HAPPY 95TH BIRTHDAY!
Today we pay tribute to the 1962 Master Homemaker
and Matriarch of the Latham family
After much thought, I’ve decided to begin with an excerpt from memories that Evelyn Latham penned a few years ago for her family. “My story is one of love and hard work, interspersed with joys, tragedies, achievements, and a lot of family pride. I was born on December 17, 1916, to John A. and Nora Ladegaard Johansen at our farm home near Latimer, Iowa.”
Yes, Evelyn Latham – grandmother of John and Chris – turns 95 years young tomorrow! We’re blessed that she still lives in Franklin County, and there’s nothing she enjoys more than visits from family members and friends. Each time we visit, she is sure to ask about our seed business. And, it’s no wonder! She’s been a very integral part of the Latham family business since it began nearly 65 years ago.
“In 1947 Willard bought a large seed cleaner,” Evelyn writes in her memoir. “He built a trailer to transport it, and that was the beginning of our seed business. He made a home-made seed treated, and he and John Hill went from farm to farm to clean oats that were full of weeds and infected with smut fungus disease. They almost froze to death, so the next year Willard had farmers bring their oats to a shed on our farm where they could be cleaned and treated.
We soon outgrew that, so Willard remodeled our corn crib (granary). I’ll never forget how hard he worked putting in an elevator and machinery! He had a man helping him. When they started the equipment, they discovered the elevator wasn’t high enough. He was just sick about it. He came into the house and said, “Eve, come, we have to go for a ride”. So we went for a little ride. Then, of course, he had to rebuild it.”
Evelyn helped support Willard and their business in numerous ways. The family’s kitchen table served as the company’s office, so she made numerous trips daily from the house to the outbuildings whenever Willard was needed to a phone call. Known for her cooking skills and hospitality, it wasn’t unusual for Evelyn to feed a room full of hired men and customers.
In addition to serving as secretary and caterer in 1947, Evelyn was busy caring for four boys ranging in age from 6 to 1. (The Latham’s fifth son was born in July 1948.)
It’s no wonder Wallaces Farmer magazine recognized Evelyn as Iowa Master Farm Homemaker of the Year! An excerpt from the December 15, 1962, issue of Wallaces Farmer states, “Mrs. Willard Latham, Franklin County, shares her interest in music with her husband and sons… she loves music and likes to read when she has time.”
No matter how busy and full her life might be, Evelyn has been known for making time to share coffee and fellowship with family and friends. She’s one of those rare people who puts you at ease from the first meeting. When John first introduced me to her, Evelyn pulled me into a hug. Her smile reached her eyes as she told me how glad she was to meet me. In the next breath, she said, “Let’s go into the kitchen for some coffee and cookies. You’ll have some, won’t you? Sure you will.”
Anyone who has ever met Evelyn knows there is no choice but to make time for coffee and cookies. Fast forward 16 years, and the greeting is still the same. Evelyn’s eyes still light up when she has company and she’s always more than ready to share a cup of coffee with family and friends. The coffee is sure to be flowing as Evelyn celebrates her 95th birthday with friends and family.
In honor of this milestone, today we’re sharing two recipes straight from Evelyn’s recipe box. The first one is for popcorn balls because they were also such a hit with her 12 grandchildren during the holidays. In fact, Evelyn was still making her notorious popcorn balls even after great grandchildren arrived. The second recipe is for a classic ice cream dessert because no birthday celebration would be the same without ice cream. You’ll see Evelyn has even included a note about how you can make this ice cream dessert fitting for the holidays. We hope you’ll enjoy these family recipes as much as we do!
Ice Cream Dessert
from the kitchen of Evelyn Latham
- ½ gallon vanilla ice cream (softened)
- 2 c. Rice Krispies
- 1 c. coconut
- ½ c. nuts
- 2/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/3 cup butter, melted
- Crush Rice Krispies with rolling pin and then mix them with coconut, nuts, brown sugar and butter.
- Put 2/3 of this mixture in the bottom of a 9×13 cake pan.
- Next place the ice cream put the rest of the Rice Krispies mixture on top.
- Place in freezer.
COOK’S TIP: Use peppermint ice cream for Christmas.
- Popped popcorn, about 1 gallon
- 2 c. sugar
- 1 c. dark Karo corn syrup
- ½ c. milk
- Cook mixture until it cracks by dropping a teaspoon of mixture in cold water.
- Then pour over popped popcorn.
- When it is cool enough to handle, coat hands with butter and shape popcorn into balls