Wednesday, December 27, 2006

New Year’s Pretzel

The tradition of the New Years Pretzel appears to date from the turn of the 20th century in Sandusky. As the city of Sandusky grew, it was home to a very large German population. Sandusky had German neighborhoods and even supported a German language newspaper or two. It was the strong influence of the German community that brought about a holiday tradition known to very few communities.

The New Year’s Pretzel is different from the pretzels we know today. It is soft and made from an egg dough, and instead of being sprinkled with salt, it is washed with a glaze. The finished product is chewy. The pretzels were anywhere from 15 to 36 inches across and were made by a number of bakeries in Sandusky, including Becherer, Frank’s (pictured here, at 834 Columbus Ave.), Knoerle, Feddersen, Kanzler, Schweinfurth, Michel, Smith’s, Sandusky Baking, H & S, Park, and others.

The pretzels are usually eaten for breakfast on New Year’s Day. Wilbert Ohlemacher recalled that his father would hang the pretzel by a ribbon from the gas chandelier over the dining room table. He would cut the ribbon and then cut the pretzel into smaller pieces for everyone in the family. When the custom was practiced in early Sandusky, the pretzels were often decorated with intricate braids made from the same dough.

There are a few different theories about the origins of the German New Years Pretzel. One is that they were first baked by monks in Southern Germany as a reward for children who learned their prayers. Thus they were shaped to represent the crossed arms of a child praying.

Another story is that the circular shape of the symbolic loaf is derived from the old calendar sign for the winter solstice, which was a circle with a dot in its center. The central cross was added to represent the four seasons.

Yet another story tells of German citizens parading through the streets with pretzels piled onto long sticks, and groups of people would go calling on friends and relatives and exchange pretzels instead of greetings.

While the exact origin is unknown, the New Years Pretzel is fondly remembered by countless residents of Sandusky.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Scenes of Christmas in Sandusky

Some scenes from past Christmases in Sandusky. . . . The children above are opening their presents in 1938.

These Christmas trees were from around 1900. It looks like the child was enjoying her Christmas. (I think Santa Claus was, too.)

A Christmas tree from 1905, and another from 1938.

A view of Columbus Avenue in downtown Sandusky, circa 1935.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas Traditions in Sandusky

Sandusky, like much of the United States, did very little to celebrate Christmas and the winter holidays in the early part of the 19th century.

Ohio became a state in 1803, and the City of Sandusky was platted in 1818. In 1818, and for many of the following years, Sandusky was still on the edge of the wilderness, gradually becoming an established city. Sandusky grew along with the nation, and as the nation grew, it established holiday traditions.

These traditions have certainly evolved over time. An 1818 resident of Sandusky wouldn’t recognize our holidays of today, and vice versa. Christmas in the early 19th century was usually just another day, perhaps marked by a visit to church, or reading a few passages from the bible. No holiday decorations were put out, or special meals prepared. However, as the 19th century progressed, so too did the celebration of Christmas.

A study of the Sandusky Register and ads and announcements related to the Christmas holidays (or the lack thereof) offer insight in to how Sanduskians marked the day. In 1822, 1824 and 1825, the papers on Christmas Eve Day and Christmas Day are like the papers preceding and following—no mention of Christmas whatsoever. No newspapers from the 1830s are extant, however no mention of Christmas appears in the 1840s until Christmas Day 1849, when an announcement in the Sandusky Clarion stated “We wish you all a Merry Christmas.” This is also the first time that advertisements for holiday gifts appear in the newspaper: suggested by the advertisers are feathers (from a milliner), books and toys. These ads are small and one must read through the entire paper to find them.

In 1851, a lengthy ad mentioned a variety of book titles that would make suitable gifts Another long ad proclaimed “We beg leave to call the attention of the Ladies of Sandusky City and vicinity to our stock of Fancy goods just received from New York.”

Also in 1851, we find a mention of Santa Claus—“Santa Claus Head-Quarters! At the Music and Variety Store!” A few years later, in 1853, the paper published a short story entitled “TOPPS FASHION’S Christmas Eve Adventures,” which was written expressly for the Sandusky Register. An ad later in that paper suggested several different items for Christmas including silver plate tea sets, coffee urns, cake baskets, sugar and butter dishes, fish knives and forks, candlesticks and more. Paper mache items such as work boxes, backgammon boards, glove boxes and ink trays were for sale, along with rosewood cases, Parian marble statues and figurines, terra cotta ware, porte monnaies in silver, gilt, pearl, velvet silk and more. A wide variety of games were advertised, many of them unknown to us, including Uncle Tom, Peter Abroad, Sham Fights, bell and Hammer, What do you Buy, Fox and geese, lots, domino’s mansion of happiness, reward of virtue, doct. Busby, Tivoli boards, puzzles, magic lanterns, flags of all nations, dissecting maps, ninepins, backgammon boards and more. In addition, ads mentioned tea trays and cutlery.

An 1852 ad from William Burnet announces the latest selection of French and German toys. While most of these are familiar to us today, it’s unlikely to find many of these items on a 21st century child’s Christmas list.
Magic Lanterns
Building blocks
Butcher shops,
Noah’s Arks
Horse and Drays
Bows and Arrows

By 1908, holiday editions of the Sandusky Register of packed full of advertisements meant to catch shoppers’ attention. J. Mertz’s eye catching ad, surrounded by holly and topped off with St. Nick proclaims “This store is asparkle with hints for Xmas Gifts. Our goods are selected with a forethought to your needs, arranged with consummate skill for easy choosing, priced with rare business judgment for quick selling. A few dollars will buy more solid comfort and real enjoyment now than was ever known since the first coming of “Kris Kringle” Other ads shout out “Only 20 shopping days left between now and Xmas” just as they do in modern times!

Friday, December 01, 2006

E.B. Ackley — Musician, Bandleader

In Sandusky, E.B. Ackley is fondly remembered as a band leader. He led a rich life that took him all over the country before finally settling in Sandusky. He was born November 1, 1871 in Illinois. Ackley came from a musical family, and took up the cornet at 12. He studied with Carl Kaltenborn of New York who had been the solo cornetist with Gilmore’s famous band for 12 years. At one time, Ackley enjoyed the reputation of being one of the best B flat cornetists in the country.

Before arriving in Sandusky, Ackley traveled the continent with different groups. He spent a season with the Hattie Bernard Chase Company and a season with the Great Eastern Show, a season with the Floyd Concert Company. He spent a season in Omaha, Nebraska with the Farnham Street Theater, as well as a season in Youngstown at the Grand opera House. When he came to Sandusky he spent several seasons at the Nielson Opera House.

As a young man, he worked for the Gorman Minstrel Show and traveled all over the country. Fred Baumann, of the Great Western Band, heard Ackley Perform and brought him to Sandusky. This was shortly before the Great Western Band dissolved. Ackley then created his own band. He arrived in Sandusky in 1893 and worked as the director of music at Cedar Point and as the instructor of the Sandusky Band and Orchestra. He wrote the Cedar Point March in 1902, the first piece of music dedicated to the resort.

In 1898, Eugene Ackley joined Professor Leon’s Military Band of Toledo and took part in the inaugural exercises in Columbus at the State Capital for the inaugural exercises of the second term governor Asa Bushnell.

E.B. Ackley married Ida Frohman in 1904. For many years, he ran a successful billiard parlor equipped with twelve tables. At the time of his death in 1957, he was the chairman of the board of the Western Security Bank. He is buried at Oakland Cemetery.