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.
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.
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.
When I went to work as a secretary in Procter & Gamble’s corporate offices, they were located in the old Gwynne Building on Sixth and Main Streets in downtown Cincinnati. The 12-story Gwynne Building was completed in 1914 and Alice Gwynne Vanderbilt (wife of Cornelius III) dedicated it to her father, prominent Cincinnati lawyer and Judge, Abraham Gwynne. Procter & Gamble leased the building and eventually purchased it in 1935. The building served as Procter & Gamble’s corporate headquarters until 1956. When I went to work there in 1950, on the ground floor was a Dow drugstore and an Italian restaurant. The drugstore was handy for a quick candy bar or soft drink and when the girls got together for drinks after work, they usually chose the Italian restaurant (whiskey sours were a favorite).
On the 12th floor of the building was a huge employee dining room. I liked to choose a one-person table near a window where I could have a gorgeous panoramic view of the city while I ate the wonderful food that was served. Maybe because of the Crisco connection, they always offered an array of pies which was excellent. I had my first taste of pecan pie here and it was memorable. After I left the company to start my family (most women did not continue working after their first baby at that time), I tried several recipes, trying to duplicate the P&G cafeteria pecan pie. In the 1970s, I found this recipe in Dear Abby’s column in the newspaper and I thought it came closest to what I was looking for. It’s been a family favorite ever since – often included with our Thanksgiving pies. This is an easy pie to make.
My first job in 1950 was as a secretary in Procter & Gamble’s corporate offices in downtown Cincinnati. As a new employee, I received a large picnic basket full of P&G products, a leatherette box with the P&G logo filled with chocolates and my favorite item of all, a Crisco cookbook – New Recipes for Good Eating, copyright 1948.
I first heard about Crisco in high school home ec classes. My mother, always on a strict budget, used lard (and made wonderful pies), margarine or bacon grease. Occasionally, she’d buy a tiny one-pound can of Crisco for me to make a special dessert. After I was married in 1952, also on a strict budget, I still managed to find the money for Crisco. I started cooking in earnest and literally wore out the cookbook. The pages are dog-eared and stained – and some of them are missing.
About 50 years later, I happened to find the same cookbook in pristine condition in an antique market. Apparently, its owner didn’t cook as much as I did, or she was neater.
My favorite recipe in the book was for “Crisco’s Sure Fire” two-crust 9″ pie. Over the years, I changed the ingredients a little bit and developed a technique that worked well for me, although it’s not the method that the cookbook or any home ec class ever recommended. I’ve won ribbons at countless pie contests with this crust, including the Ohio State Fair, plus pie has always been the dessert of choice for my family for the past 55 years. Here is my version of the recipe and the way I mix the ingredients.
MY SURE-FIRE PIE CRUST
Servings: One 9-inch double crust or two 9-inch single crusts
In a medium size mixing bowl, place the flour and salt. Note: I measure the flour by dipping the cup into the canister and then leveling it off. Stir flour and salt with a fork to mix. Add 3/4 cup Crisco shortening and cut in. I use my hands so I can feel the texture and know by now when it’s just right. Pour the ice water (always use ice water) into a dry measure 1/3 cup to the top and pour into flour mixture (don’t use a liquid measuring cup). Using a fork, stir the mixture in circles until it forms a ball. Divide the dough in half and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface with short, light strokes, rolling from the center to the edges to about 12″ diameter. To keep the dough from sticking, I pick it up, turn it over and reposition, dusting very lightly with flour when necessary. I also continually wipe the rolling pin of any dough that’s sticking. With everything you do, use the lightest touch possible. It’s also possible to roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper.
Place the dough in a pie pan and trim the edges. Continue with the filling you choose and the top crust. Bake according to your recipe’s directions.
The recipe can be used for one two-crust 9″ pie or two one-crust 9″ pies. I never double the recipe and I never make half a recipe. If there’s any pastry left over, I put it in a plastic bag and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready to use it.