Sunday, February 1, 2015

What A-Treat it was

A few years ago, Kim was at the computer and I was in another room when suddenly, out of the evening shadows, came wailing an "Oh, no!"

"What? What?" I asked, not knowing what.

"They've torn down Yoken's," she croaked.

Yoken's was a landmark restaurant in Portsmouth, NH, a town where our family happened to live when I was in the third grade. And Yoken's was a family-owned restaurant that survived more than 50 years as a favorite meeting place in the same way that Yarborough's serves Lexington now.

Yoken's still survives in my childhood memories, surfacing every now and then as comfortable nostalgia. Kim and I ate there on our honeymoon, as well as on several other repeated vacation visits to New England, so the place became a memory for her, too.

I was sad when I learned that Yoken's had been demolished and I felt like something had been removed from my personal being, not to mention from the very core of my existence. I do not exaggerate.

I hoped never to feel that pain again. No such luck.

The other day when I came home from work, Kim greeted me with tears in her eyes.

"I have something to tell you," she said.

(No, it's not that. Don't even think about going there).

So what could it be? What upset my wife?

"A-Treat has closed. They've gone out of business," said Kim, dabbing her eyes.

Well, here it was again.

A-Treat was a family-run beverage business — sodas, actually — that dated back to the early 1900s, or about 100 years ago. I was born in Allentown, PA, and so was A-Treat. I think the "A" actually stood for Allentown, but the name obviously lended itself to the refreshment being "a treat."

Anyway, as far as I know, the company never sought to expand outside the Lehigh Valley, which partly explains why the beverage was a highly regarded local favorite.

I grew up on A-Treats and Tastykakes. (Tastykakes, located in Philadelphia, almost went out of business a few years ago, but was purchased by Flowers Foods and has now gone national. But something was lost along the way and they don't taste anything like my childhood. Only the name kindles fond memories now.)

But being a local favorite isn't a guarantee for continued success. According to the story in the Allentown Morning Call, Walmart demanded that A-Treat resupply its shelves every day, something the soda company, with just 40 employees, apparently couldn't do. Times change. (Read here.)

Whenever Kim and I headed north, back to my origins, we'd get Philadelphia hoagies, A-Treats and Tastykakes. Those were signature moments of my youth and I wanted to share them with her. And they suited her well. She acquired a taste for them, just as I acquired a taste for grits when I moved south.

As I get older, it hits home more and more that nothing lasts forever, even the good stuff.

The good stuff, as it turns out, are really the memories that you keep.

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