By LINDA N. WELLER, The Telegraph
ALTON, IL - On a whim in 1952, a co-worker photographed Dorothy Pruitt sitting in a spiffy, Crosley Hot Shot Super Sport roadster with a Zero candy bar promoter during his stop in Alton.
As a teenager then, she never imagined 60 years later she still would be fond of the odd little yellow car, its door emblazoned with the candy bar's silver, white and blue logo.
She also could not have guessed she would travel to see the roadster, sit inside, have her photo taken again and relive that fun day in 1952.
That is what happened, though.
"At this time, I love that car," said Dorothy (nee Pruitt) Langley, 76, of Bowling Green, Mo.
She also admits to liking the Zero candy bar, a caramel, peanut and almond nougat covered with white fudge, now a Hershey product.
Over the years, several companies manufactured the candy bar, starting in 1920 as Hollywood Brands' (Hollywood Candy Co. of Minneapolis) Double Zero bar, then shortening it to Zero bar in 1934.
Back to 1952: Langley bantered with the promoter, Max "Zero" Bronstein, who had stopped during his advertising circuit at the former Thrifty Drug Store on West Third Street in Downtown Alton, where Langley worked.
"He was a wonderful little man," she said.
A little person, Bronstein was known as the amusing, "Zero, the Little Hollywood Candyman," with various antics who handed out postcards on his candy bar promotional trips. He also was on ABC's "Hollywood Junior Circus" program.
For some reason, Langley's mother told her to never throw away the photograph that showed herself with Bronstein. Langley stuck the photo in a box of pictures and kept it for six decades.
Several weeks ago, though, Langley saw a Crosley Super Sport on a St. Louis television show previewing Kemp Auto Museum's Crosley exhibit, "Aisles to Avenues." The sample exhibit of six Crosleys was at Macy's in Chesterfield Mall.
Just hoping it was the same car, Langley had to check it out.
"We had a wedding to go to in the evening in St. Louis, so I asked my husband (Virgil), 'Can we do two things in one day?'" she said.
The answer was "no," so the couple opted to forgo the wedding and check out the car, driving about 70 miles south to Chesterfield.
For nostalgia's sake, Dorothy brought along the old black-and-white photograph.
"When we got to Macy's, it was another car," she said about her deep disappointment. "I stopped in my tracks and said, 'That's not that car.'"
Macy's staff, though, stepped forward.
"Macy's went all out for us, how the people waited on us," she said.
An employee contacted Kemp personnel, who sent a representative to the mall and took the Langleys to their museum, less than a mile away.
"When we got to the museum, he took us in the back, and took down the chains around the car and told me to get in," she said last week, still thrilled.
"She cried when she saw it again," said Jada Jamison, community outreach coordinator at Kemp.
The man didn't need to tell Dorothy twice. This time she was photographed, again with a big smile on her face, but sitting next to her husband instead of Bronstein.
While the Zero logo was painted over during restoration, the museum affixed a magnetic Zero logo to the side of the small car for near-authenticity. Bronstein's 3-inch pedal risers were lying on the floor of the car.
"I would do it again if I could," Langley said about her visit.
"It was really cool," said Mike Dyer, assistant curator at the museum.
Dyer said the Zero Crosley was "a lost cultural icon of nostalgia."
MotoeXotica Classic Cars of Fenton, Mo., owns the car.
The exhibit at the museum, 16955 Chesterfield Airport Road, runs through Nov. 4.
Jamison said Crosleys were produced economically and sold cheaply, for several hundred dollars. They were especially popular during World War II - during rationing - and subsequent years with high school students because they were so gasoline-efficient.
The company made small vehicles in Indiana from 1939 to 1952, eventually turning out convertibles, station wagons, pickup trucks and panel trucks. It manufactured fewer than 2,000 of the Hot Shots, during 1949 to 1952.
Despite her love for the car, the 1954 graduate of Alton High School said she never owned a Crosley. The Langleys have six children, numerous grandchildren and relatives still living in Alton.