Since my paternal grandfather, whom I called Pap, owned his own candy store in Pittsburg, Pa. and made his own chocolate candy, I guess it was inevitable for me to find the Ratliff Candy Company in Bristol, Tennessee. All you had to do was follow your nose down the back streets of their town. And when you entered, oh my goodness what a refreshing smell!! The York Peppermint Patty commercials have nothing on The Ratliff Candy Company! They had big copper kettles with sugar and peppermint extract bubbling away! It had to be cooked to the perfect stage to be transferred to the marble table to cool and then at just the right time to the taffy pull! This was a family business, now three generations old. They turned their candy into works of art like little toy drums and Christmas wreaths. The candlestick holders and coffee mugs were cute too but the favorite creation of all were their candy baskets. Sometimes they would make wintergreen and add some dark green color to the batch.
They were beautiful to look at and decorate with but best of all was the way they tasted! Not at all like the hard candy canes that are too hot and too hard. They were sweet and soft enough to bite. I was so lucky to get the chance to play “candy maker” and eat the warm candy right from the batch.
Some of my fondest memories are when I took these baskets to craft fairs all over the south from Ohio to Florida including our nations Capitol. I figured if I could drive a van full of these baskets and make it there in one day, I would go that far. And so I did!!
Many times my parents and brother, Jonathan, would meet me and we would have such fun together. Always going after a show to a new restaurant we would find. Sometimes my daughter Heather would be able to make it. She has an interest in new places and this was right up her alley. There was a show in Charleston, WVa where my sister, LaDonna, and her family lived so each year that was like a family reunion. My husband, Roy and our son, Adam would even make it to this one. Even though it was hard work to set up and set down and drive the distances, it was way worth it. I shared many of these experiences with friends and family.
On many of these trips my friend, Bea Chadburn went with me. We had many adventures as we drove the roads to and from these many crafts fairs.
On one of these occasions when a craft fair ended, we had to take down our booth, pack up what was left and head to the next city. As we drove thur the night, singing Christmas carols, the van started rocking slightly back and forth. You see we had to put the wood panels from the display on top because they were too big to fit inside. A trucker started flashing his lights and with a rest area ahead we pulled over. He and his partner said our wood had come loose and we needed ropes to tie it down better. Well, we didn’t have any rope but as luck would have it we were both wearing hose. I know!! Those things women don’t wear anymore. So we both took ours off and they made very strong ties for our gear on top. The men were very impressed. The truckers had come from the east coast and had seafood already cooked of all kinds to share with us. Even though we probably shouldn’t have eaten it, we did. It was delicious! We just prayed a little harder before we ate it. Then off we headed to our next craft fair with the legs of our hose flapping in the wind.