READING COOKBOOKS LIKE NOVELS

Sandy's Chatter

If you have been collecting cookbooks for any length of time, or gravitate towards any articles or references to cookbooks that you find on the Internet, in the newspaper –or anywhere else—you may have seen the oft-repeated comment from collectors, “I read cookbooks like novels” in a sort of perplexed way, like who does anything like this? The answer is WE ALL DO and our number is legion. I might have made a comment like this myself back in 1965 when I first started collecting cookbooks and really didn’t know where to go about getting started.
There was a magazine for penpals called Women’s Circle (not to be confused with Woman’s Day or Family Circle) – I wrote a letter to Women’s Circle trying to find a little Hungarian cookbook for a friend and as an afterthought, wrote that I wanted to start collecting cookbooks and would buy or trade…

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FORGOTTEN RECIPES

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” compiled and updated by Jaine Rodack (and published by Wimmer Books) is the kind of cookbook that demonstrates, I think, what you can do with an idea. Not only that, but Ms. Rodack’s book, copyrighted and first published in 1981, has gone through sixteen printings as of 2002 (possibly more since then).

“It all started out simply enough,” explains Jaine. “I went to a flea market and bought an old, yellowed magazine from the 20s. When I got it home, I realized what a treasure I had! Not only were the articles a bit of living history, but the entire magazine was a look at the way people of the day kept house, shopped and cooked. There were fashions, commentaries by leading authorities and readers’ letters expressing their views….”

From then on, she says, she was hooked. She bought, lived and breathed magazines. “The artwork,” she exclaims, “was breathtaking. The stories—terribly romantic, and the recipes—sensational!”

rediscovered some things she hadn’t eaten for years and came upon others she had never heard of, like Rinkum Diddy.

After many years, Jaine began to assemble some of the recipes. She notes, “depending on the year they were written, their instructions differ greatly. In the late 1800s there were no controlled ovens and recipes said “cook til done”. Fireless cookstoves, she notes, and other now-forgotten inventions varied instructions as well. She tried to keep the recipes as close to the original recipe as possible and advises you may have to experiment a little to get the heat and cooking time straight.

Included, as well, are various household hints, along with “bits and pieces” of memorabilia to give you an idea of what was going on in the world at the time these recipes appeared.

“Forgotten Recipes” opens with a look at Yesterday’s Kitchens and provides a comparison on inflation, then and now – an article that appeared in a 1949 dealt with the cost of feeding a family of three. “According to this article,” writes Jaine, “you could feed such a family on $10 a week..and feed them well”. She goes on to provide a comparison with groceries purchased in 1949 and the same items bought at the time her book was published. (I am sure the $10 a week in 1949 was fairly accurate; I remember my mother telling me that, during the 1940s, she had $10 a week with which to buy groceries and whatever other household items we needed—and there were seven in our family, five children and two adults).

Jaine notes that the total spent in 1983 for $10 worth of groceries in 1949 was $41.58.

Another chapter in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is devoted to household hints which, Jaine explains, have been a part of America’s magazines for over 90 years. (and still are! Now we have Hints from Heloise!).

Some of the household hints are really outdated, such as “Have radiator heat? Place a metal bread box over it and use it for a warming cabinet for your dishes…” but the ideas for substitutes for sugar (during the war years when sugar was rationed) would still work today – although I believe that honey, the substitute most often recommended, is more expensive today than sugar was in the 1940s!

Recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” range widely, from 1922 pork scrapple (My sister in Tennessee still makes scrapple!) to Timbales (pastry shells that you filled with seasoned food, like salmon or spinach or peas), from a 1930 recipe for cabbage, apple and walnut salad (that is somewhat similar to the way my mother made cole slaw, with apple in it), from such tried and true recipes for reusing rice to make dishes like fried rice to a 1944 recipe for Green Tomato Pie.

There is a 1923 recipe for Rinktum Diddy (made with cheese and canned tomatoes—sounds delicious!) and a 1922 recipe for creamed lobster that won a $100 in a recipe contest. Jaine notes, quite correctly, that lobster was once not as expensive as it is now—and highly recommends the recipe which calls for 2 cups of diced boiled lobster. (I’m thinking of trying this with canned crab as a substitute).

Included as well as recipes for 1927 Tamale Pie which, if I recall correctly, was popular for decades and mentioned as one of Richard Nixon’s favorite recipes. (Jaine considers Tamale Pie as a foreign dish but is actually a completely American invention…even so, this is something you may want to “re-discover”). There are recipes for making your own tomato sauce, 1934 Spanish Meatloaf, ad a number of recipes which called for veal (something else that was once very inexpensive—haven’t times changed?)

Dessert recipes include recipes for butterless cake, 1931 Plantation Marble Cake, 1928 Award Winning Gold Cake, a 1927 Ice Box Cake and 1932 Raisin Nut Pie—and, aha! A 1928 thanksgiving fruitcake recipe that sounds pretty good to me!

Accompanying many of the recipes are sidebars explaining where the recipe came from or the time period in which it was popular, as well as comments such as “in 1930 Woolworth’s was still a five and ten cents store, women were trying to break the ‘tub habit’ in favor of washing machines, and gas ranges were getting a whole new look..” which appears with a 1930 Butter Pie recipe

Overall, the recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” are entertaining, and nostalgic (for some of us, at least) and offer a delightful trip back in time to see how things were done in the good old days.

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is available on Amazon.com either new (about $15.00) or pre-owned for as little as 94c. (You will pay $3.99 shipping and handling when buying pre-owned books from various private vendors – but still, you can get a copy for less than $5.00. I found pre-owned copies starting at twenty-five cents. And just for the record, I recently bought two copies of a book recently published; I chose the pre-owned option figuring I was still saving money and the books are pristine, just like new. Just saying!!

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

ISBN –0-918544-60-2

I found FORGOTTEN RECIPES listed on Amazon.com; numerous copies can be found in the pre-owned listings, starting at 25 cents. Shipping and handling is still $3.99—still a great bargain. I posted this article originally in 2011. – sls

FORGOTTEN RECIPES

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” compiled and updated by Jaine Rodack (and published by Wimmer Books) is the kind of cookbook that demonstrates, I think, what you can do with an idea. Not only that, but Ms. Rodack’s book, copyrighted and first published in 1981, has gone through sixteen printings as of 2002 (possibly more since then).

“It all started out simply enough,” explains Jaine. “I went to a flea market and bought an old, yellowed magazine from the 20s. When I got it home, I realized what a treasure I had! Not only were the articles a bit of living history, but the entire magazine was a look at the way people of the day kept house, shopped and cooked. There were fashions, commentaries by leading authorities and readers’ letters expressing their views….”

From then on, she says, she was hooked. She bought, lived and breathed magazines. “The artwork,” she exclaims, “was breathtaking. The stories—terribly romantic, and the recipes—sensational!”

Jaine rediscovered some things she hadn’t eaten for years and came upon others she had never heard of, like Rinkum Diddy.

After many years, Jaine began to assemble some of the recipes. She notes, “depending on the year they were written, their instructions differ greatly. In the late 1800s there were no controlled ovens and recipes said “cook til done”. Fireless cookstoves, she notes, and other now-forgotten inventions varied instructions as well. She tried to keep the recipes as close to the original recipe as possible and advises you may have to experiment a little to get the heat and cooking time straight.

Included, as well, are various household hints, along with “bits and pieces” of memorabilia to give you an idea of what was going on in the world at the time these recipes appeared.

“Forgotten Recipes” opens with a look at Yesterday’s Kitchens and provides a comparison on inflation, then and now – an article that appeared in a 1949 dealt with the cost of feeding a family of three. “According to this article,” writes Jaine, “you could feed such a family on $10 a week..and feed them well”. She goes on to provide a comparison with groceries purchased in 1949 and the same items bought at the time her book was published. (I am sure the $10 a week in 1949 was fairly accurate; I remember my mother telling me that, during the 1940s, she had $10 a week with which to buy groceries and whatever other household items we needed—and there were seven in our family, five children and two adults).

Jaine notes that the total spent in 1983 for $10 worth of groceries in 1949 was $41.58.

Another chapter in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is devoted to household hints which, Jaine explains, have been a part of America’s magazines for over 90 years. (and still are! Now we have Hints from Heloise!).

Some of the household hints are really outdated, such as “Have radiator heat? Place a metal bread box over it and use it for a warming cabinet for your dishes…” but the ideas for substitutes for sugar (during the war years when sugar was rationed) would still work today – although I believe that honey, the substitute most often recommended, is more expensive today than sugar was in the 1940s!

Recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” range widely, from 1922 pork scrapple (My sister in Tennessee still makes scrapple!) to Timbales (pastry shells that you filled with seasoned food, like salmon or spinach or peas), from a 1930 recipe for cabbage, apple and walnut salad (that is somewhat similar to the way my mother made cole slaw, with apple in it), from such tried and true recipes for reusing rice to make dishes like fried rice to a 1944 recipe for Green Tomato Pie.

There is a 1923 recipe for Rinktum Diddy (made with cheese and canned tomatoes—sounds delicious!) and a 1922 recipe for creamed lobster that won a $100 in a recipe contest. Jaine notes, quite correctly, that lobster was once not as expensive as it is now—and highly recommends the recipe which calls for 2 cups of diced boiled lobster. (I’m thinking of trying this with canned crab as a substitute).

Included as well as recipes for 1927 Tamale Pie which, if I recall correctly, was popular for decades and mentioned as one of Richard Nixon’s favorite recipes. (Jaine considers Tamale Pie as a foreign dish but is actually a completely American invention…even so, this is something you may want to “re-discover”). There are recipes for making your own tomato sauce, 1934 Spanish Meatloaf, ad a number of recipes which called for veal (something else that was once very inexpensive—haven’t times changed?)

Dessert recipes include recipes for butterless cake, 1931 Plantation Marble Cake, 1928 Award Winning Gold Cake, a 1927 Ice Box Cake and 1932 Raisin Nut Pie—and, aha! A 1928 thanksgiving fruitcake recipe that sounds pretty good to me!

Accompanying many of the recipes are sidebars explaining where the recipe came from or the time period in which it was popular, as well as comments such as “in 1930 Woolworth’s was still a five and ten cents store, women were trying to break the ‘tub habit’ in favor of washing machines, and gas ranges were getting a whole new look..” which appears with a 1930 Butter Pie recipe

Overall, the recipes in “FORGOTTEN RECIPES” are entertaining, and nostalgic (for some of us, at least) and offer a delightful trip back in time to see how things were done in the good old days.

“FORGOTTEN RECIPES” is available on Amazon.com either new (about $15.00) or pre-owned for as little as 25 cents and up. (You will pay $3.99 shipping and handling when buying pre-owned books from various private vendors – but still, you can get a copy for less than $5.00.

Review by Sandra Lee Smith

ISBN –0-918544-60-2

*I found FORGOTTEN RECIPES listed on Amazon.com; numerous copies can be found in the pre-owned listings, starting at 25 cents. Shipping and handling is still $3.99—still a great bargain. I posted this article originally in 2011. – sls

THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING

“The Man Who Ate Everything” by Jeffrey Steingarten. In the words of the New Yorker is “so well prepared, so expertly seasoned, so full of flavorsome surprises that if it were a meal, even Mr. Steingarten would have difficulty finding fault with it….it is a book worth celebrating” – and I agree!

Mr. Steingarten, who has been a food critic for VOGUE Magazine since 1989, is, in my words – a hoot! I have often laughed out loud, whether reading alone or with someone else in the room, in which case I usually have to read aloud, to share.

“the Man Who Ate Everything” was the 1997 winner of the Julia Child book award and a finalist, also in 1997, of the James Beard Book Award.

Mr.Steingarden trained to be a food writer at Harvard College, Harvard Law School, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the HARVARD LAMPOON. For over eight years has been a food critic of Vogue Magazine.

When I leafed through THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING, my attention was riveted to a chapter called The Smith Family Cookbook….I thought “wait a minute—I’ve read this before….somewhere else” and of course I had. It was a chapter included in a charming little book called “Favorite Cookbooks” by Moira Hodgson for whom I wrote about in the CCE (Cookbook Collectors Exchange) some years ago, earning myself a few new fruitcake penpals along the way.

Mr. Steingarten’s book is a collection of essays, not a cookbook (although you may find a few recipes interspersed throughout the book, as when he writes about his challenge to find the perfect pie crust). The author writes with great humor while providing food for thought. (*I could have told him, there isn’t a perfect pie crust and saved him all the work)

If you are the kind of cookbook person who often wonders how something in the culinary world came about, this is the book for you.

“When Jeffrey Steingarten was appointed food critic for Vogue, observe the publishers, Vintage Books, which is a division of Random House, “he systematically set out to overcome his distaste for such things as kimchi, lard, Greek cuisine, and blue food. He succeeded at all but the last: Steingarten is ‘fairly sure that God meant the color blue mainly for food that has gone bad’. Steingarten devotes the same Zen-like discipline and gluttonous curiosity to practically everything that anyone anywhere has ever called “dinner.” As I tend to agree with Mr. Steingarten’s gut feeling about blue food, with perhaps the exception of blueberries, I felt I had met up with a kindred spirit.

Take, for example, his essay called “PRIMAL BREAD”. “The world is divided” explains the author “Into two camps: those who can live happily on bread alone and those who also need vegetables, meat and dairy products…bread is the only food I know what satisfied completely all by itself. It comforts the body, charms the senses, gratifies the soul and excites the mind. A little butter also helps…”
What follows is a day by day account of Mr. Steingarten’s pilgrimage to make the perfect loaf of bread.

Introducing a chapter called “Playing Ketchup”, the author writes “When rumor recently reached my ears that U.S. sales of salsa would soon eclipse those of ketchup, catsup and catchup (these words all mean the same thing) he rushed down to his local supermarket, planting himself in the ketchup department and stood a lonely vigil as though my presence alone could stanch the tide of chunky piquant salsa that menaced from the opposite of aisle 5…”

Jeffrey Steingarten is a funny man although sometimes so droll that you aren’t sure whether he is being amusing or sarcastic. I laugh anyway.

All of you cookbook collectors who love to curl up at night with a good cookbook, “THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING is a delightful diversion from strictly reading recipes (although the ones included in this book are treasures!)

Additionally, this is the kind of book you can carry around with you going to the doctor or the dentist or waiting for kids to get out of school.

Although printed some time ago, THE MAN WHO ATE EVERYTHING can be found on Amazon.com with a wide variety of copies, both new and pre-owned, starting around $3 or $4.
Review by Sandra Lee Smith@sandychatter

THE MEANING OF HOLIDAYS, THEN AND NOW

Just before Thanksgiving (2016), my older brother, Jim, texted me to ask what I was doing for Thanksgiving. They, he wrote, were going out for dinner with another couple.
We, I texted back to him, are having a roast chicken dinner, here at my place, along with salad, mashed potatoes*, green beans and choice of pumpkin pie or angel food cake. My youngest son, Kelly, is on a restricted diet and can’t eat turkey. However, he can eat chicken. He can’t eat pumpkin pie (no milk or dairy products including no butter) He can eat margarine, such as Imperial, which we can put in with the mashed potatoes. He can’t have milk or dairy products in the mashed potatoes. My daughter in law, through trial and error, has discovered she can drain off the potatoes when they are soft enough to mash, and then put the potato water back in with the potatoes to get a desired mashed texture (plus margarine, not butter).

Not long ago, my daughter in law, Keara, sent me her recipe for roasting chickens with 4” lengths of celery stuffed into the cavity, salt and pepper inside and out and some onion powder. I roasted two chickens on Thanksgiving Day and sent them home with the leftover angel food cake (something Kelly can eat) and the leftover chicken to go in one of my daughter in law’s many recipes like burritos and tostados made with shredded leftover chicken. Oddly enough, none of us missed having turkey. Time was when I would have made turkey and rice soup with the leftover turkey carcass, which was my son Steve’s favorite soup. But Steve and his wife live in South Dakota now. Son Chris and his family live in the San Fernando Valley. (Kelly and Keara live around the corner from me).

There was a time, also, when I would have trekked out on Black Friday to find some wonderful discounts—but my bad knees and feet keep me from venturing very far. I will try to order as many gifts on the Internet as possible. Amazon.com knows when I am coming.

Now, let me back up to a time when I DID roast a turkey on Thanksgiving. I was a bride at the age of 18. I tried my best to make a decent Thanksgiving dinner but my then-husband found fault with every meal Holiday or not. “Potatoes didn’t have enough salt” he would say.

Then around in the mid-1960s we became friends with a Hungarian man and his wife who, along with her extended family, came from Missouri. We were invited to the wife’s family’s huge Thanksgiving dinner which included ham, turkey, a wide assortment of pies and cakes—all I was asked to bring were homemade biscuits. We enjoyed being a part of this family’s Thanksgiving dinner. I don’t think I cooked another Thanksgiving dinner after that. (in the 1980s, when our marriage was on its last legs, my husband and I took marital counseling. Inevitably, the salt or lack of salt in my potatoes came up.

Our counselor was baffled. “Couldn’t you just add salt to the potatoes on your own plate?” she asked.

“That’s not the point my then-husband said, “Then how would she LEARN that the meal wasn’t well prepared?” I think our counselor saw the handwriting on the wall before I did. My husband dropped counseling. I continued for another seven months, trying to save something that HE, OBVIOUSLY, DIDN’T WANT TO SAVE.

Getting back to my brother’s text messages my brother Jim lamented when we were children how a huge dinner would be prepared on Thanksgiving. Sometimes we went to my grandmother’s for dinner, sometimes my grandmother came to our house. When we were very young, after a hearty meal, the adults would play cards while we children were given enough money for a movie and either a coke or popcorn (I think a quarter per child was usually enough for everything) – and I think our Uncle Al gave us each a quarter (we thought he was rich) and one of the adults took us to the West Hills Theatre where, hopefully, we would stay for hours.

I remember Thanksgiving dinners at both my mother’s and my grandmother’s homes, and I just barely remember being shuffled off to a movie theatre. When I was very young, there was a movie theater on Carl Street, walking distance from Grandma’s or our house on Sutter Street. The only movie I can remember seeing there was something called Johnny Belinda. I was too young to understand the plot.

I can just barely remember holiday dinners at my grandparent’s home on the second floor of their house on Baltimore Street where, after dinner, the adults played cards. I would try to fall asleep on a day bed in that room—hopefully where I would fall asleep and be allowed to spend the night.

Holiday events changed when my grandfather became ill and passed away on February 18, 1950. I was nine years old at the time.

My grandmother moved downstairs in two rooms at the front of the house; she rented out the two rooms at the back of the house and the entire second floor as well. (our Uncle John (Hans to the family) and his wife and sons lived in the rooms on the third floor.

We children went to grandma’s almost every school day for lunch. On Mondays after school, my sister Becky and her children as well as I would go to Grandma’s for dinner and I would spend the night with her. We were all terribly spoiled on good food – a combination of German and Hungarian. Whatever it was, we called it German food, not having any knowledge of the distinction between German and Hungarian cuisine. All we knew and maybe it wasn’t until later, was that my grandmother came from Germany and my grandfather from Hungary.

I continued having one night a week spent at my grandmother’s, all the way through high school. Regretfully, I married in December of 1958; my grandmother passed away about a year later. I didn’t see her before she died; my brother in law came to tell me and take me to good Samaritan Hospital but she had already passed away by the time we got there. Grandma’s recipes were never written down—she could barely write anything in English. I have tried to resurrect her wonderful strudel recipes but the exact recipes passed away with her.

My Aunt Evelyn (whom we called Aunt Dolly) learned Grandma’s recipes by standing by her and watching how grandma made everything. But those recipes died along with Aunt Dolly who passed away in 2012. My sister, Becky, managed to copy some of those recipes but there are precious few that have survived. Becky and I compiled a family cookbook and managed to get it published before Becky died in October of 2004.

We called it “Grandma’s Favorite” as a nod to our beloved grandmother who managed to make us all believe, growing up, that each one of us was Grandma’s favorite. It was not something ever spoken, but each of us knew that “I was grandma’s favorite”

We discovered this one day at my sister Becky’s house, all of us sitting around the kitchen table where we were discussing favorite memories and one of us spoke up an said “well, you know, I was grandma’s favorite”.

“Like heck you were,” someone disputed . “I was grandma’s favorite” and so on until everyone at the table had laid claim to being grandma’s favorite. (I didn’t enter the dispute, knowing only too well that I was really grandma’s favorite.

Years later my sister and I reflected on this wonderful gift our grandmother had given to all of us—and how we were endeavoring to be the same kind of grandmother to our grandchildren.

When I was about ten or eleven years old, I began taking my two younger brothers Biff and Bill, downtown to do our Christmas shopping at the 5&10 cent stores. We also checked out the Santa Clauses in the department stores—you got a free candy cane by waiting in line to see Santa Claus. (We figured that we increased our chances of getting what we wanted for Christmas, if we stood in line to see all of Santa’s helpers. (We KNEW that the real Santa Claus was busy making toys in the North Pole).

After we completed our shopping for presents for our parents, grandparents and siblings, we took our gifts upstairs where we wrapped our presents in ironed-out gift wrap. I think my favorite gift, from my older brother Jim, was five brand new Nancy Drew mysteries. It was the start of a collection of books (from which I have never recovered).

Downtown Cincinnati was awash with all the decorated department store windows— and I remember going to see a “living nativity” – that I think was held in Garfield Park. I haven’t been downtown at Christmas time in many years. I wonder if any of my brothers have been downtown during the Christmas holidays—I don’t know the answer to that. –

Sandra Lee Smith

AUGUST 5, 1962 MARILYN MONROE WAS FOUND DEAD IN HER BEDROOM

August 5, 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her bedroom, face down, with a telephone in her hand.

It was on the front page of the L.A. Times. I was working at Household Finance at the time, taking buses to and from work. We had rented an apartment on Sarah Street in North Hollywood; it took me several buses trips, with transfers, to get to work or back home again. I decided to walk the last lap down Hollywood Boulevard, and there it was, in a newspaper rack, front page, Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn’s death had a profound effect on me; it was my first experience with the death of someone famous, who lived not far from where I worked in Hollywood.

I became acquainted with a coworker who began giving me trips to and from work—it didn’t occur to me to offer to pay her for it – I really was naïve about a lot of things when I was not yet twenty two years old. Friendships came and went in my early years of living in Southern California. In early 1963, I flew back to Cincinnati with Michael, when I became pregnant and wanted my own OB-GYN to take care of me, following a serious miscarriage in 1962. Jim followed a month later. I went back to the office where I was working, along with my sister in law, Dee, Williams Directory, before we went to California. I asked for my old job back – the manager asked when I could start. “Right now!” I said and was given a typewriter to work on. I worked until 2 weeks before Steve’s birth. Then I developed a blood clot in my right leg and was unable to do Anything for six weeks. A girlfriend came to help take care of me and Steve. My sister in law, two doors down, took care of Michael when Jim couldn’t.

Meanwhile, Jim worked briefly at a job and was laid off. One day I had $5 for baby food. We went to my mother’s and she gave us half of what was in her freezer. Then we went to my sister Becky’s, and she gave me half of everything in her pantry. I cried all the way home.

“I’m NOT going to live this way,” I told Jim on our way home. “We need to go back to California (where I knew he could find a job). Steve was born in August. In December we were driving across country over icy roads even on the expressway. It didn’t cross my mind that we were risking the lives of two young children—I had faith in Jim’s capability behind the wheel.

We rented an apartment in Toluca Lake and both of us found jobs at Weber Aircraft. That’s where 1964 found us living and working.

I didn’t drive yet – a coworker at Weber Aircraft, a few years later, taught me how to drive on our lunch hours. It took me a few years to grasp that going to and from work on a bus wasn’t very easy to do. Once I had my driver’s license I began driving a 1956 Chevrolet that Jim had bought. I shook with fear every time I got behind the wheel of the car; I was a nervous Nellie for a long time. When I was taking my driver’s test with a DMV employee in the car with me, I shook with fear. He asked me what was wrong. “Nothing,” I said, “I’m just nervous about taking this test” – I think he passed me out of compassion for my fear.
This was one small segment of my life-of our lives–in the 1960s.

–Sandra Lee Smith

PHOTOGRAPHY IN THE FAMILY

At almost any family get together, half a dozen or more people will be taking pictures—often of the same thing. Before the Internet and I-phones, it made sense to have a bunch of us taking the same pictures at the same time.

At the wedding of a great-niece last April (2016), I toted along two of my cameras—one a Canon rebel that uses film (yes, the real thing) and the canon Rebel digital that I had coveted for over a decade—I finally bought one for myself, figuring no one was ever going to buy it for me.

I was at my brother Bill’s for the weekend and as he looked over my camera, he said to his wife, “Su, this is the same camera we have” – “Well, GREAT!” I said, “you can take the pictures of the wedding party and I can be IN the pictures for a change!” So, that was what we did all weekend—at the wedding on Friday, then a get together with some classmates from St Leo’s class of 1954 on Saturday, as well as a family get-together, primarily nieces and nephews, at my nephew Scott’s Bar & Grill, Crosley’s, on Saturday afternoon. We also managed to get in more than a few pix of my great-niece, Olivia, my brother’s first granddaughter who was not yet a year old in April.

As it turned out, the canon that uses film used less than a roll of film; I am pretty much converted to the digital camera. And I owe my younger brother Bill such a huge thank you, for picking me up at the airport in Columbus, schlepping me all over the place, and then getting me back to the airport on Monday morning long before daylight.

I’ve been thinking lately about all the different cameras and all the photographs we have been taking, year in and year out. This started, for the Schmidt family, back when my parents, Viola and Pete Schmidt, were newly weds in 1935, sharing a Brownie camera. My parents were both avid photographers—for some reason I thought my mother was the chief photographer in the family until I realized that she is in so many of the pictures taken by my parents; my father isn’t IN many of those early pictures.

In the beginning, my mother mounted all those black and white brownie pictures in the men’s clothing albums that my paternal grandfather used to show potential customers. My Grandpa Schmidt was a tailor and made men’s suits. When new catalogs of suits came out, the old catalogs would have been discarded if not for my mother, who was an avid hoarder of paper, such as old envelopes, and she found a use for those catalogs of suits—she mounted the photographs they had developed onto the pages of those suits. I think it had as much to do with the depression and a scarcity of just about everything.

Then, after WW11 was over, she began tearing the photographs out of the suit catalogs, and mounting them in albums with customary black paper. Still, hundreds of photographs were packed into boxes and kept in my mother’s Hope Chest. She wouldn’t let me have any of the pictures.

When I was about thirteen and really getting “into” photography, I dug through my mother’s huge collection of negatives which were as large as the photographs, and having reprints made of any that I was in. It’s to my forever regret and sorrow that I didn’t just TAKE the negatives.

Years later, when a girlfriend and I were taking B&W photography classes one night a week at a community college, I realized that I could reprint all of those old negatives; I questioned our photo instructor about making reprints from old negatives. All I needed, he told me, was to fit the negative to a right size negative holder and the lab had an assortment of negative holder sizes. And I discovered that, due to the high silver content in those negatives, I could make sharp 8×10 reprints with very little adjustment.

I reprinted those that I HAD taken but knew my mother had hundreds that I had not taken. I called my mother one day to ask her what she had done with all those negatives. There was a silence on the line, then she said “Oh, Sandy, I think I burned all those before we moved to Florida” –I wanted to cry. it was incomprehensible – this woman who saved everything from empty lipstick tubes to the backs of envelopes, old pencils, rubber bands, and dozens of margarine tubs—did not keep those wonderful negatives.

So I did the next best thing; I asked family members to send me their old photographs, that I would return them unharmed, and I spent weeks setting up my tripod and with the help of a macro lens that took sharp close ups of the photographs, I re-created as many family pictures as I possibly could.

When I was a teenager, I put together my first photo album. By the time Jim* & I got married, I had created half a dozen photo albums.

(*Jim Smith & I got married in December, 1958. Divorced April, 1986)

For many years, my photography was limited to point-and-shoot cameras. When my dad died, my brother Jim suggested to our mother that I should have Dad’s Nikon camera that was still in a box. He told mom that I was the only person in the family who didn’t have a good camera.

Not long after this, my girlfriend Mandy suggested that the two of us take classes at Glendale Community College. God bless Mr. Liota, our teacher, he taught us so much about photography!

You can be sure that, in our family, many cameras will be busy snapping pictures—although now many of the pictures being taken are on I-phones.

As for me, I still have photographs printed and then mount them in my albums that I started buying in the 1970s. When I bought a house in the Antelope Valley in 2008, I converted the linen closet into a photo album closet. Makes sense to me – I don’t have a lot of towels and linens, but I do have a lot of photo albums!

–Sandra Lee Smith