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November 26, 1999

Recalling, as we were the other day, some of the wonderful aromas of the Betty Anne Bakery, brings back so many thoughts of fragrances that now exist only in the memory banks of our minds. The approach of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas bring their own special bouquets -- roasted turkeys or baked hams still steamy hot from the oven, accompanied by side dishes spiced with favorite relishes and garnishes. Your mother's kitchen no doubt had its own snug feeling and delightful aroma each day of the week when she was out there preparing another repast for the family. I know ours did.

My widowed mother enjoyed cooking. Baking was her specialty and when times were perilously hard in the depression years she kept us solvent by baking hot rolls and delivering them (on foot because we did not own a car) to families all over town who phoned in their orders. I don't remember how much she received for a dozen home-baked hot rolls, but her customers and all of us agreed it was barely enough to break even. She just didn't feel right, charging a lot for something she liked to do. Eventually she added doughnuts to the line but it soon became obvious that she could not keep up with the demand. Her home baking and delivery service had to be discontinued in favor of something a little less time-consuming.

But even years later a stroll through the kitchen of our old house at 501 Eighth street still evoked happy memories of pleasant aromas adrift. It was almost a mystical experience, imagining that we could still inhale those wonderful whiffs of culinary masterpieces in steaming pans from the oven of our kitchen range.

The Betty Anne Bakery, operated by Oscar Johnson and later by Gene Luttrell, was a mainstay of the downtown business district for years, but it was not the only bakery in town. During the 1930s Ben Wiehe had the Bon Ton Bakery next door to our City Drug Store on the north side of the square. Both were in the building now occupied by Roy Kendrick's Cherokee Strip Antique Mall. Mr. Wiehe later moved to the east side of the square and J.L. (Lester) Barge opened a grocery store in the space formerly occupied by the Bon Ton.

Growing up in the midst of all those calories from the bakery, the grocery store and our own drug store soda fountain (plus shelves of every nickel candy bar ever invented), I was sorely tempted to sample everything in sight. And I was not always successful in avoiding them. A fire wall separated our store from Mr. Barge's grocery, but we found it mutually convenient to place a door at the rear of the businesses for quick access when necessary. The door could be locked after hours from either side. Walter Weiss was Mr. Barge's butcher and he frequently gave us a generous helping of calf liver as a special treat for the family cats. He also ladled out large quantities of "bulk" peanut butter from a metal container, plopping them into the small so-called boats that were usually used for ground beef. A nickelís worth of peanut butter was more than adequate, accompanied by soda crackers, to provide a meal for a family of three or so. A chaser from the soda fountain was just right to top it off.

Those are just a few of the meal-time memories of sights and aromas from a day not so long ago, when we enjoyed the wonderful aromas of home-cooked or occasional store-bought treats. They may not always have been nutritious or wholesome, but they filled our tummies and left us with happy thoughts of a period that really was not all that great.