Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Filled Cookies

                It was the Christmas season in the early 1980s in South Dakota.  Preparing for our trip back to Huron to see the family during the holidays, I had gone to the library for some cookie recipe books and found an interesting recipe for Filled Cookies.  Hidden inside each soft cookie was a rich filling of dates.  I wanted the assortment of goodies I brought back to be different, and to “shake things up a little” from our usual fare.  Most of all, I wanted to impress my grandmother, who instilled in me a love for the kitchen when I was a child.
                I still remember walking in Grandma’s house for our Christmas Day feast and festivities, and handing her the box of new and unusual treats – and as she opened it, she exclaimed, “Are these filled cookies??”  I was surprised, but even more surprised at what she had to say about filled cookies...

     Grandma had spent her early years in her father's bakery, Bell Bakery, in Huron, South Dakota.  Her father, Pete Christensen, was a Danish immigrant and came to the United States at least two or three times to learn the baking trade from uncles in Nebraska.  He was not quite 17 years old at his first trip.  He came here permanently in 1908, and months later traveled to Huron to start Bell Bakery with his partner, Clarence H. Bell.  How they got acquainted is anyone's guess, but Bell was involved in the bakery business in Iowa.  He seemed to run the business end of things while Pete ran the baking part of the operation.

The I. O. O.F. Building, where Bell Bakery occupied the main floor.  You can see the sign hanging out from the building.  Before his marriage, Pete lived in one of the apartments above the bakery.
Pete (left) and two of his bakers in the back of the bakery.  Photo courtesy of Janice Payne.

     Pete was good at what he did, and it was no surprise that among the many bakeries in Huron, Bell Bakery was the leader. 

     Grandma pulled out a filled cookie and tasted it.  I was scared to death, wanting terribly to impress her with my baking skills, but terrified now that I knew she was familiar with how good - really good - filled cookies were supposed to taste.   She smiled and said, “These taste just great… I have not had filled cookies in years… my dad made the best filled cookies and people would come from miles around just for them.  He could never keep them in stock, and had to take special orders at Christmas time.”

     How happy I was that my first try at these cookies were successful, although Grandma would not have let on even if they weren’t.  But I was even happier to have a new family tradition to carry on.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Letter from Clarence

The article appeared in the November 10, 1943 issue of the Evening Huronite, the local Huron, South Dakota newspaper.  Clarence Christensen was the brother of Lillian Knutz.


     Mrs. P. C. Christensen, route 4, Huron, received the following V-letter written Oct. 32, from her son, Corp. C. A. Christensen, who is believed to be stationed in New Guinea.

     Dear Mom and Dad: It was another hot day today.  It still stays cool at night but as soon as the sun comes up it's a different story.  When it rains it cools off a little.  Lately it rains mostly at night, especially when there is a show in the area.  We take our panchos with us when we go now so we see the show rain or shine.
     I received your letter of Oct. 2 today and also one from Raymond.  I also received three Huronite papers.  I hope you'll be able to get some film.  It doesn't make much difference which size for I'll find a camera to use them in some place in the regiment.  I want you to use the next money I send you to get Christmas presents all around.  It will probably be all I'll send home for awhile as I'm taking a furlough in a couple of months and I don't think I'll have much left when I get back.  I wrote a letter to George Schroeder, so I may find out where he is.  If I do I'll try to look him up.
     Everybody is building sail boats during their spare time so it's going to look like a shipyard around here. They don't all stay right side up but some of them navigate pretty well.  We have a lot of fun with them anyhow.  I'll have to close for now.  I'll be looking for a letter from you soon.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Ideas for Kids, from Grandma Lill

I was going through a steno notebook my Grandma Lill kept with recipes, and came across these ideas for kids, clipped from a newspaper.

Creative Clay
    2 C. cornstarch
    2 C. baking soda
    1 1/4 C. water
    Combine ingredients, cook till it reaches consistency of whipped potatoes.  Put mixture on a plate, let cool and knead.  Store in airtight container.

Bit O'Honey Playdough
    Mix together:
    1 jar chunky peanut butter (18 oz)
    6 Tbs honey
    Non-fat dry milk (to the right consistency)
    Knead until pliable.  Eat your creations when done!

Finger Paint
    3 Tbs sugar
    1/2 c. cornstarch
    2 c. cold water
    Food coloring
    Mix first two ingredients, then add water.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until well blended.  Divide into 4-5 portions, add food coloring to tint.

Silly Putty
    2 parts glue to 1 part liquid starch
    Pour starch into a bowl, add food coloring or tempera paint to tint the putty.  Add glue to the starch mixture.   Mix well; it will look stringy.  Keep kneading until it's no long sticky.  If too sticky, add more starch.  If too stringy, add more glue.  Refrigerate in tight container.

Lint Modeling Clay
    4 C. clothes drying lint
    3 C. water
    1 2/3 C. flour
    oil of wintergreen
    Mix lint and water in pan; add flour and mix thoroughly.  Add oil of wintergreen.  Cook over low heat while stirring constantly.  When mixture holds together, pour out onto newspaper and cool.

Clown Face Paint
    1/8 C. baby lotion
    1/4 tsp. powdered tempera paint
    1 squirt liquid dish washing soap
    Mix and paint!  Easily removed with soap and water.

Magic Goop
    1 C. cornstarch
    Add enough water so that the consistency is similar to glue.  Tempera paint may be added for color.

Gelatin Shapes
    4 4-oz pkgs gelatin
    2 4-oz pkgs Knox gelatin
    2 C. hot water
    Dissolve gelatin in water, pour into a jelly roll pan.  Refrigerate until firm.  Using cookie cutters, cut out your favorite shapes and eat!  Guaranteed to shake the sillies out!

Bread Clay Recipe
    Remove crusts from 6 pieces of white bread and knead them together with 6 Tbs of white glue and 1/2 tsp. dish detergent.
    Knead mixture until it is no longer sticky.  Separate into portions and tint with food coloring.  Shape when done, and brush with equal parts flue and water for a smooth appearance.  Let dry overnight.

Chilly Bananas
    Peanut Butter or honey
    Crushed cereals or rice krispies
    Roll banana thirds into thinned-down peanut butter or honey, then into cereal.  Insert popsicle stick, put on a tray and freeze prior to eating.

Fish in the Sea
    Saltine crackers
    Cream cheese (tinted blue)
    Fish-shaped snack crackers
    Spread the tinted cream cheese on a saltine cracker.  Add 2 or 3 fish crackers to the top - fish in the sea!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Day at the Races

A few of the horses raised and raced by my father-in-law, Herb Ulmer, near Ree Heights, South Dakota - I recently found a packet of photos of some of his winning horses.

 Clarinda's Flight
Herb Ulmer, owner; Antone Ball, trainer; Jody Coughlin, jockette

Herb Ulmer, owner; A. J. Patton, trainer; Forth, jockey

Grand Goose
Herb Ulmer, owner; Jim Lewis, trainer; Hines, jockey

Grand Gunner
Herb Ulmer, owner; A. J. Patten, trainer; Clay Torevell, jockey

Herb's Tony
Herb Ulmer, owner; Antone Ball, trainer; Jody Coughlin, jockey

 Stepping Toni
Herb Ulmer, owner; A. J. Patten, trainer; Clay Torevell, jockey

 Sweet Helio
Herb Ulmer, owner; Antone Ball, trainer; Jody Coughlin, jockey

Sweet Peddie
Herb Ulmer, owner; Bob Rich, trainer; Doug Schoepf, jockey

Tablets of the Missing

Tablets of the Missing in Florence, Italy.  A stone exists here to commemorate the service of Flight Officer Raymond Christensen of the 417th Night Fighter Squadron, whose body was never recovered after his plane went down between Corsica and Italy on the night of May 13, 1944.

The Wedding of Mr. and Mrs. Max Ortmeier

This is one of the first antique photos I ever saw - at least since I got hooked on genealogy 20+ years ago.  It was in a box of things my mother-in-law gave us.  It had been in her family for some time, the bride being a distant relative.

The wedding was between Maximilian "Max" Ortmeier and Elizabeth Schaefers, and occurred on 04 Jun 1912 in Polo, Hand County, South Dakota.  I could look at this photo all day - the detail available in the scanned version is incredible.  The cars, the clothes, the faces... and the home!  I don't know who owns the lovely home, but I would be thrilled to live there, with the wrap-around porch and beautiful Victorian trim!

In looking at the faces, I can't help but wonder which ones are closely related to us.  What a job it would be to attempt to identify everyone!

Max Ortmeier was born 19 Nov 1880 in Westphalia, Germany, the son of Ferdinand Ortmeier and Maria Luening.  His bride was the former Elizabeth Schaefers, born 11 Aug 1890 near Orient, South Dakota, to August Schaefers and his wife Anna Schmeiding.  Max came to South Dakota with a friend in a covered wagon, and took a homestead in nearby Hyde County, but later obtained a farm in Hand county, where they lived out the remainder of their lives.

The children of this union were Vincent, Raymond, Agnes, John, Mary, William, Bernard, Richard, and James.  Elizabeth died in 1953, and Max in 1974, and both are buried in the cemetery of the church where they were married.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A letter from Raymond Christensen

Note:  The following is a letter from my great-uncle Raymond Christensen to Mr. Bauman of State Farm Insurance of Minneapolis, where Raymond worked before enlisting in World War II.  Raymond was a radar operator in the 417th Night Fighter Squadron, one of the most dangerous jobs a soldier could have.  This letter was written while he was stationed in North Africa, and he was killed months later.  Many thanks to my cousins for sharing it.

417th Night Fighter Squadron
A.P.O. 525, C/O Postmaster,
New York City, N.Y.

Dear Mr. Bauman: -

True to form Uncle Sammy doesn't want us boys to get bored or stale by staying in one spot.  From a social point of view I don't know why he picked North Africa for me.  Otherwise it is mildly interesting.  We've only lost a few boys, so I feel quite optimistic about a long life as yet.  I've got quite a bit of faith in my pilot and we get along as well as anybody could with me.    We've got to have perfect teamwork to live out this blessed war, so we pay as much attention in our teaming up as we would to getting married - probably more.  In this case "until death do us part" doesn't seem to lend any humor to the situation whatever.  It's a good sport going up in the black of the night and scaring bad little Nazis, just like when we were kids, only the Nazis don't scare any to d------ easy.
England was a good host - in most cases too friendly to soldiers..... It's quite a shock to the boys to come over here (North Africa) and have these lovely French African girls ignore them completely.  It's a fact, the girls here don't smoke - I never saw one intoxicated, and I never saw one flirt on the street.  It isn't all a difference in language either, however, I will admit it is a handicap to not be able to converse.  Oddly enough as few of these people speak English as there are of us who speak French.
The architecture here is quite modern looking and the streets quite wide.  The poorer class of natives inhabit the older parts of the city, but they are off limits to Army personnel.  One couldn't possibly imagine the sights in one of these areas.  There are Arabs lying in the street in the blazing sun with flies all over him.  He is unwashed, ragged, no one bothers him, he is left to finish his sciesta [sic] as he sees fit.  No sight disturbs the calm and steady movement of pedestrians.  Either a man is just lying around or he has an objective.  There seems to be a singleness of purpose like an ant- an utter lack of imagination or interest in events around about.  There is every type of uniform and insignia from all the allied countries, jeeps - cars- trucks - donkeys with huge loads or carts ridden by natives - horses - oxen hitched to all types of odd vehicles.  The better class arab in flowing gown and turban, veiled women - quite a number of civilian whites and me.  A hell of a mess if I ever saw one.
The Red Cross has started and is operating several very nice clubs, some for officers and some for the enlisted men.  They offer a varied program from speech classes to dancing - a swell place to kill a few hours and certainly an oasis for me out here.  A credit to the organization.
We are on American rations now and have our own kitchen.  Until now we have always lived with the British Air Force.  They can't get the food that the Americans do get and of course prepare it in their own style.  Whether it was good or not made little difference an American wouldn't approve it.  It is good, though, to get a bit of canned fruit.  In England grapes sold for $5.00 a pound and no tinned fruits - very poor peaches were 50 cents a piece.  Clothing was rationed unmercifully.  Little do the U.S. people know what rationing is, much less war.  I've only had a sample and that wasn't good.  Some of the events here that never get back to the U. S. would make your flesh crawl.
The food situation is better here - there are loads of good grapes - tomatoes - peppers, etc. and of course being French, plenty of wine and champaign.  The latter is about $2.00 a quart.  As in England the boys still pay the black market $10.00 a quart for Scotch.
We aren't allowed to buy any food or fruit in town so the Red Cross has snack bars for the boys.  All our food has to be approved before we get it.  And so much for Africa.
I finally got my discharge and appointment to Flight Officer.  Aside from a financial gain it's not too exciting but one more step - also a gaudy uniform.  The best to you and the Co.