Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A trip to New York City to see "Cleopatra" at the Rivoli

(A version of this entry was originally published on January 5, 2010, on Relics.)

My side hobby brings me in contact with a lot of books. Some of these books have not been opened in many years. And when you open them up and leaf through them, you invariably find interesting things tucked away inside.

It would be easy to toss out those receipts and ticket stubs and bookmarks and move on with the process of assessing the book. But what fun would that be? This blog is, in part, about all that ephemera that gets tucked between the pages and forgotten for decades.

Maybe those scraps didn't tell much of a story then, but they can tell us something now. Take these ticket stubs from 1963...

These $3 tickets were for a matinee showing of "Cleopatra" on Sept. 3, 1963, at the Rivoli Theatre, which was located on Broadway in New York City.

"Cleopatra," starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rex Harrison, Richard Burton and personal favorite Roddy McDowall, was one of the most famous debacles in movie history, even though it won a few Academy Awards. It cost $44 million to produce, the equivalent of more than $300 million today, and Taylor almost died during the filming.

But let's set "Cleopatra" aside and discuss the Rivoli (right). It was anything but a debacle. It was one of the more decadent, spectacular places to see a movie in American history. According to Cinema Treasures, the Rivoli, designed by architect Thomas W. Lamb, opened in December 1917 at 1620 Broadway in Manhattan. In the 1950s, it was converted to 70mm Todd-AO, with a massive, deeply curved screen "that generated the illusion of peripheral vision" (imagine watching "Avatar" on that sucker). There was seating for nearly 2,100 film-goers. The Rivoli screened "roadshow" films such as "Oklahoma!", "Around the World in 80 Days," "West Side Story," "Cleopatra" and "The Sound of Music." With roadshows, films would play exclusively at one large metropolitan theater, sometimes for as long as a year, and tickets were usually sold on a reserved-seat basis, explaining seats E9 and E11 on the mezzanine-level ticket stubs (which, if you read the tiny type, were printed by the National Ticket Co. in Shamokin, Pa.).

But while these ticket stubs and their accompanying envelope to a sword-and-sandal cinematic flop from 46 years ago have stood the test of time, the Rivoli Theater did not. According, again, to Cinema Treasures, the Rivoli was "twinned" (converted to a two-screen theater) in the 1980s. One of the last films shown in its magnificent interior was "Class of Nuke 'Em High." It was closed in 1987 and later demolished, replaced by a glass skyscraper.

A piece of New York City's architecture and film history gone, leaving behind memories and ticket stubs.

See this 2011 followup post.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas! Remembering the Christmas Truce of 1914

Merry Christmas!

In addition to making lots of original posts here on PaperGreat, I'll also be blogging about and linking to great ephemera and history content elsewhere on the Internet.

If you love this stuff, one of the sites you should be checking out is Rag Linen. The site describes itself as "an educational archive of rare and historic newspapers, which serve as the first drafts of history and the critical primary source material for historians, authors and educators."

Rag Linen is the big leagues of ephemera web sites, folks. I'm just bumming around in the minors.

Anyway, Rag Linen has a great entry about newspaper coverage of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

Wikipedia has a nice, in-depth article about the Christmas Truce, which you'll definitely want to check out if you're not familiar with it.

Finally, if you want the sappy, shorthand version of the Christmas truce, here's Paul McCartney's video, "Pipes of Peace" ...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Old photo stirs up a blizzard of mystery

From time to time I will be posting images of ephemera that I simply have no idea about. Hopefully we can discuss and solve them together.

This photo was from the collection of my grandmother, the late Helen Ingham. I believe the icy sign on the building says "GRAFTON." My best guess is that this photo is from the early 1940s. The location might be Utah, where she lived for a while, but that is truly just a guess.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lonely death of a 'raw-boned sourdough'

(A version of this entry was originally published January 7, 2010, on Relics.)

From the Oct. 31, 1935, edition of the St. Paul (Minn.) Dispatch (purchased at a flea market at the York Expo Center in 2007). Love the colorful writing in this.

Meanwhile, this was Time magazine's mention of Swanson's death: "Died. John ("Old Itchfoot") Swanson, 65, onetime rich, notorious gold prospector; in Los Angeles. He went to Nome in the 1890's, staked out the "Little Minook" mine, gathered in $15,000 a day for a great many days, was a crony of Tex Rickard, Rex Beach, Jack London and "Klondike Kate" Rockwell, poured his money in a yellow river across the gambling tables.

"Broke, hoping for another big strike, he succumbed in a dismal flophouse last week to acute indigestion."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Take a ride with Edwards Motor Transit Co.

(A version of this entry was originally published January 12, 2010, on Relics.)

This envelope (the front and back are pictured above) was tucked away inside an old book I came across awhile back. It came with a pair of ticket stubs indicating that some couple made a trip to New York City. Can't tell where they were coming from, though it could be any of the stops shown in the top image of the front of the ticket envelope. It's possible the travelers' origin was York, though it seems it would have been some circuitous to go from York north to Sunbury (or Williamsport) and then across to New York City.

Edwards Lakes to Sea System was also known as Edwards Motor Transit Co. According to the Web site Keystone Connections, "Edwards Lakes to Sea served a large portion of the state of Pennsylvania and its routes reached into neighboring states of New York, Ohio and New Jersey directly and Maryland and Washington, DC via a pool arrangement with Greyhound Lines."

Again according to Keystone Connections, Edwards Motor Transit Co. "was broken up in the early 1980s and its route system divided between Susquehanna Trailways and Fullington Trailways."

Some additional history on Edwards Motor Transit Co. can be found in this in-depth history of mass transit in Williamsport and northcentral Pennsylvania.

Finally, note the interesting fine print on the ticket stub: "Seating aboard vehicles operated in interstate or foreign commerce is without regard to race, color, creed, or national origin." That would seem to date this envelope and ticket stub after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Rehashing the 'Relics' that never were

For the Six Days of Christmas, which are all I have at this point, I'm going to kick-start this blog by re-posting some entries from the late, great Relics, a vaporware blog that never got off the ground earlier this year.1 There were some fairly decent posts there, if I do say so myself, and so I thought it would be nice to give them an official home here, instead of having them dwell forever in limbo.

So enjoy "The Best of Relics" this week. It will give you a good taste of what this blog will be like when I get busy posting original content in 2011.

1. It was going to be one of the blogs offered by the York Daily Record/Sunday News, my employer. But we decided that, while Relics was interesting, it didn't feature enough content of local interest to move forward with it. So the plug was pulled while it was still under construction.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

A story in every piece of paper

A 30-pound box of ephemera in my bedroom.
Almost everything fascinates me.1

Old pieces of paper. Old books, magazines, pamphlets, postcards...

All of these fascinate me. I have trouble throwing away even the seemingly most ridiculous pieces of old paper -- a magazine subscription card from 1965, a bookmark from 1975.

Each one offers an opportunity for some entertaining archaeology.

What the heck is it? Who made it? Why did they make it? What was the social context in which is was made? Is the company or product still around?

Each piece can tell a story. And the beauty of it is, the story path I'm led down by one item might be entirely different than the story path you're led down. No two tales would be alike. And that's fine.

This blog will be a place for those explorations.

1. One notable exception: Writing an introductory post to launch a blog is not fascinating to me.