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Workers remember Robin Hood explosion

Susie Bolwar worked for 46 years in the office at the Hostess plant.

She recalled the explosion at International Multifoods Corp., 803 E. River Drive. The grain elevator (with Robin Hood Flour painted on the side) blast occurred on Friday, May 23, 1975.

"On a very hot, still day in May, the Robin Hood Four mill (down the street) exploded! It was during our lunch hour. We thought since the building shook, a semi had hit the building," Bolwar wrote.

"We look out the windows, it was a horrific sight — absolute destruction!

"Several men drowned. One man was standing at the top of the rubble. He had to be rescued by helicopter."

Four died in the explosion, and five were seriously hurt.

Diane Miller, who worked in the office for 44 years, recalled the incident in a vastly different way.

"I was married in 1975 — the day after the explosion," she said. "I took that Friday off, but the people in my office had some pretty bad memories of it."

For my part:

I have but one delectable memory from the Hostess plant in Davenport.

I'm guessing it was around 1975, because I had to be close to 10 years old.

My class from a Moline grade school went on a field trip to Hostess. I do not recall a thing about the inside of the building or the people in it or anything they were doing.

But I sure do remember the smell of the school bus when we left, because every kid got a miniature loaf of Wonder bread. In my memory, the bread was still warm.

The little loaf looked just like a normal-sized loaf — the red, blue and yellow-colored circles, floating in loose clusters.

I've coveted fresh-baked bread ever since.

From emailed memories:

"My great uncle used to work there, and he would bring me the mini loaves of white Wonder Bread. I would love making mini sandwiches with them." — Elesha Gayman.

"They must have also made cinnamon buns there in the early ’80s, because there was a stretch of time when I used to get off work at 6 a.m. across the street at 97X. As I would walk to my car and drove out of the parking lot, the cinnamon bun aroma was strong enough to practically float on (or upon). Eventually, this prompted me to start making a stop on the way home at the bakery in the Village of East Davenport." — Timmo Cawley

"My best memory of the place was on Sunday afternoon and evening; they would make 'Honey Buns.' We had the best smelling neighborhood ever." — Larry Gillhouse

"As a QC Times reporter (in the 1970s) who lived in Bettendorf, I always made it a point to drive to and from work on River Drive just for a few heavenly whiffs of freshly baked bread." — Larry Weindruch

Comments, some abbreviated, from Facebook:

Kent Stogdill: Have plenty of stories from the 23 years I worked there. ... pretty sure half of them they could not printed.

Paul Schroder: Had some crazy times in that plant, spent a lot of holidays in that place! Lol

Bruce York: I started at the Davenport plant in 1977 and was promoted to supervisor, then Assistant Bake Shop Superintendent in 1989. I transferred to the Waterloo, Iowa, plant as Bake Shop Superintendent and worked thru the company shutdown and remained there as Facilities Manager for Flower Foods until the building was sold in 2015 to the City Of Waterloo.

The Davenport and Waterloo Wonder Bread plants were said to have some of the best Quality product in the company. I truly miss all the people I worked with over the years, many which have passed on.

Kathy Dunne Bennett: Worked there for 25 years! We are planning a Wonder get together Sept. 23 at Sunset Park in Rock Island. Would love to see you there!! Picnic starts at noon, bring a dish to share and your own beverages.

Christine Morrish: Glad to see a building like this being refurbished for another use, rather than knocking it down and turning it into an empty grassy lot.

Carolina Christine: Miss driving by there and getting a huge whiff of freshly baked bread.

Faith Mallette McElderry: The free Mini loafs of bread we got when my parents bought bread there in the early ’60s. It was hot and wonderful.

Elaine Kaple McKamey: I'm still upset they painted over Twinkie the Kid. I loved that painting when I was little!

Steve Edmonds: 16 years in that place! Lots of good memories!

Jan Anderson: Field trips and the smell of that baking bread ...

Lynne Houldsworth Webber: 1960 kindergarten field trip, smelled so good.

Alan Mason: Worked 1990 thru 2003, many good memories.

Linda DiMauro: My husband worked there as a semi driver.