Was Jessie Read a pioneer to the term "Girls Night Out"? In a win-win situation she created an escape for homemakers in the 1930's to get a night out while learning how to improve their cooking. How could a husband not see that as a benefit to the household?
In an article published in Gas Age Record (Jeesie Read was home director for Toronto's Consumers' Gas) in December of 1932
O, yes, of course ! All you Americans like plain apple pie. So I'll give you my recipe, and you take this down now, along with the radio listeners, and when you get back to Hollywood you can say that the best apple pie you ever ate came from Canada!
MAMA'S NIGHT OUT!
Home Service in Toronto Conducts Eight O'Clock Evening Classes
for Homemaking Mothers While--Papa Rocks the-Cradle
By DOROTHY DIGNAM
Father can have his lodge night, and his evening school, and his dinner-meeting at the Super-Salesmen's Association, why not a regular night-out for Mother, along with some instruction in her chosen professsion? At least, when she goes to cooking school, there's a chance that she'll bring home something good to eat, It's worth waiting up for, anyway!
Evening classes for mothers are a great success with the home service section of the Consumers' Gas Company, in Toronto, This night school was a discovery, not a matter of deliberation.
Miss Jessie M, Read, home service director, arranged for two series of evening cooking classes at the downtown auditorium of the gas company, There was a six o'clock demonstration, repeated at eight, From the very first, the six o'clock crowd seemed to be business women, They hurried in, looking a little haggard; always carrying papers and big Manila envelopes filled with "business." These women concentrated furiously on the lecture-or went to sleep sitting bolt upright! Then they grabbed their papers and their Manila bags and scrambled out as though they had but ten minutes to make a train or do the breakfast marketing at some late store.
On their heels came an entirely different "class." Relaxed, unruffled, leisurely, they waited for their friends outside the door, and strolled in by twos and threes with a matinee galaspirit. The lecture, to these women, was an hour and a half of another world. And through the friendships established between Miss Read and her audience, it soon was apparent that most of them were mothers with small children who could never get away to afternoon sessions. But at night, Father was home, and he could put Junior into his pajamas!
When this character of the audience became known, every effort was made to cater to mothers in the eight o'clock programs. Classes were begun promptly and lasted not later than 9:15 with an extra 15 minutes for question-time. As bne can go downtown from any residential part of Toronto in not more than 30 minutes by trolley car, it was figured that dinner could be served, the dishes at least "stacked," gloves and carfare gathered up and the trip downtown accomplished by eight o'clock.
Nevertheless, to shorten the distance, especially during the cold Canadian winter, a second eight o'clock class was started at the beautiful new North Toronto Consumers' Gas Store. The downtown class is now held on Monday nights and the uptown school on Tuesdays. If Mother misses out on Monday because of Johnny's sudden sore throat, her class-ticket is still good for Tuesday night at North Toronto.
The business women's six o'clock class is held only at the downtown auditorium and is scheduled for Monday nights. Monday seems to be an off-night with all office workers. They're inevitably too tired to make social engagements.
Lessons Are Fitted to Suit the Need
I was especially anxious to know if Miss Read varied her programs for the full-time and part-time homemaker, because the same topics for both classes were announced on the printed matter. I found that there was some adaptation of the lesson-material. "The Simplicity of Hot Breads," for instance, might be presented to the homemaking mother from the angle of varying the breakfast menu or putting more surprise into luncheons. For the business girl, this subject was treated as Sunday cookery, or the extra gesture on guest nights.
Yes, afternoon demonstrations are given, just as in any other home service department. The year is divided into a fall course, a winter course, and a spring course, each of 12 weeks' duration. Miss Read reports that 75 per cent of those attending the first three lectures in any course complete the whole series of 12 and are awarded certificates at a tea given on the final day.
The Wednesday class is the only afternoon group showing a marked characteristic in type. Wednesday is maids' day out in Toronto, and a noticeable number of domestics turn out for the classes. This certainly proves the earnest attitude of the Canadian mind towards cooking and homemaking. Imagine a cook, spending her only free afternoon at a free cooking school! Would that we had more of such serious-minded Sophia's on this side of Niagara Falls!
Miss Read also broadcasts a half-hour each week over CKCL, and I must tell you of a drawing-card that she used last season.
A local picture house was featuring the per_sonal appearance of Hollywood stars, and Miss Read arranged for each of them to greet her radio audience and give her favorite recipe over the air. This brought out a great variety of sectional cooking as some of the girls were Southerners and wanted to talk corn pone, while others were from New England and only knew boiled dinners or pork and beans! When a man, instead of a girl, was the featured guest, a little dialogue would be arranged to go something like this:
(After introduction of the star)
MISS READ: Now Mr. Handsome, the ladies would like to hear your favorite recipe.
MR. HANDSOME: (Stepping up to the microphone and arranging his tie) Well, you know, Miss Read, I don't cook myself, but I can tell you what is my favorite recipe ... and that's apple pie!
MISS READ: Apple pie! Well, just what kind?
MR. HANDSOME: I thought there were only two kinds, good and bad !
MISS READ: Oh, there are many different kinds. There's Dutch apple pie without any crust. And deep apple pie with lots of crust. And fancy apple pie with just strips of pastry and powdered sugar. And .. .
MR. HANDSOME: No, no. You know what I mean. Regular apple pie with cheese!
MISS READ: O, yes, of course ! All you Americans like plain apple pie. So I'll give you my recipe, and you take this down now, along with the radio listeners, and when you get back to Hollywood you can say that the best apple pie you ever ate came from Canada!
In a radio tie-up of this kind, Miss Read cautions that the star should always be interviewed beforehand and the plan of the broadcast explained. Otherwise the extemporaneous speeches may prove to be little more than hello and good-bye and will miss fire altogether. Miss Read's broadcast, because of their planned audience-interest, are printed in their entirety in the Toronto Mail & Empire, constituting excellent publicity for the home service department. Then to further sustain audience interest and get a radio mailing list, she uses the time tried offer of a radio notebook sent free on request. These blank notebooks contain a restrained amount of appliance advertising and plenty of pages for taking down menus and recipes.
Home Service Builds Good Will
Home service in Toronto does no appliance selling: for the main reason that the gas company is privately owned while the electric service is a hydro-municipal community matter. The gas interests being always more or less under fire of criticism, need the full force of good will engendered by home service with no undercurrent of sales propaganda.
However, certain steps are taken to bring the demonstration-audience into direct contact with appliance displays.
Recipe sheets are not handed out in the auditorium. They are only to be obtained on a table in the salesroom, along with appliance literature. The audience is directed to pick them up after class, on the way to the street. The reverse of the mimeographed recipe sheets is used for picturing and discussing, in a woman-to-woman way, the automatic water heater, incinerator, gas refrigerator, etc. At the new North Toronto store, appliances are brought to the notice of women customers as they walk through the salesroom to the home service stairway at the rear of the building. The display is kept fully lighted and has a salesman in charge during Mothers' Night School.
Because I myself am primarily an advertising woman, I was interested in Miss Read's promotion program.
After six years with her company, she has won their confidence to the extent of permitting her a rather wide range of "personality" advertising. Her picture, as well as that of her assistant, Miss Helen Bates, is used in the newspaper announcements which precede the opening of the fall, winter and spring courses. Thirty-inch advertisements are used in three newspapers. All the lecture announcements go out over Miss Read's name, her signature-cut appearing in folders and on mailing pieces. She has evidenced over a period of time that this use of her name and picture has given Consumers' Gas home service an individual rather than a corporate flavor and has humanized her relations with the public.
And finally, this Canadian story would lack the essential English flavor if I failed to mention TEA.
Miss Read follows a most sensible plan with regard to this custom--it is her staff rather than her audience which is fed!
The afternoon classes, beginning at 2 :30, are over at four o'clock, and by 4 :30 the last of the personal interviews have been given and the stragglers are gone.
Much clearing-up and putting-away remains to be done, however, and Miss Read finds that she and all of her girls can work later with less exhaustion if they take a bracing hot cup of tea right at this moment.
It is prepared on the platform and carried into her office, for all to enjoy. There is no food except wafers, perhaps. But the hot cup is the recuperative force that pulls up late-day efficiency.