My dynamic, spirited and lovely high school friend has an interesting family tradition . Every Thanksgiving, she makes the trip (with her family) to return to our hometown and join her family in a candy making tradition. One year, I went to her aunt’s house to observe this unique family bonding activity and visit with her and our other best friends from high school. I have always been interested in her committment and passion about this tradition and I sensed it was more about the family bonding than anything else. I recently interviewed her and her mother about the origin of this tradition and other details. It involves traveling back to our hometown to keep the tradition going. Polly, Julia, Bambi, Ray, Fawn, Graham and Lexie, Tevis, Foster, Ray, Clay and others are participants in this wonderful tradition.
How did this tradition begin? (my friend’s mother answered) Whose side of the family is this?
My grandmother, Gertrude Boreing, was a friend of Mrs. Russell Stover. There are 4 generations of us ladies with the name “Julia Tevis”. I’m Julia Tevis Narz, my mother was Julia Tevis Boreing, my daughter is Julia Tevis Lee and her daughter is Julia Tevis Hills.
My friend’s relatives wrote the following background information about this tradition. While visiting a relative at the hospital, they met the person who inspired the candy making. This is an excerpt from the history that my friend’s relatives, (Bambi and Judy) recorded in 1997.
“While in the Kansas City hospital, our grandmother Gertie became friends with a hospital volunteer who taught Gertie how to make candy and gave her The Art of Home Candy Making. This lady, Mrs. Russell Stover, eventually owned a local ice cream and candy store that grew to be the Russell Stover candy that is available throughout the United States.
At first Gertie made candy only at Christmas time. During The Depression, Easter candy was unavailable and consequently Gertie made the hand dipped chocolates at Easter. Originally, Gertie used a hatpin to dip the centers in chocolate. Our mother took up the candy making tradition and dipped the centers in the chocolate by hand.
By the late forties, candy making had become a family and friend tradition at 1248 Royal, our childhood home in Louisville, Kentucky. In its heyday, over a dozen people made several hundred pounds of candy the first week in December.
Mom and Dad made the fondant in November. Dad ordered the supplies under the name Royal Candy Company. Uncle Ray cooked the buttercreams; Ann Townsend rolled the buttercreams; Aunt Dorothy made the chocolates and raspberries; Aunt Sen made the montevideos; Vivian cupped the finished chocolates; Lucy cleaned and chipped chocolate and Mother dipped. The rest of us pitched in as needed. We made buttercreams, raspberries, black walnut, chocolate, coconut, truffles, Brazil nuts, montevideo, fudge, nut tops and chocolate covered cherries. After our dad died in 1981, we moved the operation to Tulsa, Oklahoma. It would not be Christmas without candy. Our candy has touched the lives of hundreds of people. There is a smile in every bite.”
Was “Tevis” a surname?
How old were you when you started getting involved in the tradition? (question directed to my friend)
What are your fondest memories of the tradition?
(My friend answered) Making butter creams while the others are rolling balls, other dipping…just being together. Mom dipped the chocolates and all the children are given jobs.
(My friend’s mother answered) The kids take over when the elders weren’t doing so well dipping. There’s a definite talent to handling the chocolate. It makes a mess and the chocolate has to be a certain temperature. Now it’s easier because they’ve improved chocolate over the years.
Any funny stories or mishaps?
How has this tradition enriched your life? What have you learned from it?
(My friend’s mother answered) This was started with my grandmother who was an artist and became friends somehow with Mrs. Stover. They got to talking and Stover gave the recipes. She may have given it to others but they thought it was too much work. You have to have the right equipment, double boiler, marble, and big rigid spatulas. There’s no way to scrape up hard chocolate without those special spatulas.
What are the names of the candies?
- The Butter Cream
- Raspberry Cream
- Montevideo (Vanilla Fondant wrapped around almond and walnut paste)
- Fudge dipped in chocolate
- Raspberry Jam in Fondant
What we learned about ourselves and our family is that no matter what, no matter where you live, no matter what your financial situation is or if you’ve had a baby…you stick to candy making. Grandfather was just insistent that you “Get here and help your mother.” Back then, my parents had (hired) help, too. Even as little kids, we were involved in some way. The paper cups would stick together sometimes (the pleats and edges). The children would make sure each cup was individual. Everyone pitched in. Every generation came up with the same funny idea and didn’t know it had been thought of before….the kids would joke about making balls of clay all the same size and putting chocolate around the clay balls and put them in someone’s candy box. The adults always put the halt on it.
Their cousins in Louisville, Kentucky still carry on this tradition there, too.
How long is your list of candy recipients?
I don’t know how many pounds we make now. I know it was ten pounds of fondant.
Is there a special quote that comes to mind about this family tradition or family philosophy that comes to mind?
“If each piece of candy isn’t the right size, it’s a redo!”