Saturday, January 3, 2015

Mystery weather photo from 1915

Here's a mystery weather photo. I'm not even 100 percent sure what I'm looking at here. On the back, there is a maddeningly incomplete caption, written in pencil...

22 June 1915
Hail Storm out of

Out of where?

Somewhere in Maryland, almost certainly. There was a historic and well-documented hail storm across that state on June 22, 1915. Here are a couple tidbits:

This photo, while documenting part of the hail storm, clearly does not show any of the larger stones or worst damage from the day.

Related post: Old photo stirs up a blizzard of mystery

Friday, January 2, 2015

Mannikin Spanalong and some thoughts on 2015

This is Robin Jacques' illustration of "Mannikin Spanalong" from the tale of the same name in Ruth Manning-Sanders' A Book of Sorcerers and Spells. Our family has always enjoyed the story and it's diminutive folk-tale character.

I post his image not because I occasionally feel as weary as this bearded fellow looks (I do), but because I've dabbled in writing my own tale featuring Mannikin Spanalong. It's a tale that involves castles, magic, books and adventure in mid-20th century Europe. But it's also a tale that I haven't gotten very far on.

I'm decent at ideas. Not so decent at following through.

I have, in fact, an embarrassingly long list of unfinished short story, novel and screenplay ideas, in addition to the Spanalong tale. Here are most of them, laid bare for the whole world to see (and for anyone on the Internets to steal):

  • A biography of Ruth Manning-Sanders
  • A screenplay inspired by the life of Ruth Manning-Sanders
  • A collection that has, in my head, always been titled York County Wonder Tales and features folk tales reimagined in an alternate, medieval-era Pennsylvania
  • A non-fiction guide to off-the-beaten-path locations in Pennsylvania
  • A post-apocalyptic tale that's equally inspired by Blue Highways, The World Without Us, and the American Guide Series
  • A novel involving a mysterious figure who has settled down to a quiet life running a small-town bar
  • A screenplay inspired by the life of late-night radio host Long John Nebel
  • A story involving a rock band and time travel, told in the style of Citizen Kane
  • A futuristic tale of a retirement village in which technology makes it difficult to differentiate between reality and fantasy (I have also imagined this one as a graphic novel, which is pointless, because I cannot draw)
  • A different post-apocalyptic tale, featuring a lone radio operator living on a mountaintop and battling the elements
  • A story about a photographer who discovers a way to photograph ghosts, and that technology's implications
  • A novel or screenplay very loosely based on the song "Levon," set in the 1970s and featuring some elements reminiscent of Something Wicked This Way Comes
  • A science-fiction tale called "The Last Farm"
  • A sprawling fantasy epic about a girl named Ruh who travels the lands documenting history and folklore, while slowly learning her true purpose
  • An origin tale for a secret or magical university. A place like Hogwarts had to have a beginning, right? Who laid the first stone, hired the first teacher and wrote the first syllabus?
  • A goofy vision for a science-fiction/fantasy mashup called Christmaswöld and possibly involving an anthropomorphic Rudolph. (OK, OK, I'm done now. My ideas have officially jumped the shark.)

If even one of those ideas ever makes it to completion, it would be a minor miracle. The problem, other than procrastination and lack of initiative on my part, is time. The amount of free time I have in a given week or month is fairly puny. And much of the free time I do have goes to this blog. I would estimate that I spend three to five hours per week researching and composing Papergreat posts.

That adds up.

As a fun mathematical exercise, I would estimate, conservatively, that I have spent 68,850 minutes working on Papergreat posts since late 2010. (1,530 posts times 45 minutes per post). That's nearly 1,148 hours. Or 47.8 days. Or 28.7 standard 40-hour work weeks. Phew!

This is all a way of saying that if I'm ever going to accomplish some of my other (hobby) goals in life, such as writing something worthy of publication and reading more books, I probably need to spend less time with Papergreat.

So it's likely that at some point in the near future I will scale back my posting frequency. (I had more than 400 posts in both 2013 and 2014, which is a bit of a ridiculous pace.) Maybe I'll write fewer posts, but make them longer and filled with more ephemera. Or maybe I'll increase the frequency of "quickie" posts, which take less time.

Something will change, so that I can devote more energy to other pursuits.

The good news is that I believe that I've churned through a lot of great material and accomplished many of my ephemera-blogging goals through the first 1,500+ Papergreat posts. Sure, I have a zillion incredible vintage postcards that I still want to share with you each week, and I will continue to do so. But, beyond that, my personal to-do list for the blog has dwindled down to:

So you might see some significant changes here in 2015. But you haven't seen the last of me. And maybe, just maybe, I'll have some exciting news to share with you sometime in 2016. Let Operation Spanalong commence!

The holidays are over. Don't forget to send your thank-you notes

One of the topics that comes up here on occasion is the lost art of writing letters and postcards. That can also include thank-you cards. I suspect the percentage of people who send them has dropped precipitously in the past quarter century.

This is a thank-you card that I sent, with the help of Mom, to my grandmother1 (who we called "Beembom," thanks to my pronunciation issues) in December 1976, right around the time I turned 6 years old.

Things we learn from the below note:
  • I had an odd problem in which I wrote some of my numbers backwards.
  • Even then, I loved books.

1. Other posts mentioning my grandmother:

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year, and why didn't you come when we butchered?

This festive "Happy New Year" postcard was postmarked on January 1, 1914, and mailed to Nathaniel Howard of Wrightsville, Pennsylvania (which was previously mentioned in this recent post about Belsnickel). The message to Nathaniel, in what looks like a child's cursive writing, states:
"Dear Uncle, Let us know why you didn't come up when we butchered. I had phoned down. We thought you may be sick. Let us know. It worried Mamma that you did not come. From Sadie."
So, today's lesson: Don't skip family butcherings.

Detail from the postcard...

Peppy 2015!
Vintage "New Year Wish" card

Peppy 2015! For us to advance as a civilization, I believe that one of the things we need to do is move on from the word "happy."1 It's overused and all worn out. We have a deep, rich language, and I think we should deploy more of its words. So I propose that we replace happy with peppy, a word that dates to World War I and has plenty of tread left on its tires. Other finalists were chirpy and perky.

Anyway, this vintage card, with its quill pen, scroll and hourglass, offers A New Year Wish:
Every good wish, every kind thought,
May the New Year bring,
And your heart rejoice in the love and joy
That you find in everything.
In addition, I think we should use this card's typography as the official font of 2015. We can call it Peppy Sans. Thoughts?

1. We also need to move on from reality television, fossil fuels and war, possibly in that order. But that's a topic for another day.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another cool bookplate: A black cat and some books

updated 1/1/2015
This simple but elegant bookplate, for Ada Saínte-Maríe, features a black cat atop a small pile of books. Ada was my great aunt, my father's mother's oldest sister. Her great loves were books, many of which she read and then promptly gave away, and all-white cats.1

Lew Jaffe's Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie website is still going strong, and you should definitely check it out if you're interested in browsing through more bookplates. Beware, though, that you might lose yourself in there for an hour or more. It's jam-packed with great vintage bookplates and information. Here's a different black cat that was featured recently.

One of these days, I'd like to have custom bookplates made for the volumes that I intend to keep permanently in my library.

They are, of course, something that you cannot do with an e-book.

1. Given that she loved white cats, it's a bit ironic that her bookplate features a black cat. With a little photo manipulation, however, we can fix that. I think she would approve.

Postcrossing card from Poland featuring artist Miroslawa Stefaniak

I have received a flock of Postcrossing cards in the mailbox in these final few days of 2014. The most beautiful one, hands down, is this postcard from Natalia in Poland. She writes:
"This card is coming to you from cold and windy Poland. I sent some cards to make my day a bit brighter. May your Christmas be filled with love, laughter, good food and fine wines."
The gorgeous postcard is by folk artist Miroslawa Stefaniak. It features an example of wycinanki, a form of papercutting art in Slavic countries. According to the Polish Art Center website:
"Wycinanki, pronounced Vee-chee-non-kee, is the Polish word for 'paper-cut design'. Just when and why this art form began to flower in Poland seems a matter of some uncertainty. Some say it goes back to the time when few farm houses had glass windows. To keep out the elements, peasant farmers hung sheep skins over the window openings. Then, to let in some light and air, they took their sheep shears and snipped small openings in the skins, and these were soon recognized as decorative as well as functional. The most well known modern styles of Wycinanki comes from two districts. One is the Kurpie cut out. This is usually a symmetrical design, cut from a single piece of colored paper, folded a single time, with spruce trees and birds as the most popular motifs. The second style comes from the area of Lowicz. It is distinguished by the many layers of brightly colored paper used in its composition. The unique richness of paper-cut designs done in the Polish tradition is a special contribution to the artitistic heritage of the world."
If you like this postcard, the Polish Art Center, located in Michigan, sells two sets of eight folk-art postcards by Stefaniak. Set A contains the postcard that was mailed to me from Poland. And there is also a Set B.

According to a translation of a Polish-language website that I found, Stefaniak learned the art of wycinanki from her mother and sisters and has been creating art for nearly two decades.

She is considered one of the most talented artists in Poland and her work has been exhibited in New York and Chicago.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My grandmother's bookplate

I've shared a bundle of bookplates here on the Papergreat, but I don't believe I've ever shared my grandmother's. It features a cute illustration with a dog and a bookshelf.

Many of these bookplate were affixed to volumes acquired through The Heritage Press from the 1940s through 1960s. According to a Michael C. Bussacco's 2006 article on The Heritage Press, the imprint was founded in 1935 by George Macy (1900-1956) "for the creation and distribution of more affordable 'semi-luxe' books."

From the readers: Ginza Tokyu Hotel, Koester's and belsnickeling

Here's the final 2014 edition of "From the Readers." Thanks, as always, for all of your comments, support and kind words throughout the years.

1938 holiday postcard from Leinhardt Bros. of York: I went fishing for some memories of Leinhardt Bros. on Facebook and got a few:
  • Sally Bailey Pomraning — "Bought my first wringer washer and a baby stroller there in 1958-59 on the payment plan LOL and then a nice desk in 1968. It was a nice store on West Market Street."
  • Ann Young O'Connell — "We bought our first sofa there in 1973 when my husband came back from SE Asia."
  • Catherine Bean Malstrom — "I bought my first furniture from Leinhardt Bros."

Saturday's postcard: Ginza Tokyu Hotel: Anonymous writes: "Hello, my still happily married parents met there in 1962 when visiting Tokyo. I tried to find the location today, but found a new building on the site. Do you know whether the lower floors are still original with only the top floors having been stacked on top, or was the hotel building completely torn down?"

I'm not 100 percent sure about the answer to that question. These additional Papergreat posts, however, discussed the Ginza Tokyu Hotel:

1960s Russian С Новым годом postcard ("Happy New Year!"): Izake Hitori writes: "It's not a rabbit, it's a forest hare — just a character of Russian folklore. Usually described like kind but faint-hearted, willing to help everyone."

In support and defense of tiny Christmas cards: Anonymous writes: "But you can't send these through the mail unless you put them in a larger envelope ... conservation fail."

Vintage photographs of kids playing in the snow: Nan Keltie writes: "I enjoyed seeing your post about winter and snow fun for kids! Thanks for sharing. I used one of the photos on my Facebook page and gave you credit by linking back to this page."

Coupons from the E.H. Koester Bakery Co.: Vincent Ward writes: "My grandfather, Edgar Weal, worked for Koester's as a credit manager from 1933 until he retired in 1965. When I was born he purchased a $25 U.S. Savings Bond for me through Koester's (I guess you could do that back then!) I kept the bond until cashing it some time in my early 20's. Needless to say my family ate a LOT of Koester's bread. Great memories!"

And Fairfaxcat writes:
"Give us the top and the bottom and we'll leave the middle to you,
Build something great with Koester's bread and see what you can do,
The better the bread the better the sandwich so start out way ahead,
Make the top and the bottom something great with Koester's Bread!

(Tune aired frequently on WBAL radio in 1972 during or near the time of Orioles' broadcasts. Heard the sound in and around my grandfather's Trappe farmhouse when I came over to visit from VA's western shore during school's summer break.)"

Thanks for passing that jingle along! I love that so many comments and memories were generated by this 2011 post.

"Dear Friend Mable come down on beldsnickle night": Jim Fahringer writes: "My two grandmothers — one born in 1889 and the other born in 1883 — often told me of their belsnickeling. It seems that they dressed in costumes similar to Halloween costumes and would travel from house to house on Christmas Eve asking for treats. I actually still have one or two belsnickeling costumes. For many years my mother wore the one costume as a Halloween costume during the early 1930's and my sisters wore the costume during the 1950's. Unfortunately the costume is in rather bad shape today — torn, dry rot, stained."

Monday, December 29, 2014

Of baby ostriches and shite pokes

This vintage postcard, published by Edward H. Mitchell of San Francisco, California, features adorable baby ostriches (from the historic Cawston Ostrich Farm) on the front and an intriguing message from H.A.M. on the back:
"I am sending Ostrich on this card and a Shite Poke on the other one."
Maybe some of you knew instantly what a Shite Poke was. I did not. I had to look it up. Turns out, it's a slightly vulgar synonym for heron.

Herons have had a lot of different names:
  • Shite poke, shitepoke or shite-poke
  • Shikepoke
  • Shypoke
  • Shiterow
  • Shederow
  • Shiteheron
  • Heronshaw
  • Handsaw


To further cloud the issue, H.L. Mencken writes the following in The American Language:
"The shite-poke is not imaginary. It is the common green heron, Butorides virescens. Shite-poke is traced by the DAE to 1832. Early alternative names were poke, and skouk, both recorded in 1794, and chalk-line and fly-up-the-creek, both recorded in 1844. One of the authorities cited by the DAE says the shite-poke was borrowed from the Dutch schyte-poke. It is legendary throughout the shite-poke's territory that it lives on excrement."

For even more on shite-pokes/herons: