2013: The Year in Review

In January, Barack Obama was inaugurated for a second term as president of the United States. Also in January, cyclist Lance Armstrong confessed after years of denial that he had used performance-enhancing drugs to win the Tour de France again and again.

March saw white smoke at the Vatican — and word of the election of a new pope for the world’s Roman Catholics.  On February 11, 85-year-old Pope Benedict XVI shocked the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics when he announced he was resigning for health reasons. It was the first papal resignation in nearly 600 years.

More than 100 cardinals from around the world traveled to the Vatican to elect a new pontiff, gathering in conclave to conduct their deliberations. While some expected a long wait, it was barely more than 24 hours before white smoke emerged from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina would become Pope Francis, the first non-European pontiff of the modern era and the first from Latin America.

Two crude bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, ripping through the crowd of runners and spectators. In the first major terrorism attack in the United States since 9/11, two pressure-cooker bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line April 15, killing three people and wounding 260 others.

Three days later, hours after the Federal Bureau of Investigation released surveillance photos of two suspected bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev led authorities on a hunt across Boston. Tamerlan was killed during one shootout; his younger brother, Dzhokhar, was wounded, and was later found hiding in a boat in a backyard.

Dzhokhar is expected to go on trial next year, charged with use of a weapon of mass destruction, a capital crime. Intelligence agencies and the FBI failed to prevent the plot despite tips from Russian authorities that the Muslim brothers had been radicalized.

Terrorism analysts are studying what may have caused the brothers to allegedly transform from young party-throwing American immigrants to suspected bomb-toting terrorists willing to attack their adopted country.

Many Americans thought 2013 would be the Year of Gun Control.

After the Sandy Hook massacre last December, a majority of the public favored tougher gun laws. But on April 17, efforts to expand background checks, ban assault weapons, and limit ammunition magazines failed in the Senate.

Within a week, two gunmen had killed nine people – in Federal Way, Wash., and Manchester, Ill. – and 2013 has seen gunmen commit six murders, including the Sept. 16 killing of 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.

More than 345 incidents have involved the shooting of at least four people. Headlines have ranged from a fatal Nevada school shooting, by a 12-year-old, to the accidental shootings of children as young as 2.

Obama has taken executive action on a host of issues related to gun violence, including flaws in mental-health policies. But the spike in demand for stricter national gun laws may have passed.

Polls this fall showed support hovering just below 50 percent.

More than 1,100 people died when the Rana Plaza garment factory collapsed in Dhaka on April 24. It was the worst disaster the country’s garment industry had ever seen and put a spotlight on the working conditions of labourers who make clothing for Western companies.

On May 20, thousands cowered in basements or fled in panic as one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore, tearing up horse farms and trailers with 200-plus-mile-per-hour winds before destroying dense clumps of blue-collar tract houses. The nearly mile-wide EF5 tornado stayed on the ground for 40 minutes and killed 23 people – including children who sought shelter in a school basement.

Days later another tornado, nearly as large, struck near Oklahoma City again, injuring and killing several professional tornado chasers.

The May 20 twister was not Moore’s first brush with big tornadoes. A tornado outburst in 1999 spawned a massive twister that took a nearly identical path through the town.

This time, the storm showcased Oklahomans’ deep storm experience and rapid response, while also bringing renewed attention to building standards.

On May 6, three women escaped a Cleveland home where it was discovered they suffered systematic sexual and emotional abuse for a decade or more. Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, kidnapped the women between 2002 and 2004.

A young girl, conceived as a result of rape, was also freed.

The event attracted international attention, not just because of the horrific conditions the women endured – they were often chained to a basement pole and forced to wear motorcycle helmets – but also because they were thought to be dead despite being within blocks of friends and family.

To prevent visitors from discovering his secret Castro fortified his home with locks, chains, and a homemade alarm system. He avoided a trial by pleading guilty to 937 criminal counts of kidnapping, rape, and assault, among other charges. One victim, Michelle Knight, told Castro at sentencing that she forgave him, but “can’t ever forget.”

He was found hanged in his prison cell in September, his death ruled a suicide.

In June, Edward Snowden sent shock waves around the world by leaking thousands of classified U.S. documents he had access to while working at the National Security Agency. The documents exposed an unprecedented program of surveillance on Americans and U.S. allies abroad.

Snowden may have leaked as many as 200,000 documents detailing surveillance programs with code names like XKeyscore, PRISM, and CO-TRAVELER. So far, documents show the NSA collecting “meta-data” on virtually all US phone calls for the past six years and about 5 billion cellphone records per day from overseas, including some of Americans.

They show the agency filtering global Internet traffic, including Google and social media.

Snowden’s crusade has spurred debate about privacy rights and surveillance: Congress is examining NSA practices, privacy lawsuits have been filed, and a White House panel would modify NSA practices.

Foreign governments are furious, while in polls, 74 percent of Americans say the NSA violated privacy. Snowden says he is “neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.” Others say he should be jailed for life.

Snowden was later granted temporary asylum in Russia.

The campaign to achieve equal rights for gays and lesbians gained momentum in 2013. The number of states fully embracing gay marriage rose from nine to 16, evidencing a significant shift in public opinion.

And on June 26 the US Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The 1996 law limited the receipt of a thousand federal benefits solely to those in marriages of one man and one woman. But in a landmark 5-to-4 decision, the justices invalidated the statute as a deprivation of “equal liberty” and “equal dignity.”

The decision stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Edie Windsor of New York City, who faced a $363,000 estate tax bill after the death of her lifelong partner, Thea Spyer. Had her spouse been a man, Windsor would have owed no tax.

The case left unresolved the broader question of whether the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage, or whether those rights will be decided on a state-by-state basis.

On July 13, a six-woman jury in Sanford, Fla., found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin.  The shooting of Trayvon and the subsequent trial of Zimmerman captivated America because the tragedy backlit twin racialized fears: the fear of young black men among some middle-class whites, and the fear among many black parents that violence against black children often goes unpunished.

The trial also invited intense reflection on several legal and cultural trends, including the proliferation of so-called stand-your-ground laws that allow armed citizens to shoot at the first hint of danger, and the rapid growth in the carrying of concealed weapons in public, as Zimmerman did.

The armed neighborhood watch captain had followed the unarmed teenager before claiming to fire in self-defense when the teen punched his pursuer. After the verdict, Obama suggested that Americans should ask themselves a question in honor of Trayvon: “Am I wringing as much bias out of myself as I can?”

It was a boy for Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton in July. Prince George Alexander Louis is third in line to the British throne. Prince George arrived on July 22, and took his rightful place as third in line for the British throne.

A flight from Seoul to San Francisco crashed on landing at San Francisco International Airport in July. The 288 passengers and 16 crewmembers rushed out of emergency exits as the plane filled with smoke and flames. Three passengers died and more than 200 were sent to hospitals.

This July marked the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloody struggle fought in Pennsylvania that marked a turning point in the Civil War in the summer of 1863.

Speaking of civil war August, government of Bashir al-Assad was accused of using chemical weapons against its own people in Damascus, Syria killing more than 1,400 men, women and children. Fueled by the Arab Spring, Syrian protests have devolved into a brutal civil war with more than 2 million refugees and 120,000 others killed in a country of 21.1 million.

The use of sarin, whose prohibition Syria had agreed to in 1993, nearly brought direct U.S. action. The  reports caused  an outrage around the world and led to Syria’s agreeing to U.N. supervision of its chemical weapons stock.

Peace talks have been scheduled for January 2014.

In September, a small band of Islamic extremists opened fire at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Seventy-two people were killed and more than 200 were injured.

The federal government’s health insurance website was launched — though just barely. On Oct. 1, President Obama took to the Rose Garden to tout Day 1 of HealthCare.gov, where buying health insurance would be just like buying “a plane ticket on Kayak or a TV on Amazon.”

Instead, the launch of the federal “Obamacare” site was a train wreck like few seen in the annals of government mismanagement.  Early enrollments were far below expectations.

Nearly wo months and a 24/7 emergency tech response later, the site was much better, but glitches remained, especially on the “back end” that produces forms for insurance companies.

Obama also stumbled over his oft-repeated promise that “if you like your plan, you can keep it.” When proved wrong, he allowed insurers to extend old plans for a year, though not all state insurance commissioners went along.

Enrollments have picked up, especially on state-run marketplaces. But the ACA, the signature initiative of Obama’s presidency, is still a work in progress.

Uninsured Americans have until March 31 to enroll without penalty. Obama’s legacy hangs in the balance.

In October, a partial shutdown of the federal government inconvenienced World War II veterans and anti-Obamacare supporters and dented an already weak economy. Nonessential operations started grinding to a halt Oct. 1 because Congress hadn’t passed a budget or done anything else to fund government for the fiscal year that began that day.

For House Republican hard-liners, a twin set of fiscal deadlines – the dawn of the budget year and the Treasury’s plea for Congress to raise the nation’s arbitrary ceiling on public debt – offered a rare moment of political leverage against Obama and Senate Democrats.

But the insurgents failed to win any tax or entitlement reform or to force a defunding of Obamacare. Instead it produced a 16-day shutdown.

Services deemed essential continued but the episode may end up paring the economy’s growth rate by 0.2 to 0.6 percentage points. A bipartisan two-year compromise budget passed the House with overwhelming support December 12.

Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones to ever hit land.

At first, the Philippines thought it might have dodged a bullet, as Haiyan — or Yolanda as it was known locally — moved rapidly over the archipelago. But when the storm blew ashore on Nov. 10, it flattened the central city of Tacloban, ripping homes to shreds, and left more than 5,000 people dead.

In November, Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, agreed to curtail the country’s nuclear program in exchange for the lifting economic sanctions, raising hopes for a new era of cooperation with Iran. And November 22 marked 50 years since John F. Kennedy was assassinated while driving in a motorcade through downtown Dallas.

When Nelson Mandela turned 95 in July, he was hospitalized in Pretoria for a recurring lung infection, and was placed on life support after his condition deteriorated. Released in September after a three-month stay, he died at his home in Johannesburg on December 5.

More than 91 world leaders, the largest gathering in the continent’s history, made their way to his memorial.

And also in December, the Federal Reserve Board announced that it will start to cut back on buying Treasury bonds because the economy is getting stronger on its own. At the same time, the stock market soared to record heights, up 25 percent for the year.

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Nevada’s 2013 in Review

From a historic expulsion, training deaths, a school shooting to the approval of drone development, the year 2013 saw Northern Nevada in the spot-light several times.

Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-Las Vegas, became the first legislator expelled in Nevada since statehood after a string of public incidents, bizarre behavior and arrests. Brooks was formally expelled from the legislature March 28th and arrested later that day after a highway chase.

Brooks was first arrested January 20 in Las Vegas for allegedly making threatening comments about Nevada Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. He was arrested a second time February 10th after allegedly attacking a family member and grabbing for an officer’s weapon in Las Vegas.

Brooks remains in jail in San Bernadino County, awaiting trial on felony charges stemming from the arrest.

Speaking of politics and because of its overwhelming population, Clark County has come to dominate the Legislature. A law mandating background checks for gun sales was passed but vetoed by Sandoval.

The Legislature also legalized medical marijuana dispensaries. A constitutional amendment to let voters decide to legalize gay marriage also passed.

Nevada’s state legislature only meets every other year for 120 days, and 2013 was the year. Perhaps the most significant thing was that the session was fairly free of nasty partisan rancor, an accomplishment in itself these days.

Due to term limits, there were numerous new members in both Senate and Assembly. Following the session, Governor Brian Sandoval signed 558 bills and vetoed 17.

On March 1st, it became known that thousands of mental-health patients have been bused out of a Las Vegas hospital with one-way tickets to California cities and other locations. San Francisco sued Nevada over it, saying it cost that city $500,000.

A California legislator called for a federal investigation. This led to an onslaught of criticism of Governor Brian Sandoval by the Nevada Democratic Party spokesman but nothing from top-ranking Democrats.

On December 18th, it was reported some of those patients committed crimes in other cities. Soon after that, Sandoval announced an 18-member, bipartisan Governor’s Behavioral Health and Wellness Council.

Seven Marines were killed in a training accident on March 18th when a mortar tube exploded near the Hawthorne Army Depot. Seven other Marines and a sailor were injured.

Hundreds of people gathered Hawthorne’s Veterans Memorial Park to memorialize the victims of the blast. The Marines came from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Three Marine Corps officers were relieved of their command following the incident. No charges were filed.

Courts across Nevada failed to send almost 2,000 guardianship cases involving those with mental illnesses to a database of people who are not allowed to have firearms, according to the final report on a statewide audit this year.

Nevada courts are required by law to send guardianship records to the Department of Public Safety so they can be added to the National Instant Background Check System, used during gun sales. But it was soon learned after a Reno police sergeant sold a private gun to a mentally ill man, that a glitch caused the courts to miss several cases.

In response, the chief justice of the Nevada Supreme Court ordered a statewide review.

The weekend of Mother’s Day saw the murders of five people, four in Fernley and one in Mustang. Jeremiah Bean is accused of killing Robert and Dorothy Pape, Eliazar Graham, and finally Angie Duff and her boyfriend Lester Leiber.

In September, Bean agreed to a plea negotiation with the Lyon County District Attorney’s office in which they would not seek the death penalty and drop several charges in exchange for his guilty pleas. However, during two arraignment hearings in October, Bean pleaded not guilty, resulting in a delay in criminal proceedings.

Since reneging on the original plea negotiation’s, the possibility of the death penalty being applied, if found guilty has been reinstated.

Barbara Vucanovich, the first woman elected to represent Nevada in Congress, died June 10. Vucanovich was 61 in 1982 when she launched her first political campaign, running for and winning the newly created Second Congressional District seat that represented all of Nevada outside of Las Vegas.

In Congress, she led the charge to repeal the 55 mph speed limit. As a breast cancer survivor, she championed issues related to research and early detection of breast cancer, often saying early detection saved her life.

Vucanovich was elected to seven consecutive terms, retiring at age 75 in 1996 and returning to Reno to be with her family. She remained a force in Nevada Republican politics until her death at age 91.

The Bison Fire was started by a lightning strike on July 4, 2013. This wildfire grew to 24,136 acres before it was contained on July 13.

It burned through rural areas of the Pine Nut Mountains, east of Minden and Gardnerville in Douglas County. Homes in Smith Valley were threatened for a time.

The only structures lost were some old and unused mining structures.

The Rim Fire was hundreds of miles away in California’s Tuolumne and Mariposa counties (including parts of Yosemite National Park), but it had a direct impact on life in the Truckee Meadows. Prevailing winds carried heavy smoke into northern Nevada, creating a choking and unhealthful pall over Reno and vicinity.

Many events and school outdoor activities were curtailed for several days until the air cleared. To the south, Carson City and Douglas County were similarly affected.

The blaze was started by an illegal campfire on August 17, 2013. By the time it was contained on October 24, 2013, the Rim Fire had become the third largest wildfire in California history and the largest ever in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

In October, developer and former lobbyist Harvey Whittemore was sentenced to two years in prison and a $100,000 fine after his conviction for using family and employees to make illegal campaign contributions Senator Harry Reid. It came at the end of a six-hour sentencing hearing.

Whittemore is appealing the conviction and the appeal is pending, but must surrender to authorities January 31, 2014, at the Herlong Federal Correctional Institution near Susanville. Meanwhile, Reid remains unscathed by the scandal.

Teacher Michael Landsberry lost his life trying to stop 12-year-old Jose Reyes from shooting his classmate’s jus’ after the first bell rang at Sparks Middle School, October 12. The seventh grader shot two students, then Landsberry in the chest, who died at the scene.

Reyes then turned the gun on himself with deadly results.

Landsberry, a member of the Nevada Air National Guard who retired from the Marine Corps in 1994, worked as an air transportation specialist. He also coached girl’s soccer and volleyball and boys basketball at Sparks High School.

Reyes’ parents say they still don’t know why the boy took the gun, which had been kept in a box above their refrigerator. Police have yet to conclude their investigation.

Reno found itself in the national spotlight once again following the shooting death of Bank of America customer, during a bank robbery.

Van McDuffie faces federal charges of bank robbery with use of a dangerous weapon causing death. He’s accused of killing 80-year-old retired Marine Charles Sperry, who tried to stop McDuffie from stealing $13,000 during the heist.

After months of political wrangling, a proposal to raise money for Washoe County school repairs went down in defeat without a vote before the Washoe County Board of Commissioners.

Four out of five commissioners said they couldn’t support the proposal to raise sales and property taxes for the repairs. A motion by Commissioner Kitty Jung to approve the tax package failed to get a second and died during the meeting in November.

The tax increasing authority was given to the County Commission by the 2013 Nevada Legislature.

After more than a half-century under the Ascuaga family control, Global Gaming & Hospitality in October announced it had purchased John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks. The new owners plan to keep the name on the facade and invest up to $50 million in the coming years to renovate the casino floor, restaurants, hotel rooms and entertainment venues.

The casino sold for $23.12 million.

Six people, including four children, survived sub-zero temperatures for two nights after their Jeep Wrangler tipped over in the Nevada wilderness near Lovelock.

About 200 searchers on the ground and in the air began looking for James Glanton, Christina McIntee and the four children the night they went missing, but the crews faced the rugged terrain in the ‘Seven Troughs Range,’ northwest of Lovelock.

Experts used cellphone tower information to help narrow the search area from thousands of square miles to hundreds. To survive, Glanton burned the Jeep’s spare tire and heated rocks to keep the interior of the vehicle warm.

In the early morning hours of December 17, a man from Lake Almanor, California, walked into a medical building on the Renown Regional Medical Center carrying a shotgun. He took an elevator to the third floor, walked through the reception area at Urology Nevada into the back office and opened fire.

Alan Frazier, who blamed a vasectomy he’d had in 2010 for a painful condition that plagued him for three years, shot and killed Dr. Garo Gholdoian. He critically injured Dr. Christine Lajeunesse and seriously injured 20-year-old Shawntae Spears, who was with a family member at the doctor’s office.

He then shot and killed himself.

In late December, the state made good on its all-out effort to snag a coveted spot as one of the nation’s six testing sites for the commercial development of unmanned aerial vehicles. The Federal Aviation Administration also selected Alaska, North Dakota, Virginia, New York and Texas as drone testing sites.

Nevada’s selection follows a two-year effort that involved elected officials at every level, the state’s higher education system, military partners and commercial drone operators.

Finally, the Reno National Championship Air Races announced it eliminated the position of longtime president and CEO Mike Houghton amid what it calls an ongoing effort to reduce overhead for the 50-year-old event at Reno Stead Airport. The board of directors will fulfill the CEO/president roles and responsibilities for the foreseeable future.

Houghton has held the top spot, since May 1998.

Barbara Jean Smith, 1935-2013

aunt barbara and mom

Barbara Jean Smith passed away peacefully, December 10, 2013, following a short illness. At 81, she was the eldest child born to Jack and Leola (Hufford) Olivera, February 14, 1932 in Rohnerville.

I knew her best as Aunt Barbara.

She is preceded in death by three of her siblings, Gary, Leora, and Margery, with Leona Luiz of Fortuna surviving. She also leaves behind in-laws Orville (better known as Ozzie) and JoAnn Smith as well as Albert Mendes. all of Fortuna.

Barbara graduated Fortuna High School in 1950 and in December of the same year married Adam Duncan Smith. Together they had five children; Dan Smith, Bonanza, Oregon; Pam Nickols (Mike) Talkeetna, Alaska; Kathy Frye (David) Zenia; Gary Smith (Janice) Palo Cedro; Steve Smith (Debbie) Mad River.

She also leaves behind numerous grandchildren, great grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and many friends. Aunt Barbara is to be interred at Ocean View Cemetery in Eureka.

Reflecting on Christmases Past

As I reflect back on the many Christmases of my lifetime, I recall several that were memorable. From new bicycles, to model airplanes and cars, to the last as a complete family in Klamath, there is something to be said about such reminiscences.

Many Christmas gifts were truly a surprise as I had a hard time coming up with things I wanted. One time in Eureka, we lined up to talk to one of Santa’s helpers and as I sat on the bench next to the man in the red suit and white beard, I couldn’t answer his one question: “So, what would you like for Christmas?”

Sitting there – silent, I thought as hard and as fast as an eight-year-old could. Finally, “A mechanical, wind-up Santa,” I announced.

After leaving the stage, I heard him tell his assistant, “What a weird kid.”

I walked away convinced Santa was real, as he was right about that one.

Worse yet, I got into a fight with a classmate that same year after he told me Santa Claus wasn’t real. After all, I had jus’ seen a TV show about ‘Santa’s Reindeer Farm,’ and they can say something’s true when it’s not, can they?

 

When the Christmas Flood flowed through the town site of Klamath in 1964, we lost everything and I was so worried Santa wouldn’t be able to find us. However, my brother and I woke up Christmas morning to a handmade tee-pee, a store-bought bow and arrow set apiece, a feather head-dresses from the Trees of Mystery and stockings filled with nuts, and orange, an apple and a large candy cane.

 

It was 1979, when I returned for a week of leave from the Air Force, home to visit my family for the holiday. Unbeknownst to any of us, my parents included, that Christmas would be the last one the entire family would celebrate together as we had done in years past.

Divorce is like that.

One of the most memorable happened when I was jus’ moving into adulthood. Anticipating fun-stuff like roller skates, walkie-talkies or a b-b gun, I received nothing but clothing, including a ‘stupid’ suit, that holiday.

It left me so upset I went into the pasture and hid beneath an old log bridge to cry. Later, that yellow-and-blue plaid suit (the same as my school colors,) my parents bought me, and I had hated so much at the time, became one of the most treasured gifts in my memory.

I wore it until it no longer fit and even then — I refused to give it away as a hand-me down, which was customary in our family.

 

Jus’ the year before I got nothing but several old, dried-out corn cobs and three large lumps of coal under the tree. Yes, I deserved it – as I had done a number of bad things – including helping to flood my classroom and causing the same class to suffer through sex-ed talks.

 

But perhaps my favorite Christmases were the parties tossed at the VFW’s Larson Hall. Families from all over the area gathered there to have dinner, sing and dance, decorate the tree and pass out gifts.

In 1969, the VFW threw a large shindig, with kids as far as the Klamath Glen, Requa and Crescent Hill coming to the celebration. That year I received the 1955 book, “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood,” by Howard Pyle.

 

Looking back, I must have read that book a hundred times. Furthermore, I think it touched off my life-long love of old tomes and other items commonly refer to as antiques.

As I’ve grown older, my needs have since far outstripped my wants. New underwear, tee-shirts and socks, perhaps a calendar or maybe a magnifying glass will be waiting for me this holiday.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Dog House


A combination dance hall, casino and restaurant, “The Dog House” was named in honor of a wire-hair terrier, named ‘Poochy.’ It opened in June 1935 at 130 North Center in Reno and remained open until April 1944.

During it’s time, “The Dog House” was one of the most patronized establishments in Reno. The club featured a wide assortment of entertainment including torch, hula, jazz, Oriental fan and strip-tease dancers, not to mention singers, musicians and magicians.

On January 1st, 1939, “The Dog House” closed and the building demolished. By April 1st of the same year, a new building had been built and it reopened for business.

The clubs gaming license was revoked in August 1939 by Washoe County District Attorney Ernest S. Brown.  ‘Shorty’ King and George ‘Shorty’ Coppersmith, who were operating the gambling, pled guilty to the charges and were each fined a $1,000, with King given an added six months in jail.

Owners, Phil Curti and Al Hoffman immediately filed to have the license restored, claiming they didn’t know anything illegal was taking place in the club. Gaming finally reopened in January 1940.

Curti and Hoffman closed “The Dog House” in April 1944, reopening it as the “Tropics,” a month later. In late 1944, the building was razed and the site is now part of the Cal-Neva’s parking garage.

Warning: Sugar Rush Alert!

At least twice a year, my wife make’s her mother’s fudge. She believes it comes from the recipe listed on the back of ‘Kraft Jet Puffed Marshmallow Crème’ since the 1950s.

The earliest mention of marshmallow crème comes from the 1896 cookbook, ‘Fannie Farmer’s Boston School Cook Book.’ However, it doesn’t give a recipe for marshmallow cream in this book, instead giving a concoction for a marshmallow.

‘Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book’ by Sarah Tyson Rorer in 1902, describes her recipe for a “marshmallow filling,” but not a true marshmallow crème. It wasn’t until fifteen years later that the first commercially produced marshmallow crème hit supermarket shelves.

The recipe below has been tweaked a little from what is on the back of the jar. This one doesn’t list walnuts or baker’s chocolate as part of the ingredients.

3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups chocolate chips
7 oz. marshmallow creme
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups mini-marshmallows

Line a nine-inch pan with foil. Bring sugar, butter and evaporated milk to a full boil in three-quart sauce pan on medium heat, stirring constantly.

Cook four minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees (Fahrenheit,) again stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate chips, marshmallow cream and vanilla, stir until melted, and then fold in mini-marshmallows. Pour into pan, spread to cover bottom of the pan.

Allow to cool completely, before cutting into desired squares.

The Sugar Cookie Recipe

Jeanie is a former neighbor of mine from Klamath. My family moved into the house next to the Arnold’s in January 1965 and remained there until September 1967.

She is a retired Professor from the University of Southern Nevada, living in rural Northern California. She also writes a cooking and gardening blog at gardenforestfield.com

What she shares is proof to me about what I’ve said all along: We all carry with us a piece of history,  if only we choose to have an open mind and to seek it out.

As far as I can recall they came from my Grandma on my Dad’s side. They were in a cookbook put together by the ‘Women of the Fort Dodge (Iowa) Lutheran Church’ which was published sometime between the end of the Great Depression and World War II.

The recipe refers to oleo which is short for oleomargarine, which was widely used during the 1940s. It involved mixing a yellow coloring into the margarine to make it look butter-like and more palatable.

She writes: “Coral Young Hawley, you are not the only messy cook around here! I thought you and Tom Darby would get a kick out of this old recipe. It is Tommy’s mother’s sugar cookie recipe.”

“My mom loved those cookies, and one day, she sent me over to Tommy’s house to copy down Marge’s recipe. I must have been about 8 or so, judging by my printing.”

“I have been using this recipe for almost 50 years! It is the best sugar cookie recipe ever, and the kids and I are making them next week for Christmas cookies, as we do every year.”

“It’s a testament to old paper that this recipe is still readable! I now have it in a page protector in my tenure binder cookbook.”

“Oh, and by the way, this recipe’s age (beyond my 50 years of using it) is testified to by the use of “oleo” as the fat. For those who don’t know, this refers to oleomargarine.”

“It became popular or widely used during the food rationing of WWII. A friend of mine remembers mixing the yellow coloring into the margarine to make it look like butter.”

“I grew up using margarine for everything, but of course I don’t use it any more. However, for this recipe, I usually use half shortening and half butter.”

“Also, using half powdered sugar and half flour to roll out the cookies is key. They stay sweet and crisp when baked.”

Thank you, Jeanie for bringing this home.