Sunday, June 5, 2011

Plucked from a yard sale, Part 1: Mister Rogers and How to Meet Men

"Each piece can tell a story."

That's what I wrote about ephemera in my first blog post last November. I can research and write something interesting (to me, at least) about just about anything.

That's one thing that makes yard sales fascinating. They offer a chance to root through OPP -- Other People's Paper.1

Yesterday morning I found myself with a few spare minutes before Sarah and I had to leave to work on a 4-H project. One of our neighbors was having a yard sale, so I wandered over to see what they had. While others were checking out the kitchenware and items that appeared to have actual useful value, I went straight for the oddball items, the books and a disorganized box marked "free" that looked as if it been filled with the former assorted papers from a long-forgotten drawer. Heaven.

I was good and showed restraint. I only brought home a small stack of 14 items2 (pictured above), purchased for a grand total of $1.25. (I even argued that the seller was undercharging me.)

Over the next several days, I plan to live up to my Papergreat motto -- "each piece can tell a story." I will write something illuminating about each of the 14 items brought home from this yard sale.

With further ado, here are the first two items. Check back Monday through Thursday for the rundown on everything else you see in the photo at the top of today's entry, including a poster of a 1970s teen heartthrob.

Item #1: "Going to the Hospital"

This is a 16-page paperback book published in 1977 by the producers of "Misters Rogers' Neighborhood." Pictured on the cover are Fred Rogers and Daniel Striped Tiger.3

The book would have been accompanied by a video4 featuring Mister Rogers. According to the archived version of The Neighborhood Archive Blog, the series was produced in the 1970s and featured the following book/video combos:
  • Let's Talk About Going to the Hospital
  • Let's Talk About Having an Operation
  • Let's Talk About Wearing a Cast
The book features descriptions of what a hospital and a hospital visit are like. It also includes some activity pages with a connect-the-dots and suggestions for how to make your own paper-bag hand puppet.

Mister Rogers closes with the following note: "It can be scary to do something hard for the first time -- like going to the hospital. But it's nice to know that there are many people in the world who want to take good care of children. I hope you will feel better each day and be able to go home again soon."

Item #2: "How to Meet Men"

From Mister Rogers to Meeting Mr. Right! (Though, for some people, I'm sure that Mister Rogers is the ultimate Mr. Right!)

This book, by Elena Mann5, was published in 1968 by Bantam. It appears to be the kind of miniature volume that would have been sold in a grocery-store checkout line.6

It's an interesting relic of its time and the attitudes toward single women and dating in the late 1960s. It discusses how night classes, clubs, sporting events7, cocktail parties and church groups are "pre-tested" solutions to meeting Mr. Right. It also discusses "new" developments on the social scene, such as apartments for singles, dating bars and weekends for singles.

But the section that that caught my eye was "Computer Dating". I had no idea that computer dating was already on the scene in 1968. Here's an excerpt from that section:
Another thriving business has developed in this automated age of ours simply from the need of many men and women to meet the "right" person. ... Computers have been in the matchmaking business over ten years but when the college crowd and young "swingers" became involved several years ago the boom was on. Many of the computer services for those still in college or recent graduates are designed to turn up compatible dates rather than mates. Fees for this type are a modest $5 to $10. Other services, involving personal interviews, psychological testing, etc., may cost up to $400.8 ... Probably the oldest and best known of New York's computerized match-making services is the Scientific Marriage Institute9, which, according to last reports, had arranged nearly 2,000 marriages since it was founded in 1956. ... Other New York-based operatins included TACT -- Technical Automated Compatability Testing -- a "blind date" bureau that matches girls and men by computer for $5 each; and Operation Match Inc., which is also popular with young college graduates.10

Come back tomorrow for more tales from this yard sale!

1. Sadly, when you type "other people's paper" into Google, the first result you get is for "Free Term Papers, Research Papers, Essays, Book Reports" at On the bright side, however, I found this nice blog entry by Brandie Kajino at I strongly suspect Brandie would not have nice things to say about my ephemera hoarding.
2. My wife is used to this sort of thing and is relatively understanding about my tendency to bring OPP into the house. The "good" news is that other than books and ephemera, I truly don't have a lot of "stuff." And so I am doing my best to be on our board with our goals of reducing our number of possessions and keeping the household as decluttered as possible.
3. Here is some background on Daniel Striped Tiger from Wikipedia: "[He was] the first puppet ever to appear on 'Children's Corner' and 'Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.' Daniel is a shy, tame tiger who lives in a (non-functioning) grandmother clock with no hands (because in make-believe it is what ever time you imagine). Despite his shyness, Daniel exhibits phenomenal wisdom and intelligence when he does speak (he discerns the root of Lady Elaine's bad behavior on several occasions). He is the only child among the puppets whose parents are never seen, nor spoken of. ... His favorite toy is a small dumptruck, and he wears a watch on one arm because 'when you live in a clock you really should know what time it is.'"
4. Did you know that Fred Rogers can be thanked, in small way, for our modern convenience of being able to watch television shows and movies whenever we please? It was argued in Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. that video recorders infringed on copyrights. In his testimony in favor of the time-shifting allowed by video records, Rogers stated:
Some public stations, as well as commercial stations, program the "Neighborhood" at hours when some children cannot use it ... I have always felt that with the advent of all of this new technology that allows people to tape the "Neighborhood" off-the-air, and I'm speaking for the "Neighborhood" because that's what I produce, that they then become much more active in the programming of their family's television life. Very frankly, I am opposed to people being programmed by others. My whole approach in broadcasting has always been "You are an important person just the way you are. You can make healthy decisions." Maybe I'm going on too long, but I just feel that anything that allows a person to be more active in the control of his or her life, in a healthy way, is important.
The Supreme Court, which ruled that the making of individual copies of TV shows for purposes of time-shifting is fair use and not copyright infringement, noted in its decision that Rogers' views were a notable piece of evidence "that many [television] producers are willing to allow private time-shifting to continue."
5. "Elena Mann" was a pseudonym for author Eleanor Adams, according to copyright records.
6. And if you think it's odd that a happily married, 40-year-old man would cheerily snatch up a book titled "How to Meet Men" at a yard sale and ask the elderly woman running the sale how much it costs, then you haven't read enough of this blog!
7. I found this excerpt regarding how to meet men through sports amusing: "Two sports favored by men are very difficult for a woman to penetrate -- that is, if one of her aims is man-hunting. Men love to fish, but they go with other men, not women. ... The only way to meet a man on the golf course is to play fast and well. If there's one thing golfers hate, it's a woman who doesn't know a tee shot from a T-shirt." And what's cited as the No. 1 sport through which women can meet men? Skiing!
8. 400!! According to the Inflation Calculator, something that cost $400 in 1968 would cost $2,478 in 2010.
9. I couldn't find much about the Scientific Marriage Institute. Here's a little nugget from a 1992 Discover magazine article by Judith Stone about the use of the word "Scientific" in company names over the years: "We’ll never know what inspired the baptism of the now defunct Scientific Marriage Institute of New York, which offered couples counseling. (You may remember their compendium of case studies, Can This Scientific Marriage Be Saved? My favorite was the one in which Marie Curie gets Pierre to stop leaving wet towels on the bathroom floor.)"
10. Operation Match Inc. later ran into some criticism and trouble. New York magazine wrote the following "Consumer Beware" note in its September 24, 1973, issue: "Advice to the Lovelorn -- Computer dating firms that offer long-term high-priced contracts may be leading bachelor Ms.'s and Mr.'s on a wild spouse chase. That's the opinion of New York State law, which limits such contracts to two years and $250. Attorney General Louis J. Lefkowitz recently charged Operation Match Inc. (519 Anderson Ave., Cliffside, N.J.) with offering three-year contracts that ranged in price up to $595. Operation Match has agreed to return to its customers all monies received by the company in excess of $250 per contract for any social referral service contract signed after September 1, 1971. The firm has also agreed to stop offering contracts that exceed $250 and/or run for more than two years."


  1. Chris, this is an AWESOME pile of OPP! Can't wait to find out more! :D

  2. You weren't kidding when you said you could make something interesting out of anything. Quite a skill! Who knew a book about meeting men could lead down the path to the use of Scientific in company names?

  3. If you're going to write a book about meeting men, and using a pseudonym and that pseudonym's last name is "Mann", you think she'd have gone with "Anita" or "Ivana" for a first name.

  4. Very beautiful and good book