The Almanac pages that the papers often have are, at times, sort of desperate to come up with some event having happened on a particular date that is significant enough to mention at all. They have to resort to mentioning obscure baseball players hitting their first home run or the birthday of Foghorn J. Leghorn (from the Loony Tunes cartoon series) or Sen. Beauregard Claghorn (from the Fred Allen Show…ask an old-time radio listener) or a newly-discovered phase of the moon that astronomers are arguing about.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the entry of the United States into “the War to End All Wars”, sadly, misnamed. My great uncle, Roy Cahoon, was in the A.E.F.—American Expeditionary Force—a tall, probably gangly farm boy from Avon, Ohio, whose historic uniform hung ever after in the attic of the ancestral home where he lived for the rest of his life. He never spoke of it but I’d be willing to bet that the popular period song, “How Ya Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?)” did not apply to him, bless his heart. Who knows what he saw and experienced? He’s gone and the uniform has long since been consumed by moths—wool, you know—but he comes to mind whenever the date comes up.
In connection with that war, other momentous things were going on : There was no British Open tennis tournament—anyone fit enough to play was off in the trenches, the Russian Revolution, after several chaotic, failed, attempts, finally got under way; it did not end well for most Russians (of course, for most Russians, things were already pretty awful, and had been for quite some time), Finland took the opportunity to declare itself independent of Russia, tanks began a new era of mechanized warfare (They were originally referred to as “water carriers” for security reasons. The “tank” designation came later.), the iconic spy/seductress, Mata Hari, was shot for doing what she did best. A girl’s gotta make a living, but apparently, not for long.
Other things were going on too : the first Pulitzer Prizes were awarded, Jeanette Rankin, of Montana, was the first woman to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (Women couldn’t even vote yet in most of the country; out in Big Sky Country they just voted for quality), Omar Khayyam won the Kentucky Derby, the Lions Club began in the U.S., the world’s largest telescope (at the time) went up on Mt. Wilson, California, the United States bought the Danish West Indies for $25 million and they became the U.S. Virgin Islands (No relation to Mata Hari).
AND…it was the inaugural year of the invention known to us as the Moon Pie. Hit the right commercial establishment and you can even pick up commemorative tins—Collectors’ Editions—of the southern specialty treat. We get them here, of course, but the Moon Pie and RC Cola have long been associated with those below the Mason-Dixon Line. Which is only fitting, because, according to company history, a certain Earl Mitchell, salesman for the Chattanooga Bakery (a division of the Mountain City Flour Mill), was out drumming up business when he inquired of a Kentucky coal miner what kind of treat the men would like to find in their lunch pails. The miner replied that they’d like something with graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate…and “big as a moon.” Apparently, the bakery figured they had their marching orders and they were off and running to the tune of more than one million of the tasty treats rolling off the line every day at last count. Didn’t hurt that the original price was 5 cents and the pies fit in the lunch pail. The flavors have expanded from the original to include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, salted caramel and banana, with Moon Pie Crunch in peanut butter or mint and minis in some locales—and don’t forget about the double-deckers in lemon or orange. They’ve taken to heart the old adage that “variety is the spice of life”.
They’ve also turned up in some interesting civic events. They’re thrown from floats at the traditional Mardi Gras in Mobile, AL. There’s a Moon Pie Festival in Bell Buckle TN. They featured in an Apollo 11 celebration on 7/20/69. In a classic demonstration of
cross-purposes, there’s a Moon Pie RC Cola 10 mile run—in the same place as the festival. The Carmel United Methodist Church in Alvaton, TN hands out Moon Pies to attendees at the 11:00 service to illustrate “the sweetness of the Christian life”( They sing “’Tis so Sweet to Trust in Jesus” and “There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit.”). In the 1950’s Big Bill Lister did pretty well with a little ditty called, “Gimme an RC Cola and a Moon Pie”. In Mobile Alabama they made the World’s Largest Moon Pie weighing 55 pounds (and containing 45,000 calories) and at New Year’s celebrations in that city, a 12 foot Moon Pie slides down a pole to mark the event. In 2010 a certain Sonya Thomas, known as “the Black Widow”, a competitive eater, devoured 38 Moon Pies in 8 minutes. Homemade recipes are available and there’s one for Moon Pie Bread pudding. Get your commemorative tin while they last. Put it in a time capsule to be opened in 2117. Your great-great grandchildren will be…what?…amazed?…rich, after selling the vintage Moon Pies? The possibilities are vast.
Or you might just have crumbs and a note, saying, “Sorry, Grandma. We were hungry.”