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Mrs. Stephen H. Lyttle-Teacher

“Prominent Teachers Married. Charlotte, July 11. – Miss. Ruth Marshall, teacher in the open air school in Jackson, was married at the home of her parents in Bellevue to Stephen H. Lyttle of Shelby, principal of the Three Rivers public school.”

-The Grand Rapids Press, July 11, 1916.            


A decade after they were married, Ruth Marshall and Stephen H. Lyttle moved to Saginaw -he had accepted the position of principal of Saginaw High School. They quickly became active members in their new community. Living at 738 Hoyt Avenue, the Lyttles were only three blocks from Saginaw High School and were within easy walking distance of First Congregational Church and the center of the business district.


Ruth Lyttle’s obituary provides an outline of her life and hints at her many accomplishments.


“Mrs. Stephen H. Lyttle, 738 Hoyt avenue, died suddenly early this morning near Shelby, Mich., where she had been vacationing at a cottage on Silver Lake.


Mrs. Lyttle had lived in Saginaw since 1926 coming here from Manistee. Mr. Lyttle is the principal of Saginaw High school. During her residence here she has been active in First Congregational church Social Circle and the P.E.O. society [A national organization for the support of women, by women, formed in 1869].


Besides her husband, she leaves three sons, Douglas, Marshall and Robert.


Mrs. Lyttle was born Miss Ruth Winnifred Marshall at Shelby, Nov. 7, 1890. She was a graduate of the Michigan State College and married Mr. Lyttle at Jackson, in 1916.


Funeral services will be held at Shelby Wednesday and at Saginaw Thursday, Burial will be at Bellevue.” (The Saginaw News, August 16, 1937, p. 1.)


The following day an article in the newspaper provided further details.


“Ruth W. Marshall was born at Shelby in 1890, graduating from Shelby high school in 1903 as valedictorian of her class. Attending Michigan State Normal college, at Ypsilanti, she graduated as an honor student in 1913. She married June 19, 1916 at Bellevue to Stephen H. Lyttle after having taught for two years in the Jacson open air school which she founded. For three years they lived in Three Rivers, moving to Manistee in 1919 and to Saginaw in 1926.” (The Saginaw News, August 17, 1937, p. 2.)


One of the details that stands out is her service as a teacher in the Jackson Open Air School.


“In Europe, new trends in education were emerging. By 1903, Open Air Schools, schools specifically designed to serve the needs of children with tuberculosis, anemia, or other chronic diseases, were popular in Vienna. They quickly spread to England and, in 1909, the Elizabeth McCormich Foundation of Chicago, Illinois first brought the concept to the United States by funding two model projects in the slums of urban Chicago. The first Michigan school was constructed in Detroit in 1912. Jackson launched its first Open Air School in 1914 with principal, Cora Allen, the future principal of the Pearl Street School. By 1930, the use of antibiotics to treat diseases had proved to be successful and research showed there was little actual health benefit from an open air school program compared to a regular school. As a result, the construction of open air schools was discontinued.” (Allen School Historic District Study Report – online .pdf)


Although she did not resume her teaching career in Saginaw, Ruth Lyttle was active in numerous community projects, activities and First Congregational Church – fittingly we found her recipe for cheese custard in the Saginaw Cookbook published by the church.  Also fittingly, her recipe for cheese custard is evocative of the wholesome dairy products served at Open Air Schools. One teacher at an open air school served:

“Sixteen quarts of milk for sixteen children were among the articles comprising the luncheon of the children at school yesterday.” (The Kalamazoo Gazette, April 24, 1913.)


Ruth Marshall Lyttle passed away suddenly in 1937.


The Recipe: Mrs. S.H. Lyttle’s Cheese Custard


“Into a deep baking dish put alternate layers of buttered, salted and peppered bread, and grated cheese. Pour over this a custard made of 4 eggs and 3 cups of milk. Bake in a slow oven until set and nicely browned.” (From The Saginaw Cookbook, published by the First Congregational Church, 1929 edition.)


Castle Test Kitchen Interpretation:


  • Approx ¾ loaf of Spatz Bread                                                           

  • Approx ¾ lb. Colby cheese, grated

  • 4 eggs                                                                                                                        

  • 3 cups milk                                                  

  • salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.


Butter baking dish (we used an 8” round dish that was about 4” deep).


Place one layer of bread in bottom of dish. Salt and pepper to taste. Add layer of grated cheese. Repeat until dish is full. We had enough room for three layers.


Break eggs into bowl and lightly whisk. Add milk and mix until fully combined. Slowly pour into baking dish over bread and cheese layers.


Bake 50 – 60 minutes. Until properly set and top is browned.



CTK Notes (We Have a Lot of Them):


The observant reader will note that prep photographs differ slightly from Mrs. Lyttle’s instructions and the CTK interpretation – we put the final layer of cheese on after pouring the egg and milk mixture over the layers of bread and cheese. This was a last-minute decision. The CTK staff was terrified of the milk and eggs not penetrating through a grated cheese cap. Although we ended up with an impressive cheese dome- one that quickly deflated, we were denied the pleasure of a crusty top layer. As you may have noted by our foil-covered baking sheet, we were terrified that the cheese custard was going to escape the confines of our baking dish.


In short, we believe it would be better to follow the directions and pour the custard over the last layer. However, we still believe that cheese custard would like to run over during baking and that proper precautions will avoid a cleanup nightmare.


Cheese: There are much more interesting choices than the big, bland block of Colby cheese we selected. Perhaps a combination of gruyere and parmesan? We were overly generous with the quantity of cheese. We would recommend trying about ½ lb. of cheese.


This recipe is quick, easy, and quite wonderful. Although perfect in its simplicity, one could certainly add herbs or other savory elements. However, try it in its original form before you start exploring.


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