Saturday, December 21, 2013

"Carols for Christmas," a vintage pamphlet from The Prudential

Are those three women facing us triplets? Clones? Doppelgängers? It's a little creepy.

This undated "Carols for Christmas" foldout pamphlet was published by The Prudential Insurance Company of America.1

It features the lyrics to:
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • O Come, All Ye Faithful
  • Joy to the World
  • O Holy Night
  • Away in a Manger
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
  • It Came Upon the Midnight Clear
  • The First Noel
  • God Rest Your Merry, Gentlemen
  • Silent Night
  • We Three Kinds of Orient Are

So, the question of the day here in 2013 is this: "Do people still go caroling?"2

As always, I turned to the Interwebs for the answer, and this is what I came up with.

1. The question "Do people still go out Christmas caroling?" was asked on Yahoo! Answers in 2008. These were some of the responses:
  • "I don't know any people that go Christmas caroling anymore...But i'm sure some people still do!"
  • "My girlfriend and I went caroling last year, it was pretty cool. But no one seems to be asking anyone to go caroling this year. Which kind of suck."
  • "i wish people did, ahh the old days"3
  • "yep, they did on a reality TV show i watched (LOL) and we usually get one or two groups every year."

2. The same question was also posed in 2008 on Askville by Amazon.4 Responses included:
  • "It's not as common but yeah I've seen people do it."
  • "My sister and her husband had a group of friends they would carol with. They would rent a large passenger vehicle and designate a driver, get completely wasted and sing their hearts out. They had a regular route each year. It might be bad form to show up on some stranger's yard to sing drunken carols. People came to expect a visit from the group each year."
  • "Sure, in some horse and buggy towns across the land."

3. In 2010, a different person posted the question "Do people still go out and Christmas Carol?" on Yahoo! Answers. There was a wide variety of answers:
  • "yes, for the first time in my life I had carolers come to my door last year. It was a group of Mormons, but it was still very nice. And they didn't even hand me any literature or anything. They sang two was very cool. More people should do that."
  • "Yes, but it depends on where you live. In a lot of areas, it is very rare to see. In all my 20 years of living, only once did I see Christmas carolers come to my door in the area that I live in, which is quiet a rural area."
  • "I would and the last time I heard carollers was like 5 years ago. Now everone is locked inside playing on thier Ipods or Wii's not caring about anyone but themselves. Just one Christmas I would like a more Jolly Spirit"
  • "No one has ever been to my door but I would listen to someone on the porch only."
  • "maybe in the 1980s"

4. In 2011, the question "Do people still go Christmas caroling ? I haven't seen people do it in years." was asked on Experience Project. Those commenting on that website seemed a bit more thoughtful and in control of punctuation and grammar. But most of the responses were still on the depressing side. Here's a sampling:
  • "Growing up, I lived part of the year in a warm climate and part in a cold climate. Christmas was always celebrated in the cold part of the country, with lots of snow on the ground. My church youth group went to the homes of older people in they church and caroled. Afterwards, we went back to the church for hot chocolate and goodies in the church basement. I have aways remembered how fun that was. I agree, it is a part of times past that few people do any more."
  • "We used to hitch up a horse drawn wagon and carole from the back. But to knock on a stranger's doors these days would be out and out scary from the perspective of the knocker and knockee."
  • "Yep, Just don't do it in the Post Office they will kick you out."

What are your Christmas caroling experiences and thoughts? Comment below.

1. Previous posts involving The Prudential are:
2. My only personal recollection of caroling is from more than 30 years ago, when my middle-school choral group went around our small town of Montoursville, Pennsylvania, during the daytime and sang to anyone who happened to answer their doorbell.
3. This answer was provided by a user with a Cartman avatar. I have a terrible suspicion that, 200 years from now, Cartman will still be a universally recognized image.
4. The person posting the question had the user name OldHippieHatesNewAV.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Helen Myers and the dandy 1926-27 West York girls' basketball team

"Second Row, left to right — Miss [Helen] Dise, Coach; Marguerite Strayer, Catherine Neiman, Anna Joseph, Helen Myers, Captain; Beatrice Shank, Margaret Stauffer, Louise Ludwig, Cheer Leader. Front Row — Dorothy Gemmill, Wilhelmina Bufflap, Catherine [sic] Sheffer." (NOTE: I'm not sure about the accuracy of these identifications in the yearbook photo caption. I believe Helen Myers might be in the front row, holding the basketball.)

* * *

Here's something that I think the awesome folks over at (and others) will enjoy. It comes from the The Wesyoratette, the oddly named yearbook published by West York High School's Class of 1927. It's listed as Volume I, No. 1, and it was the students' first effort producing a yearbook using this title.1

The yearbook is filled with fabulous material, and I'm going to write more about it in 2014, but what caught my eye the first time I flipped through was the story of Helen Myers and the 1926-27 West York girls' basketball team.

The team picture, shown at the top of the post along with its caption, appears on page 59 and is accompanied by a lengthy summary of this West York basketball campaign of 87 winters ago. Here's an excerpt:

"The West York High School was represented by the best girls' team in the history of the school. All but one of the first team members were Seniors and will be graduated this spring. However, the material left seems to insure a successful season next year.

"Every member was a star. Helen Myers and Wilhelmina Bufflap at all times outplayed their guards. Anna Joseph and Kathryn Sheffer2 in center held their own against all odds. Margaret Stauffer, Catherine Neiman, and Marguerite Strayer as guards put up such a mighty battle that West York outclassed its opponents with a total score of 622 points to 390.

"For the first time in the history of York County a Girls' Scholastic League was formed. Those teams constituting the League were West York, Red Lion, Wrightsville and Glen Rock. It was in this League that West York played the best games of the season, and was one of the title contenders for the Cohen trophy. The officials of the league decided not to have a play-off and accordingly each of the three teams, West York, Red Lion, and Wrightsville received a separate cup.3 This cup was the first trophy ever brought to the high school by a basketball team and was a fitting reward for the unique records made by the tossers."

* * *

While it's stated that this was a girls' basketball Dream Team, one player obviously stood out — team captain Helen Myers.

She received her own page elsewhere in the yearbook for her basketball accomplishments, which are described as follows:

"Helen Myers Holds State Record

"The most outstanding part of the basketball season was the wonderful record made by Helen Myers, captain and star forward, of the girls' basketball team. This miss scored an amazing total of 503 points — just ten less than the score of the entire boys' team. Helen garnered 226 field and 51 foul goals in fourteen games or an average of 35.95 points per game.

"During the entire four years of Helen's sojourn in High School, she has been a member of the varsity basketball team and for the past two seasons has held the position of Captain. During the first three years of her membership on the team her regular position on the floor was center. It was only during this past season that she occupied the position of forward.

"Thus on March 30 in a game versus the Manheim High School team Helen played for the first time in her new position. However, she inaugurated herself into this new position by scoring a total of 61 points out of the teams 73, making 30 field and 1 foul goal. This feat was claimed as a record and the story of her prowess was carried throughout the entire state and county in papers and magazines.4 It was not only in this game that Helen starred but in all the remaining games of the schedule.

"In a later game with the team from Hallam High School, Helen broke all state records by scoring a total of 75 points, all but two of the total points made by her team. Because of this feat she is now holder of the State record of individual scoring."

One thing I should have noted earlier is that Pennsylvania high school girls' basketball was a six-on-six game at this time and for many decades thereafter. I believe that six-on-six persisted in Pennsylvania until at least the mid-1960s, and possibly later.

Regarding Myers' high-scoring games, only her 61-point effort is listed on the Women Basketball Pioneers page of the website Lucky's Amazing Sports Lists. The 75-point game against Hallam High is not mentioned. Those 75 points, however, still would not be Pennsylvania six-on-six record. Wyoming High School's Iris Spencer scored 100 points in a game against Moscow High on December 4, 1925, again according to Lucky's Amazing Sports Lists.5

* * *

Myers was more than just a basketball standout. Her full name, according to the yearbook, was Helen Romaine Myers and her nickname was "Hellie." She was her class secretary all four years, was a member of the Athletic Association, was the sports editor of Blue and White (the bi-weekly student newspaper) as a senior, was the business manager of the Ladies' Home Journal Campaign, sang with the Glee Club, competed on the track and volleyball teams, participated in the minstrel show, and was a member of the Alpha Beta Literary Society.

Presumably she went to her classes, too.

According to her yearbook profile, her ambition was to be a sergeant.

* * *

Helen Romaine Myers Bowers died on August 29, 2006, at the Lila Doyle Nursing Center in Seneca, South Carolina. She was 96.

She was survived by three children, eight grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

According to her short obituary, "she married Henry Bowers, who preceded her in death. She was a 1934 graduate of Hood College, a homemaker and a Presbyterian."

There is no mention of basketball.

1. Editor-In-Chief Helen G. Coover writes the following in the yearbook's foreword:
"Desiring a delightful reminder of the glorious days in W.Y.H.S. we have published this, the first issue of 'The Wesyoratette,' in which we have tried to recount some of the joys and achievements of our four years here. We have striven earnestly to make this issue a success. Nevertheless, our mistakes are manifold, but in seeking them out, pray be lenient, gentle reader, and consider the extreme youth of our publication. May it bring back to us memories, sweet and satisfying, of our school days!"
2. Kathryn Sheffer is correct. Her first name is misspelled in the photo caption on the girls' basketball yearbook page. According to her yearbook biography, her nickname was Kitty, she had a "melodious giggle," and her other activities included Glee Club, Alpha Beta Literary Society, yearbook staff, and the History Society, for which she served as treasurer.
3. So, to be clear, it seems that, in the four-team league, West York, Red Lion, and Wrightsville tied for first place and Glen Rock finished last.
4. A couple of things about this. First, I found a one-column photo of Myers in the January 11, 1927, edition of The Yonkers Statesman. The caption stated: "The first bid for basketball fame comes from York, Pa., and there is a feminene [sic] flavor to it. Recently Miss Helen Myers, star forward of the girls high school team of West York, Pa., scored 61 of 73 points made by her team in a recent game. Her record was 30 field goals and one point from foul, an average of a goal from field for practically each minute of play." Second, I think there might be a mistake with one of the dates mentioned in the Wesyoratette. The yearbook states that the 61-point game occurred on March 30 against Manheim High School. But the Yonkers newspaper notice appears on January 11, 1927. So perhaps the 61-point game was on December 30?
5. Also according to Lucky's Amazing Sports Lists, 1966 York Country Day School graduate Coni Wolf once scored 54 points in a six-on-six basketball game.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Everything's better with anthropomorphism

When the good folks at Conover-Mast Publications were putting together the jauntily titled Plant Maintenance Manual in 1949, they surely realized it was going to be a stiflingly dull book, filled with illustrations like the one to the right — SOME TYPES OF ROTARY PUMPS.

So someone had the winning idea to use some peppy anthropomorphism for some of the illustrations, instantly transforming a stodgy tome into a sprightlier one. Because everything's better when it has a face!

Judge for yourself...

Other posts featuring anthropomorphism

12 toys Mattel wanted you to buy for your kids in 1967

These nostalgic images hail from an eight-page advertising section in the December 1967 issue of Family Circle magazine. In addition to marketing Mattel's most popular holiday toys, the section served to announce Mattel's Million Dollar Christmas Sweepstakes. You could take the provided coupon to any of the stores listed in the advertisement and had a chance to win one of the 10,000 gift certificates for $100 that were being given away nationally.

And here are of some of the toys you had the opportunity to purchase with your gift certificate or hard-earned cash 46 Decembers ago...

Talking Mrs. Beasley

"Talking Mrs. Beasley from the popular 'Family Affair' television show! She'll say 'Would you like to try my glasses? You may if you wish,' and 10 more phrases." (Mrs. Beasley was Buffy Davis' doll on the TV show.)

and Snoopy-in-the-Box

"Who to talk to? Any of 40 personalities, with the Mattel-O-Phone! And who's the Jack-In-The-Music-Box? Snoopy, from the Peanuts comic strip and TV specials!"

See 'N Say

"See 'N Say toys teach sounds of musical instruments (Mr. Music Says), animals (The Farmer Says), letters of the alphabet (The Bee Says). Plus two other versions."

A trio of Thingmakers

"Thingmakers mold genuine Plastigoop into many shapes. New Fright Factory makes fangs, scars, claws to wear. New Fun Flowers makes all kinds of flowers to wear and decorate with. Creepy Crawlers molds bugs, beetles. Other Thingmakers include Creeple People, Fighting Men. For kids who already have a Thingmaker, look for Master-Paks and Accessory Kits!"

(I think my favorite part is the phrase "genuine Plastigoop.")

Major Matt Mason space toys

"Major Matt Mason is Mattel's Man in Space! Bendable astronaut comes with removable helmet, Jet Pak and string for flying. Accessories include Space Station with transparent solar shields, flashing beacon. And the Space Crawler that travels anywhere, indoors or out! Other new Major Matt Mason action accessories include remote-control Moon Suit, action Rocket Launch and Space Probe, and the Rocket Ship Carrying Case."


"Twiggy, the famous London model, is now a doll. With Twiggy haircut, Twiggy lashes!"

The Monkees finger puppet

"The Monkees four fingered puppet! Kids love to hear TV-record stars say things like 'We're having more fun than a barrel of people!'"


"Skipper is Barbie's pert little sister! She has bendable legs, lots of beautiful new costumes." (Skipper was introduced in 1964, and she is still a popular doll. In the current model, Skipper is a brunette with purple streaks in her hair.)

Incredible Edibles

"New Incredible Edibles! It's fun to eat candy bugs and beetles — even more fun to make them! Sooper-Gooper safely bakes liquid Gobble-Degoop into pure, sugarless gum-drop candy in six flavors. Incredible Edibles set has the Good Housekeeping Seal, comes with Sooper-Gooper, Gobble-Degoop, molds, recipes for lunch box treats and special Incredible Ediblees desserts — like Beetle Brittle, Crab Cakes."


Do not confuse the Plastigoop with the Gobble-Degoop!
Only one of those two goops is edible.
I think.
Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Hoping ... you will pass this way and make me a visit"

There's always room for another vintage Christmas card!

This simple one has a printed message on the front that states:
Your Christmas would be full of cheer
And you'd be happy all the year,
A sad day you would never know
If my wish could make it so.
On the back of this card, written in cursive in blue ink, is the following bittersweet message:
"I am still still hoping that on some of your trips you will pass this way and make me a visit. I am boarding the school teacher this year. Eugene named the baby, 'Doris Adaline'. We are all well and expect to get home for Christmas unless the weather is bad. It seems a long time since I was teaching at your school.

Long-ago holiday greetings from Edna Belle Curtin

We've had a good run of small, cozy vintage holiday cards this month, and here's another one.1 It measures just 2¾ inches across. Inside, the following message is printed:

The end of a perfect
day be yours,
When the evening stars
And may every day be
a perfect day,
to the end of a perfect

Enda Belle Curtin.

I discovered a little about Enda in a wedding announcement that appeared on page 5 of the June 1, 1933, edition of the Ogdensburg (N.Y.) Journal:2

Ogdensburg Girl Bride of Hammond Man — Rev. MacIntyre Officiates.

Miss Edna Belle Curtin, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Curtin, Proctor Avenue, was married this morning at 8 o'clock to Oland J. Bowman of Hammond. The ceremony was performed by Dr. William C. MacIntyre at the home of the bride at 414 Proctor Avenue.

Attending couple was Mr. and Mrs. alton Porter of this city. The bride was prettily attired in light blue chiffon with white hat and accessories, and carried a bouquet of white sweet peas. Mrs. Porter wore dark blue crepe and carried pink sweet peas. The house was prettily decorated with lilacs, tulips, spires and honeysuckles. The wedding march was played by Mrs. Everett Smithers, pianist.

After the wedding, a wedding breakfast was served to the members of the two families and friends. ...

After an extended wedding trip, Mr. and Mrs. Bowman will be at home July 1 at Black Lake where they will reside during the summer.

Oland lived from 1889 to 1972, while Edna lived from 1900 to 1993, according to this gravestone in Ogdensburg Cemetery.

As to the small piece of prose inside Enda's card, I found another reference to it in the December 1918/January 1919 edition of The Linotype Bulletin:3
Joseph L. Newland, Sr., machinist-operator, Brown-Morrison Co., Lynchburg, Va., was out with a New Year's card that hit us right between the eyes. It was Christmas-belled, -hollied, patriotically adorned, and — yes, further embellished by a photographic reproduction of the sender's classic bust. The sentiment is entirely too good to keep. Here it is:

May the end of a perfect day be yours,
When the evening stars appear;
And may every day be a perfect day
To the end of a perfect year!

1. Earlier cozy cards:
2. The 1933 newspaper page also includes the following intriguing items:
  • An advertisement for a June 4 baseball game between the Chateaugay Ponies (1932 champions) and Ogdensburg (1932 runner-up). Admission was 25 cents for adults and 10 cents for children.
  • An advertisement for the Saturday night performance by Eddie's Dance Band at Danceland. Admission was 10 cents for women and 30 cents for men.
  • An advertisement for "permanent waves" at Edie's Beauty Shop, which cost either $2.50 or $5 (the equivalent of $44 or $88 today).
  • An advertisement for a bankruptcy sale at Murray's Clothes Shop.
  • This announcement of a birthday party:
    "A delightful birthday party was given Wednesday afternoon at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Averell, Riverside Drive, on the occasion of their daughter, Miss Dorothy Averell's 11th birthday. Fifteen little friends were present and enjoyed the afternoon playing games, a girl's baseball game proved an enjoyable feature on the program of events. Dinner was served at 7, with a pink and yellow color scheme being carried out effectively in the table decorations."
3. That edition of The Linotype Bulletin also includes this graphic about border matrices and border slides, which I'm sharing here. Because ephemera.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Theodor Kittelsen postcard: Trollkjerringer på Norefjell

I bought this old postcard featuring the work of Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen (1857-1914) for $1 earlier this year at a postcard show.

The vendor I bought it from saw me browsing through the "fairy tale" and "fantasy" postcards and thought, after seeing the price, that I was just looking for something to flip for a profit. "Good luck," he said, taking my dollar.

But I was just smitten with the delicate illustration, and I wanted to find out more about what was portrayed on the old, unused postcard, which was published by Enerett Mittet & Co.

Kittelsen is remembered for his illustrations of trolls and other creatures from folklore. He did the artwork for some of the later editions of Norwegian Folktales by Asbjørnsen and Moe, which is where I first encountered his work.

The beauty of the illustration on this postcard becomes even more apparent with a little magnification.

The caption on the back of the postcard states: "Th. Kittelsen: Trollkjerringer på Norefjell."

According to Google, Trollkjerringer på Norefjell translates to "Old witch at Norefjell." (Norefjell is a Norwegian mountain range.)

But I think that a more accurate translation is "Troll Woman." And, in fact, I think these are two Troll Women, fighting during a mountaintop storm.

Why are they fighting? I'm not sure we were ever meant to know.

To view more of Kittelsen's fabulous folklore artwork, see this Wikipedia gallery and this "Siberian Tribute" to him.

And if you are interested in the history of the troll in Scandinavian folklore, check out Trollmoon. (But prepared to completely lose track of time in that deep, enchanting website.)

Santa on cover of the December 1949 issue of Model Railroader

Everyone loves to play with model trains!

Some spot-color red has been added to this black-and-white cover photograph of Santa Claus playing with the controls.1 Here's a rundown of some of the other interesting tidbits in this December 1949 issue of Model Railroader.

1. There is a how-to article by one of the most famous model builders of all-time, John Whitby Allen. This note from the editor on the first page summarizes Allen's contribution:
"Every photograph we publish of John Allen's startlingly lifelike HO gauge Gorre & Daphetid railroad scenery provokes dozens of letters asking 'How does he do it?' so we asked John to do something about it. He responded with a step-by-step camera record of the building of Mt. Alexander, an impressive mountain on the Devil's Gulch & Helengon, the narrow gauge feeder to the G&D. Captions with the photos give you the lowdown on materials and technique."
2. In the letters to the editor (a feature titled "Railway Postoffice"), R.E. Denzler of Nutley, New Jersey, describes a unique vehicle used by the Pennsylvania Railroad. Here's an excerpt of the letter and the photo that accompanied it:
"You may be interested in the enclosed snapshot of a most peculiar 'locomotive.' The Pennsylvania RR has two of them. They are used exclusively around the streets in and bounding the six city blocks occupied by Colgate-Palmolive-Peet Co. at Exchange Pl., Jersey City. ... One of these locomotives can pull five or six cars. And that's not all! They have an air whistle and sport a commercial motor vehicle license plate. They're about 20 ft. long, have a speed about 10 m.p.h., and are about 25 years old. The darn things can pull a car straight or around a 40 ft. radius, uncouple, run around it, and push it in the rest of the way with all the freedom of a reversible trolley bus."
3. The magazine has a section called Trackside Photos. Readers could submit photos of their layouts and would receive a minimum of $5 from the magazine if their photograph was published. One published photo includes this caption:
"Over 6000 hours of work is represented in this railroad built by inmates of the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pa., during their spare time. The layout is 7x20 ft. in size and is set up on five tables. There are 78 buildings, no two alike in construction. Since government funds are not available for this type of inmate project, all equipment was purchased by the employees of the institution. Notice the completely equipped engine terminal in the foreground."
Prison was so much nicer in the late 1940s, I guess. I wonder if the inmates got to keep the $5 paid by the magazine.

As an aside, inmates who have been housed at Lewisburg over the years include Jimmy Hoffa, Henry Hill, Whitey Bulger, John Gotti and Alger Hiss.

4. In another section filled with reader contributions, Mrs. Fred List provided this crafty idea for making a railroad layout more festive:
"Now's the time for that community Christmas tree in front of your model village hall or in the station garden. I've made these trees by wrapping cardboard into a cone shape, painting it dark green, and coating it with glue. While the tree is tacky, I sprinkle green wool yarn or flock over it. When the glue has dried, I punch holes in the cone and press wads of colored cellophane into them, fastening them inside with Scotch tape. The tree is then placed over a white bulb projecting through the base."

Finally, it seems like building model railroads was an even more expensive hobby six decades ago than it is today. Check out some of these 1949 prices from this issue's advertisements.
  • No. 2333 Lionel Super-Power, Super-Duper Twin Diesel, $42.50 (the equivalent of about $400 today!)
  • Lionel operating cattle car, $14.50
  • Three-rail minitoy trolley, $19.95
  • American Flyer Semaphore Man, $8.50
  • HO Gauge Mantua Pacific 4-6-2, $49.50
  • HO Gauge Mantua goat2, $24.50
  • Lionel operating water tower, $7.50
  • Lionel lamp post, $3.00
  • Electronpack (power pack designed for HO), $14.95
  • Pennsy 0-4-0 Yardbird by John English & Co., $22.95

1. Hmmm. Where have we seen that before? Check out this November post and scroll to the bottom.
2. I have no idea what a Mantua goat is.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Some vintage board games you probably won't get for Christmas

Earlier this autumn, I was ogling1 some old board games for sale in a local collectibles store, and I decided to snap a few photos, because these games are just too fun not to share. For each game, I tried to provide some websites where you can read more and also, as available, culled some online remembrances of those who played these games back in the day.

Manhunt (Milton Bradley, 1972)

Track down vicious criminals from the comfort of your own living room!

Here's an excerpt from The Game Pile summary of this game, by Dennis Matheson:
"[T]he players are police detectives attempting to determine who committed a crime. To do this, they must travel around the board to collect clues about the criminal. They then feed these clues into the crime computer in order to narrow down the list of suspects. The first player to correctly identify the culprit is the winner. ... [T]he game has a very interesting flavor and the steps the players have to go through actually correspond to those that a detective investigating a real crime would perform."
One of The Game Pile commenters adds: "I played this as a child with my friend Mickey. He and I solved crimes of the likes of Dina Mite and Nan Seewater until daybreak. It was a challenge back then! But so much fun."

Dina Mite! What a name. Some of the other names of suspects from the game were Ida Hoe, Luke Sharp, Dora Jar, Ella Minate, Kay Poot, and Barb Wyre.

Meanwhile, on the You'll Shoot Your Eye Out blog, these observations were made about Manhunt in 2006:
"This is a great game simply by dint2 of the sheer number of props that come included. You've got the 'electric computer [that] programs the action', a probe and scanner that 'provide[s] the hidden clues', several colorful player tokens in the shape of vintage sedans, clue sheets to keep track of ... well clues, a deck of cards for use with the probe and scanner, a detective's handbook (where a budding young detective keeps his or her clue sheet), a book of 'suspect data', and of course, the game board itself. ... Milton Bradley isn't kidding when it describes itself as the 'key to fun and learning'. This game and a few choice episodes of Perry Mason should be mandatory learning tools for anyone interested in law enforcement."

Cross Up (Milton Bradley, 1974)

(Lucille Ball sold separately.)

Cross Up was no Scrabble or Boggle, in terms of popularity.

According to the product description on BoardGameGeek, it was "a competitive crossword game where each player fills a 25-space crossword grid, one letter at a time, building words horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. All players work with the same letters. The highest score wins."

There's some interesting information about Ball and Milton Bradley in this excerpt from Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia, by Michael Karol:
"Lucille Ball loved to play games, especially backgammon, and in the 1970s she appeared in TV and print commercials and on game boxes endorsing various board games for Milton Bradley. These included Pivot Pool, which had a picture of Ball and the phrase 'This is my favorite family game'; Body Language, which had Ball twisted in various poses on the box; and Solotaire ('plays like solitaire, scores like poker'), with a picture of Ball on the front of the box."
If you're intrigued, cheap copies of Cross Up are available on

Nuts to You (Hasbro, 1969)

No psychedelic drugs were involved in the creation of this game. Honest.

We start again with BoardGameGeek, which describes this product thusly: "In this game, as one of the four animals, you try and collect the most nuts; the unique mechanism is that there is a talk device with a strip that will say a prescribed sentence back to you. It works sort of like a pull string dummy that has several phrases it can say. Interesting plastic peanuts you collect too."

The game was designed by the prolific Marvin Glass and Associates, which also gave us Lite Brite, Mousetrap, Ants in the Pants, Rock'Em Sock'Em Robots and Simon.

It originally sold for $2.99 and was part of the Hasbro Talking Games Assortment that included — and I'm not making these up — Hey, Fatso and Get in That Tub.3

Bermuda Triangle (Milton Bradley, 1976)

Do you think they advertised this during In Search of...?

This board game, unlike the previous three, remains well-remembered, sought-after and oft-discussed.4

BoardGameGeek provides this marketing text from the Bermuda Triangle box:
"Bermuda Triangle, the legendary area in the Atlantic Ocean where dozens of ships and planes have disappeared without explanation, is the setting of this exciting game of suspense. ... The sinister mystery cloud hovers, weaves and sweeps, swallowing some ships as it passes. ... Can you make it 'home' with your cargo, or will your fleet become just one more victim in the Bermuda Triangle? ... THE INTRIGUING GAME OF VANISHING SHIPS"
The game design was quite original and above average. In fact, it might be that more thought was put into this game than was put into the Bermuda Triangle theories that were popularized and monetized by Vincent Gaddis, Charles Berlitz and other authors.

On The Game Pile, Matheson raves about it:
"This is an amazingly fun game. The players move their ships along the track on the map from one port to another according to a die roll while the cloud moves and spins randomly according to the spinner. There are magnets located under the cloud and on the ship counters and if the cloud and a ship get too close together the ship is sucked into the cloud."
Bermuda Triangle even has its own official fan page, filled with pictures of the game pieces and the instructions. There are even photos of modern students enjoying the game in 2011.

If you want to snag of copy of this one in 2013, it's going to cost you a bit of money. But it's still LESS than the average cost of a new video game, which can be $60 or more these days. On, as of the date of this post, you can find Bermuda Triangle here and here.

1. Ogle, per Merriam-Webster, likely comes from the Low German oegeln and dates to 1682.
2. Dint is another great word. Again according to Merriam-Webster, it dates to before the 12th century and is from "Middle English, from Old English dynt; akin to Old Norse dyntr."
3. At least those are two separate games, and it wasn't Hey Fatso, Get in That Tub.
4. TANGENT: Seeing the Bermuda Triangle box reminded me of another board game that I used to play with my friends in Clayton, New Jersey, in the late 1970s. It was called The Sinking of the Titanic. The game has a bit of a tarnished history, according to BoardGameGeek. After it was released in the mid 1970s, people complained that it was insensitive to those who died on the Titanic. So the Titanic references were removed and it was republished as Abandon Ship, with the same game play intact. I could tell you much more about the game, but I don't need to. The best non-essential thing you read today might well be this great piece titled "The Sinking of the Titanic game" on the The Lostinjersey Blog. It's a comprehensive and gut-busting post.  

Closing moment: This Guy

Season's greetings from Mr. and Mrs. William C. Spencer

Can you believe Christmas is here in a week and a half?

Here's a neat old card, which is 5⅜ inches wide and printed on heavy stock. The script reads:

The Seasons Greetings
and many you have a Merry Christmas
and Happy New Year
Mr. and Mrs. William C. Spencer

Regarding the phrase "season's greetings," Wikipedia has the following to say:
"'Season's Greetings' is a greeting more commonly used as a motto on winter season greeting cards, and in commercial advertisements, than as a spoken phrase. In addition to 'Merry Christmas', Victorian Christmas cards bore a variety of salutations, including 'Compliments of the Season' and 'Christmas Greetings.' By the late 19th century, 'With the Season's Greetings' or simply 'The Season's Greetings' began appearing. By the 1920s it had been shortened to 'Season's Greetings,' and has been a greeting card fixture ever since. Several White House Christmas cards, including U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower's 1955 card, have featured the phrase."
Meanwhile, in related Christmas card news, have you seen this year's celebrity cards from Joe Jonas and Mena Suvari? They're worth a few moments of your time.

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Check out more Christmas and holiday ephemera here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

An assortment of holiday ephemera, including schlumbergera truncata

Here's a bit of a rogues gallery of holiday ephemera for a Sunday afternoon.

Art in America subscription form

This is a festive old "Christmas Gift Subscription Form" for Art in America magazine. A one-year subscription cost $10 and additional subscriptions were just $8. With rates like that, I'd guess this dates to the 1960s. (The magazine itself dates to 1913, by the way.1)

Today, a one-year subscription costs $34.95. The magazine, perhaps trying to stretch the definition of the word "art," recently published an essay about the television show Saved by the Bell.

International holiday stamps

As my Postcrossing cards continue to roll in, this past week's mail has included a pair of awesome holiday-themed stamps from the European nations of Belarus and Germany.

The Russian-language phrase on the first stamp means "Happy New Year!" It cropped up last December when I featured this postcard.

On the second stamp, Weihnachten is the German word for Christmas.

Christmas cactus card

Finally, here's a card from the 1978 set The Greenhouse, which was issued by the Western Publishing Company.

The cards came in a plastic green box like this (much like those Betty Crocker recipe sets).

The Christmas Cactus (also known as Thanksgiving Cactus, Crab Cactus and Holiday Cactus) is a cultivar of the genus Schlumbergera.

According to the information on the reverse side of the card: "Christmas cactus ... is from the jungle, not the desert; it likes moisture and its name tells when it will flower. The pretty winter blossom this plant produces is a tubular flower that grows from the ends of the dipping long stems. The plant can bloom from Thanksgiving through Christmas and flowers in a series with one flower giving way to another."

Here's a Wikipedia list of other trees and plants associated with Christmas, including the yule log, mistletoe, radishes (yes, radishes), and the pōhutukawa tree of New Zealand.

1. Here is some more on the magazine's history, from its website: "Founded in 1913 by art critic, historian and collector Frederic Fairchild Sherman under founding editor Wilhelm R. Valentiner, A.i.A., in its early issues, focused on old masters in American collections. For much of the '20s, the magazine was named Art in America and Elsewhere, reflecting its increasing geographic reach."