Hostess ceases operation and is closing for good. For a moment let's assume this is true and that the company does not sell to some international conglomerate who lays off the union workers and re-stocks under a new LLC with cheap labor. Let's assume the end is nigh for the dearest little snack cakes and the happiness I gleaned from their hydrogenated shells. Sure, Hostess and its subsidiaries might actually be a major player in the rise of disease, disability, laziness, and learning disorders in the US, but for this poor kid from small-town Texas, Hostess was freedom in every bite.
I practically lived with my Grandparents on both sides of my family during the summers and after school during my formative years. While the focus was always on garden produce and traditional country cooking, the occasional commercial snack was available and sometimes it was Hostess.
This is the gist of my short piece here. I got Hostess only sometimes. Hostess was the Cadillac of sugary snacks and the price reflected it. Our lunches included Little Debbie snacks for 79 cents a box and almost never the glorious, shimmering, foil-wrapped Ding Dongs of my well-to-do classmates. No, Ho-Hos, Snoballs, Twinkies, and Donette Gems were for the rich kids. We got Star Crunch, Fudge Brownies, and Oatmeal Cream Pies. Occasionally I would get a gas station Moon Pie, but almost never any hostess products.
Even the fried pies and the Danish were almost always Mrs. Baird's (a Dallas based bakery that made the best cheese Danish and ennobled all vending machines where it graced the shelves). Hostess was a luxury rarely afforded in our working class home and so when I did get the chance to stay with a friend and he could eat as many ice cream sandwiches or Hostess cakes as he liked I did my best to eat all his folks would allow. Playing The Bard's Tale on an old Apple IIC and eating Hostess was one of the greatest pleasures of my youth. Sadly all they had to drink was Diet Coke so I was always thirsty. I still never got the Diet Coke and Ding-Dongs pairing
Right around my twelfth birthday Hostess opened a factory outlet near my Grandma's house in Grand Prairie, TX. All the great snacks were crazy cheap as they were too old for store sale and poor saps like me cared little about freshness or expiration dates, we wanted some Twinkies and at 1 dollar for a box of 10 and spend $5 get a box of your choice for free, Hostess finally became affordable. Now, you may wonder what kind of guy eats half-stale Hostess snacks and likes it. The same guy who bought a $20 pair of discontinued Guess jeans from Gadzooks in faded grey and at least 1 full inch too short. I wanted the triangle really bad and I got it! Of course the goal of scoring a girlfriend or even a scam session (80's Ennis, TX term for make out) was thwarted by my flood pants and poor choice of color, but my dream of great snacks had only begun.
When I moved into my college dorm I went directly to the Hostess Outlet as my amazing Grandma took care of my laundry and prepared a feast for dinner. I loaded up till I reached the $5 requirement and smiled broadly as I selected a box of new Chocolate Twinkies with a Marks-a-lot expiration date of the day before. I had two heavy bags of pies, cherry cinnamon rolls, loaves of bread, and of course a litany of Ding-Dongs, Snoballs (still likely my favorite) and coffee cake. The outlet was amazing and the women who worked there always seemed so happy to help me in between cigarettes and 60 oz sodas.
I put all of my treasures away in my dormitory closet with the accordion door. I placed each one in order of expiration with the most recently expired at the bottom so as to enjoy them with as consistently as possible levels of stale. I was set for sugar highs at a moments notice. Then it happened...
I came home on day 1 from class to find Hostess wrappers strewn about the room. Clayton, my new roommate from Orange county had gone into my closet and helped himself to the Hostess. Not only had he pilfered my booty, he had dug into the boxes that were most recently expired. He stole my freshest stale Twinkies and did not even have the common decency to leave a note.
When I confronted him he told me that in his house Hostess snacks were fair game and he could eat all he wanted and that he would happily buy "US" more if I wanted to go get them. It was then that I knew Clayton was a rich boy and that rich boys had little regard for my redneck property. After I asked him to cease and desist his larcenous tendencies he stole a cinnamon roll the very next day and even had the temerity to mark it off my inventory list using a different color pen than I use.
Without any hesitation I went to the Dean of housing and asked for a room transfer. The Dean said he could not accommodate my request so soon in the semester and so I got permission from my parents to move off campus and took up residence with a Senior who did not steal my food.
It was Hostess that taught me my first lesson in independence and revealed my autonomous nature to me all those years ago. Today it is a foundering company canning 18,500 people who are likely very much like my family in the 1980s. Someone's Grandmother and someone's mother are being squeezed by the heavy hands of corporate giants.
My Grandma is watching all of this from her heavenly window and I am certain she smiled at me as I strolled to the counter of the local Safeway today and purchased 10 Hostess snacks for $10. Ten dollars worth of stale pastry would have filled the trunk of my 1978 Olds Cutlass 23 years ago. Now I have the means to buy all of the filthy little sugar bombs I want. I devoured a package of orange cup cakes only 45 minutes ago and as much as the memory and the flavor bring joy, I understand only now that the true joy they delivered was from my coming-of-age. I would relish the opportunity to sit again on that velvet-textured brown sofa in my Grandma's living room and enjoy the real food made by her careful hands and let the smells of my childhood waft over me.
It is only now at 41 years of age I see how rich we truly were.