Fresh vegetables just waiting to be popped into a lovely crisp salad, inspired Prudence Penny to plan a Spring Salad Show for tomorrow’s Bon Marché matinee at 2 o’clock.
Prudence Penny’s telephones are open from 8:30 until 5 with a staff of experts to help with any household questions. Just telephone Main 2000, the Prudence Penny department will be glad to assist. Read the daily feature and the Wednesday food pages for up-to-the-minute ideas and listen to the following menus discussed over KOMO daily at 12 o’clock:
SUNDAY: Banana, grapefruit and nut salad with cheese dressing is followed by pig knuckles and pineapple with rice and bean sprouts. Butterscotch meringue pie is the dessert.
Not an April Fool’s Day hoax, but an actual menu excerpted from one of the Prudence Penny clippings (minus date) found in a John Redington scrapbook. April 1st coincidentally was the date that Bernice Redington claimed to have begun working at the P-I and also is the anniversary of this blog’s first public post, so I felt doubly compelled to follow up on yesterday’s entry!
And in the don’t-try-this-at-home department, I must confess that in the course of compiling information on Bernice Redington I gave into the temptation of dialing the Prudence Penny telephone number. No one answered.
As Women’s History Month 2011 draws to a close, I bring to you part of the story of Puyallup-born journalist and home economist Bernice Redington (1891-1966). Bernice Redington first revealed herself while we were in the process of getting the scrapbooks of her father, John W(atermelon) Redington cataloged. A colorful character in his own right, John W. Redington was an enterprising jack-of-all-trades. He found a niche as a newspaperman in Oregon and Washington, along the way becoming the father of four daughters, each of whom (as clippings in his scrapbooks proudly attest) seemed to have had some involvement with journalism and/or writing at various points in their lives. Of the four, Bernice was the only one who never married and who remained the most connected with the Puget Sound region, although, like her father, she was quite peripatetic.
Bernice Redington began working for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1923, while attending the University of Washington part-time, where she apparently changed her major with some regularity. She had worked for a time as a dietitian for the Washington State School for the Blind in Vancouver, Washington and at Seattle advertising agencies before joining the staff of the P-I. She published a weekly food page and a daily column under her own byline for about two years, but her role began to expand during the time of Royal Brougham’s editorship of the newspaper (1925-1928). By the early 1930s, Bernice had added the moniker, “Prudence Penny” to her column, sometimes in tandem with her own name, sometimes on its own.
A pseudonym shared by numerous home economics columnists at various Hearst publications, Prudence Penny, was described in a 1924 article in Time Magazine, as “an institution through which Mr. Hearst dispenses good advice, human kindness, and valuable aid in exchange for the good will of prospective newspaper buyers.” The Seattle Prudence Penny department grew to be a quite large and profitable concern — at its height, the newspaper hosted its own “Dream Kitchen” on site, provided a daily radio broadcast each weekday morning (with suggestions for that evening’s menu), and required the services of eight women to handle incoming telephone calls.
It was exciting to try to learn more about the Prudence Penny phenomenon and to discover that we had two related items already cataloged in Special Collections, including Cosmopolitan Seattle, a 1935 edition of an earlier pamphlet that compiled recipes from a variety of “ethnic” and other restaurants. A quick perusal of the finding aids database also showed that there was some correspondence between Bernice Redington and Edmond S. Meany contained in the latter’s papers, which yielded two examples of Prudence Penny letterhead, the “Dream Kitchen Bulletin” (pictured above) and one for “Prudence Penny’s Recipe Studio.” A couple of digitized Prudence Penny photographs led Deidre and I to make a field trip to the MOHAI Library and Archives on a soggy day to try to see if we could turn up an elusive portrait of Bernice Redington in her Prudence Penny persona. Although we did not locate one, we were very fortunate to be shown an assortment of negatives from the Seattle P-I Collection which depicted the enormous crowds that attended Prudence Penny cooking schools and other events held in Seattle through the decades (thanks, MOHAI!).
Perhaps the most unexpected and informative discovery, however, was an interview with Bernice Redington conducted in 1959 that was housed in the Roger A. Simpson papers. The Redington interview was one of several that formed part of the research for the book, Unionism or Hearst (1978), a study of the American Newspaper Guild’s 1936 strike against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which Simpson co-authored with William E. Ames. As Bernice Redington recounts her own experience in the transcript, she had grown dissatisfied with working conditions at the P-I by the end of 1935, not having much of a say as the more experienced women on her staff were suddenly being replaced by lower-paid, less experienced ones. Perhaps sensing the writing on the wall, she decided to quit her P-I job to focus on finally completing her degree and quit abruptly in early 1936. Although she professed not to be much of a union sympathizer (“because my father was a small-town newspaper publisher and didn’t allow you to even mention the word unions”), she did testify before the National Labor Federation and supplied the “Molly Mixer” food columns for the Guild Dailynewspaper (put out by the Guild during the strike).
After receiving her degree, Bernice found employment for part of the year with the Ball Brothers (glass fruit jar) company and the rest of the time as a social worker in Kitsap County. She eventually left for Hawaii, where she returned to journalism, working for several publications, including the Honolulu Star Bulletin (1946-1948) and also completing an (unpublished) novel. She returned to Washington State in 1948 and became the head of the test kitchen for the Fisher Flouring Mills, also appearing on radio broadcasts for Fisher. She settled in Normandy Park, where she continued to do freelance writing and also was involved in community affairs until her death.
Although only a very partial portrait emerges from these few scattered facts, it seems pretty clear that Bernice Redington was a strong-minded woman who did her best to live up to the journalist’s credo she expressed in an interview so much later in her life. In addition to the materials at the UW, the University of Oregon Special Collections and University Archives also holds its own set of John Redington papers (AX 93), as well as a collection on Bernice Redington (AX 92), which contains correspondence on food preparation, fashion, and careers in home economics, as well as a number of cookbooks.
I couldn’t let Preservation Week go by completely unremarked, so I thought I’d share a snippet of some semi-forgotten history gleaned from the scrapbook cataloging project.
Charles T. Conover and Samuel L. Crawford were journalists, turned Seattle boosters and real estate tycoons at the close of the 19th century and start of the twentieth. The substance of their biographies (and scrapbooks) could take up several posts (and I may get around to it some day), but the archivist in me found the following incident in the life of Crawford (which is recounted slightly differently in other sources) to be of special appeal. As Conover (the longer-lived of the pair) recalled in his “Just Cogitating” column in the July 8, 1950 edition of the Seattle Times:
A dominant trait in my old partner, Samuel L. Crawford, was his unswerving loyalty to his friends and the things he believed in. … He had helped to nurture and sustain The Post-Intelligencer since its birth, had, at one time, been part owner, and in the great fire of 1889 he lugged the files of the paper up the hill to safety through the smoke and blistering heat before showing up at the office of Crawford & Conover to help salvage our effects.
Little did he know how it would turn out some 120 years later.
Recent additions to the University of Washington Special Collections include .21 cubic feet of materials relating to Scott C. (Cardelle) Bone, 1860-1936, a past editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and governor of Alaska Territory from 1921-25. Nellie L. Bruce of Tehachapi, California made the gift in August of this year; it supplements an earlier donation of Scott C. Bone items, dating 1909-1920.
According to the New York City American Press [December 1920], Scott C. Bone was, first and foremost, a newspaperman who firmly believed in government using paid newspaper advertising to talk to the people. He was “a curious chap [with] a mild, genial personality,” and his enigmatic smile was likened to that of da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” Bone was further described as a man who could not easily be disturbed, but someone who could stand in the middle of a furor and calmly read his home town newspaper as if nothing else were transpiring. A staunch and active Republican, Scott C. Bone professed that “fairness in handling political matter, in both news and editorial columns, is a prerequisite to the influence of any newspaper.”
In addition to serving as editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Scott C. Bone served as editor for the Washington Post and founded the Washington Herald, in which he wrote a tribute dated March 5, 1909 to Theodore Roosevelt after the end of his presidential term. It was during Bone’s tenure with the P.I. that he became interested in Alaska, particularly after taking the Alaska Tour of 1913, sponsored by the Alaska Bureau of Commerce.
Newly elected Governor Bone and his family reported to Juneau and were all quite surprised to find a stately three-story New England colonial mansion among rugged surroundings. President Harding told once told Bone: “Why Governor, your ‘White House of the North’ is finer than my own” [Marguerite Bone Wilcox, “Memories of the Mansion: A Governor’s Daughter Remembers Her Life in Juneau,” Alaska Journal, 1986 16: 42-47]. While in office, Scott C. Bone ordered a relay of dog teams to transport diphtheria antitoxin to Nome in order to fend off an epidemic during an outbreak of the deadly disease. This mission is now commemorated as the popular Iditarod sled dog race.
In his later years, Scott C. Bone wrote various accounts of his Alaskan experiences, some of which are also available at Special Collections. Well-meaning friends offered advice on Bone’s health after observing the aging newspaper mogul’s persistent sweet tooth and expanding waistline. “You are adding weight and consuming much candy,” one wrote to him in April 1932, advising that Bone cut meats and all sugar from his diet unless he wished to meet his demise. Four years later, Scott C. Bone died from a heart attack in Santa Barbara, California, apparently not heedful of his good friend’s advice.
Highlights of the most recent addition (1923-1932) to the Scott C. Bone collection include a manuscript: “Hugh Hamilton: A Tale of Two Capitals” (ca. 1930?), as well as personal and business correspondence, a brochure for a 1932 Alaska Tour, a newsletter and memorial service program for the Alaska Elks Lodge No.420, and a program, with seating chart, for a dinner held at the Gridiron Club of Washington D.C. on December 12, 1931.