As we enter November, which means the beginning of the wonderful holiday season that runs through to January, I thought it would be nice to bring you a column centered around what makes the holidays special to people out here on the plains of southeastern Colorado. For the most part, the Holidays means HOME—for old and young alike—as we come together to celebrate family traditions and perhaps bring in some new ones, as well.
Those family traditions most definitely include the recipes and foods we love that have been passed down from beloved family members who came before us.
The other day I happened into a box in my basement that held all the treasures packed up from my Grandma Rose Legg’s house at 1006 Hickman Street in Eads. She and my Grandpa Myrl M. Legg had moved to Hickman Street in the late 1950s from the homestead located northwest of Eads. Grandma Legg loved to cook and every Sunday she had the entire family and any friends who cared to come to Sunday dinner that consisted of either fried chicken and mashed potatoes or roast beef and mashed potatoes. Those Sunday dinners helped to shape and mold the people my family members and I would become.
On that day when I was rummaging around in my Grandma Legg’s boxes, I found her cookbook. I remember it clearly as a child sitting in her warm kitchen, the book was out on the counter, open and ever ready for reference as she lovingly worked away at Sunday dinners and holiday feasts. It was black with gold embossed print on the outside with the title, “The Household Searchlight Recipe Book (1941)” and at the bottom the publisher was listed as The Household Magazine.
Casually intrigued, I opened the book and the life of my Grandma Legg jumped out at me from the pages of that old—82 years to be exact—recipe book. Yes, that old book contained some of the most interesting old-time, old-fashioned, maybe outdated recipes one could image—but tucked in among its more than 300 pages were notes, cards from friends, drawings, and pressed flowers, hand-drawn embroidery designs, shopping lists, and newspaper clippings of happenings in the town, and poems, and cleaning tips handwritten in my Grandma’s labored cursive writing. Scraps of paper and clip outs from can labels and magazines. And the best part—notes in the margins and stained pages on her most used recipes. My Grandma Legg was talking to me and showing me just what was important to her in her life as a housewife in the 1950s and 1960s.
Below are a couple of items I came across in that old recipe book that I thought I might share. The first is the recipe she had handwritten on one of the blank pages for a dessert we loved to eat as children staying at Grandma’s house.
½ cup shortening * 1 cup sugar * 1 c. water * 1 cup raisins * ¼ tes. Cinnamon * ½ tes. Cloves * ¼ tes. Salt * ¼ tes. Nutmeg * 1 tes. Soda * 2 cups sifted flour * 1 tes. Vanilla * ½ tes. Baking Powder * ½ cup chopped nuts
Combine shortening, sugar, water, raisins, spices and salt in sauce pan, heat gently then let boil 3 minutes. Set aside until cool, sift flour, soda and baking powder into cooled mixture and mix together. Add nuts and vanilla.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until done. Frost with powder sugar frosting and cut in squares.
2 cups brown sugar
6 tablespoons cream
4 sticks butter or oleo
Let this come to boil over low heat. Remove from heat and add 1 cup powder sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
*Note – Lib was my Grandma Legg’s neighbor across the street when they lived on Hickman Street in the late 1950s and early 1960s. She was Lib Musselman, married to Harve Musselman, and was Grandma Legg’s brother-in-law’s (Mart Kirby) sister.
The second is a poem that had been clipped out of the local newspaper and tucked into the pages of that recipe book—in the “sauces” section—as if Grandma Legg found it worth saving. It is worth saving—and actually Rose Legg’s granddaughter, today, finds it timely once again.
What the democrats’ll do.
Don’t ask Rusk or LBJ;
Can’t believe a word they say,
Tell me, Ouija, make it plain:
Are they gonna do it to us again?
Our boys are killed, our money’s spent.
No one will tell us where it went.
Crime rules our streets by day and night,
You’re robbed and shot in broad daylight.
If thugs are jugged, they soon go free,
The cop forgot to cross a t.
Our Supreme Court has flatly said:
“Obey the law, unless you’re Red.”
Reds, you know, have civil rights
Much too good for native whites.
This is the homeland of my birth.
Ouija, should I get off the Earth?
Our nations’ wealthy, we are told.
So what is happening to our gold?
The dollar’s shrunk so many times,
Dollars now look more like dimes.
If everything is okay doke,
Why is our country going broke?
Ouija, Ouija, here’s your chance
To read the future at a glance.
Take the donkey by the ears,
Shake him till the truth appears.
Ouija, Ouija, do your stuff.
We’ve had double talk enough.
My Grandma Legg, who only passed sixth grade but who read the Bible from cover to cover several times throughout her lifetime, always loved history and here she is still teaching me from the grave a few things about her political knowledge just before and after I was born in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
First of all, “Rusk” referred to in this poem clipped out of the Kiowa County Press by my Grandma Legg during that time period “was president of the Rockefeller Foundation from 1952 to 1960. In 1961 he became secretary of state under President Kennedy. Within a year he faced crises in Cuba, Indochina, and Berlin. Rusk’s characteristically cool and reticent personality, however, contributed to the State Department’s reduced role in national policy making. Rusk was retained as secretary of state in the Johnson administration following Kennedy’s assassination. From 1964 to 1968 he consistently defended the United States’ military involvement in Vietnam, making himself a target of growing antiwar sentiment in the country. His longtime opposition to the diplomatic recognition of communist China confirmed his image as an inflexible stalwart of the Cold War.”—Britannica
The reference to “LBJ,” of course, Lydon B. Johnson, was the President of the United States during that same controversial time frame at the height of the Cold War. Johnson is best known for being the U.S. President most responsible for the Vietnam War. Johnson, a Democrat, expanded the New Deal and promoted the Great Society bringing in government healthcare in 1965 in the form of Medicare and Medicaid.
The reference to the Supreme Court supporting the Reds’ civil rights and denying the native whites their civil rights involved the Court’s flip-flop in the late 1950s known as Red Monday when they issued varying opinions on the topic of communism. The term was coined by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to describe the day when the Supreme Court handed down decisions favoring communists (Reds) in the Smith Act, and related cases Dennis v. United States, Barenblatt v. United States, and Uphaus v. Wyman.
Finally, who knew that Ouija, as in the Ouija Board, was around in the late 1950s and early 1960s? Actually, it’s been around a lot longer than that. As early as the Chinese Song Dynasty in 1100 people have been using planchette type devices like the Ouija in order to receive messages from the spirits. The patent for the Ouija Board was filed on February 10, 1891, by Elijiah Bond and then transferred to William Fund who marketed the board to the masses. The word “Ouija” is supposedly a combination of the French and German words for “yes.”
My Grandma left herself in the one book, The Household Searchlight Recipe Book, she referenced the most, besides the Bible, throughout her life. Perhaps your family has such a recipe book you would like to share. If so, please contact the Independent and share your HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS story.