Pat Houston’s Grocery was located on that big curve out past the McCaleb house on the old Gleason Highway

Pat Houston’s Grocery was located on that big curve out past the McCaleb house on the old Gleason Highway. It was packed with meats, sausage, cheese, cigarettes and Old Dutch cleanser. None of that, of course, interested us in the least bit. We rode our bikes over there for baseball cards and Baby Ruth candy bars. Mr. Pat would look at you over those black rimmed glasses and assure you this pack he was holding up for sale contained Ted Williams, Yogi Berra and two Mickey Mantles. I did indeed purchase a few Mantle cards there in the mid fifties.  

The Baby Ruth was not our first choice mind you. That honor was reserved for a Hostess Cup Cake. You talk about a real chocolate taste, with just the right amount of icing and creamy center! But it cost a whole dime. It was worth it, I won’t argue that. But you see our dilemma……ten cents was two packs of cards or two Baby Ruths. And this was back in the days before bite size and mini bars. We’re talking a real candy bar here! And let me tell you, there was absolutely nothing wrong with the chocolaty, nut and nougat taste of a Baby Ruth either! It just wasn’t a Hostess Cup Cake. ’Course, the whole question was mostly moot anyway; we very rarely walked into Pat Houston’s with more than five pennies in our pockets……collectively!

I really liked the Hostess Twinkies also. They were about the lightest and fluffiest thing we had. It was like eating good tasting air. The Sno Balls were something else all together. I had a sweet tooth of the first magnitude but listen here, that gooey center surrounded by extra rich chocolate and another layer of pure creamed sugar topped with sugar coated pink confectionary coconut was just too much even for me! Nicky Joe Stafford, who, gastronomically speaking was about the smartest guy in our group, figured a Sno Ball was 96.4% pure sugar. I remember Pam Collins eating a two Sno Ball pack back in Miss Belle’s third grade class and bouncing off the ceiling through the rest of lunch, quiet time, recess, clay modeling and the blue bird reading class!

The Sno Balls did have their place. Miss Floy Coleman was in charge of children birthdays at our little church. She took great pride in singling out the “birthday boy or girl” at the end of Sunday School and celebrating by sticking a candle in the middle of a Sno Ball. She’d produce another Sno Ball at the end of the singing and everyone got a community bite before going in to big church. 

But the cream (pun intended) of the crop without question was the Hostess Cup Cake. We would lick the white swiggily line off first. Then we would peel the chocolate icing off with our teeth. The trick next was to take our tongue and tunnel into the creamy center. We’d eat what was left from the inside out. There was an art to “putting away” a Hostess Cup Cake. You paid a dime for that thing you naturally weren’t going to rush through it!

Mom used them for rewards. Leon wanted to quit school every other day. If it hadn’t a’been for lunch, football and his stint as hall monitor, I don’t think he would have made it. She would “hold out” a Hostess treat for him every time he made it all the way to three o’clock. It was like throwing a fish to a trained seal.

We marked time or a special occasion with a Hostess product. We came in second in the Little League tournament one year and Coach Milrany “congratulated” the whole team by giving out free Hostess Twinkies. I couldn’t believe it! He musta had six dozen in the back of his old station wagon. You could just reach in and get one. And when you finished it, you could get another one! It was the first payment I ever received for playing a game. I did not put that incident down on the “inappropriate gratuities” questionnaire sheet the athletic department made us fill out my freshman year in college.

I celebrated my first real job down at the Swimming Pool by springing for Hostess Cup Cakes for the whole crew. We’d combine our money and buy Twinkies to take on hunting trips. When we lost a tough football game or a semi-pretty girl friend, we’d stroll downtown and drown our sorry in a Hostess twin pack. Shucks, we never outgrew licking the stuck chocolate off the white liner board. 

I went out with Pat Houston’s youngest daughter a few times. I figured it might give me an inside track on “reduced” baseball cards and Hostess Cup Cakes. Mr. Pat was a shrewd businessman; he let me know right quick and emphatically that only family got price breaks. Uh…..uh……uh…… You know those Baby Ruths were really a pretty good alternative!

It seems somehow un-American for such a familiar company to go out of business. It certainly makes no sense in light of the delicious products we’re talking about here! Or the memories! If I had known the brand was in a tight spot, I would have eaten a few more over the years! How on earth are kids going to celebrate Little League victories? Or their first job? Or birthdays at church?

We’ve lost something here folks; another chink out of life. You can mark it down as unavoidable, just the way things are, grown-up business, economic times or who gives a flying hoot. That still doesn’t make it right!

I wish I hadn’t a’worn out those Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams cards in the spokes of my bicycle. If I’d just set them aside and kept them, I’d have enough money today to buy the Hostess Company…….                      

With A Sad Heart,