Feb 22

Stephen King's The Stand: The PayDay Controversy

Covers of the original hardbound, Signet paperback, and uncut versions of Stephen King's The Stand.

Covers of the three versions of The Stand that I own. From left: The original 1978 hardback (my version is not a true first edition, but someday …), the 1980 paperback, and the 1990 complete and uncut version.

In Stephen King’s The Stand, his vision of the end of the world as we know it and one of my favorite books EVER (“Imma let you finish, but Stephen King had one of the best books of all time. OF ALL TIME!” Sorry. Things pop into my head and I feel like I need to share.), there is a guy named Harold Lauder. For simplicity’s sake we’ll just call him one of the bad guys, though his reality is more complicated than that. Harold is young, really just a kid. He is, in fact, that smart, fat, pimply boy you knew in high school who invited a certain amount of ridicule early on but quickly and deftly developed a defensive shell of sarcastic verbal sophistication while remaining raw and wounded on the inside. Sort of like a human M&M.

Speaking of chocolate (best segue ever, amirite?), Harold’s favorite candy bar was PayDay. Or Milky Way. Or chocolate covered PayDay. Depending on what version of the book you read, the candy bar in question changes. Why would King bother with a trivial thing like that? Well, as it turns out, it’s not so trivial. Harold’s chocolate thumbprint is key to a significant plot point, so as this Entertainment Weekly interview brings out, the fact that PayDays aren’t chocolate riled up fans of the original 1978 version. (Of course, the world wasn’t destroyed by the superflu either, but we’ll just let that niggling little detail go for now.)

When I read that interview, the uncut 1990 version of The Stand was the only version I’d read, and the discussion of the “mistake” struck me wrong because as a lifelong fan of candy bars, I clearly remember (because they were quite awful) chocolate covered PayDays being available in my teens in the late 80s even though the article mentions that they were introduced in 2007. So I started researching it, and I think I got just about as close to the truth as possible. Before I get into the nitty gritty, as they say, let’s have a handy reference of the dates and such.
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So, the big question, right off the bat: was using PayDay in the 1978 original version a mistake? I’m truly sorry to have to say that yes, it was. In both 1978 (the year of publication) and 1980 (the year of action), PayDays were manufactured by Hollywood Brands, a division of Consolidated Foods, which later became Sara Lee. I have unfortunately not been able to get a response from Sara Lee (the only manufacturer of three not to reply to me, thanks bunches you heartless behemoth, do you kick puppies too?), but this TV ad clearly implies that chocolate-covered PayDays (known as Chocolaty PayDay) were introduced in 1983. If King had specified “chocolate-covered PayDay” in the original novel, I think I could have made a case for literary license, but it is more likely that he just assumed that like most candy bars PayDays were made with chocolate. Which they weren’t.

Still, that does mean that most likely, if King had specified “chocolate covered PayDays” in the 1980 Signet paperback, that would have technically been correct (not to mention evidence of possible psychic powers), since the action of that book takes place in 1985, and probably the chocolate PayDays were still being sold in 1985. As corroborating evidence, here’s another commercial from sometime in the mid 80s, based on the wardrobe, effects, and 50s feel. A comment identifies it as being from 1984, and that seems about right. (I can’t make out the copyright notice because of video quality, or we’d know for sure.) However, this is all a moot point since the 1980 Signet version changed PayDay to Milky Way (one of my personal favorites—especially the Dark).

So now we come to the 1990 version (“For the first time, complete & uncut”). Since the year of action and the year of publication are the same, the only question to be answered is this: were chocolate-covered PayDay candy bars (as they are referred to throughout the novel) available in 1990? I’m so glad you asked, Constant Reader¹! Because yes. Yes, they were. In 1988, Hollywood Brands was sold to Leaf Candy Company. That is now part of a Swedish company which does not have any ties to the US products. The people who ran Leaf Candy Company in the US have started another company, Leaf Brands. Leaf Brands identifies its members as “the family that brought you … PayDay,” so I contacted Mr. Ellia Kassoff, current CEO. While Mr. Kassoff was helpful in that he replied to my email very quickly, unfortunately he was unable to provide me with any information. A lesser researcher might have been discouraged, but I bravely pressed on, undaunted. Okay, I was slightly daunted. Regardless, I continued in my efforts.

I knew that Hershey’s is the current manufacturer of PayDay candy bars, having purchased Hollywood Brands (man, that subsidiary gets around, if you know what I mean—and I think you do) in 1996. I didn’t have very high hopes since 1996 was quite a bit after any time period with which I was concerned, BUT a good detective leaves no stone unturned, yes? Yes. And as it turns out, I’m quite a good detective indeed. Hershey’s apparently had records dating from before their purchase, because a very helpful consumer representative replied to my email with this: “Unfortunately, we do not have the year the Leaf Company came out with this product … but they did stop production in 1990.”

THAT’S RIGHT, y’all. In the Year of our Lord Nineteen Hundred and Ninety, Chocolaty PayDay candy bars were, in fact, being sold, and in a world of countless abandoned convenience stores, chubby, pimply Harold Lauder could avail himself of an endless supply, forever and ever amen.

Interesting stuff that is not entirely relevant but dammit I did a lot of research and I don’t want it to go to waste:

Although the original Chocolaty PayDay was not produced after 1990, Hershey has flirted with a few versions of chocolate PayDays since. They are detailed in the below images.

This first wrapper is from 2005, and as you can see, it’s for a limited edition chocolate PayDay. I do not know how many times Hershey has produced these, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see them again someday. I know the familiar phrase is “sex sells,” but “chocolate sells” must be nearly as universal a marketing truism.

Limited Edition Chocolate PayDay Wrapper, 2006

A Limited Edition Chocolate PayDay wrapper, expiry April 2006. Original image from Mike’s Candy Wrappers.

The second wrapper is a PayDay Avalanche (note the spelling of the word “chocolatey,” as opposed to “chocolaty” on the 1980s version). As of today, Wikipedia² identifies the Avalanche as having been introduced in 2007. However, considering this wrapper has an expiry date of January 2007 and was supposedly scanned in May 2006, I think Wikipedia is, in this instance, most likely wrong.

PayDay Avalanche Wrapper

A PayDay Avalanche wrapper, expiry January 2007. Original image from Mike’s Candy Wrappers.

WHEW. That was a lot of work, guys. Being geeky is HARD. But I felt it was important to expose the truth.

¹I think we all know that I did not come up with the phrase Constant Reader.

²Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PayDay_(confection)


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  1. Julie

    I didn’t think you were actually taking that research quite that seriously. o.O

    But I guess you can rest assured in the knowledge that chocolate covered paydays existed, even if they are likely really gross. I’ve never had one, but paydays themselves are really gross. I’ve made an assumption.

    1. Evelyn Stice

      I really like PayDays, actually. And I remember being excited when I saw the chocolate ones. But as it turns out. the chocolate detracted from the rather nice salty peanut/caramel combo. It was … excess for the purpose of being excessive. So, just the kind of thing a Harold would like.

  2. Drew

    Wow that WAS a lot of research. I grew up near Hershey and visited the factory a few times before they ginned up Chocolate World. There were always rumors of dead people in the giant chocolate churning vats. I think that was just a kid rumor. Reeses was in the same town and was purchased much later by Hersheys.

    1. Evelyn Stice

      It took weeks.

  3. Shasta

    Do you know you’re insane? I love it.

    1. Evelyn Stice

      I have suspected it for a while, but I’m still waiting on the lab results to know for sure.

      1. Shasta

        I am changing my comment to “You are nuts” because it’s much, much better. And more relevent.

        1. Shasta

          ACK! And I spelled relevant wrong.

          I may have a concussion. At least that’s going to be my excuse.

  4. DR

    I for one completely love the author of this article for bringing up so much information about this. Seems trivial to want information about a candy bar but I’ll be honest – this was one of my favorite candy bars when I first discovered them in 2005. They just disappeared and were never heard from again – or so I thought. LOL. I have been raving to people about these things for years and nobody could ever taste how awesome they were so I’ve just been a crazy person talking about a candy bar. Thanks for this research, it’s brought some closure and hope to a girl who loves her chocolate. <3

  5. Robert O Mikels

    I know this is an old article but I just found an original, chocolatey Payday box from when they were first released by Hollywood Brands and the advertised price on the box is 10 cents each (says 1 per customer under price). There however is no date stamp on the box or any other indication of it’s date but it’s likely the 1st ever release of them. Judging by the box…it looks very 70’s-ish so it is likely from 1980.
    Good article, as I am a big Stephen King fan and Payday fan.

  6. D.J

    Can somebody bring back the chocolate payday it is TIME!!!!!

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