|This photo looks so much like grandson Alex, sitting on my lap,|
but his father Martin was there, Grandma Chris on the right.
My father arranged these annual calendars and drafted various family members.
My father, Homer N. Jackson, was famous for his Melo-Cream Donut Shop, 1313 Fifth Avenue, Moline, Illinois. The nearby radio station called him the shadow manager, because the official manager Jean LaVern Flambo, listened to his suggestions and implemented them.
Dad was also a tireless but constantly discouraged Cubs fan. Born July 4th, 1910, he lived 85 years hoping for a Cubs World title, the last pennant won in 1945.
He began the business with his brother and later bought him out. The business was owned by the Melo-Cream chain, which still exists, but the Moline outlet had not done well.
Dad had Popeye arms because he mixed large batches of bread dough by hand in the early days. As a young adult in the Great Depression, his idea of work was anything that paid, which included being a laborer in building Wharton Field House. He talked about handling hot bags of concrete mix and loading them. In other words, "You kids have it easy. You are spoiled rotten."
Moline was very prosperous in those days, with income and taxes flowing from John Deere and related industries.
|This recent view looks toward Melo-Cream, hidden, on the left.|
First Lutheran, on the right. was the mother church
of the Augustana Synod in that region.
Dad boasted that he outlasted at least 200 bakeries during his decades on Fifth Avenue. People still write to me about his doughnuts - or donuts - as they were spelled for the business (an invention in WWI to feed the soldiers quickly).
Here is the secret to the addictions generated by any prodcut he made - the best ingredients and quality control:
- Chocolate was the best Baker's cocoa nibs, which were melted and mixed into icing.
- He only used cane sugar because bakers knew beet sugar was not quite the same, even if the chemical formula was identical.
- The best flour came from General Mills and a California company, mixed for the best cake donuts.
- The peanuts, walnuts, coconut, and pecans were the largest and best from the suppliers. He paid for the peanuts late because he loved the ferocity of their dunning letters. He let me read some and have a laugh.
- The shortening was also the highest quality and cleaned or changed often. To this day I judge food by the quality and cleanliness of its fat.
- Overcooked and undercooked products were dumped or sent home to be consumed by the family. The quality was shown by our ability to warm up donuts or danish days later and get that just-made taste. We laughed about getting the discards, but they were pretty good too.
- Spices were top quality, so it was a treat to open the cinnamon barrel or the nutmeg barrel and inhale.
- He used a blend of Maxwell House Coffee and Yuban for full, smooth coffee, drip grind. His rule was - coffee was no good after 15 minutes and had to be tossed.
|This was my Melo-Cream calendar picture, about age 4.|
I soloed again years later.
That is just a sample. Any given ingredient could be A+, A, B, C, or just plain dreadful and still used in a bakery. We visited one, which was large and profitable. The backroom aroma at that bakery revealed that there was a considerable amount of compromise involved.
When the best ingredients were put together and used with skill, the Melo-Cream donuts and danish were the best anywhere. I have never seen them equaled. When he took over the bread donuts for a time, rolling them out, cutting and frying them himself, the long johns and cinnamon fries were almost weightless. That was a combination of the perfect mixing, the right rise and proofing, the correct cutting and frying. Some of his employees could get close to this, but no one mastered what he could do.
Dad was also famous for peanut brittle, which was light and crunchy - and fudge, rich in chocolate flavor, walnuts, and chocolate icing. I loved his oatmeal raisin cookies, with chopped walnuts in them. I suggested an improvement for the chocolate chips cookies, and that worked out very well.
|Adam Jones was the most original DJ|
at WQUA or anywhere else.
Dad loved following the Cubs, so going there for games was not a debatable topic. He always marveled at the way a Cubs player could be lackluster until traded to another team, then suddenly become a league champion in his position. The jeremiads continued year after year.
Long after I was gone, the trips to the games continued, often on busses filled with fans and a little beer. WQUA disk jockey Adam Jones said he really enjoyed those trips to the Cubs games with Dad.
This is the year for the Cubs to win the pennant and World Series, so the experts say. I could repeat a few expressions that I heard about those years when the Cubs led their division until the end and choked. But I do hope that Cubs fans will find justice and victory at last, this year.
Some Springdale boys were asking for donations for their all-star team, working the crowd in front of the largest Walmart in Arkansas. I said, "Are you Cubs fans?" One said, "No, Cardinals."
I said, "Oh no! They are the worst." His friend muttered something to him.
Then I added, "A lot of my friends are Cardinal fans too, and I enjoyed their games in St. Louis."
I gave them a donation and that got me some gift cards to Sonic, which I gave them to use. "Build your muscles." They laughed and their adult sponsors behind them laughed with them.
|Growing up Melo-Cream meant having no tolerance for|
inferior ingredients, no excuse for shirking hard work.