Letters From Leton: Popcorn Balls

In Appalachia, there are specific memories for many of us surrounding holidays and celebrations. One of those this time of year is homemade popcorn balls.

Homemade popcorn balls as treats originated in our family more as a necessity. Having extra money to purchase candy was not a consideration – so instead of cash, the resources of time, hard work and love were put into the making of a treat.

As the years rolled by, the economic aspects of our life changed somewhat, and “store bought” candy became an option. 

However, the young folks, teenagers and now the children of children of earlier Halloween travelers, could not wait for my mom’s homemade popcorn balls. For them, the excitement and taste of All Hallows Eve was my mom’s popcorn balls and not candy in wrappers. That tradition continued for many years until my mom’s health prevented her from working on the treats.

Unbeknownst to me, growing up two miles away as the crow flies (or 5 miles and 15 minutes driving time in non-country lingo), my wife’s grandmother (Granny) had her own tradition of making homemade popcorn balls for the children (and adults) of the Steven’s area of Wise. This too continued until her health prevented her from completing this special mission.

My Mom’s and Granny’s popcorn balls were made differently. Mom started with Karo syrup (a staple of the south) while Granny used molasses as her starting base. But the real base of both was love and wanting to express that to family and friends.

Those were different times. Handing out homemade treats was not only accepted, it was highly anticipated. These homemade treats were a common tie that bound two or three generations. And in many ways symbolized the common values of families that came together through marriage. Families of modest means. Families that understood the value that anything worth having generally involved “sweat equity”.

Times change and we evolve. That is to be understood.

Yet I believe that the personal touch is remembered. That the interactions of people through gifts of their time and hard work is long remembered by the recipient of the personal gift.

It is true in banking as well as popcorn balls.

Stay safe.

– Leton


“Letters From Leton” is a blog series comprised of the weekly updates that Leton Harding – President, Chairman, and CEO of Powell Valley National Bank, shares with the Bank’s team members. These newsletters are full of uplifting anecdotes and intriguing insights that are applicable beyond the Bank, so we want to share them with you.