The Bankruptcy of Hostess Twinkies
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY, I was one of four children that became first born Americans to immigrant parents from Sweden. My mother was always health conscious and didn't approve of treats, candy or gum, and quickly removed it from our pockets and proceeded to replace it with an apple, orange or banana. Somehow, it just wasn't the same, and sweets and cakes in our home were few and far between.
Of course, my father would agree with her strong ideals in the physical health of the children-- until he'd take us for a walk to the local drug store. Standing at the cash register,my father would hand each of us a golden yellow cake wrapped in cellophane, and it "crinkled" with excitement in our hands. Promptly, he'd bend over his tiny brood, raise a finger, and then recite the forbidden Swedish phrase in our house,"Don t berätta för din mamma," (Don't tell your mother). Of course we'd strongly agree with our father's request, since we knew the "wrath of mom" may be upon all of us if she knew we had eaten the scrumptious sponge cake filled with heavenly vanilla cream. On the short walk home, we'd dispose of the evidence, and crumple the wrappers stamped with "Twinkie" in bold red and blue letters-- and toss them into a nearby garbage can with haste. After examining each others faces for the traces of tell-tale Twinkie crumbs, we'd enter the front door and keep our secret pact with our father.
The Secret Pact was Finally Broken
In 2002, my mother experienced a stroke and was ill for several months. Although she never really regained her faculties fully, she had brief periods of lucidity, and sometimes she'd talk to me about my life growing up as her child. One day, I decided to break the rule, and I told her about the secret Twinkie pact between her children and her husband."I knew it," she said with a raised hand in declaration, "I knew he gave you kids candy behind my back!" Shaking her head, she suddenly laughed out loud and sat on the edge of the bed, "I would love a Twinkie, right now, do you have any here?" After retrieving a box of the forbidden Twinkies, we ate and laughed in a euphoric state of sugar and cream. Since my mother died later that year, I often think of the Twinkie party we had, and how it has become one of my favorite memories.
Bankruptcy and Labor Disputes
It seems so strange to see the end of the Twinkie. The American Icon of sponge cake is now bankrupt, and has dismissed 18,500 employees that once cooked, packaged, and transported them to the stores that were once worthy of a mother's betrayal. Since labor relations and the union cannot reach an agreement with salaries and workers compensation, the Hostess Company decided to close its doors. Its hard to believe a company can fail that cranks out 500 million products a year to meet the steady and ever increasing demands of its public and fans.
The Birth of the Twinkie
Born into a new world of its own in 1931, the Twinkie evolved in a factory that made strawberry shortcake fingers in the summer, when strawberries were plentiful and economical. The plant manager of the Hostess Company, James Dewar,wanted to find a use for the shortbread pans that were being stored for the long winter months. After tinkering around with various prototypes of cakes, he decided on a golden sponge cake filled with banana cream, and the Twinkie was born. During the depression, the 5 cent treat fed a lot of people, it didn't need refrigeration, and it was individually wrapped for portability.
World War ll and the Evolution of the Twinkie
Due to rations and food shortages during the second world war, Hostess was forced to change the banana filling to a fluffy vanilla center. Although promised to return the Twinkie to its former state after the war, the vanilla flavor became so popular that they didn't return to the banana filling until years later. In 2007, the Hostess Company offered the banana cream Twinkie as a promotional part of the "King Kong" movie. A spike in sales showed that people were once again ready for the banana flavored Twinkies, and Hostess began to offer both vanilla and banana cream fillings.
Timeline of the Hostess Twinkie
The Evolution of the Twinkie
Changes in Hostess
1931:James Dewar invents the Twinkie
Tired of storing pans used in the summer months, James Dewar invents the sponge cake with banana cream filling
The factory becomes the maker of Twinkies year round
1941: Hostess changes to the Twinkie
A rationing of bananas forces Hostess to use a vanilla cream center
The vanilla filling is so popular that Hostess never went back to the banana cream
2007: Hostess brings back the banana cream Twinkie as a "King Kong" movie promotion
The banana cream Twinkie is a hit
Hostess offers Twinkies with banana and vanilla cream
2012: Hostess files bankruptcy
After mismanagement and unsuccessful union negotiations, Hostess announces bankruptcy
Over 18.000 union workers lose their jobs, and several companies attempt but fail to buy the Hostess division
End of an Era: Goodbye Twinkies
The Mother of Invention
James Dewar, the inventor of the Twinkie, died in 1985 at the age of 88. According to the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, Mr. Twinkie, as he was known, ate a minimum of three of his inventions a day until his death. Its a strange twist of fate that my mother would practice such good health and die at 64 years of age, and Mr. Twinkie would indulge daily in the forbidden sweet cakes and live to the age of 88. One could argue that my mom might have died even younger if she'd not taken such good care of herself, or that it was just her destiny of time that could not be negotiated by any means. My father, an honorary "Mr. Twinkie," continues to eat the worst foods and lives on unscathed. Still, I remember those days at the drugstore, like some sacred secret between a father and daughter, somehow a trust that created our bond for a lifetime shared between us. I reluctantly say goodbye to the Twinkie, and there are rumors that other companies will buy and take over the Hostess Company division, but I will always have my memories. As William Butler Yeats wrote of growing older and taking "down that book to slowly read," perhaps I'll take down that box of Twinkies, and "slowly eat."