Happy Monday everyone – and feel free to spread the happiness around, as this is #HappinessHappensMonth! Thus, #TGIM – because I happily look forward to Mondays, for they are my #52Chances each year, in which I have to share these memories of my mom!
Happiness means different things to different people. Furthermore, while there are those that believe otherwise, money does not really buy happiness – even though it does purchase THINGS that we enjoy temporarily, at least. Happiness is not a commodity that can be bought, sold, and/or traded. True happiness comes from deep within us and is totally free!
According to a study, conducted over a decade ago that still rings true, happiness is contagious! The study indicated that when one person is happy, the effect can spread up to three degrees in a social network; thereby, reaching family and friends, as well as family and friends of family and friends.
It’s sort of like a virus, in that your happiness can affect the feelings of people with whom you come in contact, as well as those with whom each of them come in contact. Think about it… People whom you may never know are going to be happier tomorrow because you made someone else happy today. In turn, the same can happen to each of those people… so you can see how quickly it can spread.
Mom found a unique way to spread happiness through her renowned writings and recipes, as well as through her lesser-known cartooning. She had a contagious sense of humor and happiness about her that appealed to newspapers and magazines, as well as radio and TV talk-shows that continually requested interviews with her for four decades! The audiences were always very receptive to Mom’s “happiness virus” as well.
Mom was a pioneer, carving out An incredible new niche in the food industry with her “secret recipe” imitations that covered everything from fast food favorites, to “taboo” junk foods, to grocery store packaged products, to famous restaurant dishes, and more!
They not only made our family happy, but also millions of strangers and their families and friends, most of whom we never met, personally. But they, too, found happiness in making Mom’s copycat versions of their favorite noshing guilty-pleasures; as well as eating and sharing the creations they made!
Like Mom’s recipes, which never failed to spread happiness, I found her many humorous stories to also be contagiously happy. Mom had quite a talent for spinning a yarn. Her stories always bring a smile to my face and a laugh to my lips.
I hope that the hodge-podge of excerpts (below) from Mom’s writings about Life’s mysterious ways and how Secret RecipesTM began, step-by-step before Mom even realized it had begun… will bring you as much joy and happiness to read as it brought me to re-write it for you.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
The following excerpts can be found in…
My Cup Runneth Over and I Can’t Find My Mop (Secret RecipesTM, St. Clair, MI; Dec. 1989)
THE CARTOONS & JOHN McPARTLIN
The cartoons… had been the very beginning of my work in newspapers, as I provided ‘The Roseville Community Enterprise’ and, later [in between which I was writing at the ‘Algonac Courier’], the ‘Richmond Review’ with a cartoon panel I called ‘Full House, As Kept By Gloria Pitzer’. The cartoons were published every week for four or five years.
At the same time, I was also giving another paper a panel entitled ‘Could Be Verse’, which was three or four lines of rhyme or bumper-sticker-type logic. One, for instance, read: ‘All marriages are happy… Love songs and laughter – What causes all the trouble is the living together AFTER!’
They were silly verses but fun to do at the time. From that, came [my] column entitled ‘No Laughing Matter’, which ran weekly for about six years; and, during some of that time, it was syndicated by Columbia Features out of New York. [p. 52]
So, the time I spent trying to keep up with what was going on in the food industry, also included what was going on in the world in general. I wrote about everything the homemaker might be interested in, and in those days – the early 1960s and into the 1970s – women were trying to break loose from the housewife stereotype. [WLM – Women’s Liberation Movement, which began in the late 1960s.]
It was a difficult period for those of us born during The [Great] Depression, raised during World War II and almost too young for Korea, but too old for Vietnam. The automation [evolution] that took so many jobs away from us, forced our generation into further education in order to compete.
I felt the pressure of having to keep up with the progressive community in which we lived. But little did I know, at the time, that every one of those precious experiences and semi-tribulations were actually stepping stones to a more stable lifestyle that was to come years later… [p. 52-cont’d]
STRETCHING FOOD & LEFT-OVERS
…We couldn’t afford anything beyond our immediate needs, at that time. And both of us came from parents who had survived The [Great] Depression of the 1930s, so we had been schooled to believe that credit was acceptable, as long as it was for [a house or] an emergency only!
If we needed something or wanted something, we would, according to the philosophy by which we had been brought up; first, save the money from what we had earned and then, go out and buy what we could afford. So our needs, 20 years ago [in 1969], were rather basic and included house payments, insurance, gas for the station wagon to get Paul to his job in the city all week and for our utilities.
Last but not least, if there was anything left over, [it went towards] groceries. Sometimes the groceries even had to wait a week or so and we’d make do with what we had… I would, then, learn how to do more with less. I learned how to mix the less-expensive reconstituted dry milk with regular whole milk, adding a few drops of vanilla and a pinch of sugar to each quart. The kids didn’t like it, especially compared to what they called ‘real’ milk; but, if I put it through the blender when combining the milk powder and water and refrigerated it all night, they accepted it without grumbles. [p. 30]
HOMEMADE GROCERIES & ‘PITZER PATTER’
It was during those ‘doing-more-with-less’ years that I also learned how to make the margarine mixture from canned milk and a number of other ingredients that gave me a product equal to anything at the store but for a fraction of the cost.
My recipe files were, then, beginning to grow in my aptitude for trying to develop new combinations of ingredients to produce a specific dish or food product was being energetically pursued due to necessity. When I figured how to camouflage 3 pounds of hamburger so that we could live on it for a whole week, not eating the same thing twice, I knew I was blessed. I wanted to share all of this great information with others. The opportunity was close at hand!
At that particular time, most of the information went into a newsy column I wrote for Charles Hasse’s ‘Algonac Courier’, which I called ‘Pitzer Patter’. Amid the gossip of who was going to Florida and who had just returned [and] what the schools were doing to celebrate the next holiday, I would tuck in these recipe ideas and they were so well-received [by the readers] that it was a cinch I would become ‘hooked’ on recipes sooner or later. [p. 31]
JOHN McPARTLIN & THE ‘RICHMOND REVIEW’
My column at the ‘Algonac Courier’ was not exactly what the publisher wanted, but that did not defeat me either. When he indicated he was thinking of dropping the column, I called John McPartlin, who was, then, the editor of the ‘Richmond Review’, a paper that was beginning to compete with Algonac for the same reading area.
Since I had worked for John when he was at ‘The Roseville Community Enterprise’ while we were living in the Mt. Clemens area, I felt certain he would be able to use my work. And he did use it. He even paid me more than I was getting at the Algonac paper with many more opportunities there to learn various skills that have since contributed to the self-sufficiency of our present operation. [p. 41]
THE CARTOONS & FAMILY TALENTS
I didn’t “draw”. I doodled. The rest of my family could draw. My uncle, Earl Klein, is a celebrated artist in Southern California, who has spent most of his professional life with Walt Disney, Hanna-Barbera and other wonderful studios. His own company, Animation Inc., produced the milk commercials for TV that included, ‘Daddy, there’s a cow in the bedroom!’
Another of Uncle Earl’s commercials was the [Michigan] Faygo commercial, ‘Which way did he go… Which way did he go… He went for FAYGO!’ He even did the Cocoa Wheats commercial with the cuckoo clock. One of my mother’s other brothers, Herb Klein, was also an artist and had his own advertising agency in Detroit for many years.
My [two] younger sisters are, both, accomplished artists. Paul and I are glad to see even our children are blessed with this ‘artistic gift’, as our son, Michael, has gone through the Pasadena Arts Center to become an art director for many fine advertising agencies over the years…
Our daughter, Laura… Is just as talented as her brother, but she has had not a smidgen of special training. Her illustrations are currently with the Center For Creative Arts here, in St. Clair, and also at the Mortonville Shoppe across from the old Morton Salt Company plant in Marysville. My doodles can hardly fall into a class with either of our children, but they are fun to do and have also pleased the family over the years. [p. 75]
CHALLENGES & OPPORTUNITIES
MY RELATIONSHIP with John McPartlin went back quite a few years to the time we were living in Clinton Township, near Mt. Clemens . Debbie was just a baby and I had no thoughts at that time of increasing the size of our family beyond Bill, Mike and Deb.
I wanted to finish college, which, to Paul was a senseless decision; considering that my ‘job’ was already consuming my entire day and that was, of course, as a wife and a mother. (Not necessarily in that order.) Paul felt a woman did not have to go to college if she planned to have a family and keep house, except to supplement her husband’s income for absolute necessities.
This, dear friends, was a notion, deeply embedded in his thought by the times during which we both were raised – when, silly as it seems by today’s standards, it was not important for the woman to have an education who only planned on having children and ‘keeping house’! Once our own daughters were at the age when college was to be considered, you’d be amazed at the sacrifices that same man was willing to make to see his own daughters through their schooling!
But, getting back to how I FIRST met John McPartlin – I finally talked Paul into letting me return to college at night to take the two classes I needed for the teaching certificate that would permit me to substitute teach for a limited time each semester. [p.82]
The schools were walking distance from where we lived. I assured Paul that I would be home when the children were and that my good friend, Eleanor Westbrook, down the street from us, was willing to babysit if necessary when I was asked to teach.
Sometimes I was only given 30-minutes notice, so Eleanor’s being there was a tremendous blessing. One of the things that really opened the door for me to teaching in the Clinton Dale schools was the fact that I had recently had [a food-related] article published in the Christian Science Monitor and, while the principal acknowledged that he was not a [Christian] Scientist, he did respect the newspaper and thought that anyone who had been published in it was an excellent writer…
The principal was not sorry he hired me, for the job required filling in for a teacher who would be out about six weeks due to an auto accident in which she was injured. I took over her class AND initiated a school newspaper while I was there – a project that was important to me, even though I worked on it without pay, but it led to my meeting John McPartlin, the editor, at that time, of ‘The Roseville Community Enterprise’.
The involvement with, both, the teaching assignment and the operation of the school newspaper led to other writing experiences that I had no idea would each contribute eventually [step-by-step] to the operation of Secret RecipesTM. [p.82 – cont’d]
In honor of… #HappinessHappensMonth… And, since some people find happiness in chocolate, I’d like to share with you Mom’s imitation of cream-filled cupcakes, like Hostess’!
P.S. Food-for-thought until we meet again, next Monday…
My next visit on the “Good Neighbor” show, with Kathy Keene, is in two weeks. Be sure to tune in – Monday, August 31st around 11am (CDST)/12noon (EDST)!
…33 down, 19 to go!