Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday's postcard: Kennedy Marker in Dealey Plaza

This postcard by Dexter Press marks many of the key locations of the JFK assassination. Interestingly, the Grassy Knoll is not marked. (But the Railroad Overpass is.)

(A reminder that you can click on the above postcard for a really nice full-screen look at it.)

Written on the back of the card: "This marker stands near the site of the assassination of the late President John F. Kennedy in Dallas. The scene draws thousands of visitors each year, many of whom reverently pause to leave a floral tribute to the slain president."

Using the Iron Cross as the symbol to mark key locations is an interesting choice.

This comes from our family's collection and was originally mailed in March 1970.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Stay away from the hard cider

The police blotter was a lot more fun in 1919. Here's another clipping1 from the Oct. 4, 1919, edition of The State Register in Laurel, Delaware. Poor John Harmon2 got himself into a fine mess.

The "Harbenson" mentioned in the story is almost certainly a misspelling of Harbeson, Delaware, an unincorporated community in Sussex County. Harbeson isn't too far from Belltown, another unincorporated community in southeastern Delaware.

1. See a previous clipping from this issue of The State Register here.
2. Is this the same John Harmon referred to in the clipping? Some of the dates and locations match.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Maybe that stain is from mayonaise.

This is one of those book covers that you either recognize instantly or you say "What the heckfire is that?"

I was in the "What the heckfire is that?" category.

It's an old Delta Book paperback edition of Richard Brautigan's "Trout Fishing in America". The cover -- which does not include the title or author's name -- is in poor condition, with multiple creases, scuff marks, rounded corners and a stray pen mark. Somehow, after I did some reading about him, I think Brautigan would like the cover more now than when it was shiny, crisp and lovely.

Brautigan was an American poet and novelist who saw his most significant works published in the 1960s and 1970s.

"Trout Fishing in America", published in 1967, is considered Brautigan's most famous and influential1 work. The slim volume (112 pages) is described as "an abstract book without a clear central storyline. Instead, the book contains a series of anecdotes broken into chapters." Furthermore, the phrase "Trout Fishing in America" has numerous meanings and uses, many quite unorthodox, throughout the book.

The book's cover is a photograph of Brautigan and a friend (Michaela Le Grand) and was taken in San Francisco's Washington Square park in front of the Benjamin Franklin statue.

My copy, which I have skimmed but not yet fully read, is in borderline-disgusting condition with a big, blotchy stain on the exterior that has spread into the pages. The book is perfectly readable, though. It has character, in more ways than one.

I like it.

I'll be keeping it and acquainting myself with the trout in the near future.

1. Authors influenced by Brautigan include W.P. Kinsella and Haruki Murakami. There is a band named Trout Fishing in America. At least two Americans are legally named Trout Fishing in America (according to Wikipedia). And there is a boutique in the Baltimore area named "In Watermelon Sugar" after another of Brautigan's novels.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Old geography book doodles, Part 2

Welcome back for Part 2 of my doodles roundup from the Ginn and Company's 1920 edition of "New Geography (Book Two)" by Wallace W. Atwood. (Part 1 is here.)

Obviously, this book had many owners over the years. The name that was scrawled in it the most times is Gertrude Barber, who was a resident of Staunton, Virginia.

On one page, after her name and address, is written:
6B Grammer [sic] School
Thomas Jefferson

Given that she lived in Staunton and that this book probably saw its heaviest use from about 1920 to 1930, that's almost certainly a reference to the former Thomas Jefferson Grammar School in Staunton. According to "Located at the corner of Central and Churchville avenues, the school was one of the city's five grammar and high schools and was the last erected, in 1917. The school cost $70,000, had 16 rooms and accommodated 500 students. Total enrollment of city schools at the time was about 1,800."

Thomas Jefferson Grammar School has long since been converted into the Staunton Public Library.

So we know one of the girls who used this book. We know what building it was used in. And we know that building still stands today.

And we know something about Gertrude's grades, because she scribbled them in the book.

One month, her grades included:

English 76
Spelling 74
History 94
Geography 88
Hygiene 76
Arithmetic 70

It seems history was her best subject, while she had her struggles in spelling, hygiene and arithmetic at times.

But now back to the book's doodles. Were some of these done by Gertrude? We'll never know for sure, but we can imagine...

Of course, writing in books is officially frowned upon in most quarters. But it wasn't always that way. This past Sunday, The New York Times had a great story about the history of marginalia and whether it has a future in the age of digital books.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Old geography book doodles, Part 1

The book pictured above doesn't look like it should be long for this world. Battered cover. Taped and loose binding. Tears. Scratches. Torn pages. Graffiti.

It's the 1920 edition of "New Geography (Book Two)" by Wallace W. Atwood.

And yet, even though this book has no realistic resale value1, I leaf through it, checking out the 90-year-old text and illustrations.

And the doodles.

The book is filled with doodles. It's a time capsule, taking you back to what kids' imaginations had them scribbling during the Roaring Twenties.

Today and tomorrow, I want to display (surely for the first time) some of these Juvenile Doodler Works of Art.

More doodles tomorrow, plus a bit about one of the students who studied from this book.

1. And yet, some people will try. On, a copy of this same edition is for sale for $3.97. It is listed as "Acceptable" with the following condition notes: "1920 edition in hardback still good for its age. Inside the book is good, however the exterior is heavily worn and ragged. Pages tanned from age, but are all intact and 90 to 95% free of markings. Hardback has significant ware & age. Spine and binding good. No jacket." That doesn't sound too different from my copy, with its heavily worn cover and markings on 5% to 10% of the pages.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Great links: Analysis of Choose Your Own Adventure books

Hat tip to Matt Kinnear (a former co-worker who authors the In That Quiet Earth blog about vinyl records) for alerting me to a tremendous online project.

"One Book, Many Readings" by Christian Swinehart is an in-depth analysis of the Choose Your Own Adventure genre of interactive fiction that swept the nation after the 1979 publication of "The Cave of Time" by Edward Packard.1

Swinehart's essay touches on childhood library memories, the history of how we interact with books, and Infocom games, among other topics, before diving into an amazing graphics-based analysis of the branching story lines within CYOA books. There's also a fully "playable" online version of the "Zork: The Cavern of Doom" by Steve Meretzky.2

You should definitely take some time and check it out.

And be sure to read the entire essay so you don't miss the Ultimate easter egg.

1. I started out as a voracious reader of the CYOA books and then gravitated toward the Endless Quest series in the early 1980s.
2. Meretzky is far more famous as the designer/author of Infocom games such as Planetfall, Sorcerer, A Mind Forever Voyaging, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Leather Goddesses of Phobos, and Stationfall. He has a website.

Morris didn't fare much worse than Louie Youngkeit

This is a photo card from Morris the Cat's tongue-in-check campaign for United States president in 1988. Morris, the advertising mascot for 9Lives, has had an interesting "career" that has included multiple runs for president and movie appearances, including his 1973 film debut in "The Long Goodbye" alongside Elliott Gould1.

If you're interested in more on Morris' 1988 presidential campaign, here's a great entry on it from Love Meow, a blog for cat lovers.

But that's not where I'm going with today's entry.

I was scanning the complete 1988 election results to see who finished in front Morris the Cat. Of course, there was winner George H.W. Bush and runner-up Michael Dukakis.

And you probably remember the higher-profile third-party candidates, including Ron Paul, Lenora Fulani, David Duke and Lyndon LaRouche.

Further down in the results were the candidates from the Workers League, the Peace & Freedom Party, the Prohibition Party and the American Party.

And, below even them, there is the man who came in next-to-last2 with 372 votes for president in 1988.

Louie Youngkeit. Independent.

Who is Louie Youngkeit?

That's a darn fine question.3 Actually, it should be framed: Who was Louie Youngkeit (right)? According to the Our Campaigns website, he was a Utah resident who was born in 1936, died in 2003 and ran for U.S. president at least three times as an independent.

And then there's this tantalizing tidbit, provided by Our Campaign user Gishot:
Youngkeit -- a rather eccentric candidate -- claims he is "the Heir Apparent of the [late billionaire] Howard R. Hughes' Estate." You see, Hughes was secretly murdered in 1970 -- and his body was frozen for several years until his death was announced in 1976 -- and JFK was assassinated in 1963 because of Hughes's money -- and it was also the reason for the Watergate break-in -- and President Bush and Hillary Clinton are part of the scheming -- all that and lots more can be found in Youngkeit's conspiracy theory (see his website for more details).


Unfortunately, I cannot find any traces of Youngkeit's potentially electrifying website. I'm guessing the plug was pulled on it rather quickly after his 2003 death.

I did find a 1996 Wall Street Journal article on third-party presidential candidates by James Taranto. Most likely, it was the source of the aforementioned Our Campaign bio entry. Here's the lede of Taranto's article:

LONG BEACH, Calif.--Life on Mars? Having attended Sunday's convention for Ross Perot's Reform Party, I'm prepared to believe there's life on Neptune.

"I'm hoping that Perot will name me his vice president," Louie Youngkeit tells me outside the Long Beach Convention Center. Anything's possible, but Mr. Youngkeit's only qualification seems to be his obsession with Howard Hughes. He hands me a monograph he and his mother wrote in 1978, which claims that in 1949 Mr. Youngkeit's father looked after Hughes's car for a few days and allowed Hughes to drill an oil well on his property. In repayment for these kindnesses, the monograph says, Hughes promised to leave half his estate to the younger Mr. Youngkeit. When Hughes died in 1976, Mr. Youngkeit, to his dismay, was not named in the will. The monograph draws the obvious conclusion: Someone altered the will after Hughes's death. "This is the reason JFK was assassinated," Mr. Youngkeit adds, inexplicably.

I ask him how he'd vote if Mr. Perot weren't running. For Bob Dole, he replies. He opposes President Clinton because "Hillary was involved with Watergate, and that has to do with Howard Hughes. All the break-ins--they were looking for Howard Hughes's will."

So, basically, Louie Youngkeit was a Melvin Dummar wannabe.

And he ran for president. A lot.

Isn't this country fascinating?4

1. OK, this is weird. I was just thinking the other day that my goal for my winter beard is to have it look like Sterling Hayden's beard (left) in that brilliant Robert Altman film.
2. Finishing last, according to this website, was the Third World Assembly ticket of presidential candidate John Martin and vice presidential candidate Cleveland Sparrow. They garnered 236 votes, placing them 136 votes behind Youngkeit.
3. A better question might be: Who are the 371 other people who voted for him?
4. And for the final conspiracy-theory cherry on the top of this entry, check out the January 2008 archive of B. Merkley's "Stay Loose Blog". The Jan. 7 entry mentions Melvin Dummar, and the Jan. 8 entry mentions a "Louie Youngkeit". It is (until now) the only hit on Google for a web page the mentions both Dummar and Youngkeit.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A photo of Ruth Manning-Sanders

Somewhere on this planet, there are photos of Ruth Manning-Sanders. She lived past the age of 100. She traveled with and wrote about circuses. She lived until 1988. She published more than 100 books.

But, to this point, I have only come across a single photographic image of her.

The image, shown here, is from Page 187 of "Third Book of Junior Authors" which was edited by Doris De Montreville and Donna Hill and published by the H.W. Wilson Company in 1972.

That's it. Just a black-and-white, slightly grainy side portrait. There's no way, even, to know what decade it's from.

Online image searches net nothing but covers and illustrations from her many books of folktales.1 No photos of Manning-Sanders herself.

Somewhere, I hope and suspect, there is a British library or Manning-Sanders descendant with photos of Manning-Sanders. I hope they surface some day. For the sake of history, we need a face to associate with this woman, who was one of the greatest and most important collectors of fairy tales in the modern era.

1. Many of those books were illustrated by Robin Jacques. Images of his illustrations are plentiful and instantly recognizable.