*February is Black History Month, and Brenda Brown has written a special story with memories of her mother, Christine Twine Collier, who is said to be the first professional African American cake decorator in Jasper, and her many years of working at the Bake Shop.
by Brenda Brown
Celebrating First African American Cake Decorator in Jasper, Texas
Christine Twine Collier started her career at the Hardy Hancock Hospital in Jasper, Texas where she was employed for five years. She was young, very intelligent, talented, and always seeking a challenge which would advance her input into the work force.
After working for five years at Hardy Hancock Hospital, Christine was eager to make a change. She took a walk around town and the Bake Shop caught her eye. She became curious and she went to visit the shop. When she arrived, she opened the double-screened doors at the back of the shop. She asked to speak to the owner Mr. Earl Marshall (known as Mr. Earl). He was amazed by her enthusiasm and she was hired on the spot. She started working at the Bake Shop in 1951 and was employed there for 30 years until the shop closed. Shortly after Christine started working in the Bake Shop, Cake decorating caught her eye. Christine observed a young white lady (name unknown) swirling her spatula and looping icing onto cakes. She was fascinated and eager to learn this amazing skill. The young lady noticed the interest that young Christine showed for decorating and she taught her how to decorate cakes.
Christine's cake decorating skills took off like wildfire. Drawing was one of her many talents, so this allowed her to be quiet creative when making her specialty wedding, anniversary, and birthday cakes. On many occasions, she would meet with brides, grooms, or their family to hear their ideas and then create the cake of their dreams. Christine is also well known for her toothpick and gum drop rose technique. In the early eighties and through the nineties Christine made very tall tiered cakes with water fountains and wedding figurines lined with miniature stairways. Christine would combine food colors to change the Bride and Groom figurines to match her African American customer's complexion because they were not available in the stores. On multiple occasions Christine was asked to travel as far as Houston, Texas to make her signature tiered wedding cake with water fountains. Christine also made plain iced cakes and other baked items that were requested by her customers.
The Bake Shop was a diner, pastry, cookies and cake shop all rolled into one awesome gathering place in the center of town. It was a very unique place at a time when people could agree on something that was really good (like good food). The Bake Shop was a pretty awesome place tucked neatly in the middle of clothing stores and the bank on West Houston Street. Everyone would come in the prep area for visits or just to observe the donut frying and fancy cake decorating. It must be mentioned that the Bake Shop had other specialty food items. The donuts made by Zeke Spikes put Shipley's and Krispy Kreme donuts to shame. The hamburgers made by Mr. Earl were like no other and can’t be duplicated. The fresh ingredients that he used created the unique taste.
Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays were especially demanding and all deadlines were met due the additional help Mr. Earl hired. Over the course, of many years Mr. Earl hired all three of Christine’s children and five of her nieces and nephews for Saturday, holiday, and summer help.
In addition to being a master cake decorator, Christine sold life insurance to African Americans customers in the late sixties. Christine would get off work at the Bake Shop and one of children would ride with her to collect the payments from her customers because pay pal, cash app, credit and debit cards were not available at that time. Once a month on Wednesday Christine and one of her children would travel to Beaumont to submit her report and payments to the Afro American Insurance Company.
After Christine's career at the Bake Shop, Christine was employed at Burkeville ISD for 21 years where she worked as a Teacher’s Aide (in the capacity of Librarian Assistant). She was able to accomplish one of her lifetime dreams of having an impact on young children's lives. Christine attended trainings at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas where she obtained several educational certificates. While working at Burkeville ISD, Christine continued her passion for cake decorating by providing her specialty wedding, anniversary, and birthday cakes for different events around the community. She also made special occasion cakes for staff and students to enjoy.
Christine is a praying Christian woman who puts God first. If you listen early in the morning hours you can hear her praying. This is something that she has done for many years in her home as well as where she currently resides. She loves her over one-hundred-years-old family church, West Chapel Baptist, the church Pastor and her Christian family and friends. Christine has always had a servant’s heart. Christine loved overseeing and participating in church and community activities. She rallied to get individuals registered to vote in Newton County and she worked the polls for local and national Elections for several years at the West Chapel Baptist Church polling location.
Christine is all about family. She loves her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, sister, brother, nieces, nephews, cousins, and friends. Christine is known as ‘Mother Dear’ to her family. Many use this title affectionately to show love and respect for her. She made many sacrifices to make sure her children were prepared for life by sending them to college or by helping them to find employment. Christine is the Matriarch of our family. She has instilled in her children lifelong core values such as honesty, integrity, loyalty, dependability, and self-worth. She shares advice with anyone she encounters. Christine is also very involved in the sharing and documenting of detailed information regarding our family history.
The beautiful, loved, and adored Christine is now 94 years old. She continues to have a great sense of humor which she shares with family and friends. Christine is very proud of her accomplishments. She is a legend in her own rights and we honor her contributions and legacy for Black History Month. She currently lives with her daughter Brenda Brown in Richmond, Texas.
Christine only has a few of her cake decorating pictures while at the Bake Shop. To share she can be contacted on Facebook.