A bakery that first became profitable when it found a four-year-old to grace its snack cake cartons is on the hunt for another Little Debbie.
O.D. McKee, who sold nickel cakes out of the back of his car after graduating from college, opened a Chattanooga bakery with his wife Ruth in 1934. But their products didn't catch on until 1960, when McKee took a supplier's suggestion and borrowed his granddaughter's name and image for a new line of 12-cake packs. The McKees sold 14 million oatmeal cream pies that year.
To celebrate 50 years of Little Debbie products, the company is staging a lookalike contest. But spokesman Mike Gloekler is quick to stress the winner's picture won't replace the famous sketch of Debbie McKee Fowler, now an executive with Little Debbie.
"We are going to feature her photo on the back of some cartons," Gloekler says. "We haven't decided which; probably oatmeal cream pies or Swiss cake rolls."
The winner will also receive a $5000 scholarship; Semi-finalists will have to make do with a case of snack cakes.
There are some restrictions governing the contest, which the original Little Debbie will help judge: Entrants must be between the ages of four and eight. But since looks only count for 30 percent of a competitor's score (poise, charm, dress and the ability to capture Little Debbie's essence are the other considerations), the contest isn't limited to little freckle-faced white girls.
"It has absolutely nothing to do with race," Gloekler says. "We're looking for America's sweetheart."