Month: March 2016

HAPPY NATIONAL BREAD AND GRAVY MONTH! WAIT…WHAT?!

Kirchhoff's Ad from 1946. (Source: Paducah Sun)

Kirchhoff’s Ad from 1946. (Source: Paducah Sun)

Today happens to be “National Mulled Wine Day.” It’s also “What If Dogs and Cats Had Opposable Thumbs Day!”

Seriously?!! These small holidays are getting out of control…and awfully specific!!

The month of March has familiar designations and holidays like Women’s History Month, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter. But did you know that it’s also National Celery Month, National Cheerleading Safety Month, and National Umbrella Month?

The first day of March alone has about a dozen observances, including National Fruit Compote Day, National Pig Day, and National Plan a Solo Vacation Day.

Yesterday, March 2 was National Banana Cream Pie Day.

Of course, none of these strange, little “holidays” are remotely official. They’re meant to be fun, and more often than not, were started by some group or business that had a cause or product to promote. Yet, while the number of these little observances seems to be growing, the practice of them is nothing new.

Take a look at the accompanying Kirchhoff ad from 1946. See there…way back in the 1940’s, March was designated as National Bread and Gravy Month.

What? Bread and Gravy? Sounds like a curious thing to celebrate, doesn’t it? Many of us Southerners enjoy the odd biscuit and gravy breakfast now and then, but what’s this bread and gravy thing all about? And why the heck did it need a whole month?

Firstly, in mid-century America, a bread and gravy supper was a more common thing. The years following World War II were all about recovery and conservation; the toils of the war made us a nation that had to make do with what we had. In fact, because of the decades preceding WWII, our nation was already used to this sort of frugal lifestyle with World War I being followed by Prohibition being followed by the Depression.

A meal of bread and gravy was simply an economical (and tasty) way to fill a belly. It was a meal literally made from leftover scraps—day old bread and meat trimmings—and in times of lean, provided necessary starches and scant protein while costing next to nothing.

But a fondness for a thrifty meal is hardly worth creating a national observance over, much less a month long one. Truly, it was a culinary innovation of the 1940’s that really propelled Bread and Gravy into celebrity status…

…ENRICHED FLOUR!

White flour had been in regular use for centuries, yet studies in the early half of the 20th century began to show how void of nutrients white flour was. Thus, during WWII, an international effort was made to enrich white flour with iron, B vitamins, and calcium in order to improve the nutrition and health of a large portion of the worldwide population.

Of course, enriched flour didn’t go away when the war ended, and so, in order to encourage the continued health of penny-pinching Americans, as well as draw attention to the existence and value of enriched flour, the government and the American Bakers Association began to promote the month of March as National Bread and Gravy Month. Now a meal that was once merely economical could also be called nutritious…thanks to enriched flour.

Naturally, bakeries around the country, ones just like Kirchhoffs, endorsed Bread and Gravy Month, too. As one newspaper report stated in 1948, “member bakers throughout the country anticipate a peak peacetime demand for bread during the coming month.”

So there you go…Happy Bread and Gravy Month! And if bread and gravy doesn’t sound all that appetizing to you, please note that today is also National Cold Cuts Day!

And tomorrow is National Poundcake Day!

And the day after that is National Cheese Doodle Day!

For more about sustenance and parsimony, visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And if you like this article, make sure to “Like” our Facebook page.

–Matt Jaeger

WELCOME TO KENTUCKY’S EXCLAVE, ALSO KNOWN AS BUBBLELAND

KENTUCKY MAP

A simple question…what is the westernmost spot in Kentucky?

As Western Kentuckians, it’s perhaps a question we all should be able to answer, so if you know the answer, please forgive the following geography lesson or simply ignore us from this point.

But if you don’t (or you think you might, but you’re not quite sure), keep reading. The answer may surprise you.

Paducahans, naturally and rightfully, consider themselves Western Kentuckians, but even the most geographically-impaired among us knows that neither our fair city nor our fair county constitute the western border of our state. One must travel farther, so driving straight west out of McCracken County and one passes into Ballard County, and one can’t drive any farther than that without splashing into the mighty Mississippi.

So, does that mean our westernmost spot is someplace in Ballard County? Perhaps you recall passing through Wickliffe before crossing the bridge into Missouri or maybe you’ve visited Ballard State Waterfowl Management Area.

If you guessed either of these places, however, you’d be wrong. One must then travel south into our state’s other three counties that border the Mississippi River.

o, is our westernmost spot in Carlisle County, somewhere beyond Forked Lake? Nope.

How about in Hickman County around Columbus-Belmont State Park? Nope.

That leaves one county left…Fulton, and indeed, Kentucky’s westernmost point does technically lie in Fulton County. A cursory look at the provided Kentucky map shows the bottom left hand corner of the Fulton County following the shape of the river and coSwlicking into the state of Missouri.

Mystery solved.

Well, not quite.

LBUBBLELANDook at the provided map again. See that little blip to the side? That little bubble, if you will? That’s not a slip of the cartographer’s pen. That bit of land, though completely detached from the rest of the state, is Kentucky’s westernmost point.

Affectionately called Bubbleland (but also knows as Kentucky Bend or New Madrid Bend), this `17.5 square mile patch of land, this island of Kentuckiness, lies within an oxbow loop of the Mississippi River and is completely surrounded on all sides by Missouri and Tennessee, technically making it an exclave of the state. The only road in and out of the area goes through Tiptonville, Tennessee, and the residents who live in Bubbleland all have postal addresses in Tiptonville. But they are Kentucky residents, and come voting time, they must travel the forty miles to Hickman in Fulton County to cast their ballots.

The loop in the river which created this anomaly was the result of New Madrid Earthquakes of 1812, still the most powerful earthquake to hit the eastern United States, so powerful that it rang church bells in Boston. Because of the quakes, the Mississippi flowed backwards for a brief period, waterfalls were created, and the river changed its meander which perplexed surveyors who were attempting to draw borderlines. Though ownership of the land was originally disputed by Tennesseans, it has always been part of the state of Kentucky.

At one point in its history, because of its rich soil, Bubbleland boasted a population of over 300. As of the 2000 census, however, only 17 souls lived there.

To learn more about geographic oddities, visit us in Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And this post wouldn’t be complete without a shout out to our cohorts at the Fulton County Public Library who take their bookmobile to the residents of Bubbleland on a regular basis.

–Matt Jaeger

DOLLIE IS DEAD: Today in Local History

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“Dollie is Dead.” That’s what the headline said in the Paducah Daily Sun on this date, February 25, 1897, and the brief obituary that followed stated that Dollie was promptly buried at 3 in the afternoon at Oak Grove Cemetery, which also happened to be her place of employment.

Yet, the obituary never mentioned Dollie’s last name.
Because Dollie didn’t have a last name.
Because Dollie was a mule.

That’s right. Among the 40,000 souls who have found their eternal rest at Oak Grove Cemetery is a mule named Dollie who was a loyal city employee for over 30 years.

Born in Marshall County around 1861, Dollie was brought to Paducah just after the war to work in the city fire department. Described as spry and scrubby, Dollie pulled the hose carriage faithfully for sixteen years, never once coming down sick or lame in that time. It was said that Dollie was so good at her job that at the sound of fire bells, she could make her way to the nearest water cistern without having to be driven.

Around 1880, however, Dollie found herself out of work, as the mule’s job at the fire department had been outsourced to horses. Undaunted, Dollie found a second career at Oak Grove Cemetery, trusted with the care and delivery of those who had shuffled off their mortal coils. Old habits died hard with Dollie, however, and in her first couple years at the cemetery she would wildly run up and down the aisles whenever she heard fire alarms. But she eventually found a calm stride and became a beloved graveside fixture. She served Paducah at Oak Grove for another sixteen years.

So, revered was Dollie’s loyal service to the city, that when she grew too old to fulfill her duties, a proposal was adopted by the city council that “Dollie be forever exempted from work, and that every attention be paid until death came.” The city remained true to its promise, and Dollie lived another year in unburdened comfort until her passing on February 25, 1897.

Though the obituary on the day of her death was quite brief, a follow-up obituary was published on the day after which took up an entire column in the newspaper. The article was written by the managing editor of the Paducah Daily Sun, who just so happened to be Irvin Cobb, and quite frankly, his words about Dollie were beautiful.

Cobb wrote: “The death of Old Dollie, the graveyard factotum, and beast of many municipal burdens, deserves more than a passing notice, for Dollie was an odd character—an animal as faithful as she was perennial. Dollie was as indispensable to Oak Grove as sugar is to a good toddy, and now that she is dead, and laid to rest around the trees and shrubs and flowers that for sixteen years were so familiar to her, it is but just that poor Dollie’s history should be given to the world as a last tribute to her memory.”

And at Mr. Cobb’s behest, we’ve done just that and passed on the story of Dollie for yet another generation to remember.

12799329_486824431505327_1545194352912001761_n*Bonus Fact and Moral to the Story – As it so happens, a second mule is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery. We know the mule’s name was Tom and he has a lovely little marble headstone, but that’s all we know. Unlike Dollie, Tom’s story has been lost.

For more information about those who have gone on before us, feel free to visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And if you like this story, make sure to “Like” our Facebook page.

–Matt Jaeger

TODAY IN LITERARY HISTORY: A GRIMM BEGINNING

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“Once upon a time, two princes started off in search of an adventure…”
from “Queen Bee” in “Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm”

Who are our literary giants…those people whose body of work not only entertained and enlightened in its day, but then went on to truly change the way we read literature and view the world?

The list is debatable, of course, but names like Homer, Shakespeare, Chaucer, Dante, Dickens, Tolstoy, Milton, and Cervantes are certainly near the top. Their work transcends the page inasmuch as their characters and imagery have woven themselves into the fabrics of our culture and faith. Do we have contemporary hero stories without first having Homer’s “The Odyssey?” What would our vision of hell be without Dante and Milton? And without “Romeo and Juliet” we wouldn’t have “West Side Story” or a hundred other tales of star-crossed lovers.

On this day, February 24, 1786 onr
Of these literary Giants was born, a man whose contributions to literature and culture are virtually indisputable…Wilhelm Grimm.

Wilhelm is best known in conjunction with his brother Jacob who was only a year older. The Brothers Grimm were extremely close in real life, hardly far from one another’s side. They lived together as young university students, both became librarians at the same library, both became professors of German studies at the University of Gottingen, both lost their jobs at the university at the same time, and both got elected to civil parliament. Jacob, a lifelong bachelor, continued to live with Wilhelm, even after Wilhelm got married.

But it was their collaborative work with the collection and documentation of folktales that secured the legacy of the Brothers Grimm. In 1807, the two began gathering lore and stories from all over Germany: from peasants, the middle class, and aristocracy alike. In 1812, they published their first collection of 86 tales called “Children and Household Tales.” Continually expanding the collection, they ultimately published seven editions of their “Fairytales” with the last edition containing 211 stories.

The Brothers Grimm should not be glossed over as mere collectors either. They were authors in their own right, and it was Wilhelm who took the helm when it came to editing and rewriting many of the tales. In fact, some of the early editions of the fairytales became twice as long after Wilhelm’s edits and additions.

Without Wilhelm and Jacob, we may have lost track of some of these fairytales all together. Snow White, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, the Frog Prince, Sleeping Beauty, and dozens of others may owe their very existence to the brothers. And the legacy of Grimm’s Fairytales is vast. The number of spin off books, children’s books, movies, TV shows, works of art, and musical compositions based on Grimm’s fairy tales would be impossible to calculate.

Heck, Disney likely owes the Brothers Grimm a big debt of gratitude.

Happy Birthday, Wilhelm. Thanks for the stories.