Tag Archive | Alpha Phi

Popcorn!

February 22, 2022

There are topics which come to my attention from time to time that cause me to say: that just can’t be right.

The hubby and I have had this same set of bowls for decades now… and still use them

According to a number of sources on the internet, it was on February 22, 1621, when a Native American by the name of Squanto, at the first Thanksgiving, showed the settlers how to make ‘popcorn’.

Hmmm… wasn’t the first Thanksgiving held in the fall and not February? And did the natives of that region really eat popcorn?

A little refresher. The Pilgrims landed in what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts in November of 1620. For the next year they struggled mightily, enduring hardships and starvation. There was no feast in February 1621. That did not occur until sometime between mid-September and early November 162.

Now on to the second question about the popcorn. According to History.com:

I feel confident that the two groups were not sitting around the campfire enjoying a batch of jiffy pop in February 1621.

Colorful dried corn

“It’s been said that popcorn was part of the first Thanksgiving feast, in Plymouth Colony in 1621. According to myth, Squanto himself taught the Pilgrims to raise and harvest corn, and pop the kernels for a delicious snack. Unfortunately, this story contains more hot air than a large bag of Jiffy Pop. While the early settlers at Plymouth did indeed grow corn, it was of the Northern Flint variety, with delicate kernels that are unsuitable for popping. No contemporary accounts reference eating or making popcorn in that area, and the first mention of popcorn at Thanksgiving doesn’t appear until a fictional work published in 1889, over 200 years later.”

But, the history of popped corn is interesting. A uniquely western hemisphere food, there is evidence that corn has existed and had been used as food for thousands of years.

While the Infallible Wikipedia was silent on the Pilgrims angle, it does share the following:

“Corn was domesticated about 10,000 years ago in what is now Mexico. Archaeologists discovered that people have known about popcorn for thousands of years. Fossil evidence from Peru suggests that corn was popped as early as 4700 BC.

Through the 19th century, popping of the kernels was achieved by hand on stove tops. Kernels were sold on the East Coast of the United States under names such as Pearls or Nonpareil. The term popped corn first appeared in John Russell Bartlett’s 1848 Dictionary of Americanisms. Popcorn is an ingredient in Cracker Jack and, in the early years of the product, it was popped by hand.

Charles Cretors with one of his popcorn machines

Popcorn’s accessibility increased rapidly in the 1890s with Charles Cretors’ invention of the popcorn maker. Cretors, a Chicago candy store owner, had created a number of steam-powered machines for roasting nuts and applied the technology to the corn kernels.

By the turn of the century, Cretors had created and deployed street carts equipped with steam-powered popcorn makers.”

It was, however, during the Great Depression when popcorn consumption really took off. With sugar in short supply and sweets largely unavailable, American’s discovered they could have an inexpensive salty, buttery snack instead. Soon popcorn was sold in movie theatres and people could pop it at home.

Popcorn popularity surged once again in the 1980’s  with the ability to cook the product in microwave ovens. It’s estimated that Americans today consume more than 17 billion quarts of popcorn annually!

Some of my earliest memories center around popcorn. My dad would pop a pan full on most Saturday nights of my childhood; a once a week treat while the family played cards.

My first popcorn popper was likely a Stir Crazy or similar. You poured a bit of oil on the base and heated it up, then added the popcorn kernels. It was fun to watch the popcorn fill the lid – which you turned over and it became the bowl.

When I went away to college at the University of Puget Sound, I brought with me two ‘appliances.’ One was a small electric kettle and the other was an all in one popcorn popper. Of course I was not the only girl to have one in the sorority, but one could be sure that the smell of the popping corn would be a siren call to others; soon the party would be in my room.

I associate popcorn with the hubby. Not only does he LOVE popcorn, it was the thing we were both eating on the night of our first ever phone call.

The hubby’s older brother, while we were on a waterski trip to Lake Tapps in 1981, decided the hubby was a good ‘target’ for getting popcorned.

In 1979 there were no cell phones. We did not have individual phones in our rooms either. Instead, there was a multi-line phone system in the Alpha Phi sorority where I lived,  and down the hall from my room was ‘the phone room.’ This was a closet size space with a small desk and chair, and the phone for the entire sorority was located there. Additional handsets were located on the second floor and another in the basement. Members took turns being on phone duty in the evenings, answering the calls and then, via intercom, paging those who had a call.

The evening of our first call, I had just finished making a batch of popcorn when the intercom near my room announced, “Call for Barbie D on line 2.” So, with a bowl of popcorn in hand, I made my way to one of the phones. As the conversation got going my new romantic interest and I discovered that we were both enjoying the same snack.

Our mutual love of popcorn has never wavered and we are in agreement that popcorn is best when it has butter drizzled over it and a few turns of the salt grinder on top of that. Sometimes the simplest things are the best.

The links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Popcorn

https://www.history.com/news/a-history-of-popcorn

Probably our 4th or 5th popcorn popper. The bowl and popcorn canister we’ve had since the 1980’s. The average American consumes 58 quarts of popcorn a year!

Disco Duck

October 16, 2018

In the world of one hit wonders this ‘song’ has quite the interesting history. It was written and recorded in the summer of 1976 by a Memphis disc jockey. And it was the impetus for him being fired from his job. Regardless, the satirical novelty piece went on to become the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 16 of that year. It’s name: Disco Duck.disco duck

Rick Dees was working at a Memphis radio station when he conceived the concept for the song. At the time, Disco music was just starting to emerge into the mainstream. Prior to then it had been primarily a sound associated with the Disco clubs popular in the northeast United States. By the time the movie ‘Saturday Night Fever’ was released, it was nearly impossible to not at least have heard the term ‘Disco.’

But back to Disco Duck. Dees was motivated to write it based on another novelty song from the 1960’s. According to the Infallible Wikipedia:

dees duck

‘Written by Dees, ‘Disco Duck’ was inspired by a 1960s novelty dance song called ‘The Duck,’ recorded by Jackie Lee (Earl Lee Nelson) in 1965. According to Dees, it took one day to write the song, but three months to convince anyone to perform it.

Combining orchestral disco styles with a Donald Duck–esque voice as the main plot point, the story within ‘Disco Duck’ centers around a man at a dance party who is overcome by the urge to get up and ‘get down’ in a duck-like manner. When the music stops, he sits down, but when he decides to get up and dance again, he finds that everyone in the room is now doing his dance.”

Radio being radio, Dees soon found himself unemployed due to management forbidding him to play the song on their station. Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:

” For all its success, ‘Disco Duck’ was shunned by radio stations where Dees was living in Memphis, including WMPS-AM, the station Dees worked for at the time. Station management forbade Dees from playing the song on his own show and rival stations in the city refused to play it for fear of promoting the competition. When Dees talked about (but did not play) the song on his show one morning, his boss fired him citing conflict of interest. After a brief mandatory hiatus, Dees was hired by station WHBQ-AM, WMPS’s primary competition in Memphis.”

Dees went on tour to promote the song, eventually gathered a group to play it live, and the song was featured in the 1977 hit movie ‘Saturday Night Fever.’

My own memory of this song dates to January of 1978 during the peak of the Disco craze. Disco was THE music of the year. Saturday Night Fever had been released in December 1977 and we were all learning how to dance Disco.

But it was during an annual event for the Greek system at the University of Puget Sound when Disco Duck was forever burned into my brain.

Each January the fraternities and sororities would have a weeklong event which culminated in the initiation of new members to their ranks. The sororities called this “Inspiration Week.” For the guys it was “Hell Week.”

I belonged to one of two sororities which, when the Greek system at UPS saw a decrease in numbers a few years earlier, moved into former fraternity houses smack dab in the middle of ALL the remaining frat’s. This turned out to be a mixed blessing. Unlike the other sororities on campus, we had an actual freestanding house rather than having to live in the dorms. The down side was that we had four frat’s which flanked our house and the boys were, one might say, creative.

Phi Delta ThetaThe frat which impacted us the most were the Phi Delta Theta’s – aka Phi Delt’s (their house pictured above) – whose members included most of the UPS football team as well as a fair number of the wild boys. And during Hell Week they did interesting things.

I cannot say from firsthand experience what exactly went on within their walls that week but we did hear gossip as to the activities. It was reported at the time that the soon to be initiated members all lived downstairs in their basement chapter room, sleeping on mattresses on the floor and being subjected to one particular song played over and over and over, night and day. Kind of a sleep deprivation torture.

That song in January 1978 was… Disco Duck.

This part I know to be true as we could hear it thumping through the walls of our sorority at all hours. We were subjected to Disco Duck for the entire week until, I’m certain, not only were THEY sick of the song, but so were all the women in my sorority.

Now all of you may be wondering, ‘Didn’t anyone have to go to classes?” And the answer is ‘no.’ UPS at the time had a month long program known as ‘Winterim’ where every student on campus did an immersion study of one single subject. When January was over there was a week off before the next semester started. It was during this week when the Greek’s had their activities prior to initiations… so the shenanigans were in high supply.

To the best of my knowledge everyone survived Hell week. As far as Disco Duck is concerned I will forever associate it with that place and time… and I will turn it off as soon as the first chords are played. But for all of you I will sacrifice my finer sensibilities. Because YOU need to hear Disco Duck to understand the song and, sort of, the genre which swept the country for a year and half back in the late 1970’s.

A couple of Wikipedia links:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disco_Duck

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disco

The original “Duck” song from 1966:

https://youtu.be/Zu4lb6rXhnw