Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Wartime Halloween

I was just talking to my dad today who lives in Des Moines, Iowa. We were talking about Halloween and he mentioned that they celebrated Beggars' Night yesterday. Apparently, in Des Moines they don't have trick o' treating, but do "tricks for treats" where the kids have to perform something like a silly, ghostly joke or pun. The change was made in the 1930s to discourage all the horrible Halloween pranking going on and to put the focus on the kids having to do something for the candy they were receiving instead.

There's a nice article about it over at the Des Moines Register. Click here to read the full article by Kelsey Batschelet. Here's a neat little snippet from the article relating to WWII:

"Beggars' Night gained traction, and in 1942 it was promoted as a way for children to play a part in the war effort. The rallying headline, “Kids! - Don’t help the Axis on Halloween,” topped an Oct. 29, 1942 Des Moines Register article. The piece referenced the work of Des Moines area school teachers, who spent the week of Halloween in 1942 giving “special talks on how material destroyed on the home front hurts America’s fighting men on the war front.” It also chided teenagers for soaping windows, saying that “soap wasted … means waste of an ingredient used in manufacture of high explosives.”

There are lots of interesting aspects about Halloween relating to the war. Here is a great article about wartime Halloween on the American WWII website. Here's another article as well, and here is one about how Halloween vandalism waned greatly due to the war. A good thing, I'd think!

Have a safe and fun Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


This little break from writing or editing or worrying about my book has been wonderful! At first I didn't know what to do with myself. The day after I sent my completed content edits to my editor I started to reread my book from the start and my husband reminded me that I needed to take a break. I was stubborn at first, but eventually came 'round to his wisdom.

I've gotten in a lot of pleasure reading including some WWII fiction and 1940s magazines. I've had lots of fun pinning hoards of 1940s and other era clothing on my Pinterest boards. I even went antiquing and bought a working 1950s chrome toaster with bakelite handles (my kids like toast now!), a 1930s double waffle iron (still need to clean it so we can make some smashing waffles), and a working 1940s AM shortwave radio. SO thrilled about that sweet little find!

Then my best friend, Mairi, came for a visit and we visited oodles of fun places like Mt. Vernon (George Washington's home), Gettysburg and it's glorious fabric shop, Needle & Thread, Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, MD for a candlelight cemetery tour, the original Washington Monument & Appalachian Trail, and Historic St. Mary's City. Mairi is an archaeologist, so St. Mary's was a great place to go, and lucky us, they were carrying out an archaeological dig at Mt. Vernon when we went. We got to see into the deep pit they've dug so far. So cool!

Of course we visited an antique shop due to our mutual love of old stuff, and because of Mairi's sharp eye, I came home with a box of steel WWII "Vicky Victory" hairpins for a nice price. And at Needle & Thread, we raided the clearance bin and I found 3 yards of a navy blue cotton print perfect for a 1940s blouse or skirt or both! I've got my eye on the patterns at Wearing History for the 1940s Sailor Girl Play Suit and the 1930s Togs outfit. Through tons of pinning on Pinterest and browsing through my 1940s magazines, I've been learning a lot more about WWII fashion. I've got a fun, new project idea for the new year using my magazines  which I'll tell you about soon. (since the sewing project didn't work out the way I planned)

I feel much more refreshed and have a deeper knowledge and understanding of many aspects of WWII that I didn't have before I wrote my book. I feel much better going into the last edits on my book before I send it out into the world. I can't wait! :-D

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Heartbreak of Museums

Now that the content edits on my book are done, I have a little breather room to think of other things for a few weeks besides editing - like sewing (fingers crossed!) and catching up on my blog.

I had fully intended to write about a few museums I revisited when our family took a summer trip to my home state of Indiana, but finishing my book took priority and I was also procrastinating.

I'll be honest. I was really discouraged just thinking about writing about the museums mainly because I was severely let down by one museum I've always held very close to my heart. From the time I worked there to the present day, it has, in my opinion, strayed from its once shining path in museum progressiveness and excellence. It's been hard to even think of writing about it. I've debated back and forth over whether I should lay it all out, where they're going wrong, to remind them of what they once stood for. I don't know if that would be beneficial or not. I'm sure I only know part of the story about why they are now the way they are and undoubtedly the main reason is funding.

Funding is almost every museum's main concern. What sickens me is that I feel this museum has gone from being an institution that is passionate about teaching history to one that is about making money and pleasing those who hold the purse strings. It is a very hard thing in the museum world, and it might sound overly dramatic, but I am in effect heartbroken. The sad thing is that I know I'm not the only one. I spoke with some employees I used to work with and this change is something they all know and/or feel and fight against every day. There are some very beautiful and proud parts of this museum that have been laid waste for things that have no meaning or tie to the land itself and it's an absolute tragedy. What's worse is that it doesn't make sense.

It concerns me because I wonder if this is just a type and a shadow of the way all museums might be going with the relentless advance of technology. I sincerely hope not. I hope that many museums realize that they are so much more than gimmicks to attract visitors, that they are institutions that preserve our history and culture and teach what they know to the generations. We still have so much to learn from what museums and their collections are able to teach us.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to share everything. My experience at this museum is still something so tender and close to my heart. I recognize this feeling now of painful loss and disappointment.

It's mourning. Mourning for something that's been lost with little hope of recovery.

My supreme hope is that they find their way again. For the sake of themselves and for the people they teach.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

WWII Ration Recipe - Tamale Pie Special

Yes, I've been a bit silent on here for awhile. I'm in the thick of my book edits, and boy are they hairy! I'm having to rearrange a few scenes, cut some chapters out, etc. Oh, the headache!

Despite the writing craziness, I've had the chance to cook another WWII ration recipe recently for Tamale Pie. It's from a newly acquired, rather fun-looking ration cookbook published in 1943 called Coupon Cookery by Prudence Penny. Ha!

I just love the cover. Very patriotic and colorful!

The book is filled with clever, snappy little rhymes, including the foreword. Isn't it fun?

The Table of Contents is revealing. Chapters include "How to Use Ration Books", "Home-Tried Victory Menus" (including shopping lists), "Quantities to Serve Fifty", "Meeting the Meat Problem", "The New Slants on Salads", and "Storing the Victory Harvest". Interesting stuff! This book seemed to be doing it all from helping with ration points, to teaching you how to preserve everything from your Victory Garden with recipes and menus in between. 

 Inside there are several pages listing all of the foods that require ration stamps and because the prices and ration coupon requirements fluctuated, it helped you keep track of all that. From a food history standpoint, this alone is pretty valuable! It tells us what foods might have been available and which ones were rationed. It's actually not very easy to find this detailed of information.

What would have been even more valuable is if the chart had been filled in!
Oh well. 

And of course, there's a list of rationing "commandments" that was recommended to the housewife to help her support the war and to make her time in the kitchen less stressful.

At the beginning of every chapter is a cute illustration and a little rhyme. They sure liked their rhymes back then. I see them in 1940s magazine advertisements too. 

 And here is the Tamale Pie Special I made. It was quite tasty. What I liked is that they have you add chili powder to the cornmeal mush that you make for a bottom and top crust. I don't know if I baked it long enough, but the bottom was still like a mush/polenta while the top was nice and cooked. I actually liked it that way, though my husband didn't.
Tamale Pie Special
Here's the recipe and enjoy!