Sunday, March 30, 2014

A fun little QSL card experiment

And now for something a little bit different...

This old QSL card for "The Sweeper's" — Bill and Rose Carter of Quincy, Massachusetts — was never used. So I wrote a short note on the back and am putting into the mail, addressed to the "Current Residents" as the street address printed on the card.

Here's what I wrote:
March 30, 2014

From: Chris Otto in York, Pennsylvania

Hello! Just for fun, I thought I'd mail this old ham radio QSL card back to its former home. Not sure if the Carter family still lives there or not. Contact me at and/or see my blog —

Now we can just sit back and see if anything happens!
Are you tingling with excitement??

Three vintage "Rally Day" church postcards

On the heels of last Sunday's "We Missed You at Church" postcards, here's something with a similar theme — postcards promoting Rally Day at church.

As I noted last September, Rally Day typically happens sometime between mid-September and early October, and it marks the start of the church calendar year. Rally Day is a customary time to welcome new members, launch Sunday School, hand out Bibles to children and unveil the church's goals.

These three postcards come from different eras but share that welcoming "come and join us" message.

1. This card is aimed a teenagers with its musical theme and record player. It was printed in the United States but there is no other identifying information.

I wonder if we can use the boy's socks to accurately date the postcard?

2. This colorful postcard was never used. It has spaces on the back to record the date, time and place for Rally Day. Note that the trees in the illustration have an autumn-like look to them.

3. This is the oldest, by far, of the today's three postcards. In fact, it's at least 100 years old, as it was postmarked at 8 p.m. on September 24, 1914, in Putnam, Connecticut. It was addressed to a Miss Doris Card. The card was produced by Goodenough & Woglom Company of New York City. (Goodenough & Woglom also produced the game Bible Lotto.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Book cover: "Best Ghost Stories of J.S. Le Fanu"

  • Title: Best Ghost Stories of J.S. LeFanu
  • Editor: E.F. Bleiler
  • Cover illustrator: The cover image is a portion of one of David Henry Friston's illustrations for the Le Fanu story "Carmilla." The story and illustration first appeared in the magazine The Dark Blue in 1871-72. The full illustration can be seen here.
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Year: 1964
  • Notes: Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (1814-1873) is one of my favorite ghost-story authors, alongside M.R. James, Algnernon Blackwood and Shirley Jackson. ... There's a Facebook community page to celebrate the fact that the 200th anniversary of his birth is this year. ... This anthology contains 16 stories, including his famous tales "Schalken the Painter" and "Carmilla," which is the wellspring for all other lesbian vampire tales and also strongly influenced Bram Stoker's Dracula. ... My favorite two stories in this volume, though, are "An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street" and "An Authentic Narrative of a Haunted House." Both of those tales can be found online in their entirety, if you don't want to track down a book. But, for the full effect, it's best to read them at night, while sitting in bed (with feet covered), gripping a book tightly and having only one source of illumination. What fun is it, after all, if you have all the deep corners of the room brightly lit?

Friday, March 28, 2014

From the readers: Many, many Cheerful responses and memories

I'm not sure why, but I've been hit with a deluge of extremely fond reader memories about working for Cheerful Card Company.

I originally wrote about the company in December 2012 and, in retrospect, I feel bad that I was somewhat sarcastic and snide about Cheerful Card Company. It appears that the joke is on me.

Here is a recap of all of the comments and memories I've received about the incentive-based card sales program:

Anonymous (May 2013): "I remember when I was a youngster seeing the ad in a magazine and sending for the kit to sell greeting cards. I do not remember how much I earned. That had to be 50 years ago. I am now going to be 66. What a happy memory."

Anonymous (January 2014): "How funny. I am 66 and was just telling my wife how I used to dress up and carry my briefcase with me ... I was 11 or 12 ... knock on the door and say, 'I represent the Cheerful Card Company of (somewhere) New York and I would like to show you our line of Christmas Cards.' I didn't always make a sale but I did score milk and cookies on numerous occasions. I remember making enough one Christmas to shock my Dad and he wasn't shocked easily. What a fun read."

Anonymous (March 2014): "I remember seeing the adverts in the back of the comic books I read in the early 1960s. I sold Cheerful Cards to neighbors and on my mother's job. I am now 61. What an experience. I wish I had those comics now!"

Anonymous (March 2014): "Selling door-to-door for the Cheerful Card Company was my first job. I was 9 years old. Tons of sales, plenty of money. I am sure this experience had propelled me into an after-school newspaper route by the time I was 11 (child labor laws were easily flouted in those days), and another better-paying job by the time I was 16. All in all, I look back on my days with the Cheerful Card Company as the beginning of a lifetime of enjoying running my own company. Children should not be prevented from working!"

Anonymous (March 2014): "I'm 74 years and sold Cheerful cards and sold them as a young mother with children. I just thought it was fun and I loved the knickknacks, cards, etc. The products were so easy to sell. Does anyone know if they're still in business?"

Fran Walker of Alpharetta, Georgia (March 2014): "I was 11 years old and I remember it well. I have never forgotten the kit I received. It was a cardboard box that folded up like a briefcase with a handle. I was so proud to go to the neighbors and sell. It was awesome. It was my first job."

Anonymous (March 2014): "I am 82 years old and remember selling 100 Cheerful Cards when I was 16 years old and earned a beautiful green coat with a black velvet collar. I remember putting it on and thinking I looked more beautiful than Elizabeth Taylor!"

Mark Gilpatrick of Valdosta, Georgia, via Facebook (March 2014): "I sold for Cheerful Cards back in high school in the late 1960s! I think I answered an ad. Nothing real memorable, but I did OK. I sold World Book Encyclopedia, even was a district manager in Tallahasee. I have sold Avon since 1981. I was an elementary teacher, so needed the money."

I am truly floored by all these great comments that came Papergreat's way in the wake of the Cheerful Card post. My favorite posts are the ones that get people reminiscing and sharing their memories and stories. So always feel free to comment on any post, shoot me an email at chrisottopa(at) or check out Papergreat's Facebook page.

Final addendum: Here's a wonderful little autobiographical short story titled "The Gift" by Roger Dean Kiser. It features Cheerful Card Company at the center of the tale.

* * *

Three more vintage "We Missed You at Church" postcards: On Twitter, @dosankodebbie wrote: "Never heard of the 'we missed you' card, and have mixed feelings about it, but I LOVE that penguin card."

And then @KeeslingMary continued the Twitter conversation, adding: "Up until about the 1990s (only my POV), U.S. Protestant churches mailed you a card if you missed a few weeks of church. Some churches may still do it, but I don't know. Don't know if Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox did. Of course, some churches called in person, to see if you were OK. They knew that people might be ill."

Sketch of superhero-like dog inside Encyclopedia Brown book: On Twitter, @YorkLibraries wrote: "What a fun glimpse at kid's imagination! Bet you will find more as you collect Scholastic books!"

1928 gift book from Dolin & Rushford in Hinton, West Virginia: Selena Heyer wrote: "My maiden name is Dolin, and my dad comes from Hinton, West Virginia. When I was a little girl, we would visit his aunt's dress shop in downtown Hinton. I have no memory of what it was called then — in the 1970s — but she was what I thought to be quite an old lady then! I think it's pretty safe to assume that it was one and the same, though some decades after your book find was purchased. My dad's aunt may have inherited the shop."

Card for a free game of Skilo at Palisades Amusement Park: Sandi wrote: "This made me think of the old Freddy Cannon song. Hmmmm ... that might date me ... but I was VERY small when that song came out."

Enjoy these vintage recipes for the Everhot Electric Roasterette: Judy K. sent the followed detailed request for help:
"I am searching for history of the Swartzbaugh family that used to live at and/or owned the Elms Apartment in Toledo, Ohio, in the 1940s. The woman’s name was Mrs. Swartzbaugh — not sure of her first name. What I do know is that my father and grandfather used to paint professionally for the owners of this building in the 1940s — maybe through the 1950s. I was also told that they owned a manufacturing company in Toledo. In my searching, I have come across the Swartzbaugh Manufacturing Company and am wondering if this is the same person and/or family.

"The story goes … in the 1940s my father was painting at Mrs. Swartzbaugh’s home (or maybe at her apartment building?). She told him she was tired of a particular chair that she had and offered it to my father. She told him she had two of them — but I am not sure if they would be exactly the same, especially since it appears to be hand-carved. I believe he was told it was black oak from the Black Woods in Germany — but I am not positive about this. I am now the owner of this chair and was hoping that I might find some history on the chair and/or the family. The chair is rather unique — it is a beautiful dark oak carved-back chair with the heads and upper chest of two men — one with curly hair. Both have hats on, one has a bandana around his neck — the other has an upturned collar. The seat is flat — more narrow at the back and wider in the front. It has straight cut legs with a cross bar in the middle and from the front to the back on both sides. There are no markings on the chair that we could find. I don’t know why but, as a child, I always thought they were gangsters and used to put marbles in their eyes. Actually kind of creepy looking when I did that! Now I think they could be more … folksy?

"Any information you may have on The Elms (I think it was an apartment building), the Swartzbaugh family, their manufacturing company and of course — this unique chair would be greatly appreciated.

"Thanks so much for your help!"
Wow. That's quite a story and quite a mystery. I don't think I'm in a position to offer any help. I do know that someone who says that C.E. Swartzbaugh was their great-grandfather also commented on this Papergreat post back in late January. Maybe that person can connect with Judy and offer some insight. But I don't have contact information for either person. If anyone can offer assistance for Judy on this mystery, I think the best place for that information is as a reply to Judy's original comment on the Swartzbaugh post. That's where, I hope, she's most likely to look. Hope we can help solve this one!

Prudential booklet on signers of the Declaration of Independence: Finally, Julie Kurz submitted the following question via email: "I read with interest your post about the Prudential booklet on The Signers of the Declaration of Independence. While searching the internet, your blog was the only place I found that actually had a picture and description of the one I have. My copy differs somewhat from yours. Mine doesn’t have the stamp on the back cover nor does it list the president of Prudential. However, it does have a foldout of the declaration document just inside the front cover! Would you have any idea of its value? Or where else I might search? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide!"

MY REPLY: Thanks for your email. I'll preface this by saying that I'm certainly not an expert on any of these items. But I'll be happy to share my thoughts.

Any item, of course, is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. And that can change over time. So even if "worth" is determined, finding a buyer is the second half of the battle.

Indeed, Prudential made multiple versions of "The Signers of the Declaration of Independence" booklet. I can't find a definitive list, but it appears that most of the variations were published in the 1920s or 1930s.

On Amazon, various copies of the booklet, in various conditions, are available for prices ranging from one penny to $34. None of the various listings on Amazon has a "sales rank," which, to my understanding, means that no copies have been sold recently through Amazon. So those prices don't really tell us anything.

On eBay, I found four copies for sale, with prices ranging from $5.50 to $17. None of those copies have been bid on at the time of this writing. Using the advanced search on eBay, I looked through the listings of items that have already sold. I found one copy of the Prudential pamphlet that sold for $8.99 this past January. (Also, note that the seller offered free shipping. So his net profit, after eBay fees and postage, was certainly less than $7.)

So I think it comes down to the condition of your item and how long and hard you're willing to look to find a buyer. Eventually, if you use a platform such as eBay, you might be able to find someone willing to pay $5 to $10 for it. If you don't want to wait around, I'm guessing a dealer would probably not give you more than a dollar for it, because then he or she has to do the hard work of finding a buyer at high enough of a price to turn a profit and put food on the table.

The best value this item has, I think, is its historical and sentimental value to you and your family? If it's a neat piece that your family enjoys having and looking through — something that kids and grandkids might find interesting in the coming years — then that's certainly more valuable than the couple bucks you can get for it today. And if that's not the case, you could always stick it in a drawer for another couple decades and see if the value goes up!

* * *

NOTE: All submitted comments featured here are lightly edited. In the case of Twitter comments, the editor in me can't help changing abbreviations and shortened words into their full form.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Various loose papers tucked away inside a 19th century ledger

Let's stay in the 1800s for another post today.

This large ledger has stood the test of time well. It's a big book — 9 inches wide, 14¼ inches tall and nearly 1½ inches thick. About half of the book is filled with financial transactions from the 1880s and early 1890s.

There were also a handful of loose sheets of paper tucked inside the book. More financial transactions and items that seems to specifically relate to wills and estates. Here are a few of them...

E.P. Stimson, M.D.

So, this is what we know: there was a doctor by the name of E.P. Stimson who practiced at Office No. 9 on Pleasant Street in West Randolph, Vermont, in the 1890s. (West Randolph is now just known as Randolph.) This was the receipt he used for his patients. The receipt asks for patients to send for the physician in the early part of the day, "when practicable," and warns that accounts that are more than three months overdue will be charged 6 percent interest.

Scratch paper

A list of costs and calculations was done in pencil on this piece of scratch paper (only part of which is shown above). Something called "Last illness" cost $416.40, while the funeral was $225. Further down the piece of paper is a listing for a state inheritance tax of $18.08.

W.H. Stimson Recapitulation

This appears to be a carbon copy titled:
W.H. Stimson Recapitulation
In Account wuth [sic] E.P Stimson

It is dated 1889 and is, indeed, a recapitulation of items such as rent, clothing, a paint job and a "repair after fire."

Inventory (Short Form)

This is one of several typed sheets dealing with "the matter of the Estate of Juliet Stimson late of Tiverton, R.I. Date of death Jan. 16th, 1918." (A separate sheet indicates that Stimson died in Pasadena, California.) Edward P. Stimson was co-executor of the estate. Some of the line items, not all of which are shown above, include:
  • Furniture in Norwich, Vermont, $50
  • 1 old desk, $5
  • 1 pr wool blankets & chintz coverlet, $2
  • 1 stick-pin with pearls, $2
  • 1 Mt. Holyoke "Class-pin," 75 cents
  • 1 watch & 1 locket, old, $5
Juliet Stimson also held several bonds and mortgage notes on at least three individuals in New England. The balance at the bottom of this page is $9,316.07.

1878 German-language book on the Italian Renaissance

This beat-up but still handsome old tome was published in Stuttgart, Germany, in 1878 — a year before the birth of Albert Einstein.

The German title is Geschichte der Renaissance in Italien, which translates to "History of the Renaissance in Italy." The book was originally written by Switzerland's Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) and published in 1867. It is considered one of the classics of Italian Renaissance history.

The book is profusely illustrated, which is good, because I don't know much German beyond fräulein (which, to my surprise, has apparently been phased out of regular German usage during my lifetime).

One of the reasons I wanted to write about this book is the bookplate on the inside front cover. It is slightly more than 2½ inches wide. And it indicates that this volume was once No. 400 in the library of Hugo Hölzel.

I have found some evidence that Hölzel was connected to the bookselling business, so I don't know whether this volume was part of his personal library or whether this bookplate was actually more of a bookseller's label.

According to a translated version of a page on, there was an Eduard Hölzel who was born in 1817. Early in life, he joined Borrosch & André in Prague as a bookstore apprentice and later, in 1844, opened his own bookstore in Olomouc (a city in the country of Bohemia, which we now know as the Czech Republic).

Eduard Hölzel also became a key figure in the publishing industry.

According to a translated version of the Grosser Kozenn-Atlas, Hugo Hölzel (1852-1895) was Eduard's second son and took over the family business when eldest son Adolf Hölzel embarked upon a career as an artist.

The Hölzel publishing house that Eduard founded is still around. It is based in Vienna, Austria, and focuses on textbooks and atlases. Here are some more facts about the "family business," from a translated version of Hölzel's history page:

  • After Eduard Hölzel had opened a number of branch bookstores in Moravia, in 1861 he moved the focus of his work to Vienna, where he founded an Institute of Geography and a publishing house that offered reinforced material for geographic education in schools.
  • Eduard Hölzel's son Hugo continued the geographic and scientific publisher's tradition and published excellent travel works like Holidays in Africa and Asian Coasts and Princely Courts (or From Newastrand to Samarkand).
  • Under Hugo Hölzel, the company also published a notable wall map of the Alps.
  • The publisher Ed. Hölzel is now part of P&V Holding and has about 20 employees.

Here is the Hugo Hölzel from the inside front cover of Geschichte der Renaissance in Italien.

And here are a trio of illustrations from the book.

Fig. 190. Chorstuhl aus S. Maria dell' organo zu Verona (Ohne die decke.)
(a choir stall)

Fig. 197. Truhe aus Siena.
("Signs of Siena")

Fig. 187. Fahnen-oder Fackelhalter zu Siena
(a flag or torch holder)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Mystery real photo postcard:
The old man and the boat

I might be wrong, but I think this old man is focusing his attention on an upside-down wooden boat in this real photo postcard from long ago.

Who was he? And what is his story? We'll probably never know.

The postcard was never used. The logo on the back (CYKO) is identical to the one that appears on the postcard of "Four women sitting on the ground," which was featured earlier this month. Thus, the postcard dates to sometime between 1904 and the 1920s.

It would certainly be interesting to know who this person — who was likely born before the American Civil War — was, and why someone felt the need to turn this image into a postcard (which was never used).

And was is that in his hand? It's longer than it appears at first glance.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sketch of superhero-like dog inside Encyclopedia Brown book

Pictured above is little pencil sketch — about 2½ inches wide — that was tucked away inside a copy of Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All.1

What do you think? To me, it looks a little bit like Underdog mixed with Rambo. The dog is walking upright on its back legs and appears to have a belt of bombs or grenades around his waist. He's clearly involved in an intense battle. A cloud, or perhaps a levitating tribble2, with a smiley face is shooting a bolt of lighting at the dog's nose. And there's another small bomb in front of our hero; either he just threw it, or it's coming at him. Zoinks!

It's possible the superhero dog has some sort of protective shield or cloak around him, but that might be taking the interpretive analysis a bit too far. (Not that I didn't already go too far with the gratuitous tribble mention.3)

I'm not sure what the two objects on the left-hand side of the drawing are. Those will have to remain shrouded in mystery.

I suspect this book has had multiple owners over the years, as it is the 1968 paperback edition from Scholastic Book Services. But one owner, and a possible identity of the Underdog artist, was Blane Hammond, who wrote his name on the book's title page and also crossed out and changed part of the book's name so that it became Encyclopedia Blane Solves Them All.4

For nostalgia's sake, and because I clearly don't have enough books, I'm going to start collecting Scholastic titles that were issued in the 1960s and 1970s. I'm hoping that, as an added bonus, I'll find some more gems like this drawing tucked away inside some of them.

1. There were 29 Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown books published between 1963 and 2012. This was the fifth in the series.
2. Levitating Tribble would be a good band name.
3. Gratuitous Tribble would also be a good band name.
4. Another encyclopedic Blaine was the sentient train from The Dark Tower saga.

Important message from Papergreat and some 1980s baseball players

This activity book, The Pros Say It's O.K. to Say No to Drugs!, was published in 1986 by Playmore Inc.1

It was published in conjunction with the Major League Baseball Players Association (then headed by Donald Fehr) and endorsed by a gaggle of experts and anti-drug organizations, including PRIDE, D.A.R.E. and the National Federation of Parents for Drug-Free Youth.

The activity book's hook, of course, is that it includes the images of numerous Major League Baseball stars of the mid 1980s. (No team logos, though. That would have required the involvement of Major League Baseball itself.) There are a couple dozen illustrations of pro baseball players throughout the book, making it an interesting time capsule for that era.

Let's start with the cover. Can you recognize all of those players?

Top row: Steve Garvey (left) and Dave Winfield
Middle row: Mystery Man and Dale Murphy
Bottom row: Dwight Gooden and Don Mattingly

Of course, there's a sad irony that Dwight "Doc" Gooden was included. Problems with drugs derailed his once-promising career in the mid 1980s. The year after this book was published, in 1987, he tested positive for cocaine during spring training and entered a drug rehabilitation facility.

Meanwhile, it's not 100% obvious to me who the Mystery Man is. In comparing the player illustrations on the cover to the illustrations inside the activity book (which have names under them), I think there are three possibilities: Bob Stanley, Don Slaught2, and Ron Guidry. Given that he's the biggest star of those three, I'd have to say the Mystery Man is probably Guidry.

The activity book is filled with coloring pages, mazes, connect-the-dots and other puzzles. All of these are accompanied by "Just Say No" tips and illustrations of baseball players. It's a little awkward, really. The illustrations just kind of float at the top of the page and come off looking a bit like police sketches. Here are some examples:

I was, however, pleased to see Larry Andersen in the book. Andersen is a former relief pitcher3 and current radio color commentator for the Phillies. Andersen is well known for his quips and one-liners, including "Why do we sing 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame' when we're already there?"

1. More individuals and corporations were involved with this activity book than you can shake a stick at. It was written by Susan Amerikaner (who has her own website), illustrated by Frank C. Smith and edited by Alan Garner. It is described as being "An RGA Creation." It was "Published by Playmore, Inc., Publishers and Waldman Publishing Corp." And it employs the "Creative Child Press" trademark. The two official copyrights are granted to RGA Publishing Group and the Major League Baseball Players Association.
2. This is what I'll always remember Don Slaught for. In January 1985, the Kansas City Royals were involved in a four-team trade in which they gave up Slaught, an excellent young catcher, and acquired Jim Sundberg, a veteran catcher who was about 10 years older than Slaught. In the next edition of The Bill James Baseball Abstract, sabermetrician James wrote:
"The five most reasonable explanations that I can think of why anyone would trade Don Slaught for Jim Sundberg:

1. Don Slaught is a secret hemophiliac and his hobby is playing with chain saws.
2. Don Slaught likes to jump out of airplanes and frequently forgets to put on his face mask before the start of an inning.
3. Don Slaught made a pass at [Royals owner] Ewing Kauffman's wife.
4. Don Slaught made a pass at Ewing Kauffman.
5. Don Slaught's agent carries a razor.

If none of these conditions applies, then I really don't understand the trade."
3. Andersen's biggest moment was probably his 10th-inning save in Game 5 of the 1993 National League Championship Series.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Trade card of a pixie-like being carrying an egg

Oh, I don't know. Should we call this a pixie? It could also be a fairy, sprite, piskie, spriggan, Bucca, brownie, urisk, hob, or Korrigan. The folklore of the world gives us many options.

Or maybe it's just a friend of Tom Thumb or the hazel-nut child.

Regarding H.L. Adams of State Street in Auburn, New York, I found a few tidbits online:

  • Under "Personal Gossip" in the July 29, 1886, issue of the Auburn Morning Dispatch, it states: "Mrs. H.L. Adams and son Harry are visiting friends in Hannibalville, Otsego county."
  • A classified advertisement in the April 22, 1887, issue of The Weekly Auburnian indicates that H.L. Adams was a druggist (what we now call a pharmacist). In this specific advertisement, he was touting Acker's Blood Elixir.
  • In the mid 1880s, Adams served as the secretary of the Cayuga County Druggists Association.

In my search for information about Adams, I also found some other interesting items in that April 22, 1887, issue of The Weekly Auburnian:

  • "Ed Cannon, Jr., and Sam Alley went hunting a few days ago, walked twelve miles, saw two ducks, shot their guns off, and came home without anything."
  • "Dark, the valuable dog belonging to Jotin Wood, has a broken leg."
  • "Frank Conger is building a large tenant house on the cheese factory lot on South street."
  • "Our old reliable physician, Dr. Matthew Bevier, was thrown from his carriage Monday afternoon, but was not seriously injured."
  • "For several months past citizens have been missing chickens. Wednesday, Curt Fritts was arrested on complaint on Jas. Duryea, who identified fowls which Fritts had sold at Sherman's meat market. Chas. Arnold was also involved in the affair but revealed everything and was not arrested. Fritts will have his examination Monday. It is reported that he has served one term in a Connecticut State prison."

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Three more vintage "We Missed You at Church" postcards

Last year I featured three vintage postcards that were designed to be sent in the mail when someone was absent from church services or Sunday School. Here are three more along those lines.

The first one has a penguin theme...

The second has kittens in a flower pot. Because kittens in a flower pot.

And the third one is just odd and unfortunate.
The back states: "Make Our Class 100%. We missed you."

Related posts

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Good reads to bookmark: History, books, Carnival of Souls and more

OK, OK. It's a beautiful Saturday and you probably don't want to be inside reading. So here are some cool links to reading material that you can bookmark and save for a dark and stormy night.

Recent articles from Fine Books & Collections

More about books and reading

Learning and education


Miscellaneous great reads

Carnival of Souls
I recently rewatched Carnival of Souls, one of my favorite below-the-radar horror movies, showing it to Sarah for the first time. While she figured out plot twist much earlier than I did in my first viewing, she was still impressed with the movie and became interested in learning more about Saltair, the spooky abandoned resort at the center of the film.

Here are some good online essays and reviews I dug up afterward, which I'm sharing here if you're interested in reading more about Herk Harvey's classic:

Friday, March 21, 2014

Old brochure: Roadside Bookshop in Grafton, Vermont

Here's a classy, four-page brochure for Roadside Bookshop in tiny Grafton, Vermont1, which was operated by Mrs. G.M. Sessler. Based on some other papers that were in an envelope along with this brochure, I think it dates to the sometime between 1965 and 1968.

According to the inside of the brochure, the cozy-looking bookstore offered rare, interesting and out-of-print books. It described itself as "a haven for lovers of books" with "a diversity of fascinating material including unique items." The store was located "in a beautiful spot on Routes 121 and 35 on the banks of the Saxtons River," about 2½ miles east of Grafton.

I found this short description of Roadside Bookshop within an article about Vermont bookstores in the June 25, 1966, issue of the Bennington Banner:
"A browser's delight is found at the Roadside Bookshop located about three miles east of Grafton on Route 121. Here, Dr. and Mrs. Jacob J. Sessler offer at least 100,000 volumes (the sign says 81,000, but that's what they started with in 1949). There are special sections for Vermontiana and children's books, and a bargain basement shelf."
I can tell you exactly what happened to Roadside Bookshop, thanks to the Fall 1976 issue of Sangamon, the alumni magazine of Sangamon State University, which is now the University of Illinois at Springfield.

The 1976 magazine article, by Howard W. Dillon, details the history of Brookens Library, the academic center of the university. Here is the relevant passage:
"From the outset is was the goal to build strong collections and to establish the library as a key element in the university's development. But, if the new institution required a strong library, how were we to assemble it? Clearly we needed many publications which were long out of print. We could go to the corner bookstore, or book wholesalers, or publishers for these items. They would have to be found in countless bookstores which specialized in the resale of used and out-of-print titles. And, in fact, many purchases were made this way.

"There was, however, one extraordinary purchase. In June, 1970, President Spencer stopped to make a small purchase at the Roadside Bookshop in Grafton, Vt. He made his purchase, but also came away with word that the owners wished to sell out their entire stock of more than 100,000 books. When I learned of this prospect I hurried to Grafton with my new colleague, Katherine Armitage, and we spent a day poking into every corner of the barn which was the store. That evening we concluded our bargain with the owners, and in August five moving vans filled with books to be sorted and cataloged arrived in Springfield. This purchase gave the new university library an excellent beginning in American and British history, political science and literature."
I think that's a pretty happy ending, don't you?

1. I love historical tidbits like this one about Grafton on Wikipedia: "The town was founded as Thomlinson, but renaming rights were auctioned in 1791. The high bidder, who reportedly offered 'five dollars and a jug of rum,' changed the name to Grafton after his home town of Grafton, Massachusetts. Possibly as a result of having celebrated a bit too much with the rum (some say it was hard cider), the money was never collected."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Night of Household Items #4:
"Makes your toilet paper sing!"


I know. I know. I don't have to share everything I come across.

Here, straight from an estate sale and headed right for the trash can after I finish this post, is a jaw-dropping product called "Toity Tunes."

You see, it makes your toilet paper sing. Because that's just what you need when you're on the commode.

The 1¾-inch-wide piece of musical plastic was made in Hong Kong and custom manufactured for McManus Associates of Longmeadow, Massachusetts. This one offers over 1,000 replays of "Home! Sweet Home!"

If that ditty didn't suit your lavatory needs, the back of the packaging indicates that many other Toity Tunes were available, including:
  • "Happy Birthday"
  • "My Favorite Things"
  • "Love Me Tender"
  • "Yesterday"
  • "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star"
  • "Over the Rainbow"
  • "You Are My Sunshine"

As far as what any of those songs have to do with going potty, your guess is as good as mine. Also, I'm curious as to whether all of those Toity Tunes were properly licensed. Somehow, I don't imagine The Beatles agreeing to this.

Toity Tunes' greatest moment of fame might have come in the 1997 book Managing to Have Fun: How Fun at Work Can Motivate Your Employees, Inspire Your Coworkers, and Boost Your Bottom Line. Here's the relevant excerpt:
Playfair's Ritch Davidson discovered miniaturized music makers called "Toity Tunes" that he placed inside the toilet paper rolls in the office bathrooms. Whenever someone pulls on the toilet paper, the Toity Tune plays "The Star-Spangled Banner" or "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," or "When the Saints Go Marching In."

"It's fun for me, and the other people in the office have encouraged me to keep changing the tunes," says Ritch. "No matter how many times the people in our office hear the Toity Tunes, they always start smiling. The only problem," he confides, "is that I've been told by guests who use the bathroom that when they unexpectedly hear 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' they feel they ought to stand and salute!"
If you're imagining the horror of Toity Tunes in your own workplace right now, you're probably not alone.

And now, brace yourself for the worst news.

You can still buy this product.

Now it's just called Singing Toilet Paper, and it's still produced by McManus Associates and available on Amazon. Its Amazon sales rank in "Home & Kitchen" is 149,419. I don't know how many items are available in "Home & Kitchen," but if it's more than 149,419, then I'm saddened down to the core of my soul.

The product gets a two-star (out of five) review from Amazon customers. Most of the complaints center around the claim that the product simply doesn't work. Here's what some of them say:

  • "I received one for a gift and it did not have two pieces of plastic nor did it work at all!"
  • "You might as well drop it in the toilet and flush. A waste of money. Right out of the package it did not work!"
  • "very cheaply made.....seldom works, and when it does you can barely hear it.....complete waste of money!!!! Save yourself the aggravation"
  • "The product is poorly made, does not work as indicated and annoyingly plays when it is not in the toilet roll. Only one place for this gadget, the garbage bin. Good and possibly concept in theory."
  • RUNNER-UP FOR BEST REVIEW: "The product very bad. I don"t like it. Never singing. It product is very bad. I don't like is bad"
  • BEST REVIEW, HANDS DOWN: "I Paid for, but never recieved this product. I don't use this in the bathroom. I wedge in in the bars of my canaies' cage and they make it sing. I did recieve the toilet paper spool that produces music, it was ok."

And with that, we should probably all go to bed. Sweet dreams.

Night of Household Items #3:
Vintage snap fasteners

One thing I've become convinced of over the years, other than my contention that there is a last digit of pi, is that you can find snap fasteners in every old house in America. They're in there somewhere. In one of the drawers. Or on a closet shelf. Probably tucked alongside some notions. The next time you go to your grandparents' house, root around in some drawers, and I bet you'll find one of these...

These rust-proof fasteners were made in the U.S.A.

Dorcas Snap
These, meanwhile, were made in England. They are Size 0, which is assume is the smallest you could buy.

Woolco Superior Snap Fasteners
This are Size 1 and were priced at 10 cents. Unlike the first two packages shown, this one has a lot of detailed instructions on the back. I'm guessing most people didn't need them, but it was nice of Woolco to put them on there.

Risdon Snap Fasteners
These 10-cent fasteners came "with the sure-fit hole," the Good Housekeeping seal of approval and a rust-proof guarantee. That's a lot of assurances. They were produced by The Risdon Manufacturing Company of Naugatuck, Connecticut.

UP NEXT: It is ... unspeakable.

Night of Household Items #2:
Lather Leaves

Continuing with tonight's theme...

#2: Lather Leaves

This small booklet of Lather Leaves was produced by General Soap Company of Chicago, Illinois. It measures 2¾ inches by 4 inches. The directions call for the user to simply "wet hands and use one Lather Leaf as a bar of Soap."

I'm not sure how old these are. I reckon they could be from anytime from the 1930s through 1950s. Many seem to date specifically to World War II, and you can see how they would have been useful in the field. There are a lot of different covers, too. Here's a collage of covers taken from eBay listings.

The question is: Do they still work after more than a half-century?

I am here to answer these types of science and history questions for you! In the name of research, I proceeded to the sink, tore off a single Lather Leaf, got my hands wet, and began to scrub them with the Leaf.

Nothing happened. A tiny spot of suds formed on one of my palms after some vigorous rubbing, but that was it. My hands did not get soaped up or cleaned by a Lather Leaf.

"You have wet paper," my wife said.

And so there you have it.

UP NEXT: The wide world of snap fasteners

Night of Household Items #1:
Hi Fi Cloth from Le-Bo Products

Nestled among the larger piles of ephemera, I have a smaller pile of items that are hard to classify. They're not quite ephemera. I would call them "Oddball Household Items of the Past." My wife would call them "Why Are You Keeping That?" SOLUTION: If I write about them, I'm then free to get rid of them. (That's my logic, anyway.) So tonight, tune in for multiple enthralling posts as I present Night of Household Items.

#1: Hi Fi Cloth

This plastic bag has never been opened. It was, apparently, a free gift from Funk & Wagnalls. According to the packaging, this anti-static record cloth:
  • Removes static charge
  • Protects
  • Cleans
  • Lubricates
  • One wipe preserves High Fidelity

The directions make it seem like I might be better off never opening this bag: "If cloth should get dry, sprinkle lightly with water. The active chemicals stay permanently. Always store in plastic bag."

The cloth contains silicone, which might have been the hip cleaning material of the time, but is now generally frowned upon by vinyl aficionados. In "Zen and the Art of Record Cleaning Made Difficult," Michael Wayne calls silicone record-cleaning cloths "true groove polluting monsters." And, on an forum, one user wrote:
"Lots of people used them for years but know better nowadays. I would not use it unless it was on some old record I did not really care that much about and just wanted to do a quick wipe. It actually has some sort of mild acidic cleaner imbedded in it. I had one that had been used for many years and them put aside. I remember grabbing it, wrapping some tool with it, and putting it on a shelf. I went back to use the tool a few weeks later and the cleaner in this old cloth had actually pitted the metal. I know I would find some use for it as a specialized cleaning cloth, but not for records."
The company that sold this item — Le-Bo Products of Maspeth (Queens), New York — doesn't appear to exist anymore. Some of its other products and patents included a video cassette storage and ejection device, a dual purpose insert for tape cartridges and cassettes and a record rack.

The record rack was invented by Samuel L. Beder, who also filed patents for a collapsible terrarium, a time-triggered chime, a recipe box, and a reversible briefcase during his lifetime.

UP NEXT: Lather Leaves

Three old postcards to celebrate the first day of spring

It's 54 degrees and sunny outside, the wind is blowing trash cans all over the neighborhood, there's a seven-foot-tall pile of dead branches in our backyard, Opening Day is just 11 days away, and there's a hint of a chance that we'll get snow next Tuesday.


Water Skiing at Cypress Gardens
These are, of course, the aquamaids of the late, great Cypress Gardens in Florida, which closed in 2009. This postcard was produced by Koppel Color Cards of Hawthorne, New Jersey, and was mailed in 1959 with a three-cent Mackinac Bridge stamp. To read more about Cypress Gardens, see this 2011 post.

Grindelwald and the Wetterhorn
This beautiful postcard shows a flower-adorned building and two little girls1 in the Swiss village of Grindelwald, which sits in the shadow of the 12,000-foot Wetterhorn. Grindelwald dates to the 1100s and became a tourist destination in the late 1700s.

Berchtesgaden im Frühling
The caption on this Druck und Verlag postcard translates to "Berchtesgaden in the spring." Berchtesgaden is a small municipality in the German Bavarian Alps. It also dates to the 1100s and much of its history centers around salt mining.

Want more spring? Check out this 2011 post.

Visual footnote