Rolling through Easter memories

Published 11:00 am Saturday, April 4, 2015

Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ remains the center of Easter celebration despite more modern traditions like egg hunts and Easter baskets filled with gifts for children. In 1921 the newly formed First Lutheran Church congregation decorated for Easter with elaborate floral decoration. - Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum

Celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ remains the center of Easter celebration despite more modern traditions like egg hunts and Easter baskets filled with gifts for children. In 1921 the newly formed First Lutheran Church congregation decorated for Easter with elaborate floral decoration. – Photo courtesy Freeborn County Historical Museum

Celebrating a history of Easter holidays in the Albert Lea area through recipes

By Cathy Hay

Looking back at Easter over the past 100 years, the foods and fashions have changed, but the resurrection of Jesus Christ remains the center of this holiday.

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Easter, April 4, 1915

In 1915, World War I dominated the national headlines. While battles raged in Europe, life remained relatively normal in Freeborn County. Locally, the Synod Lutheran Congregation of Hartland was planning a new modern building to accommodate its growing membership, with an estimated cost of $5,000 to $10,000. Church listings for Easter services filled a few pages in the Albert Lea Evening Tribune.

Skinner Chamberlain Co. was advertising men’s Imperial Hats for $2.50 and $3 or Stetson Hats for $3.50 and $4. “Gentlemen! Your Easter Hat is now in order for Easter Sunday, the day we are long accustomed to wear for the first time the new spring hat, is near,” read the ad in the April 3, 1915, Evening Tribune. “Our hat selection is showing one of the best selections of Easter headwear for Gentlemen we’ve ever offered.”

For the ladies, C.E. Nelson Dry Goods Co. was advertising ladies’ suits in serges and poplins for $18.50 to $35 with Kayser silk gloves for 50 cents and $1 a pair.

The Broadway Theatre was showing “The Right Girl,” a comedy starring Anita Stewart and Earle William. Skinner’s “Easter breakfast and dinner” specials included fresh eggs for 17 cents a dozen and a bunch of onions for a nickel.

The news wire included this recipe for coleslaw, a harbinger of spring.



1 egg, well beaten

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

Dash of pepper

1/2 cup vinegar

A piece of butter

Chopped or shredded cabbage


Coleslaw dressing: One egg well beaten, one tablespoon sugar, half teaspoon salt, dash of pepper, half cup vinegar. Mix together, set on stove until it reaches boiling point, stirring constantly. Add a piece of butter and pour hot over chopped or shaved cabbage.


Easter, March 24, 1940

Twenty-five years later, World War II dominated the headlines. Despite the hostilities, the Associated Press reported, Europe observed its first Good Friday under war and thousands still flocked to Jerusalem to celebrate Easter. In the Evening Tribune, church services lined several pages and the Good Friday edition reported that the community service at the Broadway Theatre was “well-attended,” as organized by the Religious Committee of the local YMCA.

That weekend, the theater was playing “The Grapes of Wrath,” a drama based on John Steinbeck’s best-selling novel about the Great Depression with Henry Fonda playing the lead.

A local story featured not Peter Cottontail but Peter the Great, a performing kangaroo brought to Dr. M.R. Higbee’s office on South Newton Avenue in Albert Lea for treating the animal’s injured tail. The kangaroo suffered the injury when his tail was caught between an elevator and a side wall in Minneapolis. Higbee advised amputating the tail and the kangaroo’s owners returned to their vet in Minneapolis, where Peter died of blood poisoning.

For Easter Sunday, ladies were advised to focus on bags, hats and shoes in spring colors to accent their outfits, and also gloves. The Albert Lea Seed House was selling Easter lilies for $1 and $1.50 each. Malmer’s grocery on Clark Street was selling hams for 17 cents a pound while Sorenson’s Broadway Market promoted gelatin packages at 29 cents.

Molded gelatin eggs, made popular by Jell-O’s Jiggler promotions, remain a staple of many Easter tables.

Be sure to make more than one batch because some Jigglers won’t make it out of the mold in one piece.


Jell-O Jiggler Eggs

1-1/2 cups boiling water (do not add cold water)

1 pkg. (6 oz.) Jell-O Gelatin, any flavor

6-egg mold set


Spray insides of both sides of egg mold and along rims with cooking spray. Close mold, matching up rims of egg halves. Snap each of the 6 individual egg halves together until each egg is firmly sealed. Inspect each egg to make sure it is closed and sealed. Place mold, fill-side up, on tray.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir 3 minutes until completely dissolved. Pour into measuring cup with pour spout. Immediately pour into mold through fill-holes until each egg is filled just to top of egg shape. (Any remaining gelatin mixture can be poured into custard cup.)

Refrigerate 3 hours or until firm. Open mold using a dull flat knife to gently pry between the halves of each egg. (Do not pull on the handle.) Turn mold over and shake gently to unmold eggs. Keep refrigerated until serving.

If have enough time and patience, layer different flavors of gelatin for rainbow-colored eggs, refrigerating each layer for about 45 minutes until set (not firm) before pouring the next layer.


Easter, April 18, 1965

In 1965, yet another war — the Vietnam — topped the news at Easter time. In Freeborn County, the Minnesota Department of Highways was contacting landowners between State Highway 13 and Interstate 35 to discuss purchasing the right of way for Interstate 90, scheduled for construction in 1967. In Albert Lea, the Tribune reported that another record-setting year was expected for the Albert Lea Quarter Horse and Appaloosa Show at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds Saturday and Easter Sunday. The year before, the show set a record with 614 entries.

Lake Mills High School was planning to show “Jerusalem,” a film “shot in color” by evangelist Billy Graham at 7:30 p.m. the night before Easter. The public was invited to attend at no admission charge.

Montgomery Ward at the Skyline Shopping Center was advertising a “Great Dress Sale” with dresses only $7. The Broadway Theater was playing “The Silencers,” with Dean Martin as Matt Helmin. The Skyline Supper Club was advertising a special Easter Sunday dinner of chicken or swordfish with “fresh strawberry delight” for dessert. The cost per adult was $2.25 and per child was $1.25.

Piggly Wigglys was advertising Crisco for 82 cents a can. Here is a classic recipe for pie crust with this vegetable shortening.


Flaky Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups all-purpose Flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening, or Butter Flavored Shortening, chilled in freezer

4 to 8 tablespoons ice cold water or milk


Combine flour and salt in large bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender, 2 knives or your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon ice-cold water or milk over part of mixture. Toss gently with a fork; push to side of bowl. Repeat just until mixture is moistened and can be formed into a ball. (The dough should hold together when picked up and pressed, and should not crack). Flatten ball of dough into disk. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes or overnight. Then brush lightly with flour and roll out for pie plate.


Introduced by Southland Magazine in 1965, this French Strawberry Pie is still a delicious hit.


French Strawberry Pie

2 packages (3-oz. each) cream cheese

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream, whipped

1 baked (9-inch) pie crust

1 quart strawberries



Water (as needed)

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 1/4 cups sugar

3 tbsp. cornstarch

Red food coloring

1/2 cup whipped cream (for decorating)


Mash cream cheese until soft, mix in 1/2 cup sugar. Fold in whipped cream. Spread over the bottom of the cooled pie crust. Press about half of the whole berries into the cream cheese mixture with tips up.

Mash remaining berries and strain or liquefy in blender. Measure and add enough water to make 1 1/2 cups of liquid. Add lemon juice. Mix 1 1/4 cups sugar and cornstarch together in pan. Gradually stir in strawberry liquid and cook until thick and clear, stirring often. Add a few drops of red food coloring. Cool.

Pour cooled glaze over berry pie. Chill until firm (about 3 hours).

Decorate with whipped cream.


Easter, April 15, 1990

Twenty-five years ago, the Albert Lea community was reeling from the closing of Farmstead Foods, the largest employer in the county. Easter celebrations continued with churches promoting their services and the Good Samaritan Center holding an egg hunt. Nelson’s County Market was selling whole boneless hams for $1.33 a pound.

At the new Northbridge Mall, Herberger’s was offering 25 percent off junior’s floral dresses, regularly $44 to $56, and the Mall 3 Theater was showing the comedy-drama “Driving Miss Daisy” and two other films.

At the Hollandale Reformed Church that month, ethnic food highlighted a mission day for the Minnesota-Wisconsin Union of Reformed Church Women, including this recipe for egg rolls, which can add a different flavor to classic Easter meals.


Egg Rolls

1 lb. pork sausage

1 can shrimp

1 can water chestnuts, sliced

1 small head cabbage, shredded

2 carrots, grated

1 small onion, chopped

1 ½ tablespoon soy sauce

1 ½ tablespoons corn starch

½ tsp. salt

1 package egg roll skins

Brown sausage and drain. Mix with the other ingredients. Put a couple spoonfuls of mixture on an egg roll skin. Roll and seal edge with water. Deep-fat fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

These may be frozen. Heat in 375-degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Do not thaw before heating.

Incidentally, the date of Easter changes every year because the early Christian church decided it would be celebrated the Sunday immediately following the Paschal (Passover) Full Moon. The Paschal Full Moon can vary as much as two days from the date of the actual full moon, with dates ranging from March 21 to April 18. As a result, Easter dates can range from March 22 through April 25 in Western Christianity.