The Household Encyclopedia and Hysteria

About five years ago, I purchased the “Household Encyclopedia,” edited by N.H. and S.K. Mager and printed and reprinted between the early 1950s and 1970s. I was mainly drawn to this book for its historical insights into past housekeeping. As you can see, I paid only $2 for this copy at a used book store.



Perhaps the most engaging section is titled “Home Remedies for Minor Ailments.” Much of the advice here is outdated, but gives a glimpse into the psyche of mid-twentieth-century America. Under “hysteria,” the treatment reads:

“Do not act solicitous. Be firm. A strong command may serve to stop it. Hold strong ammonia inhalant close to nose. Consult a doctor for underlying cause.”

Really? A strong ammonia inhalant? Try consulting a doctor for noxious fume effects!

Described by various dictionaries as a psychological disorder with symptoms ranging from convulsions to a trance-like demeanor to extreme stress, the word hysteria brings to my mind black-and-white movies in which the (typically) young woman is “slapped” by a close friend, relative, or doctor to bring her back to her senses.

The crazy ammonia treatment aside, this “ailment” of hysteria seems to be a fairly common malady in Romantic and Victorian English literature (even in American Realism). The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman comes to mind, as does Mrs. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin. Hysteria sometimes is referred to a nervous problem.

Before last year, I would have laughed off this entire malady as fiction, a phase, or over-dramatics. However, one of our residents went through a period with many of the symptoms expressed above. He was put on some anti-seizure medication that the doctor later realized was too strong for him, causing many of the symptoms. Before that realization, the symptoms went on for several weeks in a row. Interestingly, some staff were solicitous (overly doting),and it only seemed to cause his symptoms to increase. One or two staff spoke firmly, something to the effect that he needed to get control of himself, and it actually seemed to help. Once the doctor took him off the anti-seizure medications, it all went away.

I believe the memoirs of those who lived long ago (and even the fiction) are of real people with real, not imagined, life situations. I am intrigued by their beliefs and reactions, but believe we have not really changed that much. Just like today, some maladies were physical, some chemical, and some spiritual.

The narrator of “The Yellow Wallpaper” states:

“John is a physician, and PERHAPS…that is one reason I do not get well faster.”

She indicates that the doctor (who is her husband in the story) does not believe she is really sick. This may come across as if I am against doctors, which is far from the truth.

It is just interesting to hear her viewpoint. Was this the viewpoint of the writer as well?



Kitchen-Klatter, Scones, and Vintage Recipes

Vintage recipes and recipe books create some nostalgia thing within me. I envision myself in my Grandma McKinney’s kitchen, with her milk glass mixing bowls and wooden spoons (used on occasion for spanking a certain mischievous granddaughter), creating a meal from scratch in those days before internet searches, round-the-clock TV cooking shows, and magazines devoted to food. Of course, I wear a floral apron and use fresh ingredients (from the farms down the road).

Trying these recipes in real life is sometimes another story. Since scones are one our favorites around here, I scoured my old recipe books for vintage recipes.

My favorite recipe book is an old Kitchen Klatter three-ring volume of thousands of recipes. This brand is well-known to many from Iowa, and many of the recipes encourage the use of their bottled flavorings. In this book alone, I once counted over 160 recipes containing Jell-O! In real life, I can’t remember the last time I made Jell-O. But, it was apparently an important staple in the 1950s and 60s.

This cookbook had only one recipe for scones, as did several others. I decided to combine a recipe for wartime scones (using oatmeal) with the regular recipe I had already found.

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We buy our dry goods at a Mennonite bulk food store. (I am new to the photography thing, and I notice shadows in the pictures, but it is too late to go back now!)

Even as I was mixing, I suspected these scones might be bland and heavy, but I wanted to experience the taste of the old recipes, as well as the methods. Here is the final result:



I was right about the taste, as they were missing the whole grains and spices we tend to use more of today. Did they even think of counting carbs or even really know what a carb was?? However, I LOVE this cookbook and rely on it for everyday recipes, from main dishes to desserts.

When I purchased the cookbook, it had its cover already missing, so I’m not sure the year it was published, but with over 460 pages, and a purchase price of a couple of dollars, I feel like I won the jackpot. I searched online, and found it has had many re-printings (mine seems like it may have come from the 1970s with its clipart of housewives in little black dresses with white aprons).

Kitchen-Klatter Cookbook

Here is a link for purchasing the above item at Amazon (new or used): Kitchen-Klatter cookbook.

I highly recommend the many baking recipes, even the scone recipe was just a bit before its time!

Gravel Roads and Brush Arbor

Think about the many different types of roads. There are neighborhood streets and busy interstates. Footpaths in the grass. Dirt roads. Two-lane highways. Long, winding driveways. Mountainous roads. Roads that lead somewhere. Dead ends. Lake access roads.

The book I want to discuss today is not available to read because there are only a handful of copies of it in the world. In the introduction, the writer states:

“This narrative is dedicated to country roads:  some graveled, some still mud and some leading nowhere. What is wonderful is knowing that country roads are filled with the lives of so many others who traveled them years past and thanks to those hearty souls, you are allowed choices they could only dream of. No matter how high a man may rise, perhaps to being the richest man in the world, you can be assured that even on those roads paved with gold, there is an old country road which allowed him to get where his is.”

Sixteen years ago, before my grandpa passed away, my mom took the time to interview him and used his memories to write a book for my sister and me (of his days before we knew him). Here is the title page she created:

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As I was re-reading the book this past week, I remembered that old gravel road in Mercer, Missouri and its importance in my life. As a young girl, I walked the road, gravel crunching beneath my feet, loose stones rolling away as I passed my Grandpa’s angus cattle in the fields, the cows sometimes mooing their complaint at my intrusion in their territory. I always paused on the “bridge,” a two-board creation, to watch the creek moving beneath me. Later, as a teenager, I learned to navigate the two boards as I drove my grandpa’s pickup to town.

Here is the first paragraph of the book my mom wrote. She is such a gifted writer. I hope to publish this book at some point, as it represents so many others from the “Greatest Generation” who lived through world wars, the Great Depression, and learned to work hard, love through action, and worship God without fail.

“It was a cold November morning in a small rural area of Northern Missouri. Frozen haze was hanging over the curving creek bed and sweeping along the banks as far as the eye could see. The creek ran north to south, giving the illusion of something much larger than it actually was, while the craggy edges jutted in and out of the landscape, but always within a narrow curvature created by mother nature herself. The old house, sitting on the hill one half mile west of the creek, was creaking and sagging in places, while the shutters on the windows were painted white with hoary frost, and the smoke from the chimney curled endlessly into the sky. Inside the house the air was warm and inviting, interrupted by the whimpering cries of a newborn. Carl Vatus and Veta Fonabelle Gibson Porter were parents of a bouncing baby boy. The date was November 19, 1919, and the baby was named Doral Vatus.” (Shirley Porter, 1999)

The most special time of the year for my grandpa was July because that meant the churches would gather for Brush Arbor days (representing the old-time campmeetings of long ago). I was there for the first service, alongside my grandpa, as I was visiting him that summer. I celebrate my heritage, from that old gravel road and the influences of those who were born, lived, and died within a mile of that end of it.

Welcome! The Best Book I Have Read This Year…

IMG_20150625_1108064_rewindThe vintageinkstand is a personal blog merging two of my biggest passions–reading and all things historical and vintage. From biographies to handwritten recipes to household hints of the early 1900s, from diaries to journals to my great-grandmother’s letters, I hope to share my latest findings, oldest dear friends (and my books are friends), interesting blurbs, and reviews of books, including many that are on the free domain.

I am also a high school and middle school English teacher, currently working for a boys ranch (residential facility for at-risk youth). Each year, part of my job joy is introducing “new” students to classic literature. Between “This sounds so boring!” and “Can we read more of that book today?” lies the journey of a school year. Along the way, I hope they see that people who lived in the Dark Ages and the Victorian era and the chaos of the 1960s all loved and worried and flirted and lost friends and searched to know God, just as we do today.

Now for the best book I have read this year. It is very hard to pin down, actually, but I would have to choose:   The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery: Vol. 1. Lucy Maud Montgomery is probably my favorite writer (if I were being tortured and had to pick), and last year I could not put down Mary Rubio’s Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings. I wanted to read her journals for myself, even though Rubio and others who knew Montgomery feel she was very selective in her thoughts, especially as her life went on, knowing the public would read her personal journals.

The more I read biographical material about writers, the more I see their lives in their works. It is so intriguing and almost always without fail (at least in the types of books I read) that their experiences are found in their books.

More about that later…