Monday, December 29, 2014

The James M. Cole Circus, Part Two

By Alice Askins, Education Coordinator at Rose Hill Mansion

The Cole Family

 In November 1943, the Geneva Daily Times reported

 Cole, Circus Owner, Inducted Into Army
Penn Yan, Nov. 9—James M. Cole, Penn Yan's 37-year-old circus owner and proprietor, passed his physical examination for induction into the U. S. armed forces in Rochester yesterday leaving Penn Yan with a group of inductees Monday morning.
Cole closed his circus several weeks early this Fall to come home and place his equipment in storage for the duration. He had previously been placed in Class 1A.
Married, Cole has a 3 1-2 year old son.  

You might wonder what the army saw fit to do with Mr. Cole, and in fact it used his experience well.  
Circus Teaches Army Says Penn Yan Soldier In Radio Interview
 Penn Yan, Jan. 17 [1944]—Pvt. James Cole . . . now with a Transportation Corps in New Orleans, Louisiana, recently was featured on a radio program presented by soldiers  . . . over a New Orleans station January 8th[.]  Pvt. Cole told of the highlights of his career as owner and manager of the James M. Cole Circus  . . . He compared his training methods employed by men of the circus with those of the Army . . .  “In both outfits," he said, [“]it is a matter of drill, drill and more drill until each man or animal learns to do a certain job in split second precision."  Pvt. Cole also made mention of the problem of transportation—that of moving an army of entertainers as well as fighters.  He related that the Army studied the methods adopted by the circus in transporting their personnel and equipment.  Some of these methods have since been used, he said.   . . .   
Pvt. Cole's wife, Dorothy, and their 3 1-2-year-old son, Sonny, are . . .  looking forward to the return of Pvt. Cole when the family plans again to take up their circus life where they left off when Uncle Sam sent "Greetings" to "Jimmy" to become a part of the world's biggest "show.”   . . .
 A year after Mr. Cole left for Louisiana, his wife Dorothy and son came to live near him in their house trailer.  The Daily Times reported

Sgt. Jimmy is in the work he likes and understands—transportation, and no job in the Army has proved any more difficult than keeping a motorized circus on schedule in all kinds of weather and over all types of terrain.  Jimmy . . . is helping the Army maintain the fine job they have been doing in moving men and supplies to all fronts to bring Victory to the American forces and their allies.

In December 1945, the Times observed that Mr. Cole had been discharged, and that

. . . he no sooner had returned home than his workers began to filter back, some like himself, wearing the discharged veterans service button.  A lieutenant of Marines, still on duty in Guam awaiting his discharge, wrote to Jimmy this week seeking a job as secretary.  . . .  A discharged sailor of the Merchant Marine called on Jimmy this week to arrange for a candy floss and novelties concession.  "All those three years I was on board ship - even when the torpedoes were flying—all I thought of was that concession. I figured it all out and the minute I was out of service I bought that candy floss machine and now I'm happy," the sailor told Cole.

It is not unusual in post-war adjustments, Cole says, to find veterans eager to take up circus life.  They are restless, want to be on the move and the bustle of the traveling show business offers them the period of readjustment needed before stepping back into civilian life.  After the other World War, numbers of servicemen joined up with circuses to fulfill the urge to move with crowds.
Though German paratroopers did not rain down on the US, people must have seen images like this.

In The Decorative Arts of the Forties and Fifties writer Bevis Hillier studied the imagery of the post-war period in England, and found that circuses appeared frequently.  He believed that the circus stood for, and detoxified, the image of the army.  Mr. Hillier also argued that toy balloons stood for parachutes (something small, harmless, and fun that goes up, replacing something threatening that comes down,) and that mermaids, found frequently in post-war English imagery, replaced the threat of submarines.  I talked to a friend who experienced the post-war period in the US, and she thought this sounded a bit far-fetched.  She is probably right, but it is an interesting thought.  England, with its very different experience of the war, would have coped with it mentally in a different way than we did.  Still, if American soldiers after two world wars found themselves drawn to the circus – a situation where people and equipment move in organized groups for a purpose, but the purpose is fun rather than killing – it suggests that Mr. Hillier might have something there.  It seems reasonable that we would present ourselves with comforting images after stress and fear.

We do have this Times article about bubbles and balloons from October 1945, that ring a similar note:

 Bursting In Air
Don’t be surprised if the next thing is a bubble party.  Or has it arrived, with youngsters blowing bubbles at pedestrians up and down Main street?  Who starts such fads, anyhow? Let there be more, for people need escape from the effects of other and sadder globular bursts in the air.
Speaking of these inoffensive, multi-colored spheres that provide a chuckle even when one bounces on the minister's nose or the teacher’s glasses, is this nation aware of the fact that the children of today have grown up without having had the fun of playing with toy balloons?  Toy balloon manufacturers went to war.  Their products became vital in meteorology and for other requirements of the armed forces.  . . .
It's refreshing to welcome back the legerdemain of bubble-blowing.  . . .   here’s to bigger and better bubbles.
Bowl made in the US during the post-war period.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Geography of Food in the 1940s

By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

“Food deserts” are a current topic in government and academic research. The US Department of Agriculture defines the term as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.”[i]

One could say this doesn’t apply to Geneva; after all, we have Wegmans AND Tops! We’re a small city and one place isn’t that far from anywhere else. However, if you don’t have a car for whatever reason, you become dependent on friends, taxis, or the CATS bus schedule. Then you know that Hamilton Street is not, in fact, centrally located.
Many readers, regardless of where they grew up, will remember this was not always the case. The historical society is blessed with a fine collection of city directories that show the type and location of businesses around Geneva. Let’s look at what was available, and where, in the 1940s.

In the 1945 city directory, there were 46 grocery stores. Fifteen were part of chains: A&P, IGA, Loblaws, Market Basket (headquarters in Geneva), and Red & White. Based on surnames, many of the independent stores were owned by Italian Americans. The Market Basket and Red & White stores were out in the neighborhoods as well as downtown, often near independent stores.

There were 10 meat markets, not counting the Market Basket headquarters.

There were six bakeries.

There were two local dairies – AJ Tarr and Geneva Milk Company/ White Springs Farm Dairy (located at the same address) – on opposite ends of North Street. While it doesn’t fit the USDA definition of healthy food, there were seven confectioners selling ice cream and/or candy.

I mapped out the approximate locations of these businesses with the following colors: green = grocery stores; red = meat shops; blue = bakeries; and purple = dairies. I used a modern map and cropped the western section of the city that didn’t really develop until after World War II; there were no food stores south of Hamilton Street.

The heaviest concentration was in the downtown area. On Exchange Street, there were several stores in one block, often on the same side of the street. The working class neighborhoods of East North Street (“the Butt End”) and North Genesee Street (Torrey Park) were well-supplied with stores. The area with the fewest stores was the fairly new, at the time, neighborhood west of Maxwell Avenue.

There are several points to keep in mind. Downtown was the center of commercial, and often social, activity; people were accustomed to going downtown on a daily basis. A good portion of the city was within three blocks of downtown (if we include all of Exchange Street) – not a bad walk. There was a public bus, operated by Lont’s Bus & Cab Lines, that covered most of the city. Finally, the dairies and larger meat and grocery stores offered free home delivery.

There was greater access to food stores in the 1940s; obviously, wartime rationing, and poverty were limiting factors. Stores seemed to coexist with each other, particularly the chain and independent markets. It would take more research to determine the best prices – were goods cheaper downtown than in the neighborhoods? – and when small stores began disappearing.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Musings

By Karen Osburn, Archivist

What did you ask for on your Christmas list as a child?  People who know me well won’t be surprised to know that every year I asked Santa, and later my parents when it became apparent that Santa didn’t get the message, for a pony.  I scoured the Christmas “Wish Book” for rocking horses and asking for one of those with the idea that Santa might go for that.  Sadly, Santa, my parents, my grandparents, my cousin, even my aunt and uncle couldn’t be persuaded to bring me an equine breathing or carved of wood.  Oh, everyone had great excuses from “a pony wouldn’t fit in the sleigh” to “we don’t have enough land.” The last phrase being a blatant falsehood since at the time I was asking we had 3 acres and our neighbors had 150 plus there were several horse farms in the area so zoning wasn’t a problem either. 

Phooey!  What did I get instead?  Well, Santa was generous. I have a vague memory of a Christmas morning with the floor under the tree covered with presents.  I must have been about 3 that year; I doubt I would have remembered a Christmas before that.  I was frequently given dolls, I remember a “Betsy Wetsy” though I don’t remember asking for a doll that needed to have its diapers changed.  One year I got quite a large doll, probably close to 24 inches high.  It was impressive, but dolls didn’t hold much interest for me until Barbie became available.  I think it was her clothes that appealed to me.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like my presents, it is just that they didn’t hold my interest and two days after Christmas, the dolls sat in the corner and I was back to playing with stuffed animals.

I just wasn’t a “doll-type” of girl much to my mother’s chagrin.  She always wanted dolls as a child and wanted me to like them, too.  These memories came flooding back to me when I was researching an article on the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas in the 1940s. I encountered an ad for Montgomery Ward after Thanksgiving shopping sale (Black Friday was alive and well in the 1940s).  The girls’ toys mentioned were a tea set, an Army Nurses kit complete with uniform, and a pastry set for “little mothers”.  I might have enjoyed the pastry set, though what being a mother had to do with baking is beyond me.  I would not have been interested in a nurse kit or a tea set.  Where were the cowgirl outfits?  Where were the stuffed dogs, cats, and bears? Where were the Lincoln Logs?  The 1940s advertisements seemed pretty stereotypical of what you would expect to receive if you were a boy or a girl of that time period.  Girls did not play solider or cowboy and boys did not play nurse.  Times have certainly changed!

I did some research on Christmas Catalogs from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and found a few pages that were pretty representative of what I asked for and what I go instead.  Can you tell which was which?  I even found one page that I vaguely remembered that mentioned you could buy live pets, cocker spaniels and hamsters in this case, through the catalogs!  Of course this wasn’t a great idea then and would never work today, but it was nice to have my childhood memory verified.  I hope looking at some of this advertisements stir some pleasant Christmas memories for you and I hope each of you enjoys this beautiful season celebrating in you r own traditional ways.

Oh, I did finally get to ride an adult size rocking horse at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY.  There is enough “child” in me that I would have bought one if I had money to waste and the space to put it.  I guess there are some things you do not outgrow.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Geneva Teenagers and World War II

By Anne Dealy, Director of Education and Public Information

Collage of pictures of teenagers.
Teenagers as pictured in the 1944 Geneva High School yearbook.

With World War II came the birth of the American teenager. While we tend to associate the flowering of teen culture with the baby boomers, it was actually their immediate predecessors, the so-called “Silent Generation” who were first referred to as teenagers. Then, as always, the older generation thought that the younger generation was at best misguided, at worst they were described as selfish, willful, spoiled and delinquent.

The press frequently reported on concerns about youth behavior. As early as December 1941, syndicated financial columnist Henry Babson wrote in the Geneva Daily Times about problems with new draftees at Fort Devens in Massachusetts. It was clear where he laid the blame:
“The present generation of young people may be just as sound fundamentally as my own generation; but if so, surely they have worse parents! Today’s parents have invented and are giving to their children most dangerous doles in the form of automobiles, radios, taxis, speedboats, movies, roadhouses, dinner dances, and clothes that would have made Croesus and Midas feel like village school teachers working part time.”
The profligate attitude of young people was shown in a series of comic strips published in the same edition of the Times. The teenaged protagonist of Freckles and Friends was out to have a good time with his friends, just like adults

Image of the comic strip Freckles and Friends in which the son wants to take his girl on an expensive date.

Image of the comic strip Freckles and Friends in which a girl's father is horrified by her expensive and skimpy gown.

Image of the comic strip Freckles and Friends in which Freckles fools his father without lying to him.
In 1941 Freckles and his friends just want to have fun...but like adults.

Of course these teens end up learning a lesson with a great deal of humor, but not all treatment of teenagers was so light-hearted. Take for example, the 1943 newsreel series The March of Time episode, “Youth in Crisis.” Boys were portrayed stealing, drinking, smoking marijuana, buying pornography, and setting things on fire. Girls were shown being picked up by servicemen, falling into prostitution and getting treated for venereal disease. Click The March of Time to watch a clip from "Youth in Crisis."

Despite the drama, the concerns were real. According to a Life Magazine article in December 1943, the FBI reported that in just the first 9 months of the year, arrests of children 17 and under had increased 23.6% over all arrests in 1941. Cities all over the country wrestled with the problem of youth behavior, and with a military base nearby Geneva had more problems than many communities.
The war years were challenging ones for young people in Geneva. Many saw their fathers and older brothers leave to fight in the war, while their mothers worked in factories or served as volunteers in war service work. Recreation programs and youth service organizations lost money, staff and volunteers to the war effort. The focus of the adult world was the war and the need to win it, sometimes to the detriment of young people. Men from all over the country were being trained at Sampson Naval Training Base and they overwhelmed the town, filling up theaters, bars and restaurants. Crime rose and Geneva was filled with strangers. Click "Youth in Crisis" read the Life Magazine article.

Sailors lined up along a bar.
Sailors in Dempsey’s bar.

As early as 1943, the Geneva newspaper reported an increase in juvenile delinquency. The problem probably emerged earlier, but the disruptive presence of so many strangers in town for the construction of the Seneca Army Depot and training at Sampson may have pushed the issue to the background in 1941 and 1942. By 1945 the Geneva’s police chief reported that two-thirds of the females arrested for prostitution in the city the previous year were between 15 and 19 years of age, one-third were just 15 or 16. He was shocked by their attitude: “I have found what is, in my opinion, a most distressing and disturbing condition, and that is the utter indifference of these teenage girls toward the serious implications of moral dereliction. …they are, for the most part, quite unashamed and oftentimes argue that they have a right to do as they choose. It is not unusual to find that it is the girl who has solicited the sailor.”

With so many older men dominating the town, many teenage girls were more interested in them than in boys their own age. Fights sometimes broke out between local boys and sailors. Girls who spent time with sailors were called sailor bait, according to Mary Hommel Guilfoose, who learned this when she went out with local boys home on leave from the navy. Sixteen-year-old Ann McCandlish became concerned about recreation for teens after witnessing girls her own age playing slots with sailors at a Seneca Street canteen.

Image of the Play Canteen on Castle St.
Some girls hung out with sailors playing the slots at the Play Canteen.

In June of 1943 the Geneva Social Planning Council “expressed the need for a locally supervised commercial endeavor to cater to some of the recreational needs of youth.” A conference was held the following month to discuss the “Needs of Youth in Wartime,” and recommendations were given to City Council, including the hiring of a policewoman who was also a trained social worker. While the aldermen agreed on the need to do something, they also recognized that the recommendations would cost quite a lot of money and appointed a special committee to consider the issue. The matter does not seem to have been revisited that year.

Women and girls socializing with sailors.

Despite the picture of depraved teens in the media, most delinquency involved fighting and petty crimes committed by bored kids without enough to do. Plenty of entertainment had been provided for the servicemen in the area, but aside from Saturday night dances at the YMCA, Geneva’s teens found little they wanted to do but hang out on the street near favorite restaurants and diners. Mary Guilfoose and her husband Jack described these teen activities in a 1994 oral history from our archives:
Mary: Isenman’s was the place for the teenagers
Jack: It was a soda bar. We used to hang out on the corner right there. And the cop would always come and hustle you on; the cop would come by and he’d say, “Now listen. I’m going to around and when I come back I don’t want you here. We’d wait a while, and come back. That’s what you did.
Ad: Isenman's delicious homemade candies and celebrated ice cream and ices. Fountain Service. 150 Castle St. C.C. Tills H.E. Hadley
Ad for Isenman's in 1944 Geneva High School yearbook.

The issue of the youth center revived in the fall of 1944 when Ann McCandlish wrote to the Times requesting the community’s support for a Youth Canteen. She stated that Geneva High School students had organized a committee to start a canteen, but had been discouraged by a lack of support from adults. A local mother responded to the girl’s letter suggesting that she should use all the free time she had to help her mother with housework, get a job or improve her mind with additional study. Nonetheless, many adults agreed that teens needed a place of their own to socialize. The city’s Social Planning Council approved the canteen and students voted to establish it in Seymour Alley, but perhaps derailed by the coming end of the war, again it did not happen. However, the arguments apparently had an effect as a Youth Bureau was established by the city in 1947, with the Civic center building at Castle and Mains Streets as its base of operations.

Drawing featuring images and text of Geneva High School students war activities.
The Geneva High School Class of 1944 was proud of their activities in support of the war.

Despite all the hand-wringing, only a tiny minority were committing crimes and causing trouble. Many of Geneva’s teenagers participated in the war effort. They served as USO junior hostesses, collected scrap for drives, bought war bonds, worked in civilian defense, and harvested crops for area farms. Some teenage boys went on to military service at the end of the war, during the European reconstruction, or in Korea. Then they grew up to complain about their kids’ immoral behavior at Woodstock.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas Dreaming

By Kerry Lippincott, Executive Director
Seneca Street, ca. 1947
I'm dreaming of a White Christmas 
Just like the ones I used to know 
Where the treetops glisten 
and children listen 
To hear sleigh bells in the snow.

Some of my favorite memories are associated with Christmas - the Festival of Lights at Sonnenberg, seeing The Nutcracker at the Smith Opera House and A Christmas Carol at Geva, picking out a new ornament each year for the tree, having Christmas breakfast with my grandparents, and playing “Sleigh Ride” throughout high school for the holiday band concert.  One of my favorite memories is the year my brother and I left oats for Rudolph (apparently we thought he would share with the other reindeer).  On Christmas morning we discovered that Rudolph had made an absolute mess of the oats.  Not only were oats all over our drive way and front yard but on our roof as well.  I can still remember my brother and I watching from the living room window as Dad and Grandpa “investigated” the situation.  From then on we left Rudolph carrots.

As we prepare for our 1940s themed fundraiser in February I was delighted to discover that many of the things I enjoy about Christmas date to the 1940s.

It’s a Wonderful Life is not the only 1940s holiday movie.  Others include Miracle on 34th Street, The Man Who Came to Dinner, The Shop Around the Corner, Holiday Inn, The Bishop’s Wife, Christmas in Connecticut and Holiday Affair.

The 1940s may have been the era of big bands but the decade also saw the debut of several Christmas classics.  These songs include “White Christmas,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” “Let It Snow,” “Sleigh Ride,” “All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth),” and “Meli Kalikimaka.”

When it comes to Christmas trees everyone has their own preference.  For me, it’s a real tree with white lights, ornaments, and no tinsel.  During World War II, however, with the lack of manpower to cut down trees and the shortage of railroad space to ship trees to market there was an actual shortage of Christmas trees.  So, people used smaller, table-top trees, artificial trees (made out of feathers, netting or chenille) and bottlebrush trees.

Here’s a few more tidbits about Christmas in the 1940s

Our Boy's Fund sent Christmas packages to every Genevan serving in the armed forces.
  • To me there is nothing lovelier than white candles in the windows of historic houses. As a symbol that everyone would return home, candles were placed in windows during World War II.
  • Fewer men on the home front meant there fewer men available to play Santa Claus.  As they did in countless ways, women stepped in and served as substitute Santas in department stores throughout the country
  • Scottie dogs became popular images on everything from greeting cards to wrapping paper.    This was due to President Roosevelt’s dog, Fala, who had become the nation’s unofficial mascot.
  • Red, green and coral colored cellophane was used as wrapping paper and to make wreaths. 
  • Many items made their debut in the 1940s.  New items that may have appeared under the tree or in stockings include paperback books, Slinkys, Legos, Little Golden Books, Silly Putty, Scrabble, transistor radios, Candyland and Clue.

This holiday season I hope you will join us for a 1940s Holiday Open House on Friday, December 5 and the 46th Annual Wassail Bowl on Saturday, December 6.  Perhaps you’ll make some of your own Christmas memories.
Exchange Street, ca. 1943

Thursday, November 20, 2014

World War II in the Geneva Daily Times

John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

When we did our World War II project in the early 1990s, Kathryn Grover was hired to research, write, and lay out the exhibit and book, Close to the Heart of the War. As part of her contract, we received all her research notes for our archives. I recently pulled out one of the large boxes to look at her source material. Any project, i.e. an exhibit, book, or documentary, reflects the creator’s selection of what to include or leave out; it’s good to look at the research with fresh eyes.

In addition to newspapers and records from our collection, Kathryn used scrapbooks that were kept during World War II. She photocopied them so she could more easily flip through pages and make notes on the copies. Scrapbooks show the creator’s interests and are assembled in a unique way, which gives them historical value. In the case of these albums, the creator(s) kept a chronological collection of Geneva Daily Times articles that only pertained to Geneva and surrounding towns. These could be recreated from microfilm, but one would have to wade through all the national news, advertising, and sports to do it – work already done by the scrapbooker.

Regular columns included “Boys in the Service” and “News of Our Men and Women in Uniform.” (I can’t tell the difference in content, so I’m not sure why there were separate columns.) They were a collection of snippets about servicemen and women, often reported by relatives who had received a letter; news ranged from receiving a Bronze Star to confirmation that someone was still safe.

As I mentioned last time, Hobart and William Smith students researched Geneva and the war for a class project. One of them looked at these photocopies and said something to the effect, “They used up a lot of space talking about nothing, didn’t they?” Seeing things out of context is not limited to the young; it bears pointing out conditions in the early 1940s. Information was censored by the government for security reasons. Mail from the war theaters was very slow and sporadic; one local POW beat a letter home by nine months. Most Times readers knew someone in the war, so one sentence in the paper, for example, that PFC Rollo was safe in England was very welcome news.

When more information was known, there were longer articles on servicemen and women. It seems that the paper focused on success stories, i.e. survival and promotion, with the occasional humorous-with-a-happy-ending tale:

Sadder but equally important were the Killed in Action notices and photos. I hesitate to post examples; seventy years later, people are still alive who remember where they were when they received the news of a loved one’s death in the war.

These photocopied scrapbook pages are available to read during archive hours (Tuesday through Friday, 1:30 – 4:30 pm). Whether you’re looking for mention of a relative or just interested in how the war was reported, they’re a good read.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dreams Come True: The James M. Cole Circus

By Alice Askins, Education Coordinator at Rose Hill Mansion

While looking for interesting topics from the 1940s, I ran across the James M. Cole Circus of Penn Yan.  This is a little of its story from the 40s, as reported (mostly) in the Geneva Daily Times.

The writers sounded a little envious of Mr. Cole – they always referred to him as a man who had fulfilled his dream.  As the Times put it in 1947,

James M. Cole . . . has the unusual distinction of choosing his life's work at the earliest age on record.  When a little over three years of age . . . his first circus  . . . . made such an impression on his infant mind that  . . . before he was five years old he had formed a fixed determination to travel with a circus.  However, it was not until he had reached sixteen that . . . he joined a travelling show that had visited his hometown.  From water boy to circus owner is a long way and Mr. Cole has seen his dream come true. 

Mr. Cole started his circus in 1938 as an indoor show that played in schools.  In 1940, it started in Penn Yan and traveled through Canandaigua, Waterloo, Watkins Glen, Ithaca, Whitney Point, and Geneva.  The next year it opened in Dundee and went on to
Bath, Hammondsport, Syracuse, Utica, Cortland, Herkimer, Little Falls and several other cities in the Mohawk and Hudson valleys.  After that it went on to schools in New England.

By the summer of 1941, the Cole circus was doing outdoor shows as well as indoor, and the Penn Yan Democrat said that it “has branched out into a canvas show, with a spring and summer schedule.”  In 1943 the show even did a tour through the southern states.

The school shows were often benefits for Senior class projects or other causes, and the Coles continued their good works with the outdoor shows as well.  In May 1947, for example, all tickets bought before circus day in Penn Yan benefitted Rotary Club youth programs.

The Cole circus featured such artists as Miacuha, the Wonder Girl of South America, a wire walker; Millie May, Queen of the Air; Mademoiselle Margurette, an aerialist; the Great Bartoni troupe of bareback riders; the Aerial Smalls, stars of the double trapeze; and Billy Barton, 14-year-old artist of the Cloud Swing.  By 1946, Cole had signed up the Conley troop of bareback riders; Alvarado, the Latin American wirewalker; Capt. Eugene Christey and his jungle cats; and Tama Frank, famed knife thrower

James Cole Jr. with Frieda

Though the circus included a variety of artists, the Coles were best known for their elephant acts.  First came Jumbo, who, the Times explained, belonged to Captain Rudy Mueller and was “the only elephant to appear in a current success on Broadway.”  The show was Billy Rose’s Jumbo, which was later made into a movie.  Based on newspaper account “she can draw herself a drink from a tap, and in fact . . . can do anything she is told to do.”  Jumbo performed with a trained camel named Sanya, a Great Dane named Aster, and a Shetland pony named Prince.  Unfortunately, the paper did not describe the act, only mentioning that it was one of the finest animal acts ever presented.  Jumbo  occasionally appeared in movies, like Elephant Boy with Sabu, and performed on radio where she trumpeted on cue, “sang,” (again, not described,) and did “several other acts calling for unusual animal perception.”

Eventually, the Coles seem to have wanted their very own elephants.  Their first, Frieda, was a veteran of five other circuses and joined the Cole Circus in April 1946.  Not only was Frieda the star of the Cole circus, she was often in the paper.  In October 1946, for example, she led the children through Penn Yan on Halloween. 

“Frieda" . . . will be prima donna of the giant community Halloween celebration and parade planned for the youngsters of the community . . .  [she] will lead the snake dance which is scheduled to form at the Wagner Hotel at 7 p.m. and proceed down Main street . . . With the big elephant will be cows and other animals, and pets of the children taking part. . . .

This sounds like a delightful experience.  Did anyone out there dance with Frieda, cows, and others on Halloween?

Frieda was also a troublemaker.

Frieda Does It Again—
Elephants Take Moonlight Walk in Penn Yan Streets

Penn Yan, May 27 [1947]—Freida [sic] has done it again.  Or at least [she] is being blamed for an escapade which saw two elephants on a middle-of-the-night parade through the Main street here . . .

Frieda has a known penchant for releasing herself and other elephants of the Cole herd from their shackles, and last night she must have done it again.  Frieda and Dorothy, the circus pet, a 290-pound baby elephant strolled down the street about 2:30 a. m., through the business section from the fairgrounds to the post office.

Then, nonchalantly, they turned around, walked west to Maiden Lane where they were met by the village police officers on duty, Charles Pitcher and Robert Alexander. . . .
Jimmy Cole and the elephant trainer, John Pugh, showed up about then, having missed the elephants from the lot.  Quietly, they herded the non-reluctant elephants back to the fairgrounds.

Frieda once released the whole herd from their shackles, even to carefully removing their head-stalls.   . . .
 At one point the Coles had five elephants, but the ones the papers mentioned most often besides Frieda were Elizabeth and Dorothy.  I did not find much on Elizabeth, but Dorothy came directly from Ceylon at nine months old.   Baby Dorothy was also very popular.  She was billed as the smallest elephant in the circus world, and the paper reported that she searched through peoples’ pockets in hopes of finding treats.  By the time he was seven, James Cole Jr. was working the elephants in their act, and for some years he was “the youngest elephant trainer in the country.

Coming up next, the circus and World War II.

James Cole, Jr. with Elizabeth, Frieda, Dorothy

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rationing and Recipes

By Karen Osburn, Archivist

When I was in high school girls took “home economics” classes and boys took “shop” classes.  I remember coming home from the first cooking class in home economics and showing my mom what foods they were going to teach us to prepare.  My mother was not impressed, for that matter I wasn’t either.  I only remember 3 or 4 of the recipes, but one was broiled grapefruit.  My mother said she had learned to make broiled grapefruit in her home making class three decades before mine and her comment was “Why on earth don’t they teach you cook something useful, like a roast or vegetables?”  I tended to agree with her.  By the time I got to this “cooking class” I had been helping her cook and bake for several years and I would have been happier learning to do woodworking in shop class then broiling a grapefruit.  Why would you want to cook a perfectly good grapefruit?  I think it is pretty tasty in its natural, raw state.  In the 1960s the idea still lingered that the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.  In all the years I have cooked I have never had a man ask me to make him a broiled grapefruit just like his mom used to make.  I have been asked for apple pie or pot roast perhaps, but a broiled grapefruit, never!

Flash forward some four decades and I find myself looking for recipes that accommodate the rationing of scarce ingredients, such as butter, eggs, white sugar or milk during the years of the Second World War. The historical society is hosting an event at Club 86 in February revolving around WW II music, food and entertainment which prompted me to research recipes and I found some really interesting ones.  One that sticks in my mind is a British recipe for imitation mashed bananas using parsnips, sugar and banana “essence” (extract?).  I am not sure I can see the point of imitation bananas, except if you don’t care for the taste of parsnips the whole concoction may taste better disguised as bananas.  What surprised me was locating a recipe that I had made in home economics class and liked

I really like chocolate, the darker the better and one of the food items we made was a chocolate cake that you mixed right in the baking pan and put in the oven.  It had vinegar in it and didn’t sound great but sure tasted good and there was much less cleanup without the extra mixing bowl.  There in the midst of my World War II recipe research was the one useful, tasty thing I learned to make in that class.  I had no idea it had come from that era.  I was quite pleased and I’m looking forward to trying it again. 

There were some really interesting recipes from the era of rationing and shortages.  One was a cake that had no eggs, butter or milk in it.  Someday I may try it if I am brave enough.  It sounds a bit like a fruit cake.  See for yourself:
Eggless, Butterless, Milkless Cake
2 cups brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 cups hot water
1 tsp cloves
2 Tbsps.  Shortening
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp soda
1 package seedless raisins

Boil together the sugar, water, shortening, salt, raisins and spices for five minutes. Cool.  When cold, add flour and soda dissolved in a teaspoon of hot water.

The recipe makes 2 loaves. I suggest using greased loaf pans and baking about 45 minutes in a 325 degree oven.  The cake has a good texture and will keep moist for some time.

*From Cooking on the Home Front: Favorite Recipes of the World War II Years.

Another British recipe is called Raisin Crisps:

6 oz. self raising flour or plain flour with 2 tsp baking powder
2 Tbsp. dried egg
2 oz. Sugar
2 oz. margarine
2 oz. raisins, chopped
A few drops of almond essence (extract)

Mix the flour, dried egg and sugar.  Rub in the margarine and add the raisins, essence and enough mild to bind into a firm dough.  Roll out thinly and cut into 2-inch rounds.   Cook in the center of a *moderate oven for 20 minutes.

*I would expect a moderate oven to be about 350 degrees.

Finally from Cookes.Com recipe search is a recipe for World War II Syrup Cake:

1 c. Karo Syrup
2 eggs
2 c. Flour
¾ c. Butter or shortening
½ c. Cocoa
3 tsp. baking powder
1/3 tsp. baking soda
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. all spice
½ tsp. nutmeg

Mix well, bake at 350 degrees in a loaf or Bundt pan until done (a tooth pick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

I am glad we don’t have to use recipes like this anymore.  Perhaps it was enduring some of the lingering war-time ration recipes as a child that made me a bit picky today, but I am not fond of parsnips or raisins even now.  Still there is that quick and easy little chocolate cake.  Give people a few basic ingredients and a way to prepare them and you can be very pleasantly surprised by the result. I think I am going to go make up that cake now and see if it still lives up to expectations.