Knit-Your-Bit – Scarves for Vets

Last Christmas, I asked my younger daughter (an experienced and avid knitter) to gift me with a box of knitting supplies so I could try once again to knit and make some useful items for one of the many charities she supports.  She gave me a wonderful package of instructions, needles, markers and a good supply of red, white and blue yarn.  The yarn was specifically for Knit-Your-Bit, a program at the National WWII Museum in New Orleanshttp://www.nww2m.com/2016/09/knit-your-bit-celebrates-10-years-50000-scarves-for-veterans/

They collect hand-knit scarves for veterans and one event I especially admire is the gift of a scarf to each veteran who comes to the museum on November 11.  My first projects were scarves for this cause …

vets116

…and I later made some in different colors ….

vet-scarf-brwnvet-scarf-rwb

My daughter usually makes one scarf a month for this cause and a week or so ago packaged up all of the scarves we had made this year and shipped them to the museum.  Imagine my delight when a picture appeared on their Facebook page showing a gentleman holding one of my scarves!

14355067_10154177352057535_8485403121546007885_nPhoto used with permission of the National WWII Museum

A close-up of the tag that’s on the scarf reveals that it was part of our large group of scarves – how amazing is that?

I love thinking that a veteran will be wearing one of our scarves or one of the hundreds that have been donated from across the country.

http://www.nww2m.com/2016/09/knit-your-bit-celebrates-10-years-50000-scarves-for-veterans/

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Mendets – The 1930s-40s Way to Repair Pots and Pans

Mendets front

I recently posted something about a 1940s era junkman who visited my neighborhood and how my mother always looked for old pots and pans which she would repair with little pieces of metal.  My daughter found this card of Mendets on eBay and bought it for me.  This is exactly what my mother used, except sometimes she bought them in a small box.

Mendets were patented in the early 1900s and the dress/hairstyle of the lady on the card makes me think this might be from the 1930s.  The back of the card has instructions as well as suggesting some other uses such as repairing a hot water bottle, using on campfire utensils and even shows a lady perched precariously on a ladder repairing a gutter (“Saved the cost of a tinsmith”).

Mendets back (669x1024)

Until World War II was over, I believe every pot, pan and kettle in our kitchen had a Mendet or two helping to give a bit more life.

Click on photos to enlarge.

V-J Day in Cincinnati -1945

In August of 1945, I was 12 years old, enjoying the last month of vacation before entering the 8th grade at old Highland School in the East End neighborhood of Cincinnati.

I was obsessed with the Cincinnati Reds who were just terrible that year, but I followed them on the radio, listening to Waite Hoyt’s expert calls interspersed with his stories about the 1927 Yankees where he had been a star pitcher and teammate of Babe Ruth.

V-E Day (the end of the war in Europe) had occurred in May and everyone was hoping and praying for the end of the war in Japan.  I remember seeing pictures in magazines of how things would be once the war was over.  I was particularly impressed with a picture of a candy store display that actually had chocolate bars along with the Chuckles gum drops, taffy and hard candy we were used to seeing throughout the war.

My father showed me a picture of an early television set in one of his radio magazines and promised that soon we would have one of those contraptions in our house where we could watch all kinds of shows, movies and sporting events.  It seemed like all the good things would never happen, but then on August 14, 1945, we got the radio announcement and the headlines in the Cincinnati Post – the war was over!

After supper, it seemed like we ought to do something to celebrate.  My parents weren’t big on celebrations or crowds, but my father thought it would be appropriate to ride into downtown Cincinnati and see what was going on.

My father had a succession of cars throughout the war, patching them up and trying to get them to last the duration.  The one we had in August of 1945 was a coupe with a rumble seat, rare even in those wartime days.


My parents got into the coupe and my sister and I got into the rumble seat.  We drove to downtown Cincinnati and the hub of the city around Fountain Square.  The night of V-J Day was absolute bedlam with people crowding the streets, hanging out of windows, cruising around in their cars wasting valuable rationed gasoline, and screaming at the top of their lungs.   This seemed to be a purely spontaneous celebration – no speeches, no politicians, no music – and when we came rolling down the street in our aged car with the rumble seat, we immediately got everybody’s attention.  At least, here was something to watch – not a parade or band – but something different to see.  Even with all the old automobiles in use during the war, rumble seats were a novelty.  My sister and I smiled, waved and enjoyed the attention.

My sister and I – 1945

Then we made our way out of town and back home to hopes of a bright tomorrow with the return of three uncles who had been on various battlefronts for almost 4 years.

Soon, chocolate bars began appearing in the display case of Schreck’s delicatessen on the corner of our street, and the uncles were all back with their families.

In a few years my father built one of the first television sets in the city (extremely primitive with a tiny postcard sized picture).  The war was finally over.

Christmas Fudge

During the rationing of World War II, we children craved sugar

As we watched Mother sprinkle carefully measured spoonsful over our oatmeal.

We wanted more sweetness in our hot chocolate, in our pudding;

We longed for a bottomless sugar bowl.

But in the fall Mother stood in long lines that coiled around the city tenements

To get an extra bag of sugar allotted for canning and preserving.

She squirreled this away until Christmas

When it was transformed into the most glorious pecan studded fudge,

Sweet enough to make up for a whole year of rationing.

“Christmas Fudge”, by Lillian – 1997

My mother was famous in our family for her homemade fudge, made without benefit of a candy thermometer and cooked and beaten until it was perfect.  Then, it was placed in a special rose-bedecked tin to be brought out on Christmas Eve, opened and squares of never-to-be-forgotten goodness placed on her fancy Christmas plate.

I was never able to duplicate her fudge and have had to rely on the easier candy since she passed away in 1991.  I have several good recipes but my oldest daughter asked for some fudge made with marshmallows rather than marshmallow creme, so this is the version I made for her.

FUDGE MADE WITH MARSHMALLOWS

  • Servings: Depends on size of squares
  • Print

  • 2 cups mini-marshmallows*
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I like Ghiradelli)
  • 1-1/2 cups coarsely chopped toasted walnuts
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup undiluted evaporated milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

*20 large marshmallows = 2 cups mini-marshmallows.  Cut large marshmallows into 8 pieces using kitchen shears that are dipped in water to prevent sticking.

Butter a large plate or platter

In a medium bowl, combine the marshmallows, chips and walnuts.  Have ready and at hand before starting the fudge.

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, combine the sugar and milk.  Cook over medium high heat (#6 on my gauge) until the mixture comes to a boil, stirring occasionally.  When there are bubbles across the entire top surface of the mixture, set a timer for 5 minutes and cook at the same heat setting, stirring occasionally.

After 5 minutes, remove pan from heat and stir in the marshmallows, chips and nuts, stirring quickly until the marshmallows and chips are melted.  Stir in the vanilla.

Immediately pour onto the buttered plate and let cool at room temperature.

This is a batch made with milk chocolate chips.  I also made a batch with semi-sweet chips, resting on Mother’s World War II era platter.

Mother always cut her fudge in big squares.

The fudge does not need to be refrigerated.  Should be stored in a container with a tight lid.   My mother’s old rose tin is just the right size for a batch of fudge.

This is not even close to my Mother’s fudge, but brings back the memories of all the Christmas Eves when I enjoyed her wonderful candy.

A Little Christmas Baseball Story

baseballcdI can’t remember when I didn’t love baseball.  I was encouraged in my devotion by my father who took me to Crosley Field to see the Cincinnati Reds, explained the fine points of the game during radio broadcasts, and by the time I was 10, appointed me as his pitching practice catcher.  I had a great ball glove with well-oiled pocket, but what I wanted for Christmas was an official, grey flannel, pin-striped baseball uniform.

baseball-johnnySure enough, on that wartime Christmas Eve in 1942, under the tree was the gorgeous soft uniform with elastic-banded knickers.  I couldn’t wait to put on the uniform although I had to look a little strange wearing it with finger curls hanging halfway down my back.

lilI wore the uniform all evening, watching my little sister with her toys, admiring the tree and eating my favorite Christmas candy – Mother’s fudge and the old-fashioned chocolate drops with cream centers and dark chocolate coating.

Toward the end of the evening, I plunged into a big leather chair and threw my legs luxuriously over the arm, not realizing that I had sat down on a big gooey chocolate drop.  There was a dark brown stain on the seat of those grey flannel knickers that never did wash out completely.

But it didn’t matter – the thrill of the gift and the pride in the wearing had already taken place on a long-ago memorable Christmas Eve.

Alaska – A World War II Soldier’s Dream

With the political news has come a renewed interest in Alaska, and I dug through my box of World War II memoirs to find a letter I remembered from my Uncle Frank to his brother, my father, in 1943.  Frank had been drafted just before Pearl Harbor, leaving behind a new bride who would have to wait four years to resume her married life.  He was the first in our family to go to war and left behind parents, brothers, a sister and nieces who waited anxiously for his letters and news from the front.  He wrote good letters.  My mother said that his letters to me and my sister were worded as if he knew they would be taken to school and shared with the class….and they were.

The letter I was looking for was dated April 24, 1943, North Ireland.  It was part of a letter to his brother Johnny:

“I found out something the other night at one of our Company meetings that I never knew a thing about before.  Our old man, that’s the Company Commander, brought it up.  Any soldier serving in the Armed Forces during a war and who has an honorable discharge can take up the homestead rights to 160 acres of land that belongs to the Government for $14 filing rights.  After three years the land belongs to you.  There is some mighty good land to be had in twenty-five states and in Alaska.  If you have served overseas for two years, which I have, why all the claim you need then is for one year because I have same as homesteaded any land I choose for two years.  I will have to have the land occupied for five months in that year and make one improvement on it before it belongs to me.  I forget how many millions of free acres there are to be had.  I think I will take up my land in Alaska as that is all virgin land and from what I gather none of it has ever been surveyed or touched by an axe.  I would like a hunk of land with lots of timber and a big lake.  I would also get the rights to all minerals underground as that is a great country for oil, coal, potash and so forth.”

Frank and my father were sons of divorced parents. The two younger children were sent to other relatives, but Frank and Johnny (ages 7 and 9) stayed with their father and spent their lives on the road traveling from fairground to fairground and racetrack to racetrack where their father made a living shoeing race horses.  As the boys got older they worked around the tracks and my father became the youngest harness horse driver in the area.  It was a tough life and even as they grew older and married, it was during the Great Depression and home for both of them was an inner city apartment.  I’m sure the prospect of a homestead with acreage and an actual house to live in was a special dream for Frank.  This picture of Frank and Johnny was taken about the time they set out on the fair circuit with their father.

“The reason I like Alaska is because it’s new and a coming thing.  Land is going to be worth plenty there some day with the Alaska Highway running through there and the big oil pipeline also going through.  If this war ends around November like I figure it will, I want to get me a claim staked out there for 160 acres.”

Actually, the war didn’t end for more than two years in 1945.

“Do you want to go partners with me on a claim there and share 50-50 on what we get?  I will have enough dough with what I got saved and what the  Army is supposed to give me to set us up to raising chickens and turkeys, building perambulators and to build a house, set up a windmill and make an electric plant for electricity.  We would get what we wanted in over the Alaska Highway and send out what we wanted.  It would be a rugged go for awhile but I believe in time over a period of years a guy would become independently rich.  It’s a new country and these are great chances for men who have enough guts to tough it out.  There are lots of chances there and I have thought it over for about a week now.  So, you think it over and see what you think of it.  We would have to set us up a sawmill and have a truck, too.  I have everything figured out, I think, and I know how we can get it, too.  We can take the old man along with us – that will be to his heart’s delight, him and Helen.”

“The Old Man” was their affectionate term for their father and Helen was their step-mother.  The Old Man died in April of 1945, several months before the war was over and Frank was discharged from the Army.

“After the war why you and I will get some rifles and take a hunting trip to Alaska and  prowl around till we see the land we like and then have it surveyed to stake it out.  We will have to get it near the Alaska Highway, though.”

Frank and Johnny weren’t hunters at all, but I guess it sounded good to Frank to dream that they would take off for a look-around this wonderful place with rifles in hand.

There was talk around our house for awhile about moving to Alaska after the war.  I wasn’t too happy about the prospect of leaving my school, friends,  the rest of the family, and the Cincinnati Reds, but it did sound exciting and my father was enthusiastic about it.  But the months and years passed by and nothing further was said about homesteading in Alaska.  Maybe Frank’s new bride vetoed the idea.  He came home in the fall of 1945 and went back to his job at the City of Cincinnati where he worked until he retired.  He owned a beautiful home and had three children.  He passed away in 1977 and my father died in 1978.

I’ve often wondered how many men coming back from World War II did take advantage of land being offered in Alaska and followed through on this young soldier’s dream.

Victory Quilts–Brave World Block

This is the final of 20 blocks I’ve been sewing and posting from Eleanor Burns’ new Quilt-in-a-Day book, Victory Quilts – 1942 Sampler Blocks.  See other blocks I’ve completed in my Quilt Blocks category.

This is an easy skill level block called “Brave World”.  It was a simple block to construct and I think it turned out very pretty.

The book was a Mother’s Day gift and I’ve had a lot of fun trying out each of the block patterns which will eventually be made into a sampler quilt.  Naturally, any one of the blocks or a combination could be used in a quilt and there are many suggested layouts throughout the book.  There are also patterns for some interesting borders along with instructions for assembling and finishing quilts.

This is a beautiful hard cover book with lots of pictures of quilts and also of World War II memories.  There are instructions for 6″ and 12″ blocks – 12 easy skill level, 3 intermediate skill level, and 5 advance level blocks – something for everybody.  I highly recommend the book.

Victory Quilts — Bride’s Bouquet Block

This is the 19th block I’ve made and posted from Eleanor Burns’ new Quilt-in-a-Day book, Victory Quilts – 1942 Sampler Blocks.  See other blocks I’ve completed in my Quilt Blocks category.

This block is an advanced skill block called “Bride’s Bouquet”.  Eleanor’s techniques helped me make this block without too many problems and I love the way it looks.

Victory Quilts — Victory Block

This is the 18th of 20 blocks I’ve been sewing and posting from Eleanor Burns’ new Quilt-in-a-Day book, Victory Quilts – 1942 Sampler Blocks.  See other blocks I’ve completed in my Quilt Blocks category.

This is an advance skill level block called “Victory Block”.  Using a template and Eleanor’s clear directions, I didn’t have any problems with the block and think it’s an interesting patriotic example.

Victory Quilts–Liberty Star Block

We’re down to posting the last three blocks in Eleanor Burns’ new Quilt-in-a-Day book, Victory Quilts – 1942 Sampler Blocks.  See other blocks I’ve completed in my Quilt Blocks category.

This is an advance level block called “Liberty Star”.  Once I understood the way Eleanor had me marking and cutting, it wasn’t that difficult to do.  It makes a very nice patriotic star.