Reflections | Lifestyle Magazine RHR Vol14 No5 - Page 30

LEGACY LO R E IRA SR.’S SON, IRA JR., had worked with his dad at the Richmond Hill bakery as a teenager and, later, would have his young son John in tow to uphold a tradition now three generations strong. Today, John recalls his early childhood in the Georgia Fruit Cake Company. “For almost as far back as I remember, my grandfather worked here, my dad worked here, my mom worked here, and I worked here,” John said. “I was raised in the bakery. Starting when I was five, I would help clean up and make boxes.” John continued to work in the bakery well into his teen- age years before going on to attend nursing school. Ira Sr. and Jr. continued to tend to their bustling storefront. Each summer is what they refer to as “the season:” the time of year to start making fruitcakes for the holidays. The Womble men worked overtime to complete their regular orders in addition to manufacturing fruitcakes in mass quantities. “It is difficult to run a full-service bakery and make that many fruitcakes,” John said. “They made hundreds of thou- sands of pounds of fruitcakes. During ‘the season,’ I rarely saw my dad unless I came to work.” After acquiring a military contract to make cakes for all of their commissaries, the Wombles pared down their store- front to focus almost solely on making fruitcakes. “It was hard work, but they had their recipe and stuck with it,” John said. “The routine was to make cake, make cake, and make more cake. If you fell behind, you came in early or stayed late.” A fter years of making cake, making cake, and making more cake, John assumed full ownership of the bakery. Since his overtaking, he has renovated to include a few sitting areas before the ordering counter. But with each change, he’s made sure to maintain the historical value that the bakery holds. Their framed Southern Living Magazine feature from 1997 hangs beside black and white photos of past employees and family members; John’s children make four generations of Wombles who have worked in the bakery. John’s new storefront has plenty of Ira Sr.’s original treats: ladyfingers, macaroons, and, of course, fruitcake. John has worked to revitalize these items using old hand- written recipe cards from his dad and grandfather, some- times complete with Crisco-stained fingerprints. “The problem is they wouldn’t write down the amounts on some things,” John said. “So I have to rely on knowing 28 Re f lectionsMediaCommunications.com Clockwise: John holding fruitcake cookies. Yo Bok holding pinecone pastries fresh from the oven. Georgia Fruit Cake Company employee of over 40 years, Birdie, loading cake into the Womble’s wrapping machine. Mixing buttercream icing. John (right) and Ira Jr. (left) at Georgia Fruit Cake Company. Ira Womble Sr. (left) and Ira Womble Jr. (right) with the original oak table being loaned to Richmond Hill Bakery.