Students enjoy a sweet visitor

Published 5:40 am Thursday, February 19, 2004

By By NORMA LERNER / Edwardsburg Argus
EDWARDSBURG -- "I would like to work at a chocolate factory so I could sneak any piece of chocolate … so it can leave a bunch of chocolate in my stomach." Delaney Gillison, 7, who made the comment, knows what's good. She and her classmates of Maggie Sevison's first-grade along with first-grade students of Jeannine Seggeman at the Edwardsburg Primary School studied chocolate last week.
The two teachers attended a conference last year about constructive writing and had their students start a journal, "Too Much Chocolate."
Wednesday a special visitor came and told them about The South Bend Chocolate Company.
Their special guest was Mark Tarner who had sweet dreams about chocolate as a little boy and today is the president of a successful chocolate company and author of his first children's book, "Harry's Sweet Dream."
The children received a valentine gift of a candy bar from Tarner after he told them that he was five years old when his dad made chocolate at a factory. He helped him and wanted to grow up and be like his dad and run a chocolate factory.
His father's name was Don Tarner and the company sold the chocolate to grocery stores in the South Bend, Ind. area.
Mark Tarner said he worked with his father as he got older, and the chocolate sales "really took off" in the 1980s when they came up with the idea of putting the Notre Dame logo on the chocolates. Then a separate company was started which was The South Bend Chocolate Company. He said today they have 20 stores and sell 200 different types of chocolates in 37 states. The factory is located at 3300 West Sample Street and offers tours.
Tarner's book, "Harry's Sweet Dream," was named after the Harrison School that was near the chocolate factory.
Harry had a dream of working there. The factory was at the end of Lake Street at Sample Street, where he lived nearby with his parents. Harry told no one about his dream except his sister, Harriet Harrison. She told no one either. Harry always wanted chocolate for dessert. Every so often, his dad would come home early from work, and the Harrisons were off to the chocolate factory store.
There Harry liked to order chocolate milkshakes. "Aaaah …" he said as he drew the chocolate ice cream closer to his lips. That's when he said, "One day I want to work at the chocolate factory." The family went home and Harry went to bed and with "Sweet Dreams."
Tarner signed autographs for his book that was published last year after he presented several copies for the school library. The students had many questions for him.
One question was, "When you wrote the story, did your hand get tired." Tarner said, "No, I wrote it in a weekend. I write 40 letters a day. My hand is used to it."
Another question, " How do you make it (the chocolate)?" Tarner said it was a secret. He said his father gave him recipes that are secret.
"How do you get ideas?" Tarner answered that he gets ideas that come to him at home with his family.
"Why did you want to work in a chocolate factory?" Tarner said he grew up in the business. "It's a part of me. I was going to be a teacher."
"What makes a person successful?" Tarner replied, "I had a dream. Success is helping other people get what they want."
Seggerman said the students write in journals every day and their writing about "Too Much Chocolate" was read to Tarner. "I love chocolate. I love how it looks and smells, but most of all I love how chocolate tastes … Yum." Their story continued about how chocolate came from a cacao bean in Mexico and was discovered in the 1800s.
Seven-year-old Shawn Davis in Seggerman's class wrote, "Hershey Kisses taste good. Chocolate is brown and white. Chocolate can be big. There is candy, chocolate pudding, chocolate milk, chocolate cake, smores and milkshakes."
Gabrielle Golba, also seven in Seggerman's class, wrote, "I like chocolate. Chocolate comes in all different sizes. Some chocolates have caramel in them."
Too much chocolate? That will never happen.