Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Surprise is Inside

Although Cracker Jacks aren't specifically mentioned in "Guide Me Home" this tasty snack was sold in stores at the time that my novel takes place. I'm sure Freddie was familiar with the snack since he loved to watch baseball games. 

What snack do you give to your child to eat that your grandparents also ate? As we heard a couple weeks ago, chocolate chip cookies would be one item, but also on the top of the list would be Cracker Jacks. This sweet treat made from caramel covered popcorn and peanuts has been around since the late nineteenth century.

It became popular when it was sold at Chicago's World's Fair in 1893, so was around well before the 20s and 30s. It was manufactured by The F.W. Rueckheim & Brothers Company that year. In fact, the prize in the boxes have been around since 1912. Wonder what our grandparents received as a prize in their boxes?

The snack became a different crowd-pleaser when Jack Norworth wrote the lyrics of the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in 1908. In case you're not familiar with this song, a couple lines from the chorus are as follows:
Take me out to the ballgame,
Take me out with the crowd.
Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack.
I don't care if I ever get back.
After that time Cracker Jack was a staple at baseball games. I guess baseball and Crack Jacks naturally go together.

The face on the Cracker Jack box that we recognize has been on the box since 1918 when the owners of the company picked their nephew Robert Rueckheim for a model. Robert died shortly after the model was drawn at the age of eight, so they used the sailor image as a tribute to Robert. They named the character "Sailor Jack". Bingo, the dog that appears by his side, is said to have been a stray dog named Russell that the owner Henry Eckstein adopted in 1917.

Not too much has changed since that time for these goodies. Kids and adults still enjoy the same great popcorn and peanuts in their boxes today. When was the last time you had a box of Cracker Jack? Now I'm hungry for some.

Information taken from Snack Food History

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I thought this was pretty great and wanted to share it with all of you! 

Here's what a reader sent me today:

My daughter gave me your book for Christmas.  I loved it.  I'm not much of a reader of books but yours was easy and it was hard to put down.  Your story should be put into a movie film.  I can visualize it.  Hope you have checked into this.  Keep on writing.  Can hardly wait til the next one comes out.
May God continue to bless you with your writings.

HMMM! A movie?? Which actor would you pick for the part of Freddie... What an interesting thought.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Hole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

When Emma and Vivi went to the farm for a couple days for Thanksgiving, Vivi makes a comment about using the outhouse. I'm sure you all know about those, but one my old blog posts describes the nitty-gritty details that went along with them. After reading this you'll be able to understand why Emma was so thrilled to move to Racine with indoor plumbing!

Last summer we remodeled our bathroom in our 1926 house. The new shower and sink make our life so much easier in our morning routine. I wonder what bathrooms were like back in the 20’s and 30’s – before indoor plumbing.

Houses in cities and towns had electricity and indoor plumbing in the 1920’s and for sure by the 1930’s. Farms weren’t so lucky to have these luxuries, however. What facilities did they use on a farm before indoor plumbing?

Most everybody knows families had to use outhouses for their daily needs. But what were those actually like? I have it on good authority that these facilities ranged from comfortable to hardly usable – from pictures of women on the walls to watching spiders as your entertainment. 

Most outhouses had two holes – a smaller hole built at a lower height for children and a larger one for the parents. The holes, cut in wood, were covered by a hinged board. One had to be careful of splinters from the board, but after much use, the wood became worn down and smooth. I was assured lime was thrown into the holes on a weekly basis to keep down the odor and aid in decomposition.

“What about toilet paper?” you ask. Again, I have it on good authority that catalogues were the “in” thing to use for this purpose. Sears and Montgomery Wards were the best ones. This too, could be a source of entertainment until needed. A page was torn out when necessary, but the shiny colored advertisements were shied away from.

Most facilities had a window in the door that swung in. A latch would be fastened upon entry to dissuade any uninvited guests. By the way, both holes were not actually used at the same time, unless two same-sex siblings found this arrangement necessary.

In winter or at night, going to an outhouse was not a pleasant task, so chamber pots were then used in bedrooms. The unpleasant task of emptying these containers was left to an unlucky person in the family – probably the mother.

 What about the other purpose of a bathroom – taking a bath? This varied from house to house, but it always occurred on Saturday night before bed, whether one needed a bath or not. A common practice would be for the round washtub to be set up in the kitchen area, close to the warm stove with hot water in the reservoir. I’ve also read that some houses had an actual bath room – a closet size room with an oval tub in it.

In either case, the tub would be filled with a pitcher or bucket before bathing. The youngest person in the family would take a bath first in shallow water. As the size of the person grew, so did the level of water with more warm water added each time. Keep in mind that the water was not emptied between the baths of different people- more water was added to heat it up- that’s all. When Pa finished his bath in a full tub, the tub would have to be emptied bucket by bucket out the back door. When the tub was light enough to be lifted, the strongest people would carry it out to empty it outside.

When electric lines were finally wired into the farm and an electric pump was hooked up on the well, these practices were no longer necessary. A bathroom was added with indoor plumbing as soon as possible to make everyone’s life easier.

It makes me appreciate our newly updated bathroom more than before!