In 1703, the first Mardi Gras was celebrated in the new world at a town now known as Mobile, Alabama. That’s right! Most people think of New Orleans when they think of Mardi Gras but Mobile set the standard for the ten day celebration! Anyway, at the end of this marathon of parades and parties is what is known as, Fat Tuesday. This is the last day of Mardi Gras which is also the day before Lent. This Tuesday was meant to give the people one last chance to indulge themselves in all things sweet before they started their 40 days of Lent, a time when many people give up sweets. That is why they call it “FAT” Tuesday!
I had the privilege of being raised in the Mobile area. Every year, as a child I could not wait for the 10 days of parades, late nights, bags of candy, dozens of cheap plastic necklaces and bracelets and the ever allusive Doubloon (plastic coins).
This is one of my Doubloons from 1977!
On fat Tuesday, the businesses and schools would shut down so that everyone could enjoy the festivities and party, party, party (some more than others!).
Today as I was thinking back, with fondness, about my days of parades and candy, a memory flooded my mind. One year when I was a young teenager, I went to a parade with friends. We gathered close together and tried to push ourselves as close to the floats as possible without getting squashed, but to no avail. We were forced to stand at the back of the mob and just hope that one of the masked men on the float would feel sorry for us and throw a necklace or some candy our way.
As we stood there, waiting and shivering in the cold, I began to hear something strange……. a rumble…….a rhythm……..I couldn’t make out what it was. A few seconds later the distant sound began to get louder and seemed to be closer than before. Still, I had no idea what this deep, muffled sound was. A few more seconds passed when all of a sudden the muffled words that were being chanted in a steady rhythm became clear! There was a group of grown men in the midst of the mob, and they were chanting, “moon pie! moon pie! moon pie!” They began their chant very low and very soft, gradually getting louder and louder as the float came closer and closer in hopes that Moon Pies would rain down on them from above. Sure enough! The men on the float took note of their simple melody and dumped an entire box of Moon Pies on top of their heads! These men went absolutely crazy and began to push, pull and fight for their share of the loot! (I was now happy to be in the back) It was crazy to see grown men fight, literally fight, over a Moon Pie! It was like they hadn’t eaten in a month!
After it was all over, my friends and I went to the place where the men had been standing to see if we could find any leftovers……nothing but dozens of Moon Pies still in their packages, mashed to a fine powder!
I’m Not sure why this memory is so vivid or even why I chose to write about it……maybe because I realized that day that Moon Pies aren’t THAT good…… Not good enough for me to risk my life for! Not when you can just go down to the corner store and buy one!
I did a little study on the history of the Moon Pie and found out that it was developed in a bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1917. As a salesman for the bakery, Earl Mitchell, visited a store in Kentucky that serviced mostly coal miners. The miners wanted something sweet, that would fill them up and was easy to carry in their lunch buckets. The miners suggested something with Graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows. As one of the miners was telling the salesman how big it should be, he made a circle with his hands and held them up around the full moon and said, “we want them about this big”……thus, you have the Moon Pie!
I moved away from my home town 27 years ago and it has been many, many years since I have been to Mardi Gras but the spirit of this wonderful celebration still runs through my vains! So today, as I do every year, I chanted Moon pie! moon pie! moon pie! For old times sake!