Celebrating the New Year With The Speedling's
In January 2011, a recollection of holiday memories from early LHC donor Stewart Donaldson appeared in the Bryant Library Newsletter with an introduction by former library archivist Myrna Sloam:
Although Stewart W. Donaldson (1907-1994) is remembered best for his extensive reminiscences of life on the former Mackay estate in East Hills, where he grew up, he was also a member of an old Roslyn family. Descended from a Hessian soldier who fought in the American Revolution, his grandfather, Stephen Speedling, was a well known local carpenter and builder, who lived in the old toll house on the west side of Roslyn Village. His mother, Ella, resided in Roslyn most of her life, both before and after her marriage to William Donaldson in 1906. Both of her aunts, Carrie and Suzy [Ed. Note: alternately spelled "Susie", "Susey" and called Sue], remained in Roslyn. Suzy married Walter Weeks and they lived at 76 Main Street. In the spirit of the season, I thought it appropriate to present Stewart Donaldson’s story of a holiday gathering with his extended family and friends. Written in the 1950s, it recalls a time in the 1910s and 1920s.
One decade after its publication in our library newsletter, and approximately one century after the time it recalls, we re-present Mr. Donaldson's New Year's reminiscence with similar intent towards invoking the seasonal warmth and gaiety he fondly describes. Modern readers will likely be taken aback by the early schedule and immense menu of the two sequential New Year's meals prepared by the family. The recollection concludes with recipes for Aunt Suzy's Angel and Sunshine cakes, two complementary confections designed to make use of the yolks and whites of the same four eggs. We hope you enjoy this festive snapshot supplied by one of Roslyn's most interconnected historical families.
"Now let me go back and tell you of the family gatherings. This family was very close to one another and it didn’t take very much to have a family gathering—a birthday, anniversary, a Sunday-- but on the holidays, there was always big doings. I am referring to the 19teens and 1920’s [and specifically to] New Years Day. The family… Stephen Speedling, Carrie Speedling, Sue and Walter Weeks, The Donaldson's, Allie Stuyvesant, Frank and Violet Forst, Audrey and Elmer Brand, sometimes Art and May Speedling…would gather at Uncle Walter and Aunt Sue Weeks, 76 Main Street, Roslyn. The Donaldsons would get there early, about 9:30am to help with the chores and cooking. The other members would start coming in from 11:00 am on. After the business of greetings, kissing each other and hand shaking, they settled down to the serious business of preparing lunch and serving it. We would eat about 1 pm and the meal consisted of first seating Grandpop and the older members of the family. Once this was done Grandpa Stephen Speedling said “grace.” This over, the noise started again and the passing of the dishes around the table [began.]
While we were eating, several of the women would be dishing up vegetables, putting more of everything on the table and clearing off the empty or dirty dishes. The meal was usually as follows: celery stalks, olives, chili sauce, sweet pickles, other relishes (usually home-made) then the roast turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, boiled onions, canned peas, sweet potatoes and a jellied salad. Then Aunt Sue’s nut bread as well as white bread and butter. The nut bread was home-made. For desert we had Aunt Sue’s specialty—angel cake and sunshine cake. These were always made together because you used the yolks of the eggs in the sunshine cake and the whites of the eggs in the angel cake. The angel cake had chocolate icing and the sunshine cake had orange icing. They were just as high, soft and fluffy as anything you ever did see, and just delicious. Each person had a slice of each with tea or coffee. Aunt Sue always used condensed milk for the coffee.
After this there were nuts, candy, fresh fruit, and as can be expected, everyone over indulged. It never failed, as it was natural to do with this kind of eating. Then the others would eat, while the men folk took an afternoon walk around the mill dam. Then some would nap, while others talked or played games, such as parchese [sic] or dominoes. About 6:30 or 7pm the table was set again and we had sliced cold turkey and ham, [with] Aunt Sue’s potato salad (mayonnaise sauce) cabbage salad or cold slaw, hot baked biscuits, pickles and relish, jello, mince or apple pie with tea of coffee. Afterwards there were nuts and candy. This would top off a pleasant day of heavy eating and two delightful meals. After supper someone would play either the piano or old foot organ and sing songs. About 9:30 or 10pm folks would come round again, kiss one another and start for home—full, tired and happy. What more could you ask after a day like this?"
Aunt Suzy’s Angel Cake:
The whites of 4 eggs- beat to a cream
1 Cup sugar
½ Cup milk
1 tsp cream of tartar
3 Cups of flour, sifted
Add stiffly beaten eggs whites and beat together until creamy
Bake in moderate oven (325 degrees) for 50 minutes
Aunt Suzy’s Sunshine Cake:
Yolks of 4 eggs, well beaten
1 cup sugar
½ Cup margarine or butter
½ Cup sweet milk in which dissolve ½ tsp baking soda
3 Cups flour sifted 3 times
1 tsp cream of tartar
Beat very thoroughly and bake in moderate oven (325 degrees) for 50 minutes.
Frosting for Angel Cake:
½ Cups sugar
1 Cup evaporated milk
5 squares of Bakers unsweetened chocolate
1/2 Cup margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix sugar and milk in heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly
Then boil gently for 6 minutes without stirring and remove from heat
Add chocolate which has been shaved into strips and stir in margarine and vanilla
Chill until it begins to thicken, then beat until thick and creamy. Chill more if necessary, spread on cake. This is enough for a 9 inch size cake.
[Ed. Note: While the icing for the "Sunshine Cake" is said to have been orange-flavored, this recipe was not written down in Suzy Weeks' diary, from which the others were drawn. From Donaldson's description of the cake in this reminiscence and others, we imagine that the icing was similar to this recipe.]
This William Pickering photo from the June 1906 wedding of Stewart Donaldson's parents, Ella and Donald, depicts many of the individuals that are referenced in this post. Click the photo to view the accompanying guide that identifies most of those pictured and includes the couple's marriage announcement.
From The Bryant Library Local History Collection, we wish you a Happy New Year!