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My Blog

My memories of the Maurice Lennell Cookie Factory

Good morning to all my readers.  A rainy morning to wake up to and still the sounds of chirping birds.  They seem to chatter, no matter what the weather. 
As I sit, sipping my coffee this morning ,I choose to write about something that happened when I was quite young. Now growing up in Chicago, we lived in a old two flat building.  It was a simple home with two bedrooms a kitchen and a living room.  The kitchen was enormous and that is usually where most activity occurred.  I look back on those days with great fondness.  On one side of the room were white cabinets on the ground and atop of them, lined up all the way across the cabinet were apothecary type jars.  Those jars were each filled with some treat and each were different.  Now my grandmother kept them full and they were there for the taking.  There would be popcorn, pretzels, her famous peanut butter cookies made from an old Peter Pan peanut Butter recipe, and then in each of the others were a different type of Maurice Lennell cookies.   Yummy!  Grandma kept them full at all times. 
Now my grandmother didn't drive so when the supply was getting low, and my mother would have a day off of work, we would take the drive to Maurice Lennell cookie factory.  
Now in the Chicago land area,. on the North side stood a factory and store outlet.  It was on Harlem Ave. just North of Montrose Ave.  Now most people wouldn't think that going to such a place would be a big deal, but it was a special outing.  The factory had a large glass window from the outside of the building and then another on the inside where you could watch the cookies being made and coming down the conveyer belt.  Hundreds and hundreds of cookies would roll past you.  Quite a big deal for a kid to see. 
Then in the factory itself, there were mountains of cookie boxes on skids.  Now there were the standard box somewhere, but they had these huge boxes that were divided by each mountain.  I remember walking though the rooms and the aroma of those cookies were  just the temptation one needed to buy as many as you could fit into a cart.  They also had them in tin cans, for regular occasion and then special cans for the holidays.  I think the best was the bags of broken cookies that were up in the front near the cashiers. Of course, at the cashiers, they also had a plate filled with broken cookies there for tasting.  Yum...I got to have cookies even before I walked out of the store.  They were pretty smart, because you managed to always pick up a few bags of the broken cookies because of the tasting...everyone had instant gratification.  That bag got opened as soon as we walked out of the store. By the time we arrived home I had perused my way through the bag and had picked and ate every single delicious morsel of my favorite cookie which was the almond.  Now next in line for me was the star shape with the cherry in the middle. 
When we got home, Grandma would fill up those jars with each individual type of cookie.  When my friend Susan came over..her eyes lit up like the lights on a Christmas tree.   Her favorites were the pinwheels.  She would just stare at the jars until Grandma would tell her help herself. 
Now, years went by and the tradition of going to Maurice Lennellls continue with myself and my children.  The fun of watching those cookies roll down that conveyer belt still had a hypnotizing hold on me and now my daughters.  It was like an outing.  Who would ever imagine that such a simple trip would cause such pleasure...but it did.  We would walk the aisles and each were allowed to choose a large box of their favorite cookies.  My one daughter loved the pinwheels like my friend Susan and the others favorite was the Chocolate chips.  The also had a box of assorted, so that one went into the cart for my husband and myself..  And yes, the cart also contained the broken cookie bags.  And  tradition had it...they were opened and eaten on the way home.   
As they years passed, Maurice Lennell still had the store, but the cookie belt was seldom running and the thrill of going there dwindled.  But that still didn't stop ous from taking the trip.  I remember whenever anyone in the family was going to the hospital, my mother had always bought a couple of boxes that she would take to give to the nurses station.  You can be sure that anyone in the hospital  was well taken care of.  They appreciated the fact that they were treated kindly for their acts of kindness.  That tradition also carried through with me as well. 
Now, Maurice Lennell finally closed it's doors for good.  They opened up a small outlet store a little bit down the road, but those days of a window with noses of children pressed against it watching the cookies roll down the belt are no longer a part of the cookie history.  But you can still go and purchase the boxes of cookies just like you did years ago.  Just recently I was asked my eldest granddaughter if I could bring her some pinwheels from there when I came down to the south for a visit.  
Funny how a company that started in 1925 could leave such a lasting impression.  That sign of theirs with the cookie jar with the kid in it, sticking it's head out of the jar with the lid on its head left a lasting impression for so many of us through the years.  An era gone by but not forgotten.  There is something special in my heart for those cookies...probably because they were more than just  a cookie, they were an experience that lasted some almost 60 years later and still remains a special memory. 
Perhaps, I will paint more of the cookie cans I designed and fill them with some of those memories for the upcoming holidays.    

4 Comments to My memories of the Maurice Lennell Cookie Factory:

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Phyllis Kohnke on Friday, August 02, 2013 9:36 AM
Great story!!I remember Maurice Lenell very well. I grew up at Belmont & Cumberland(1st Ave.)in Chicago and the trip to the "cookie store" was a great treat for me as well. I can still remember how good it smelled. My favorite was the choc. chip followed by the almond crescents. My Mom always bought a bag of broken cookies as well as a couple assortments. My Dad's favorite was the star with the jelly. I've often wondered if it was still there. At my Jewel they only carry the Almond crescents these days. Ah, those good old childhood memories. I recently read a book you might enjoy. It's called THE ADVENTURES OF THE THUNDERBOLT KID (I can't recall the author.) It was all about growing up in the 50's and I laughed out loud several times while reading it. I will try to remember to bring it to the Sept.meeting.
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Debi Gajewski on Tuesday, August 06, 2013 7:30 PM
Dear Phyllis, Isn't amazing the things we remember! I was those simple things, those wonderful places that left us with lasting memories. I cannot wait to see you at the September meeting. The book I am sure will be amazing.

Jeanni on Friday, August 02, 2013 7:53 PM
Today's story brings back many vivid memories, especially of the 13 yrs of working less than 2 blocks away from the factory! But, this prompts the sharing of many of Mom's recipes for anything that called for a graham cracker crust. Mom many a times used the cookie crumbs from the 'broken cookies' bags instead of the graham crackers! The cheese cake, p-nut butter bars, and so many other home-made goodies never tasted exactly the same twice in a row
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Debi Gajewski on Tuesday, August 06, 2013 7:31 PM
I love the story about using the broken cookies for everything. Very interesting. Hmm...I may save some cookie crumbs and try my hand at that!

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