Tuesday, May 19, 2015

What's for Breakfast?

by Connie Cortright

Several years ago, I started making my own granola for breakfast rather than grabbing cereal boxes off the grocery shelves. It was more economical to do that instead of purchasing ready-made cereal every week.

Did our parents/grandparents have cereal boxes to grab off the grocery shelves back in the 20s or 30s? What did they eat for breakfast? If they were farm families, they most likely ate eggs, bacon, sausages, and biscuits and gravy. Farmers had to fill up with a hearty breakfast of protein to make it through the long morning of chores and field work.

But city dwellers may have been another story. After doing some research, I discovered that many of the same cereals we have in our pantries today were already on grocery shelves eighty years ago. The children could have had a bowl of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Wheaties, or even Kix in the late 1930s.

They also could have had boxes of cereal we've never heard of, such as: Ranger Joe, Grains of Gold, Kellogg's Pep, Quaker Quakies, Vigor, Force, Shredded Ralston, and Kellogg's Krumbles. Try to imagine what they tasted like.

During the 19th Century, a push by nutritionists to cut back on meat consumption encouraged some people to explore vegetarian breakfasts. As a result, the Quaker Oats Company was formed, and cooked oatmeal became a staple in many kitchens in America, much to the dismay of some children.

The ready-to-eat cereals followed years later to add more convenience to breakfast routines. The Kellogg brothers, John Harvey and William, experimented with wheat and corn until they acquired a patent on Cornflakes in 1895 and started the Kellogg Toasted Corn Flake Company. It was established in Battle Creek, Michigan because a sanitarium and health-spa, opened by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, adhered to a strict vegetarian diet. Corn flakes became the breakfast of choice for this spa with popularity growing from there.

Charles Post, a patient at this health spa in the late 1800s, was intrigued by the vegetarian diet. When released, he experimented with different grains and introduced Grape-nuts in 1898, forming the Post company to compete with Kellogg's. Because these two manufacturers were from Battle Creek, the city was nicknamed the "Cereal Capital of the World."

With the 20th Century, new cereal companies were started up introducing more brand name cereals. General Mills in Minneapolis introduced Wheaties in 1925, using the phrase "Breakfast of Champions" back then also.

In the 1930s, Nabisco introduced Shredded Wheat using the image of Niagara Falls in it's advertising.

Ralston at one time manufactured a breakfast cereal called Shredded Ralston. Later they merged with with Purina Mills which concentrated on making animal food. The new company Ralston-Purina dropped the breakfast line and only produced animal and pet food from then on.

Years later, the different companies discovered that with the aid of advertisements using cartoon characters, they could market more cereal to children. They added more sugar for taste and made more profit at the same time. In the 40s and 50s children grew up with Frosted Flakes, Sugar Smacks, Trix, Alphabits, and Cocoa Puffs, much to the dismay of some parents.

That was a long way from the days of the sanitarium making a vegetarian breakfast food. Since more people are health conscience today, cereal shelves are loaded with numerous choices from organic granola to sugar-filled children's brands. No matter what kind, they are all expensive.

I think I'll stick with my home-made granola for breakfast. Better on the waist and pocketbook at the same time.

Information taken from Wikipedia: Breadfast Cereal and Breakfast cereal timeline.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Last Picture Show

By Connie Cortright

Movies in the 20’s and 30’s continued…

       Shortly after the “talkies” came on the scene (late 20’s), the stock market crashed and the Depression descended on our country. Parents had to stretch every dollar that they had to find ways to entertain the family. Movies became an escape from the hardships of day-to-day living (they still are for me). Maybe that’s why older movies almost always had a happy ending.  

       Movie theaters were located in most areas of the country, but going to a theater wasn’t always possible. Most families didn’t have cash lying around to spend on entertainment. Even though the cost of a movie was somewhere between $.20 and $.50, this expense was prohibitive to parents who struggled to keep food on the table.

       The businesses of small towns came up with a solution to help parents while promote shopping for downtown businesses. On warm summer evenings, they showed free movies on the side of a building in the downtown area after dark. Benches would be set up in an open space for older people to sit on. Sometimes bands entertained the crowd before the movie started. The activity would draw large crowds from the surrounding area who knew each other well. It was a happy time enjoyed by friends in town.

       Parents would bring the entire family downtown to watch a movie, but they might do some shopping before the movie started. Children might be given a nickel to spend on a piece of candy or bag of popcorn. Then the family would gather on a blanket spread on the ground and enjoy the movie together.

Child star - Shirley Temple
       This was such a popular attraction my father told me that one town would hold the free movie night on Mondays while a town 5 miles down the road would hold theirs on Wednesday evening. In this way both towns would be able to take advantage of the added sales for the stores, while families got to take advantage of this entertainment several nights a week.

       Since this was the early years of movies with sound, there were times when technical glitches occurred during the showing. The sound track didn’t always synch with the picture track causing “unintended comical results.” 

       By 1935 movie production was advanced to the point where these technical problems disappeared. The movie industry in Hollywood, California boomed while most of the country struggled to find jobs. Many of the movie stars we still recognize today became famous during this time including Clark Gable, Bette Davis, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, Shirley Temple, Ginger Rogers and Fred Estaire. A movie still popular today, “Gone With the Wind”, premiered in 1939.

       Information taken from www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30’s/life

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Silence is Not Golden

By Connie Cortright

 Movies today can be seen almost anywhere. My husband and I watched several DVD’s last weekend in the comfort of his “man cave”. Many people see them downloaded from the internet. Children enjoy movies in the back seat of cars on a long trip. My daughter-in-law even had a portable player on the airplane to entertain the grandchildren when they came for a visit.

       It’s amazing how far things have come since the early years of movies. In the 1920’s people went to see movies in theaters, but they were silent movies. The process to add the sound to the film wasn’t invented until 1927 so people who attended movies before that had to read the dialog on the screen.

       The movies were all in black and white back then. Actors and actresses would talk to each other on the screen. In the next seconds, the dialog would appear on the same screen for the audience. These interruptions in the action were called intertitles - a narrative story point or dialog, often displayed on an embellished screen.  I bet it took the tension out of the climax as fast as bursting a balloon with a pin.

       Many actors and actresses we still remember today started their careers in silent movies. You may have heard of some of them: Lillian Gish, Mary Pickford, Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks.

       Since it would be terribly boring to sit in a movie theater for over an hour to watch a full length film in total silence, music accompanied the silent movies. The pianist or organist would change the volume and tempo to be louder and faster in action or suspense parts. Likewise, the romantic scenes were accompanied by slow and quiet music. In this way the audience could be involved in the plot of the movie more than just reading the dialog on the intertitles.

       In larger city theaters, the music would be played on organs. The fanciest theaters had full orchestras playing the musical score. Pianos were used more often in rural areas where no other instrument was available.

       The accompanist could make or break the showing of the film. If an accomplished organist were playing, the music would mirror the plot so closely that the audience would be mesmerized by the combination of film and music. On the other hand, if the accompanist played the same looped music over and over again, no matter what the film action called for, the movie would fall flat.

       By the early 20’s, the accompaniment was written specifically for each film by a composer. The musical scores were printed for the performers on “cue sheets” which could be very lengthy at times.  Besides the musical notations, the cue sheets included sound effect suggestions or moods changes in the movie.  Some organs had special stops for certain sounds, such as “galloping horses”, to add special effects to the films. I can’t imagine playing organ music for an entire hour while the movie played. It must have been exhausting.

       However, this was a big business for musicians. By the late 20’s, theaters were the single largest employers for musicians in our country. Unfortunately, when “talkies” became popular during the Depression, these people no longer had jobs.

       Stay tuned next week for a discussion about “talkies”.

       Information taken from wikipedia.org.