Goodbye Uncle Ben

A seismic shakeup is happening.  Think twice before putting your picture on a box of rice.

Whoever thought it’d happen, having to say goodbye to Uncle Ben? Why, he’s been with our households since 1943, guaranteeing the finest in converted rice. Plus, he’s Uncle Ben to about 3.5 billion people worldwide. How can we say goodbye?

Goodbye Uncle Ben

It’s sad to see you leave

But your time ran out

And now we’re left to grieve.


Now what will we do

Your kindly face no longer smiles

From your orange-boxed home

As we search down all the aisles.


They got to you

Mrs. Butterworth, too

Same as with Aunt Jemima

The identity police and crew.

It was a hatchet job to say the least. Silenced by corporate overwokeness. Overnight in jackboots they stormed in, demanded your overthrow. Customers be damned. You were booted out by the kneejerk reactions of aggrieved identify politics, an uprising bent on righting perceived ancient wrongs. It’s just the way things roll.

You were always smiling. It was warm and friendly. The gray hair added status and stature to your kindly face. I’m not sure why you were called Uncle Ben, but the name fit like a glove. You were part of our families, same as Aunt Jemima and Mrs. Butterworth.  Only you were the real deal. Bob’s Red Mill Arrowroot is on thin ice.

Maybe it was time to say goodbye to Aunt Jemima anyway, what with all the focus on healthy eating.  Water, corn syrup and food flavoring do not a syrup make. Some even wonder where Famous Amos is these days.

We searched for your obituary, but nothing showed. After all, with your incomparable notoriety one would think you’d have been a full-page writeup in the Sunday New York Times. They seem to get every other important person in there. You got no respect.

We can only hope your demise was sudden, without warning and painless, no dragging of your good name through the streets like the media is prone to do with lesser icons, politicians, perverts and felons.

We had hoped you’d live forever, like Grandma’s Molasses and the Jolly Green Giant and his asparagus. But hey, things change, and even Johnny Harris had to remove his Confederate flag to get his BBQ sauce back on the shelves. Hard to fight culture. Ask Mississippi. Some there even want God’s name off the new flag.

We heard the rumblings for years about your honorific title of ‘Uncle.’ Some uninformed folks north of the Mason Dixon line claimed it was derogatory, a slanderous stereotypical epithet.  Down South we never thought much about it.

Look, being Uncle Ben made you one of the family. We thought of you that way. We all have or had uncles, some of whom were upstanding citizens, others simply scalawags of the first order. But you delivered what you promised, delicious rice.

We confess that we took you for granted. We tend to do that to those we revere. We never thought about losing you. But now you’re gone, and have left no trace, no forwarding address except terse responses from your creators saying your special box will be rebranded.

And now, what are we left with? No-name bags of rice from China? After COVID denials, can they be trusted? Grieving cooks will soon take to the streets.

We must close the chapter on your illustrious career among us, Uncle Ben. You have been with us for 76 years, a pretty good run. You will not be forgotten. I think many would like to think that you have transcended, perhaps to reappear at some future time on another box for another generation.


Goodbye Uncle Ben

We’ll see you again one day

Another shelf, another box

‘Cause we’ve all gotta go that way.

Goodbye Uncle Ben. RIP. Check in on Uncle Remus and report back.


Bud Hearn

July 13, 2020