Rewind: Community came together for cookie project

Story and photo by Mary Lou Falkenstein

Image Details: This rolling pin has a connection to a historic Sturgis community effort.

Everyone has a person in the family who collects every newspaper clipping ever printed about the family. My example was a great aunt, Ada Newman. If your name was in the paper, she clipped it and saved it. The other day, as I was going through some old family things, I found a few envelopes of clippings she had saved. I found something amazing I want to share with you.

Background details

First, let me fill you in on some Sturgis history. At one time, there were several thriving factories in the city, and National Carbon Coated Paper Company was one of them. It was known as the world’s largest producer of sales books. C.L. Spence moved this then-small business from Cincinnati to Sturgis in 1910. By 1915, the business outgrew its space and in 1917, an addition was opened.

The addition provided many amenities for employees, including bowling allies, club rooms, a billiard room, lounges, a full kitchen and a ballroom that served as an entertaining place and even had an 11- piece orchestra, which played at dances.

During World War II, he opened the kitchen for women to bake cookies to send to our servicemen. This was interrupted and the following article appeared in the Journal June 23, 1942. The article doesn’t say who wrote it, so I have no way to credit anyone for it.

The cookie-box front

It took farm folks north of Sturgis to put the "Cookie Box" back onto its feet, people whose hands are full "around the clock" with their own farm chores and housework. But, they just couldn’t let down the boys and girls who are expecting and hoping for cookie boxes. Mrs. Carl Overbeck, who lives seven miles north of Sturgis, snatched a few minutes to read her Sturgis Daily Journal and saw, to her dismay, lack of shortening had halted the cookie-baking. She backed the family car out of the yard and drove to the home of her nearest neighbor. A few minutes later, she was seen at another neighbor’s house, and so on until, she had called on 24 families in her vicinity to tell them about the trouble of the cookie box.

Her task was not in vain. She drove into town with her car fairly groaning under its load. Mrs. Overbeck and her neighbors had nearly 80 pounds of lard, homemade butter, fresh country eggs, sorghum, baking powder and 10 red ration points for the cookie box. These, added to the raisins, nutmeats, currents, cocoa, coconut and rice krispies and the $18.40 in cash gifts, will start the ball rolling again and the women will be on the job in their big kitchen at the National Carbon Coated Paper Company plant next week, thanks to Mrs. Overbeck and people like her.

Deflecting credit

Mrs. Overbeck, speaking not only for herself, but for her neighbors as well, pleaded to remain anonymous, but such a gallant job as that could not go unsung by the Sturgis Journal, which has assisted every effort of the cookie box enterprise from its inception. This was followed by scores of thank-you notes from very grateful soldiers including one from my father - probably why my aunt saved it.

Now, for the rest of the story. At the time when they started demolishing the area where the kitchen was, my husband was working at Sturgis Newport as a machinist and it was part of his job to dismantle a lot of the equipment. The order was to get rid of everything. Well, since he had given National Carbon Coated the better part of his work life, he felt it only proper to have a piece of memorabilia. To this day, I have a rolling pin that undoubtedly rolled out those very cookies.

Mary Lou Falkenstein is a resident of Sturgis.

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