Families in days gone by probably spent more time at home together than what we do today, not only working together, praying and playing together, but also waiting together. After Grandma spent most of the afternoon filling the house full of delicious smelling aromas, we all had to wait around impatiently for her to tediously mash up a mess of it for the baby before we were allowed to come to the evening table.

In 1927, Daniel Gerber decided it was high-time to do something about that little inconvenience. So, Gerber teamed up with his family canning business to produce and market the first family friendly baby food available without a prescription. Within the first year on the market, tens of thousands of jars of the economical, tasty, and nutritious strained fruits and vegetables were purchased by families much like our own.

Before television, there was radio, and sometimes the family would sit around together in front of the radio, much as we do today in front of the television. With the popularity of radio throughout the country during the 1920s, not only did our folks embrace the talking box, but so did the neighborhood restaurants. They were the first to begin sponsoring favorite shows in order to gain new customers. Advertisements of everything from Ovaltine to Pepsodent Toothpaste vied for airtime in between the programs. Radio made news available to a wider audience. Even President Franklin Delano Roosevelt used radio to reach the masses with his fireside chats.

As the familiar strains of the William Tell Overture filled the living rooms, families gathered around to hear the latest adventures of Tonto and the Lone Ranger and his trusty horse, Silver.

Debuting in 1933, “The Lone Ranger” reigned as America’s best loved Western for 22 years. Other favorite radio-shows included “The Shadow,” “Amos n’ Andy,’ “The Great Gildersly,” a game show called “Quiz Kids,” and everyone gathered around the radio to listen to Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers.

When not listening to the radio, children enjoyed playing marbles, reading about Dick Tracy or Little Orphan Annie in the comics, and going to bed cuddled up with their Teddy bears, named for President Teddy Roosevelt. Most little girls had their rag dolls made by their grandmothers.

In 1900, Joshua Lionel Cowen put his inventiveness together with miniaturization and electricity to build a toy train for a department store display. To Cowen’s surprise, the store quickly sold the electric train, and promptly ordered six more. Cowen began producing catalogs to sell his tiny locomotives, depots, and tunnels, and his business boomed. Soon Lionel trains were running around sofas and coffee tables in countless living rooms throughout America.

The first breakfast cereal on the market was the pillow-shaped biscuits of shredded wheat, which was introduced in 1892 by a lawyer named Henry Perky. In 1901 the lawyer built his shredded wheat bakery near Niagara Falls. By the time Nabisco got involved, a picture of Niagara Falls graced each box.

The Hershey Bar was the nation's first candy bar and still my favorite. Milton Hershey was already a candy maker, but his place in chocolate history was secured after he was introduced to chocolate-making machinery at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition.

The Tootsie Roll followed closely on the heels of the Hershey Bar, the Baby Ruth, and then the Oh Henry! bar. Incidentally, the Baby Ruth bar was not named for famed baseball player. The candy bar, which was introduced in 1920, was named for President Grover Cleveland's lovely little girl, baby Ruth. But, I have absolutely no idea who Oh Henry was.

Reference: “The Century,” by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster.

To reach Ted W. Stillwell send e-mail to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.