1950s Style Brown Bread


In the 1950s, the dainty card party sandwich of choice was brown bread spread with cream cheese and cut into small sandwiches.  I loved the bread because of the walnuts and raisins – it took me awhile to learn to like cream cheese.

Whenever our PTA had a bake sale, one lady baked several loaves of brown bread but they were always snatched up immediately so I never got to buy a loaf and taste it.

Fast forward to 1985 when I was always looking for something different to enter in our Hamilton County (Cincinnati) Fair.  I found a recipe for brown bread that sounded good – it had walnuts and raisins – and made it in a pressure cooker.  It won a blue ribbon at the fair.

Since my big country garden days, I no longer have a pressure cooker and had to experiment a little to make this prize winner in the oven.  The second try came out just as I wanted it to be – with good memories of the 1950s and the 1980s.


  • 1-¼ cups raisins
  • 1-½ tsp soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tblsp. butter
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup apple juice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

You will need three 14.5 oz. cans (a common size for fruit and vegetables).  Thoroughly wash, rinse and dry the cans, then grease them.  You will also need a baking pan with sides high enough to come 3/4 of the way up the cans.  I use a small roaster which has a rack, but you can also use small tins like tuna fish cans or trivets – something to keep the cans off of the bottom of the pan.

Start water boiling – you will need about 8 cups of water to fill the pan, depending on size.

To make the bread:
Combine raisins, soda, salt and butter.  Combine water and apple juice in small pan.  Bring to boil.  Pour over raisin mixture.

Combine sugar, eggs and vanilla with raisin mixture.  Stir in flour and nuts.

Divide batter among the three greased cans.  Each can should be about half-full.   Wrap foil over the top of each can and press/pinch on sides of cans to secure.

Place cans in deep pan with a rack in the bottom and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the cans.

Bake @ 325 degrees F for approximately 2 hours.  Check water after an hour to be sure it is still close to the halfway level.  Bread is done when a  wooden skewer inserted into one of the cans all the way to the bottom comes out clean.  Place cans of bread to cool on a rack for 10 minutes.

Run a knife around the edge of the bread all the way to the bottom and turn out the bread onto the rack to continue cooling.

For a 1950s treat, slice bread in thin slices …..
…and spread with cream cheese to make a dainty sandwich.

Actually, my daughters and I like this so much that we use a sandwich as a dessert.  Delicious.


Yield:  Three loaves

The Pawn Shop Christmas Watch

1930 Unknown 16 1

In 1950, I started working as a secretary for Procter & Gamble in their downtown corporate offices.  I worked in the very interesting TV and Radio Advertising Department when television was becoming more and more popular.  I loved the job, the beautiful old Gwynne Building  where P&G was located then, and being in downtown Cincinnati every day.


Long before Pawn Stars was popular on TV, there were several small pawn shops in downtown Cincinnati. Although my parents never went to pawn shops, one of my aunts was a steady customer.  She was always in trouble financially, yet each Christmas we were amazed to see the gorgeous gifts she received.  I remember one year she showed off an enormous dresser set with elaborate brushes, mirror, manicure tools – all in a satin lined chest.  We only saw it once  because it was immediately pawned and not redeemed.  That’s what happened to all of her elaborate gifts.

My Aunt Annie
My Aunt Annie

This was the first Christmas that I was out of high school, working for the grand sum of $30/week and paying $10 board.  I felt I was flush with money and wanted to get my mother something really special.  Mother had never owned a wrist watch in her life and I thought this would be the best gift I could give her.  I don’t know why I didn’t go to one of the big department stores in town, but for some reason I chose to go to a pawn shop to buy her watch.  I had never been inside this kind of store before but the gentleman was very nice to me and sold me a lovely watch for, as I recall, $15.  I could hardly wait until Christmas Eve to surprise Mother.

The watch in this picture is the way I remember the pawn shop watch
The watch in this picture is the way I remember the pawn shop watch

I haven’t been in a pawn shop since that first visit, but I have a soft place in my heart for the little store tucked away on Vine Street in downtown Cincinnati in 1950 where I bought a special Christmas gift for my mother.


A Snowy Day Retro Meal

My oldest daughter was here for supper in the middle of a weeklong siege of snow and I wanted to fix some kind of comfort food.  What says “comfort” more than a casserole and some cookies from the late 1940s-early 1950s?

The Casserole:  I loved to have lunch at my Aunt Mabel’s house when I was a kid.  Mabel shared a two-family house with my maternal grandmother and each week they and Mabel’s two young children got together with my mother, my sister, and me.   Mabel was something of a kid herself – in her early 20s, funny, good with young people, a tomboy in jeans long before girls had started to wear them in the mid-1940s.  She wasn’t particularly interested in cooking but she always served fun food – cold cuts, store-bought cookies, potato chips – and sometimes she would try out a popular recipe such as her Tuna Noodle Casserole.  My father wouldn’t touch anything that even looked like a casserole with its conglomeration of ingredients, so this was a real treat for us.  At Mabel’s, we enjoyed the food we never had at home, as well as all the latest magazines and, the best thing for me, the chance to sit with the three women and listen to them talk while the younger children went off to play.

This is my version of Mabel’s casserole:


  • 6 oz. dry noodles (about 1-1/2 cups)
  • One can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • Several gratings of black pepper
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 2 Tblsp. chopped pimiento
  • 2 Tblsp. dry minced onion
  • 2 cans white albacore tuna (6 oz. each), drained &  flaked
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup crushed cheese crackers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray or oil a 9″ baking dish

Cook the dry noodles in boiling, salted water until al dente (about 7 minutes).  Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the soup, milk, sour cream, salt and pepper.  Mix well and stir in the peas, pimiento, onion, flaked tuna and grated cheese.  Stir in the drained noodles.  Pour into the prepared 9″ pan.  Sprinkle the top with the crushed cheese crackers.

Bake @ 400 degrees F for 20 minutes until the mixture is hot and bubbly.

Serve at once.

The Cookies: These cookies are especially good when they’re first baked and the chocolate is still soft.


  • Servings: Approx. 48 cookies
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  • 48 Hershey milk chocolate kisses
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tblsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Remove wrappers from chocolates.

Beat shortening/margarine and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended.  Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, beat until fluffy.  Add egg, milk and vanilla, blending well.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Gradually beat the flour mixture into the peanut butter mixture.

Shape dough into one-inch balls.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet about 2″ apart.  Bake @ 375 degrees F for approximately 8-10 minutes until cookies are lightly browned.  Remove from oven and immediately press a chocolate kiss in the center of each cookie.  Remove cookies to wire rack to cool.

Yield:  48 cookies 

I would love to have just one more chance to sit around the table with those dear people, listen to them talk and enjoy Mabel’s casserole.