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191223 December 23, 2019


Are We the Last Fruitcake Generation?
Tommy Towery
LHS '64

    With Christmas rapidly approaching I could not help but recall some of my reflections on past Christmas holidays and I came upon one revelation. I started thinking that we may be the last generation who understands or passes along the tales of Christmas fruitcakes. You know the ones I am writing about – the ones which got passed from one family to the other over the years. I doubt very seriously many of the members of the current generations will ever in their lives take on the task of baking fruitcakes to give to others for Christmas.

    My grandmother was a short order cook at the Rebel Cafe and had been a cook somewhere my whole lifetime. I don't know if she loved baking things for Christmas, but I certainly know I loved eating the treats she made. One of my favorites was the coconut cake she made each year and how we always had to crack open the coconut and grate all the meat into bowls. It was always so moist and when used as topping on Three-Minute Icing it was delicious. Which takes me on a side trip to the Christmas I spent in Guam and how I decided I would have some fresh coconut by opening one which had just fallen onto the beach in front of my hotel. It took forever to get the green shell off the nut and I tried every way I could to do so. I knew how Tom Hanks felt in Cast Away. It did make pre-packaged coconut taste a little artificial after having real fresh coconut.But that was a coconut cake and I need to get back to fruitcakes.

    I have two very different, but very memorable recollections of fruitcakes in my past. The first one is the memory of my grandmother actually baking a fruitcake for the Christmas season. It started with a trip to the old Kroger store on East Clinton and the purchase of the ingredients for the cake. I vividly remember buying the fresh nuts and candied fruit which would eventually become the main body of the cake. Specifically I remember the candied green and red cherry halves and the bag of pecans which would be added to the dough of the fruitcake.

My grandmother would cook hers in a bunt cake pan, making a nice round cake with a hole in the middle. After mixing all the ingredients and pouring them into the cake pan she would cook it in the oven until it was very, very brown – almost to the burnt stage. After cooling it on a rake she would dump it onto a large cake plate and it always came out perfect with no breaks, probably thanks to the degree to which it was overcooked. Then came the magic touch for some. Inside the hole in the center of the cake she would slide a shot glass which seemed to fit perfectly in the opening. Once inside she would pour a perfect shot of whiskey. 

    Now my grandmother was not a drinking person. The only time I ever saw her take a drink was a small sip of Mogen David wine on rare occasions, or a small dose of whiskey and rock candy when needed for colds. But again, those were rare times. But for the fruitcake shot glass, it was filled with what I called whiskey at the time. I think it was really bourbon, but a lot of folks used rum instead I am told. Once the glass was full, the cake was carefully covered and over the next week or so the evaporating whiskey would somehow make its way into the cake I suppose. Whatever the case, the cake never tasted of the whiskey, but it did have the smell associated with the spirit.

    I also remember the beauty of the cake when it was sliced into pieces and how the candied fruit and nuts looked so perfect in their final setting. I never really liked fruitcake, but I always had a slice at Christmas time.

    I had to go to Wallyworld this morning and what to my surprise. Sitting right there on the shelf was the other fruitcake I had been thinking about. I had to buy one for nostalgic purposes.

    These are the kind of fruitcakes we sold for the Boy Scouts during the holidays. I don’t know why or how we got started marketing them, but each year my troop sold small loaves of Claxton fruit cakes. I want to think we sold them for $1.00 each, but I am not really sure about that. I do know we sold a lot going door to door in our Scout uniforms – a practice which would probably be frowned upon in this time. We sold enough to buy camping gear for the troop and other small items for the group and not individual things. 

    I did keep my taste for the Claxton, if only for nostalgia reasons, but these days I am more aware of the calorie content than the cost. A small piece of this fruitcake has 420 calories and much more than I like to waste on something so small.

    Going back to my original thought; I do not know anyone in my extended family who has or will make a fruitcake for Christmas this year. Most of them will not even try a piece and so I fear we are a vanishing breed of old folks who still remember those bricks of cakes we once enjoyed. 

    But before I leave the subject, I also have to share an experience I had when I lived in England. I was quite shocked when I went to my first real English wedding and was handed a piece of the beautiful wedding cake. Instead of a nice white or yellow cake, it was actually a fruitcake type cake, with white icing which made it look on the outside like a traditional American wedding cake. I was quite surprised. I found this explanation on a web site. "Some of you non bakers and wedding cake decorators might be puzzled as to why the British cover an unpopular Christmas cake in marzipan and royal icing and serve it at their weddings. Its origins were practical and several hundred years later it is tradition. An even older tradition is a tall stack of cakes and as any cake decorator will tell you, cakes don't naturally want to stay on top of each other, they sink into each other. The solution: sturdy building materials, i.e. fruit cake, which is just about the sturdiest cake around. The dense cake provides a solid base that will not be crushed by the tower of cake it supports." Here is a photo of a slice of a typical one.

Fruitcake query

Thunder Road Item
Max Kull
LHS '67

    I was throwing out some old newspapers and ran into the attached from the May 9, 2018 Asheville Citizen-Times.  Since we had "Thunder Road" in a recent NTT collection, I thought you might find this interesting.

        Memphis, TN - Merry Christmas everyone. Do you question why I continue to publish my "Name That Tune" feature each week? For me the answer is simple. It is the only thing I seem to include in each edition which receives any feedback from any of my classmates. In the past I have had a few emails which commented on things I wrote, but the "Name That Tune" is the only thing I get participants in playing each week. I want to send out a personal thank you to each of you loyal players who have participated in this activity.

    Also, this week I will try to encourage some feedback by offering a survey on baking fruitcake. Please respond should you feel like it. Your answer will be but your name will not be recorded.

Last Week's Name That Tune

Name That Tune

Jeffrey Fussell, LHS '66"This week’s theme was just a LITTLE hard to spot, but it eventually materialized after a LITTLE thought. These all have a distinct hook and require LITTLE head scratching. If I remember correctly, “Little Star” got a lot of play at Carter’s Skateland.  The vocal intro is a bit of an earworm."

“Little Latin Lupe Lu” – Mitch Ryder (and nearly everyone else)
“Little GTO” - Ronnie & the Daytonas
“Little Star” – The Elegants
“Little Bitty Pretty One” - Frankie Lymon (1960) (Thurston Harris-1957)
“Little Honda” – The Hondells

Lynn Vanpelt, LHS '66 "My first foray into this game"
“Little Latin Lupe Lu”
“Little GTO” 
“Little Star” 
“Little Bitty Pretty One” 

Jim Jones  LHS ' 69
1.      Little Latin Lup  2 lu
2.      Little GTO
3       Little Star
4.      Little Bitty pretty One
5.      Little  ??????    Stumped !

Linda Collinsworth Provost, LHS  '66, "I had a little fun doing this little music challenge.  I'm just glad that we have moved past tragedies!!  A little bit of trivia....I use music from my itunes library to create ring tones for certain friends.  My very dear and very old friend, Kathy Harris Jones (whom I have known since the 3rd grade) has had #4 on your hit parade as her ring tone for many years!! "

Here are my guesses:

1. Little Latin Lupe Lu (I had to look this one up for correct spelling.)  In my mind I have always called this song " Little Latin Lupe Loop"

2.  Little GTO

3.  Where Are You Little Star?

4.  Little Bitty Pretty One

5.  ??

The One That Gave People Problems

    "Little Honda" is a song written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love for the American rock band the Beach Boys. It was released on their 1964 album All Summer Long, and featured on their EP, Four by The Beach Boys. The song pays tribute to the small Honda motorcycle and its ease of operation, specifically the Honda 50.

    Immediately following its appearance on All Summer Long, the song was covered by The Hondells, whose recording produced by Gary Usher peaked at #9 on the U.S. Billboard 100. Capitol Records then later released it as a single for the Beach Boys, and their version peaked at #65 on the U.S. Billboard 100.


Little Honda

This Week's Name That Tune Group

Name That Tune


From Our Mailbox 


Subject:    "The Seine"

Tom Davidson 

LHS '69

     I enjoyed very much your memories of the song "The Seine" and the feelings it evoked for you.   I too can recall those feelings very strongly from that age. 



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