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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

An earlier pandemic gave us Candy Land, if that makes you feel any better about 2020

Illustration for article titled An earlier pandemic gave us Candy Land, if that makes you feel any better about 2020
Screenshot: History & Intrigue (YouTube)

There is nothing good about the coronavirus outbreak, but, in such an absolutely shitty time, trying to find even the dimmest of silver linings might be one of the only things to get us through the day. So, in an effort to keep you from immediately going back to bed five minutes after waking up and reading the news, allow us present the halfway inspirational story of what came out of a prior pandemic: The sugary fantasy world of classic children’s board game, Candy Land.

A new video from YouTube channel History & Intrigue looks back at the origins of Candy Land, describing how it was created during the polio outbreak of the mid-20th century as a way to entertain children afflicted with the disease. The narrator describes how, in 1948, a retired schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbot “was diagnosed with polio and had to spend some time in a San Diego hospital” where she found sick, lonely children who might need a bit of entertainment to cheer them up. Abbot went on to create the first version of Candy Land by creating a sketch on “a sheet of butcher’s paper.” The idea was to give kids stuck in bed “the illusion of movement” by presenting a simple game that involved traveling across “a magical land made of candy.”


Abbot sold the game to Milton Bradley the following year and it quickly became popular as an accessible pastime for bored kids who were being kept from public activities to protect against the polio pandemic. “Eleanor Abbot,” we’re told, “decided to donate most of her royalties back to schools so they could buy new school supplies and equipment.”

“I like this story because it shows us in a pandemic how impactful an act of kindness or a kind thought can be,” the video’s narrator says toward the end. “Even if it’s as simple as thinking some sad kids should have something fun to do to pass the time.”

Now, as we live through our own public health crisis, it may be a good time for others to carry Abbot’s torch. We suggest Adam Sandler gets to work on an iPhone-filmed version of that Candy Land movie he never got around to making. If a homemade video of him bellowing at a marshmallow with googly eyes stuck to it can’t cheer up the world right now, nothing will.

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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Reid's a writer and editor who has appeared at GQ, Playboy, and Paste. He also co-created and writes for videogame sites Bullet Points Monthly and Digital Love Child.