Month: October 2013

Mmmm, Mmmm, Good…Don’t Miss This Recipe!

If you’re anything like me, the first thing that comes to mind when cold weather hits is…SOUP! We here in the Local and Family History Department love our big bowls of steaming broth, and since we have the Special Collections at our fingertips, we also love looking at old recipes. This is one of our favorites, published in 1839 in “Kentucky Housewife” by Mrs. Lettice Bryan. We think you’ll like it too.

To have this soup in perfection, you must begin at least six hours before you will want the soup. Having nearly cleaned a large head and two feet, split them; put them into a pot with a small piece of pork or ham, a good quantity of water, and enough salt and pepper to season them well. Boil them slowly and steadily till nearly done, removing the scum as it rises; then put in four minced onions, four sliced potatoes, a handful of thyme, parsley and sweet basil; boil all together till done, and strain the liquid into a soup pan. Mince a part of the meat from the head and feet, and put into the soup, with a dozen force-meatballs, about the size of a nutmeg, made in the usual manner, and fried brown in butter. Pound to a past half a tea-cupful of boiled rice, the yolks of eight hard-boiled eggs, a little grated nutmeg, mace and lemon peel; make it into one and a half dozen balls, of equal size; roll them in yolk of egg and flour, and drop them also into the soup. Just let it come to a boil, then add half a pint of madeira and the juice of one lemon, a tea-spoonful of currie powder, and serve it up with dry toasts or crackers. This soup must be rich and highly seasoned, to represent what it is intended, therefore do not put in your vegetables and other seasonings until the meat gets nearly done, as by long boiling they will lose much of their flavor, and become almost insipid.

For more delicious, traditional recipes, visit the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

Bad Poetry of Yesteryear

Read any old newspaper and you’ll quickly notice a difference in the way people used words. A century or more ago, the language just seemed more eloquent, more pleasing to the ear. Words weren’t merely used to dispense the news, but to convey and evoke emotion. Because of the language choices, even the smallest articles of yore seemed grandiose in their purposes, as if there was more to be garnered from the story than the mere facts, as if a gospel lay between the lines waiting to be discovered.

In a sense, reading old news articles is like reading poetry.

However, when the old newspapers printed actual poetry, the results are somehow more disappointing. With the trite rhymes and worn-out imagery, the verse seems flat. In fact, the poetry is kind of bad…but in an amusing sort of way. Case in point, this poem published in the Paducah Daily News on October 26, 1874.

A little bird flew through the dell,
And where the failing sunbeams fell
He warbled thus his wondrous lay:
“Adieu! adieu! I go away;
Far, far,
Must I voyage ere the twilight star.”

It pierced me through, the song he sang,
With many a sweet and bitter pang:
For wounding joy, delicious pain,
My bosom swelled and sank again.
Heart! heart!
Is it drunk with bliss or woe thou art?

Then, when I saw the drifted leaves,
I said, “Already Autumn grieves!
To summer skies the swallow hies:
So Love departs and Longing flies,
Far, far,
Where the Radiant and the Beauteous are.”

But soon the sun shone out anew,
And back the little flutter flew:
He saw my grief, he saw my tears!
And sang, “Love knows no Winter years!
No! no!
While it lives its breath is Summer’s glow!”

To read more iffy poetry from our archives, visit the Local and Family History department at the McCracken County Public Library…and stay warm.

Halloween in Old Paducah


Reports of Halloween celebrations in Paducah date back as far as the late 1800s, but in those days “trick or treating” didn’t mean dressing up and going door to door for candy. “Tricks” meant actual tricks, and “treats ,” well, meant something else altogether.

The Tricks – Halloween pranks abounded in Paducah in the early 20th century, so much so that a front page notice in the Paducah Sun (1910) read: “This is all Hallowe’en and residents would do well to take precautions to see that gates, swings, porch furniture, and other moveable possessions are under padlocks or stowed away in places of safety.” One gentleman, on the morning of November 1, 1901, reported seventeen buggies and wagons piled in his yard at the corner of 18th and Tennessee streets. Year after year, however, the most pulled prank in town was for the young men to roam free in the middle of the night and remove the gates from people’s fences. Harmless enough, except that it allowed Paducah’s cows to also roam free in the middle of the night. The Sun (1901) stated that “Mr. S.A. Fowler, who resides on Broadway near Ninth, found six cows in his yard, and they had almost destroyed several fine peach trees that he had been cultivating with great care for five years past.”

The Treats – Parties were plentiful and the Society Pages in The Sun weren’t shy about listing who was hosting parties and who attended them. “Miss Geraldine Wilson gave a pleasant Hallowe’en party at her home on Harrison Street, to which a number of guests were invited to try their fortunes (1905).” Refreshments at these parties were fairly standard—apples, cider, and sweets—as were the decorations—Jack O’ Lanterns, witches, and cornstalks. What was different about these parties, sometimes called “watch parties,” was that the young people celebrated with mystical and playful ceremonies intended to reveal their future husbands and wives. These superstitious games included throwing a ball of yarn out the window so your true love can take the other end; sticking apple seeds to your eyelids, each named for a suitor, and seeing which one sticks longer; throwing an apple peel over your shoulder for surely it will form the initial of your true love; and the lighting of colored fortune candles, each attached with a message that may read:

Your sweetheart will jilt you just as sure
As this green candle burns down;
And you’ll waste your wealth and live and die
The crustiest “bach” in town.

To learn more about the history of holidays in Paducah, visit the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

Stingy Alley

Did you know that in the early 1900′s Paducah had a street called “Stingy Alley?” While the street was 300 feet long, it was only four feet wide! The blocks of 3rd and 4th streets beyond Tennessee Street were so long that the residents needed a quick a way to cut across. The alley was so narrow, however, that one news article stated, “If a man starts in one end and a cow in the other, the man must either beat the cow to the alley, retreat back to the street whence he came or climb to the top of one of the fences flanking the alley.” Despite its slim design, the street proved to be such an important thoroughfare that the city paved it with gravel and installed an electric light in its middle. This link to a map from 1906 merely labels the street as “Passage Way,” but some of us now know better. To learn more about Stingy Alley or other odd Paducah history, visit the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library.

Kentucky Digital Library

Some things never change.