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Twinkies are a part of our forgotten past

When was the last time you ate a Hostess Twinkie?

I pose that question to my various friends, coworkers and acquaintances who have insisted this week on talking about the impending demise of yellow sponge cake filled with a cream-like substance.

As soon as it was announced that Hostess would put an end to the Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Ho Hos and Wonder Bread, the war of words began on Facebook pages.

I don’t know if it is a blessing or a curse, but I have many friends on the social network and in the real world that sit on opposite sides of the political universe. I have just as many friends who watch Fox News and follow Bill O’Reillly as those who watch MSNBC and Rachel Maddow.

I had hoped for a cease fire after the election had ended, but those hopes ended as soon as executives from Hostess filed a motion with U.S. Bankruptcy Court at 6 a.m. On Nov. 16 to close its business and sell its assets — Twinkies and all.

Before I had heard about the closure, friends from both factions were shooting Facebook posts across the bow of my Internet browser. A full assault ensued and lasted for days.

Friends on the right spewed venom about unions and how their demands brought down a company that would have otherwise thrived in the the world of free capitalism.

Friends on the left volleyed hate-filled posts about greedy owners accepting big bonuses and hefty salaries as they let their business falter under a huge pile of debt.

Living with a 3-year-old, I have learned that when it comes to assigning blame, the one dishing it out rarely tells the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

In the world of big business, the truth is inevitably more complicated and more nuanced, even in the land of Sno Balls and Zingers. After all, the company had been facing bankruptcy since 2004.

Not wanting to discuss any of this, I armed myself with this one question: “When exactly was the last time you had Twinkie?”

I can’t remember the last time I bit into one of the those sugary snacks. It probably was when I gathered with friends at the roller skating rink as a teen. We loved to scarf down raspberry flavored Zingers and drink Barq’s root beer between laps.

Those teenage memories have long faded into the world of childhood nostalgia. It has been a long time since I have considered sharing a pack of Twinkies with friends.

In fact, my last memory of those snack cakes was when a group of co-workers in the 1990s joked about how long a certain pack of Twinkies had lingered in our company vending machine. People snatched up potato chips, crackers and candy bars, while the same bag of Twinkies seemed to linger in the bottom corner of that machine. Months later we joked that they were still fresh, if we ever became desperate and had to eat them to survive.

Turns out my Hostess experience is like most. A recent poll of 5,000 people found that more than half of the people survey had not eaten a Twinkie in almost 5 years. Less than 10 percent had eaten then in less than a month.

In the business world, a product must be in demand to become a success. The public has been eating fewer and fewer Hostess snack cakes in the last 20 years, due to greater competition from energy bars, granola bars and other healthy snacks. Since 1980, Hostess has been sold three times and entered bankruptcy twice.

Sounds like more people are waxing nostalgic about those creme-filled confections than are eating them.


Ben Hillyer is the design editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by e-mail at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.