Happy Monday and, most especially, I hope everyone has a fantastic Labor Day today!
125 years ago, Labor Day officially became a federal holiday. It’s celebrated yearly, on the first Monday in September and, just as Memorial Day has become the unofficial start to summer, Labor Day has, likewise, become the unofficial end to summer.
Labor Day doesn’t really have any traditional customs for observing it. There are so many different kinds of celebrations, including family and community picnics, parades, outdoor concerts, festivals, fireworks and even shopping; as retailers always offer huge Labor Day weekend deals and discounts to move the rest of their summer stock. Moreover, many people also take advantage of the long weekend to go on one, last, summer vacation.
Something else that usually happens on (or by) Labor Day weekend is that all the stores clearance their remaining back-to-school stock, so they can start to fill up their seasonal sections with all things Halloween and autumn-harvest themed. Meanwhile, their stock rooms are already piling up with Christmas inventory. And, of course, apple and pumpkin spices are being added into everything now! In fact, many Michigan cider mills began opening this weekend for the holiday and the rest of Michigan’s harvesting season.
Decades ago, when my siblings and I were kids, I think that the main reason my Mom celebrated Labor Day was because it meant that we were going back to school the next day and Mom could start her vacation! The following is one of Mom’s syndicated editorial columns, written around August 1971 – she called it School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation.
FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
School Begins and so Does Mother’s Vacation
By Gloria Pitzer (Algonac, MI; Aug. 1971)
Never mind what the calendar says about the longest day of summer. It doesn’t really fall in June. It falls somewhere during the last week of August, as mothers everywhere breathlessly await the beginning of another school year!
When listening to a child lick a postage stamp in the next room begins to give me a headache and the cat seems to be stomping his paws and even my Mixmaster and my vacuum cleaner sound like mini bikes, I know it’s time for school to start.
This is what happens when you live with children who believe that the same door they left open all winter should be slammed all summer. And all I have to show for 10 weeks of summer, is a tape recording of 400 hours of the kids next door, gunning their motorcycles under my kitchen windows; which I felt would make a lovely remembrance for their mother who has been out, working in a pleasant air-conditioned office. Someday, she may want to know what she missed while her boys were growing up. I can tell her what she missed – migraines, excessive nervous acidity and hives, that’s what!
The first 8 weeks of summer rushed past us so quickly – it was like catching quicksilver in greased gloves. Suddenly, there was our 15-year old [son], telling us he needed back-to-school clothes; but, he’d like some new blue jeans that didn’t look like new blue jeans.
Honestly, I don’t know where you can buy new blue jeans with broken zippers, frayed hems, worn seats and patched knees. He [also] said he had wished he had bought his school shoes last month, so he could have had plenty of time to scuff up the toes and run the heels over before school started; then, nobody would accuse him of wearing Sunday school clothes.
It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that my Avon lady sends me a CARE package and my mother apologizes for not having had the children visit her more often before they had to go back to school. I receive fliers from the drug store advertising Christmas wrappings and ribbons, and you can’t find a 99-cent Styrofoam cooler anywhere in town for the Labor Day picnic you wish you didn’t have to attend, because any picnic with 5 children is no PICNIC!
It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that I’m ready to vote ‘yes’ in a school bond issue and school supplies that were on sale in July are being replaced on dime store counters by Halloween candy and costumes.
It is during the [unofficial] last week of summer that a neighbor stops by to see if he ever returned the lawn mower he borrowed from us and is disappointed when he learns he didn’t because he wanted to borrow it again!
Actually, the longest day of summer can make one weak – especially if she’s a mother!
To hear Mom tell it, we were ravenous little Tasmanian devils that ate her out of house and home! But, that was Mom’s kind of humor… cynical, sarcastic, satirical and mocking, like most stand-up comedians. She grew up inspired by the great ones of the 1940s, like Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Gracie Allen and George Burns, Sid Caesar and Mae West; then, in the 1950s, by the likes of Jerry Lewis, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Milton Berle, Lucille Ball, Jackie Gleason and so on.
Mom could see humor in almost anything. “They” say, in the comedy realm, that the best material comes from real life experiences! My mom had a way of taking our everyday life events and turning them into some great “fishing stories” – and, besides the written stories, she also illustrated humorous cartoon panels, which she called Full House, as kept by Gloria Pitzer, that depicted the essence of some of those stories as well! As the old adage goes: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Below is another comedic example from Mom’s No Laughing Matter editorials regarding our eating habits. Now, keep in mind, our mother was a really good cook (despite her sarcastic humor claiming otherwise) – so, of course, we were going to eat her out of house and home! There’s no date on this editorial, titled Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers! It would have been published in the mid-to-late 1970s, as it was signed as “Gloria Pitzer, Recipe Detective”.
As I have discussed in some of my previous blog entries, the title, “Recipe Detective”, was given to Mom in the mid-1970s by the listeners of Bob Allison’s Ask Your Neighbor radio show, of which Mom was an avid listener AND, eventually, a weekly guest with her Secret RecipesTM. But, it also could have been written, originally, in the early-to-mid 1970s; as Mom discusses her “15-year old” son in the first paragraph. My brother, Bill, was 15 in 1972; and my other brother, Mike, was 15 in 1974.
MORE FROM MOM’S MEMORIES…
Vittel Statistics – or How to Salvage Leftovers!
By Gloria Pitzer, Recipe DetectiveTM
In order to prevent our kids from eating us right into bankruptcy, I’ve been, literally, forced to salvage food in the refrigerator by trying to camouflage it. Just last week, I made a banana look like a ballpoint pen and hid a stack of sliced cheese in an old stationary box. When our 15-year old discovered them in the refrigerator, I assured him it was for writing letters to those people who deserved a cold shoulder from me.
Several [readers] have written, asking me what I do with leftovers. I realize leftovers can be a problem but, in my case, I can hardly remember what they’re like. With five, fully-powered, automatic food disposals, walking around disguised as ‘Problem Eaters’, this house hasn’t seen a leftover in years. Leftovers is not my problem – having enough to go around the first time is!
I keep telling them, ‘Please! Eat like there IS a tomorrow!’ But, they don’t listen. There was a time when I could have equated their appetites with a compliment to my cooking, but that was before I saw them eat [Kellogg’s] Pop Tarts© without removing the wrappers… They are problem eaters, alright; but, the problem is they never stop eating!
There are some things they will avoid, like brown spots on an apple, as well as the core and the stem. Neither will they eat parsley flakes or dry minced onions. The also have an adversity for whatever might be good for them, like green vegetables; which means it’s perfectly safe for me to conceal Twinkies© in a box [for frozen] Brussel sprouts or Nabisco’s [Nilla] Wafers in a box that once contained prunes.
I’ve even hidden Christmas cookies so well that it wasn’t until we went to a 4th of July picnic that I discovered them in the cold drink thermos. I’ve hidden Oreos© in a tall, brown jar marked ‘NOT TO BE TAKEN INTERNALLY!’ I’ve tried to salvage enough of tonight’s pot roast to make tomorrow night’s stew, by wrapping it in a damp towel and trying to pass it off, on a lower shelf of the refrigerator, as my ironing.
When I discovered the three empty quart bottles that had, only moments before, contained ginger ale; it wasn’t difficult to expose the guilty person. It was the one [from whom], when he opened his mouth, I could hear the ocean roar!
I tried to frighten them away from what is loosely termed JUNK, like chips and doughnuts and pizza snacks; but, they refuse to listen to how their teeth will rot and acne will make them unpopular.
Already, our 15-year old is supporting a 30-cents-a-day candy habit! [Note: In the early-to-mid 1970s, that was a LOT of candy!]
Just yesterday, in fact, I found the following reminder taped to the refrigerator: ‘Mom, we’re out of Pop Tarts again.’ I was very upset. The note had been written with the very last banana on the only slice of cheese!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading Mom’s and my humorous memories about our family and food! Next Monday, September 9th, is National “I Love Food” Day! So, I hope you’ll “tune in”, again, for more amusing food stories and …Memories of My Mom – plus, her famous copycat recipe for Johnnie Lega’s world-famous chili, as seen in her last book, Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective (Balboa Press; Jan. 2018).
To celebrate the beginning of football season, here are TWO recipes that Mom developed and published around 1972, in one of her Cookbook Corner syndications of editorials and recipes. I love the Pepper Casserole recipe for my low-carb lifestyle!
Gloria Pitzer’s Cookbook – The Best of the Recipe Detective is available, for sale, at $20.99 each through the publisher, Balboa Press, at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062252; eBooks are also available for $3.99 at https://www.balboapress.com/Bookstore/BookDetail.aspx?BookId=SKU-001062253