Under the Light of a Chocolatey Moon (Pie)

The MoonPie brand logo

Image via Wikipedia

It was a cherished rite of winter in my teen years. In freezing temperatures, under dark of night, I would strap 50 pounds of brass across my chest, brave the cold and march with my fellow Bobcats through the streets of downtown Mobile.

Blaring out pop standards and our high school fight song, we would rhythmically make our way north along Royal Street, turning West on St. Francis, looping around Bienville Square, then making our way to Government Street and heading toward midtown before looping back to our starting point at the Mobile Civic Center.

And by then, I couldn’t play my tuba at all.

It wasn’t because I was tired. It wasn’t because of a sudden shameful realization that chicks actually don’t dig tuba players. It was because the tuba was full of Moon Pies.

If nothing I just wrote makes any sense to you, then you clearly have never experienced Carnival season in the home of the original Mardi Gras: Mobile, Alabama. Yes, New Orleans has the bigger, more legendary celebration, and there is much in common among all Mardi Gras celebrations, but Mobile has its own distinction: they throw Moon Pies.

RSM Wayne Franklin in his tuba-playing days

No one is sure why Moon Pies became the signature “throw” in Mobile parades. The Moon Pie is not even a Mobile creation. It hails from Chattanooga where, in 1919, a salesman for the Chattanooga Bakery discovered that the only baked good nearby miners were buying were graham crackers. The miners would dip those into a recent New England import, marshmallow fluff. Seeing an opportunity, the bakery invented a hand-held “pie” especially for sale to the miners: marshmallow creme sandwiched between two graham cookies and dipped in chocolate.

A comment from the head chef’s grandson that the bubbled marshmallow creme looked like the face of the moon gave the treats their name. Needless to say, the pies were a hit.

Before long, the pairing of Moon Pies with RC Cola became a regional sensation as the working man’s lunch, even inspiring a song by Big Bill Lister.

According the Museum of Mobile, Moon Pies made their first Mardi Gras appearance as a throw in 1956. The throw proved so popular that other communities from Louisiana to Florida would eventually follow suit.

Fast-forward 30 years, and that’s where you’ll find drunken revelers making convenient targets of a trio of skinny tuba players from Theodore High School. Their loss. We got to keep the Moon Pies.

We’ve had any number of posts during the Southern Sweets Showdown about traditional, homemade treats and the concomitant warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia they evoke. I seem to always be the guy stuck writing about commercial products. That’s fine by me, especially when it comes to Moon Pies. Few memories are as fond for me as those of the time spent with my friends in the marching band. The recent passing of one of my tuba partners-in-crime, “Big Al” Dees, only makes me treasure those memories more. (Despite his adult nickname, Al was also a skinny guy back then. Yes, we had a whole tuba section of skinny guys. Go figure.)

In memory of "Big Al" Dees (top center)

I don’t think anyone but a native Mobilian could adequately write about the Moon Pie. Unless you have scrambled across the asphalt of Government Street fighting adults and children alike for a stray one, unless you have heard a friend brag about catching an entire box of them … against his wife’s face, unless you have measured the success of your Carnival season by your ability to accumulate enough of the treats to last an entire year, you haven’t really experienced the cultural importance of the Moon Pie.

So crank up a chorus of “Bubba Like Moon Pie” and vote for Moon Pies in the Southern Sweets Showdown. I will. And when I do, I’ll have it one with a cold RC Cola … and offer a little toast to Big Al.

Here’s hoping your tuba’s full of Moon Pies up there, old friend!

To vote for Moon Pies, visit our Facebook Page or vote here on the site.

4 Responses to “Under the Light of a Chocolatey Moon (Pie)”

  1. Did you know that every June in Bellbuckle, TN they have a Moon Pie Festival?? And there is plenty of RC on hand as well, along w/arts & crafts for sale, antiques, and hay rides, etc.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Another Huge Upset in the Southern Sweets Showdown! | Real Southern Men - November 16, 2011

    […] Chick-O-Stick at the #14 slot took down Chattanooga’s own #3 Moon Pies … despite RSM Wayne Franklin’s wistful remembrances of Mardi Gras and its association with the creamy sandwich. Chick-O-Stick grabbed a whopping 80% of […]

  2. On Mardi Gras Day, it’s time for a Moon Pie | Real Southern Men - February 21, 2012

    […] For a more personal take on the tuba-clogging power of the treat, check out Wayne Franklin’s post “Under the Light of a Chocolatey Moon (Pie).” […]

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