Dani Stone

I Hear Laugh Tracks

How Twinkie The Kid Saved A 1980s Road Trip

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Last week, Hostess Brands announced it would be closing its operations permanently, following an employee strike. Already in financial decline, CEO, Gregory Rayburn explained, “We do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike.” Thus, the company known for creating iconic cream-filled goodies including Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Zingers and Cupcakes started to (bad pun alert) crumble before our eyes.

Upon hearing the news of Hostess’ demise, Americans reacted in true blue opportunistic fashion. Outlet stores were immediately raided and store shelves were emptied. News crews interviewed tooth-challenged customers carting armfuls of Twinkie boxes to their cars and today on ebay I noticed box after box of delicious trans-fat cream- cakes listed for as much as 300 dollars. Ohhh, America, your greed is adorable.

Hostess products like Wonder Bread and Zingers were a big part of my childhood. They were my go-to snacks for sack lunches and in elementary school we even got to take a field trip to the local manufacturing plant. At the end of the tour we received a mini loaf of bread to take home. At the time I collected miniatures and was highly irritated my mother wouldn’t let me add the teeny bread loaf to my shadow box. I was ten, mold was beyond my comprehension.

My best ode to Hostess, however, is a story few people know about. My childhood bestie, Kim (Koerner) May and I simply refer to it as, “Twinkie Time.” It’s the story about two young girls, a dark crowded Oklahoma highway and how Twinkie the Kid saved us from a complete mental breakdown.

In the mid 1980s, Kim passed her driver’s test, received her license and immediately started negotiating with her mother about her first car. Kim was drawn to the no-nonsense yet classic lines of the original Volkswagen Bug. Her mother was drawn to its high gas mileage and dependability. A deal was struck and thus began the search for the Bug with the right price tag. Though we live in Kansas, the right Bug was eventually located in Oklahoma.

One sultry afternoon Kim called to tell me she was taking a road trip with her mother to pick up the car and asked if I wanted to join her. The three of us would drive up together and then she and I would drive the bug home by ourselves. To my best recollection, this is how the conversation went.

Kim: “We’re driving to Oklahoma today to pick up my car. Like, do you want to come?”

Me: “Sounds radical. Have you practiced driving a stick shift?”

Kim: “A little.”

Me: “Cool. What could go wrong?”

Kim: “Exactly.”

Me: “Will your mother be, like, a raging lunatic as usual?”

Kim: “Totally.”

Me: “Cool. I’m in. Give me four hours to do my hair and makeup.”

Last known pic of me & Kimma Sue in HS.
North High gym – 1989

The summer air was thick and the air conditioning in the classic VW was something akin to hot breath blowing through the vents so we rolled down the windows and let our hair fly in the breeze. Kim, who always reminded me of a displaced California girl, welcomed the wind whipping through her tresses. My tresses, however, were long, permed, streaked with Sun-In and coated with an inch of Aqua Net hairspray. I knew when I got back to Wichita I would resemble a cast member from the musical, CATS, but this was our first road trip together so I tried to enjoy the freedom.

After the papers were signed and money exchanged, we gassed up the car, loaded the glove box with snacks including Hostess Twinkies, then jerked and sputtered our way toward the highway. Eventually Kim would learn to work the stick shift like an Indy car champion, particularly when we were running late during lunch hour at school. Eventually she would learn to turn corners on a dime, drive in reverse and whip in to parking stalls with the skill and precision of a stunt driver. Not this day.

Learning to drive a car is a dance. Learning to drive a stick shift when you’re 200 miles away from home is like dancing in a mosh pit. Kim, who would go on to receive her doctorate in Veterinary medicine, has always been calm and collected under pressure. During the first two….hundred sputter-stalls, she maintained her decorum and forged ahead with determination. Then, darkness fell.

Attempting to creep up a dark steep on-ramp of the Oklahoma highway, I watched my plucky teenage friend go from a spirited adventure-seeker to a cursing, crying mess as the VW stalled and would not start. Traffic backed up, horns honked and her mother yelled condescending phrases helpful words of encouragement out the window in the chaperone car behind us. That night, Kim uttered such a profane string of curse words, I wondered if my petite friend had been temporarily taken over by the ghost of a longshoreman.

Just as we were losing hope and wondering if our Keds-clad feet would be strong enough to push the car out of the way, the motor sprang to life and we lurched forward, up the ramp and in to the flow of traffic. Though we should’ve been squealing and shouting with delight, there was complete silence. As I watched my friend grip the wheel and focus on the road, I did the only thing I could think of to break the wall of tension, I opened the glove compartment, shouted, “Twinkie Time” and held the yellow pastries in the air. Kim laughed and the color returned to her face. As we ate our victory treat, we recounted the long three-minutes spent on the highway ramp that felt more like three hours. We also tried to remember her entertaining string of expletives.

This time, the tears that fell were from laughter, not frustration.

Thank you, Hostess. Not only for the tasty pastries you created, but the indelible memories, as well.

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2 thoughts on “How Twinkie The Kid Saved A 1980s Road Trip

  1. Yes! I was hoping my favorite HoHo addicted friend would weigh in on the end of the Hostess era, and you did not disappoint! I had forgotten all about Twinkie Time when we went to retrieve the pregnant roller skate, as your mom called it. All I had remembered was the fear of God, my mother, and 100 angry Oklahomans while trying to get the car to do more than lurch and stall. Oh, and I vaguely recall you questioning me further on my stick shift driving experience, which consisted of Joni allowing me to drive her car around the Twin Lakes parking lot for approximately 5 minutes. Thank goodness for Twinkies! It looks like we could have used a couple in the picture. Was that at the all night senior sleepover? Thank you for reminding me of this Twinkie nostalgia!

  2. You mean Hostess makes Zingers too?!
    I’m screwed! My only consolation albiet a snarky one was “Fine, I like Zingers better anyway.”
    Twinkies with icing=Better.
    Need donuts now.

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