If only newsprint could smell like a bakery while bread was almost ready in the oven today or yesterday, it is almost certain there would be a rush to subscribe. That’s a little far fetched, but the smell of fresh bread in the oven is an invitation to buy a loaf.
We don’t have an opportunity to get to smell that aroma often today because most bread is baked somewhere far away in a giant bakery and shipped to our grocery stores. But remembering that wonderful aroma just by chance a grocery store is baking bread certainly is worth the cost of gasoline today to get us there.
Now, let’s go back to early memories of bakeries. One of my earliest memories is going to Sherman with my dad’s mother, Nannie Davis, and my mother, Inez Hord, to shop when I probably was 4 or 5 years old. I say shop, but probably it was to let me walk up and down the aisles of the five and dime store looking for something a little girl that age would like to play with.
There was a bakery that made the best bread I had ever eaten and we seemed to unknowingly time our trips so that the bread was coming out of the oven every time. The entire downtown area smelled delicious. Nannie (we always called our grandmother by her first name) always headed toward the bakery, bought a loaf and we ate it hot as we drove back to Denison.
I still have a hard time passing up hot bread, even when it is served in a restaurant before my meal arrives.
Denison had some great bakeries too, one of which was the Denison Bakery. I just remember riding in the back seat of my grandmother’s 1930-something sedan and breaking off chunks of that hot bread.
For the first few years that I worked at the Denison Herald, one of my duties was to make two trips a day, called “brief runs,” a block south of the office at 331 West Woodard, to downtown to see who was doing what that was printable.
This was to fill a daily column called “City Briefs” and included visitors to town and those on vacation, births and all sorts of other short paragraphs about Denison people and their guests to fill the column. That may have been the beginning of my writing history columns today.
One of my news sources and favorite stops on those runs was Crane’s Bakery at 407 West Main. Marie Crane always had that good homemade bread, but she also had some very tempting cookies, sweet rolls and cakes, and often offered samples.
Mrs. Crane knew a lot of people and gave me tips on where to go to pick up my brief items. She was usually my first stop in the morning. We published an afternoon newspaper at the time and I always had to rush back from my run to get my contribution to that day’s newspaper typed and sent out.
At one time, there were numerous bakeries in town. I probably would have gone crazy smelling the aroma all over town from the eight bakeries listed in Denison in 1929 if I had been around then. There was Langston’s on Woodard, Four Brothers and Cagles, as well as Cranes to name just four of them. The 1940 Denison City Directory also lists a Roach’s Bakery, but I might have had a problem eating food from there.
Caspelle Cable and her husband, Newt, ran their bakery at 207 West Main. They got started in the bakery business just before World War II when money was short and so were jobs. Newt had a chance to become a bakery apprentice and grabbed it. After the war, they moved to Denison and started their own business.
Mrs. Cagle told Calvin Mauldin, who sometimes wrote feature stories for the Herald a number of years ago, that the bakery business was not a picnic. He would bake most of the time at night so the goods would be ready to be delivered at 7 a.m. They sold bread, hamburger and hot dog buns, pies, cookies, donuts, cakes, cinnamon rolls and all the other wonderful delicacies that we all love but try to limit in our diets.
Not only did they sell to individuals from their counter in the front part of the bakery, but also sold to restaurants, schools and grocery stores. Mrs. Cagle worked the counter at the store.
The thing she enjoyed most was decorating wedding cakes. At that time it took between two to three hours to beautify the cakes that cost between $65 and $70, a good price for enjoying the afternoon, she told Calvin.
Most days they used up to 400 pounds of flour and almost the same amount of shortening with egg whites and whole eggs that she could not count. She said the equipment was anything but new and she didn’t know how it held up to all that baking. Prices were a lot more inviting them. A glazed doughnut was a nickel and a half pound loaf of bread was a quarter. They had loaves up to three pounds.
By the 1950s, the bakers began to fade away across the country. In Denison, Ballard’s — the forerunner of Pillsbury in town — began canning biscuits and boxing cake mixes. Then supermarkets came into being with name brand bread, cookies and pastries. By 1959, Cagle’s had closed and by the mid 1960s, Crane’s doors were closed too.
Today that wonderful aroma of fresh bread can only be found in one of the large supermarkets that still bake every day. Occasionally, it is great to hit the store at the time the bread is just coming out of the oven and you can remember just how hypnotizing it can be when you first walk in the front door.
A few people still make their own bread that if you are lucky can be found in a church bazaar. Few aromas can get those taste buds going again like bread just out of the oven.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.