Saturday, December 14, 2013

Great reads: Hay, concrete, crimes, games and Christmas in a can

OK everyone, here's another batch of links to great reads and great image galleries. I think there might just be enough here to get you through the holidays. So throw a fire on the log, make some more hot cocoa and check these out at your leisure.


1. This article reminded me of two excellent books I've read on game design: Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace by Janet Murray and Twisty Little Passages: An Approach to Interactive Fiction by Nick Montfort.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Santa-themed fun book from the York Mall (circa 1971)

For a little local nostalgia, here's the cover of a colorful holiday fun book that was distributed by the York Mall four decades ago.

The 16-page booklet is dated 1971 and the publisher is listed as NUPACO, which no doubt offered bulk copies of this book to any business that wanted to have its name and logo added to the cover.

The book includes coloring pages, games, color-by-number, connect-the-dots, a maze and a page on which you can write your letter to Santa.1 Half of the pages are in full color, as bright and saturated as this cover.

For more on the York Mall and its history, check out these links:

1. These two letters to Santa Claus — one from about 100 years ago and one from now — have gone viral on Twitter this month. Side-by-side, they make an interesting juxtaposition. (And, yes, it's likely the second one is a joke.)

2. For a great and deep dive into the history of York County's businesses and restaurants, here's the directory page that my wife Joan built for her Only in York County content.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Bowdoin College had a classy way to remove a book from its collection

It's a shame to see what some (not all) modern libraries do to the books they no longer want as part of their collections. To be clear, I have no problem with institutions removing outdated or under-circulated books. That's an important part of keeping the collection fresh and manageable.

But some libraries go a bit overboard when saying goodbye to an old book. I've seen oversized DISCARD stamps used multiple times within the same volume. I've seen pages defaced with thick black markers. I've seen where the circulation-card pocket was torn from the book, leaving a damaged page at best and sometimes a page torn in half.

So much violence.

There were classier ways once.

I smiled when I came across this blue, four-inch label that was pasted to the inside front cover of a discarded book from Bowdoin College in Maine many decades ago. The slim volume is 1874's Three and Four Place Tables of Logarithmic and Trionometric Functions by James Mills Peirce.1

No ugly stamps. No black markers. No torn pages.

In fact, one could argue that the book is a more interesting historical artifact with this label indicating part of its provenance.

Perhaps we shouldn't care what future generations will think about our treatment of books. But they will be judging us.

1. Don't laugh. Back in 1874, this book made Buzzfeed's list of "Ten Math Books That Your Children Will Absolutely Love Better Than Churning Butter."

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hurry and get this old-fashioned ice skating party for just $1

This advertisement is featured in the December 1964 issue of The Workbasket and Home Arts Magazine — an issue that also includes some recipes and crafts that I wrote about last weekend.

It offers, from the Melton Company, a 30-piece, old-fashioned ice skating party for just $1, as part of a "special pre-Christmas sale." (You also had to include 25¢ for postage and handling.)

The set is described as "life-like" and "a whirling, colorful wonderland." Here's some more of the advertising copy:
"So realistic, they almost spring to life. Ma and Pa sit bundled in their sleigh as their snowball flinging lads and lasses frolic and gay villages whirl across the ice. Authentic Mid-Eighties costume design, in true, bright, rich colors. ... You and friends will enjoy this rare bit of Holiday Charm that sends you on a sentimental journey back through many Christmases. Use year after year — on mantel, table, near tree. Durably constructed of dimensional plastic."1
To its credit, the advertisement clearly states in two separate places that these life-like figures are only 2½ inches tall. I'm sure Melton wanted to avoid angry letters from purchasers who believed they had been hoodwinked.

The 2½-inch figures included with the set were:
  • 2 horse-drawn sleighs
  • 3 lady carolers
  • 3 children throwing snowballs
  • groups of 2, 3 and 4 skaters
  • 4 musicians
  • 2 snowmen
  • 3 evergreen trees
  • 3 lamp posts
  • man pushing sleigh
  • 3 single skaters
  • man falling on ice2
  • wind-blown lady
  • child pushing sleigh

But the small black-and-white illustration with the magazine advertisement makes it hard to envision what this "rare bit of Holiday Charm" was really like, which is a shame.

But wait. There's more!

I always go the extra mile for you, the reader(s), here on Papergreat. I have discovered an original Ice Skating Party for sale on eBay.3 It could be YOURS for as low as $12.50, plus $5 shipping, if you place a bid by December 21.

Thanks to the eBay item listing, we can get a much better look at what this Ice Skating Party was all about. Here are some pictures:

The instructions provide some additional insight into how this $1 decoration was to be set up:
  • "To avoid breakage through the mails, we have shipped you this Ice Skating Party in its compact form, ready to push out. Important — Each figure fits into a slot in the 30 snow-like styrofoam bases. Simply separate bases with your fingers."
  • "If you want more elaborate scene to cover a larger area, you can create your own ... [by] surrounding the ice pond with a large piece of aluminum foil. Then, surround with Tide or any similar soap powder to have a snow effect. Then place your figures in a setting of your own creation."

Honestly, it doesn't look too shoddy, considering it only cost $1. The plastic figures look a bit like Shrinky Dinks. I think I'll have to give this a thumbs up and say that I wouldn't have been disappointed if I had made this $1 purchase a half-century ago.

1. I have no idea what "dimensional plastic" means. Is the alternative non-dimensional plastic?
2. That would represent me.
3. If that link doesn't work for you, just search eBay for the listing "1967 Clear Acetate Ice Skating Party Display un-punched Melton Company."

Reader mystery: What is this item from the hanky collection?

Sharon from Idaho, who follows Papergreat on Facebook, sent me this image and would like some help discovering what it is.

She says it's about nine inches across the top, which is a fold. There's nothing on the back except "10 cents." There's a folded-under, quarter-inch edge under the green sides. The lone word on the front is Ganetté. It was in her grandmother's hanky collection, along with a pattern. The material is heavy paper. And there's just a little touch of Christmas in what appears to be small pieces of tape on the edges.

Anyone out there have any thoughts? Comment down below or email me at chrisottopa-(at)

The illustration in the center of this triangle is certainly compelling. I'm almost getting a cyclopean vibe from it.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Cozy vintage Christmas card decked out in greens and reds

This looks like a cozy place to pass the time, doesn't it? Fireplace. Sofa. Chairs. Window so you can watch the snow falling outside.

Not a television in sight.

This is another small-sized Christmas card, just a bit larger than the one featured last Tuesday. This one measures 3½ inches square.

Inside, the card is pre-printed with:


Added, in cursive script, is "to the Spencer's".

I don't have any leads, though, on when this card was produced and mailed. I can only guess that it would be sometime in the range of 1930s to 1950s.

Incredible circa 1960 photo of paperback shelf at bookstore

This fabulous full-page photograph caught my eye while I was leafing through the January 1960 issue of the hardcover magazine Horizon. You'll want to click on the above photo to view a larger version and pour over all of the colorful covers that dotted one bookstore's shelf more than 50 years ago.

The photograph accompanies an article titled "The Culture Class War" by Eric Larrabee.1 The photograph is credited to Brentano's Inc.

Part of me wonders whether this bookshelf was specially arranged to complement the article's discussion of the dichotomy between mass culture and "high culture." I wonder, because there does not seem to be any thematic rhyme or reason to the paperbacks featured on these shelves. In fact, one might even argue that the theme is Jarring Juxtaposition.

  • Einstein is next to Aphrodite
  • Only a Woman ("the shocking ecstasy of forbidden love") is next to Dostoyevsky
  • Native Girl ("Lani was a She-Devil") is next to Dante
  • The Art of Mixing Drinks is next to Torture2
  • Ballet in America is next to Freud
  • Ibsen is next to Why Can't We Have a Baby?
  • The Bilko Joke Book is next to The Lustful Ape

I think my two favorite covers, from a graphic-design standpoint, are One Two Three ... Infinity and The Story of Jazz.

1. The article's subtitle states "It is waged hot and heavy by the critics of Mass Culture and the critics of Class Culture. Yet the co-existence of the two forms quite often serves to enrich and enliven the arts in America."
2. Take a look at Torture, which is in the center of the third row from the bottom. It looks like there is a different book behind Torture, which I think could lend support to the notion that these books were specifically arranged for this photograph.

Monday, December 9, 2013

One horrifying thing you'll never find inside an e-book

In the interest of fairness, I need to follow up this morning's post — Eight awesome things you'll never find inside e-books — with one example from the pro e-book side of the debate.

Sorting through a box of used books is usually a thrilling task. You never know what fascinating volume you'll come across or what you might find when you crack open a book.

But it can be hazardous, too.

Earlier this year, I cracked open a copy of 1968's How to Hunt Whitetail Deer by Luther A. Anderson, and this is what I came across.

Of course, in the photo I was looking at, there was no CENSORED tag covering the buttocks region. I put that there to spare your eyes and to maintain Papergreat's PG rating. My eyes were not spared.

Why, why, why would someone put a snapshot of a full moon into a book and then leave it there?

I must admit that such a thing can never happen with an e-book. So I guess the digital world has that going for it.

Macmillan Reader presents a very 1950s in suburbia Christmas

This staplebound booklet, The Christmas Tree, is part of The Macmillan Reader set published in 1951. (I came across another one from the set that, appropriate for this season, is titled Snow.)

Macmillan Readers are still being published. Their extensive early-reader offerings these days focus on everything from Mark Twain and the Brontë sisters to Sherlock Holmes and James Bond.1

This 1951 book focuses on a modern family's Christmas, including the procurement of a live tree for the living room. It was illustrated by a group that included Helen Hansen, Sylvia Holland, Janet Page, Basil Davidovich and Ernest Terrazas.

This sampling of illustrations from the 32-page reader gives a nostalgic glimpse of a idealized 1950s Christmas that could be right out of Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver.

1. There's even a Bridget Jones/Renée Zellweger reader!

Eight awesome things you'll never find inside e-books

I have still never purchased nor read an e-book.

You cannot call me a Luddite, though — for heck's sake, I have a blog with 1,000-plus posts and a robust Twitter account. And, to be fair, I can envision situations in which e-books might make sense — if I was a business traveler, or had a daily hour-long train commute or vacationed for weeks at a time in the Azores, I might want to load up an e-reader with a bunch of pulp fiction to pass the time.

But, so far, e-books aren't for me.

I'm a Books Guy. Books you can hold in your hands and take anywhere without worrying about battery life or the elements.

Books, too, are more than just the sum of the words written by the author. They are full of other treasures. The kind of treasures that, to my knowledge, will never exist with e-books. As a Books Guy, I live for those discoveries within old books. That's part of what this website is all about.

To drive home the point about the wonderfulness of real books, I present: "Eight Awesome Things You'll Never Find Inside E-books."

1. Bookseller's label from Ell's bookstore

This gorgeous little bookseller's label is just three-quarters of an inch wide.1 It's affixed to the inside front cover of the 1959 hardcover edition of Three Generations of Men by Judith Wright.

Ell's was a bookstore in Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. Historical information about it is very scarce on the Internet. One intriguing mention was found in "Schoolboy Rocketry: The Unofficial Rocketry Club at Newcastle Boys’ High School, 1964-1969," an article by by Trevor C. Sorensen:2
"I was thrilled when in 1965 I discovered a book in Ell’s Bookstore in downtown Newcastle called Handbook of Model Rocketry by G. Harry Stine (who was the founder of the National Association of Rocketry). This was a wealth of information about rockets in general and model rockets specifically."
Also, I found this short obituary notice in the March 9, 2005, issue of Australia's Weekly Book Newsletter:
"Mrs Mary Ell, of Max Ell Books in Roselands NSW and originally Ell’s Bookstore Newcastle, has passed away peacefully at home after a long illness. Married for 58 years, Max gave Mary the Roselands bookstore as a Mother’s Day gift 31 years ago. A stalwart in the book trade, Mary will be remembered as a tireless and enthusiastic worker while we had our Sydney city bookstores, especially at Roselands when she came to help during our centre court stalls. Loved by Max and her family, staff, colleagues and loyal customers. She will be sadly missed."

2. Handwritten inscription indicating ownership

Or, in this case, co-ownership. In this instance, we see that the 1938 hardcover edition of Speech-Making by James A. Winans was co-owned by Edward Stick and Edgar Sell in 1940.

I'm sure there will be digital trails full of bits and bytes indicating e-book ownership for future cyber-archaeologists. But they can't be as elegant or interesting as a cursive inscription.

[As a random aside, Speech-Making quotes this delicious sentence penned by Oliver Wendell Holmes: "I have known several genteel idiots whose whole vocabulary had deliquesced into some half dozen expressions."]

3 and 4. Bookseller's label and owner's signature

These were found within the 1904 hardcover edition of The Commoner Diseases of the Eye by Casey A. Wood and Thomas A. Woodruff.3 The bookseller's label — just 1½ inches wide — is for P. Blakiston's Son & Co., medical booksellers, of Philadelphia.4 It is affixed to the top-left corner of the inside front cover.

Meanwhile, the one-time owner's signature appears on the first page, alongside the date October 1, 1904.5

Any guesses on Henry's last name? (Trying to interpret antique cursive handwriting can be both fun and frustrating.)

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas recipes and crafts from a half-century ago

The December 1964 issue of The Workbasket and Home Arts Magazine is packed with craft ideas, recipes, money-saving suggestions and more for the holiday homemaker.1

The recipes are geared toward gift ideas, parties and desserts, and some of them are from readers, who received $2 if their submission was published.

Here, for starters, are a few recipes for you to check out on this snowy, icy Sunday in the northeastern U.S.

Mincemeat Cake
By Mrs. John Royal
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 package mincemeat
  • ⅔ cup waffle syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup cold coffee
  • 2 cups flour
Combine sugar, butter, egg, mincemeat, and waffle syrup. Blend baking soda into cold coffee and add to first mixture. Add flour. Pour into well greased loaf baking pan. Bake in 350° oven for about 30 minutes.

Gala Holiday Wreaths
  • ½ cup margarine
  • ¼ cup sifted brown sugar
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1 cup chopped nuts or coconut
  • raspberry jam
Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in egg yolk. Add flour. Form into small balls. Place on a fork, dip into egg white, then into nuts. Place on cooky sheet.2 Press a hole in center of each cookie. Place in a very slow oven (300° F.). After 8 minutes of baking press in center again and continue baking 10 minutes. Cool slightly. Remove from sheet. Fill center with jam or jelly. Yields 2½ dozen cookies.

Candied Pineapple Rings
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ⅓ cup corn syrup
  • 2 cans (No. 2) sliced pineapple
Combine sugar, water and corn syrup in saucepan. Cook over moderate heat until mixture spins a thread (234 degrees).3 Drop in a few slices of well-drained pineapple, being careful not to crowd the slices. Simmer slowly until pineapple becomes clear, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove pineapple from pan and drain on wire racks. Continue until all pineapple is candied.

You'll also like Minted Pineapple to add a Yuletide look to roast turkey, chicken or baked ham — hot or cold.

Minted pineapple: Heat pineapple slices in their own syrup to which a bit of green coloring and mint flavoring have been added.

And here are a couple of Christmas crafts from this issue of Workbasket. First up, all you need are some metal potato-chip tins...

Rickrack Jewelry
By Nancy Osborne
Several years ago I learned to make two basic styles of earrings from rickrack braid. Since then I have designed some styles of my own. I get 35c to $1.75 for a pair of earrings and $1.25 to $3.50 for a pin and matching earrings. I sometimes combine both large and small rickrack braid in one pair of earrings. I put rickrack on any type back desired. My most popular idea so far has been a Christmas tree pin. I make 15 circles from smallest size dark green rickrack. I glue these together in shape of Christmas tree. When dry I sew a small pin to back to wrong side. Next I glue on one brown circle for tree trunk, centering it on bottom row of green circles. Then brush pin lightly with silver tempera paint. Last I decorate tree with tiny pearls, little red and crystal rhinestones. I get $1.25 for these.4

There is also a four-page craft project describing how you can create a "Stained Glass Window Nativity Niche" using a cylindrical oatmeal container, wax paper, crayon shavings and construction paper. When you're finished, it might look something like this. (Too bad it's not a color photo.)

1. It also has advertisements for live seahorses, the Inflate-A-Form Sweater Dryer sold by Mr. John D. Rex, accordions, Uncle Jenk's Art Trace Drawing and Coloring Book, and the extremely dubious "50 Brand New Towels" for $1 ... but I don't want to get off-topic. There is also an intriguing advertisement for a 30-piece old-fashioned ice skating party for $1 that I want to post later this month.
2. Yes, it says "cooky."
3. The necessary temperatures are VERY precise in candy-making. See, for example, this Candy Making Chart on
4. That seems like a lot of work for $1.25, although $1.25 in 1964 is the equivalent of about $9.13 today, which would seem to be worth the while for a nice Christmas craft.