Saturday, December 27, 2014

Lancaster's Hotel Brunswick, where you outen the lights


This old linen postcard is a Genuine Curteich-Chicago "C.T. Art-Colortone." That dates somewhere to the 1930s through 1950s. It has never been used.

It advertises the Pennsylvania Dutch Room, which was "one of five air-conditioned restaurants" at the Hotel Brunswick in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The Hotel Brunswick no longer survives under that name. On www.hotelbrunswick.com, there is a message that states: "The Hotel Brunswick has been sold and closed. The new owners have restored and renovated the hotel property." Web users are then directed to the website for The Hotel Lancaster, located at 26 East Chestnut Street.

While the Hotel Brunswick must have been a very respectable lodging in the mid 20th century century, it came to a sad, dilapidated end in recent years. Here's an excerpt from a December 2013 article on LancasterOnline.com:
"The Brunswick is history. It is no longer the name of this hotel," [real estate developer John Meeder] said. "Sorry historians, but there is too much baggage." ...

Along with the name change, it allows him to distance the hotel from the recent history of the site and start anew.

The Brunswick, at 151 N. Queen St., had been beset with problems in recent years.

City officials and the county district attorney had urged the court to declare the hotel a nuisance last year.

They contended drug use, brawls and underage drinking were occurring there.
(In case you were wondering, 26 East Chestnut and 151 North Queen are the same corner of the same block. So The Hotel Lancaster simply changed its street address to further distance itself from Hotel Brunswick.)

Returning to the vintage postcard, the front of the card emphasizes the Pennsylvania Dutch aspect of Lancaster County with a collection of native phrases that you don't see very much elsewhere in the United States or world:

  • Throw Papa down the stairs his hat!
  • It wonders me!
  • Daniel loves to dunk Fastnachts
  • Papa's on the table and half at already!
  • Katy's hair is stroobly!
  • Aunt Minnie is wonderful fat!
  • Jonathan outens the light
  • Such a pair of schmootzer's!
  • Rachel's busy snitzing apples
  • Amos' tooth ouches him!
  • It makes down!
  • Lonnie makes the grass off
  • Sarah spritzes the lawn
  • You must be ferhext!
  • Don't be so doppick!

Almost every one of those phrases could be its own fun blog post. Maybe I'll get to some of them some day. In the meantime, my wife has written about some of them on her long-running Only in York County blog:



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Smirom ... Nabada ... Fred

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday story time: "The Christmas Crab Apples"

Detail from Raymond Briggs' color illustration for "The Christmas Crab Apples,"
on page 172 of Festivals


"The Christmas Crab Apples"
adapted from a Bohemian folk legend;
gently adapted from Ruth Manning-Sanders' version
that appears in the anthology Festivals (1973, E.P. Dutton & Co.)

Rubizal was a leshy (woodland spirit) who lived within the forested mountain. He was a mischievous one! He enjoyed playing tricks on people. He especially enjoyed plaguing the wicked and the proud. He put horns on their heads; he gave them pig snouts and donkey tails.

But he had a kind heart.

Many a poor peasant found coins in his pocket, put there by Rubizal. And if he should meet a tired old woman, a long way from home, staggering under a bundle of branches — puff! Rubizal would blow out his cheeks, and the tired old woman found herself seated in comfort by her own fireside, with some of the branches she had been gathering already blazing in the hearth.

Well, one bitter cold day, just before Christmas, Rubizal gave a hop, skip and jump down from his mountain into the valley. The ground was covered with snow, and trudging along through the snow toward Rubizal came a peasant, very ragged, very thin and blue with cold. Under his left arm the peasant was carrying a little fir tree, and under his right arm he was carrying a bundle of ivy and holly twigs; and he was looking about him in a worried kind of way.

"What do you seek, my friend?" says Rubizal.

"Oh sir," says the peasant. "I am looking for crab apples. Today is Christmas Eve, and after Christmas Eve comes Christmas Day. I am a widower with seven little children, I would make the time merry for them if I could. I have dug up this little tree; and as you can see, I have some ivy and some holly to decorate it. But I have no money to buy toys or pretty trifles to hand on the tree; and I thought if I could find a few crab apples to brighten it up — well, the children would like that. And they could eat the little apples afterwards for a bit of a treat like. Though it would be but a sour feast, when all's said. But there, children will eat most anything..."

The peasant sighed.

"But it seems no crab apples grow hereabouts," he added.

"I know where there is a crab apple tree," Rubizal said, rubbing his beard. "Come!"

He took the peasant into a little wood. In the middle of the little wood was a little crab apple tree. (Of course, don't you know, Rubizal had just magicked it there.) The tree was bare of leaves, but there were still small apples hanging on it: not very bright, not very rosy, but still — apples.

The peasant, joyful, set down his bundles, filled his pockets with the little apples, and picked up his bundles again.

"Goodbye, and thank you, sir," says he.

"Goodbye," says Rubizal. "A happy Christmas to you!"

"The same to you, sir!" The peasant turned to go home.

"Love to the children!" Rubizal called after him.

"Whose love shall I say, sir?" says the peasant.

"Oh, just a merry old fellow's," says Rubizal. And he laughs.

The peasant trudged off across the snow. Rubizal gave a jump. There he was, back on his mountaintop.

The night, when he had put the children to bed, the peasant filled a box with earth, and planted the Christmas tree in it. He fastened a tallow candle to the top of the tree, and decorated the branches with ivy and holly. Then, very carefully, he threaded some wire through the top of each little apple, and hung the apples on the tree.

"And it does look quite festive," said the peasant to himself, as he stood back to admire his work. "Though I could wish the apples were a bit more colorful."

On Christmas morning, when the children saw the tree, they jumped and shouted. They took hands and danced round the tree. And when evening came, and the peasant lit the tallow candle, the ivy glittered and the red holly berries shone, and it seemed the even the little apples looked brighter.

How the children clapped their hands and danced and shouted:

"Oh how pretty! Oh how pretty!
We've got a tree,
A pretty, pretty tree,
We've got a tree, the prettiest of all!"

And there they were, hopping and skipping and turning head over heels.

"But we mustn't forget the gentleman who found the apples," said the peasant. "He sent you his love!"

"No, we won't forget him!" cried the children, "Who was he?"

"Just a merry old fellow," said the peasant. "Or so he told me. But the way he spoke, he seemed to me like some great lord."

"Thank you, thank you, great lord!" shouted the children.

It was merry evening, though they had nothing but cabbage soup and some rye bread for supper.

"And when may we eat the little apples?" asked the children.

"Not until Twelfth Night," said the peasant. "That's the day we must take down the tree."

So, for twelve days, the tree stood in its box of earth in the kitchen. The ivy looked a bit more shriveled every day, and the holly berries dropped off one by one. The grease from the tallow candle, which of course had burned itself out on Christmas night, lay in patches on the withering leaves. But surely, surely, the little apples were growing every day rosier and bigger! Yes, there was no doubt about it. They were rosier, and they were bigger. By Twelfth Night they were so big that the branches on the tree bowed under their weight.

"I don't understand it," muttered the peasant, as he carefully cut the wires and piled the heavy apples on a dish.

"Seems to me half an apple each will be enough for tonight," says he. "And they'll last you longer that way."

"No, no, a whole one each!" cried the children.

"Well, half to begin with anyway," said the peasant. And he took a knife and began to halve one of the apples.

The knife cut into the juicy flesh, then it grated on something hard and stuck. What could it be? The peasant turned the apple upside down, and cut again. But again the knife stuck.

"There's something odd about this apple," muttered the peasant. And he put down the knife and wrenched the apple in two with his hands.

Oh! Oh! Oh! What do you think? Out of that apple tumbled six big rubies. Yes, the pips of that apple were precious stones.

"It's ... it's witchcraft! It's a Twelfth Night dream, that's what it is!" gasped the peasant. And his hands trembled as he took up another apple and halved it.

It was no dream. The pips of the second apple were shimmering pearls.

And so it went on: the peasant halving apple after apple, and every apple pip a jewel — diamonds, sapphires, pearls, emeralds and rubies. When all the apples were halved, there on the kitchen table lay a gleaming heap of jewels; and even the children, as they munched away at the most delicious fruit they had ever tasted, were awed into silence.

It was a long time before any of them went to bed. And the peasant couldn't sleep. he turned and tossed, thinking of that pile of jewels.

"It's the fairies up to their Twelfth Night tricks," he said to himself. "In the morning all those precious stones will be gone."

But they weren't gone. The fairies had nothing to do with it. It was a Christmas gift from Rubizal.

So the peasant sold the jewels and bought a farm. Everything prospered with him and his children. No more meager suppers of cabbage soup and rye bread for them! And they shared their good fortune, helping others who were as unfortunate as they had once been.

And each year, before they sat down to their Christmas feast, the happy peasant-turned-farmer gathered his children and their families and friends about him, raised his glass, and said, "Here's a health to the Merry Old Fellow! May we never forget his goodness, whoever he may be!"

And "A health to the Merry Old Fellow!" cried all in chorus.

Did they hear a chuckling laugh somewhere outside in the snowy darkness? Perhaps they did, perhaps they didn't.

THE END

Adaptation notes
1. Most of this is verbatim from the version by Manning-Sanders in Festivals. A few scattered bits of punctuation or wording were adjusted here and there. More notably, I changed a few words — faggots became "branches," for example, to suit the modern audience.
2. The biggest change, perhaps, is that Rubizal is called a demon in the original story. I felt that unnecessary, especially given how he acts and is described. Demon is a stronger and more loaded word in our times, and I believe the change was a natural one for the story. I tried to find something that would fit comfortably within a Bohemian/Slavic tale, which is how I ended up making Rubizal a leshy for this adaptation.
3. Near the conclusion, I completely added this line: "And they shared their good fortune, helping others who were as unfortunate as they had once been." I've read scores of fairy tales, and I believe that's entirely in keeping with the moral of standard folk and fairy tales about good people sharing good fortune. I believe Manning-Sanders would approve.
4. Also at the end of the tale, where it originally read "gathered his children and his work-people about him," I changed it to "gathered his children and their families and friends about him." Chalk that one up to a Christmas indulgence on my part.
5. This is a favorite tale in our family. I've read it to my daughter a few times over the years, including this month. It also makes me smile because of the widespread use of the word peasant. I'm always so unsure when pronouncing that word during read-alouds. I can never remember whether I'm supposed to say PEAS-ent or PEZ-ent. It's kind of a family in-joke.
6. This story shares a key plot point with "The Dragon of the Well," a folk tale from Greece that appears in A Book of Dragons by Manning-Sanders. In that tale, a misunderstood dragon gives out pomegranates containing jewels inside to a couple in need.
7. You can read more about Festivals on this Wikipedia page.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mystery: "Here comes Santa Clause" at 7:47 on WRAW

Here's an odd piece of mystery ephemera that I picked up in the York New Salem store earlier this year.

It's a thick and firm piece of cardboard, measuring 2¼ inches across and 5 inches tall.

Written at the top is "7:47 WRAW." Then there is a sketch of the head and shoulders of a bearded figure. Written under that is "Here comes Santa Clause."

So I reckon that's supposed to be Santa? It looks more like the bearded neighbor from Home Alone.

The back of the card contains information related to NBC and Henry Aldrich airing at 8 p.m. There is a sketch there of a face that looks vaguely like a young Milton Berle.

WRAW is a Reading, Pennsylvania, AM radio station that was an NBC affiliate back in the mid 20th century. I couldn't find much more than that about its past. It has had a number of format and ownership changes over the decades. It is now owned by iHeartMedia and is a Spanish-language station known as Rumba 1340.

So many questions will go answered. Who sketched this? And why?

And why, why, why did he or she put an "e" on the end of Claus? And why did this survive for more than half a century after its creation?

Call it a Christmas mystery.

There's one thing we do know. If this is referring to the song "Here Comes Santa Claus," I can tell you that that holiday standard was written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman and first recorded and released by Autry in 1947.

"Dear Friend Mable come down on beldsnickle night"


This cheery card was postmarked on December 14, 1915, in Wrightsville, York County, Pennsylvania. It is addressed to Miss Mable Smith, also of Wrightsville.

The writing on the card is in light pencil, in cursive and appears to be the script of a child. Here is my best take on what is written:
Dear Friend Mable
come down on beldsnickle night
We want you to go along and we will paint you
let me know if you will come for sure
My address is the same as yours
Mable had an RFD (Rural Free Delivery) address that simply stated "Wrightsville, RFD, No. 1." So, presumably, if Mable just put a full name, Wrightsville, and RFD on a postcard, the postal workers would have known what to do with the reply. I think that's what the writer is indicating with regard to the "same address."

The beldsnickle referred to by the writer is either a variation or misspelling of Belsnickel. (It is also spelled Belschnickel, Belznickle, Belznickel, Pelznikel, or Pelznickel, according to Wikipedia, so clearly there is not wide agreement on one "correct" spelling.)

Belsnickel is a Saint Nicholas/Santa Claus type of figure in old German folklore. The Pennsylvania Dutch, here in the southcentral portion of the state, have kept Belsnickel alive in some of their December traditions. Here is a description, from Wikipedia:
"The Belsnickel shows up at houses 1–2 weeks before Christmas and often created fright because he always knew exactly which of the children misbehaved. He is typically very ragged and mean looking. He wears torn, tattered, and dirty clothes, and he carries a switch in his hand with which to beat bad children. The children escape unharmed, but they are scared into being good so that Santa will bring them presents on Christmas."
So — and this is a lazy simplification — Belsnickel is essentially Krampus, minus the demonic appearance. (Some versions of Belsnickel do, however, have the frighteningly long tongue associated with Krampus.)

Here's another excerpt from Wikipedia:
"Although he may seem like a harsh character, the tradition of Belsnickel is an amusing one and rather benign. Krampus and Belsnickel are two separate Christmas characters. Krampus is a wild, horned figure akin to the devil. His name translates to 'claw'. Belsnickel, on the other hand, dressed in furs and was very human, save for his short stature."
The "Belsnickel Night" referred to on this postcard is possibly (but not definitely) Christmas Eve. I'm not sure what "we will paint you" means.

For more on Belsnickel, see this November 2013 article by Kathy Lauer-Williams in The (Allentown) Morning Call and this 2008 York Town Square blog post by Jim McClure.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Some holiday recipes from the Inglenook Cook Book

This well worn copy of the Inglenook Cook Book contains some recipes that are perfect for the week of Christmas. Or, at least, they were perfect for the week of Christmas a century ago.

Here's an excerpt from the preface:
"This Cook Book originated with the Inglenook magazine published by the Brethren Publishing House, at Elgin, Ill., and was first issued in 1901. With few exceptions the recipes were contributed by sisters of the Brethren Church whose names and addresses are given in every instance. ... The chief claim made is that the recipes have been tried and are recommended."
I think my family would love, by the way, that there is an entire eight-page chapter titled "Macaroni and Cheese Dishes."

Here are a few of the holiday recipes. If you make them, let us know how they turn out. (Also, include how you finish off these recipes, which are not long on details regarding baking temperature or baking time. Those would be good things to know.)

Christmas Candy Loaf
Take 2 pounds of glucose, 4 pounds of granulated sugar and 1 cup of boiling water. Boil until it will form a soft ball when dipped in cold water. Beat until cool enough to stir in beaten whites of four eggs, 2 or 3 teaspoonfuls of vanilla and 1 pound of shelled almonds. If properly stirred and then placed in a deep custard tin it can be sliced off like cake. Should be made several days before wanted. — Sister Lauren T. Miller, Elgin, Ill.

Imitation Fruit Cake
Take 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of molasses, 1 cup of buttermilk, 2 teaspoonfuls of soda, 7 eggs, 1 cup of lard and butter and 1 level tablespoonful each of cinnamon, cloves and allspice. This make 3 large cakes. — Sister Effie Hoover, Milford, Ind.

Snow Cake
Take 1 cup of sugar, ½ cup of butter, ½ cup of sweet milk, 1½ cups of flour, 1½ teaspoonfuls of baking powder, and the whites of 3 eggs. Flavor with lemon. — Sister Suzie C. East, South English, Iowa.

* * *

As an added "bonus," some stamps were once pasted inside the book, including on the inside front cover. These are the 1926 Christmas seals of the American Lung Association. The ALA first produced Christmas seals in 1907. See all of its seals in this gallery.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

In which angels descend to the Nativity on a ladder


Here's another Christmas postcard sent to Mrs. Emma Berger of Foltz, Pennsylvania. This one features an elaborate scene that adds blond angels, flowers, a ladder and a shooting star to the Nativity. It is not entirely clear, however, why winged angels would need a ladder. Especially if they're not going to use it in the safe and recommended way. The card was printed in Germany.

This postcard was postmarked on December 24, 1912, in Warren, Pennsylvania. The short message states:
"With love and best wishes for the Holidays. Anna."
Here are some detail shots of the colorful card.


What American children want for Christmas (2014 edition)


Earlier this month I wrote about the @TweetsofOld Twitter account and its excerpts from children's letters to Santa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Kids wanted dolls, toy trains, bicycles, fruit and, sadly, guns and rifles.

Compare those old-time requests with these (verbatim) 2014 requests of Santa that appeared in a December 7 publication by LNP Media Group of Lancaster, Pennsylvania (my employer):

  • Dear Santa, You are good. I would like my little pony, pop ponyies, and an American Girl dog. Love, Abby, 7.
  • Dear Santa, On December can I have an Ever After High Diary and one Ever After High dolls and one dollhouse and a iphone toy. Your friend, Camille.
  • Dear Santa, I really like your presents. I want American Girl Isabelle and crafts. I will have cookies and milk for you and will make reindeer food. Love, Delaney, 5.
  • Dear Santa, I need a PS3 and a Xbox PS100 and a new computer and a new iPhone and a new book and a new jacket and a new toy and a new backpack. Love, Joshua.
  • Dear Santa, Please bring me: Peppa Pig, Hello Kitty, books, paper, dog toys and love and safety for my family and friends. Love, Julianna, 5.
  • Dear Santa, My name is Nevaeh. I'm 9 years old now. Pretty old right. I want toys, treats, and a bigger cage for my hamster. Hers is too small. Can I also get a babby that you can feed real food. And some Monster high dolls Sceliton Moth, Katty Mora, Toralie that's all. Nevaeh, 9. P.S. Say hi to miss jingle. can you find her a boyfriend?
  • Hi Santa, I know i was not very good this year but i am trying to stay on the good list. I hope i get what i want from you this year. I am going to let some cookies out for you. Well i hope i see you soon. Kayla H., 6.
  • Dr Santa, Mi nam z Ryan! I lik tu H R Wr B L S! HW DU U Str URS IA? LV. Ryan, 5.
  • Dear Santa, Can I have a toy, a unicorn also can I have a necklace also a computer. Your friend, Natalee, 6.
  • Dear Santa, I want a toy. I love you Santa because you give me food. I like food is my favorite. Love Yurana.
  • Dear Santa, I want for Christmas a laptop and I wont a self-oon. Love, Zion.
  • Dear Santa, Can I please have a yoyo. And a toy for my kitty cat. Thank you. Mackenzie, 5.
  • Dear Santa, I am sorry I was a naughty boy this year but if you get me a PS3 I will be good next year. I promise. From, Mason, 7.
  • Dear Santa, guess I want a lot of things this year. But you can tell your elves they can leave some off. Love, Brayden. 6. PS I will leave 4 cookies for you and 1 glass of milk!