Column: Take a tour of an old-time Candy TrailWORTHINGTON — My, what a year was 1912. It keeps cropping up. It was April 1912 that the Titanic sank. It was 1912 when Worthington’s Hotel Thompson was opened. It was 1912 when F. Scott Fitzgerald was born at St. Paul. And, if you haven’t had a Nut Goodie lately, take a look the next time you buy groceries. Nut Goodies, in their red and green wrappers, were first put on the market in 1912. A lot of centennials.
By: Ray Crippen, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — My, what a year was 1912. It keeps cropping up. It was April 1912 that the Titanic sank. It was 1912 when Worthington’s Hotel Thompson was opened. It was 1912 when F. Scott Fitzgerald was born at St. Paul. And, if you haven’t had a Nut Goodie lately, take a look the next time you buy groceries. Nut Goodies, in their red and green wrappers, were first put on the market in 1912. A lot of centennials.
Southwest Minnesota — Worthington — emerged, most importantly, via the St. Paul & Sioux City Railroad. There was a time not so long ago when the route of the St. Paul & Sioux City could be called America’s Candy Trail.
At the St. Paul end was the Pearson Candy Co. with the Nut Goodies (1912) and Salted Nut Rolls (1933). Pearson Candy, on West Seventh Street, was created in 1909 by five brothers, P. Edward (most importantly), then John Albert, Oscar F., Waldemar and C. Fritz.
Next stop, Round Lake. It was 1936 when Round Lake grocer John Sather, with help from his boy Kenny, began putting cookies in cellophane bags, loading the bags in his car and delivering cookies to grocery stores all across southwest Minnesota. John Sather, finally, was buying whole railroad cars of cookies and, after World War II, Kenny was buying bulk candy, bagging it and delivering bags of Sather’s candy through all the region.
On to Sioux City. Worthington was barely begun — 1878 — when Edward C. Palmer moved his family to Sioux City to operate a wholesale grocery business. By 1923, candy shoppers — who bought their chocolates at five-and-dime counters and in fancy boxes — were beginning to buy candy bars where they bought their groceries. Palmer Candy introduced the cherry-flavored, Twin Bings. In the first year, Palmer sold 40,000 Twin Bing candy bars at Sioux City, Le Mars, Sheldon, Worthington — all along the line.
Oh — that isn’t all. In 1920, Frank C. Mars, native of Hancock, picked up on a recipe from his mother, Alva, and opened his Mars candy company at Minneapolis. Milky Ways (1923), Snickers (1930). Then M&Ms.
The trip from St. Paul to Sioux City was a sweet ride. And an economy ride as well. Sather’s favored 50-cent bags of candy through much of its history. The candy bar makers largely held prices to five-cents a bar until the 1960s.
Area candy companies were not just selling candy. They were innovators. Sather led the way with “hanging bag” candy. The Sather company installed racks and peg boards in stores and hung arrays of butterscotchs and licorices and gummis. By the early 1980s, Sather was hanging little bags of candy (two for $1) exclusively in every Kmart store in America. Sather also was a pioneer in selling bags of candy to stores by telephone. Telemarketing. Everything was headquartered at Round Lake.
Palmer Candy at Sioux City, which began deliveries with horse-drawn wagons, bought a truck in (of course) 1912. Five years later, Palmer sold its last horse. It became a pioneer in the distribution of food by truck. Palmer has long been a major employer and, besides Twin Bings, produces the La Fama line of boxed chocolates.
Pearson’s at St. Paul also introduced its Mint Bar and, for many years, marketed Pearson’s Seven-Up, an assortment of seven small chocolates.
It is something of a sad thing: America’s companies keep buying up or buying out one another. Just one year ago Pearson’s was acquired by Brynwood Partners VI of Greenwich, Conn. Mars, with $30 billion in annual sales, is a buyer; Mars bought the Wrigley Co., which owns the Life Savers company. Mars is now located in Fairfax County, Va. Palmer continues its strong operation at Sioux City.
The local area has to lament that Sathers, which became Farley’s & Sathers in February 2002, was purchased in May by Ferrara Pan Co. of Forest Park, Ill. Ferrara was begun by Salvatore Ferrara, an Italian immigrant, in 1908. “Pan” underscores the company’s original method of making candies in revolving pans.
Lately it was announced Sathers would close all its Round Lake operations.
There may be a trace of tears along that sweet trail which once ran from St. Paul to Sioux City.
Ray Crippen is a former editor of the Daily Globe. His column appears on Saturdays.