Some of life’s simple pleasures come paired with a partner. Think about burger and fries, bread and butter, corned beef and cabbage, fish and chips, bacon and eggs, or bagels and cream cheese. If you happen to be from the Deep South, you will notice that I missed an iconic pairing . . . an RC Cola and a Moon Pie. It was known as the ‘working man’s lunch’ early on because back in the 1930s the Moon Pie was the largest snack on the rack that could be purchased for a nickel. At the same time, the RC Cola was the biggest drink you could purchase for a nickel so, for a dime, you could get an RC Cola and a Moon Pie. This tasty combination moved into pop culture in the 1950s when “Big Bill” Lister sang an ode to the delicious duo aptly named “Gimme an RC Cola and a Moon Pie.” While the illustrious pairing had humble beginnings, my memories of having an RC Cola and a Moon Pie are much more sentimental.
Growing up in rural East Tennessee, the simple pleasures of life were highly appreciated. Sometimes that would mean sitting on the porch sipping ice cold lemonade and listening to my grandparents tell stories. Other times, it involved visits from favorite relatives. One of my favorite visitors was my Aunt Kathy. She was a tiny woman with an enormous personality that could brighten any day. She always had a sympathetic ear and was ready and willing to listen to a young child’s deepest fears, anxieties, and the occasional confessions of guilt. She was never angry or disappointed; instead she would always smile and tell us that it would be okay. Aunt Kathy made the big bad world a little less scary.
Whenever Aunt Kathy came to visit, she always brought a bag of goodies with her. She would bring coloring books, crayons, candies, and a small blue picnic cooler. We would climb the hill out back to the tree line where shade could be found and plop down in the grass. My sister and I would lie on our bellies and color with Kathy’s daughter while Aunt Kathy would spread a small worn blanket on the grass. She would place the cooler on one corner and stretch across the blanket down the other side to color with us. While we colored, we would surreptitiously glance at the cooler because we knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what was inside. She always made us wait about an hour, but when we got too fidgety, she would announce that she was ‘famished’ and just couldn’t color another stroke without something to eat.
At that proclamation, we would place our crayons in the box and crowd around the cooler in anticipation. Aunt Kathy would say, “Coloring is hard work, good thing I planned ahead and brought us a ‘workin’ man’s lunch.” Then she would open the cooler to reveal a plastic bag stuffed full of Double Decker Moon Pies that were as big as our faces and four glass bottles of RC Cola all snuggled down in an icy slurry. She would pass out the Moon Pies first to busy our hands with the cellophane while she wrestled the soda bottles open.
I will never forget the taste of a fully chilled Moon Pie and, even though my taste buds have matured, I still occasionally purchase one to enjoy on vacation. Moon Pies were an integral part of my childhood and never fail to bring back happy memories of coloring on the hill in the shade of a tall oak tree. I now know that the ‘workin’ man’s lunch’ does not belong to me alone. That particular memory is actually extremely popular. Need proof? Every year in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, they celebrate this southern tradition with the Annual RC Moon Pie Festival. This year, the 20th anniversary festival is expected to be a grand celebration. Maybe my Aunt Kathy will be up for a road trip. After all, it’s not often that a road trip can include Memory Lane.