Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Christmas in 1950s

A new item found on the Christmas trees in the 1950's were satin covered balls.

 'Spray on Snow' (aka flocking) was very popular now that it was more than just soap flakes. 

Image result for 1950s spray on snow

Staring in the 1950's Santa's flight was tracked by NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) And it all started with a wrong number. Answering an ad for Sears in Colorado in the newspaper that said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.”

However, the number on the ad was mis-printed. Instead of Sears and Roebuck, the number rang CONAD (the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Luckily, for the kids, a Colonel was on duty and made it his mission to tell every child that called that night where Santa was on his around the world journey. The tradition continued. CONAD became NORAD in 1958.

Now it take 1500 employees and volunteers to man the Santa Flight line and answer the calls and emails from youngsters inquiring about the current location of the Jolly Ol' Elf. Calls are received from over 200 different countries and territories, on average around 140,000 each Christmas eve. Keeping up with today's social media, Santa can now be tracked on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. 

For anyone curious on December 24th look up this URL www.noradsanta.org


Probably the most iconic (well, at least curious) holiday introduction from the 1950's is the Aluminum Christmas Tree. The tree did not need lights since there was a spinning light wheel of red, green, and blue that was projected onto the tree.

Fun Fact - The death of the tinsel tree came about with A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965 with the infamous "Charlie Brown Christmas Tree."

Vintage Charlie Brown Cartoon, Christmas Tree Flat Flexible Refrigerator Magnet

Monday, November 18, 2019

Sears Catalogs of the 1940's

In the 1940's Sears decided to add celebrities as models in the catalog. Some of these stars included Ted Williams (the ball player), Gene Autry (the singing cowboy), and such movie actresses as Lauren Bacall and Susan Hayward.

Very popular Cowboy and Cowgirl outfits could be found among the pages with prices ranging from .97 to $2.85.  In 1942, one could get a 48 piece Tea Set for $1.00. That is 12 place settings that would accommodate many dolls. Also, a folding easel and blackboard for $1.15. There were toy pianos. Also holster and gun sets (for the little cowboys and cowgirls). 

The 1940 Sears Christmas Book was 138 pages. By 1948, it had expanded to 310 pages.

Can you imagine 4lbs of Blue Willow China (albeit a tea set) for only .89?



Sear's Wish Book of the 1950s.

  I don't think anything is more nostalgic than looking at the covers of the Sears Wish Book from the 1950's

 1950                                                             1951

                      1954                                                             1955

                    1956                                          1957

          From the 1958 Catalog

Pages from the 1958   and  1957  Catalogs


1959 Catalog


Saturday, November 16, 2019

The True Story of Eggnog

Why eggnog? What exactly is eggnog? What possessed humans to decide they wanted to drink a concoction of egg yolks and milk? 
I'm not sure why they did, but according to history it has been a favorite for many for centuries. It is thought to be originally based on 'posset' - a hot milky ale drink. The well-to-do started adding eggs, sherry, and spices. Since spices were very expensive it became a drink of the rich.

Often the drink is aged, for as much as 6 months. The mixture of the alcohol, spices, milk, and eggs can make for an interesting combination. Keeping it chilled with the alcohol (at least 20%) prevents any spoilage.

December is national Eggnog month, no surprise there. It has its fans as well as its detractors. The beverage did not become linked to the holidays until the 1700's when it first appeared in the colonies. With spices still being expensive it was saved for special occasions like Christmas.

Purists argue that the commercial variety one finds in grocery stores is no where close to the real thing. According to them anyone turned off by the super sweet taste has never experienced 'real' eggnog.

Most families have a 'family recipe'. Even George Washington had his own famous recipe:
One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.
(Unfortunately he failed to list the number of eggs needed, so following the recipe years later cooks guessed it was a dozen)

The first recipes called for rum, to keep it from spoiling. Over the years is has been made with many liquors including bourbon, brandy, spiced rum, moonshine, scotch, and peppermint schnapps. Spices include nutmeg, vanilla, and sometimes cinnamon. Together with heavy cream and egg yolks this makes for a rich drink. It is actually a type of custard. And a fattening one, given one cup can have as many as 400 calories. 

No one is quite sure about the provenience of the name. Some say it came from the term 'grog', another name for rum. This was served in wooden mugs called 'noggins'. Adding eggs and milk to the grog in the noggin could have become eggnoggins. Personally I think this is a stretch.

Of these days it is so much more than just a drink. One can find eggnog gelato, milkshakes, cookies, caramels, and cakes. Even cosmetics:
Image result for old images of eggnog flavored
Please God, say it's not so!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Christmas movies

One of the most loved traditions for many during the holidays is watching It's a Wonderful Life for the umpteenth time. This 1946 Jimmy Stewart classic is on the top of most Christmas movie lists. But there are others.
Image result for image its a wonderful life

Another classic from the 1940's is Christmas in Connecticut starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet.

And who hasn't seen the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947)  starring Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, and John Payne. 

Image result for image miracle on 34th street

There are many versions of A Christmas Carol (1951). My personal favorite being The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Holiday Inn, the 1942 classic starring Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, and Marjorie Reynolds. Fun fact, Bing Crosby's song, White Christmas debuted in this movie before the movie of the same name, in 1954, White Christmas starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney.  

Certainly, Elf (2003), starring  Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Desxhanel, Mary Steenburgen, Daniel Tay, Ed Asner, and Bob Newhart, will go down as a classic of all time, especially as a holiday comedy.
Image result for imageelfmovie
There are 2 movies, I can add as some of my favorites Love Actually (2003) with an allstar cast of Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, Liam Neeson, Coin Firth, Bill Knighty, Kierra Knighly, and Emma Thompson, among many other well known actors.

The other is The Family Stone with another great cast: Claire Danes, Dermot Mulroney, Sara Jessica Parker, Qweneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, and Diane Keaton and others.

Another 2003 movie, based on a novel by David Baldacci, The Christmas Train is a great story.

This brings me around to the 300 pound reindeer in the room - the Hallmark Channel and its 6 month Christmas movie schedule. They have the formula down pat. Choose one from each category 

The characters 
  • single mother (can be a widow or divorcee), her child, and single guy
  • widower or divorced father with child and single woman 
  • 2 singles, one usually having sworn off Christmas 
  • a prince and single woman 
Then venues 
  • old family farm 
  • small town (often hometown)
  • ski resort 
  • small unknown kingdom in the Alps
Choice of side plots 
  • old flame 
  • new adversary 
  • complete strangers who meet happen stance
  • nanny
The general plot
  • usually boy meets girl
  • boy likes girl
  • there is an interrupted kiss
  • all is well until there is a misunderstanding(usually about 20 minutes before the end of the movie) 
  •  then boy and girl make up
  • all is well
Also included are the obligatory:

  • snowball fights
  • Christmas Tree Lighting
  • usually Christmas cookies

And, of course, each movie ends with a ball, a town festival, or some kind of competition (baking, produce, etc) 

So all you need to do is insert one of their usual actresses into the combination of characters, venue, plots, along with the obligatory event at the end . . . and, VOILA! You have a genuine Hallmark Christmas Movie. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

More Christmas of the 1940s

If case you were curious, the Christmas dinner menu for the White House in 1942 consisted of:
  • Oyster Cocktail
  • Clear Soup with sherry
  • Roast Turkey
  • Chestnut Dressing
  • Cranberry Jelly
  • Deerfoot Sausage
  • Beans
  • Cauliflower au gratin
  • Sweet Potato Casserole with oranges
  • Grapefruit and Avacado Salad
  • Plum Pudding
  • Hard Sauce (according to Wikipedia is: Hard sauce is a sweet, rich dessert sauce made by creaming or beating butter and sugar with rum (rum butter), sugar with brandy (brandy butter) whiskey, sherry butter, and vanilla, served cold, often with hot desserts.
  • and Coffee
Neiman Marcus continued with their Christmas Books. 

A 1940's cover - not sure what year.

The cover of the 1945 book:

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

American Christmas in the 1940’s

During the early part of the 1940’s the country was still at war. Even though the Great Depression was over, many things were in short supply or being rationed. By 1946, the war was over and the country entered a time of peace and prosperity. New cuisines were introduced to America, being brought back by the troops who had been stationed across the globe. Although America has always been a patch work of different cultures, more often than not prior to WWII, the unique food and practices of immigrants usually remained within the immigrant groups.

Now that soldiers from across the country had experienced French and Italian food and those in the Pacific theater had tasted foods from the orient, they wanted more at home. New spices were introduced to meet these needs. 

Prior to the war, Americans depended on ornaments made overseas, especially in Germany. However by the 1940's these ornaments (or replicas of them) were made in the states and were not only more available, they were also more affordable. Bubble lights for the Christmas Tree were first introduced in 1944 by Carl W. Otis. 

TheBubble Lights work very simply - the tube of liquid, usually methylene chloride has a low boiling point (and is highly toxic). So much so that should one of the vials break, the surrounding area would need to be evacuated until the gas dissipated. Camphor was also used. The light bulb under the light would heat the liquid and start it bubbling.

When I was young, my mother had a set of 2 small ornaments that were some of her favorites. She said they were on her family's tree when she grew up in the 40's. When the ornament was hung on a branch of the tree just above a light, the heat from the light would make the wheel spin. (Of course this was when the lights on the tree could heat an entire room!)
Department store Santa Claus's became more popular during this time. In 1936, Max Eckhardt started the Shiny Brite company that manufactured inexpensive glass ornaments. By the 1940's these were the most popular ornaments in the country. They were decorated with glitter or silk screen images of everything from poinsettias to nativity scenes to Santa Claus.

They came in the familiar boxes with cellophane on top so one could see the ornaments inside. And the popular colors of red and green were expanded to include pastels such as pinks, purples, yellows, and lime green. The Shiny Brite Company was bought by Christopher Radko in 2001 - the rest of that is history.

As for toys of this decade, the Slinky was invented in 1945. 

The 1940's produced some of the most loved Christmas movies of all time: It's a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), and Holiday Inn (1942). 
And also, 2 favorite holiday songs “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “White Christmas” were both written during the 1940s.