For this installment of Recipes from the Archives, I made Mary Black’s “Gingerale Fruit Salad” from the Davidson Civic Club’s Davidson Cook Book (circa 1928). The Davidson Cook Book has been the source of the some of our favorite archival recipes, including the Misses Scofield’s Ice Box Pudding #1. The Davidson Civic Club (1911 – 1959; Davidson Civic League from 1952) was founded to promote “a well-kept household and a place for good and pleasant living” in Davidson.
Mary Caldwell Black (1899 – 1989) moved to Davidson with her parents Dr. James C. and Emma Black, sister Emma, and five brothers in 1918, so that her brothers could attend Davidson College – John McKinley Black graduated from Davidson in 1918, Robert Lawson Black in 1922, William Morton Black in 1926, and Samuel Lacy Black graduated in 1929. All four were football stars while in college, and William was a member of the 1926 State Championship team. Their brother James C. Black, Jr. graduated from North Carolina State University.
Mary and Ellen both attended Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina, as part of the 1922 and 1923 classes respectively. Coverage of town news in The Davidsonian makes it clear that both sisters were active in the social scene of Davidson, with Ellen performing a high jump at field games during “Senior Christian Endeavor Expert Class” on campus in March 1924, and Mary playing “the Spirit of Mexico” during a pageant in February 1923. Both women were active in bible study groups in college at Red Springs and in Davidson, and Mary was a longtime member of town book club The Tuesday Club. She gave a lecture on the history of religion in Davidson at The Tuesday Club’s November 1959 meeting; a copy of this speech is in the club’s archival records. Ellen lived in New York City for many years and took a nursing training course at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, but moved back to Davidson and into the family home with her sister by the 1980s. Both sisters then moved to The Pines.
Mary Black was interviewed by Nelle McCorkle ’87 for The Davidsonian, which included some lively reflections on Davidson College and town in the 1910s and ’20s:
“While her brothers attended Davidson, Black and her family frequently entertained their student friends. ‘I’ve always lived with a whole lot of men here,’ she said. ‘Some called this the Kappa Sigma Hotel… One Sunday my brother said, ‘Who slept in the front room last night?’ I said, ‘I don’t know; I thought it was a friend of yours.’ He said, ‘I thought you knew him.’ Before dark, here came a friend of ours who said he wanted to thank his hosts. He said he just looked around ’til he found an empty bed and got in it.'”
Mary also gave some insight on what it was it was like for women to take classes at Davidson College while it was still a men’s college:
“Although her brothers all enrolled at Davidson (four graduated from Davidson; one graduated from North Carolina State University), Black never attended Davidson classes. She said of the college attitude toward women who asked to attend classes at that time, ‘It wasn’t very pleasant really. They didn’t give them any recognition – no diplomas, no certificates, some of the people in town went for two years and then went somewhere else. They couldn’t take all the courses – some of the professors just wouldn’t have girls in class.”
Perhaps the most interesting archival trace of the Black family are the records we have of Mary Black’s travels – Mary and fellow Davidsonian Mary Richards spent 1923-24 studying at Oxford and traipsing around Europe. Mary Richards attended Converse College, was an English teacher in Mocksville, Mebane, and Davidson. The two Marys sailed for England on October 6, 1923.
Mary Black later took trips to Canada and the western United States, and we have some ephemera from those travels as well. The Canadian trip included a visit to Boswell’s, “Canada’s First Brewery,” Quebec City, and Montreal. Her western trip spanned several states and included stops at the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, and Yellowstone.
I chose Mary Black’s “Gingerale Fruit Salad” for two reasons – I felt it was time that I tackled a gelatin salad recipe since we have so many in our archival collections, and I was intrigued by the travel ephemera of Mary Black, so choosing her recipe allowed me to look further into her collection and her background.
The recipe was simple to follow – essentially, boil the juice and melt sugar and gelatin into it, then mix everything else together, place in a mold, and pop it in the fridge to set. I chose to use Whole Foods 365 ginger ale and Granny Smith apples, as those are my favorite types of soda and apples respectively and the recipe did not specify. I also used crystallized ginger in place of preserved ginger, since my coworker Sharon Byrd (Special Collections Outreach Librarian) had some crystallized ginger at home that she contributed to the cooking effort.
I am pleased with how the fruit salad turned out, although the next time I attempt a molded gelatin recipe, I will look into decorating it in a more traditional fashion. A bed of lettuce and some parsley in the center may have spruced up this effort, but Mary Black’s recipe did not give decoration instructions as some of the other recipes do. Overall, an easy gelatin recipe from a fascinating woman of Davidson’s past!