Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saturday's postcard: Enjoy the view of Finhaut, Switzerland

Sometimes you just have to sit back and enjoy the scenery...

This old black-and-white postcard1 has French text on the front that states: "Massif du Mont-Blanc vu des Six Jeurs s/ Finhaut."

Mont Blanc massif is a mountain range that runs through parts of France, Italy and Switzerland. Its highest peak is Mont Blanc, which soars to 15,782 feet.

Six Jeurs is -- as best as I can interpret -- a mountain or plateau that overlooks the tiny Swiss village of Finhaut.2 The village dates back to at least the 1290s and currently has a population of about 400.

For more on the history of Finhaut, here are some Google translations of the village's French language website (obviously, something is lost in translation on some of these):
  • Inhabited since the late 13th century, though some archaeological evidence of Neolithic and Roman eras suggest passages for over 5,000 years.
  • In 1638, a plague affecting the region.
  • A policeman and a forest guard ensure that council decisions are respected. These are announced by the drum on Sundays after church on the village square.
  • The path of the goats is regulated to preserve the forest, including those located above the villages that provide a clear protective role.
  • In 1865, the town has three hotels, five in 1879, eleven in 1901 and nineteen on the eve of WWI. ... The announcement of the First World War put an end to the tourist boom of the Belle Epoque.

Addendum 1
Check back tomorrow to see the best suggestions from last week's Italian postcard caption contest and learn who the winner is!

Addendum 2
Another milestone! This is Papergreat's 500th post. But I really only pull out all the stops for milestones that are divisible by 200, so you'll have to wait about 3½ months for Post #600 if you're expecting more chickens.

1. Some notations from the back of the postcard:
  • No. 940 A.C.F. 3. 10. 1939
  • Edition Art. Perrochet & Phototypie S.A., Lausanne
Also, the postcard was stamped but not used. The stamp is pictured at right.
2. Finhaut is not technically a village. Technically, it's "a municipality in the district of Saint-Maurice in the canton of Valais in Switzerland." But we don't really need to get technical, do we?

Friday, June 29, 2012

There once was a store in Nantucket...

A worn old copy of "The Talleyrand Maxim"1 by J.S. Fletcher offers up some neat clues regarding where it has traveled in the nine decades since its publication.

The inside back cover features a tiny blue bookseller label for Brentano's in New York.2 A reasonable assumption might be that Brentano's was the bookstore that sold "The Talleyrand Maxim" when it was new in 1920.

Meanwhile, there is some interesting stuff elsewhere.

The inside front cover has a three-inch-wide sticker for The Little Shop On The Corner, which was located at Two Cliff Road on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. I can't find anything on the web about that place of business, so if anyone in New England or elsewhere has any ideas, let us know!

And on the page opposite that store label, there is this typed notice...

Was this book eventually part of a rental library? It's interesting this should come up, because just this week I have been asked when I'm going to revisit last November's post on The Bon-Ton Rental Library in York. I need to do that soon!

Also, the name "Dr. Hudson" is written in pencil on each of the first two pages. Under one of them is the date August 1949.

My best guess is the typed information regarding the rental fees for this book is not related to The Little Shop On The Corner. So perhaps this book's provenance is:
  • New at Bretano's in New York in the 1920s
  • Gently used at The Little Shop On The Corner in Nantucket
  • An unknown rental library at some point
  • A used book/antique store in Maryland or Pennsylvania3
  • Plus who-knows-where in between
One thing is for sure. Fletcher's book was well-read and passed through a lot of hands over the decades.

1. SPOILER: At the end of the book, it turns out that there is ... [dramatic pause] ... another copy of the will!
2. I wrote about the label for the Brentano's in Paris in April 2011.
3. I acquired this book as part of a big lot of unwanted used books that a seller of books and antiques was divesting himself of a couple years ago.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Story time: "The Goblins" from "Legends of the Rhine"

I don't post nearly as much about folk and fairy tales as I originally envisioned when I launched this blog in November 2010.

One way I'm going to work to rectify that and add a larger slice of the fairy kingdom to Papergreat is by posting short stories occasionally.

First up is this public-domain version (from Project Gutenberg) of "The Goblins" from Wilhelm Ruland's "Legends of the Rhine," which was first published in 1896.

One interesting thing about this neat little piece of folklore is that the terms goblins, elves, dwarfs, little men and even wights are used interchangeably. Today, in our generation of J.R.R. Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons, we generally think of those as very separate and distinct fantastic races.

Here is Ruland's tale from German legend...

The Goblins
This story goes back to the "good old times" of which we modern people always speak with a sigh of regret.

It was then when good-natured goblins appeared to mortal eyes, and tried to render the life of the troubled human race a little more cheerful. In groves and dens they had magnificent dwellings and watched there over the enormous mineral treasures of the earth.

Often these beneficent elves were busy miners or sometimes clever artisans. We all know that they manufactured the precious trinkets and arms of the Nibelungen treasure.

Deep in the interior of the earth they lived happily together, ruled over by a king. They could be called the harmless friends of darkness, because they were not allowed to come into broad daylight. If they did so, they were transformed into stones.

The goblins did not always remain underground. On the contrary they often came to the earth's surface through certain holes, called goblin-holes, but they always avoided meeting man.

Alas! the advance of civilisation has driven these friendly spirits gradually from the places where they used to do so much good. None of us, I am sure has ever had the good luck of meeting one of them.

The goblins were of different sizes. Sometimes they were as small as one's thumb, sometimes as large as the hand of a child of four years old. The most remarkable feature of these tiny figures was the enormous head and the pointed hump that so often adorned their backs. Their look was on the whole more comical than ugly. German people used to call them "Heinzchen" or "Heinzelmännchen."

A long time ago the good town of Cologne was inhabited by a host of dwarfs, and the honest population knew a great many stories about them. The workmen and artisans especially had, through the assistance of the little wights, far more holidays than are marked in the calendar.

When the carpenters, for instance, were lying on their benches in sweet repose, those little men came swiftly and stealthily along, they took up the tools and chiselled and sawed and hammered with a will, and thus, records the poetical chronicles which I am quoting, before the carpenters woke up, the house stood there finished.

In the same way things went on with the baker. While his lads were snoring, the little goblins came to help. They groaned under the load of heavy corn-sacks, they kneaded and weighed the flour, lifted and pushed the bread into the oven, and before the lazy bakers opened their eyes, the morning bread, brown and crisp, was lying in rows on the table.

The butchers too could speak of similar agreeable experiences. The good little men chopped, mixed and stirred with all their might, and when the drowsy butcher opened his eyes at last, he found the fresh, steaming sausages adorning the walls of his shop.

The cooper enjoyed also the help of the busy dwarfs, and even the tailor could not complain of the goblins having neglected him.

Once Mr. Cotton, a clever tailor, had the honour of making a Sunday coat for the mayor of the town. He worked diligently at it, but you can easily imagine that in the heat of the summer afternoon, the needle soon dropped from his hand, and he fell fast asleep. Hush! — look there. One little goblin after the other crept cautiously from his hiding place.

They climbed on the table and began the tailor's work, and stitched and sewed and fitted and pressed, as if they had been masters of the needle all their lives.

When Master Cotton awoke, he found to his great joy the mayor's Sunday coat ready made, and so neatly and well done that he could present the magnificent garment with pride to the head of the town.

The pretty wife of Mr. Cotton looked at this masterpiece of her husband's art with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

In the night when her husband had fallen asleep, she rose from her bed without making the slightest noise, and scattered pease all over the floor of the workshop; she then put a half-finished suit on the table. She kept a small lantern hidden under her apron, and waited behind the door listening. Soon after the room was full of little men all tumbling, falling, and slipping over the pease. Yells and screams rose at the same time. The poor little men were indeed much bruised and hurt. Without stopping they ran downstairs and disappeared.

The tailor's wife heard the noise, and thought it good sport. When the yells were loudest, she suddenly opened the door to see her visitors, but she came too late. Not a single goblin was left behind.

Since that time the friendly dwarfs have never more been seen in Cologne, and in other places also they have entirely disappeared.

Fun stuff from "Practice Activities in English, Grade Eight" (1937)

There's some cool stuff inside this 1937 school workbook "Practice Activities in English, Grade Eight,"1 the cover of which is pictured at right.

The introduction of this 75-year-old volume notes that it can supplement any English textbook and is, for the most part, a self-instruction practice book.

In order to make the book as compelling as possible for pupils:
"The subject matter around which each unit is built has been selected from recent carefully prepared courses of study. The content includes subjects in the social sciences, arts and crafts, folklore and literature, as well as from other work and leisure activities in the everyday life of this age group."
So, with that in mind, here are some examples of the kind of problems eighth-graders tackled in 1937:

  • Word choice: Isn't it _________ to know that the ancient Egyptians used common hand fans? (thrilling, interesting, great)
  • Word choice: Many Japanese fans are ______________. (swell-looking, fine, highly decorated)
  • Word choice: I think that electric fans are among our ____________ inventions. (swellest, grandest, most useful)
  • Word choice: Mother says that Father is usually _____________ shopper. (an expert, a grand, a swell)
  • Training the tongue:2 Frequently frisky freshmen sink several foul goals.
  • Training the tongue: The optmistic opponents oddly opened the opposition with outstanding offense and distracting defense.
  • Using prepositions correctly:3 One day when I was not needed (at, to) home after school, I stopped to watch the crippled boy.
  • Using prepositions correctly: After eating the cookies, the strange pair went (in, into) the house.
  • Writing telegrams:4 The camp dormitory burned last night no one was hurt all my clothes were destroyed except my pajamas will you send me money to buy clothes here or will you send me clothes from home5
And here are a couple examples of (neat, swell, dandy) illustrations from the school workbook.

I would add more to this post. But I have to go watch the crippled boy now.

1. The workbook was written by W. Wilbur Hatfield, E.E. Lewis, Lydia Austill Thomas and Lois A. Woody. It was published by American Book Company.
2. Directions. Choose a partner and take turns reading the following sentences aloud.
3. Directions. Cross out the incorrect forms in the following parentheses.
4. Directions. Reduce each of the following telegrams to not more than ten words by crossing out unnecessary words.
5. I'm pretty sure that, even in 1937, Mom and Dad would be OK with you using more than ten words in a telegram if your camp burned down and you lost all your clothes.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A groovy response from the CEO of Whirley-DrinkWorks!

In very cool news, I have received an email from Bob Sokolski, the CEO and "Advisor to the Next Generation" of Whirley-DrinkWorks!, responding to my Plastic Mug Nostalgia post earlier this month. Here's an excerpt from his email:
Hello Chris,

Your blog is very well done and thanks very much for calling it to our attention. ...

The "Hands Off" mug started when I bought the mold at a bankruptcy auction. We added a travel lid and a base with pressure-sensitive tape to attach to car dashboards. That mug was the forerunner to all the refill coffee mug programs in convenience stores. I also firmly believe that it led to all the programs now prevalent for cold drinks in theme parks, water parks and zoos. Whirley dominates that market with all the major theme parks as customers. The program is buy the bottle, get free and/or discounted refills, take home an attractive souvenir -- and come back soon and/or next year.

Whirley is a family business with the next generation firmly entrenched as managers. I am 79 years old and still work a full schedule. Good luck and thanks again.
Sokoloski also sent along historical notes about other products produced by the Warren, Pennsylvania, company. I mentioned the Moo-Cow Creamer in the earlier post. But the company has had some other well-remembered items, too.

Here's the rundown, quoting directly from the fact sheet:
  • 1. The salt-and-pepper dispenser was our original product. We didn’t design it -- the molds were dormant near Boston and we bought them in 1966. It was very successful in the late 1960s and for about eight or nine years thereafter. There are 11 parts. There was an earlier version made around the time of the 1939 New York World’s Fair with glass tubes for the salt and pepper.1
  • 2. The Cow Creamer was our next product. Our chief engineer designed it and it was the most popular of all our early products. We think it was first offered for sale around 1970 and continued in our line until the late 1970s. The original cow has seven parts. Most were brown, some were yellow and a limited number were purple. The yellow cow with a straw hole in the back of the neck was suggested in a letter sent by one of our customers. It was very popular. The original cow was ceramic, probably made in England, with a horizontal shape and an open area in the cow’s back to receive the milk. It also poured through the mouth.
  • 3. The sugar and syrup dispensers came next. They are functional, but were not as popular.
  • 4. All of these products were sold in combination restaurants/gift shops, mainly on the highways leading to Florida and other tourist areas. The selling program worked best when the restaurants used the dispensers on their own tables -- their customers saw and wanted them. When the Interstate Highways displaced the state highways, the business deteriorated and we were forced to discontinue all of these products and redesign our product line. Today, we are best known for many sizes of mugs and sport bottles sold in theme parks, convenience stores, hospitals and for premiums.2
  • 5. We know that our "old" products are sold regularly at many flea markets. There are no plans to ever make them again because of the limited volume potential and the much higher cost of labor today than when the products were first designed.

So much great information! It's clear that I'm not the only one with a sense of nostalgia for these plastic pieces of our cultural history.

I mentioned in the original post that I plunked down my three cents and bought three Whirley plastic mugs at a local used-goods store.3 Well, since the price is so ridiculously reasonable, I have since returned to the store and purchased some more penny plastic mugs. I now give you the Tower of Whirley...

1. These two photos of Whirley salt-and-pepper shakers are from As of today, both items are still available for purchase from seller SpaceAgeAntiques. Here's the link for the plain shakers. And here's the link for the tiger shakers.
2. For more on Whirley's history, check out this September 2010 article from The (Warren) Times Observer on the company's 50th anniversary.
3. Megatronix.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Get duly inducted into the Silent Mysteries of the Far East

This neat little card came to me via Papergreat reader Linda Durkos as part of our Ephemera Swap1 earlier this year involving E.H. Koester Bakery coupons and a small box of her family's "junk" paper.

The blank 1944 card is titled "Imperial Domain of the Golden Dragon" and was used to certify that an individual:

"was Duly Inducted into the
Having Crossed the 180th Meridian"

The 180th meridian, which passes mostly through the Pacific Ocean2, is used as the basis for the International Date Line.

And so this very unofficial card is an example of something that is given to sailors and soldiers who cross the meridian while on duty. It is a rite of passage. Similar cards or certificates are given for crossing the equator, the Arctic Circle, the Antarctic Circle and other spots of geographic significance.

Here are a few examples, compiled by Naval History and Heritage Command:

  • Golden Shellback: Crossing of the equator at the 180th meridian.
  • Order of the Ditch: Transiting the Panama Canal.
  • Royal Order of Whale Bangers: Crew members who accidentally fired at a whale, unfortunately mistaking it for a submarine.
  • Sea Squatters: Member who takes to the water and spends more than 24 hours on a life raft.

See the full list here and read more about the history of these salty certficates here.

Are you entering Papergreat's exciting first Postcard Caption Contest? Details are in yesterday's post.

1. I think "Ephemera Swap" would be a great reality show. Everything else is a reality show, so why not something centered around postcards, advertising, stuff tucked away inside old books and other bits of paper? I am available to serve as a consultant if anyone from History or A&E wants to start putting this together.
2. Some other places the 180th meridian passes through include the Arctic Ocean, Russia's Wrangel Island (not Alaska's Wrangell, which was previously featured on Papergreat), Amchitka Pass, and the Fijian islands of Vanua Levu, Rabi, and Taveuni.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Weekend postcards of Italy, plus a caption contest

This first postcard from Rome, Italy, features the exhibition of the azaleas at Trinità dei Monti.

Construction on the church of the Santissima Trinità dei Monti was begun in 1502 by French invader Louis XII. But the building was not finished and consecrated until 1585, under the direction of Pope Sixtus V.

The double staircase in front of the church was designed by Renaissance architect Domenico Fontana, who is better known for coordinating the feat of engineering needed for the 1586 erection of a 327-ton ancient Egyptian obelisk that serves as the centerpiece of Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City.1

As for the azaleas, according to the Activitaly website: "Since 1951 in April and May a great exhibition of azaleas gives to the stairway a particular fascination."

Here is today's second postcard...

This one is from Sorrento, Italy, and is branded on the back as being from Tony's Shop, which offered inlaid wood work, linen, laces, blouses and handkerchiefs. It was mailed during Christmas 1962 with a 15-lire stamp.

So what's going on in this postcard? I'm looking for caption suggestions, which you should include in the comments section below, along with your name. Whoever comes up with the best caption gets both of today's postcards, plus some other ephemeral goodies!

Caption away!

1. The "feat of engineering" required 900 men, 75 horses and the intricate coordination of numerous pulleys and ropes over the course of 13 months. This is now the only obelisk in Rome that has not toppled since Roman times.