Monday, January 30, 2017

Parents Do the Darndest Things

by Connie Cortright

What do you think this picture is about? It's a picture from the 20s or 30s, but what does your imagination come up with for a caption?

I can't for the life of me figure out why any parent would build a cage for a child suspended out of an apartment window.

Possible options?

Punishment? What would a Child Protective Services agent say about this today?

The only way to get the baby to have some fresh air? Maybe the apartment was so crowded that putting him outside would get him out from underfoot.

It's cooler to sleep in the cage than in a hot apartment? Remember this would be prior to the use of air conditioners.

After doing a bit of research online, I found that the middle option above was the correct answer - fresh air. This contraption was patented in 1922 by Emma Read of Spokane, Washington to allow the parents, who lived on the 22nd floor in a New York apartment, a place to give the baby some fresh air.

It was argued back then that fresh air - especially cold air - would help the child build up an immunity to the common cold. These cages were suspended out of windows to allow parents, who had no backyard, to give their babies that opportunity.

Babies were placed in the cages for nap times or play times during the day. In my mind, any mother who could put her baby in one of these cages high above the sidewalk, without a terrible feeling in her gut, wasn't a very good mother. Maybe after doctors and psychologists told her that it was good for the baby often enough, she'd be able to do it and ignore her subconscious. I'd like to ask my daughters-in-law if they could put their precious children in one of these.

Needless to say, this idea was on the list as one the worst 50 inventions in US history.  I hate to think how many accidents happened before the end of the 30s when these were banned. How horrible.

Have you have ever heard about these cages before?

Information taken from Brief and Bizarre History of the Baby Cage

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Frozen - the 1920s Version

by Connie Cortright

I understand that blogs sometimes have guest authors, so today we’re having a guest give a firsthand account of how ice for iceboxes was made. The author is my grandfather who was born in 1900. Before he passed away in 1985, he wrote down his “memoirs” for his family. The following is his description of cutting ice for icehouses:

“On the farm we always had our own ice on the other end of the building where the milk separator and milk utensils were kept. The icehouse part was double boarded with four inch studding to form an air space between the walls. There was one door in the north end so the ice could be put in or taken out as the occasion arose.

Each winter, usually the latter part of February or the first part of March, when the ice in Bear Lake got to be 22 to 24 inches thick, the icehouse was filled. It usually held from 125 to 150 cakes of ice, which was cut in twenty-four inches square at the top of the ice.

To start with, a hole had to be cut in the ice far enough out in the lake to have clear clean water. After the snow had been removed, the ice was marked on top into lines that were twenty-four inches square. An ice saw was inserted into the hole and then with an up and down movement the ice could be cut into squares. After the first row was removed, then one could cut a whole row and then into squares.

Photo from Wikicommons
To get the first two out, you had to watch out or you could slip back into the hole yourself very easily. One used an ice tongs that had points on each side to clamp into the ice block. By bobbing the cake up and down once or twice, the block could be landed on top of the ice. When about twenty cakes were cut, you could start loading them on a sleigh. That was a good sized load, and the driver could start for home. The ice had to be tied on each end of the sleigh to keep the ice from sliding off. If you were not careful of the holes in the road, the ropes would be broken and you would lose the whole load.

One person usually did the cutting, while the other hauled with the help of the kids at the icehouse. The cakes of ice were placed side by side on a four inch floor of sawdust. About six inches were left open on all sides of the building for saw dust after the building was filled. As all cakes were not always square and did not fit together exactly true, an adz was used to chip off the sides so they would fit. When the layer was completed the tops of each cake was chiseled down so that the cracks between could be filled and tamped down tight. Then the next layer was added until the building was filled.
Photo from Wikicommons

When that was completed about two loads of sawdust was shoveled in the sides and tamped down tight. The less airspace, the longer the ice would last. When the ice was removed, only one cake at a time, it was taken out just as it was put in only in reverse. Each time only the part to be taken was uncovered and then the hole covered and packed down firm.”

Even after reading his description, I can’t imagine how that ice could remain frozen throughout a summer and into the fall to keep an icebox cold. Also, I can’t imagine how much ice a city had to cut to keep all the iceboxes cold for a whole year! What a cold job! BRRRR!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Thirst Quencher of the Ages

by Connie Cortright

Today it's time for a quiz. What is the official soft drink of Nebraska? Bet you didn't know it was Kool-Aid. The reason... it was invented in Hasting, Nebraska in 1927 by Edwin Perkins.

Mr. Perkins was an inventor from the time he was a young boy. In 1920 he came up with a way to make a concentrated soft drink in six flavors that was sold in bottles named Fruit Smack.

It was a hit with kids back then, but had problems with the bottles breaking in shipment. By 1927, he found a way to concentrate it in powder form and changed the name to Kool-Ade. Mothers liked this product since it sold for ten cents and, when the water was added, made two quarts of drink

It only took two years for this local invention to expand in popularity. By 1929, Kool-Ade was sold in stores across the country making millions of children happy.

When the Depression hit, the price was lowered even further to five cents. Since cash was in such short supply during those years, mothers appreciated it even more and could afford to pick up some Kool-Ade packages at the store. The name was also changed to Kool-Aid about this time.

This, then, is another item that you can serve to your children that your grandparents enjoyed when they were little. I know that I served it to my children when they were growing up since it was inexpensive and went a long way to quench the thirsty throats of growing boys.

 What was your favorite flavor? Ours was lemon-lime Kool-Aid, which was hard to find during the 1980s for some reason. I think I drank half of the pitcher whenever we discovered lime on the grocer shelves.

In 1998, Nebraska decided to make Kool-Aid the official soft drink of the state. And... if you're in the area of Hasting, during the second weekend in August, make sure you stop by to help them celebrate "Kool-Aid Days" to commemorate the history of this drink invented by a son of the state. They have carnival games, inflatable rides, races and a parade along with the World's Largest Kool-Aid Stand during the weekend. Sounds like fun. I'll have to see if it fits in my schedule.

Information taken from Nebraska State Historical Society

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Twinkie, Twinkie, Little Cake

by Connie Cortright

Our trip down memory lane this week takes us to another food that our grandparents might have tasted and can still be found on the grocery shelves today. Hostess Twinkies have been around for eighty-four years, invented on April 6, 1930 in River Forest, Illinois.

Hostess brand named snacks were sold originally in the 1920s by the Continental Bakeries Company. At that time, they sold a product called Hostess Little Shortbread Fingers, which included a strawberry filing in the little cakes. They sound yummy! This product sold well, but was only produced during a couple weeks in June when strawberries were ripe in Illinois.

James Dewar, the vice president of the Chicago plant, wanted to find a use for the Shortbread Fingers baking pans during the rest of the year. He baked some of the shortbread cakes and injected them with banana cream filling and named them Twinkies, a name he came up with when he saw a billboard advertising Twinkle-Toe Shoes. Seems like an odd thing to name something after, but it stuck!

The newly invented snack was an instant hit when it arrived on the shelves. Two Twinkies were sold for a nickel back then, a price even a mother could love. The one big problem they had was that Twinkies had a two day shelf life, so a Hostess truck had to replace the supply every two days. I imagine that they must have been only sold to local stores at that time.

The recipe was later changed to replace the milk, eggs, and butter to have a longer shelf life. This also improved when the snack was sealed in cellophane wrappers. Today Twinkies have a shelf life of twenty-five days.

The banana cream filling was changed to the well-known vanilla crème filling during World War II. The banana shortage caused by the war precipitated this change, but the vanilla filling was well-received by all. Wish I could have tasted the banana flavored Twinkies. They've been vanilla filled most of the time since then.

Twinkies has been a snack in lunch boxes or after school for generations. The only time they haven't been in production was during the last part of 2012 and first half of 2013 when Hostess Company filed for bankruptcy. Apollo Global Management bought up the company in early 2013 allowing Twinkies to return to production by July of that year. Thank goodness for that!

What is your first memory of eating this delicious snack?

Information taken from Delish - History of Snack Foods

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Cookie Crumbles

by Connie Cortright

Now that the holiday season is behind us, many people are starting their annual diets to lose the weight they added over the last month. However, chocolate chip cookies will probably sneak past the diet police since it is generally accepted that they are the favorite cookie of our country.

This favorite cookie had its beginning during the Depression so here is the chocolate chip cookie story.

Ruth Graves Wakefield, who ran the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusetts, loved to bake for the boarders of her inn. She wanted to make them Butter Drop Do cookies which called for an addition of Baker's chocolate to the recipe to make a chocolate dough. Mrs. Wakefield discovered that she didn't have any Baker's chocolate in the house that day so instead substituted a chocolate bar cut into tiny morsels. That chocolate bar had been given to her by Andrew Nestle.

Ruth hoped the chocolate bits would melt making the cookies chocolate like they usually were. Instead she was surprised to see that the cookies retained their vanilla taste with the addition of melted chocolate morsels. They were such a hit with the guests of her inn that she continued to improve the recipe and make the chocolate chip cookies for them.

Thus the connection between the Nestle Company and Mrs. Wakefield's Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies was born. To accommodate the popularity of the cookies, for several years Nestle's formed their chocolate bars so they would be easier to break into chocolate bits for the cookies.

In 1939 the Nestle Company started packaging chocolate chips specifically for the cookies so women everywhere didn't have to chop up a Nestle chocolate bar to add to the recipe.

With her recipe becoming more famous all the time, Mrs. Wakefield contracted with Nestle's to have them print her cookie recipe on the back of every package of Nestle's Chocolate Chips in return for a life time supply of Nestle's chocolate for her kitchen. That was quite a deal! Nestle's benefited from the popularity of the cookies and only had to supply her with chocolate.

When I was a girl, I learned to bake chocolate chip cookies with the recipe on the back of the Nestle's Chocolate Chip bag as I'm sure did most every other woman in the country. They taste the same today as in 1933.

I wanted to share another bit of history with you that we share with our loved ones who lived so many years ago. I, for one, am very glad that Mrs. Wakefield came up with this wonderful recipe. It's been a favorite for myself and my family for many years. Now, where's my cookie?

Information taken from History of Chocolate chip Cookies