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A Job's Saving Graces: Milk Duds and Doughnuts

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A Job's Saving Graces: Milk Duds and Doughnuts

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A Job's Saving Graces: Milk Duds and Doughnuts

A Job's Saving Graces: Milk Duds and Doughnuts

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Commentator Daniel Pinkwater recalls his experience as a hack sculptor in Chicago near a factory that produced candy. He tells how the job included great doughnuts and the constant smell of Milk Duds. He quit, but Pinkwater regrets not getting the name of the place where the doughnuts were bought.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

A different class of confection and another time and place and you arrive at a memory of commentator Daniel Pinkwater. Milk Duds.

DANIEL PINKWATER reporting:

There those chocolate covered caramels that you get at the movies in those little boxes. The ones nobody has ever seen in the light. I found out why they're called Milk Duds. It seems the idea was to make them perfectly round and they came out elliptical, hence, they called them Duds. They're Hershey Milk Duds now.

It was during the Holloway Period that I graduated from college and wound up in Chicago with a degree in art. My major was sculpture and I needed a job. So I look in the paper and there it is. Help wanted, sculptor. Must have knowledge of woodcarving. How incredible is that? I apply for the job. The guy in the office says they were really looking for someone around 16 years old they can train but since I've been to college and also because there were no other applicants, they would give me a try.

The other wood carvers were all European guys around 70 years old. They take a really dim view of someone starting out to learn the craft at 22, but they're nice guys. "You should really start at 14," Janos, the oldest guy, tells me.

The job consists of us carvers carving decorative items out of poplar from which molds will be made and then casts made of wood-like plastic produced for sale in Woolworths, Kresges and other fine stores. You have to have your own tools and a shop coat. They supply the workbench. Rough sketches come from the design department and we carve what we are given to carve. Everybody kicks in a dollar a day and around two o'clock a guy comes with Hungarian pastries, which are to die for.

Across the street is the Holloway's Milk Duds factory and every twenty minutes, some vent opens and exhales a cloud of powerful Milk Dud aroma, which wafts in the open windows. It's quiet on our floor. The sound of tools chipping wood and the whoosh of slow moving ceiling fans and every twenty minutes the chocolaty smell.

I keep wanting to go to sleep. I go nuts in my second week. I quit, I'm getting out of here. "Why you quit," Janos asks me. "Your making good progress. We thought you too old to start, but you're doing very good." I had finished my carving of the Nina and was in the middle of the Pinta. Yanos was doing the Santa Maria. "What will you do?" Yanos asks.

"I'll make my own sculpture," I say. "You can do your own designs? You are artist." I should have found out where those pastries came from before I left. Later that year my entry to the Juried Sculpture Show at the Art Institute was rejected. It was ahead of its time, a piece entitled "Milk Dud."

SIEGEL: Daniel Pinkwater now lives in the Hudson Valley of New York.

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