by Dennis Dalman
The United States is a country of ingenious inventors and landmark inventions, a fact underscored by dozens of Pine Meadow Elementary School fourth-graders during a special event Nov. 7.
On that day, in the school’s gymnasium, the students and their teachers created what they called “The Great Inventors Wax Museum.”
All around the gymnasium, standing next to the walls, were student “wax figures” dressed up as famous inventors, mostly American ones but also some from other countries in the long march of history. Each student/inventor stood there “frozen” like waxwork figures until one or more visitors would come up and shake the hand of an inventor. That was the signal for each waxwork to become animated to tell about their lives and their inventions. After each “waxwork” would give a short summary, “it” would again lapse into immobility.
One of the waxworks was Ruth Wakefield, played by Zoe Goetz. A Massachusetts native, Wakefield invented the “Toll House” chocolate-chip cookie in 1930. She and her husband had purchased a tourist lodge, called a “toll house,” in Whitman, Mass. Wakefiield was known for the delicious foods she served to her guests at the inn. One day, she had run out of powdered baking chocolate when making cookies. So she decided to break up a bar of chocolate into little bits and add them to the dough. Instead of melting, as she thought they would, they remained in pieces in the cookies. The new kind of cookie was an instant hit with her visitors and, in short order, with cookie lovers throughout the world. To this day, Wakefield’s accidental invention is known as “Toll House,” with the famous recipe printed on the back of every bag of Nestle’s chocolate chips.
Some of the other waxwork inventors at “The Great Inventors Wax Museum” were Eli Whitney (played by Jacob Schroeder), inventor of the cotton gin; Sir Isaac Newton (played by Noah Lutsen), who explained gravity among many other discoveries; Thomas Edison (played by Alex Ehrlichman), inventor of the light bulb and a thousand other useful items; Alexander Graham Bell (played by Michael Thieschafer), inventor of the telephone; and Johannes Gutenberg (played by Quentin Sigurdson), inventor of the printing press.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.