Sib­lings shared a sweet se­cret about the school base­ment.


Rex Ashby, my dad, was a hard­work­ing man in blue over­alls who raised nine chil­dren—seven girls and two boys—dur­ing the De­pres­sion. In his prime, he was an in­ven­tor and jack-of-all-trades. At one time, he was the cus­to­dian at the high school in Hover, Washington, on the Columbia River, about 12 miles east of Ken­newick.

But what I re­mem­ber most about my fa­ther is his pas­sion and skill for can­dy­mak­ing. Di­vin­ity, penuche and co­coa sour cream fudge were his fa­vorites, and Dad’s rep­u­ta­tion as a can­dy­maker lasted his whole life.

While stok­ing the coal fur­nace in the base­ment of the red­brick school­house where he worked, he would wait for the fire to die down, pull out a bag of ingredients he’d brought from home and, just be­fore the fur­nace needed stok­ing again, start cook­ing his con­fec­tions.

He held the mix­ture over the hot coals us­ing a pot with a long piece of wood at­tached to the han­dle.

When we sniffed the aroma of fudge or pop­corn com­ing through the ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem, my sib­lings and I knew Dad was busy mix­ing up a treat. We would sneak down to the base­ment be­tween classes, some­times bring­ing guests with us.

We moved when Dad worked in the Port­land, Ore­gon, ship­yards for a time, even­tu­ally re­turn­ing to Ken­newick. Here, Dad grad­u­ated to big­ger and bet­ter can­dy­mak­ing tech­niques. He bought an enor­mous mar­ble slab and a candy ther­mome­ter so he could gauge the tem­per­a­ture of the boil­ing mass of candy. Once it reached the crit­i­cal stage, he would throw his con­coc­tion onto the cool slab and swirl it un­til it cooled and set up at just the right con­sis­tency.

I have to ad­mit there were times when I tired of home­made fudge and yearned for the store-bought candy bars we got at Christ­mas. But over the years, my feel­ings changed.

As my sis­ters and broth­ers and I had chil­dren of our own, we often vis­ited Grandpa Rex and Grandma Martha, and a tra­di­tion was born. The first or­der of busi­ness—find the fudge. That mem­ory still rests warm on my heart and the hearts of my chil­dren.

REX AND his dog, Lucy, un­wind on the front porch.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.