“Wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then.”
In 1950s Nebraska, the popularity of summertime DDT spraying was second only to swimming pools and ice cream trucks. Hot, humid, Midwestern summers produced an annoying amount of mosquitoes, June bugs, box elder bugs, chiggers, and gnats. Prevailing community wisdom sent forth trucks equipped with sprayers to save the day. The trucks started out early in the morning, and hit the neighborhoods misting curbs, yards, and streets with a fine spray of Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane.
Older, faster kids on bikes flanked the sides of the trucks—slower tykes on training wheels brought up the rear. The most popular place to be was in the thick of it, lost in the dense fog. We rode along beside the yellow-green haze waving, cheering, and beeping. Mothers dried their hands on their aprons and came to the front door, waving as their children rode by engulfed in a toxic cloud.
Our mothers used the railroad-crossing arm maneuver to keep unfettered front-seat kids from crashing into the dashboard whenever the car screeched to a halt. Our flammable pajamas could have been used as fireplace tinder; helmets and knee pads appeared only on Roller Derby night at the skating rink; Fourth of July picnics usually included fireworks and a rousing game of lawn darts; a boy’s favorite toy was a BB gun, a pocket knife, or an air rifle; girls of the era puttered with water, ungrounded Easy Bake Ovens, and hot light bulbs; we spent long winter days ice skating unattended up and down the creek, building bonfires along the way. No wonder my generation is living longer; the weak were weeded out, only the tough remain.
There was a general sense of confidence present in the fifties. How else can you explain the official optimism it took to promote a “duck and cover” strategy as defense against an atomic bomb. Really?
On the food side, diabetes and obesity were rare: there were no snacks or sodas (at least not in our house), eating “between meals” happened only on the sly, kids were pushed out the door to play and told, “Now don’t come in unless you’re bleeding”, children sat at the kitchen table and ate whatever Mom made or went to bed hungry (My sister Ginny, the baby and a picky eater, existed on Cheerios for much of her childhood.), but oddly enough, desserts were a routine part of supper. Our favorite directive at mealtime was, “Save your forks.”
Muth didn’t bake much, but we loved these “Blondies.”
- ¼ cup soft butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- ⅔ cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 cup pecans
Butter 9″ square baking pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and brown sugar. Stir in egg, beating well.
Sift together dry ingredients, add to butter mixture on low speed. Beat only until mixed.
Add vanilla and pecans. Bake for 20-25 minutes.