Mr. Jones, Baking And Memories

I’d like to take a moment to share a story about a friend who passed away this week. It is a very recent memory, but one that is very powerful with me.

The men in my family have been working as bakers in our area since the arrival of my great grandfather from Sweden and I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of a tradition and an art that was once considered a staple in everyone’s daily lives and has become more of simply a guilty pleasure for most as our bakery is now the last retail bakery left in the area that’s not part of a grocery chain.

Shortly after I returned from my service in the Navy, the oldest bakery in town closed for good. The name instantly conjures memories for many people in Jamestown as they had enjoyed the traditional products from Jones Tasty Baking and the Jones family for more than 100 years. My father and I attended the auction and visited with our friends as people from all across the state were standing around bidding for the best price on everything in the shop. It was quite sad watching as things were being carted off and equipment was being dismantled. I remember thinking about how devastating it would be to see my Dad’s business being disbursed to the masses as he sat and watched and I thought about how sad it would be to not be a part of everyone’s lives through our products.

As we walked around and looked to see if there was anything we could bid on for our own bakery, I saw Mr. Jones (Dick) in the back of the room all by himself sitting on one of the baking benches. You have to understand as I continue that the bench is where everything happens in the bakery. It’s where all the conversations happen and all the work is done. The bench is where all the learning takes place and the sharing and passing down of the art of baking happens. It’s the first thing the baker walks up to when he arrives and the last thing to get cleaned up before he leaves. The baker’s bench is the definition of the bakery.

I stood and watched for a moment as Mr. Jones sat and dangled his legs off the side of the bench much like a child would sit on his dad’s big chair. He was slumped over and in deep thought. Not watching the auction, but staring off into the back room. I didn’t approach him and I didn’t ask him what he was thinking, but I could see by his face and his motions that he was reliving a memory with every piece of equipment that came up for a bid. It would be impossible not to. The simple smell of a donut invokes memories in me that stretch back to my childhood and continue right up to today. I wish to this day that I had a camera with me so I could have taken what I believe would have been the most iconic photo I could have ever taken.

The memories he must have had are a part of each one of us, whether we know it or not. You see, when we think back to our childhood memories, we think a lot of the time when family would get together to celebrate holidays and such. Think back to your memories. If you pay attention to detail you’ll be able to remember the foods that your mom or grandma would serve. For most of us, part of those delicious dinners always included the fresh baked breads from the bakery. Or maybe you remember being a kid and stopping into the corner bakery and getting a fresh pastry or donut or you just recall the smell of the bakery when you were riding your bicycle past. In our bakery, we hear stories of how grown-ups now remember when their parents or grandparents would bring them into the bakery and the lady behind the counter would always give them a pink striped cookie. We all have memories of the local bakery and those memories were crafted from the bakers who would wake up while everyone else was asleep and spend their mornings and nights carrying on the traditions that were passed down to them one generation after another.

Mr. Jones was responsible for so many memories that this town has and he will always be in mine, as well. I am getting ready to go to the funeral parlor to pay my respects but I wanted to write this so that I could share this story as I believe there are many, many people who can think back and relive a memory that may have been connected, in some way, to one of the memories that he was having that day.

Chad Ecklof is an area resident who owns and operates Ecklof Bakery Inc.