Friday, March 13, 2015

Friday's Faces From the Past: Fearless Females Alyce Frances Salerno and Elizabeth Florence Massmann Pape, ABT 1937



The photo above is of my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Florence Massmann Pape (1902-2000), on the right, with her friend Alyce Frances Salerno (1914-1985) on the left.  I'm not sure where the photo was taken, but on the back, it is stamped "A Richards Photo Print" and "Feb 8 1937," so it must have been taken on or before that date, and around the same time as another of my grandmother and great-grandmother.

I knew my grandmother was friends with the Salerno family, who owned the Salerno Megowen Biscuit Company.  They made butter cookies, famous for their 1935-1967 radio slogan, "Mommy...I want a Salerno butter cookie," and a jingle that went like this:

"You can lookie, lookie, lookie,
But you'll never find a cookie
With a better butter batter than Salerno."

They also made an anise-flavored Christmas cookie (in various holiday shapes) that were originally called Jingles and later Santa's Favorites.  They even made Girl Scout cookies for a while in the 1970s.

Alyce Frances Salerno was born on October 1, 1914, in Chicago, the third and youngest child and second daughter of Italian immigrants Fred George Salerno (1877-1968) and Frances E. Noto (ABT 1878-BEF 1939).

According to a University of Illinois at Chicago history project website, Fred Salerno, who began as a "greasy pans boy" in 1889, went on to become the general manager and vice-president of the Sawyer Biscuit Company, one of the largest baking firms in the country. In 1933, with R. Lee Megowen, he founded the Salerno-Megowen Biscuit Company at 4500 W. Division in Chicago.

On the 1910 Census, before Alyce's birth, the Salerno family was living at 1013 N. Claremont Avenue in Chicago.  It's hard to read, but it looks like Fred's occupation was journeyman baker.  On his September 1918 World War I draft registration card, he is now superintendent and vice-president of the Sawyer Baking Company at 1029 W. Harrison Street in Chicago, and living not far away at 3500 W. Congress.

I couldn't find the family in the 1920 Census, but by 1929 (based on an England-to-New York City passenger list), they are living in a fine house at 501 Lake Avenue in the north-of-Chicago suburb of Wilmette.  The family is also at this address in the 1930 Census and in Evanston/Wilmette city directories the next few years.  Alyce's mother Frances appears in the 1937 directory but not in 1939; and on the 1940 Census, Fred is listed as a widower.  Alyce is still single and living with him at the family home on Lake Avenue.

The 1940 Census also lists Fred as president of the Salerno Biscuit Company, and Alyce's older brother George Fred Salerno (1909-1970), who lives nearby at 217 Third Street in Wilmette with his wife Sylvia and daughter Gay, is vice-president of a bakery, presumably the same one.  Fred's 1942 World War II draft registration card indicates the Salerno-Megowen Biscuit Company is still at 4500 Division Street.  However, by September 1961, the company had moved to 7777 North Caldwell Avenue in the Niles area, and George was now president of the company.

Sometime between 1940 and George's death in 1970, Alyce had become a vice-president and member of the board of the company.  According to her obituary in the November 24, 1985, Chicago Tribune, she
...became known as the "cookie queen of the United States" for her reign over the Salerno cookie company...In 1971, Miss Salerno was elected chairman of the Salerno-Megowen Biscuit Co. in Niles. She had been its chairman emeritus for several years.  Miss Salerno, 71, of Wilmette, had been with the firm all her life, serving as vice president and as a member of its board, among other roles.  Five years after she took over as chairman, the firm expanded its sales to about 30 states and was selling $40 million worth of sweets and crackers a year.
An August 28, 1978, article in the Chicago Tribune interviews Alyce about an upcoming merger:
An Associated Press story dated November 23, 1985, the day of her death, said she "died at Evanston Hospital following a brief illness....Although the family sold the company in 1982, Miss Salerno remained associated with it, frequently representing it at international and national conventions. Miss Salerno was one of the first women members of the Economic Club of Chicago. She also was a member of the Executive Club of Chicago and the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations."

Alyce Frances Salerno is buried at All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois.


© Amanda Pape - 2015 - click here to e-mail me.

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