Monday, July 23, 2012
Rebecca Ruth Loves Lucy
As my family and I drove Interstate 64 west across Kentucky last week, we reminisced about the trip we took about six years ago when we stopped at the Rebecca Ruth Candy Factory http://www.rebeccaruth.com/ in Frankfort. Previous trips across I-64 had piqued my interest in the candy factory, and my chocoholic daughter was at the perfect age to enjoy a Willy Wonka-like candy tour fantasy. Their famous Kentucky bourbon balls were enough enticement for me.
With old-fashioned paper directions, we made our way to the factory—which we found was also old-fashioned. As we neared the address on our paper, we wondered if our computer directions had fooled us. We were rolling through a residential area of little houses—clearly not our vision of where complex industrial mechanisms churned out chocolate-drenched candies. We pulled up in front of a little white house that resembled my great-aunt Frances’ residence. We sat silently in the car, inspecting the home.
I was the guinea pig who tentatively approached the screened door, completely expecting Aunt Bea to answer it. In a way, she did. It was a home turned into a candy factory and the welcome from the small staff was just as warm as if we’d been welcomed in for dinner.
It was late in the afternoon, and we were momentarily disappointed when they told us that they were done making candy for the day. But another family was milling about in the living room that had been converted into a little gift shop, and they asked if we’d still like a tour of the place. Sure.
They took us down a very narrow hallway as casually as we were walking toward Bea’s kitchen and stopped briefly in a room that forever changed the tv viewing interests of my daughters. They played a clip from the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy can’t keep up with the chocolate conveyor belt and begins stuffing chocolates in her apron, her mouth, and her shirt. Even just yesterday, my oldest daughter flipped on the tv and enjoyed an episode of I Love Lucy. Who doesn’t love Lucy?
The rest of the tour was one of imagination. We walked past empty conveyor belts and the tour guide tried to describe what we could not see. We went to the next silent, still machine and imagined again. It was all rather funny, yet, in a very strange way, we enjoyed it.
Rebecca Gooch and Ruth Booe were 2 school teachers who turned their candy-making hobby into a business in 1919. Ruth invented the famous chocolate bourbon ball that is the company’s prized sweet. We saw only about 6 employees of the 10 to 15 that work there. Today, those employees make about 100,000 pounds of candy a year.
Don’t expect to be wowed by Willy Wonka-like candy factory pizazz here. I have to say that the Louisville Slugger museum tour, just down the road on I-64 remains my favorite all-time tour. And while Rebecca Ruth’s didn’t have much to see, it had that same up-close and personal feel I liked about Louisville Slugger. I enjoyed the surprising stop-- the most memorable tour where I never saw anything.