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



Tuesday, July 8, 2014

They Said It

    A British WWII book I'm reading has famous quotes interspersed among the chapters according to the timeline. Who hasn't heard Winston Churchill's remark regarding the RAF pilots who beat back the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain? Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

    While that's inspiring, many are humorous or just plain bombastic. How about this from British General Bernard Montgomery, on his first impression of General Dwight Eisenhower? Nice chap, no General.

    General George Patton was famous for his offensive vocabulary. Here are some of his cleaner comments: Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.  Uh huh. Sure they do. Or this:  No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. That negates the sacrifice of thousands of our fallen warriors.

    No doubt about it. Generals had it rough. Here's Germany's Field Marshall Erwin Rommel:  When I said that British fighter-bombers had shot up my tanks with 40mm shells, the Reichsmarshall who felt himself touched by this said, "That's completely impossible. The Americans only know how to make razor blades." I replied, "We could do with some of those razor blades, Herr Reichsmarshall."

    Here's a British view of Americans from Air Vice-Marshall Sir John Slessor.  They (the Americans) are, I think, a bit unwarrantably cock-a-hoop as a result of their limited experience to date. But they are setting about it in a realistic and business-like way. ... I have a feeling that they will do it."  Sometimes it's hard to realize the British and the Americans were allies.

    Germany's Air Marshall Hermann Goring was full of hot air in June, 1940, after the fall of France.  My Luftwaffe is invincible... And so now we turn to England. How long will this one last - two, three weeks?   He also claimed no enemy bombers would fly over Germany.

   Men can say the darndest things on the battlefield. Gotta love General Anthony McAuliffe for his reply to the German demand to surrender Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge.  Nuts!   The Germans had to ask if that was acceptance or denial of their demand.

    Never say die was also Lieutenant General Lewis "Chesty" Puller's attitude.  All right, they're on our left, they're on our right, they're in front of us, they're behind us. ... They can't get away this time.

    A German general was unwittingly funny.  With amazement and disappointment, we discovered in Late October and early November that the beaten Russians seemed quite unaware that as a military force, they had almost ceased to exist.  How discourteous of those Russians not to lay down and die.

    One man who was definitely certifiable was German Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels.  It is on this beautiful day that we celebrate the Fuhrer's birthday and thank him for he is the only reason why German is still alive today.  So he said on April 26, 1945, just four days before they both committed suicide. What he meant to say was Hitler was the only reason why Germany lay in ruins.

    I'll close with this concise summation of war from Baudouin I, King of Belgium. It takes twenty years or more of peace to make a man; it takes only twenty seconds of war to destroy him.

   Know any good quotes from World War II?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Button Up

What to wear? What shoes should I wear? Those are two questions that every woman probably asks herself every morning. Maybe back in the early 20th Century, the first question was asked regularly, but I doubt if the second question was asked that often.

In the early 1900s most women probably didn't have too many choices for shoes. The fashion back then was to have button-down, also known as high-button, shoes. These shoes became the style in the late 1800s and remained in high fashion until after World War I. These leather shoes, rising well above the ankle, were fastened by a row of buttons that fastened an extra flap of leather over the front of the shoe.

I don't know about you, but those shoes don't look too comfortable to me. The reason they were so high was to prevent any gentleman from peaking at the ankles of his woman friend if her ankle length skirt happened to ride up an inch or so.

Can you imagine reaching all the way to your feet to button those small buttons into the buttonholes? People found it nearly impossible back then also. Thus a very necessary tool was invented to help with this--the buttonhook.

The buttonhook, a small metal device with a hook on the end, was invented for the sole :) purpose of buttoning the small buttons that couldn't be reached easily. Some of these buttonhooks were ornately decorated on the flat end to show prestige.

"Once the shoes were on the feet, the hook was threaded through each small buttonhole, then hooked around the button and pulled back out, buttoning the shoe," according to "Fashion Encyclopedia." I'm sure the process of buttoning your shoes was accomplished much faster with the use of a buttonhook. 
As the hemlines of skirts started getting shorter after WWI, the use of buttonhole shoes became unfashionable. Now women were happy to show off their ankles and legs with the new "flapper" dresses that were worn in the 20s.

It was interesting to learn that the collection of buttonhooks didn't disappear along with those old style shoes. In fact, if you still hold a collection of buttonhooks today you might be in the The Buttonhook Society and even attend the annual convention in August, 2014 in Chicago. Check out the web page if you collect these rare gems.

For me, I'm glad we wear flip-flops or sandals these days. High-button shoes do not sound too appealing to me.

Information taken from History of Button-Down Shoes.