The American South has contributed much to the world: William Faulkner,
blues and bluegrass music, stock car racing and Al Gore to name a few.
One of the South’s greatest contributions, the Moonpie, has endured for
more than 75 years in its Chattanooga home.
For those who had deprived childhoods a Moonpie is a sandwich of two
round Graham cracker cookies and marshmallow covered in a chocolate,
vanilla or banana shell. There are also double stackers and fruit
flavored variations. In other parts of the country the Moonpie's cousin
is called the Scooter Pie.
Moonpies have long been a staple of the Southern diet. The snack has an
almost mystical connection with another Southern institution Royal Crown
Cola as in the often repeated order “a RC and a Moonpie.” During the
Depression a RC and a Moonpie cost a total of ten cents establishing it
as a working man's lunch in hard times.
The exact origin of Moonpies is lost in legend. The best evidence is
that sometime early in the 1900s a salesman for the bakery saw Kentucky
coal miners dipping Graham crackers in marshmallow sauce. The miners let
the concoctions harden before taking them underground in their lunch
pails. When the salesman asked a miner what kind of snack he would like
he curled his fingers around the full moon rising over the horizon and
said it should be as big as the moon.
After some informal test marketing with the miners the bakery began mass
production of Moonpies in 1917. Moonpies are now available in most of
the United States but in the South they remain a cultural icon. More
than eight billion have rolled off the assembly lines in Chattanooga .
Royal Crown Cola is also a southern original. Tinkering in his basement
in Columbus, Georgia in 1905 pharmacist Claude Hatcher experimented with
colas. At a time when many were trying unsuccessfully to copy Coca-Cola,
Hatcher introduced Chero-Cola. Later in 1924 Royal Crown added Nehi
orange and grape sodas, which left in a tub of ice water on a hot summer
day were straight from heaven. After Hatcher's death in 1933 Chero-Cola
was reborn into Royal Crown Cola.
The small town of Bell Buckle, Tennessee sponsors an annual RC and
Moonpie festival. Music, crafts and deep fried Moonpies are highlights
of the tongue in cheek celebration. Moonpies have been thrown from the
Mardi Gras parade floats in Mobile, Alabama, since 1974 after the city
ruled the Cracker Jack boxes thrown by the krewes were too dangerous.
Revelers in Oneonta, Alabama have a better use for Moonpies in their
annual eating contest.
Moonpies are celebrated in music including a song about them in the
1950's and featured in films like: The Green Mile.” The Moonpie logo
graces everything from fishing lures to watches, tee shirts to toy
trucks. In a recent contest sponsored by the bakery people reminisced
about Moonpies in the good and bad days of their lives, the happy times
of childhood, the Moonpie shared on a honeymoon, the Moonpies from home
Moonpie memories were forged in a time and place when Southerners had
both a pride in their identity and a burden of being different and
isolated from the rest of America. For many in the South a Moonpie
memory is a good one from a hard time.
© Greg Bailey, 2015, Legends Of America