My first job out of high school in 1960 and aged 16, was at a candy factory at 25th and O Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska. It was called the House of Bauer.
Ray Bauer had a dream, and it was called the Bavarian mint. It was (and still is) a little cube of delicious milk chocolate with a hint of mint.
They sent a box of the candies to the White House every year and had complimentary letters from many presidents hanging in their lobby.
I started at $1.10 per hour as a cook's helper. I stirred candy with a canoe paddle in huge copper kettles all day. The old fellow who had been the candy chef since inception planned a trip to visit relatives in Dallas for a week or two. He felt that I had gained enough experience in the few short months working with him, to carry on in his absence. While in Dallas, he had a heart attack and died!
That left me with the chore of making the candies for the world! He of course, left his recipes – on 3x5 ruled cards on the windowsill of the candy kitchen.
Day after day, with the help of the nice little old ladies in the shop, I cooked and stirred, stirred and poured candies. Ever see Willy Wonka's chocolate factory? Yep! The chocolates came in 50 pound boxes from Hershey. There was light, dark and white. Not much more to know about chocolate than that. I would break the large cubes into smaller pieces and wheel them in a wheelbarrow to the chocolate cookers. There it was melted down into and smooth chocolate and mechanically stirred for several days. Little by little, mint flavoring was added until it filled he air in the whole factory with a wonderful minty aroma. When the time came, the large kettles of candy were transported to the pouring room where the chocolate was poured on a marble slab about 30-40 feet long. As it cooled, I used a cutter that resembled a piece of farm equipment that was heated over a fire to allow a smooth cut in the huge slab of chocolate. The result was hundreds of one inch squares of the wonderfully smooth chocolate candies.
From there, a thin coating of a darker chocolate was poured over them as they traveled down the conveyor belt to packaging. Each candy was handled, inspected and trimmed by hand before packaging. The detail in those days was wonderful and has been replaced by an automated process now.
While Bauer's was known for the minted candies, they had a fairly large selection of candies. I made turtles, bonbons, old fashioned cream drops, etc., etc. I roasted nuts large and small I over an open fire in a rotating basket. Molds used for producing various shapes of candies were merely shallow wooden boxes filled with corn starch.
Needless to say, at age 16, I wasn't quite up to the responsibly of the job and in less than a year, I resigned. When I went into the office to resign, Mrs Bauer told me that they really wanted me to stay and was prepared to give me a nickel per hour raise.
After sampling the candy during all of that time in cooking it, I lost my taste for candy for several years. I do still like to make candies, but mostly fudge at Christmastime.
The mints? Well, Ray decided that he liked racing his horses more than making candy and sold his company. It was resold a number of times and the last record of it that I could find lists it as being operated in White Plains, NY. A few years ago, I bought a few boxes of the minted candies at Walgreens. When I told the cashier that "I used to make these candies here in Lincoln nearly 50 years ago," I didn't even get a blank look. Another page in history. – Rich, Lincoln, Nebraska