Eveline’s Senior Year: Root Beer on the 4th

I shared a photo of my grandmother Eveline Coates’ high school graduating class in Mystic, Iowa a few weeks (now months!) ago. Along with the photo and her diploma, a couple of other mementos were saved. One is the program for the Junior-Senior Banquet in honor of the graduating Seniors. It was interesting to see how World War I seemed to be the overarching theme of the festivities. I decided to take a deeper look at what her life may have been like during the 1917-1918 school year. There was a lot going on, a war and the beginning of an influenza pandemic to name the two biggiesSee:
Eveline’s Senior Year, Part 1
Eveline’s Senior Year: The Draft and a Carnival
Eveline’s Senior Year: A Look Around Town
Eveline’s Senior Year: Musical Notes
Eveline’s Senior Year: Smallpox
Eveline’s Senior Year: What Are You Serving?

It is Independence Day weekend in the United States, which got me thinking about something my mother wrote about her childhood.

Memories written by Doris Hoskins Hockensmith, undated

We used to have family gatherings a grandma Coates’, especially holidays like July 4th. We would make home-made ice cream and grandma made root beer which was always cooling in the cave.

Eveline was my mother’s mother and “grandma Coates” was Eveline’s mother. It made me wonder if Grandma Coates started making root beer for her own children and family when Eveline was a girl – possibly for the 4th of July in 1917 and 1918.

Unfortunately, we don’t have a family recipe for root beer saved among the recipe cards. But a quick google search led me to several recipes and images – mostly of advertisements and recipe booklets for yeast. Below is the cover and list of recipes from Fleischmann’s in 1917.

Recipes: White Bread, Quick Method; White Bread, Sponge Method; White Bread, Over-night Method; Graham or Whole Wheat Bread; Bran Bread; Oatmeal Bread; Gluten Bread; Raisin Bread; Nut Bread; Parker House Rolls; Tea Biscuit; Tea Rolls; Dinner Rolls; Lunch Rolls; Wheat Muffins; Graham Muffins; English Muffins; Oatmeal Muffins; Cornmeal Muffins; Potato Biscuit; Potato Buns; Sally Lunn; Waffles; Wheat Griddle Cakes; Buckwheat Cakes; Plain Frosting; Currant Tea Ring; Children’s Buns; Sweet French Buns; Hot Cross Buns; English Bath Buns; Oven Scones; Zwieback; Cinnamon Cake; Apple Cake; Doughnuts; Coffee Cake; Toast; Bread Crumbs; Steamed Bread; Steamed Bread Pudding; Brown Betty; Savarin; Rum Sauce; Refreshing Summer Drinks; Lemon Pop; Root Beer; Kumyss; Dandelion Wine.

Fleischmann’s Yeast even included a poem about root beer in a pamphlet.

Root Beer, the finest summer draught
That ever slaked man’s thirst,
By grateful millions daily quaffed,
As made by matrons versed,
Owes all its life – and ’tis a feast,
To Fleischmann’s Peerless Compressed Yeast.

The Yeast Foam Company used this attractive ad and recipe.

accessed from Pinterest

Old Thyme Recipes blog shares this recipe from a 1915 Fleischmann’s pamphlet:

Root Beer

1 cake Fleischmann’s Yeast
1 bottle root beer extract
5 gallons fresh water, slightly lukewarm
4 pounds granulated sugar

In extremely hot weather use one-half cake of Yeast.

Dissolve the sugar in the water, add the extract, then the Yeast thoroughly dissolved in a little water, mix well and bottle immediately, using strong bottles or jugs, and tie the corks in securely. Set in a warm place thirty-six to forty-eight hours; in cold weather, a little longer. Then remove to cellar or other place of even temperature, but do not put it on ice until a few hours before using.

I’m tempted to give it a try, but maybe a smaller batch! McCormick has two recipes on their website – one that uses yeast and one that doesn’t, if you’re game.

This was also the time of the Temperance movement and root beer was promoted as a tasty alternative to alcohol. And in mining communities like Mystic, where they sometimes referred to their community as “little Chicago,” I imagine it was hoped that root beer would slake the thirst of hard working miners.

In August of 1917, shortly after the United States joined WW1, the United States Food Administration (USFA) was created to focus on food rationing for the greater good. Restrictions on sugar were especially pronounced. “Sugar Means Ships” stated one popular poster. While Eveline’s mother may have served her family root beer on July 4, 1917, it is less likely that she did for July 4, 1918. (More on food and cooking in a future post.)

My mother and her mother (Eveline) always loved ice cream. When my mom and I lived with Eveline and my grandfather Tom Hoskins, grandma would order her groceries to be delivered on Saturdays. Every Saturday there was vanilla ice cream (Grandma’s favorite treat) and root beer (Grandpa’s favorite treat) after supper. Saturday was a good day!

Oh yes – about that cave … when my mother said the root beer was stored in the cave, she was referring to the cellar where they kept potatoes, canned goods, and so on. Not a real “cave” cave.

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday, where the prompt photo encourages imagination. I encourage you to pay a visit!


Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

Eveline’s Senior Year: Musical Notes

I shared a photo of my grandmother Eveline Coates’ high school graduating class in Mystic, Iowa a few weeks ago. Along with the photo and her diploma, a couple of other mementos were saved. One is the program for the Junior-Senior Banquet in honor of the graduating Seniors. It was interesting to see how World War I seemed to be the overarching theme of the festivities. I decided to take a deeper look at what her life may have been like during the 1917-1918 school year. There was a lot going on, a war and the beginning of an influenza pandemic to name the two biggiesSee:
Eveline’s Senior Year, Part 1
Eveline’s Senior Year: The Draft and a Carnival
Eveline’s Senior Year: A Look Around Town

Italian Street Musicians, 1877 – LSE Collection On Flickr Commons (Sepia Saturday 618 Prompt)

The town of Mystic, Iowa, where my grandmother Eveline Coates was born and raised, was a community that included many immigrants lured by the coal mining boom in the early 1900s. The 1910 census of Mystic details residents born in England, Scotland, France, Belgium, Italy, Germany, Wales, Canada. Poland, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Russia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Cuba. A few of those countries were represented by only one resident – but certainly this was a diverse community given that the population in 1910 was 2,663. Eveline’s parents were members of the immigrant community as well, having been born in England.

I inquired about photos of the bands in Appanoose County in a Facebook group and was told that there is a photo of a Mystic Italian band. The poster promised to share it. I am waiting. That would have been the perfect match to the prompt photo. Oh well…

The nearby town of Rathbun included a significant community from Croatia and had a Croatian band. I haven’t found a picture of that band either. Below is an undated photo of the band from nearby Brazil, Iowa.

Brazil, Iowa band. Accessed from Facebook

The county seat was (and is) the town of Centerville, connected to Mystic by the Interurban. The Centerville band gave frequent concerts and the band also traveled to the smaller towns in the county to provide musical entertainment, often on special occasions. It is not unreasonable to wonder if Eveline might have gone to Centerville and heard the Centerville band perform or have taken in some other musical entertainment there.

Centerville was often the site of traveling carnivals, which seem to always have included a band that gave daily concerts. Dano’s Greater Shows featured an Italian band, the bandleader’s name misspelled in the advertisement that ran repeatedly in the newspaper. I think it should be D’Andrea or D’Andreas.

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 12 July 1917
Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 20 July 1917

Eveline must have heard the Centerville Band perform in Mystic – during Memorial Day festivities, for example:

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 11 June 1917

Maybe Eveline heard the Centerville Band at a fundraising gathering hosted by the Red Cross later that June.

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 22 June 1917

Of course, most of the local high schools had bands and I can easily imagine that Eveline attended most of the events where the Mystic High School Band performed.

The booklet History of Mystic, Iowa 1887-1987 includes a photo of the Mystic Symphony (sometimes referred to in the newspaper as “Mystic’s little orchestra”).

History of Mystic, Iowa: 1887-1987

The caption dates the photo as 1919 and provides the names of the members, who were of primarily French and Belgian ancestry. The symphony musicians appear to encompass a wide range of ages – from children to young adults. I think there is more than one family of Pirottes included, but I haven’t put in the work to verify my suspicions.

In 1916, a Victor Pierrotte, perhaps father of the Victor in the symphony photo, is reported to have leased space in the Lyric Theater to show movies and is described as “one of the band boys” who is willing to show up and play upon request.

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 1 July 1916

Victor Joseph Pirotte and Victor Emile Pirotte became naturalized citizens in January of 1920, so perhaps this adds credence to my father/son theory. If that is the case, they were both “band boys.”

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 27 January 1920

George Pirotte, standing next to Victor in the symphony photo, seems to have unwittingly lived without benefit of marriage vows for two years, possibly not having a clear understanding of the laws and customs of his adopted home. Oops!

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 26 May 1920

Members of the Mystic Symphony shared their musical talents in a variety of settings. In April of 1917, Lizzie Coster, Clemetine Pirotte, Constance Van de Van, and Victor Pirotte, all performed as soloists or as part of a duet at a meeting of the Foresters of America – and were likely members of the school orchestra.

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 25 April 1917

Newspaper clippings reveal connections between members of the symphony and my families – none specifically to Eveline, but to her siblings, her future husband, his sister, and probably some cousins. Also, one of the Pirotte families lived on a lot adjacent to Eveline’s family. Below, Eveline’s younger siblings Bernard and Blanche, were recognized for perfect attendance at school along with a Rampelberg, a Pirotte, and two Costers.

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 4 June 1919

Eveline’s future husband, Thomas Hoskins, attended a party of the Junior Philatheas of the Christian Church, and so did Victor Pirotte.

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa, 26 Feb 1920

Eveline’s younger sister Blanche and future sister-in-law Ethel Hoskins, attended normal school in Cedar Falls with Felicia Pirotte, and Lizzie and Clemence Coster. They travelled back home together for the holidays.

Centerville Daily Iowegian and Citizen, Centerville, Iowa,

Looking into the musical ensembles and their members provides one more little glimpse into the life of my grandmother. I have never heard that Eveline played a musical instrument, but music was integral to her community and, by extension, to her. These school mates and classmates grew up together, had siblings who were friends, attended many of the same activities, and were simply well-known to one another. The diverse backgrounds among her friends and classmates would have greatly influenced Eveline’s experience of her town and shaped her outlook on the the world at large.

Visit others who have written and shared old photos in response to the prompt photo here: Sepia Saturday.

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

Sepia Saturday: Christmas 1959

Sepia Saturday provides bloggers with an opportunity to share their history through the medium of photographs. Historical photographs of any age or kind become the launchpad for explorations of family history, local history and social history in fact or fiction, poetry or prose, words or further images. If you want to play along, sign up to the link, try to visit as many of the other participants as possible, and have fun.

I thought I was going to tell the story of the family tinsel tree, but when I looked for pictures, I found a before-the-tinsel-tree photo and, well … I changed my mind,

This is a photo of my mom and me on Christmas morning in 1959. We lived with my grandparents in Ottumwa, Iowa. The big dark brown square on the left is the coal burning stove for heat, although its warmth didn’t reach the upstairs. The green curtain provided limited privacy for my grandparents’ bedroom. The wall paper changed every few years as coal stoves tend to make things dingy. The door and wood trim was stained or painted dark and varnished. The big black and white television is on the right – shoved over a bit to make room for the tree. I could be holding a stuffed animal, but I’m not sure. I wonder what was in that tall package leaned up against the door? My first thought is that it is a room divider. The only running water was a cold water tap in the kitchen. Bathing occurred while standing at the kitchen sink surrounded by a folding room divider for privacy. But it could be something entirely different and fun. It looks like the tree has a silver bead garland and some tinsel. The tree topper seems a little unusual – a dark-haired angel surrounded by red?

Another photo taken that morning shows the other side of the room. Hmm – different wallpaper. Christmas cards hung on the wall and tucked in the picture frame. Unwrapped presents cover the couch. And there is my Grandpa Hoskins. This was obviously the year he suffered a serious injury to his hand at the meat packing plant where he worked. Grandpa had to go to Chicago for a few months for rehab and I missed him terribly while he was gone.

Later that day we changed out of our pajamas and combed our hair and my Uncle Roy, Aunt Joan, and baby cousin Cherie came over. Cherie was born in 1959, so that is how I was able to date this series of photos.

All of the family that lived nearby came for Christmas dinner. I love seeing my grandmother’s smile in this photo.

We always ate off of Grandma’s Blue Willow china on holidays. From left to right are my Grandfather, Aunt Vicki, Uncle Mont, Mom, me, Cherie, Aunt Joan, Aunt Wilma, Uncle Don, and Grandma. Uncle Roy must have been the photographer. The black formica table is covered with a tablecloth. It looks like I am taking a big helping of mashed potatoes. I will make a little well in the center for a big pat of butter. There is cream on the table for Grandpa’s coffee and he and Grandma are not using the matching Blue Willow cups, but the ones they used every day – Grandma’s would hold tea rather than coffee. Grandma’s sewing machine usually sat under the shelf below the mirror. I wonder where it is?

This next photo was taken the same Christmas, as evidenced by baby Cherie. We are with our cousin Deb, at her house in Ft. Dodge, Iowa.

My hair is fixed in the ringlets my mom managed to create once a week for Sundays and  special occasions. Cherie is too busy to pose for a photo. Since my mom worked at Sears, I always assume that items like matching dresses were something she saw at work and suggested or just got for all of us as gifts. If Deb or her mom see this, maybe they can add to my memories.

Well, that’s my little stroll through five photos documenting one Christmas.

Christmas in 2020 is not what we hoped it would be. It is likely that many of our family photos will be heads in “zoom boxes” rather than loved ones gathered around a table together. In whatever form it takes, I hope this holiday season brings you moments of joy and peace and the sharing of love.

Please visit my Sepia Saturday neighbors here to see what they have shared for us.

Edit: July 7, 2021 – I figured out that the first two photos were from 1958 – the year before my cousin was born, based on some additional photos. Doesn’t change much, but best to be accurate!