Pastimes

October 15, 1957 – Bridge and Cinnamon Coffee Bars

Cinnamon Coffee Bars; Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1957. Photo: Annacia at Food.com

On October 15, 1957, housewives across America may have anticipated a fun Tuesday afternoon playing bridge with the girls.  Ladies would have gathered in multiples of four around card tables in the living room for chat, a friendly rubber or two, and light refreshments.  Then, as now, a little something sweet was always welcome with a good cup of hot coffee.  Everyone had their favorite cookie recipes but having company over was often a fun time to try something new.  The 1957 edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook included a recipe for a double-your-pleasure coffee-accompanying cookie, “Cinnamon Coffee Bars“.  Most bridge guests probably “bid” for this treat, rather than “passed”.

Cinnamon Coffee Bars

1/4 cup shortening, or softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup hot coffee
1 1/2 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
For the Glaze:
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 T water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Cream together shortening or butter, brown sugar and egg, then stir in coffee.  Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Blend in raisins and walnuts.  Spread mixture in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Mix together ingredients for glaze.  Cut cake into bars and frost with glaze while warm.

Vintage 1957 – Play-Doh Fun

Play-Doh Fun! Photo: Hasbro for Play-Doh

Play-Doh Fun! Photo: Hasbro for Play-Doh

In the fall of 1957, the young (and maybe the young-at-heart) had fun squishing, rolling, stretching, and shaping one of the newest toys on the market, Play-Doh.  The non-toxic, easy-to-clean-up-after compound was first manufactured in the 1930’s as a pliable, putty-like wallpaper cleaner, created by Noah McVicker for Kutol Products.  Noah’s nephew, Joe, who also worked for the Cincinnati family’s soap company, discovered in the late ’40s that schoolchildren were using the compound to make Christmas ornaments.

Recognizing a promising business opportunity, Joe took the white concoction made of flour, water, salt, boric acid, and silicone oil to a school supply manufacturers convention.  Department store Woodward & Lothrup of Washington, DC became his first commercial account.  In 1956, the McVickers founded Rainbow Crafts Company to focus exclusively on Play-Doh production and sales, introducing colored dough with a three-pack of 7 ounce cans in red, yellow, and blue.  Retail behemoths Macy’s of New York City and Marshall Field’s of Chicago soon opened retail accounts and in 1957 a chemist named Dr. Tien Liu improved the product recipe by reducing Play-Doh’s required salt content.  Lowering the amount of salt “kneaded” in the clay allowed precious creations to dry without losing their color.

Also in 1957, the McVickers’ started advertising campaigns in children’s television programming.  Breaks during Captain Kangaroo, Ding Dong School, and Romper Room showed America’s children how much fun Play-Doh could be, and by 1958 Rainbow Crafts’ sales of Play-Doh had reached almost $3 million.  In 2003, the Toy Industry Association listed Play-Doh as one of the 100 most memorable and most creative toys of the 20th century.

October 2, 1957 – The 1957 World Series Begins

Milwaukee celebrates their David vs. Goliath win over the Yankees. Photo: Milwaukee County Historical Society

On October 2, 1957, the National League Milwaukee Braves traveled to Gotham to meet the American League powerhouse and perennial favorite Yankees for Game 1 of the 1957 World Series.  The defending champion Yankees held the home field advantage over the Braves, runners-up to the Brooklyn Dodgers for the NL pennant the year before.  The Milwaukee roster featured outfielder Hank Aaron, third-baseman Eddie Mathews, outfielder Wes Covington, catcher Del Crandall, shortstop Johnny Logan, second-baseman Red Schoendienst, outfielder Bob Hazle, and pitchers Warren Spahn, Bob Buhl, and Lew Burdette.  New York sported giants of the baseball world: Mickey Mantle in the outfield, Yogi Berra behind the plate, Hank Bauer in the outfield, Tony Kubek in the outfield and on third base, Jerry Coleman on second base, Gil McDougald at shortstop, Enos Slaughter in the outfield, and pitchers Whitey Ford, Bob Turley, Don Larsen, and Tom Sturdivant.

The series went back and forth, with plenty of excitement for fans of the Fall Classic, taking the full seven games to determine the victors.  New York won Games 1, 3, and 6; the Braves took Games 2, 4, 5, and 7.  Milwaukee pitcher Lew Burdette (who had made his major league debut with the Yankees in 1950) was named Most Valuable Player.  Burdette posted wins in three games – 2, 5 and 7 – two of them shutouts (Games 5 and 7), and in all three he was on the mound for the complete game.  Asked about pitching in Game 7 after only two days’ rest, Lew quipped, “I’ll be all right.  In 1953, I once relieved in sixteen games out of twenty-two.  I’m bigger, stronger, and dumber now.”

Songstress Lucy Monroe. Photo: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

Songstress Lucy Monroe. Photo: Harry S. Truman Library & Museum

The New York team sported a few big-name players who started every game –  and one member of the organization who is not so well-known.  Miss Lucy Monroe, the designated Yankees National Anthem Singer, sang “Oh Say Can You See” before every Yankee home game from 1945 until 1960.  Also the official soloist for the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Lucy once estimated that she had risen to “the rocket’s red glare” over 5000 times in her singing career.  She sang at the New York World’s Fair, with the New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras, and with the Chicago, St. Louis, and Metropolitan Opera companies.  Her soaring voice sold war bonds and inspired Presidents Roosevelt, Johnson, and Kennedy.  She offered her anthem rendition on the chilly platform for President Harry Truman’s inauguration, and at many, many other civic and patriotic gatherings.  After retiring in 1960 at the age of 54, she married New York lawyer Harold M. Weinberg one year later.  They enjoyed 16 years together before Lucy became a widow in 1977.  She died of cancer at her Manhattan home in 1987, at the age of 80.

Vintage 1957 – Near-Mint Near-Complete 1957 Topps Baseball Card Set

1957 Topps Mickey Mantle-Yogi Berra card. Photo: Sports Collectors Daily.

1957 Topps Mickey Mantle-Yogi Berra card. Photo: Sports Collectors Daily.

Attention, baseball card collectors! Rich Mueller at Sports Collectors Daily recently announced that a near-mint, near-complete set of 1957 Topps baseball cards will be put up for auction on eBay. Just Collect is planning to sell, piece by piece, a rare grouping of almost 400 cards obtained from a private collector which Mueller claims would rank “among the 50 best All-Time Finest sets on the PSA Set Registry.”

Topps made significant changes to their card line in 1957. They adopted the standard size still in use today and, rather than using both photo and artwork portraits, switched to photo-only shots of MLB’s Boys of Summer. Our banner year, 1957, is also notable for collectors in that it was a year in which many greats were playing, joined by a swath of soon-to-be-famous rookies. And 1957 was the last year that the Giants played in Gotham and the Dodgers owned Brooklyn.

Collectible baseball cards are rated on a score from 1 to 10. Each card is examined for its centering (how well did the printer do?), corners (how worn are the four points?), creases (did the card get bent or folded?), and surface (are there wrinkles, scratches, warping, damage, bubbles, marks, stains, or notches?).  A rating of ten is extremely rare, and means “taken off the printing press with tweezers and hermetically sealed” (I’m only slightly joking).  On the other end of the scale, a one rating would probably mean that the printing press was in dire need of a tune-up and a teething toddler with cotton candy got hold of the card (again, just a little exaggeration). All the cards in this 1957 collection have been rated a 7 “Near Mint”.

A few big names are missing in the collection, notably Red Sox immortal Ted Williams and  a regular issue of Yankee Mickey Mantle, winner of the Triple Crown in 1956. Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Yogi Berra, Ernie Banks, Al Kaline, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, and Roy Campanella are there, along with rookies Brooks Robinson, Rocky Colavito, Don Drysdale, and Bill Mazeroski. Numerous commons, multi-player, minor stars, and team cards also add to the set.

I acquired my love of baseball when I married into the Red Sox nation at age 21. Now I can’t help but wonder about the identity of the persistent baseball card lover who amassed this treasure trove. Were they born in 1957, too?

September 17, 1957 – Kansas State Fairgrounds Hosts Sprint Car Races

Dale Reed, Heat #2 Winner. Photo: L.A. Wood, from the book “Big Car Thunder” by Bob Mays, courtesy of Kansas Racing History website.

 

On September 17, 1957, the historic half-mile racetrack at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson, Kansas, hosted six sprint car races contested by nineteen excited drivers and crew.  Five thousand fans were in attendance for three qualifying heats of seven laps, a fast car dash of four laps, a six-lap consolation race, and the featured final race of fifteen laps.  Drivers from nine states – Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, Florida, California, and Minnesota – gathered for the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) event.  Winners of the qualifying heats were Pete Folse of Tampa, Florida, Dale Reed of Wichita, Kansas, and Al “Cotton” Farmer of Ft. Worth, Texas.  Farmer also came in first in the fast car dash and featured final race; Johnny Pouelson of Gardena, California won the consolation event.

Sprint cars are small, powerful race cars with high power-to-weight ratios designed to run on short oval or circular tracks.  Sprint car racing began shortly after World War I, and by the ’50s some sprint cars racers were using larger flathead V8 Ford or Mercury engines, rather than the pre-World War II vintage 4-cylinders of the ’40s.  Featured race champion Farmer was driving a Les Vaughn Offy, #24.  Les Vaughn owned many frontrunning midget, sprint, and stock racecars from 1948 to 1960.  Young A.J. Foyt got his big break in an Offy, winning his first sprint car race in Minot, North Dakota in 1956.

Final-winning racer Al “Cotton” Farmer was 29 on this warm, sunny day in Hutchinson.  His nickname came from the full white head of hair he sported from boyhood until his death in 2004 in his hometown of Ft. Worth.  He was an automobile chemical salesman, active in local professional and charitable organizations throughout his life, the father of four and grandfather of ten.

September 16, 1957 – Emma Gatewood Walks on the “Wild” Side

Emma Gatewood on the Appalachian Trail. Photo: Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Emma Gatewood on the Appalachian Trail. Photo: Appalachian Trail Conservancy

Before there was Cheryl Strayed, there was Emma Gatewood.

On September 16, 1957, Ohio native Emma Gatewood, aged 69, arrived at the 5,270-foot peak of Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the 2,050-mile-long Appalachian Trail. Back on April 27, “Grandma” Gatewood had started out from Mount Oglethorpe, Georgia – at the trail’s southern end – equipped with a handsewn denim bag of hiking supplies and a determination to repeat her record-setting trek of 1955. Two years earlier, over the course of five months, Emma had become the first woman to solo thru-hike (travel from start to finish without interruption) the scenic Appalachian Trail.

Grandma Gatewood and Cheryl Strayed – recent thru-hiker of the western-states Pacific Coast Trail and author of the best-selling memoir Wild – had something in common. They were both on a quest. Both took somewhat radical risks to complete their journeys. Both found something on the trail that changed their lives.

Emma Gatewood was born Emma Rowena Caldwell on a farm in Gallia County, Ohio, one of 15 siblings. She did her share of chores, including hoeing, planting, worming tobacco, milking, washing, and cooking. When persuasive P.C. Gatewood insisted on marriage, she consented and went on to birth her own farming family of 11 children. P.C. was not the husband young Emma had hoped for. They had a stormy relationship, witnessed by the children, in which P.C. physically abused Emma.

Sometime in the early 1950s, her family grown and gone, Emma read an article in National Geographic about Earl V. Shaffer, the first man to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. Emma found this an irresistible challenge. She, a woman, could do that, too! And – in spite of her bad knees, bunions, false teeth, and feeling blind without her glasses – she did.

An abortive but instructive attempt in 1954 was followed by her successful traverse in the summer of 1955. Emma enjoyed meeting residents along the way from Georgia to Maine, often hiking out for food, temporary shelter, and the finer things like a shower and bug spray. She traveled light, carrying no more than 15 pounds of trail basics stuffed in a bag thrown over her shoulder. Emma tried to avoid predators like bears and rattlesnakes, and pesky critters like mice, black flies, mosquitos, and reporters. She was constitutionally no-nonsense and tended to believe that people could do a whole lot more than they thought. “The hardest part of hiking the Appalachian Trail,” like so many other challenges in life, she told her son Nelson, “was simply making up your mind to do it.” If Emma had worn a button, it might have read, “No Pantywaists!”

Acclaim came Emma’s way during and after her 1955 adventure. She appeared on NBC’s “Today” with Dave Garroway, “The Art Linkletter Show,” and Groucho Marx’s “You Bet Your Life.” Reporters for countless newspapers and magazines dogged her steps and lauded her achievements. What led her to the 1957 repeat? The quiet trail, nature, the sense of a spiritual connection beckoned. “The petty entanglements of life are brushed aside like cobwebs,” Emma wrote in her trail journal. Plus, no woman had ever done it twice!

Cheryl Strayed went “wild” on the PCT in an attempt to recover from her mother’s death. Stuck in protracted grief, she found herself unable to move on in life. She was young, had many years ahead of her, and needed to find a new normal. Emma Gatewood walked into AT history as a woman of age and maturity, after her immediate responsibilities to her family were over. The limitations of an abusive husband and small children to raise, and the cultural expectations imposed on women of her generation may have sat too heavily and fit too closely on her small but sturdy frame. When she could set them aside, she did, and set out to discover in the most basic sense what she was capable of.

How capable was she? After her AT thru-hikes in 1955 and 1957, Emma walked 2000 miles of the Oregon Trail from Independence, Missouri to Portland, Oregon (my birthplace!) in 95 days during the Trail’s centennial year celebration in 1959. She attempted a third AT passage in 1960, but heavy-weather damage to the trail diverted her course through other trails in Pennsylvania, New York  Massachusetts, Vermont, and Canada. She climbed several peaks in the Adirondack Range, and successfully completed a third traverse of the AT in 1964. She was personally instrumental in creating several sections of Ohio’s treasured Buckeye Trail.

Emma died in 1973, but her memory lives on as an inspiration to all that, in the words of (fellow Mount Katahdin-climber) Henry David Thoreau, “If one advances confidently in the direction of [her] dreams, and endeavors to live the life which [she] has imagined, [she] will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”

Fox Searchlight Pictures is bringing Cheryl Strayed’s Wild to the big screen, starring Reese Witherspoon, on December 5th. A documentary of Emma Gatewood’s life, created by FilmAffects and WGTE/PBS Toledo, is in the works, slated for airing next spring. Fundraising to bring Emma to our small screens continues, spearheaded by Bette Lou Higgins and Kelly Boyer Sagert of Eden Valley Enterprises. Let’s make sure Grandma Gatewood has her moment in digital-celluloid history.

September 13, 1957 – The Kalmikoffs Win in Buffalo

Dastardly Ivan and Karol at work. Photo: Online World of Wrestling

On September 13, 1957, Ivan and Karol Kalmikoff defeated Vic Christy and Sammy Berg in a National Wrestling Alliance event at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo, New York.  The Kalmikoffs tag team – a team of fictitious Soviet brothers consisting of Ivan (Edward Bruce, native son of Detroit, Michigan), and Karol (Karol Piwoworczyk, hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma) – were very successful in the mid-50s, having begun their sweaty grappling career in 1953 in Amarillo, Texas.  Two other “brothers” participated occasionally: Nikita (Nikita Mulkovich) and Stan or Igor (Eric Pomeroy).

Populated by wild characters with quirky gimmicks, partly athletic event but wholly staged entertainment, professional wrestling featured clearly defined heroes and villains who episodically portrayed the alternating triumph of the forces of good or evil in (and frequently out) of a canvas-floored ring.  What great fun – and how vicariously cathartic – to boo the Communist Red menace Kalmikoffs while the Cold War raged.

Television fueled the popularity of professional wrestling as each of the major networks broadcast the colorful, inexpensive-to-produce matches.  As a result, the ’50s became the “Golden Age” for the pseudo-sport.