Thursday, April 20, 2017

Weird Texas: A Book Review, Sort of

I am fascinated by strange or unusual places, occurrences and historical mysteries, as well as untapped powers of the human mind. That’s why I feature psychic characters in my novels and why I love reading about mythology and legends. It’s no surprise then, that when I spotted a book titled Weird Texas while browsing a local Buc-ee’s (a huge gas station, food stop and souvenir hunter’s paradise) I had to have it.

This book is a treasure trove of spooky tales and oddities from the Lone Star State, including some ancient not-so-natural sites. One is “Enchanted Rock,” a pink granite dome more than one billion years old. Encompassing 640 acres in the Hill Country of central Texas, some twenty miles north of Fredericksburg, the rock reaches 400 feet above the surrounding land. The huge batholith (an igneous rock formation exposed by erosion) is the second largest in the United States, the first being Stone Mountain in Georgia. It’s also one of the oldest in the world.

The name Enchanted Rock stems from Native American beliefs that it is haunted, so the story goes. Both the Tonkawa and Comanche feared and revered the rock, possibly offering sacrifices at its base. The Apache believed it was inhabited by mountain spirits. Since many Indians avoided the rock, white settlers sometimes sought refuge there from raiding parties.

One legend says the rock is haunted by a band of warriors who fought to the death against enemy attackers. Their wailing spirits supposedly wander over the rock. Modern scientists suggest the Indians saw how the rock glitters at night after a heavy rain and thought the glittering lights were spirits. Likewise, they mistook the creaking sounds the rock makes when the surface chills after a warm day, for ghostly wails.

The book's authors say, "Such theories do not credit the Indians with having much sense, and assume that they were a superstitious bunch, ignorant in the ways of nature. Much of this attitude may result from our own ignorance of the forces of nature, of which the Indians were very much aware."

Members of the Weird Texas team have camped near Enchanted Rock and other granite rocks in the area. They report hearing strange noises coming from the giant rock, particularly during solstices, that sound like the hum of a high-voltage power line, even though there are such lines anywhere near. The authors speculate that the lights and sounds come from energy within the granite, and go on to say shamanistic cultures have long held such sites sacred.

This is just a small taste of the interesting legends -- and facts -- I found in this thoroughly entertaining book. If you'd like to add it to your library, it's available on  Amazon. 

You can also find all of my books on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Wild Wonders of Hoover Dam by Sarah J. McNeal

One of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been was when I visited Hoover Dam, an American icon. Although I had seen it in movies and documentaries, nothing prepared me for the magnificence of it first hand and in person. It’s not just a dam to provide water and electricity to millions, it is also a work of art.
The unpredictable and powerful Colorado River overflowed its banks every spring and flooded the land. It caused the ruin of crops and loss of income for farmers all along its banks. If only there was a way to control the water from the Colorado in order to irrigate the land and provide drinking water for those who lived toward the south and to the west. Once electricity blossomed in towns across the U.S. people began to wonder if they could somehow use the Colorado to generate electricity. Taming the Colorado would be a mammoth undertaking even for the best engineers of the day. So, when the Government instructed the Bureau of Reclamation to come up with a solution, it was decided to build the world's largest dam.

Frank Crow and Walker Young

Frank Crow, general superintendent, and Walker Young  Engineer of Hoovered Dam were assigned the job to get it completed in the span from 1931 - 1935. The construction of Hoover took 7 years at a cost of $ 125 million. Nowadays this amount is about 788 million dollars. If the dam was not completed in the given time it would have cost the contractors $ 3000 / day in financial penalties.

The site chosen for the megastructure Hoover Dam was Black Canyon. It is an 800 feet high deep gorge through which the Colorado River flowed. The spot, Black canyon is in the middle of the desert, so there was no infrastructure, no labors, no transportation and the weather was harsh. 21,000 men took part in its construction and of them 112 laid their lives to complete this mega structure. Situated in Mojave Desert, 30 Km south-east of Las Vegas. Built on Colorado River at Black Canyon, the construction site was extremely difficult. The risks involved were huge and the consequences could have been catastrophic, if the dam failed.

The construction had to be done in stages. The first stage was necessary to divert the Colorado. It’s kind of difficult to build a dam while the river is pouring water over the area of construction. Just considering the diversion of the river is exhausting and mind-boggling.

In April 1931 blasting began for construction on the plain dry area where the dam would be placed. To divert the Colorado, 4 tunnels were excavated on each side of the Canyon, measuring 4000 feet long and 56 feet in diameter. These tunnels became diversion channels. Two tunnels were constructed on the Nevada side and another two were constructed on the Arizona side. Two small cofferdams were built to force water into the tunnels. Drilling, digging, and blasting along with debris removal continued for 13 months, with men working 3 shifts 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Holidays were observed only at Christmas, 4th July and Labor Day.

Apache Indians hired to work on high scaffolding

The workers faced harsh conditions but were paid only 40% extra for this arduous and often dangerous work. No proper ventilation was provides, work was extremely physically demanding. Men had to swing 100's of feet down the canyon walls to remove dangerous loose rocks, using jacks and dynamites. Due to lack of safety measure men required nerves of steel. 

Workers swinging on the side of the canyon

The most common cause of death was, being hit by falling rocks. But the construction of Hoover Dam took place during the years of the Great Depression and workers were actually happy to be hired no matter the danger of the work involved.

Because no roads led into the canyon, men and equipment arrived at the work site by boat. Workers used 500 pneumatic drills, hoses, and compressors to make holes in the canyon rock where explosives could be placed. Once holes were drilled, workers used dynamite to blast into the rock and break it into smaller pieces that could be hauled away by dump trucks. A ton of dynamite was needed for every 14 feet of tunnel in the canyon walls. Special teams visited the inside of the tunnels to ensure it would remain safe for the workers to work inside. The tunnels were lined with concrete. By using this technique, the workers were able to blast and excavate large diversion tunnels, each of which was about the size of a 4-lane highway, lined with 3 feet of concrete. These tunnels allowed the river water to be transported away from the construction site at a rate of 1.5 million gallons per second. By November, 14, 1932, the 4 tunnels began to divert the water away from the site and the workers made alternate cofferdams by using 100 trucks to dump dirt, rock, and debris into the water at a rate of one truckload every 15 seconds. This amazing pace of dredging and dumping went on for many months.
At this point Stage 2 of construction began. This was the stage in which the actual dam was built. The work was huge and there were many problems in design which needed to be solved. Hoover is an arch gravity dam, incorporating two principles.

Arial View of Hoover Dam

The first principle has to do with the weight of the dam forces into the ground due to its weight, thus helping it to remain stable. The second principle is that the arch shape of the dam deflects the force of the water into the canyon walls through the compression of the dam's concrete walls, using the compressive strength of concrete because concrete is very strong in compression. The major problem now was the pouring of 3.4 million cubic meters of concrete. Plants were installed at the construction site to produce concrete locally. But the dam was too big to be made into a single concrete mount. If the concrete in the dam was poured in only one go, the concrete would not have settled even by today. When the ingredients of concrete - cement, sand, coarse aggregate combine in the presence of water, they start a chemical reaction, resulting in the generation of internal heat which slows down the curing process. The larger the pour, the longer the cure. If heat is not dispersed, cracks would form and weaken the structure.

                                      Concrete Dam Forms

The solution to the heat generating problem was to pour the concrete in layers of interlocking blocks, each 5 feet tall. To accelerate the setting of concrete, cool water pipes were passed through each block. The concrete mix was cooled and cured faster.  Then the next layer was poured. To speed up pouring of concrete in the mega structure, an elaborate overhead network of cables and pulleys was designed, carrying vast buckets of concrete. Labors stayed on the site to spread, place and compact the poured in concrete. Due to this new method, a record breaking volume - 8000 cubic meters of concrete was poured in a single day.

Secretary of the Interior Ray L. Wilbur announced the structure would be called Hoover Dam at a 1930 dedication ceremony, though the name didn’t become official until 1947. September 30, 1935 President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the completed dam.

The Hoover Dam Angels

I couldn’t help but notice the Art Nuevo design used for the decorative columns in Hoover Dam. They are impressive and beautiful.

The Star Map in the center of the floor

Hanson Bas Relief on the inside wall of the dam

Here are some factoids for your inquisitive minds:
726.4 feet high (221 m)
1,244 feet wide (379 m)
660 feet (203 m) thick at the base
45 feet (13 m) thick at the top
$165 million dollars to build
4.5 years to build
4.4 million yards of concrete used for construction
March 1931 building began
September 30, 1935 completed
17 generators
4+ billion kilowatt hours produced each year
10 acres of floor space

Power used by:
56% California
25% Nevada
19% Arizona
Lake Mead took 6.5 years to fill (A slow filling process was required to lessen the pressure change on the dam and to help prevent small earthquakes due to land settlement.)
589 feet (181 m) at the deepest point
247 square miles in size
110 miles (176 km) long
Named after Dr. Elwood Mead, Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation (1924 - 1936)
Largest man made reservoir in the United States

 Hoover Dam Memorial by Oskar J. W. Hanson

And there you have it, the great, iconic Hoover Dam. An engineering accomplishment and a work of art.  

Sarah J. McNeal is a multi-published author of several genres including time travel, paranormal, western and historical fiction. She is a retired ER and Critical Care nurse who lives in North Carolina with her four-legged children, Lily, the Golden Retriever and Liberty, the cat. Besides her devotion to writing, she also has a great love of music and plays several instruments including violin, bagpipes, guitar and harmonica. Her books and short stories may be found at Prairie Rose Publications and its imprints Painted Pony Books, and Fire Star Press. She welcomes you to her website and social media:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Messiah Festival by Linda K. Hubalek

It's Easter Sunday and I'm listening to the Messiah right now, online from our local radio station...and I realize I didn't get my post up for today. So here's today's post about a group of pioneer Swedes who tackled the HUGE project of learning The Messiah - in English - to perform for the Easter season in their little Swedish community in central Kansas.

This annual event has been presented - every year - since 1882. I have sang in the chorus some years but unfortunately not this year.

Here's some information and photos from

Upon hearing Handel's oratorio Messiah performed in London, the Rev. Olof Olsson immediately expressed his enthusiasm for the work in a letter to his friend Dr. Carl Swensson in Lindsborg. In 1882 the decision was made to perform Messiah in the Smoky Valley that spring with Swensson's wife, Alma, conducting.

Chorus members, town and farm folks alike, came from miles around for rehearsals. Most had no knowledge of music, and some little knowledge of the English language. But Mrs. Swensson persevered and the first performance was given March 28, 1882, at Bethany Lutheran Church. Subsequent performances were given at McPherson, Salina, Freemount, and Salemsborg.

Performances were moved to the Old Main chapel upon completion of that building, then to the Ling Gymnasium, and finally to its present location, Presser Hall Auditorium. Bach's Passion of Our Lord according to St. Matthew has been performed by the Oratorio Society on Good Friday since moving to Presser in 1929.

The Messiah Chorus as it appeared in Ling Gymnasium. The tradition began in 1882 at Bethany Lutheran Church, then moved to the chapel in Old Main upon that building's completion in 1886, and to Ling beginning with the 1896 season. Ling was destroyed by fire in 1946. 

The Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific Railroads would schedule special excursion trains to transport people from hundreds of miles around to experience the art and music of Holy Week in Lindsborg. Today tour buses continue to do the same thing.

Today the performance is given in Presser Hall on the Bethany College campus.

Want to hear part of it? This was a 2014 video, and I'm in the right alto section, second row.

Happy Easter everyone!

Linda Hubalek

Friday, April 14, 2017

Sand Pounders of WWII

I don't know how I chanced upon this topic—"Sand Pounders." But, it intrigued me. I couldn't imagine what the term referred to until I read the article. Then it all made sense, and I thought what a great topic for a blog post or for a novel.

After Pearl Harbor, the security of our beaches became a concern. However, even before Pearl Harbor, the beach patrol was set into motion.

"On Feb. 3, 1941, all coastal areas of the United States were organized into defense divisions known as Naval Coastal Frontiers. Then on Nov. 1, 1941, under Executive Order No. 8929, the Coast Guard was transferred to the Navy for the duration of what would soon become, for the U.S., World War II."

The Army handled land defense, the Navy would handle the offshore patrols, and the Coast Guard would handle beach patrol.

They had had three basic functions:

"*To detect and observe enemy vessels operating in coastal waters and to transmit information on these craft to the appropriate Navy and Army commands;

*To report attempts of landings by the enemy and to assist in preventing landings;

*Prevent communication between persons on shore and the enemy at sea."

In the first months of the war, patrols were handled much as they were during peacetime—one man armed with flares.

Warnings about enemy landings from the FBI were issued, but weren't taken seriously.  One incident in June of 1942 changed the Coast Guard's thinking. On June 13, 1942 the U-202 surfaced off the coast of Long Island, N.Y. Four Nazi agents came ashore in a rubber raft with the intention of striking  key U.S. factories and railroads. They changed from their uniforms into civilian clothing.

While making his six-mile patrol, 21 year-old John Cullen, Seaman 2nd Class saw someone walk out of the fog. He ordered the man to identify himself, the stranger said he was George Davis and that their fishing boat had run aground. Cullen could see the other agents dimly in the fog. One called out something in a foreign language. Suspicious, Cullen suggested they accompany him to the Coast Guard station. Davis then offered Cullen $300 to forget he'd seen anything.

At the station, Boatswain's Mate Carl R. Jenette listened incredulously to the story. They returned to the scene to find the agents were gone, but they could smell diesel oil offshore and hear the throbbing of an engine. The U-202 was trying to free itself. They could also see a blinker light. They hid behind a dune to prevent being shelled.

The next morning they returned to find to find buried explosives and incendiary devices.

The beach patrol served as a coastal information system.

Certain area of the beach were dangerous to walk so boat and motor patrols were established. Foot patrols required men to travel in pairs. They carried rifles, or sidearms and flare pistols. Distances covered were usually two miles or less as they had to report in by telephone boxes placed three quarter miles apart.

In 1942, dogs were added to beach patrols. Their keen sense of smell and ability to guard made them valuable additions. The dogs were fitted with canvas boots to protect their paws from sea coral and seashells.

When the dogs came into use, the two man teams were replaced with canine patrols. The length of their patrol was about a mile. The dogs saved their handlers lives on numerous occasions. One guardsman almost walked off a cliff, another passed out. His dog ran for help and
saved him from hypothermia.

By late 1942, horses began to arrive. "... recruits were drawn largely from the Midwest and from east of the Cascades—horse country." Oregon beaches were not easy to cover by walking.

"Pairs of Coast Guard guys, both packing .38 revolvers and Raising M50 submachine guns, usually mounted, one with a backpack radio transmitter — doggedly making their way along the beach in the teeth of every kind of weather the Oregon Coast can supply, eyes peeled for any sign of Japanese marauders."
As to the Sand Pounders success, it's hard to say. Though they never stopped an invasion, the people of Oregon were comforted by their presence as people in others areas of the U.S. were also.

"But, it's possible that the Sand Pounders had won their fight before they even suited up." The incident mentioned earlier about the Nazi saboteurs on Long Island, their capture and convictions must have sent a loud message back to the Axis Powers. "...the American home front was not going to be an easy target."

There are many articles on the Internet about the Sand Pounders. I could only report on a small portion of their activities here.

Thank you for stopping by Sweethearts of the West. If you're not following us, please do. We have interesting posts every two days. Most of them are on the old west, though some of us vary off subject from time to time.

Thanks to the following references:
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Happy Reading and Writing,

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

All Hail Texas Pecans! (and a recipe)

In Texas, pecans are a Big Deal. The trees are native to the state, and according the archaeological record, they’ve been here since long before humans arrived. When people did arrive, they glommed onto the nuts right away as an excellent source of essential vitamins (nineteen of them, in fact), fats, and proteins. Comanches and other American Indians considered the nuts a dietary staple, combining pecans with fruits and other nuts to make a sort of “trail mix.” They also used pecan milk to make an energy drink and thickened stews and soups with the ground meat. Most Indians carried stores of the nuts with them when they traveled long distances, because pecans would sustain them when no other food sources were available.

Texas pecans. Ain't they cute?
An individual Texas pecan tree may live for more than 1,000 years. Some grow to more than 100 feet tall.

Pecans have been an important agricultural product in Texas since the mid-1800s. In 1850, 1,525 bushels left the Port of Galveston; just four years later, the number of bushels exceeded 13,000. In 1866, the ports at Galveston, Indianola, and Port Lavaca combined shipped more than 20,000 barrels of pecans.

Nevertheless, as the state’s population exploded, pecan groves dwindled. Trees were cut to clear fields for cotton. Pecan wood was used to make wagon parts and farm implements. One of Texas’s great natural resources was depleted so quickly that in 1904, the legislature considered passing laws to prevent the complete disappearance of the pecan.

Left alone to regenerate for a couple of decades, Texas pecan groves came back bigger than ever. Until 1945, Texas trees produced more 30 percent of the U.S. pecan crop. In 1910, pecan production in the state reached nearly six million pounds, and the trees grew in all but eight counties. During the 1920s, Texas exported 500 railcar loads per year, and that was only 75 percent of the state’s crop. The average annual production between 1936 and 1946 was just shy of 27 million pounds; in 1948, a banner year for pecan production, the crop zoomed to 43 million pounds produced by 3,212,633 trees. In 1972, the harvest reached a whopping 75 million pounds.

Texas pecan orchard. Pecans make great climbing trees.
During the Great Depression, the pecan industry provided jobs for many Texans. The nuts had to be harvested and shelled. Shelling employed 12,000 to 15,000 people in San Antonio alone.

The Texas legislature designated the pecan the official state tree in 1919. Between then and now, pecan nuts became Texas’s official state health food (Texas has an official health food?), and pecan pie became the state’s official pie (and my official favorite pie). Pecan wood is used to make baseball bats, hammer handles, furniture, wall paneling, flooring, carvings, and firewood.

Yep. Pecans have always been, and continue to be, a Big Deal in Texas—especially during the holidays. I’d be surprised if any native Texans don’t bake at least one pecan pie for either Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or both. Then there are folks like me who bake them year-round, just because they’re delicious.

Texas pecan pie. See how dark and luscious that is?
Milk-custard, my hind leg.
The first known appearance of a pecan pie recipe in print can be found on page 95 in the February 6, 1886, issue of Harper’s Bazaar. I’ll bet Texans were baking the pies long before that, though—and I’ll bet even back then Texas pecan pies weren’t the wimpy little milk-custard-based, meringue-covered things Harper’s recommended. In Texas, we make our pecan pies with brown sugar, molasses or corn syrup, butter, eggs, a whole mess of pecans, and sometimes bourbon.

Another thing Texans have been making with pecans for a long, long time is cinnamon-pecan cake. My family doesn’t put bourbon in this dessert. Instead, we pour a delicious whiskey sauce over each slice. (It occurs to me that for a passel of Baptists, my family sure cooks with a lot of liquor. See the old family recipe for muscadine wine here.)

On to the cake recipe!

Cinnamon Pecan Cake

1 cup butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
Additional chopped pecans or pecan halves for topping, if desired

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.

In large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed 3 to 4 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beating at low speed, add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

At low speed, alternately add milk and flour mixture into sugar mixture, beating just until blended. Fold in pecans. Spread in pans. Sprinkle chopped pecans or arrange pecan halves on top, if desired.

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans 10 minutes; remove to wire rack and cool completely.

Whiskey Sauce

1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
½ Tbsp. cornstarch
1 Tbsp. water
3 Tbsp. sugar
¼ cup bourbon

In small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil.

Whisk cornstarch and water together and add to cream while whisking constantly.

Bring to a boil, whisk and simmer until thickened (taking care not to scorch the mixture on the bottom). Remove from heat.

Stir in sugar and bourbon. Taste. Add sugar and whiskey to adjust sweetness and flavor, if desired.

A Texan to the bone, Kathleen Rice Adams spends her days chasing news stories and her nights and weekends shooting it out with Wild West desperadoes. Leave the upstanding, law-abiding heroes to other folks. In Kathleen’s stories, even the good guys wear black hats.

Her short story “The Second-Best Ranger in Texas” won the Peacemaker Award for Best Western Short Fiction. Her novel Prodigal Gun won the EPIC Award for Historical Romance and is the only western historical romance ever to final for a Peacemaker in a book-length category.

Visit her hideout on the web at

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Boxes by E. Ayers

 Anyone who writes historically accurate fiction spends a lot of time researching stuff. Stories written in the romance genre tend to not always be correct…probably because a lot of people who read them read the books for the romance and don't care about the history. But there are those of us who like getting things accurate. As a result, we wind up researching stuff, and then probably after hours of research, we don't use but a line in our stories.
So when my hero in A Rancher'sWoman had some tools shipped to him, I started to think about that. He was quite resourceful, and a box made of wood would be re-purposed or taken apart and used in some other way. My brain toyed with that idea, and soon I was looking at boxes. The weight of certain things can be a bit much, but put the heavy object in a wooden box and it becomes extremely heavy! Weight was money when things had to be shipped.
 Guess what? There was a time that all boxes were wood, or wood frames covered with sheet
Replicas of Old Tins
metal, leather, linen, or some other material. But when it came to shipping, they were primarily wood. Eventually we had manufactured metal boxes, usually used for things that needed to be stored in the box.
My brain went to cardboard boxes. They existed in the 1800's; I knew they did. So when did all of it switch from wood to cardboard, and when did those corrugated cardboard boxes come about? I started researching, because for me, it's a big puzzle, and I like finding the pieces.
Several hours of research gave me these lines for the book.
Robert picked up one of the tools but poked at the paper box. "This is good. Less weight."
So what sort of box was it? Honestly, I don't know. It could have been shipped in a corrugated cardboard box. There was a slim possibility that a tool manufacturer would use such a box for shipping hand tools, but I suspect it was just a heavy cardboard box. Certainly not exciting. I truly believe if it had been a corrugated box, Mark (the hero) would have taken it apart to see exactly how it was made.
So was all my research for nothing? I don't think so. I enjoy learning about new things, or in this case old things. And all those tiny little things that we take for granted made a difference in the lives of people in the 1800's.
Cardboard boxes were invented in 1817. Someone in England made one and about the same time someone in Germany made one. Great minds think alike? When it comes to this stuff, it's a matter of who grabs the patent first. Credit goes to a company named M. Treverton & Son in England.
Pleated paper was invented in England in 1856 and used as liner in tall hats.
Albert Jones invented a shipping material using pleated paper that had been stuck to a single sheet of paper. It was used for wrapping glass lamp chimneys, bottles, etc. for shipping.
Pleated Paper
In 1874, a guy by the name of G. Smyth invented a machine to manufacture this pleaded paper that was glued to a single sheet of paper. Then, in that same year, Oliver Long improved on Jones design by putting the pleated paper between two sheets of flat paper, which is today's corrugated cardboard. But the first corrugated, manufactured, shipping box happened in 1895. That would be within the timeframe for my hero in A Rancher's Woman to possibly receive a corrugated box that contained a new chisel. But corrugated cardboard boxes really didn't gain a good foothold until the early 1900's.
As is often the case, things happen by accident, and that's what happened to Robert Gair in the 1870's when he was supposed to be cutting and then creasing seed bags. The ruler he or one of his employees was using somehow slipped, and he accidentally cut and creased at the same time. Unfortunately he didn't realize his ruler slipped until the cutting machine ruined a bunch of bags by scoring and creasing them around his ruler. But it didn't take Gair long to figure out how to create a machine to do the scoring and creasing at the same time - this time in the proper place! Thus the precut, ready to be folded, manufactured box was invented.
And who were the biggest users of Gair's pre-cut, foldable, cardboard boxes in the 1800's? Companies who sold small products such as Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P), Lorillard (tobacco manufacturer), Ponds (cosmetics), Colgate (toothpaste), and Kellogg (cereal). But Gair's biggest client was National Biscuit Company, known today as Nabisco. In 1896, Gair received a contract for a two-million unit order of cardboard boxes that were lined with waxed paper for the biscuit company's crackers.

So the puzzle is solved with a few patents, and we have a great timeline of cardboard boxes
and corrugated boxes. No! No such luck. Seems the cardboard was used for packaging in the first and second centuries BC in China. Cardboard had been a heavier substitute for paper when printing for several centuries in Europe. And using cardboard for shipping is believed to have been around prior to the 17th century in Europe as things were being sent from China wrapped in cardboard, apparently the cardboard just wasn't in the shape of a manufactured box.
So as we flatten and toss all those boxes into the recycle bin, we are handling a little piece of history. History that made life a little simpler, cleaner, stackable, lighter in weight, and readily identified as the boxes were easily printed.

Saturday, April 8, 2017


By Celia Yeary
Marjorie Merriweather Post was one of America's earliest and most famous heiresses, socialites and philanthropists. As the founder of General Foods in Battle Creek, Michigan, she became the wealthiest woman in the United States. Her fortune amounted to about $250 million.
(Born March 15, 1887-Died September 12, 1973)

Her story goes back to her father, C. W. Post, who was founder of a small West Texas town named for him—Post, Texas near Lubbock. He established the Postum Cereal Company in 1895 in Battle Creek, Michigan. When he died, Marjorie became the owner of the rapidly growing Postum Cereal Company. Eventually the company came to be known as General Foods.

She married four times:
1. Investment banker Edward Bennett Close of Greenwich, Connecticut, and had one daughter, Adelaide.
2. Financier Edward Francis Hutton. They had one daughter, Nedenia Marjorie Hutton, better known as actress Dina Merrill.
3. Joseph, E. Davies, a Washington, DC attorney.
4. Herbert A. May, a wealthy Pittsburgh businessman.
After that marriage, she returned to her original name: Marjorie Merriweather Post.

RUSSIAN ART: Marjorie collected an extensive amount of art while married to Joseph Davies. A large portion of the collection came from art treasures seized from the Romanov family and former Russian aristocrats after the Russian revolution. Although critics suggested the art was expropriated, Post and Davies’s transactions were from the recognized governmental authority. The items remain under the control of the Post estate and can be viewed at her Washington, DC estate called Hillwood.
In addition to the Russian art, the estate holds her French art collection, featuring the work of Faberge, Sevres porcelain, French furniture, tapestries, and paintings.

Mar-A-Lago on Palm Beach Island: Designed by Joseph Urban, Mar-A-Lago was willed in 1973 to the U.S. Government as a retreat for Presidents and visiting foreign dignitaries. The mansion was not, however, used for this purpose, prior to being declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980. It was purchased by Donald Trump in 1985.
She also owned numerous other estates across the US.
At one time, she owned the largest privately owned sea-going yacht in the world.

JEWELRY: Of course, since she often dressed as royalty, she owned a large amount of priceless jewelry. Some of the collection is on display in the Smithsonian in Washington, DC: the Napoleon Necklace; the Marie Louise Diadem that Napoleon gave to his second wife; earrings that belonged to Marie Antoinette; and diamonds and emerald necklaces and rings that belonged to Mexican Emperor Maximilian.

PHILANTHROPY: Marjorie was generous with her donations. She built a hospital in France during WWI, gave to universities, the Boy Scouts, and concert pavilions.

EPILOGUE: Her wealth and position were made possible by her father, C.W. Post.

COMING NEXT MONTH: The accomplishments and tragic life of a unique man: C.W.Post

Thank you for visiting The Sweethearts of the West.

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas

Hillwood Mansion Museum

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

READING, 'RITING and 'RITHMETIC by Cheri Kay Clifton

Some of us may recall hearing the historic American song, School Days. The song was written in 1907 by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards. It was about a mature couple reminiscing about their childhood together in primary school. Best known part of the song was the chorus.
School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
‘Reading and ‘riting and ‘rithmetic
Taught to the tune of the hick’ry stick
You were my queen in calico
I was your bashful, barefoot beau
And you wrote on my slate, “I love you, Joe”
When we were a couple o’ kids.

 So … what were “school days” like back in the 1800’s?
First of all, children had to walk to school, usually a distance somewhere between two to five miles. No yellow school buses, no car-pooling back then. And no paved roads. Up bright and early, they did their morning chores, then cut through the woods and fields and walked along wagon trails. A few may have been fortunate enough to ride a horse. No school cancellations for bad weather, they trudged through rain and snow.

Like some of us saw on the TV show, “Little House on the Prairie,” schoolhouses consisted of one room, usually about 20 feet by 30 feet. Two things were fairly consistent in the room: a large slate blackboard at the front and a pot-bellied stove in the center.

Most schools provided kindergarten through eighth grade. The kindergarteners were called, “abecedarians.” Pronounced, “ay-bee-see-dair-ee-uns,” it means what it sounds like … they were taught their ABC’s.

Teachers were both male known as schoolmasters and female known as schoolmarms. If a female teacher married, she was expected to quit teaching since her job then would be to take care of her household and husband. In the mid 1800’s, female teachers were paid anywhere from $14 to $24 a month, with the men earning sometimes twice that amount.
The school year was much shorter back then. When the Department of Education first began gathering data on the subject in 1869 school year, students attended school for about 132 days (standard year these days is 180). In rural communities, the amount of days often depended on when they were needed to help their families harvest crops.
When the children heard the school bell ring, they would enter by separate doors, one door for the girls and one for the boys. They sat on separate sides of the room too, often the younger at the front of the classroom and the older sat at the back. Enrollment could be as large as 30 or as small as 4.
The children had one hour off from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. to eat and play. They brought their “dinners” from home in baskets or metal pails. Their only drink was water from a bucket that the bigger boys filled from the well or nearby river many times each day. They all drank from the same tin cup or dipper. A second bucket of water would be kept in the room for washing hands.
Wooden outhouses were in the back of the school, often separate for boys and girls. They were known as privies, meaning private, or the necessary.

In the 19th century, paper was too expensive for everyday lessons, so schoolchildren wrote on slates, personal-sized blackboards. Slate is a black type of rock that was cut into thin sheets, ground smooth, and then set into wooden frames.
Slate pencils made of clay, or a softer kind of slate, were ground into cylinders and used to write on the slates. In the U.S., slate pencils were manufactured at least as early as 1844 and at least as late as the 1910’s. Students wiped away their work with a rag after it was checked by the teacher.

In response to the great wave of immigrant children in the schools, efforts were made to Americanize students through flag rituals, national symbols in the classes, English language lessons, civic lessons, and patriotic songs and theatrical performances. Some slate pencils from the 1880’s were wrapped with American flag-themed paper. They showed the Americanization practices used through the school supplies of the period.

Paper was used mainly for penmanship. Until the 1840’s scholars practiced with ink and quills (goose feathers). When quill tips broke, they would sharpen the quills with a “pen knife.” Later, scholars practiced with steel tipped pens that they dipped into ink bottles.
1800’s schoolhouse chalk boards were just a slab of board or slate painted black. Rocks were used to write on the boards, but they created scratches and indents in the boards so many teachers decided it was best to switch to a new invention called “chalk”. Today we have many colors of chalk. Back then all they had was white chalk, made from limestone.

Reading, good penmanship, and arithmetic, were stressed more than the other subjects. These subjects have been referred to as the Three Rs of education– Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic. By adding recitation, an important element of the reading lesson, teachers would sometimes call it the Four Rs. With the scarcity of books and paper, much memorization and oral drilling took place. Students would learn by “rote,” which meant to memorize and recite. To “cipher” meant to do arithmetic problems, either orally or on slate boards. To “parse sentences” meant to explain the meaning and function of each word in a sentence, a precursor to diagramming sentences in the twentieth century.

While learning was taking place, good behavior and strict discipline were enforced. Teachers punished those who misbehaved or did not abide by the rules.

At the end of the school year, children took an oral exam covering spelling and arithmetic problems, and answered questions on many subjects. This helped the teacher determine the next year’s level of study for each student.
One-room schoolhouses remained the backbone of American education for more than 200 years. By the time of World War II, the era was waning and the little schools were closed as a trend toward consolidation began. Most of the early structures have since been demolished, with some converted into small museums.