Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thinking Outside the Box


In about a month one of my granddaughters will start kindergarten. I’m sure her room will be filled with all kinds of fun educational things to play with. Will she have blocks or Legos in her room? Maybe she has a toy store with play money to teach her about shopping.

I doubt if she’ll have a sandbox in her classroom. A long time ago this was a common teaching tool. When both of my parents went to one-room schools, they had a sandbox in each of their schools. Since this was a totally new concept to me,  I interviewed them so we’d have eye-witness information in this blog.

Connie: How big was the sandbox in your classroom?

Dad: It was about six feet long and three feet wide, but was on a three foot high table. The edges were six inch high with an inch and a half lip on them. That was to keep the sand inside of the sandbox.

Mom: The foundation on the table was wooden, but it was overlaid with a tin for the bottom for the sandbox. They did that so any water added to the sand to build things wouldn’t leak all over the floor.

C: Who played in the sandbox? Was it for the little kids during recess?

M: No, no. It was never used during recess time at all. It wasn’t for the littlest students to play in. It was only used for “projects”.

D:  That’s right. It was used for geography or social studies class projects by the upper graders. Things like building mountains or maybe an Indian village. The sandbox would be used by one grade for their project for a couple days. After it was completed and graded, the sand would be smoothed out for the next project.

C: What types of things were taught with the projects?

D: We had all types of projects.  In one instance we made an Indian village scene by cutting out the characters and teepees from cardboard. Another time we made the pilgrim story in the sandbox.

D: If you needed a lake in the scene, a piece of blue paper was laid in the bottom of the sandbox and covered by a piece of glass. Then boats could be put on the lake if need be. Around the lake you could make hills or mountains. If you needed a fort, you’d just add water to the sand to build the hard walls.

C: What’s the most memorable project you can remember in the sandbox?

D: One time we built a Florida beach scene with cardboard palm trees, but the most fun one was building a farm. We would bring toy animals, tractors, and other things from home and make a huge farm scene. We made white fences and a cardboard barn. We even made a road by getting the sand wet and hard and driving toy cars on it.

C: The most important question... who cleaned up the mess all over the floor after you worked in the sand?

M: There was no mess. Since it was three feet off the ground, no one got in the box. If any sand spilled out on the floor in the creation of a scene, you were expected to get out the broom and clean it up yourself. That’s the way things worked in school back then.

M: I think that the sandboxes in schools back then were like computers today. They were used by students for educational purposes, and yet it was fun at the same time.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your insights. Some days it seems like it would be nice if life could be simpler and children could learn by playing in sandboxes in schools. I bet there are kids who’d love that.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Postum Notes

It's not at all unusual today to find health-conscious people who are very aware of the ingredients in the foods they eat and drink. In fact, I think it's very common to find people studying labels on foods or beverages to find out the contents before purchasing.

The same holds true for the 1920s. With the innovation in packaged foods and beverages, people were very aware of what they were consuming. One of the warnings that was beat into people's heads back then was the disadvantages of consuming too much caffeine.

Because of the wariness of the bad effects of caffeine, a new product was produced and sold starting in 1912 as a substitute for unhealthy coffee. This powdered roasted-grain beverage was made by the Postum Cereal Company. This same company later sold Post Grape Nuts, which is sold as a healthy cereal yet today

Postum was made from wheat bran, wheat, molasses, and maltodextrin from corn. This 10-calorie beverage was caffeine-free, fat-free, trans-fat-free, sodium-free, and kosher. Couldn't get any better than that.


It appealed to the health-conscious consumer and was advertised with the slogan "There's a Reason". One of the ads stated the following: Have you ever suspected that the cause of various annoying ills might lie in the daily cup of tea or coffee? A sure and easy way out of coffee and tea troubles is to shift to INSTANT POSTUM. There's no caffeine nor anything harmful in this delightful, pure food-drink... just the nourishing goodness of wheat. Postum has put thousands of former tea and coffee drinkers on the Road to Wellsville.


Postum was sometimes advertised by the cartoon character Mr. Coffee Nerves. He would appear in situations that might cause problems with people - lack of sleep, irritability, lack of athletic prowess - due to the overuse of caffeine in coffee. The cartoon storyline then showed that these people would give up their use of coffee, sending Mr. Coffee Nerves packing, and turn to Postum to get tranquility back in their lives.

Postum was portrayed as the cure-all for the ills that too much caffeine caused in everyday lives.

Isn't it ironic that this product was advertised as healthy and nourishing because it was made from wheat? Today people would consider this beverage unhealthy simply because it's made from wheat. Now we have so many people that can't eat wheat products because of the reformulation of wheat seed. Postum wouldn't have a chance to survive in our world today.

Information taken from Wikipedia: Postum

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Would You Like a Hot Cup of George?

These days coffee comes in all sizes, colors and flavors from Keurig machines to Espresso Cafes. We are used to getting a hot cup of "joe" any time of the day in two minutes flat.

But, how about a "cup of George"?  If you were a soldier in the trenches during World War I, you'd know what I mean. Back then the doughboys drank cups of George-named after George Washington Coffee-when they needed a hit of caffeine.

George Constant Louis Washington was the first person to mass produce instant coffee in America around 1910. Coffee had been boiled and consumed for centuries prior to that, but Mr. Washington discovered a way to hurry the process by making instant coffee powder. However, most people didn't appreciate his novel idea because of the disagreeable taste.

The soldiers in France drank it eagerly because the caffeine kept them awake and alert during the long days in the trenches, despite the bad taste. As documented by an American soldier in 1918: "I am very happy despite the rats, the rain, the mud, the drafts, the roar of the cannon and the scream of shells. It takes only a minute to light my little oil heater and make some George Washington Coffee... Every night I offer up a special petition to the health and well-being of [Mr. Washington]." At least they could have coffee without lugging around a coffee pot.


After the soldiers returned from the war, instant coffee showed up on more kitchen cabinets in our country. Because of Prohibition in 1919 the sale of coffee soared and other companies introduced an instant coffee line such as Bantam Coffee.

In 1938 the Nestle's company invented freeze-dried coffee which tasted much closer to the real thing. It was sold under the brand name Nescafe. A short time after that Maxwell House started marketing their instant coffee also.

At the start of World War II the demand for instant coffee spiked again to supply the soldiers abroad. During one year the entire production from the US Nescafe plant - over one million cases- went solely to the military.

Today's form of coffee from the Keurig machine is amazingly fast and of a very good quality, but would be hard pressed to be used by soldiers in the field of duty. They probably have to revert to instant coffee again when soldiers need a bit of caffeine.

Information taken from  The History of Instant Coffee