When Halloween rolls around each year, we put out our jack-o-lanterns, spooky yard decorations, and candy – copious amounts of candy. We always like to do a little quality control each year to make sure each type is fresh and tasty for the kids. Sometimes our sampling goes a little too far, but we always make sure there’s plenty of candy left for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

The subject of candy reminds us of a favorite game we had as kids. You probably had it, too! It’s the time-honored board game, Candy Land®. But who would have thought that the bittersweet origins of this classic game all started with the polio epidemic.

In the 1940’s, little was known about polio or how it spread, which caused general panic and confinement, whether you had contracted the disease or not. In an attempt to slow the spread, parents kept their children inside, and public gathering places like swimming pools and playgrounds were closed.1

Those who contracted the disease, especially children, suffered substantially. Treatments included casts and splints to assist or restrict muscle movement, vigorous massage, and if the chest muscles were affected, the Iron Lung. Many children were sent to polio wards that were far from home and their families were unable to visit them. For a lot of children, it was not only their first time being away from family, but also their first time being sick and alone for a long period of time.

In 1949, a schoolteacher, Eleanor Abbott, recognized and empathized with these issues while in confinement in a polio ward herself. She saw the treatments the children were enduring, the isolation from family, the boredom, and the confinement, so she developed a game that would delight and entertain children while they recovered.

Being a schoolteacher, she designed the game keeping the children’s perspective and developmental stages in mind.2 For example, polio mainly affects young children so she designed the game around colors and symbols. No reading, writing, or counting were required to play. Children only needed to be able to identify colors. She also thought of the length of game play. Since treatments were ongoing, the game was designed so that it didn’t necessarily need to end but could function as a loop. And since children were often isolated, she made it an option to play the game alone. Having the game centered around candy was very popular with the children as it gave them a sense of fun and fantasy. The activity of moving their game piece through each candy-themed scene gave kids a sense of movement, which was freeing since most of them were immobilized.

All these features made the game very popular among the children in the ward where Abbot was recovering. Abbott later submitted her game to Milton Bradley, who bought it. Since then, Candy Land has become known as ‘every child’s first game’. 3

We think this is such an inspiring story about how something fun and magical can come out of sadness, pain, and loneliness. All it takes is a little imagination and empathy. Perhaps this Halloween, let nostalgia take over – satisfy your sweet tooth with a classic game of Candy Land! But if you throw back a handful of candy while you’re setting up the game pieces, we won’t judge.

From all of us at True Wealth, have a safe and enjoyable Halloween.

1“The Bittersweet History of Candy Land” Neatorama, [07/29/2016], https://www.neatorama.com/2016/07/29/Thwe-Bittersweet-History-of-Candy-Land/

2 “Candy Land Was Invented for Polio Wards” The Atlantic, [07/28/2019], https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2019/07/how-polio-inspired-the-creation-of-candy-land/594424/

3 “The Surprising and Timely Origins of Hasbro’s Candy Land Game” Hasbro, [12/10/2013], https://corporate.hasbro.com/en-us/articles/the_surprising_and_timely_origins_of_hasbro_s_candy_land_game