Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekend smile: Vintage postcard filled with St. Bernards

You're welcome...

This uber-awesome postcard has the following text on the back:

Flüelen (Schweiz)
St. Bernhard-Zwinger Zwing-Uri

To the right of the text, there is a stamp for Hotel Stern & Post, Amsteg. Additionally, someone wrote the following in pen: "July 25, 1963. Lucerne, Switzerland." (The postcard itself was never mailed.)

Flüelen is a small municipality, with a population of about 2,000, in Switzerland. I guess it was once home to a St. Bernard kennel. (Zwinger is a German word that translates to kennel.) The St. Bernard is, of course, a huge breed of dog that is famously known for its use as a rescue dog in the Swiss Alps.

(The image we have in popular culture of a brave St. Bernard with a small barrel of brandy around its neck is, by the way, a historical fabrication, according to Mental Floss. But, brandy barrel aside, the dogs rescued many travelers over the centuries. Barry der Menschenretter (1800–1814) was one of the most famous St. Bernards in this respect.)

Getting back to the postcard, Hotel Stern and Post is located in Amsteg, Switzerland. Amsteg is just a tiny village within the 2,200-person municipality of Silenen. Hotel Stern and Post is one of Switzerland's oldest hotels, dating to the 14th century. You can learn more about it on the English-language version of its website.

Or, if you'd rather just look at the St. Bernards in more detail, here you go...

Scholastic Fest: #22, ... if you lived in Colonial Times

  • Title: ...if you lived in Colonial Times
  • Author: Ann McGovern
  • Illustrator: Brinton Turkle (1915-2003)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: 1964
  • Excerpt:
    "What happened if you went out at night?

    "If the town watchman saw you outside after dark, he might say, 'What are you doing? Where are you going? You are supposed to be home.'

    "And if you did not have a good reason, the town watchman would scold you and take you right home."
  • Notes: This is my kind of book! A non-fiction travel back in time to another era, with short sections, perfect for browsing. ... Chapter titles in this 80-page book include "What did colonial people look like?" "Did children go to school?" "Did people work hard in colonial days?" and "How did people get the news?". ... Successful author McGovern has her own website. She has authored more than 50 books for children and those books have sold, according to her website, more 30 million copies. ... If You Lived in Colonial Times has received at least one reissue over the years. The current edition has a 4.5-star rating on Amazon. Other books in her "If You..." series include If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 and If You Lived with the Circus.1 ... Turkle, the illustrator of this 1964 edition, earned a Caldecott Honor award in 1970 for Thy Friend, Obadiah.

1. I wonder what kind of "If You..." books they'll have in the future? Perhaps If You Grew Up During the Reagan Administration or If You Lived During Baseball's Steroids Era or If You Lived in the Days of the iPhone.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Scholastic Fest: #23, Rocket Genius

(Note: This countdown started Wednesday with this post.)

  • Title: Rocket Genius (Original title: Robert Goddard — Father of the Space Age)
  • Author: Charles Spain Verral (1904-1990)
  • Illustrator: Paul Frame
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: First printing, September 1965
  • Excerpt:
    "Dr. Bob also suggested in his report that flash powder, of the kind used by photographers, be placed in the nose of such a rocket. He went so far as to suggest that if such a rocket were to hit the moon, the flash powder would go off and the burst of the flame could be seen from telescopes on earth.

    "The Smithsonian found the rewritten report very interesting. They published the paper in late 1919. It was just one of the many scientific papers that went to science students and libraries. It was not intended to be read by the public. But a newspaper reporter happened to see Dr. Bob's account. The reporter was struck by the moon-rocket idea."
  • Notes: Yes, Robert Hutchings Goddard (1882-1945) is referred to as "Dr. Bob" throughout the book. ... The author was best known for his juvenile fiction, including Lassie and the Daring Rescue, Rin Tin Tin and the Outlaw, Popeye and the Haunted House and the Brains Benton Mysteries ... The last few pages of this 1965 edition include updates on the United States rocketry and space programs, including a mention of the aim of the Apollo program to put men on the moon by 1970. ... In the midst of the Apollo 11 mission in July 1969, The New York Times published a famous correction concerning a criticism of Goddard from 49 years earlier. ... I believe that the background on the cover illustration was supposed to look like a field of stars. But it's fairly obviously just paint or ink splatter, which is slightly creepy. Makes it look like Goddard was involved with criminal forensics.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Night scene at the 1939 New York World's Fair

Back in June 2012 I featured five black-and-white souvenir photos from 1939 New York World's Fair. Here's one more from that same set. (I cropped the white edges from the 4½-inch-wide photograph, so that you could see more of the image. You can also click on the image to see a magnified version.)

This photograph, like the others, was taken by Underwood & Underwood. The caption states: "Night Scene - Constitutional Mall - N.Y.W.F."

Wondering about that huge sculpture in the distance? It's George Washington. The Queens Library's Tumblr page has a color photograph of Constitutional Mall at night, and adds this information:
"The Valley of Ashes in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby had disappeared by 1939 — Robert Moses transformed it into Flushing Meadows Park for the 1939 World’s Fair. This rare color photograph shows what the Constitutional Mall section of that fair looked like, lit up at night, a sculpture of George Washington silhouetted against the Perisphere."
More reading and photos

Scholastic Fest: #24, Doctor Dolittle Tales

(Note: This series started yesterday with this post.)

  • Title: Doctor Dolittle Tales
  • Author/illustrator: Hugh Lofting (1886-1947)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: Third printing, August 1968
  • Excerpt:
    "He was very fond of animals and kept many kinds of pets. Besides the goldfish in the pond at the bottom of his garden, he had rabbits in the pantry, white mice in his piano, a squirrel in the linen closet, and a hedgehog in the cellar. He had a cow with a calf too, and an old lame horse — twenty-five years of age — and chickens, and pigeons, and two lambs, and many other animals. But his favorite pets were Dab-Dab the duck, Jip the dog, Gub-Gub the baby pig, Polynesia the parrot, and the owl Too-Too."
  • Notes: This 144-page book has numerous copyrights, the most recent of which is in 1968 by Christopher Lofting, who was Hugh Lofting's son and the executor of his literary estate. It would seem that this book features a selection and/or abridgement of Doctor Dolittle stories from other books, as Doctor Dolittle Tales is not the title of any of the 12 books in the primary Dolittle oeuvre. ... Chapter titles include "Puddleby," "More Money Troubles," "Polynesia," "The Purple Bird of Paradise," "Hawk's Head Mountain," "The Coronation of King Jong," and "Shellfish Language at Last." ... The back cover promotes the 1967 movie Doctor Dolittle, featuring Rex Harrison, Richard Attenborough and Peter Bull, among others.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Happy October, which is the month for Ghostly Fun

I didn't want to let the first day of October, the best month of the year, end without a reference to Halloweeny things.

As a bonus, this post ties in perfectly with the Scholastic Book Club series that began earlier today.

Pictured is the cover illustration for Ghostly Fun, which was written by Ann McGovern and published in 1970 by Scholastic Book Services.

It's a book of goofy games, jokes, riddles and puzzles. The kind of wonderfully punny jokes my daughter loves. There are sections titled Ghostly Giggles, Funtastic Fortunes and The Disappearing Demon Game. "You'll laugh your head off," states the text on the back cover. "Hours of grisly fun for all boy-demons and girl-ghouls."

An Amazon reviewer named David wrote the following about this Scholastic book in 2007: "I read it every day in the 1st grade and recently purchased it again. It brings back all the fun of being a little kid who liked to play ghosts and haunted house!"


For grown-ups, here are some other fun and spooky links and items I've come across recently:

Scholastic Fest: #25, Frog and Toad Are Friends

As I explained a couple of days ago, I spent some time this year, for nostalgia's sake, acquiring vintage Scholastic books, the kind you got through the Scholastic Book Club. Starting today, I'm going to count down, in reverse order like the late Casey Kasem, my Top 25 favorite covers. I'll have a new post at 1 p.m. (EDT) each day. (I still be blogging about ephemera this month, of course. Consider this a bonus feature.)

Here's #25...

  • Title: Frog and Toad Are Friends
  • Author/illustrator: Arnold Lobel (1933-1987)
  • Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
  • Year: First printing, December 1971
  • Excerpt:
    Toad was sitting on his front porch.
    Frog came along and said,
    "What is the matter, Toad?"
    You are looking sad."

    "Yes," said Toad.
    "This is my sad time of the day,
    It is the time
    when I wait for the mail to come.
    It always makes me very unhappy."

    "Why is that?" asked Frog.

    "Because I never get any mail,"
    said Toad.
  • Notes: Lobel's Frog and Toad books are among the most well-known and beloved children's books of the second half of the 20th century. There were four books in all, published between 1970 and 1979. This first one, Frog and Toad Are Friends, earned a Caldecott Honor award (essentially a runner-up to the Randolph Caldecott Medal). All of the books remain in print in various formats and remain top sellers. How many of you received your first book in this series through the Scholastic Book Club? How many of you still have that copy? ... Additional reading: This excellent June 2012 blog post on the School Library Journal website discusses Frog and Toad Are Friends and its origins.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fanzine flashback #3: 1963's "Pot Pourri" by John Berry

Previously on "Fanzine flashback"
Fanzine flashback #1: 1964's "Con" by Christopher Priest
Fanzine flashback #2: 1964's "Hobgoblin" by Terry Carr

Flashback #1 also includes, toward the bottom, a list of all the vintage fanzines that I plan to feature in this fledgling series.

And now for the third installment...

Fanzine flashback #3: At a glance

Title: Pot Pourri
Issue: No. 30
Date: July 1963
Primary theme: Humorous fiction
Pages: 20
Size: 8 inches by 10 inches
Binding: Four staples
Editor: John Berry
Editor's location: Number 31, Campbell Park Avenue, Belmont, Belfast 4, Northern Ireland
Cover artwork: Arthur "ATom" Thomson (1927-1990)

Background: About John Berry

Although Berry wasn't as famous as the first two fanzine editors featured here (Christopher Priest and Terry Carr), he was quite well-known on the zine scene during the 1950s and 1960s.

Fancyclopedia 3 states that "John E. Berry discovered fandom while serving as an English policeman in Belfast."1 Berry published numerous fanzines, including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Goat Herder. In 1960, he won the Skyrack poll for best fan writer.

With regard to Pot Pourri, there were 52 issues published between 1958 and 1968. ZineWiki2 has a short history of the fanzine that contains this anecdote:
John Berry specialized in humourous fan writing. He recounts in Relapse giving Walt Willis the first issue: "When I gave Willis my first issue he observed, with raised eyebrows and slightly flared nostrils ... 'Er, John, this is rather a mundane title.' This was a truly wonderful moment for me, but I successfully concealed my emotion. You see, Irish Fandom in the fifties and early sixties was the epicentre of magnificent puns and verbal activity, pure spontaneous wit, and Walt Willis was the guiding genius. But he’d missed this one! Northern Ireland has always been religiously orientated ... the title is pronounced ‘po-poor-ee’ (according to my dictionary, anyway). The 'T' is silent. Hence, my title was a pun on 'Popery'! Even James White, a Roman Catholic, missed it – or did he? Maybe they collectively chose to ignore my unsubtle word-play, feeling sorry for my effort, an Englishman becoming involved in Irish religious affairs on an international scale."
Berry died of cancer in 2011, according to Fancyclopedia 3.

About this issue

Pot Pourri #30 contains a single tale, on 16 single-spaced typed pages, titled "The Return of the Goon." The humorous tale is a James Bond parody featuring fanzine-related plot points and a protagonist who uses a "plonker" (toy gun that shoots suction-cup arrows) as his weapon of choice.

The story, with its silly mix of James Bond espionage and womanizing and its absurd clues from the world of fanzines, isn't half bad. In addition to plonker, here are some other neat words and phrases Berry employs:
  • trilby — a narrow-brimmed hat
  • hobnail boots — boots with nails inserted into the soles to increase durability
  • egoboo — a sci-fi fandom/fanzine word that means "ego boost." [As in: "All of those Supreme Court justices emailing me about how much they enjoy Papergreat was a huge egoboo."]

I'll leave you with this short excerpt from "The Return of the Goon":
"When the house was empty, I couldn't restrain the temptation any longer. I went to the Lumber Room, took off my smoking jacket and purple corduroys, and put on the G.D.A. outfit. I looked at my reflection in the mirror. Yes ... the whole vista came before my eyes ... the reflection in the mirror changed ... I saw myself as I had been years before, a dashing defective3 ... plonker in hand .... hmm ... I wondered ... where exactly was the plonker? I searched feverishly through the remains of the rubbish in the trunk ... yes, there it was, red with rust. I recalled I had oiled it, but with the passing decade...

"I fitted a plonker in the barrel ... put the plonker in the specially prepared inside pocket of the trench coat, then backed away from the mirror. I had to test my draw ... once a lightening draw, enabling me, at my peak, to shoot off five plonkers before the first one splatted home. Always with dead accuracy."
1. Fancyclopedia 3 also states in the John Berry entry that he "was known for playing ghoodminton with an exceedingly physical and violent style." And what was Ghoodminton? It "was a fannish equivalent of badminton; the only place you could play it was in the attic of Oblique House, the [Walt] Willis home at 170 Upper Newtownards Road in Belfast. The net was stretched between a printing press and a chair; a decrepit shuttlecock and two squares of cardboard were only equipment there was only one enforced regulation for the game: you couldn't throw heavy objects at your opponent."
2. ZineWiki is "an open-source encyclopedia devoted to zines and independent media. It covers the history, production, distribution and culture of the small press." It was created by Alan Lastufka and Kate Sandler in 2006.
3. I'm not sure if that word was supposed to be "detective."

Monday, September 29, 2014

On deck: A Very Scholastic October

Back in March, I wrote about an odd sketch that I had found tucked away inside a 1968 paperback edition of Encyclopedia Brown Solves Them All from Scholastic Book Services.

The vintage Scholastic book set off a bit of nostalgia for me. These were some of the books that I grew up with. We'd get the Scholastic Book Club brochure and order form once a month in our language arts classroom and then anxiously await the arrival of our books, and sometimes the new issue of Dynamite, a few weeks later. It was Amazon before Amazon. And long before drone delivery.

Anyway ... while I was working on that post in March, I tweeted about my fondness/weakness for old Scholastic books.

Scholastic's Twitter account promptly encouraged my descent into obsession.

So, over the course of the spring and summer, I acquired Scholastic books here and there, on the cheap, at bookstores and used-book sales. They're not that hard to come across, but I did get the sense that the pre-1980 volumes are becoming a bit more scarce.

As you can see in the photo at the top of this post (featuring guest star Mitts), I have built a respectable collection of nearly 40 Scholastic books.

(I'm far from the only one with this interest. There is, for example, this fabulous collection on Flickr.)

To celebrate and share my fledgling pile, I'm going to count down my Top 25 favorite covers starting on October 1. I'll put up a new cover at 1 p.m. (EDT) each day. Also, at some point, I'm going to write about the most garish and hilarious Scholastic covers I came across in my scouting. Because they can't all be winners.

So come back to Papergreat every afternoon in October, and share your memories of the Scholastic Book Club and all of your favorite childhood books.

P.S. — And no, I'm not doing this series to fill the dark void left by the Philadelphia Phillies missing the playoffs for the third straight October. ... OK, maybe I am.

"It's Time To Renew," according to this anthropomorphic alarm clock

Ahh, the joys of anthropomorphic illustrations.1 This alarming clock is featured on a slightly pinkish old card from the mailing department of The Patriot. The cursive text states:
"In sending you this little greeting — anticipating renewal — please accept our appreciation of past courtesies. It has been a great pleasure to have your name on the mailing lists, and we sincerely enjoy the privilege. Again, we thank you!"
People were so polite in the past!

This card, 5¾ inches wide, is as thick as an ink blotter, but I don't think it was intended as such.

I'm assuming, since we're in southcentral Pennsylvania here, that The Patriot refers to The Patriot-News of Harrisburg. The Patriot, founded in 1854, was the morning paper for many decades in Harrisburg before it was merged with The Evening News in 1996 to create The Patriot-News.

The Patriot-News, which was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Local Reporting for its work covering the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse case, is now published just three days a week, on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. I don't know what kind of renewal notices that its current circulation department mails out, but I doubt that they feature a smiling alarm clock with hands and eyes.

1. Other Papergreat posts featuring anthropomorphism:

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Night Smile: Old lady and three puppies

This woman was a good sport, agreeing to hold three white puppies for a Polaroid snapshot many decades ago. Unfortunately, there is no information on the photograph telling us who she is or when this was taken.

I'm not a dog expert. Any guesses as to what kind of dogs these are?

1908 postcard: "TOO BUSY TO WRITE."

This card was postmarked on September 27, 1908, in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and it was published by Bamforth & Co.1 of tiny Holmfirth, England, and New York. It was mailed to a Mr. Frank Eben of 926 Pear Street in Reading, Pennsylvania.2

The short message, in cursive writing, on the front of the postcard wraps around the edges in an odd way. But I believe I have determined the correct order and that it states:
"think you two very selfish, but certainly will look for you again (?)"

And so we're left to guess as to the meaning of that short note. Was the postcard writer "stood up" by the Ebens? And how do "TOO BUSY TO WRITE" and the image of the couple under the umbrella at the seashore fit into all of this? Maybe I'm thinking about it too hard.

Were people just as busy 100 years ago as they are now?3

Somewhat along these lines, my wife wrote a Facebook post this past summer in which she lamented, in part:
"Today's semi-random, definitely rambling thought: Many people lament the death of the handwritten letter, and I certainly miss those. (For a while, I was trying to send one handwritten card/letter a month, and I'd like to do that again.) But as technology progresses, I'm left lamenting the death of the long email, too. I remember in high school, exchanging these ridiculous lists of random thoughts with friends; we'd even number them, and you'd have, like, a 57-point treatise ... in your email in which point 39 was 'This point intentionally left blank.' Today, I got a nice email from my only sister NOT on Facebook, and it made me super-aware that there's just something different about the stream-of-consciousness, person-to-person, long-form communication that, though much less frequent than Facebook comments or text messages, seems more valuable somehow. Not sure why. Maybe because I can save emails and reread them when I need a pick-me-up? Maybe because it makes me feel valuable that someone spent their time actually writing out words in sentences with punctuation, not for a blog post or Facebook status for everyone, but JUST for me? I don't know, maybe it's just because I like words and always feel like I have way too many of them I'm trying to spit out."

And that ties in, too, with a post I wrote about a year and a half ago titled "Connecting with the world via postcards in 2013."

Long letters. Short postcards. Long phone calls. Greeting cards with just a name. Long emails. Short Facebook posts. Postcards with tiny writing and long messages. Texts. Tweets. Short emails. Emoji. GIFs. Yo.

Sometimes I don't think we realize how rapidly the ways in which we communicate with each other are changing. And I doubt we stop to even consider whether we should be retaining the "old" forms of communication that are most meaningful.

1. Bamforth & Co. was well-known for its seaside postcards, magic lantern slides, and short films, made between 1898 and 1915. Their film titles included Catching The Milk Thief, Winky Diddles The Hawker, Cod-Fish And Aloes, The Green-Eyed Monster and Have Some More Meat?
2. In a June 6, 2013, post (in the midst of the Postcard Blogathon), I featured separate postcards addressed to Frank and Emma Eben of Reading.
3. Brigid Schulte has a new book titled Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, which sounds like an interesting read ... if I had the time.