Claxton Fruitcake
Credit: Grice Connect

Lori and I had some friends over for Christmas and I offered them my favorite dessert, Claxton Fruitcake.  Not being from around here they asked what does fruitcake taste like.  I immediately said, “it tastes like home.”

They tried it, loved it and wanted to know more about my home, if it was was as wonderful as the taste of Claxton fruitcake.  Indeed it was. My home at 307 Ridge Street in Claxton, Georgia was truly a special place.  Like most kids, I never really appreciated or understood how special home was until some of the parts that made it so special no longer exist.

Growing up in Claxton, Georgia

My great grandparent Wilson’s holding me on the front porch of 307 Ridge Street

My grandfather, Herschel Grice, who was a powerful father figure in my life, died 17 years ago.  We talked every day until his last.  What I would give for one more story, words of advice or encouragement with a sincerity that made you believe anything was possible.

My grandmother, Betty Grice, is now 91 and living her best life at Southern Manor with my favorite aunt Glenda.

We decided it would be best to sell the home place in Claxton a few years back when Betty’s health began to fail.

My Grandparents, Betty and Herschel Grice holding my daughter, Edie Grace on the front porch of 307 Ridge Street.

Betty and Hershel were the epitome of a gentile, southern couple.  Sundays meant church and a huge home cooked, made from scratch, everything fried lunch where the entire family would be at the table.

It was a safe place, that no matter what, we knew would always be there for us with welcoming arms.  It was in this home that I experienced love in its most basic and deepest forms.  That unconditional love that only your parents can give you.  

It was also where I experienced two people who believed in me more than I believed in myself.  “No matter what, tomorrow was going to be a better day.  A fall was never a fall, but only a stumble.  Storms only meant that God was clearing the way for a beautiful rainbow.  No matter what today brings, a reminder that tomorrow will always be better,” they would say.

At home, I learned important things like:

DeWayne Grice with Santa at the Sears and Roebuck in downtown Claxton circa 1971
  • The importance of integrity and the power of consistency.  
  • The turtle always wins the race.  
  • Showing up is 100% of the battle.  
  • Work like your life depends on it, every day.  
  • Live like someone is always watching.
  • Live below your means and save for tomorrow

Simple things.  Easy to do things.  But even easier to ignore.  

Growing up in Claxton, Georgia in rural America certainly was a special gift.  Everyone was your neighbor and your neighbors always had your back.

Ridge Street was the best street in the world to grow up on.  It was “Main Street” into a neighborhood which surrounded me with love at every corner.  

My neighbors:

  • Carylon and Junior Young were two of the hardest working and most caring people you would ever meet.  Junior worked for the City of Claxton and always had the best stories.  In fact, he loved telling the story of me falling in a hole with him he was digging when curiosity got the best of me.
  • Clistie and Ott Smith owned and ran Smith’s Grocery which was more like what we know as a convenience store now.  She dipped snuff, kept her money and her gun in her bra (not on the same side) and was the fiercest soul you would ever meet.  She was generous and kind to family and I was family because I lived across the street.  Her husband Ott was a salt of the earth farmer.  He taught me wonderful things like the art of castrating pigs.  To say he had some colorful stories is an understatement.
  • Bernice Nesmith, also a farmer, lived beside me.  He was an adventurous soul.  One of the founders of the Rattlesnake roundup.  He loved hunting rattlesnakes especially.  A few of the things he taught me I wish I could forget.  He was definitely a unique man of the world.
  • Lee and Sharon Johnson were our back yard neighbors.  They were by far my favorite for two main reasons.  They had a swimming pool and their daughter Lisa was the prettiest girl on the block.  Many would argue the prettiest girl in the whole town.  They treated me like family and Lisa and I became thick as thieves.  She was my first sister by another mother.  It would take a small novel to share all the wonderful things Lee, Sharon and Lisa have done for me and my family through the years.  It was Lee who believed in me enough to give me my first real job. Lee was my first exposure to an entrepreneur even before I even knew what that word meant.  Two two of them exposed me to a world of opportunity that I had only dreamed about.   

Everyone one of these wonderful people shared one thing in common that every kid needs.  They had the magical power of believing in me more than I believed in myself.  They knew anything was possible and each shared their secrets to life and success.  Each path was different, but each equally successful in their own way. 

Claxton Fruitcake a lifetime of memories

I love Claxton Fruitcake for lots of reasons in addition to its wonderful taste.  I understand the love that goes into every batch.  I have heard the stories of how they comb the world looking for the best ingredients to ensure the highest quality.  I know how they have perfected the baking process, giving them the ability to bake huge quantities of cakes.  Each with the same love and care as the founder’s wife Delores would bake the most special cake in her own oven.  I know about the unimaginable humbleness and generosity of the founder Albert Parker.  I know the impact this bakery and family has had on our small town we all called home.  

But what I love most is that with every bite there is an explosion of memories that make it so much more delicious than the last bite.

I preferred my fruitcake to be chilled.  My boyhood friend Judge Darin McCoy, dips his in chocolate.  

No matter how you eat your Claxton Fruitcake, if you grew up in Claxton, Georgia, every bite will always taste like home.

Herschel DeWayne Grice is the founder of Grice Connect an online news and information company in Statesboro, Georgia. DeWayne has been active in the media for over three decades. He brings a unique insight...