One hundred years ago, in October of 1908, Democratic nominee William Jennings Bryan was in a close race for president against Teddy Roosevelt’s handpicked successor, nominee William Howard Taft. The following November, Taft won the election and subsequently became president.
Also in October of 1908, Henry Ford introduced his latest hot model, the Ford Model T.
It was a smash hit almost immediately, as was the newly invented wonder product, cellophane.
Housewives took to cellophane like their husbands took to the Model T and began wrapping everything in cellophane. Humorists made jokes about husbands and babies being wrapped in cellophane to keep them tidy. And, the number one song on Oct. 15, 1908 was “Cuddle Up A Little Closer, Lovey Mine.”
On Oct. 15, 1908, in a bedroom in a small house in Victoria B.C., a baby boy was born, the first of six children the mother would eventually birth.
The baby grew up, as they inevitably do, and among many other things, became my father. Today, as you read this, his family is gathered in Shelton, the small town where he spent the greater part of his life, to celebrate his 100th birthday.
I find it so difficult to imagine all that happens in a person’s lifetime when they live for one hundred years. I got on the computer and Googled 1908 and ensuing years, just to get some idea of everything that came along during the 10 decades of Dad’s long life. The list was extremely long, even mind-numbing.
In no particular order in time, nor importance, except as an item grabbed my attention, there was radio, the Great Depression, World War I and World War II, war in Korea and Vietnam, television, air travel, the atomic bomb, nuclear fuel as well as weaponry, refrigerators with freezers, frozen foods, supermarkets, wash’n’wear clothing, automatic washers and driers, drip coffee makers, electric razors, dishwashers (machines, not human), motels, plastic wrap (goodbye cellophane), electric stoves and irons, computers, cell phones, artificial hearts, heart transplants (one of his grandsons and resulting great-grandchildren are alive today thanks to that one), artificial hips and knees, kidney dialysis, antibiotics, Velcro, electric typewriters, space flight, Slinky, Barbie, neon lights, helicopters, microwave ovens, Polaroid and digital cameras, camcorders, CAT scans, MRIs, ATMs, hula hoops, iPods, reality TV and “So You Think You Can Dance,” the wars in Iraq, and Afghanistan.
That is not even a third of the list, but as I said, it’s mind-numbing when you read down the list of events of each decade that comprise the 100 years my Dad has been living.
Up until just a year or so ago, he was still pretty much up with most of it and, given some time and a few clues, could even remember much of what I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraph.
Today, well, most of it is now gone or buried so deep he can’t retrieve it, but I sometimes wonder if he just doesn’t consider a good deal of it not worth dredging up now.
Interestingly enough, one thing caught my attention, something that appears to have changed very little, if at all, in the space of 100 years.
Democrat Bryan, known as an eloquent speaker, was roundly condemning Taft as a crony Republican of Roosevelt who would change nothing, stick with the old school, when what was needed was someone with a different attitude from Roosevelt’s tough, “Walk softly but carry a big club,” Rough Rider persona.
Taft, secure in the power of the Teddy Roosevelt administration, was slamming Bryan as a “dreamer-
scholar,” with no experience. As we know, Taft won the November election, riding in on Teddy’s huge popularity.
So, yes, that may be different this November, but more to the point, doesn’t it all sound too familiar, 100 years later?
Never mind who was which party then or now, does it seem to you that politics, or the system, has changed during that time?
Doesn’t sound like it to me; in fact, it seems to be the only thing that hasn’t changed, not for 100 years.Happy birthday, Dad.
As it happens (and regular readers won’t be surprised), I have in my possession a cookbook packed full of recipes more than 100 years old, some of which I still turn to when I’m looking for something “old-style” home cooked.
From a woman named Ellen who once lived in Kalama, Wash., a recipe more than 150 years old for a delicious coffeecake that is almost more like a fruitcake.
OLD TIME COFFEE CAKE
1 cup sugar
½ cup butter or shortening
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup molasses
1 t. baking soda
1 c. cold coffee
3 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
¼ t. each of the following: cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves, salt
1 cup raisins
½ cup currants
Cream together sugar and butter or shortening. Add eggs and molasses.
Dissolve baking soda in coffee. Sift dry ingredients together; add coffee mixture and flour mixture alternately to the butter mixture, mixing well after each addition.
Dredge fruits with a small amount of additional flour. Stir into the batter. Place batter in a greased loaf pan. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 min. or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
I love ginger; molasses, and cookies. This 100-year-old recipe gives you a clue just in the name. Only someone over a certain age knows what an “icebox” is now, however, but these turn out just fine if put in a refrigerator instead of an icebox.
ICEBOX GINGER MOLASSES COOKIES
1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
4 cups flour
1 t. baking soda
2 t. ginger
1 t. salt
Cream together the shortening and sugar in a bowl. Add eggs, mixing well. Add molasses.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, ginger and salt; add to the molasses mixture.
Shape dough into 3 or 4 rolls, according to the size desired. Wrap rolls in waxed paper (today it’s plastic wrap) and refrigerate overnight.
Unwrap dough; slice into cookies about ¼ inches thick and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 8-12 min.
And finally, a 150-year old recipe for a simple, healthy soup you could have on the table in less than an hour, but only if you like cabbage.
This would be considered a “when times are hard” recipe, a way to put something warm, healthy and filling on the table. I’ve made this soup, but have added carrots and potatoes and used chicken broth instead of milk, which makes it an entirely different soup, of course.
2 cups finely chopped cabbage
Salt to taste
4 cups milk (use low-fat, if desired)
Butter, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
Combine cabbage and salt with enough water to cover in a kettle. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 min. or until tender. Press cabbage through a sieve or food mill (today we puree it in the food processor) and return to the kettle. Add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Bring just to below boiling point. Serve hot, with crackers.
Margaret Walton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.