My first taste of lemon pie made with Eagle Brand condensed milk came on a sunny morning when mother and a woman I’d never met were happily stirring up someone’s favorite pie to take to “him” on his release from prison. In Texarkana, Texas, that would have been the Federal Correctional Institute (FCI) south of town.

They kept talking about “Johnny,” which I later learned was Johnnie Bailes of the Bailes Brothers, a top Country music act and leading group on the Louisiana Hayride. Johnnie Bailes had served time for violating the Mann Act, which forbade transporting women across state lines for immoral purposes.

I can’t remember any of the conversation between mother and the woman other than overhearing “his favorite pie,” but I well remember how excited they were and mother allowing me to lick the mixing bowl and discover the wonders of lemon pie.

Mother and the woman chattered for a while, then wrapped the pie in “tin” foil, and the woman left after hugging mother and thanking her. I’m not sure Bailes was at the Texarkana FCI. Some reports say he was at the prison in Terre Haute, IN. No matter. Wherever he was, he got a great pie that day.


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