“When I think of Christmas, I automatically think of working at Liebermann’s our store which Grandfather started in 1893. I can’t say I enjoyed working there – in fact, I used to look forward to dental Appointments. It was hard work, especially at Christmas when customers would be lined up three deep sometimes – they could be nasty. There were days when we got there at 8:30 am and didn’t leave until 9:30 at night. Sunday, when we were closed, we wrapped. There were always hundreds of billfolds that had been marked with names in gold and there were piles of phone book covers. One year, there were 150 ice buckets. Every item had to be wrapped in tissue paper. It was tough work – but it had its moments.”
-A Downtown Saginaw Christmas – 1948, Written by Jean Rockwell Beach.
This week’s sculpture – we mean recipe – is by Elizabeth Liebermann Rockwell, the mother of Jean R. Beach, who co-authored the cookbook Savoring Saginaw with Pat Shek. Jean was an artist whose work was perceptive and often incorporated her keen sense of humor. It isn’t too hard to imagine why she included her mother’s inventive and playful holiday salad.
While doing research, we found Elizabeth Liebermann Rockwell’s obituary, which eloquently recounts her life:
Rockwell, Mrs. Elizabeth Liebermann, Saginaw Michigan
Passed away Wednesday, May 7, 1997, at Hoyt Nursing Home; age 94 years. Elizabeth Liebermann Rockwell was born in St. Clair Michigan September 16, 1902, daughter of the late Nettie B. and Julius R. Liebermann. The family moved to Saginaw in 1918 so that Mr. Liebermann could actively manage the Liebermann Trunk Company which he had founded in 1893. Elizbeth Liebermann was a graduate of Saginaw High School, Rogers Hall in Lowell, Massachusetts and the University of Michigan where she was affiliated with Kappa Delta Sorority, Pi Lambda Theta education honorary, Mortar Board and Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation she taught English for one year at Alma High School. While working on the Michigan Daily, she met Hiel M. Rockwell and they were married in 1926. Mrs. Rockwell was a founder of the Saginaw Branch of Kings Daughters and Sons, was a life member and was especially interested in the Order’s Camp Missaukee at Lake City, Michigan. She was also a member of the Michigan Alumnae Association, A.A.U.W. and First Congregational Church Women’s Fellowship. She joined First Congregational Church in 1919 and was one of its oldest and most faithful members, named in 1983 as its ‘most unforgettable character.’ During the Korean War the Editors of Time Magazine chose her nomination of ‘GI Joe, the Forgotten Man of the Year.’ as their selection for Man of the Year. She loved reading books, writing letters, M*A*S*H, vacations in Traverse City, Lawerence Welk, family, friends and pets. Mr. Rockwell, longtime manager and owner of Liebermann’s died in 1979. Mrs. Rockwell leaves three children and their spouses, Heil M. Rockwell, Jr. and his wife Mary of Saginaw; Jean and Glenn Beach of Frankenmuth and Caroline and Rev. John De Vries of Racine, Wisconsin; 10 grandchildren and their spouses, Peter Rockwell, Sarah and John Walgast, Bruse Mardon, Larrry and Ann Marie Mardon, The Rev, Mark and Susan De Vries, John De Vries, Matthew and Nancy Beach, Jeffery and Janet Beach, Benjamin and June Beach, and Susanna and Paul Goodwin and 15 great-grandchildren. (The Saginaw News, May 11, 1997.)
It would be easy to continue exploring the life of Elizbeth Liebermann Rockwell, the history of Liebermann’s store—a long-running Saginaw institution. and recount her suggestion for a name for Tri-City airport:
‘It seems to me,’ writes Mrs. Elizabeth Rockwell, . . .’that Saginaw, Bay City and Midland have one thing in common – the legends of the lumbering day, Therefore it would be appropriate to find a name reflecting that heritage.’
At first, said Mrs. Rockwell, she thought a name like Whispering Pines might be a keeper because it’s from the line in the song, ‘Michigan My Michigan’ which says, ‘From Saginaw’s tall whispering pines to Lake Superior’s farthest mines’.”
‘Upon further thought,’ she says, ‘I prefer Tall Timber as it denotes vigor and sturdiness.’ (The Saginaw News, June 12, 1967.)
And before we set you free to sculpt, we mean cook. We will close with another quote from Jean Rockwell Beach’s A Downtown Saginaw Christmas – 1948:
But getting back to 415 E. Genesee [the address of Liebermann’s store] and that office on the second floor, it was the perfect place to watch parades – except that brother and I noticed that Santa Claus was throwing candy to the kids on the sidewalk. The next year, we pleaded to watch with them. The view was nowhere near as good, but we managed to catch a few pieces of candy. It was taffy wrapped in waxed paper and I saved the paper because it came from Santa. Later on, I was somewhat disillusioned to find out that Santa was really our neighbor, Fred Schmidt, the father of my pal Corky.
The little office was also a great spot to see a close up of the city’s Christmas decorations, especially at night. Each streetlight had a big wreath around the globe, trimmed with red and green lights and a big red oil cloth bow. They were beautiful.
Somehow, I always see snowflakes gently falling on the wreath in front of me and hear the Salvation Army band playing ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing.’
Downtown Saginaw was a magic place back then.
And with imagination and a few additional embellishments, a banana and a pineapple ring can be transformed into something quite magical.
(And we will note: In the late 1940s and early 50s the City of Saginaw had an alternate method of decorating streetlamps. A large painted tube decorated with faux wax drips was placed over the metal lamp transforming it into a giant faux candle.)
The Recipe: Mrs. Hiel Rockwell's Candlestick Salad
2 bananas, cut in half, crosswise
4 slices pineapple
4 maraschino cherries
Place pineapple on lettuce leaf. Put banana half, cut side down, upright in center of pineapple slice. Drip mayonnaise down side of banana to simulate dripping wax. Top with cherry for flame.
Another of Elizabeth Liebermann Rockell’s recipes was included in The Bluebook of Cooking: A Collection of Favorite Recipes of University of Michigan Alumnae Throughout the United States. The 1938 publication includes her recipe for Macaroni and Cheese on page 85.