A chocolate-covered candy bar, sent to thousands of soldiers during WWII, will be recreated and sampled by visitors at Brooklyn’s Flag Festival on Saturday, June 11. Yvonne Hawkins holds an original bar next to the scales used to weigh the 2-ounce bars. Photo by Carol Carpenter Hanson
By Carol Carpenter Hanson
Historian with Brooklyn Historical Society
This small Iowa town will celebrate its unsung heroes at its annual Flag Festival, June 11, the weekend before Americans mark National Flag Day.
The first unsung hero is Harold “Pie” Keller, a flag-raiser in the iconic photo taken at the Battle of Iwo Jima during WWII, whose identity was finally uncovered after more than 70 years. Three other Brooklyn area men will be recognized for their heroic service at Iwo Jima, as will all local men and women who are veterans of U.S. wars.
Also remembered will be a dedicated Iowa farm wife who sent around 30,000 candy bars to servicemen during World War II. Every visitor attending the Flag Day event will go home with a nougat and caramel, chocolate-covered candy bar in honor and memory of her.
A Brooklyn native raised on a nearby farm, Marie Kriegel Schulte was searching for some way she could support the war effort back in 1943. She was mindful that her friends and neighbors had sacrificed their sons and daughters to serve their country, but that she was 43, childless, and living on a country farm with her husband near Manly, Iowa.
When a neighbor came to her with a religious question from her soldier son overseas, Marie was inspired to reach out to more servicemen by sending them a prayer attached to a candy bar.
During those war years of stringent food rationing, it was difficult to get extra sugar and chocolate allotments, so she registered with the state and applied to the local rationing board with a well-thought-out plan. She named her bar, “Serv-a-Son,” designed a candy bar wrapper, and drove to Minneapolis to have it made.
Marie invited local mothers of servicemen to her home to begin her sales plan, which then spread by word of mouth: for 25 cents (including mailing) you could purchase a box of four bars and have them sent to the serviceman of your choosing.
Of course, this was a bargain even back in 1943, and for the next two years, Marie kept busy making one batch after another, each batch making 50 bars, by herself in her farm kitchen, until the war ended in 1945.
The reward for her efforts was found in the letters she received, like: “I am out here in a fox hole alone with fire blasting above and at time all looks pretty dark. – Then I read my wrapper and! – all looks brighter.”
Another young man wrote: “I cut my bars in bite size pieces to share. Then the fellows asked to see the wrappers – I passed them out and to date I still don’t have a wrapper – they just don’t get back to me.”
After she and her husband retired from farming in 1965, they moved back to Brooklyn, where Marie had numerous relatives. She was the aunt of the late Doris Manatt & her brother, the late Dale Hawkins.
Yvonne Hawkins, Dale’s wife, said they found the remains of Marie’s last batch of the nougat bars in her freezer, likely from the final time she made them one Easter for her nieces and nephews in the early 1970’s. The Hawkins donated a box of the now-hardened bars, plus the scales Marie used to weigh them, to the Brooklyn Historical Society, where they’ve been displayed for the past decade.
Marie died at age 100 years and 11 months, almost a year after fulfilling her wish to dance at her 100th birthday party at Brooklyn’s Brookhaven retirement home. She was a favored aunt among her many nieces and nephews, who wanted to honor her memory by funding the upcoming candy bar giveaway through the G.J. “Junie” Manatt Family Foundation.
A grandniece, Mary Jo Thompson, said that after her family foundation contributed $12,000 for the candy bar project, she made numerous failed attempts to duplicate the chocolate-covered nougat bar. However, the “recipe” was only a list of the ingredients: egg whites, cream, dark syrup and sugar – but not the directions of how to combine them.
Finally, through a YouTube video, Thompson located a professional candymaker in Wisconsin experienced in recreating old recipes, and willing to try producing Marie’s bar. James J. Chocolate Shop in Lake Mills, Wisconsin will make 3,000 bars to be given away at Brooklyn’s upcoming Flag Festival event.
Thompson was even able to duplicate Marie Schulte’s candy bar wrapper, made from “glassine,” a smooth, glossy paper used during WWII due to the shortage of paper.
The weekend of activities planned for the Brooklyn event will include a parade followed by the dedication and unveiling of a bronze statue of Harold Keller. Townspeople raised $75,000 for the life-sized likeness of Keller, which will stand near the town’s colorful, permanent display of 63 flags from all the states and military branches, and a 25 foot by 30 foot American flag.
Carol Carpenter Hanson can be reached at caranhan@gmail or 515-822-8635.
Close-up of Marie Schulte’s candy bar. Photo by Carol Carpenter Hanson
Marie’s prayer, written by Marie Schulte & sent to servicemen on each candy bar.
Left, Marie as a young woman. Right, Marie Schulte, center; with sisters Marian Kriegel Powell, left; and Josephine Kriegel Hawkins Willett, right; in the 1970s.
A recent replica of the candy bar wrapper designed by Marie Schulte, printed on “glassine” paper like those made during the war years, due to the paper shortage during WWII.
Marie’s story on wrapper