Saturday, November 2, 2013

Saturday's postcard and 8 things about Hotel del Coronado

This vintage postcard shows the famous Hotel del Coronado illuminated by moonlight and all lit up inside like a Thomas Kinkade dwelling.

Here are eight tidbits about Hotel del Coronado, which opened in 1887 and is located in Coronado, California (near San Diego).
  • It is the second largest wooden structure in the United States, behind only the Tillamook Air Museum in Oregon.
  • The hotel's Crown Room, designed by architect James W. Reid, has a wooden ceiling that was installed with pegs and glue — and not a single nail.
  • The original amenities included an Olympic-sized salt-water pool, tennis courts, a Japanese tea garden, an ostrich farm, billiards, bowling alleys, hunting expeditions, and deep sea fishing.
  • When Hotel del Coronado opened, electricity was still a novelty. The hotel itself supplied electricity to the city of Coronado. Other technological leaps forward, according to the hotel's website, included "steam-powered hydraulic elevators (among the first in the country), a state-of-the-art fire sprinkler system, and telephone service."
  • Notable guests have included Thomas Edison, L. Frank Baum, Charlie Chaplin, Vincent Price, Babe Ruth, James Stewart, Brad Pitt and Madonna.
  • Baum did much of his writing at the hotel, and the hotel itself inspired books and stories by Ambrose Bierce, Richard Matheson and Stephen King. The hotel has also been featured in more than a dozen movies, the most famous of which is Some Like It Hot.
  • During a three-month stay at the hotel in 1892, a girl named Noel wrote a series of letters describing her experiences. The letters were accompanied by watercolors done by Noel's governess. The letters and watercolors were collected in a recent book titled "The Loveliest Hotel You Can Imagine."
  • As is the case with most buildings that are more than a century old, the Coronado has its share of ghost stories. The moust famous one involves Kate Morgan. Among the many articles discussing that spectral mystery is this February 2013 piece from San Diego Reader.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A few ephemeral tidbits for your Halloween 2013 enjoyment

Greetings on this Nos Calan Gaeaf.1 This is our black cat, Mr. Bill, who helps us with our Halloween decorating each year.

Last night, he was kind enough to sit for a photo shoot with some gourds. He probably thought that it was an acceptable accommodation, especially compared to a few years ago, when I made him a temporary prop in my scarecrow/hay bale costume.

In the, ahem, spirit of the day, here are a few spooky-themed pieces for your enjoyment.

Dark Terrors, 1994

This is issue #8, from April 1994, of Dark Terrors, a magazine that focused on the history of Hammer horror films. According to, only 18 issues were published.

Mike Murphy of Cornwall, England, is listed as the publisher for this issue, which includes articles titled:
  • An Interview with Barbara Shelley: Hammer Scream Queen says fangs for the memories!
  • Censored Hammer — When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth
  • Ray Harryhausen: Mike Hankin looks at the work of this special effects wizard on One Millions Years B.C.
  • An Interview with Harry Oakes: Camera assistant at Bray Studios talks about his Hammer days at the house of horror
  • Philip Martell: A tribute to Hammer's long-serving Musical Supervisor
  • Quatermass: Behind the scenes of Hammer's adaptations of Nigel Kneale's classic science fiction stories
  • Val Guest: Wesley Walker profiles the work of one of Hammer's finest directors

"Spirited Spooks play medieval melodies"

This undated postcard (early 1970s?) shows one of the scenes within the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland in California. The famous dark ride opened in August 1969.

The caption on the back of the postcard states (this works best if you imagine Vincent Price saying the words):
"Crypt doors creak and tombstones quake to the rhythm of a haunting refrain. Spirited Spooks play medieval melodies for graveyard guests as all do the dance macabre in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion."

Don't look in the attic

Snapshot taken earlier this year in a friend's attic.
It's a wonder I made it out alive!

1. In Welsh culture, Calan Gaeaf is the first day of winter, and is observed on November 1. That makes today Nos Calan Gaeaf, which is thought to be a day when spirits are out and about and the living should tread carefully.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Now softer and with more sheets for all your holiday TPing needs

Of course, none of you is planning anything mischievous tonight or tomorrow, right? RIGHT?

This ScotTissue toilet-paper advertisement was featured in the April 1953 issue of Woman's Day magazine. It promises greater softness and greater whiteness with its "water-woven" technology that employs only "pure 'white' pulp." And all of that at no increase in price.

I tried to find some information about the cultural history of toilet-papering as a prank.1 But, beyond mentioning The Rocky Horror Picture Show and a few other tidbits, Wikipedia doesn't have much to say on the matter.

Now, Mischief Night2 in its various incarnations has existed since the 18th century, but I don't now when the TPing trend first began to, ahem, unravel.

So, lacking any further information on that topic, if you're interested in the history of toilet paper itself, here is The United Colon Vlog presenting "From corncobs to Charmin: The history of toilet paper." Enjoy!

1. Because that's what I do here, folks. Who else is going to investigate these questions?
2. Mischief Night, which is usually October 30, is also known as Devil's Night, Cabbage Night, Gate Night, Mizzy Night, and Miggy Night.

Guest post: Remembering those treasures from cereal boxes

Jim Fahringer recently shared these cereal-premium remembrances on Facebook, and he is graciously allowing me to share them here. I hope they spur some of your own memories, and you that can share them in the comments section.1 Enjoy!
Remember the wonderful cereal premiums that were once included inside the boxes of cereal?

I remember the diving submarine which had the little compartment with a metal cap at the bottom which you filled with baking soda and the sub would slowly rise and sink.

Another neat premium was the records which were part of the back of the cereal box. You would cut them out and put on your record player and they actually played. Sometimes you had to tape a quarter or other coin onto the cardboard record to keep it flat when it played.

Then there were those miniature tin license plates of all the states. I wonder how much cereal was needlessly purchased just to try to amass the complete set of 48 states.

Then there were those tin circular medallions of all the major automobile companies. They came complete with two holes that you could put wire or string through and many of us attached them to our bikes.

In the late 1950s, when cats-eye marbles first came out, one of the cereal companies included a little cellophane roll full of about four or five of these marbles.

Oh, and don't forget the high-quality graphic masks on the back of some of the cereal boxes. We would cut them out and wear the mask.

You could also save several cereal box tops and send a quarter to a dollar for some special premiums. One of the most interesting was for all of us who watched "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon." If you sent in a box top or maybe it was more, and $1 you could own one square inch of the Yukon Territory. We were so excited that we thought we could save up a lot of money and own a large piece of land in the Yukon. But alas, when we received the official looking deed to our one square foot of Yukon Territory it said that this deed had no legal binding ownership of the actual territory.

I also remember sending for the three colored navy frogmen (yellow, blue, and red). These too, like the diving submarine, had a little compartment on the bottom which you filled with baking soda and covered with the metal cap with a hole in it. The navy frogmen would rise and sink as the baking soda produced gas to move them.

There were many other neat cereal premiums. What were some of your favorites?

Here are a few other Papergreat posts on the topic of cereal premiums:

1. In previous posts, Fahringer has discussed QSL cards and stamp collecting.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pennsylvania Dutch cuisine: Schnitz and knepp recipe on old napkin

This old napkin, found inside a recipe binder, includes a recipe and other information about the Pennsylvania Dutch dish called "schnitz and knepp." (It's also referred to as schnitz un knepp and schnitz un gnepp.)

I suppose it was kind of a novelty thing, but I have no idea why you would print a recipe that is presumably for keeping on something as fragile as a napkin. This one survived, at least.

The traditional recipe's main ingredients, as you can see, are ham, brown sugar and dried apples, which are then mixed in with the knepp (flour dumplings). The schnitz applies can also be eaten as a standalone snack.

I mentioned schnitz un gnepp in passing in this August 2012 post about a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook. For a much deeper look at this traditional dish, though, I recommend these posts on my wife's Only in York County blog:

Finally, the only clue we have about who made this napkin is this small logo in the corner. Any leads regard who produced this and when would be greatly appreciated!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Great links: Which movies gave you the biggest fright?

It's the witching hour, so let's talk scary movies for a moment.

Over at the Final Girl blog, Stacie Ponder asked last month for readers to submit their lists on the topic of "Which Ten Horror Movies Have Scared You The Most?"

The submissions were tallied, and Final Girl is presenting a countdown of the 323 scare-fests that received votes this month for Shocktober. The list just moved into the Top 50 on Sunday as it heads into the Halloween home stretch.

The point of the fun exercise wasn't to select the classic movies of the genre or the best ones or even personal favorites. The question was simply: Which movies gave you the biggest fright?

Within that context, most of my selections involve movies I first saw as an impressionable wee lad. And so most, but not all, are movies from the 1970s.

Here's a thumbnail look at my ten picks.1 Can you guess all of them without reading ahead?

Top row, from left:
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (1974) — Pictured is Madame Hecuba2, the primary villain in this freaky animated film from Japan. It's the decided creepiness of Hecuba and the soundtrack that made this an unexpected horror film masquerading as a Disneyesque fairy tale for kiddies. For further discussion, check out this Post Modern Trashaeology review.
  • The Last Man on Earth (1964) — I first saw this Vincent Price-led adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend as a kid, and it may well have been my first zombie movie.3 Now, it's just a family favorite, and was Ashar's introduction to one of his favorite actors.4 It can still creep me out, though, especially when the creatures surround Price's house, calling out "Morgan!"
  • Salem's Lot (1979) — I didn't have to rank the movies on my list for Final Girl. But, if I had, this might be #1. Most of this Stephen King adaptation is forever burned into my brain, and there are too many memorable scenes to begin recounting them all. Over the years, though, I've become more and more fond of Geoffrey Lewis' work as Mike Ryerson.5 And this movie was made for television.
  • Gargoyles (1972) — And here's another made-for-television movie. The way-above-average elements of this one, some of which still hold up, include Bernie Casey's performance (and voice) as the lead gargoyle who just wants to better his race, the slow-motion, night-time attack scenes involving the gargoyles, and the ominous soundtrack.6
  • Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1972) — This extremely-low-budget zombie film was directed by Bob Clark, who somehow went on to direct both Porky's and A Christmas Story. The star is Alan Ormsby (pictured in the thumbnail), who would have to be in the running for Most Unlikable Character in a Zombie Film, if anyone did rankings for such a thing. This movie, though extremely gory, was shown often on the afternoon matinee in the late 1970s, which made it unfortunately easily to stumble across when you were just looking for a Gamera or Bela Lugosi movie.
Bottom row, from left:
  • Burnt Offerings (1976) — Really, the only reason this made my list is the damn smiling chauffeur, who is pictured in the lineup. He didn't just give Oliver Reed bad dreams. He gave ALL of us bad dreams. The chauffeur was portrayed by character actor Anthony James, who is generally under-praised for all of his villainous outings over the years. (Other than the chauffeur, by the way, this movie is a mostly underwhelming mixed bag.)
  • The Sentinel (1977) — A terrifying and unnerving horror film, even today. And it includes perhaps the creepiest birthday party for a cat in movie history. One note: The TV edit (how I originally experienced the film) is the best version of the movie, in my opinion. The theatrical cut has too much gore, too many shots of the "demons" at the end and, ummm, too much Beverly D'Angelo. The TV version leaves more to the imagination, which is the better way to go.
  • The Changeling (1980) — What a wonderful haunted-house movie. No blood, knives, clowns, fangs or demons needed to induce chills. All you need to scare the audience, in fact, is a little red ball. Also, tape-recorder scenes are always guaranteed to provide great moments in horror movies. Remind me to include a tape-recorder scene when I write my first horror screenplay.
  • Session 9 (2001) — Speaking of movies with tape recordings (Hello, Mary and Simon), this is the most recent movie on my list. Director Brad Anderson was already way ahead of the game we he secured the use of Danvers State Hospital as the setting for his horror film. But he didn't stop there, crafting a spooky and perfectly ambiguous script to go along with his crumbling psychiatric hospital. David Caruso gets a lifetime pass for his work in this movie.7
  • Halloween (1978)"I met him, fifteen years ago; I was told there was nothing left; no reason, no conscience, no understanding; and even the most rudimentary sense of life or death, of good or evil, right or wrong. I met this six-year-old child, with this blank, pale, emotionless face, and the blackest eyes... the devil's eyes. I spent eight years trying to reach him, and then another seven trying to keep him locked up because I realized that what was living behind that boy's eyes was purely and simply... evil." Also: It's amazing enough that John Carpenter made the perfect slasher film. But somehow he also made the greatest horror score of all-time. There should be some sort of Oscar for a guy like that.8

OK, so there are my midnight horror-movie ramblings. That should be sufficient to tide me over until next October.

But, Chris, there's nothing about ephemera or books in this blog post, you exclaim. We came here for bookish things, not vampires!

Fine. Here you go...

Don't forget to read
the rest of Shocktober on Final Girl

Out-of-Control Footnotes
1. My #11 movie, which was very difficult for me to keep off the list, is Poltergeist. Honestly, it is scarier than a couple of my more-obscure choices, but I wanted to stay away from having too many mainstream selections. I'm sure the clown will come get me as revenge for leaving his movie off the list.
2. Madame Hecuba, quite improbably, has her own Facebook page.
3. Without going off on a thesis-length tangent, suffice to say that the creatures in both the source novel and the 1964 movie are vampire-zombie hybrids who act much more like The Walking Dead than Dracula. And, in fact, both were major influences on the development of our modern notion of zombies. George Romero has often said that The Last Man on Earth was one of his inspirations for Night of the Living Dead.
4. Ashar and I have thoroughly enjoyed Turner Classic Movies' focus on Vincent Price this month. This past Thursday, we watched the marathon trifecta of House of Wax, The Mad Magician, and House of Usher. Great stuff. Speaking of House of Usher, I found myself wondering what ever happened to those creepy portraits of the Usher family that add so much to the movie's atmosphere. I found a partial answer on this website dedicated to the work of Burt Shonberg (scroll way down). An excerpt:
"In the movie, the paintings were destroyed by fire when the 'house' burnt down. The paintings were covered in a fire proof gel that prevented any damage to them, so they actually did not burn. ... [Director] Roger Corman gave these paintings to the cast and crew when production was finished."
5. Also, hats off to Salem's Lot for including a spot for minor horror icon Elisha Cook Jr. Also also, I love that two key actors (Ed Flanders, Bonnie Bartlett) went on to starring roles in St. Elsewhere.
6. Enjoy this Gargoyles GIF. You're welcome.
7. No spoilers from me on this one. If you haven't seen Session 9 and love horror movies, seek it out.
8. At least we have this: In 2006, Halloween was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Two stamps on a postcard from Russia

This Sochi 2014 stamp was used on a Postcrossing card from Moscow, Russia, that I received this week. The stamp includes a caption that states:
"Krasnaya Polyana is the only ski resort at the Black Sea coast. Its popularity is to a considerable degree due to the location and the climate, special snow structure and the forming mountain mass terrain."

The postcard also has a 2008 stamp of a fox. I wonder what it would say?