Mildred Lager - History of Her Work with Soyfoods and Natural Foods in Los Angeles (1900-1960)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-26-6

Publication Date: 2009 Sept. 15

Number of References in Bibliography: 153

Earliest Reference: 1900

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Brief Chronology of Mildred Lager

1900 Dec. 19 – Mildred Mathilda Lager is born in West Superior, Douglas County, Wisconsin, the only child of Gustav Walfred Lager and Hilda Marie Erickson. Gustav came to the USA in 1890 and Hilda in 1881. They were married on 28 Oct. 1899 in Superior, Wisconsin.

Mildred grew up in Superior at 929 Bay St., then attended Superior State Teachers' College of Wisconsin. She was active in college affairs and became a member of the Tau Alpha Chi sorority. Graduating with a teaching certificate, she then taught in two different schools, one in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and one (Washington School, probably a grammar school) in Escanaba, Michigan (Evening Telegram {Superior, Wisconsin}. 1960. “City, area deaths.” Jan. 27. p. 4).

1925 – Mildred starts her lifelong battle with arthritis.  Although a healthy child, raised on a sound traditional diet, she began to notice at an early age that her teeth were soft and her legs often ached. While in her teens she had been told by physicians that she had incurable rheumatoid arthritis and would never walk again, her hands and feet being completely alkylosed (locked stiff) at the time.

She soon becomes deeply interested in nutrition, convinced that she could heal herself through changing her diet. This interest eventually led her to soyfoods. Although already underweight, she decides to go on an eliminative diet, using only fruit juices. Five months later her swelling had disappeared and she was making remarkable progress. She decided to spend the rest of her life studying nutrition and trying to help others who suffered as she did from arthritis.

The pain from her arthritis may have forced her to stop teaching. For quite a time she was confined to a wheelchair; she worked for a while as a saleslady in a shoe store in Superior.

1929 – Mildred Lager and August Abraham form a partnership (she is secretary-treasurer and he is president) to buy Giesen’s Shoe Store (at 624 Tower Ave., Superior, where Abrahamson had worked for 18 years). They rename it the Family Shoe Store Inc.

1929 Oct. – The stock market crashes and the Great Depression begins.

1930 – Mildred leaves Superior, Wisconsin, probably headed for California, after doctors gave her only a few years to live (Evening Telegram {Superior, Wisconsin}. 1938. May 27. p. 4; 1960. “City, area deaths.” Jan. 27. p. 4).

1932 Nov. 4 – The Family Shoe Store holds its grand opening after moving from 624 Tower Ave. to its new quarters at 702 Tower Ave. At the time of the announcement, Miss Lager is on the Pacific Coast recovering her health (Evening Telegram {Superior Wisconsin}. 1932. Nov. 4, p. 9).

1932-Oct. 1933 – As a result of intensive study of foods and their value to health, Mildred becomes a demonstrator for Dr. Frank McCoy, noted health specialist of Los Angeles whose health talks appear daily in The Evening Telegram (Superior, Wisconsin) in the column titled “How to keep well.” She travels throughout the United States appearing before large audiences of both men and women showing them how health advocates prepare food (Evening Telegram. 1938. May 27, p. 4).

1932 – Mildred returns to her home town of Superior to conduct a cooking school and institute at Concordia Lutheran Church; large crowds attend.

1933 Oct. 25 – Mildred, now 32 years old, opens The House of Better Living, a large and attractive building surrounded by lawns and gardens at 1207 W. 6th St. in Los Angeles. She later wrote, "My aim was to teach, not to merchandise, and to always make my classes free of charge.”

1934 Jan. – Mildred is given her first radio program on KFAC in Los Angeles – from 7:45 to 8:00 a.m. It is listed at “The Dial” in the Los Angeles Times.

1934 April 20 – Mildred begins writing her long-running column titled “Food Facts” in California Health News (Hollywood, California), owned and operated by Clarke Irvine.

1935 June – Mildred’s first book, titled Food Facts, is published by her House of Better Living (228 + 10 p.). It is based on her column.

1935 Sept. 11 – Mildred starts publishing The House of Better Living, a newsletter. It contains useful information on diet, nutrition, and health, lists of and details about products sold at the store, plus ads for selected products (paid for by the manufacturers). Soy products appear in the first issue and most of the soy products available in Southern California during the 1930s appear in her newsletter or catalog. Mildred calls her food products “natural foods” rather than “health foods.”

1936 March – Mildred publishes The House of Better Living Catalog (14 p., 8.5 by 11 inches), with a green and brown color cover and a wealth of interesting information inside, plus listings for many soyfood products.

1937 June 26 – Mildred leaves for a 3-week trip to Hawaii on the Lurline (Los Angeles Times. 1937. June 9, p. 12). There she studied the pineapple industry and how the fruit affects health when used in the diet. She returned on July 17 from Honolulu on the Malolo.

1937 July 19 – Mildred begins broadcasting over radio station KCEA in Los Angeles at her regular time, 7:45 a.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings.

1937 Nov. – Mildred's morning radio program has returned to station KFAC but at a better time - 8:45 A.M. instead of 7:45. She offers a “cheery philosophy.”

1938 March – Mildred’s new and bigger House of Better Living Catalog: Finer Natural Foods is published (36 pages). It is the single most important document showing the creative development of commercial soyfoods in California in the late 1930s. It contains 26 new soyfood products and a total of 42 such products.

1939 – Mildred is cited by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for selling Vegeminerals and Oil of Garlic, and for making health claims about each.

1940 – Mildred’s parents move from Superior, Wisconsin, to Burbank, California – presumably to be near their only child, and for the nice weather. From 1940 to 1946, Mildred lived at 1901 West 2nd St., Burbank, California. Her parents lived with her after they arrived. In 1949 they celebrated their 50th anniversary.

1941 Dec. 7 – The United States enters World War II after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

1942 Soy Bean Recipes: 150 Ways to Use Soy Beans as Meat, Milk, Cheese, & Bread, by Mildred Lager, published in Los Angeles by the House of Better Living (43 p.). In Dec. 1942 a positive review appears in Soybean Digest (p. 8).

1945 June The Useful Soybean: A Plus Factor in Modern Living, by Mildred Lager, published in New York and London by McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc. (xii + 295 p). This is one of the most important and innovative books on soyfoods ever written.

1945 Dec. – Mildred sells the House of Better Living to Victor and Marvin Lemon. She has owned and operated it since 25 Oct. 1933. She plans to continue to teach and write.

1946 – Mildred Lager marries Edwin “Ed” S. Jones, a health food salesman and distributor (jobber), who had sold products to her store. It is her first marriage, his second. They live at 122 North Kenmore Ave. in Burbank. Her political party is Republican. Her parents live near her at 1230 North Ontario St. in Burbank.

1954 Dec. 24 – Gustaf Lager, Mildred’s father, dies at age 84 in Burbank, California. He is buried Dec. 27 at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills

1955 Nov. 29 – Mrs. Hilda Lager, Mildred’s mother, dies in Burbank, California. He is buried at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills.

1960 Jan. 25 (Monday) – Mrs. Edwin S. Jones (Mildred Lager), age 59, dies at her home at 4114 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California. Funeral services are conducted on Thursday, Jan. 28, at 11 a.m., at the Church of the Hills in Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California. She is buried at Forest Lawn. She leaves her husband, Edwin S. Jones, 4118 Warner Blvd., and two daughters (by Ed’s first marriage), Mrs. Evelyn Mundall of Oakdale and Mrs. Lois Bower of Redding.

1960 Aug. 7 – Edwin S. Jones (age 69) marries Dorothea Van Gundy (age 57). It is her first, his third. They revise and update Mildred Lager’s books, then both work hard for many years to keep them in print – in part as a source of family income.


This book is about:

Mildred M. Lager

Mildred Mathilda Lager

House of Better Living

Click here to download the full text to open and read book Mildred Lager - History of Her Work with Soyfoods and Natural Foods in Los Angeles (1900-1960)