Bronco McStabber's Fudge Factory
Hello and welcome to San Francisco's greatest confectionaire "Bronco McStabber's", where we've been packing fudge for nearly a hundred years! During the half hour tour I'll be introducing you to some of the colorful characters that work here and, if you're lucky, they may let you get in on the action. Be warned though, if you're not careful, those guys'll work you so hard you'll be on your knees. But don't worry, 'cause when their done with you, I'll be taking you up the chocolate highway to ecstasy to sample our unique range of goods. Once you've tasted the mouthful of joy Bronco McStabber delivers you'll be drooling! And for only another $5 we'll keep filling your mouth 'til you can't swallow another drop.
Before we start the tour, let me just tell you a little about our unique enterprise. Bronco McStabber was born in 1875 and even now his home town celebrates his anniversary every year - he must be the biggest bender to ever come out of Big Bend, West Texas. Legend has it he first got acquainted with the business of packing fudge way back in 1898 when he began working for Hershey. Bronco was apprenticed as a chocolateer and found himself under General Bear Angel. I don't know if you've ever heard of the General, before 1860 he was a notorious buccaneer and part-time jockey but he really came to fame during the Civil War when he was the only man court-marshalled from both the Union and Confederate armies. He was so famous for offering taffy to his men before battle that they called him the chocolate soldier. That kind old man couldn't bear to see any man suffer. So at the Second Battle of Bull-Run he gathered up the youngest, blondest confederate prisoners and sheltered four of them in his own tent instead of seeing them transported to a prisoner of war camp where God knows what could have happened to them. Seems he was in the act of lending them his uniform to escape when he was caught because, when they came to arrest him, he was barely wearing anything 'cept his wife's Easter bonnet and his cavalry spurs. Somehow he escaped to rebel lines and they were so grateful to him they let him head up the newly formed Kentucky special forces - the KY Kommando. But the General was so adventurous that his men weren't always comfortable under him and he was transferred for accidentally discharging his weapon into a young recruit. Fortunately, he had lots of naval acquaintances from his time as a navigator of the Windward Pass and he'd have ended the Civil War as a Rear Admiral if it hadn't been some nasty insinuations in the Gettysburg Gazette. Luckily for us he fled west to California where one of his close companions found him a position at Hershey's.
Well, that old guy showed Bronco a thing or two, I guess, 'cause he wrote in his autobiography that within minutes of meeting the old geezer he was seeing stars. But Bronco was a quick learner, he made sure he saw every part of the fudge-packing business; starting off as a lowly cocoa-shunter and working his way up no matter how hard the going. And he must have impressed that old goat, cause the General had him in every position imaginable - on the factory floor, in the board room, the canteen you name it. Poor old Bronco was worked so hard he went home bent double sometimes. But he was learning, and not just from the General. Bronco pumped every visiting executive until he'd had a taste of every part of their business. They must have paid him well too, because after only seven years he was able to start up his own business, the wonderful one we're celebrating today.
Sadly, Bronco died in Ankara in 1948. The old man had always taken an interest in Turkish sports and was in the process of applying olive oil to the body of a young boy prior to having a friendly wrestle when he slipped and knocked his head. Fortunately, he left his business in capable hands, splitting the shares between his three adoptive daughters; Nancy, Sissy and Pansy.
The Company Museum
Sorry about that folks, the front door's out of action for repair so I'll just take you round the rear. Here we go, if we can all squeeze in through the back passage and then we'll make it inside via the tradesman's entrance. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.
Well, the first item of interest here is the rusty sherrif's badge that General Angel earned in a previous career and presented to Bronco back in '03. And next to that you'll see some of the recruiting posters Bronco put up around San Francisco when he was starting out. You know, Bronco didn't want to start any old business. He had a passion for Greek pursuits and studied Ancient history avidly. He spent years trying to persuade Baron deCoubertin to re-adopt the original Olympic ideals by returning to naked, male-only competition. His Athenian interests filled him with ideas that may seem a little peculiar to you or I. But Bronco was determined to found his fudge factory on the highest democratic principles - there would be no boss, all workers would be equal. Of course, you can't expect just anyone to work in such an idealistic situation - that's communism. Bronco was determined to recruit only people who would give their soul to fudge-packing. A really commited fudge-packer can't have the distraction of wives and families so Bronco set out to recruit a group of confirmed bachelors who would willingly give him their all.
Hundreds of men turned up to apply for the few dozen posts available and here you can see the original recruiting poster that attracted them, with its simple message:
Within hours Bronco assembled a group of like-minded enthusiasts and they started putting together the first production line; sweet biscuits cut into the shapes of sea-creatures and coated with a special sauce. Bronco hoped to have his first product in the shops inside a month even if it meant going at it hammer and tongs day and night. Things didn't go well initially, though. The men lacked cohesion and Bronco soon had to compromise his ideals. He realised that the men needed to know who was in charge, so against his principles he instituted a middle-management structure so that everyone knew their place. He divided his staff into those best suited to be on top and those who'd thrive at the bottom. Until then, Bronco's staff had worn identical white overcoats and hair-nets but after this initial success Bronco gave each of his supervisors a hand-made brown leather derby to wear. Later you'll see the modern supervisors wearing the same. That's why we call them brown-hatters. I don't think the other guys mind too much, they seem quite happy in their company-colored safety hats - our boys surely do love a purple helmet. And, what do you know? Once the men had clearly defined roles production tripled and soon kids were licking chocolate starfish along the whole western seaboard. Bronco McStabber's was off and running.
Of course, Bronco wasn't content with one succesful product. Within a year he'd launched the "Fudge Finger" which was another instant hit. Here you can see some more original promotional posters from around 1913. The tag-line "Every boy loves a couple of fingers" was seen all over the USA and Fudge Finger eating competitions became a hit. This poster here dates from that time, it's one of my favourites, the young man looks straight out of the Great Gatsby and that line "I can take three fingers at a time" became a popular catchphrase with music-hall entertainers.
Bronco didn't rest on his laurels though. Chocolate bar after chocolate bar followed: first "The Bandit", then "The Jockey" swiftly followed by "The Twinkie", all still available today. But you can't win 'em all. Bronco experimented with a rounder chocolate bar he called "The Pillow". For reasons unknown, few people seemed to want to bite the pillow and production was halted after only three months.
Nevertheless, Bronco was the toast of California and he decided to use that popularity to branch out. Bakery equipment was moved in and production of Cream puffs, fairy-cakes and Fruit-loaves began. The bakery produce flew off the shelves like hot cakes and a grateful Bronco gave every worker a three dollar bill as bonus.
Meet the staff
Having enjoyed a bit of company history I know you'll be gagging to see where our tasty produce is made and meet some of the people lucky enough to work here. If you'll just follow me through this door onto the shop-floor I'll introduce to the top man in the bakery section.
"Hi, my name is Guido. I'm the senior donut puncher for Bronco McStabbers - no one needs a donut without a hole. It's a good job and I've been here since leaving school in '81. I started at the bottom and had to be real versatile. Now I have a team of younger men beneath me at all times. Bronco's makes a whole range of cakes, muffins and cup-cakes - the top sellers in California. But not everything we make is so sweet. In '82 we branched out in savouries. I was still quite junior back then so I worked my way through all the lesser jobs on the savoury line from marmite mincer, salami squeezer and worst of all I had to clean out the injector pipes when they got clogged. That was the position no one wanted to assume, we called those guys the chutney ferrets. I always preferred to be on the receiving end myself so I hated that. But now I'm back on the sweet stuff and happy as Larry. Sometimes it don't pay to look backwards."
And over here we'll meet some of the people who still work on the savoury produce. Say hello to Gaylord.
"Hi, call me Guy. I'm Senior Maintenance Manager here but I started at Bronco’s in 1976 as a drainpipe engineer. Basically, I’d come in every day and inspect everyone's waste outlet. If it was blocked I’d adopt a wide stance and give it a good rodding until things started to flow. Then I got promoted onto machine maintenance with special responsibility for keeping production up on the savoury lines. Every morning would see me elbow deep in some fella's gravy chute or giving a mouthful to some corn holers who'd let his pop-corn machine seize-up. Then I'd have to check that every man had thoroughly greased his snippit valve before letting him get down to action. I was promoted in ’85 and given a job helping to protect the production lines from power cuts by installing our own generators. Everything in this factory is now AC/DC so Bronco McStabbers will keep going even when the lights go out across San Francisco.”
“Two years ago they put me in charge of effluent management. As you can imagine, a factory this size produces tons of food waste every day and we’re committed to being as eco-friendly as possible. So one of our young men collects all the waste from each machine every hour and stuffs as much in his dirt box as it can hold. Then he drives it up the muck-track to where we compost it and bake it in a mud oven. Just one mud oven can produce enough methane to power the generators for hours, which is great. Then we have a team of guys who spread the compost across the mountainside behind us to grow more corn – it’s not a popular job, the guys call themselves the shit-shovellers, pardon my French, but we prefer to call them uphill gardeners.”
“My other role is to look after the animals on site, particularly the team of meat hounds we keep for hunting the deer to make our famous venison pie. We give those ravenous old dogs a big bone at the end of every hunt, they love to chew on 'em. Of course, we get most of our supplies from a crafty butcher who likes to deliver his meat round the rear himself. We can’t afford to have vermin so I also look after the cats who keep rats away from our delivery center. We sprang them from the city pound and those ex-prison pussies really love it here. We also breed chicken hawks to keep away pigeons. I just love chicken hawks, I treat 'em a like children - in fact I hand-reared the cock myself, and now it's enormous. Still, I'm glad we don't keep the same menagerie of critters we had a while back. For a few months there it seemed like I did nothing else but choke chickens, throttle turkeys or try to milk the donkey. God knows how I found time for work!”
Welcome to Bronco McStabber's staff canteen where we provide top rate food to refuel our hungry workers. You'll notice there are some ladies working here. After all, we are in the twenty first century and Bronco's must move with the times and the labor code. So ten years back Nancy and Pansy recruited the first female staff. But we haven't entirely dispensed with Bronco's policies - these girls were specifically chosen because they're not the marrying kind.
Having women in factories can cause problems sometimes, not least in the fashion stakes. But we insist that everyone wears the same uniform and all our ladies wear sensible shoes. They provide quality refreshment twenty four hours a day and I know our hungry workers appreciate it. There are girls working in the offices too and they like to drop in to drink some bush tea or sample some of our exotic cuisine - I don't reckon there are many other factories where you'll see the secretaries tucking into some gammon flaps, a fresh beaver or maybe having a taste of Haddock pie or Captain Birdseye's special fish-cakes. Personally I really enjoy eating clams but, if they're available, sometimes I'll try a plate of bearded scallops."
Of course, if you work with food all day, you don't always want to eat at work so many of our canteen staff like to gather after hours and dine at the Y. They serve a well-packed kebab there, out by the ornamental ponds where you can feed the goldfish for free. Other nights we'll go for a drink at the "Furry Goblet" but these girls are so committed that when we're there they spend half their time gazing in the butcher's window across the street.
This is Mary, she's the canteen manager.
"Hi, call me Butch. I've been working here since 2001 prior to that I worked at Masey's where I was a Rug and Carpet specialist for a few years having previously worked in their winter clothing section as a muff consultant. I didn't set out to be a canteen manager, I guess, I always had artistic aspirations. I was quite the finger artist at kindergarten but as I got older I grew and I got what my mom used to call Dutch boy fingers, good for plugging a dyke but so thick I could barely hold a brush. Still, they come in handy kneading pizza dough or tenderising steak, and I reckon I can make a pretty good fist of anything in a kitchen."
"Most of the girls who eat at the canteen are on some sort of diet so they're not much interested in meat and two veg dishes. They generally just come down to drool over a vertical bacon sandwich and then munch some tongue salad or maybe take in a fish dinner, red snapper's always popular. Not all seafood sells equally well, mind you. Last week I couldn't persuade anyone to sample the box of kippers I openned specially, and hardly anyone seemed interested in poor old Granny's oysters.
A lot of the men like to get something solid inside them in their lunch hour. You'd be surprised how much sausage a fella can get down his throat without chewing. One guy got twelve inches of baloney inside him in one sitting. But they're all committed meat eaters, they can't get enough pork. I tried to convert them to lamb because a lot of the girls here can produce a mouth-watering rack. Somehow it just never seemed to interest our guys though. They'd rather have a ham shank and wash it down with an exotic Greek yoghurt."
Of course, it's not all work even at Bronco's. Our guys have to relax and Bronco himself knew that. He valued his privacy but he liked to make sure that the staff had plenty of oportunities to enjoy themselves. So every new member of staff joins the Sports and Social Club after a brief initiation that we're not allowed to talk about to strangers. Bronco was the driving force behind many of the original activities, as a keen aesthete he organised tours of local art galleries and museums and passed on his love of musical theater to his men by starting up a drama society. Bronco himself was so good with colors that his stage designs were immaculate and he spared no expense on them. He was a very close friend of Dorothy Lamour and quite au fait with Doris Day, so it wasn't unusual for Hollywood stars to drop by and watch the the men perform. Non-cast members were supposed to pay at the door but Bronco just couldn't bear to deny his largesse to the younger men and many times he'd lend an apprentice his backstage pass to come and let him hang out with the big boys.
Bronco was also a talented musician and you could seeing him practising on his big pink oboe for hours. But that wasn't the end to his talents, he could do a mean Liberace impression and couldn't walk past an organ without running his fingers up and down it a few times. That's why he set up the factory band. Bronco spent hours with the younger men, showing them the complicated fingering necessary to become a Jazz flautist and ensuring that they all had a good gargle before they started to blow a bassoon. Any young boy who joined the company was given a fiddle almost as soon as they signed up. That or he be introduced to tromboning, Bronco was an astute talent spotter. In his later years he tried to move with the times by taking an interest in Gary Glitter.
It wasn't all music, of course. Men of Bronco's kind like to get out into the fresh air and many's the weekend he could be seen roaming the hills looking for badgers or just spending time at his country home. He ensured that there were plenty of sporting oportunities for his staff. The "Half-Leapfrog Society" - whatever that meant - was one particularly popular activity back in the early days. There was even a circus skills group which produced a number of famous sword swallowers and some really excellent trapeze artists. Naturally, Bronco was always the ringmaster.
Most popular was his works baseball team which was famous across the state for the number of switch-hitters they had - it was said you couldn't get into the team unless you were prepared to swing both ways. Bronco himself designed their purple uniform and insisted that they always wore a green carnation. Opponents feared them so much they were referred to as The Lavender Menace. And they were right to fear them because the Lavender Menace practised pitching and catching night after night until they were all sore. Of course, when you're that succesful other teams are sure to try poaching players and despite their loyalty to Bronco a few were prepared to bat for the other side. At the end of every match, Bronco insisted on giving every player a protein shake and joining them in the shower block. He'd help soap down the victorious players and was never too proud to lift their shirts from the foot lockers when they were too stiff from beating balls all afternoon to bend over one more time.
Of course, Bronco didn't just look after his own guys, he was a true Christian knight who redefined what loving your fellow man meant. Hardly an evening went by when Bronco didn't patrol the lonely streets in search of a young man down on his luck to offer a warm bed for the night. "Truly," he always said. "It is better to give than to receive"
All in all it's been a good first one hundred years and we're only disappointed that we'll be closing in six weeks. Sadly, modern day anti-discrimination legislation means that, if we stayed open, we'd have to betray Bronco's vision by employing homosexuals.