Twinkies celebrates 75th anniversary; Michigan boy wins design contest

April 15, 2005

Twinkies, an American icon and one of the country's all-time favorite snack cakes, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this month and, as part of the festivities, is debuting a new, limited-edition box designed by an 11-year-old Michigan boy.

Donovin Cox, a fifth-grade student from Tecumseh, Mich., has been named the winner of Twinkies' 75th anniversary box design contest -- beating out more than 1,300 youngsters from around the country. In addition to having his design in stores for the month of April, Cox received a $40,000 college scholarship.

Calling Twinkies the "best darn tootin" idea he ever had, James A. Dewar created the beloved treat in 1930, while working as a Hostess bakery manager in Chicago. Looking to make better use of shortcake pans that sat idle except for a short strawberry season, Dewar decided to inject the little golden cakes with a smooth creme filling (first banana and later vanilla following a banana shortage during World War II). A St. Louis billboard advertising "Twinkle Toe" shoes inspired the name for the two-for-a-nickel treat and an American icon was born.

More than just a popular snack cake, the Twinkie has emerged as a social phenomenon with a treasure trove of amazing tales that underscore its impact on our culture:

  • Twinkiegate: A grand jury indicted a Minneapolis city council candidate for serving coffee, Kool-Aid, Twinkies and other sweets to two senior citizens groups. The act led to the passage of the Minnesota Campaign Act, widely known as the Twinkie law. The 71-year-old candidate, George Belair, lost the election but the charges against him were dropped. The case was dubbed "Twinkiegate."

  • Twinkie Hall of Fame: 89-year-old Lewis Browning of Shelbyville, Ind., has been eating at least one Twinkie every day since 1941, consuming more than 20,000 Twinkies. James Dewar, who died at 88, is said to have consumed more than 40,000 Twinkies in his lifetime. Chicago consumes more Twinkies per capita than any other city in the United States.

  • Twinkiejackings: In the late 1970s, reports of Twinkie hijackings began surfacing. In 1975, a Kennett Square, Pa. house twice was broken into and robbed of its Twinkies. That same year, AWOL marines from a California base were stopped on a freeway driving a truck full of "hot" Twinkies. In 1976, someone stole a bakery truck containing 1800 Twinkies. The truck was found; the Twinkies were not. In 1978, two Albuquerque men held up a delivery truck and made off with two large boxes of Twinkies, which at the time were valued at $16. Nothing else was taken and no one was injured.

  • Twinkies to the Rescue: An elephant living in Sarasota, Fla., refused food for days after undergoing surgery; Twinkies reportedly were used to end the hunger strike. When fifty baboons escaped from a wildlife reserve in an Ohio amusement park, Twinkies reportedly were among the treats used to try to lure the AWOL creatures back.

  • The Twinkie Defense: After former San Francisco supervisor Dan White killed the city's mayor and another supervisor, he argued diminished capacity as a result of excessive junk food consumption. The strategy was dubbed the
    "Twinkie Defense."

  • Twinkies Roll On, Fly High: In 1976, a Bloomington, Ill. radio station held a Twinkie Roll contest. Contestants reportedly were required to roll a Twinkie around a local courthouse using only their noses. The winner received $50 and a five-pound Twinkie. Organizers originally had planned for finalists to push the Twinkies up the courthouse steps but, fearing skinned noses, moved the event to grass. That same year, students at Rochester Community College participated in a three-day "First Annual International Twinkie Festival." Among the festivities, students used 300 helium balloons to launch a Twinkie into the stratosphere for the first time. The Twinkie returned to earth some 120 miles away.

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