Flora Leslie, Brookside’s Dietician and Food Director

With the Thanksgiving holiday almost upon us, it is time to begin planning and preparing one of the essential parts of any celebration: food. It seems timely, then, to highlight Flora Leslie, Brookside’s long-serving dietician and food director. I would like to introduce her to you in her own voice, recalling a memory of some precarious pumpkin pies:

Floral Leslie interview with Mark Coir, Archivist (OH1990.09.28), November 5, 1987.
Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

Hearing this story in Flora’s voice brings the memory to life in a different way than simply reading it in written form. Cranbrook Archives’ Oral History Collection holds recordings of many voices that add dynamism and richness to their stories. Flora Leslie’s interview describes her life at Cranbrook and her experience of its people and places in the mid-twentieth century.

Flora Leslie (second from left) with cooking staff at Brookside School. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

Born Flora MacFarlane in Alexandria, Scotland, in 1906, she made her way to the United States alone in December 1930. Journeying by ship on a very stormy sea, the passengers were required to stay below deck where they got to know each other more than they would have had they been able to wander on deck. Having worked in a photographer’s office in Scotland, Flora initially sought the same occupation in America.

But a fellow passenger Flora met aboard the ship told her that if she had no luck finding work, to contact her for employment. It is thus that Flora began to work for the Ward family in Pontiac, a family whose children were students at Cranbrook.

In 1932, Flora started working at Cranbrook, initially at Kingswood School. Flora married George Leslie in 1934, a landscaper and gardener, and later a superintendent of buildings at Cranbrook.

After several invitations from Jessie Winter, Headmistress of Brookside School, Flora became the dietician and food director at Brookside School, a position she held from 1934-1975. The position came with an apartment, and though at first Flora preferred to stay at Kingswood, which she describes as “light and bright and lovely,” Winter asked Flora and George back to Brookside one further time and had arranged the apartment beautifully. Most importantly, there was a brand-new Frigidaire refrigerator, a novelty in those days. As Flora recalled, seeing this small luxury she told the headmistress, “We’ll come!” The apartment was in the part of Brookside known as the ‘Ram’s House’ and had previously been occupied by Jessie Winter and by J. Robert F. Swanson.

View of the front of George and Flora Leslie’s apartment, known as the Ram’s House, circa 1935-1938. Courtesy of Cranbrook Archives.

During the war years, when food was in short supply, George and Flora Leslie kept Brookside stocked with vegetables—he grew them and she canned them.

After feeding generations of students, Flora published many of her favorite and original recipes in the Brookside cookbook, Favorite Recipes, which are still enjoyed by alumni far and wide. Perhaps you might like to try one of Flora’s original recipes this Thanksgiving, or a dessert recipe from one of the faculty families?

Laura MacNewman, Associate Archivist, Cranbrook Center for Collections and Research

Alger Munt: Cranbrook’s English Gardener

When sifting through images to post on the Center’s Facebook page, I often come across an image of someone and wonder, “How did this person end up at Cranbrook?” This week, that “someone” is Alger Munt.

Alger Munt working in the greenhouse at Cranbrook, October 1950.

Alger Munt working in the greenhouse at Cranbrook, October 1950. Photo by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

Algernon George Munt (“Alger”) was born in St. Albans, Hertfordshire, England in 1894. From the age of 14, he worked as a gardener on estates near his hometown. When he was 18, he started work manufacturing straw hats in one of the area factories. Soon, his country called and he joined the army, serving in the Royal Field Artillery during World War I. After the war, he did not return to the factory but resumed gardening instead.

Munt came to America in 1921 to work for his uncle William Munt in St. Clair, Michigan, in the commercial greenhouse business. He would work for his uncle for eight years. In 1926, Munt briefly returned to England to marry Grace Barker Skinner (1898-1981) of Ware, Southampton, Hampshire, England.

Munt soon tired of the greenhouse business and came to the Birmingham-Bloomfield area to become a gardener on a private estate. Based on census information and Munt’s oral history account in Cranbrook Archives, the “private estate” was Strandcrest, the estate of lumberman Carl A. Strand, which boasted 14.3 acres, fruit trees, and a caretaker’s residence.

It was in 1936 that Munt came to work at Cranbrook. He was a gardener at Cranbrook from 1936 to 1941. From October 1941 to December 1942, Munt worked at Spindletop Hall in Lexington, Kentucky.

George G. Booth had told Munt in 1941 that he didn’t want him to go but that anytime he wanted to make a change—if things did not work out in Kentucky—get in contact with him. When Spindletop Hall had to switch to economy/war-mode in 1942, Munt took Mr. Booth up on his offer and returned to Cranbrook as a gardener and part-time chauffeur. His wife Grace worked as a laundress for the Booths.

Alger and Grace Munt

Alger and Grace Munt, circa 1965. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

By the 1950s, Munt was the Superintendent of the Greenhouse and Grounds at Cranbrook, and his wife was working as a maid in the dormitories at Cranbrook Academy of Art.

Twin Cottage on the estate

The Munts lived in Twin Cottage on the estate, pictured here in 1957, when they returned to Cranbrook in 1942 until their retirement in 1966. Photo by Harvey Croze. Courtesy Cranbrook Archives.

The Munts retired from Cranbrook in August 1966 and they moved back to England, intending to settle in Cornwall. Unfortunately, Munt died suddenly in November 1966, just short of his 72nd birthday.

Leslie S. Mio, Associate Registrar

 

Welcoming Our Two Archives Assistants!

Prior to volunteering at Cranbrook Archives, I had been studying history and had become aware of the importance of primary sources for historiography, and the value of preserving heritage for the wider community. I began volunteering in 2012 which helped me decide to pursue a career in archives, and I began studying for the MA Archive Administration with Aberystwyth University in Wales (distance learning) in 2013. As part of a university assignment, I processed the HUB (Horizons-Upward Bound) Records, and am currently researching George Gough Booth’s interest in tapestries, which he purchased and commissioned for Cranbrook institutions and family members. I am interested in Booth’s involvement in the Arts and Crafts Movement, and the way in which the movement used medieval themes and techniques as a response to the social experience of the time. The Edgewater Looms, Herter Looms, and Morris & Co. tapestries are an ideal focus for exploring these ideas. I am looking forward to learning more about scanning/digitisation/digital preservation/cataloguing. The university modules emphasize access as the flip-side of preservation. I tend to have the latter foremost in my mind, so it will be great to see how the archive is used.

Laura MacNewman, Archives Assistant

Correspondence, George Gough Booth Papers, box 16, folder 11.

Correspondence, George Gough Booth Papers, box 16, folder 11.

As a graduate student mid-way through the Library and Information Science master’s program at Wayne State University, I’ve been given a healthy dose of libraries, archives, and the world of information over the past year. My interest in archives administration began while I was volunteering at the Cranbrook Archives last fall (2014). Here, I was introduced to the process of digitizing manuscripts, taking inventory of donated artist materials, and sifting through photographic negatives for future digital preservation and storage. I’ve also been working on the Cranbrook Archives’ Oral History Project. Much of my work at Cranbrook corresponds to my studies at Wayne State. In fact, this past week Head Archivist Leslie Edwards spoke about Cranbrook Archives’ oral history project in my oral histories course. As a new employee, I am keen to expand the number of digital images available online, help preserve the negative photograph collection, and understand what it really means to be an archivist.

Danae Dracht, Archives Assistant

From left: Carleton McClain, Henry S. Booth and Margaret Russell interviewing former Cranbrook School Headmaster, Harry Hoey at his home, 1964.

From left: Carleton McClain, Henry S. Booth and Margaret Russell interviewing former Cranbrook School Headmaster, Harry Hoey at his home, 1964.

Both Laura and Danae are working for us as part-time Archives Assistants, an entry-level archival position for graduate students. They will be working on a variety of projects during the coming year while gaining experience to propel them in their careers. Look for future blog posts from them in the upcoming months!

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