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

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Book cover: "A Book of Wizards"

  • Title: A Book of Wizards
  • Author: Ruth Manning-Sanders
  • Illustrator: Robin Jacques
  • Publisher: E.P. Dutton & Co., New York
  • Year: 1967
  • Notes: This was the first book I acquired when I began my Ruth Manning-Sanders collection/obsession back around 2001/2002. I was actually not 100% sure that this was the book and author I was looking for until it arrived in the mail and I saw the list of stories and Robin Jacques illustrators. It was "The Two Wizards," an African tale featuring men playing draughts, that told me this was the book from my childhood. ... This copy was in circulation in the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library system before being withdrawn. ... My favorite tale in the book is "Long, Broad and Sharpsight." ... Copies of this hardcover book can be found on Amazon at this time for about $10. There is also a 1970s paperback (with cover art by Brian Froud) from Piccolo, and a 1980s paperback from Methuen.

This wizard on the cover reminds me a little of Dumbledore.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Two old postcards of folks having more fun than you did today

Windmill and folklore
Blue skies. Festive outfits. A windmill. Accordion songs. What more could want than the lifestyle portrayed in this postcard from the former Ribatejo Province of central Portugal?

Bathing at Long Beach, California
There many smiles on the faces of those enjoying the surf in this vintage and worn Americhrome postcard. The note on the back states: "Dear Jim. Received your postal ok. What kind of a tire did you get for the Bike. Write a long long long letter. Edward Wagstaff."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Selections from 1929's "Pennsylvania State Grange Cook Book"

This book, sadly, is in tatters and is off to the recycling bin.

It's the seventh edition of the Pennsylvania State Grange Cook Book, compiled by members of the Pennsylvania State Grange Home Economics Committee and published in December 1929. It was printed and bound by The Evangelical Press of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Fortunately, copies of various editions can still be found. As of this writing, that includes the fourth edition and a 1950 edition with a plastic-comb binding. Newer editions and a reprint of the 1950 edition can be purchased through the Pennsylvania State Grange website.1

One of the neat things about the 1929 edition is that, in some cases, it provides the name and hometown or home county for some of the recipe providers. Indeed, the foreword states:
"These recipes have been contributed by Grange women from all over Pennsylvania. We do not claim for them originality; though as you look through the book you will see that some are original and it is with satisfaction we present these; but we do claim for all that they have been tested and tried and found successful by busy house wives."
Here are some of the recipes — all of them short and to the point...

Sweet Milk Pancakes
One tablespoon sugar, 2 tablespoons shortening, 1 egg (beat white separate), 1 cup of milk, ½ teaspoon of salt, 2 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder (heaped). Beat thoroughly.
Mrs. A.L. Pence, Chestnut Ridge Grange, No. 7133.

Graham Bread
Three-quarters cup molasses filled on up with milk, 1 cup sweet milk, ½ cup wheat flour, 1½ cups Graham flour, 1 egg, 1 level teaspoon soda, 1 tablespoon butter, salt.
Bertha June, Mehoopany, Pa.

Chicken Corn Soup
Take a good fat chicken; put it on to boil with salt to taste. Let boil slowly until soft, remove chicken, and strain broth. To one chicken take two quarts of corn, and about two hard-boiled eggs, put in broth and add the meat of the chicken cut fine. (If you like the taste, add a little saffron, which also gives the soup a very nice golden appearance.) Cook together until well-blended, and if too thin, add what they call in Lancaster County "Rivels," which are simply egg mixed with enough flour to crumble between the fingers; or a few noodles.
Elizabeth Givler, Ephrata Grange No. 1815.

Green Corn Fritters
Cut 2 cups corn from the cob. Mix with it 1 beaten egg, 1 cup of sweet milk, soda the size of a pea, 1 tablespoon melted butter, add flour enough to make it a batter. Fry on a hot griddle, or by adding a little more flour, they can be fried in spoonfuls in hot lard.
Mrs. M.J. Weiss, Mt. Nebo Grange

Grandmother's Indian Pudding
One quart of milk in dish to scald, wet 1 cup corn meal in cold milk and stir in the scalded milk, salt a little. When cooked take off stove and pour in pudding basin. Add 1 cup sugar, 4 eggs, butter size of an egg, 1 teaspoon soda, dissolved. Spice to taste and bake thoroughly. Serve with hard sauce made by stirring butter, sugar and flavoring together.
Mrs. George Gault, Dicksonburg Grange, No. 556.

Dark Cake for the Poor
One cup sugar, butter, size of an egg, 1 cup sour milk, 1 teaspoon soda in milk, ½ cup cocoa in water enough to smooth, 1½ cups flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Watson Grange, No. 1068.

Blarney Stones
Bake a sponge cake. Cut in pieces any size. Cover with thin powdered sugar icing and while moist roll in ground peanuts. Serve in an hour or so after they dry.

Dingle Babbles
Two cups sugar, 1 cup butter or lard, salt if lard is used, 3 eggs well-beaten, 1 cup milk, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 teaspoon soda. Mix soft roll, spread with cinnamon, roll up and cut off ½ inch in thickness. Dip in sugar and bake.
Mrs. Lucy Fassett.

Canned Beef
Cut beef in small chunks and pack in a can till half full then add a heaping teaspoon of salt. Fill can to the rim, add another teaspoon of salt. Fill from rim up with suet. Seal not very tight with cover and old rubber. Boil till done then remove old rubber, put on new one and seal tight.
Mrs. Clara Dewey, Union City, No. 89.


A newspaper clipping was glued to one of the blank pages and it detailed the following recipe:

Real Dutch Lunch
  • 2 cups boiled potatoes
  • 2 cups stale bread
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 onions fried brown in butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
Thoroly [sic] mix the above ingredients. Cut plain pie dough into squares. Fill with the mixture, lap over and seal the edges. Drop into boiling salted water and cook twelve minutes. Then brown in butter in a hot frying pan. Pour the cooking water over them and serve at once. — Mrs. C.B., Pa.

(I kind of want to try that last one. I'm a little unhappy at the idea of pouring the cooking water over it, but I'd give it a whirl once.)

1. The Pennsylvania State Grange describes itself on its website as follows: "The Grange (Patrons of Husbandry) is a fraternal family organization dedicated to the betterment of the American way of life through community service, education, legislation and fellowship. The Grange includes members of all ages and specifically has programs for Juniors (ages 5-14), Youth (ages 14-23) and Young Adults (ages 23-35). The Grange represents approximately 9,000 Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth. It is the oldest agricultural and rural advocacy organization of its kind in the United States. The National Grange representing about 200,000 members, began in 1867 and the PA State Grange was chartered in 1873." Its motto is: "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity."

The snow won't end, so here's another vintage snow photograph

For St. Patrick's Day, we got (more) snow here in southcentral Pennsylvania. Now, I'm not going to complain, because we just got a relative dusting compared to some areas to our south and east (10 inches in parts of the Washington, D.C., area).

But, because it's white instead of green today, I reckon it's an opportunity to share another vintage photograph of someone in the snow. This three-inch-wide photo is simply labeled "Mary" on the back.

I doubt the blurry buildings in the background will be much help in identifying this photo's time and place. So that leaves Mary as our only hope.

Other snow-themed posts

Ireland-themed posts for St. Patrick's Day

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Card for a free game of Skilo at Palisades Amusement Park

This blue card, 3⅞ inches in width, entitled the bearer to one free game of Skilo at the long-gone but fondly remembered Palisades Amusement Park in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Skilo is, according to Wikipedia, a game in which "the player pays a fee and throws a small rubber ball into a container divided into numbered sections for the chance to win money." It was once (and may still be) very popular at New Jersey amusement parks and along boardwalks.

Merriam-Webster, meanwhile, has a slightly different definition of Skilo: "a game of rolling balls into depressions in a grid based on the cards used at bingo with the object of getting five balls in a row."

That definition makes me think that Skilo is nearly identical to "I Got It," a game that has long been a part of the York Fair here in my neck of the woods. Here is a collage of "I Got It" photos from 2012, featuring my beautiful wife.1

Turning to Palisades Amusement Park, it was in operation from 1898 until 1971. It closed for good on September 12, 1971, less than a year after I was born. Multiple high-rise luxury apartments now stand where the park was once located.

Palisades was known for its multiple roller coasters, its rock-and-roll and Motown concerts at the music pavilion in the 1950s and 1960s, and its ceaseless advertising via such nontraditional means at matchbooks and comic books.

But perhaps it was best-known for its breathtaking location. Check out this undated postcard advertisement for the park, from the Wikimedia Commons.

(Is that a UFO in the upper-right corner??)

To learn more about the storied (and sometimes regrettable) history of Palisades Amusement Park, see these websites:

And here are some books about Palisades:

Do you have memories of Skilo and/or Palisades? Share them in the comments section!

1. For more photography from the York Fair, see these posts: