December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas from the Department Store

Before the May Department Stores Company bought up all of the regional department store chains there were a lot of locally owned stores all over the country. Foley's was the largest one in Houston. They had a nice downtown store which is now a Macy's.

I miss Foley's. They gave me my first credit card when I initially joined the workforce with a full time job. I still remember my first purchase using that card. I bought some outrageously expensive (or so it seemed) bath towels for my new apartment at the princely sum of $5 apiece. I still have a couple of those towels that are now used for dogs and cats. I guess I'm sort of sentimental about them. At 30+ years, they're a little worn.

It's likely that the residents of Akron, Ohio felt the same way about their O'Neil's as I did about my Foleys.

The Christmas window displays in the O'Neil's were a great favorite of the citizens of Akron. Although I never saw any of those original displays in person, I was fortunate enough to view some of the historical displays from the store at the Akron-Summit County library. (After a fruitless 20 minute search on my old ME computer, I am unable to produce the photos I took of the library displays. Perhaps those photos are in the large shoebox of undeveloped disposable film cameras on the shelf behind me. Anyhoo...)

Today's recipe booklet is a throwback to the days when companies actually performed nice little "Thank You" gestures towards their customers. No points or rewards cards where one wonders who's actually doing who the favor. Just a simple little gift to show their appreciation.

O'Neil's Favorite Recipes From Our Kitchen to Yours, at Christmastime (undated, 48 pp.) is a compilation of recipes from store employees at the main store and branch locations. I'm guessing that it was published sometime in the 1980's before the store was merged with May Company Ohio and the O'Neil's name was retired.

It has a cheerful, bright red cover and the recipes look like someone pounded them out on a typewriter (remember those?).

Inside the front cover is a simple Table of Contents: Entrees and Breads - pages 1-14; Salads and Hors d'oeuvres - pages 15-24; Desserts - pages 25-48.

There are no illustrations. The recipes are of the type that you might find in any community cookbook. Although this isn't a food company cookbook per se, it does fall under the category of advertising cookbook since I'm sure the costs for this went right to the advertising budget. If a previous customer of O'Neil's reads this and remembers receiving one of these booklets, give us a shout in the Comments. It would be interesting to hear how you came to own the booklet.

Each recipe has the first and last name of the employee who contributed the recipe, what department they worked in, and the store location. We can see that Charlene Miller in Loss Prevention worked at the downtown store and that her contribution was a Hummingbird Cake recipe. Hildegard Moyers, Candy Buyer, Downtown, contributed a recipe for Charlotte Chocolate. Love these details.

Jo Lawley, Vice President Sales Promotion, Downtown, contributed this recipe for Christmas Pound Cake:


3 cups sugar
1/2 lb. butter
6 eggs
3 cups cake flour
1 cup whipping cream
2 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
1 t. lemon extract

Cream sugar and butter thoroughly, add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour, a little at a time, and a little cream until all is blended. Add flavoring. Put into cold oven, turn temperature to 350° and bake for one hour or until a light brown crust forms on top. Use a well greased and floured tube cake pan.


After getting arm cramps and wasting a large amount of olive oil trying to master the art of making my own mayonnaise and garlic aioli, I got a chuckle out of this recipe for Homemade Mayonnaise contributed by Phyllis Gwinner, Stationery, the Richland store. I've not seen one quite like it before:


2 eggs, 2 tablespoons butter, 1/4 t. salt, 1 tablespoon prepared horseradish mustard, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1/4 cup white sugar.

Cook over low heat until mixture thickens. Cool. Add equal parts of Miracle Whip Salad Dressing to above and blend together with Carnation milk until consistency you want. Use on potatoes, macaroni salads, etc.


I suppose I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it, but it is a bit unusual.

Here's the rear cover of the cookbook.


At 4:54 PM CST, Anonymous Frances Rouse said...

Dear Kathy,
You captured the feelings for O'Neil's. I have so many wonderful memories of growing up in Akron. Having lunch in the O'Neil's dining room was always the topper for any shopping trip. They had a beautiful dining room, waitresses in full uniform, a hostess to seat you. The center display was very large and full of flowers.
Merry Christmas
Frances Rouse


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