighbors.
I hadn’t ever thought about how they were made or the community they came from so thank you all for these beautiful neat stories! I wish I could try the other flavors. Goodness sakes I love lemon ANYTHING! I’ve really enjoyed this time looking back and jogging memories I didn’t know this ol gal had locked up in her noggin lol.
Thank you for this article.
Is there anywhere that still makes the cinnamon ones?
Absolutely Love these …always have and always will. Didnt know they were hand made and packed…….that makes them even more special. Thank you for all the stories and memories. I must say, I am quite surprised that someone in this family didnt take over where Bud left off. If it were me, i would have been by Grandpas side everyday learning exactly how to make them so i could continue the business one day. I dont understand why none of you did that. Why didnt you continue this wonderful product? You would think that he would have been proud to know someone is carrying on the legacy ! Instead you let it die with him….sad
Can someone provide the recipe? I loved to try to make some myself, since nobody still does them.
I was at an estate sale today and picked up a lovely brown and gold tin that to my happy surprise when I turned it over I found it was Harmon’s Flavor Pix. I opened it to find it full of an assortment of individually wrapped flavor pix. I remember being given some of these as a kid growing up in Houston, Texas. Best $.50 pick ever!
Some of Bud and Betty Harmon’s grandchildren honoring those toothpick flavors! http://harmonshotpix.com