Saturday, February 18, 2012

1959 receipt from The Colonial Bookstore in York, Pa.

I found this receipt tucked away inside a pristine hardcover copy of 1959's "The Artist's Handbook of Materials and Techniques" by Ralph Mayer. (Or, more precisely, the July 1959 printing of 1957's revised and enlarged edition.)

The book has had great staying power over the decades. It was first published in 1940. A revised and updated fifth edition was issued in 1991 and sales of that edition remain strong on It has been referred to as "the painter's bible."

The cover price of this book in 1959 was $6.75, which was a significant amount of money in those days. According to The Inflation Calculator, $6.75 in 1959 is the equivalent of $49.91 in 2010 -- definitely a college textbook type of price (which is exactly what this 700-plus-page tome was considered in some places).

But what about where it was purchased? The receipt, dated September 23, 1959,1 is from The Colonial Book Store, Inc., ("Books and Imported Gifts") located at the rear of of 970 South George Street here in York, Pennsylvania. There's also a tiny gold bookseller's label2 for "The Colonial Bookstore" affixed to the bottom of the inside front cover.

The bookstore is no longer around. I think it's been gone for decades. At least one famous York County native, however, remembers it well. Playwright and director Ken Ludwig, whose credits include the Tony-nominated book for "Crazy For You,"3 remembers how P.G. Wodehouse and The Colonial Bookstore helped him on the road to becoming a writer in this excerpt from
"My love for everything Wodehouse began when I was 14 years old. My mother and I were cleaning boxes out of my grandmother’s attic when she came upon a copy of Cocktail Time and turned to me and said 'You know, Kenny, you might enjoy this. Give it a try.' ... It was the same summer, and in significant part because of Wodehouse, that I decided to become a writer. (Admittedly, Austen, Coward and Shakespeare had something to do with it, too.) We lived in a smallish town in Southern Pennsylvania ('York' by name, the setting of one of my latest plays), and for the next several years I would make a yearly pilgrimage to the Colonial Bookstore (the one in the little shopping strip near the hospital4) to buy the latest Wodehouse – and then devour it in one unstoppable gulp that night. Thus were acquired and digested Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen, The Girl in Blue and many another late work of the master."
Perhaps Ludwig still has one of his original Wodehouse volumes, complete with a gold bookseller's label from The Colonial Bookstore. (Ludwig, by the way, recently returned to York County to help raise money for York Little Theatre, as documented by the York Daily Record/Sunday News story.)

Getting back to the 52-year-old receipt, it contains one final treat for historians and ephemeraologists. Check out the small type in the bottom left-hand corner of the receipt (shown magnified above). Apparently, this receipt pad for The Colonial Bookstore came from Eber's Typewriter Shop, also in York.

I couldn't find anything regarding a business with that name (after a quick search online), but there are a few records for an Eber's Business Machines that was located on East Market Street in York.

Beyond that, the floor is now open and I'm looking forward to any and all memories of The Colonial Bookstore and Eber's Typewriter Shop.

1. That's also the date that "Seinfeld" star Jason Alexander was born.
2. For more on bookseller labels, see these past posts:
3. Coincidentally, "Crazy For You" is one of a handful of shows I've been fortunate enough to see on Broadway over the years.
4. That would be York Hospital.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Memories of Penn State's 1993 Dance Marathon

Tomorrow, more than 700 Penn State students will take to the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center for the start of a 46-hour dance marathon (THON) to raise money for families battling pediatric cancer.

The full name of the event is The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon. It is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

It dates to 1973 and, over the past 34 years, THON has raised and donated more than $78 million to The Four Diamonds Fund at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

I was a THON dancer in February 1993 -- just one of thousands who have volunteered for the event over the decades and spent a long weekend trying to stay awake and on their feet. My girlfriend, Jessica Hartshorn, and I were one of the couples representing The Daily Collegian, Penn State's student newspaper.

Last fall, I pulled out an envelope that contained my THON memorabilia. Inside were my plastic ID bracelet, my paper number (182) that I wore on the back of my shirt, some snapshots, the dot-matrix printout of an article I wrote for one of my journalism classes after the event ... and a letter.

The letter was from the Akright family of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Nickolas, age 8, was the young cancer patient who I was partnered with as a pen pal for THON. (Many cancer patients and their families travel to Penn State for THON weekend to support the dancers and enjoy the festivities.)

Nick had typewritten a letter of support to me before the dance marathon, in response to a letter I had sent him earlier.

Here's an excerpt from his 1993 letter:
"I am in second grade & just turned 8, my favorate subjects are math & USA (A gifted class). I enjoy Nintedo and Leggos, maybe we can nineto at Thon? But I will miss the water guns, How about you? I don't know your couple # but I will be there friday night wearing my red Phi Gamma Nu sweatshirt, (they made me a member) and a Penn State pin that another pen pal gave me. Hope we can find each other!

"I live near Hershey Pa, and have a sister, 6, & a cat named Pumkin, a dog named Benji, and some rabbits.

"I am near my second year of treatment for Leukemia So my dad will tell you about it because I don't like to talk about it. ..."
The letter is signed by Nick, Ashley, Bud and Cara Akright.

* * *

My memories of the 1993 THON, which was held in Penn State's White Building, include a whole range of emotions -- joy, exhaustion, wonder, crankiness, pride.

From 7 p.m. Friday night until 7 p.m. Sunday night (it was 48 hours long back then), Jessica and I (right) and 538 other dancers were on our feet constantly.

There were motivational guest speakers; heavenly foot and leg massages; non-stop songs -- including a bunch by a relatively new band called Pearl Jam -- booming over the loudspeakers; a Tetris arcade game; line dances and more.

A former Penn State football player named Craig Fayak, a member of the morale/support team, was constantly and gently reminding me not to lean on the beverage table. No leaning for 48 hours!

After scheduled bathroom breaks (which came only every eight hours), dancers got to come running back into the gymnasium, slide across a powder-covered wrestling mat and get their legs massaged for a few seconds.

The hours piled up.

At one point, I swear I had an out-of-body experience. Exhausted, I imagined myself floating to the ceiling of the gymnasium and looking down upon THON. I was assessing the layout of the building so that I could plot my escape.

In my journalism class article, written a few days after the event, I wrote about the inspiration that ultimately helped me get through the 48 hours:
"It didn't take me long to find Nick that Friday night. He was playing foosball with some of his other friends while he waited to play, of course, the Nintendo video games set up at the end of the gymnasium.

"Standing there, Nick is a perfectly normal 8-year-old. He has on jeans and the red Greek sweatshirt to go with a mop-top of brown hair that probably doesn't get combed too often. Like any kid would he thrust himself into the middle of the games going on around him. ...

"Nick's best friend from the 1992 Dance Marathon, Ronnie Powley, isn't here this time around. Ronnie died from cancer. Nick still doesn't talk about it, his father Bud says."
The Akrights returned to White Building on Sunday afternoon, a few hours after I had essentially fallen asleep standing up while eating breaking. Another excerpt from my article:
"I caught up with Nick at -- where else -- the video games. I gave him a stuffed Nittany Lion doll I bought before the weekend began. Never one for too many words, Nick smiled a little. That was enough."

"Nick's 6-year-old sister, Ashley, was making her own rules with a game of Connect Four up near the stage. I gave her a ribbon for her hair and talked to her for awhile before she was snatched up by some other dancers for photographs.

"Nick's dad, Bud, was helping serve refreshments to the dancers. He smiled and offered me an extra slice of pizza while he tapped his foot to the music."
As that THON came to a close, the dancers gathered in small circles and swayed as "American Pie" played. We did one final line dance ("Move Any Mountain" by The Shamen). It was announced, to thunderous cheers, that THON had raised more than $1 million for the second time in its history.

When it was all done, I walked back to my dorm room in West Halls and slept for about nine hours straight.

* * *

When I opened that manila folder labeled "Dance Marathon" last fall, one of the first things that slipped out was a yellow sheet of paper with Nick's name and address, given to me so that I could write to my THON pen pal.

It's two decades later, and I wondered how Nick was doing -- understanding that, of course, not enough pediatric cancer cases have happy endings.

Nick died in 2004.

I learned this from a January 2008 Daily Collegian article written by Heather Schmelzen. An excerpt:
"Ashley Akright (junior-hotel, restaurant and institutional management) was not a Four Diamonds child, but she lost one close to her. Through time and her own experience, she has found the courage to tell the story.

"Akright's brother, Nickolas, was diagnosed with ALL when he was 7 years old. During Nickolas's treatment, the family's insurance company dropped them.

"'That's really how the Four Diamonds Fund helped us,' Akright said. The Four Diamonds Fund allocates support for families battling pediatric cancer.

"Though Nickolas went through chemotherapy and was cured, he developed bipolar disorder -- linked to chemotherapy -- and committed suicide in 2004 at age 19 as a consequence of the disorder.

"Since Nickolas's death, Akright's family has continued to participate in Thon events.

"She said her fondest memory of Thon was family hour the year after Nickolas died.

"'Singing "Angels Among Us" took on a whole new meaning after Nick passed away,' Akright said.

"Akright, who is dancing in Thon, came to Penn State because of her Thon experience.

"'Since Thon is why I'm here at Penn State, I can't imagine not being involved with it. It's been such a big part of my life for the past 17 years,' Akright said. 'You truly see what courage, honesty, wisdom and strength are when you look at these children who are battling cancer every day of their lives.'"
Recently, I was able to get in touch with Ashley -- who I had chatted with while she played Connect Four all those years ago in White Building.

We talked a little about our THON memories. She said she still goes up to the event in State College every year.

I'm going to send her the original letter that Nick wrote to me in February 1993. I feel like it belongs with the Akright family.

In the meantime, click on Nick's autograph below to learn more about THON at the official website. Learn how you can easily make a donation to support the dancers' goal of raising money for The Four Diamonds Fund.

There's even a way for you to make your donation in memory of Joe Paterno, who was always a firm supporter of THON.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A heartfelt gallery of vintage Valentine's Day cards

Happy Valentine's Day! As promised last week, here's a gallery of vintage Valentine's Day cards that I've been collecting during the past 12 months.

Above: This card, which was printed by Carrington Co., of Chicago, Illinois, has the following inscription in cursive on the back: "To Wilma from Max Myers and Leona"

Above: This card, which was printed in Germany, features a puppy, a girl and a boy with checkered pants, argyle socks and a saw. On the back is written: "To Mary Holstein, From Ruth Rhinehart"

Above: This "Come on and be My Valentine" card features no indication of its manufacturer or country of origin. I find it interesting that two of these first three valentines feature winter scenes. Valentine's Day is, by definition, always during the wintertime. But it seems to me that modern-era valentines rarely incorporate the snow and cold into their scenes and illustrations.

This one has some interesting writing on the back. The following is written in blue ink:
To my Dear Friend Mary Olivera
sending you my best wishes for on Valentine
From Your Friend Elvera Rodrigues [or Rodriques]
Santa Maria, Cal., P.O. #153
In the spot where "Mary Olivera" was originally written, the name "Lottie Fernandez" has been written over top of it, in dark pencil.

Above: This "MADE IN U.S.A." card, of comparatively more recent vintage than the other cards, is quite romantic with its pipe and tobacco, don't you think? The card has never been used. The pre-printed inscription inside states:
"A Valentine message, short and sweet
But full of zip and punch --
It comes to say that night and day
You are my honeybunch;
You are my heart's desire and, dear,
You make my life complete;
So let me say I hope this day
Brings joy that's hard to beat."

Above: Finally, here's another card that was made in Germany. The front states: "Come on Sweetie, raise the lid! Meow! Meow! I love you, kid." On the back, the inscription indicates that it's "To Wilma, From Billie Jean and John Alden."

And what happens when you raise the lid? Here you go!

My Valentine's Day wish to all of you: I hope you never, ever come across a cat in real life with lips like that.

If you do, run like hell.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Wallpaper Does It," courtesy of Western Electric

This 16-page staplebound booklet, titled "Wallpaper Does It," was published in 1955 by George W. Stewart, and this copy was provided as part of the "Western Electric Booklet Rack Service For Employees."1

The wallpaper2 manifesto was written by Marni Wood and illustrated by Harrie Wood.

I can't find much additional information about the Woods, other than the fact that they co-authored a children's book titled "Something Perfectly Silly," which was published by A.A. Knopf in 1930. According to a roundup of new children's literature in the August 30, 1930, edition of The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, Fla.), "Something Perfectly Silly" was "a nonsense book of gay limericks for young and old, illustrated with 30 full-page pictures in color."

So, a quarter century later, the Woods had moved on from limericks to wallpaper.

Here are some of Marni Wood's wallpaper insights, all direct quotes:
  • Wallpaper is the magician in the house. It seems to open solid walls, lift ceilings, and even make two rooms where one grew before.
  • On the cover [pictured above] two wallpapers accent the two areas in a living-dining room. An ordinary dining alcove becomes a garden room. Trellis paper, a bird cage and plants in the window, separate it distinctly from the rest of the room.3
  • Choose one of the many patterns that give the effect of depth for the long wall above your TV and record-player cabinets.4 You add space to your room without resort to hammer and saw.
  • Stripes work wonders on problem walls. For a too-low ceiling, vertical stripes on the walls (no border) make it seem a foot higher.
  • Stripes are a sure cure for a long, gloomy hall. Use light-colored, open pattern on side walls, and deep-toned paper on the end wall; striped paper across the ceiling, and floor tiles in cross stripes. Colors help the illusion.
  • Or try this scheme in a dinette with one of the new "edible" papers -- fish and fowl, herbs and lettuces, or fruits and vegetables. They are fun, gay, and mix or match beautifully with the new table linens.
  • Two strips of scenic paper as a panel over your bed won't break you, and will be an endless satisfaction.
I'll leave you with a couple more of Harrie Wood's illustrations from the booklet:

1. I featured another booklet from the "Western Electric Booklet Rack Service For Employees" last March in the post titled "The Future of America (57 years ago)."
2. An interesting note, via Wikipedia, on how Henry VIII affected the history of wallpaper. It seems that wallpaper's popularity in England increased following the king's separation from the Catholic Church in the 1530s. Previously, English aristocrats had imported tapestries from mainland Europe, especially France. But the split with Catholic Church affected trade with the mainland, and England had no tapestry manufacturers of its own. So it turned to wallpaper.
3. This would be easier to see if the cover had more than two colors (both of which are pukish).
4. Another Papergreat blast from the past. Remember this record cabinet?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

In her own words: Ruth Manning-Sanders on fairy tales

In many of her collections of retold folk and fairy tales from around the world, Ruth Manning-Sanders wrote short forewords and introductions. I wish she had written more. Her own thoughts and insights on the meaning and importance of fairy tales -- and the characters found within -- are quite wonderful and eloquent.

Shared here today is a selection of those passages (with a few illustrations by Robin Jacques mixed in, to keep the post from getting too text-heavy):
    Beginnings and inspirations
  • "The fact is that the story is ages and ages old, and no one can now tell where it originated, or by what wandering folk it was carried about the world. But we do know that it was being told, in some form or other, long before any book was written; before, indeed, anyone could read or write. And this is true of all these old stories that we now call fairy tales." -- from "A Choice of Magic"
  • "When we were children, my sisters and I, we spent our summer holidays in a farmhouse at the edge of a sea loch in the Highlands. The farmer's family was a big one, ranging from Granny Stewart (very old, very lame, and generally laughing) down through parents, grown-up sons and daughters, to children of our own age. Granny Stewart knew no end of stories, and she loved to tell them as much as we loved to listen. ... Of course, we weren't always listening to stories: that was a wet weather pastime. At other times we were out swimming, or riding the farm horses (when they allowed themselves to be caught) or boating on the loch and singing to the seals. ...The evenings would usually find us gathered in the big candle-lit barn, with one of the grown-up sons (either Jock or Lachie) marching up and down playing the bagpipes, and all the rest of us energetically dancing reels. What fun we had! But I think the highlight of all these holidays came on my tenth birthday. On the evening before this birthday (unknown to us children) a gipsy with a dancing bear arrived at the farm, asking to be ferried across the loch. With a good supper of cheese and oatcakes, and a bed of straw in a disused stable, the gipsy was easily persuaded to stay the night. Imagine my joyous surprise when, on running out the next morning after breakfast, I saw the bear on a grass plat close to the quay, waiting to go through his tricks. ... And when the tricks had been duly performed, with ample rewards of 'sugar and spice and all things nice' between each one, the bear was led down to the waiting boat, clambered in, and seated himself in the stern, like the seasoned traveller he was. I remember it so vividly: the bear with his humped brown back and heavy head, the two rowers watching his every movement rather anxiously, and ourselves standing in a group on the quay, shouting our farewells. But not once did that bear turn to give us a parting glance. His eyes were fixed on the opposite shore, where doubtless he would go through his performance all over again: though never, surely, to a more appreciative audience... (The name of the farm, by the way, was Shian, which means the place where fairies live.)" -- from "Scottish Folk Tales"
  • "Valiant lad, beautiful maiden, tyrannical parent, a host of difficulties to be overcome, but in the end triumph and a living happily ever after -- these are the essential ingredients that go to make up these age-old stories: our heritage from a vanished world where magic is everywhere present." -- from "A Choice of Magic"
  • "For of course the world of magic is not all friendly. There are giants in the mountains, trolls in the hills, witches and wizards and werewolves in the woods, dragons and monsters in the lakes and caves, and malicious dwarfs lurking under stones and behind trees. Up then, brave lad! Gird on your sword of sharpness, for the battle must be fought. There is no doubt that you will conquer." -- from "A Choice of Magic"
  • Cast of fairy-tale characters
  • "Mischievous [dwarfs] have remained from that day to his; but most of them are good-hearted, and if you treat them well they will lavish wonderful gifts and kindnesses upon you. But beware of taking liberties, even with the best of them! Of course a few of them are bad-tempered and as for these -- well, keep out of their way, if you can. But if you can't keep out of their way, try pitting your good feelings against their bad feelings, and you will generally come off best. At least that is what the story books say." -- from "A Book of Dwarfs"
  • "You will notice that the giants, wherever they come from, have one thing in common: they are all very stupid, and the way to overcome them is to use your wits. It is a question of 'brain against brawn'. Most of them are not such bad fellows as they are sometimes made out to be. True, they eat people when they can, but that is natural to them; and perhaps we should no more blame a giant for eating a man, than we blame a tiger for eating a deer, or a wolf for eating a sheep." -- from "A Book of Giants"
  • "What is the difference between an ogre and a troll? To begin with, ogres all are all huge creatures, and trolls, though they are sometimes very big, are just as often very little, like dwarfs. The ogres usually live in castles; the trolls make their homes in caves, or in grassy mounds, and they live in the northern parts of the world, in Iceland, Norway and Denmark. You will not find a troll venturing south, nor will you find an ogre going very far north; for ogres and trolls never live in the same countries." -- from "A Book of Ogres and Trolls"
  • "There is something rather pathetic about monsters. After all, they didn't make themselves; they can't help being huge and hideous. And if they are usually fierce and cruel -- well, if everyone hated and feared you, and ran screaming from the sight of you, wouldn't that be enough to give you a grudge against all humanity? It is really a wonder that any of them are kind-hearted; and yet some of them are." -- from "A Book of Monsters"
  • "Every country in the world has stories to tell about wizards. There are Red Indian wizards, and Chinese wizards, African wizards, English wizards, Celtic wizards, Greek, Italian, Arabian and Persian wizards. ... But there are many more good wizards than there are good witches; for whereas a good witch is the exception, there seem to be just as many good wizards going about the world as bad ones." -- from "A Book of Wizards"
  • "There are good witches and bad witches; but the number of the bad witches is great, and the number of the good witches is small. And since the business of the good witches is mainly to undo the mischief made by the bad ones, their stories are not very interesting. ... Now in all these stories, as in the fairy tales about witches in general, you may be sure of one thing: however terrible the witches may seem -- and whatever power they may have to lay spells on people and to work mischief -- they are always defeated. So that though, at some point in the story, you may find the hero or heroine in utter distress, you need never fear for them. Because it is the absolute and comforting rule of the fairy tale that the good and brave shall be rewarded, and that bad people shall come to a bad end." -- from "A Book of Witches"
  • "Sorcerers and sorceresses work their magic spells in much the same way as wizards and witches; and if you were to ask me what the difference is between a sorceress and a witch, I should say it is just a matter of dignity. You will never find a sorceress careering through the air on a broomstick, or bouncing over the ground in a wash tub, or indulging in undignified capers with devils on hill tops, after the manner of witches. The sorceress broods solitary over her books of spells and sends her powerful maledictions forth on the wings of the wind, or by some willing messenger." -- from "A Book of Sorcerers and Spells"
  • "Once upon a time and never again"
  • "It is the prime requisite of the fairy tale that it should end happily. I remember as a small girl hurling the book I had been reading across the floor in rage, because the heroine, instead of marrying the hero and living happily ever after, just went and died. A thing she had no right to do.
    "The heroine of a folk or fairy tale may be carried off by demons, she may be locked in a high tower, she may suffer untold miseries. The hero may be shipwrecked and left desolate on a desert island. Her may be attacked by giants, hurled into a pit by devils, wounded and left for dead by that treacherous fellow, Sir Red. What matter? We read on untroubled, knowing that all will come right. That is, of course, so far as the heroine or hero is concerned. A very different fate awaits the Sir Reds, the wicked stepmothers, the jealous sisters, the scheming elder brothers. For them it remains to be flung into burning pits, to be carried off to Hell by devils, or gobbled up by the witch Baba Yaga. That is the only justice: the young mind is stern and unforgiving in this respect." -- from "Folk and Fairy Tales"
  •    "One sunny morning I was out walking hand in hand with a very small girl.
       "'Tell me a story,' said the very small girl.
       "So I began, 'Once upon a time...'
       "I thought I was getting on nicely, when suddenly the very small girl stopped walking, flung away my hand, stamped her foot, and cried out, 'No, it wasn't -- it wasn't like that!'
       "'How do you know?' I asked.
       "'Because I was there,' said the very small girl.
       "Well, after that, of course the story had to go her way, not mine." -- from "A Book of Enchantments and Curses"
  • "But, alas, the stories are brought to a close. There can be no new fairy tales. They are records of the time when the world was very young; and never, in these latter days, can they, or anything like them, be told again. Should you try to invent a new fairy tale you will not succeed: the tale rings false, the magic is spurious. For the true world of magic is ringed with high, high walls that cannot be broken down. There is but one little door in the high walls which surround the world -- the little door of 'once upon a time and never again'.
    "And so it must suffice that we can enter through that little door into the fairy world and take our choice of all its magic." -- from "A Choice of Magic"