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My Blog

Kraft Cheese and Illinois

Good morning to everyone.  Well, here it is hump day already.  I must say it looks great outdoors.  Sun is shining brightly and it will be another warm day here in Niles, Illinois.  Yesterday was spent wiring snow people.  I am recycling soda bottles and newspapers to make them.  Today I will continue by applying paper mache and then once they dry...I will paint them and then design them.  While I work at my work table, I love listening to old radio programs and yesterday I was entertained with some of the greatest.  I laughed, I cried and I questioned.  Questioned?  Yes, I always question when I hear something that I had never realized or heard before.  So that leads us into today's blog.  The company that so many of us know...Kraft.  It was during the Kraft Music Hall program...that is correct...KRAFT music program with Bing Crosby as the host.  Bing introduced the Kraft Music Carolers from Chicago.  I sat here listening while all sorts of questions came to mind.  Number one...they where from Chicago...so who exactly were they?  As I began my search....more info about Kraft came up and I was amazed.  It seems that it all began in the year 1914 in Stockton, Illinois.  It was Kraft's goal to improve the packaging of cheese.  A valuable thing to achieve...especially during war time.  This enable these products to be sent to our service men.  Kraft had just recently celebrated their 100 years in June in the town of Stockton. 
It amazes me if you go to the Kraft company and see all the things that Kraft now manufactures.  Their celebration included contests in multiple categories and it amazed me to see the recipes and the list of Kraft items used.  Coconut?  Really...they had a beer battered coconut shrimp recipe.  
In the radio talk show...they periodically would have the announcer chime in with the commercials for Kraft products.  One of the things that they announcer would point out was how affordable the cheese was and how many rations it would use. 
That was the second DING in my head.  Rations....it made me stop and think about what that meant...how people got by in those times.  We think things are bad now....and yet back then, folks were limited to what they could get by the rations they had.  The familiar blue box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner gained great popularity as a substitute for meat and dairy products. Two boxes required only one rationing coupon, which resulted in 80 million boxes sold in 1943. Food substitutions became evident with real butter being replaced with Oleo margarine. Cottage cheese took on a new significance as a substitute for meat, with sales exploding from 110 million pounds in 1930 to 500 million pounds in 1944.  
During that time many Victory Gardens contributed to about 45 percent of vegetables.  Recycling aluminum began during these time.  Ha...and we thought we were the original recyclers.   
  When I go back and remember the reason for this thought process was to search out the Kraft Chorus Group I found that one of the members was a Lois Hutmacher Meinders. She said both she and her husband, the late Arthur Meinders, sang in the Kraft chorus. Lois has saved copies of “The Kraftolier,” the company newspaper published monthly at the Freeport Kraft Cheese plant.
Lois stated that “Everybody in the choir had a jade pin,” Lois said. J.L. Kraft, founder of the company, was engaged in a lapidary hobby, working with gems, especially jade. A Kraft family history found at the Stockton Heritage Museum tells of his hobby along with a lengthy genealogy of the Kraft family.
There was also a Vinnie Bloom who was the Choral Photographer. 
There wasn't a whole lot more that I could find on these singers.  But a trip to the museum in Stockton just might be the ticket to these questions. 
Whatever they are...I will continue the quest. 
I love that listening to what was going on so long ago can spark so many questions and thoughts.  To bring about a company that is still a very large presence in our world today is monumental. Just the fact that it made me stop and think about those times and compare them to the present time is big for me.  It makes me think about my ancestors and what they went through. Thanks Kraft Music Hall for the memories...and if you are not fortunate enough to own any of those wonderful recordings...you can go online and listen. 

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