Saturday, February 5, 2011

Saturday's postcard: Ginza Tokyu Hotel

The text on the back of this postcard, which is from the 1960s:

"450 ROOMS with private bath, shower and radio. The GINZA TOKYU HOTEL is the most up-to-date, entirely air-conditioned and soundproof establishment in the very heart of Tokyo. It also provides the utmost in comfort, convenience and gracious living, as well as all the facilities of a first class hotel."

Regarding what the Ginza Tokyu Hotel is like today, there appear to be some conflicting reviews:
  • According to, it's amenities are: "Rooms with Phone, Radio and Refrigerator. Room service, 2 Suites and 2 Japanese-style rooms available, 24-hour Coffee house, Sauna (for men), Massage, Barber shop/Beauty Salon, Shops, Travel service, Bookstore. Conference room capacity: 400 persons." It is rated No. 442 out of 535 hotels in Tokyo in "Wego Popularity".
  • writes this: "One of the most luxurious hotels around, the Ginza Tokyu Hotel is located near Nissan Motors head office, Kabukiza theater and the Higashi Ginza Subway."
  • According to NileGuide: "Recently renovated to blend modern European elegance with a distinctly Oriental ambience, the hotel is located near the famous Kabuki-za Theatre and the main intersection of the Ginza district. Rooms come with all the amenities one would expect of a stylish hotel."

Sounds like it's a nice but modest hotel. Perhaps on par with some of the nice but no-frills hotels one would find in the Theater District of Manhattan.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Get your Kix rocket troopers!

This four-inch by one-inch piece of cardboard had been cut off a box of Kix cereal decades ago and then tucked away and forgotten inside a book.1

Here's a page from the website, with another image of the Kix Rocket Trooper campaign. Indeed, one box top and 25 cents got you one of these toys.

I'm no cereal historian, so I was surprised to learn that Kix has been around since 1937. I would not have thought it was that old.

This was my favorite tidbit from the Wikipedia page on Kix: "Just months after the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Kix offered an atomic bomb ring in exchange for a box top and 15 cents. The ring was purported to detect radiation."

Oh boy, did that little piece of information ever send me off on a heck of a tangent.

The Kix atomic rings were a MAJOR DEAL. Way bigger than the propeller-headed plaster troops that came years later.

According to the blog Tracy's Toys:

"The 1947 Lone Ranger Atomic Bomb Ring, a Kix cereal promotion, was the best-selling premium ring of all time. ...The ring cleverly combined the Lone Ranger's silver bullet iconography with that of the new atomic sciences. And it did indeed work: the "bullet" or "bomb" was actually a device called a spinthariscope, which enables the viewer to see nuclear disintegrations caused by the interaction of radioisotopes. As polonium alpha particles struck a zinc sulfide screen, brilliant flashes of light resulted which could be seen by removing the red end cap."

There's a full-color advertisement for this ring on the Tracy's Toys site that you can to check out. This was THE THING for a generation of kids. (Not quite my generation. I grew up with Sea Monkeys and "100 pc Toy Soldier Set" screaming at me from my 1970s comic books.)

The radioactive ring cost you 15 cents and one Kix boxtop back in the late 1940s. How much would it set you back to snag one today? I found a couple of old auctions on archived on the Hake's Americana & Collectibles (located right here in York). In December 2005, an atomic ring still in the box sold for $246.40. And in June 2008, another one sold for $253.


1. Seriously, though, I find the coolest things inside old books. I sort through and assess hundreds of books, and the percentage of books with cool things tucked away inside is almost as high as the percentage books with good resale value. Of course, it helps that everything interests me: newspaper clippings, advertisements, coupons, bookmarks, pamphlets, old scrawled notes, receipts, etc. What's the coolest thing you ever found tucked away inside a used book that you acquired?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Great gallery of vintage posters on Wired

Check out this article today on Wired's Gadget Lab that features a gallery of vintage posters highlighting technological innovations of the past 100 years.

According to Wired:
The posters, from an upcoming exhibition by the International Vintage Poster Dealers Association, show a century of massive change in technology, from plumbing to iPods. They also provide a glimpse of changing [graphic] design trends.

Book Cover of the Day: What's up with his toes?

Some questions:
  • What's up with his toes?
  • What titillating bedtime story did Emile Zola ever write?
  • What's up with color of his feet and hands, compared to his head?
  • Seriously, what's up with his toes?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Inscription of the Day (What century is it, again?)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

An evening with labor activist Sam Scarlett

Last November, I found this index-sized card tucked inside a 1920 book about Karl Marx.

According to "The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan," Sam Scarlett was "a skilled machinist, a talented athlete and football player, and a superb public speaker, [and] was one of the most interesting and colourful labour activists in Saskatchewan trade union history."

The I.W.W. listed on the above card stands for Industrial Workers of the World, a union that had more then 100,000 members in the 1920s but includes only about 2,000 today.

Some interesting elements of Scarlett's life (also from The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan):

  • "As part of the authorities’ campaign to suppress syndicalists and labour agitators Scarlett was framed on a murder charge and accused of over a hundred separate crimes. He was imprisoned a number of times for several years. Sympathetic biographers estimate that he was arrested 160 times while fighting for workers’ rights and defending picketers."
  • "[He] was one of the best platform speakers of his day. He could move listeners to laughter and tears in quick succession. He used to rent a theatre in Saskatoon on Sundays when movies were not permitted, and speak to large audiences about some radical or militant subject. He was a devoted syndicalist and an admirer of the Soviet Union."

Scarlett was involved with the Estevan Riot in 1931, in which three striking coal miners were killed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In the aftermath, he was arrested and charged with rioting and disturbing the peace.

Scarlett moved to New York City during World War II, probably to escape the crackdown on Communist Party members in Canada during that time period, and died there in 1941.

I'm surprised nobody has made a movie about Scarlett. Seems like a juicy and fascinating potential role.

Further reading:
A blogger's book review of "Bienfait: The Saskatchewan Miners' Struggle of '31" (because I'll probably never get another opportunity on this blog to link to a Saskatchewan Socialist news blog).

Monday, January 31, 2011

The start of Ruth Manning-Sanders' amazing final act

I'll be writing frequently and in-depth about Ruth Manning-Sanders1 on this blog.

In 1958, the year she turned 72, Manning-Sanders published her first anthology of folk and fairy tales -- "Peter and the Piskies".

It began a remarkable 30-year run -- yes, she lived and published until she was 102 -- of writing and publishing fairy tale anthologies. In fact, she published more than 50 fairy tale books during that time period, starting with this volume on tales from Cornwall, where she resided for much of her amazing, adventure-filled and at times sad and bittersweet life.

Pictured with this entry are two of the different dust jackets that were used for the American edition of "Peter and the Piskies" by Roy Publishers. Roy didn't publish this Manning-Sanders volume in the United States until 1966 -- eight years after it was originally published in the United Kingdom by Oxford University Press.

In an author's note at the front of the American edition, Manning-Sanders writes of the passing down of fairy tales:

"A widow woman lived in a cottage by the sea. She had lots of children; but by and by, of course, they grew up. The sons went out into the world, and the daughters got married and went to homes of their own. So when the widow woman was old she lived alone. ... It was the piskies who told the old widow woman the stories in this book, and she told them to me, and now I am telling them to you."

Manning-Sanders was herself a widow when she wrote those words that were published when she was 72. She had also been preceded in death by her son. Was Manning-Sanders herself the "old widow woman"?

"Peter and the Piskies" is full of tales of piskies, knockers, mermaids, witches, giants, spriggans, fairies, demons and more. If you can track down a copy, it comes with the highest recommendation for fans of folklore and fairy tales.


1. That link, in fact, goes to the Wikipedia page of which I am the primary author. That page is also in dire need of a full revision, and I might use this blog as a launching pad for those efforts.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A bookmark from a late, great bookstore in Berkeley

I came across this wonderful bookmark tucked away inside a falling-apart old copy of Bulfinch's Mythology.

It's for Shambhala Booksellers in Berkeley, California.

Sadly, this bookstore is no more.

I found this bittersweet article from the December 2003 online edition of The Berkeley Daily Planet. An excerpt:

When Philip Barry told his son that Shambhala Booksellers had to close, his nine-year-old protested, “But Dad! I want to work there when I grow up!” The boy immediately made some bookmarks to sell to help the store make more money.

In spite of the dedication of the staff and appreciation of the community, Shambhala did indeed have a closing ceremony Nov. 26.

The founders, Sam Bercholz and Michael Fagan, both idealistic 20-year-olds when they started the business in a tiny side room of Moe’s Bookstore, were joined by current owner Philip Barry in saying farewell to this precious member of Berkeley’s bookselling community.

Was this one of the bookmarks that Philip Barry's son made in an attempt to save the family bookstore? The back of the orange bookmark provides some reading material on Shambhala -- its history and various meanings.

Shambhala Booksellers was a spiritual, new-age bookstore that made its mark for 35 years in the Berkeley community before closing its doors.

The 2003 article by the Daily Planet's Alta Gerrey laments the tough times descending upon independent bookstores: "As irreplaceable stores close, such as Shambhala Booksellers ... our access to information may continue on the Internet, but the serendipitous encounters that book lovers cherish are irretrievably lost."

I would love to be involved with an independent bookstore some day, but obviously there are tremendous challenges involved with that, at the forefront of which is the sea change in how we digest the written word and the place that printed material will in our culture and economy moving forward.