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Thursday, February 11, 2010


The brand name "Aunt Jemima" comes from a 19th century minstrel song. To build name recognition the pancake company sponsored a promotional campaign featuring performances by live Aunt Jemima’s who flipped pancakes and told stories about the old days. In 1989 the company replaced the old Aunt Jemima with a black housewife figure in pearls.
There was a 1934 movie, "Imitation of Life" with Claudette Colbert and Louise Beavers that was loosely based on Aunt Jemima. Except the character Louise Beavers played was Delilah and both the single mothers started a pancake shop on the boardwalk in Atlantic City, then started boxing and selling "Aunt Delilah's Pancake Mix."
They were like sisters and lived with their daughters in a beautiful Brownstone mansion in East Manhattan, but the white woman lived upstairs, while the black woman lived downstairs. There's a scene where Jane and Delilah say goodnight after a grand party and Claudette Colbert walks up the huge sweeping staircase, while Louise Beavers walks down the same staircase, separate but equal, right?
It made them rich, but even with all that money they still had problems with their daughters and unhappiness. It's one of my favorite movies. Lana Turner did a re make of it in 1957, much more glamorous and a great deal sadder, but I still like the 1934 version best. Seems it caused quite a stir in the thirties regarding all the racial issues.
When I was little my Aunt Ruby employed a woman named Jessie Mae and often got up early in the morning and drove to the "Colored" section of Monahans to pick her up and take her home. She always made a huge fuss over me and would run to pick me up and hug and kiss me, I loved her.
When they could no longer afford her my aunt would drive me over to her house for a visit. Once when I visited I found out she'd moved to San Antonio and I cried and cried. Maybe that's why I've always liked that movie and Aunt Jemima so much.

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