Bunny Bread’s “Used Bread Store”

I was in Sam’s Club the other night right at closing. While I was standing near the baked goods area, I watched an employee culling the shelves of product that was hitting its expiration date. I thought to myself, if I had shopped there 10 minutes ago, the baked goods would have been considered fine; now it’s considered stale.

That got me to thinking about the old Bunny Bread facility at William and Christine St.

Toast from the “Used Bread Store”

My brothers and I were raised on cinnamon sugar peanut butter toast. If we were lucky, we got it made out of raisin bread. It didn’t matter if it was plain white bread or raisin break, it was almost always from the “Used Bread Store,” as we called it. My folks said the bread was perfectly good, just past the sell-by date. They assured us that we were going to eat it up so fast that it wouldn’t have a chance to get stale for real.

Bunny Bread Comes to Southeast Missouri

When Raymond Lewis died, his Sept. 25, 2001, obituary in The Southeast Missourian had information I didn’t know about Bunny Bread (previously known as Bamby Bread).

In 1925 Raymond Lewis and his two brothers, A.C. and Arnold, launched Lewis Bakeries in Anna, Il., with $300 they borrowed from their mother. Mr. Lewis took over the bakery in 1944 and grew the company into a major regional bakery.

In 1950 he originated and copyrighted the name “Bunny” and in 1951 he built a new bakery in Anna. Soon “That’s What I Said, Bunny Bread” and “Get the Rabbit Habit” were heard all over the Heartland.

The company is now comprised of seven bakeries selling fresh bread products in 14 states from Michigan to Alabama and from Ohio to Arkansas, and frozen products nationwide.

He became known for many original aphorisms including, “Grow or go,” “You don’t have to be big to be good,” When you get through changing, you are through,” “Keep your business as modern as your car,” “Just look in the mirror if you want to see your bad competitor”, and “The right time is when you make it.”

His marketing magic must have worked. Son Matt remembered having a Bunny Bread T-shirt when he was a kid, so he insisted that his grandmother send him one for Grandson Malcolm (for the record, he isn’t up to his normal cuteness standard in this photo. The sun must have been shining in his eyes. Malcolm, I mean.)

Bunny Bread Teen Age Club fundraiser

These three girls were going door to door trying to sell Bunny Bread to raise funds for the Teen Age Club. The negative sleeve said it was taken Aug. 24, 1967.

Ad shows Bunny Bread storefront

This ad showing the history of Cape businesses probably ran at Bunny Bread’s high point.

A May 29, 1956, Missourian story announced the start of construction of the building shown above. “The structure, declared cost of which is $21,000, will be 130 feet long by 50 feet wide. Three sides will be concrete block and the front brick. The bakery, 533 Good Hope St., will continue to be used by the firm while the new structure will be used as a loading point for trucks which distribute the products. ” The new building was needed to quarter the company’s fleet of 15 trucks.

The end was near

On Dec. 3, 1992, the other shoe dropped. Bunny Bread Bakeries, which was founded in a log cabin in Anna in 1925, announced it was closing its Anna baking operations. The Cape Girardeau bakery closed in 1988. Loss of population from the area was given as the reason for the restructuring.

I’m not sure when the “Used Bread Store” morphed into C.A.P Supplies.




Johnny Rabbitt Day – March 13, 1966

Johnny Rabbitt petition drive

This caption ran under this photo in The Southeast Missourian’s Youth Page on March 2, 1966:

Five members of Cape Girardeau’s Teen-Age Club hold a petition containing the signatures of more than 1,000 high school pupils asking Johnny Rabbit, KXOK disc jockey, to come here March 13 to emcee a dance at the Arena Building. Money from the dance will be used to pay Teen Town operating expenses previously underwritten by the United Fund. A TAC spokesman said that the teens would like to pay their own expenses so that United Fund money could be used for “underprivileged families.” The youths above are, from left, Bruce Ashby, son of Alfred Ashby, 1502 New Madrid; Steve Robert, son of Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robert, 1608 Perryville Rd.; Alan Hecht, son of Mr. and Mrs. Martin Hecht, 2416 Terry Hill; Miss Mary Wright, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Earnis Wright, 811 Perry, and Miss Jane McGinty, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Charles McGinty, 2435 Brookwood.

I was editor of the Youth Page at this time, and I used this photo as a four-column masthead for the page from time to time.

T or TT?

One thing that’s interesting is that both The Missourian and the photos show Johnny Rabbitt spelled with one T. All of the references I can find on the web show Rabbitt spelled with two Ts. I’ll stick with the two-T version.

Rabbitt’s real name was Don Pietromonaco. He was on the air at KXOK AM630, a 5,000-watt radio station, from 1963 to 1969, He died in 1997. Here’s a fairly good tribute site with more info.

I was a WLS Dick Biondi fan, myself

Dick Biondi (whose name I had never seen in print before writing this) came booming out of Chicago on 50,000-watt WLS. Go here to hear a clip of him. He is credited with being the first U.S. disc jockey to play the Beatles after he cranked up Love Me Do in February 1963. His signature song was On Top of a Pizza.

I had one of the first transistor radios to hit the market. It was a little bigger than a pack of cigarettes and used an earplug for a speaker. I can recall sitting at Camp Lewallen Boy Scout Camp listening to Biondi many a night. (I wore the radio when I was delivering newspapers, too. One day I walked up to a house to collect for the paper and the elderly woman looked at me, shook her head sadly, and said, “It’s a shame that a boy your age has lost his hearing.” She gave me a larger than usual tip, so I didn’t tell her it wasn’t a hearing aid.)

Dancing in the Bank Parking Lot

I have a couple dozen photos slugged TAC, Teen Town and Teen Age Club. I know a lot of you spent a lot of time at some combination of those things. I think they’re all the same, but going by different names. Can someone clear up that mystery?

Rocking in the First National Bank Parking Lot

I thought the guy in the middle of this picture (with his mouth open like he’s catching flies) looked like Bill East, so I sent it to him for confirmation. I also postulated that Chuck Dockins might be in a striped shirt behind and to his left.

Bill pleads guilty

Here’s his reply:

It is. And is is Teen Town. During the summer of ’65 ( I think) the original teen town, which was on the second floor of a building on the  corner of  Themis and Spanish, was shut  down on an emergency basis. The ceiling of the store below was bouncing and the building inspector ruled it unsafe.

Bob Swaim got his father to give permission to use the bank  parking lot during the summer. A second temporary site was found, and I  don’t remember where, and then to the corner of Clark and Broadway.  Later, a more  permanent move was to a building on Broadview.

The negative sleeve is marked Teen Age Club 8/21/64, so I’m pretty sure that’s an accurate date. There were some other sleeves of what looked like the same event that were called TAC, with no date. Maybe I got lazy and figured that spelling it out once was enough.

Is that Pat Sommers in the middle?

I’ve always been lousy matching names and faces, but I think that’s Pat Sommers in dead center. The girl on his right, wearing a dark shirt, looks a little like Joan Amlingmeyer.

Gallery of Dance Photos

To keep from embarrassing myself by making other wild guesses, I’m going to take the easy way out and post the pictures in a gallery. I’ll let you fill in the dots in the comments section. Click on any image to make it larger, then step through them by clicking on the left or right side of the picture.

If you were involved with TAC / Teen Age Club / Teen Town in the 1964 – 1967 era and would like to help me ID some photos, leave me a note. I have film labeled Johnny Rabbit petition; TAC Fashion Show; Fund Raiser at Ruesslers; TAC opening and TAC meeting with Logan 8-10-67. Hints welcome.