Heavenly Honey Rolls and Hoosier Hospitality

From another of Indiana’s famous sons, Michael Jackson…  Goin’ Back to Indiana, from the 1971 Jackson 5 album of the same name.  The song was written by Barry Gordy and 3 others under the name “The Corporation,” who were responsible for writing many hits for Gordy’s Motown stars.  The Jackson siblings were born and raised in Gary, Indiana.  The exuberant energy Michael expresses in his performance represents the feelings of many James Dean fans, when traveling to Dean’s hometown of Fairmount.

I’ve been trying to write this blog for several weeks, but the holiday season overwhelmed my schedule (and intentions).

The Honey Rolls recipe from Dr. James DeWeerd (page 143 in Recipes for Rebels) are a party essential, just right for any time of year when people gather to share a meal.  Great as a dinner roll or fabulous as mini sandwich buns.  These rolls are fluffy and light, perfectly textured with just a hint of delicious sweetness (reminiscent of everyone’s favorite King’s Hawaiian Rolls).  The recipe is easy to prepare and flexible with your busy party-planning schedule.  Even if you’ve never baked bread before, this is one that will impress all your friends and family. (The full recipe and preparation appear at the end of this blog.)

This is a long and meandering story, but full of fascinating bits of history about Indiana, James Dean, and the Reverend James DeWeerd.  Hope you will find it as revealing and interesting as I did…

James DeWeerd as he appeared in his college yearbook.

James DeWeerd as he appeared in his college yearbook.

Dr. James DeWeerd was a pastor at the Fairmount Wesleyan Church and a member of the Fairmount School Board when 9 year old Jimmy Dean moved back to Indiana to live with his aunt Ortense and uncle Marcus Winslow in the large white farmhouse, just outside of town.  He was a well respected member of the community and known for his hospitality…inviting people to his home for dinners or desserts and coffee.  He had an infectious sense of humor and often quoted the wealth of poetry he had memorized.

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The tan copy is a 1952 first edition. The blue copy is from the 3rd printing in 1955.

DeWeerd was born in 1916 in Olivet, IL to parents who served as Wesleyan Methodist missionaries in South Africa.  In 1931 he was transplanted to Fairmount, IN where he attended Fairmount High School.  From 1933-37 he attended Marion College and Taylor University in Indiana.  After graduation, he assumed the role of pastor at Gaston, IN Wesleyan Methodist Church, followed by Fairmount Wesleyan Church.  He was a combat chaplan in WWII, where he was seriously wounded twice, trying to rescue his men in the midst of battle.  He bore the horrific scars, a shattered rib cage, and physical pain from his injuries until his death in 1972 (he is buried in the same Park Cemetery as James Dean).  He received a Silver Star for Bravery, a Purple Heart, and in 1952 wrote a book about his war experiences in Europe and miraculous spiritual deliverance after the injuries.  The book was called Memory is Bitter-Sweet and had at least 3 reprints.  He authored several other books throughout his career.

DeWeerd became a mentor to the young James Dean (who would later describe him as his “hero” and try to emulate DeWeerd’s life).  The Reverend, only 15 years older than Dean, was a worldly man whose extensive travels and knowledge fascinated the boy.  Evelyn Washburn, a Fairmount historian wrote, “To really understand (Dean) as his hometown understands him, you must know about the man after whom he patterned his life… To know this cultured, tolerant man (DeWeerd) with his flair for living, his fire and humor, his dazzling intelligence, is to know Jimmy Dean.”

The Reverend became Dean’s closest friend in Fairmount, with whom he could share his deepest secrets and highest abstract thoughts.  Marcus Winslow believes he was one of the very few people Jim was comfortable sharing his feelings about the loss of his mother.  They would continue to correspond throughout Jim’s entire life.  As a young boy, DeWeerd said Jim, “was usually happiest stretched out on my library floor reading Shakespeare or other books of his choosing…He loved good music playing in the background; Tchaikovsky was his favorite.”

DeWeerd was appointed by the Governor of Indiana as chairman of the State Juvenile Delinquency Study Commission…he had strong interests in child welfare.  He took young Jim (and other groups of boys) to the Art Museum in Indianapolis, to the Indy 500, swimming at the YMCA in nearby Anderson…he inspired Jim’s interest in bongo drums, in yoga (which Deweerd practiced daily to relieve the pain of his war injuries), and bullfighting.  DeWeerd enjoyed big flashy cars and is said to have been the one who taught Dean to drive.

“All of us are lonely and searching,” recalled DeWeerd.  “But because he was so sensitive, Jimmy was lonelier and he searched harder.  He wanted final answers, and I think I taught him to believe in personal immortality.”

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden

DeWeerd showed Dean home movies of bullfights in Mexico that had been shot while he was there on a speaking engagement.  The bullfighting theme would reappear many times throughout Dean’s life…in his own drawing and paintings, in objects he chose to decorate his apartments, in photos taken by Dennis Stock in New York, and Sanford Roth in California.

Rebel Without a Cause director Nicholas Ray speculated about Dean’s bullfighting infatuation, “…there was the ritual, the matador’s inescapable endurance test, the challenge of proving himself, and there was it’s physical grace.”

After High School graduation and returning to live in California with his father, Dean repeatedly made the trip to Tijuana to watch bullfights.

(Click on any of the photos to see them larger.) These are from a series taken by photographer Sanford Roth, while Dean was on break from shooting East of Eden on the Warner Brothers Studio Lots. The other man pictured in these photos is Nick Dennis who played the role of “Rantani,” a Swiss Itailan who rented land from the Trasks in East of Eden. Dennis was born in Thessaly, Greece and is best remembered for his roles in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), Sirocco (1951), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and Spartacus (1960). He had over 54 TV and film credits and 11 Broadway roles. He was usually cast in “ethnic” character parts.

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden

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From a series of photos taken by Sanford Roth

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden, with Greek actor Nick Dennis

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden, with Greek actor Nick Dennis

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden

From photos taken by Sanford Roth while at Warner Bothers Studios shooting East of Eden

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From 1948-58, DeWeerd became editor for the Christian Witness periodical.  In 1949-51 he was appointed president of Kletzing College (a theological university in Iowa), doubling the schools enrollment and pulling them out of financial ruin.  He then returned to Indiana where he assumed the responsibilities of an administrator and evangelical pastor at the Cadle Tabernacle in Indianapolis.  He was a dedicated follower of the Holiness movement, whose quest is to become perfect in love or internal intention (the Quaker church, which Jim Dean belonged to, is closely allied with the Holiness movement.  Throughout  history, the movement has opposed slavery,the oppression of women, and sought to meet the needs of the poor.  The Salvation Army is another contemporary affiliate.  It currently has more than 12 million adherents world-wide).  DeWeerd became one of the Holiness movement’s most popular evangelists of the 1940s and 50s.

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The Cadle Tabernacle was founded by Howard Cadle in 1921.  He was formerly known as the “Slot Machine King,” running illegal gambling devices throughout Chicago, Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.  After a 1451168636610near-death kidney illness, he rededicated his life to family and religion, started a shoe repair business, an auto sales dealership, and eventually built the Spanish Mission-style (intended to resemble the Alamo), 10,000 seat tabernacle at New Jersey and Ohio Streets, 2 blocks east of the old Indianapolis City Hall.  It was the largest church of it’s time.  By the 1930s they boasted a 1400 voice choir and were receiving over 24,000 letters a week.  Cadle became one of the pioneer radio and TV evangelists with his radio show called the Nation’s Family Prayer Period (which aired on Cincinnati WLW, reached 3 million people a week, and continued into the 1990s.  DeWeerd would later take over the show after Howard Cadle’s death).  Cadle’s outreach program installed radios in the pulpits of more than 500 impoverished 1451168641186Appalachian churches (who were too poor to support a minister) where congregants could gather weekly to listen to the broadcasts.  They regularly traveled by private plane across the country, holding one-night revival meetings.

1451168638594The Cadle Tabernacle hosted many other notable speakers throughout the years, including Oral Roberts and Martin Luther King, Jr (in 14511686397101958).  On January 15th, 1942 famous Hollywood actress Carole Lombard sang the Star Spangled Banner there in an effort to raise money for War Bonds.  She raised $2,017,513 in one hour (and died in a plane crash returning home later that same night).  Lombard was born in Ft. Wayne, IN.1451168631201

The building was torn down in 1968 to make room for an employee parking garage of the Indiana National Bank Tower.  It is now the location of the Firehouse Square Condos.

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Reverend James DeWeerd

Dean kept in touch with DeWeerd, writing and visiting.  In January, 1950, DeWeerd’s evangelical revival meetings brought him to Pasadena, CA where he delivered two sermons a day for the 10-day camp at the Bresee Church of the Nazarene.  Dean drove to take in one of these sermons.  Afterwards he complained to the Reverend that he felt his entire last year at Santa Monica Community College was a waste of time…not helping to advance his career.  Jim was not so happy with DeWeerd’s response, that it was good for him…The Reverend later wrote in a letter, “The more things you know how to do and the more things you experience, the better off you’ll be.”

Jim was struggling to find his path.  He wrote to DeWeerd, “I don’t really know who I am, but it doesn’t really matter.  There really isn’t an opportunity for greatness in this world.  We are impaled on a crock of conditioning.  A fish that is in water has no choice what he is.  Genius would have it that he swim in sand…We are fish and we drown.”

They continued to correspond as Dean’s career objectives took him to New York.   His letters became much more optimistic as he talked about ice skating at Rockefeller Center and his many new experiences (even though the new glasses, new coat, and other unexpected expenses were eating away at the money DeWeerd had loaned him, faster than planned).  Soon his letters were filled with pride about how he was finally able to support himself through acting, about his Broadway premier and all the critical accolades he was receiving.

DeWeerd eventually went on to marry, at age 47, and to get his Doctorate degree in 1968 from Ball State University.  He spent his later years in Pennville, IN.  He died in 1972 and was buried in Park Cemetery in Fairmount.

The Reverend James DeWeerd was asked to preside over the funeral services for his friend James Dean in 1955 (along with Xen Harvey, minister from the Fairmount Quaker Church).  He flew by private plane, immediately following his noon broadcast on the Cincinnati, OH radio station to the airport in Marion.  He arrived just before services began.  He included poetry (as he was so well known to do) from John G. Neihardt, author of Black Elk Speaks, “Human Life has been compared to an automobile.  Some get more mileage in 30 years than others do in 60.  So even though we weep for the dead, the doubly dead in that he died so young, yet we feel that Jim who lived dangerously would have had the last act come as it did, as last nights must come to all earthly things.”

“Perhaps he would recite for us, if he could, the lines of a lesser poet, John G. Neihardt, who wrote,

Reverend James DeWeerd

Reverend James DeWeerd

‘Let me live out my years in heat of blood!

Let me die drunken with the dreamers wine!

Let me not see this soul- -house built of mud

go toppling to the dust- -a vacant shrine!

Let me go quickly like a candle light

snuffed out just at the heyday of it’s glow!

Thus would I go.

And grant me, when I face the grisly Thing,

one haughty cry to pierce the gray perhaps!

O let me be a tune-swept fiddlestring

that feels the Master Melody- -and snaps.’ ”

photo from the January 28, 1967 Commercial Review article

photo from the January 28, 1967 Commercial Review article

Entertaining and hospitality were a theme in DeWeerd’s Life.  He was  highly accomplished in the kitchen (even though he made light of his cooking prowess in a January 1967 newspaper article about him).  The Commercial Review of Portland, IN quoted him as saying, “A man cook is a lot like seeing a dog walk on it’s hind legs.  First of all you are surprised to see the dog do this feat, then you are surprised to see the dog doing so well on it’s hind legs.  This same reasoning probably makes me very highly overrated as a chef.”  The same article goes on to explain that James keeps a second refrigerator in his home for the sole purpose of storing different varieties of flour and flour mixes…”to keep out the weevils.”

During his tenure with the Cadle Tabernacle he compiled a cookbook for the esteemed wife of the founder, Helen Cadle Walker.  She got all the credit, but a number of his recipes do appear within it’s pages (along with helpful household hints and spiritual “literary nuggets” to brighten the day for “busy housewives and mothers.”

formerly property of Mrs. Flossie Hall...now in the authors private cookbook collection

formerly property of Mrs. Flossie Hall…now in the authors private cookbook collection

Here is a photo of my personal copy of Cadle Table Treasures, formerly owned by Mrs. Flossie Hall of Springfield, OH.  The evidence of stains, circles, and notes on the inside (as well as her home address and a strict warning written on the inside cover that this was HER property) proves it was a well used and well loved book (that YES, you CAN borrow… but you BETTER give it back to her!).  Perhaps she’s done with it now…but how unfortunate that she was surrounded by so many cookbook-thieving friends!  The Reverend James DeWeerd’s Honey Rolls recipe appears in this book (highlighted by Flossie with a blue check mark).

As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, this recipe produces the perfect dinner roll or a wonderful mini sandwich bun for use at parties.  It makes 40 rolls, but the dough keeps well refrigerated for a week (or even frozen in premade balls) so you only have to bake as many as you’ll be needing.  Most of the prep is done a day ahead.  First I’ll print the recipe as written by the Reverend himself, then I’ll show you my step-by-step process, tips, and results…

THE REVEREND JAMES DEWEERD’S HONEY ROLLS

INGREDIENTS:

DIRECTIONS:

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Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year filled with lots of parties and friends and family!

 

1 Comment

  1. I made these for Christmas Day…paired with Stewart Stern’s Meatloaf With a Cause (highly recommended…the best meatloaf you’ll ever try). I only used half the dough for rolls…the second half eventually got used for the crust of a shepherd’s pie (by Alex, using some of the leftover meatloaf…it was great!) and as a pizza dough by me (also worked out great). The extra rolls have come in handy for mini meatloaf sandwiches. Gourmet leftovers! 🙂

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