Thursday, October 1, 2015

From the readers: Football, railroads, horseshoes, beloved books and more

There's lot of great stuff this time around from the readers. One of the neat things about this blog is that it leads me to cross paths with great people who are as passionate about their hobbies as I am about books and ephemera.

Papergreat's star-studded 200th post (plus some chickens): One of the items in that multi-part August 2011 post discussed the All-American All-Methodist football team, as selected by Fred Russell for the December 1956 issue of Together magazine.

BT_Northwest, an expert on this topic, was kind enough to take the time to put together this long, insight-filled comment:
"About those Together magazine Methodist all-America football teams: Russell named them for eight years, from the 1956 through 1963 seasons. He continued to select both 'University' (major college) and 'College' (small-college) squads. These were always two-way elevens; it was during the single-platoon era of college football. He would usually name first and second teams, though in the first year or two he also selected third-team and honorable mention players.

"The biggest problem for Russell was, there just weren’t that many Methodist institutions playing big-time football, so his University teams were drawn from a fairly shallow pool. (Although when that pool included Syracuse greats like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis, and John Mackey, it feels a little fussy to complain.) USC was also a strong resource in that pool, but after that first year, Russell didn’t include any Trojans in his selections. This wasn’t explained; perhaps Russell thought about it, and decided that historic ties alone with the Methodist Church didn’t warrant keeping a school in the mix.

"The U. of Denver dropped football after the 1960 season, and that would have left only five schools to draw the University team from. But Russell took two teams that he had drawn from for the College team in 1956 and 1957 — the U. of Chattanooga and the College of the Pacific — and from 1958 considered them major college football programs, contributing to his University team, instead. That was a bit of a stretch, though Chattanooga and Pacific definitely played more up-market than a lot of the really small schools that Russell drew on for the College team. But that ultimately left Russell drawing from seven schools for his University team — still low, but viable, I suppose.

"There were a lot more Methodist schools with small-time programs that he could select his College team from. He wrote that about 44 Methodist colleges played ball at that level, and over the eight years that Together published the teams, he named players who were from 35 different schools. So, it was fairly competitive to get named to the College team.

"Finally, Russell’s selections carry some weight, because of his reputation. A friend and protégé of the great sportswriter Grantland Rice, Russell had a very long career himself, working as a sports journalist for 70 years, serving as sports editor of the Nashville Banner for decades, and being, arguably, the dean of Southern sportswriters in the 20 or 30 years before he retired at the very end of the 20th century."
Ephemera for Lunch #10: P. Fleischner & Co.: Anonymous writes: "I can see why they were unsuccessful. The horseshoe should always be hung up as a 'U' or the luck will run out."

As it turns out, there are multiple schools of thought on horseshoe hanging, and it can depend upon the culture or part of the world in which you live. Indeed, in many places, especially the United Kingdom and Ireland, the prevalent superstition is to hang the horseshoe upward, to keep the luck from running out.

In other parts of the world, the idea is to hang the horseshoe with the open end facing downward. That would serve the dual purposes of pouring good luck on all those who enter and also keeping witches out. Which is important.

I guess, if you wanted to cover all your bases, you could just hang two horseshoes side by side. One up. One down. There doesn't seem to be a rule against that.

For more on horseshoe lore, check out:

"Prinzess Victoria" and a tiny old package of sewing needles: "Unknown" writes: "Interesting! I have a similar packet of needles, similar but not identical. The portrait is slightly different, and they are marked 'PRINCESS VICTORIA,' no country of origin, but found in an antique sewing kit that was made in Austria."

Ephemera for Lunch #24: Nara Hotel: "ltl" writes: "I got a coupla old luggage tags from a Japanese hotel not long ago via the mostly-postcards auction site Playle's — [No. 1 and No. 2.] — I was buying a buncha luggage tags to slap on my laptop (thought it'd be funny) and maybe decoupage to dresser drawers or somethin'. Haven't decided yet."

Cool! I can see how the colorful vintage tags would make for excellent decorations.

Some railroad freight waybills from 60 years ago: In an email, Bob writes:
"I recently ran across your waybill post on Papergreat and am very interested in the content of those bills.

"I lived in Coudersport from 1955 to 1969, and for the 55-56 school year we [lived] right next to the girder bridge. The speeder shed used by the maintenance crew was also next to our yard, just off the end of that bridge.

"Now that I am retired, I am gradually working out how to build an HO scale layout featuring the C&PA as it might have been in the '50s had the west end of the line not been washed out in '42. Those waybills can give me a better idea of what was actually being transported and what rolling stock was in use at that time. For example, on the bill you posted, B&O 266155 is most likely a 40' steel boxcar, one of the 14,000 similar units built for the B&O.

"In addition to the cars and freight, I am interested in the source and destination of those shipments. You listed the load of stone to the state highway department. I also know there was a tannery, a toy factory, a glass factory, a silk mill and a truss factory that may have received or sent up to full carloads. I have even found one picture of D-2, the second GE-44 switcher, moving a tank car onto the tannery spur sometime around '54."
What a neat project! I'm happy to help in a small way. I'll be mailing Bob the small stack of Coudersport waybills that I still had, and I hope they help with his model railroad setup.

Old postcard featuring Markleton Sanatorium in Somerset County, Pa.: Anonymous writes: "The building is not there, I'm trying to find the coordinates so I can visit myself. I know I'm close, but I can't tell where the building was."

I also had a reader email me earlier this year to say that: "Markleton [is] a fascinating little village. I spent a great deal of time there as a youth, lived there a few years, and still visit often. The sanatorium is no longer there, barely a remnant still exists, but that and former history of the village is intriguing."

I haven't made it to the Markleton area yet this year, as I hoped to do when I first wrote about it back in January. Maybe I can get out there before winter hits. Otherwise it will have to go onto the 2016 list.

* * *

And, finally...

A fellow fan of Ruth Manning-Sanders: As you probably know, I have an extreme interest in All Things regarding author Ruth Manning-Sanders. It's not an interest that many people share, though some people in my generation fondly remember her folk-tale collections, even if they don't specifically know her name.

So it's always gratifying to come across someone else who does know her name. And, in this instance, I was able to reunite someone with a "lost love" from their childhood.

The story begins in late August, when I saw this tweet:

It turns out that I had a second copy of that very book on my shelf. And there was zero doubt that I had to get it the hands of Marjory, who would clearly cherish it.

After receiving the package, Marjory wrote a poignant post titled On Childhood, Lost Books, and the Generosity of Strangers. I share it here because it's a wonderful tale (and piece of writing), and I hope it inspires you to find those little, perhaps unexpected, ways that you can brighten the lives of others:
"A little over a week ago, I tweeted about the loss of one of my favorite books. I've loved that book since childhood, when I first checked it out of my elementary school library and then renewed it again and again (and again). The librarian gifted that copy to me upon my graduation with the checkout card still tucked into the pocket. I had been the only person borrowing it for almost two years."

"After I lost my book, I discovered that the author's entire (and prolific) bibliography was out of print. I was gutted, not only for myself, but also for all of the lovers of folklore and fairy stories, young and old alike, who would never experience the same rush of wonderment and delight I did when I first turned those yellowed pages."

"Today, I received a package in the post. A fellow fan of Ruth Manning-Sanders' work found my tweet and sent me a used copy of that very same edition of A Book of Ghosts and Goblins I fell in love with so many years ago, beautiful dust jacket and all. As if that weren't enough, he also included two more Manning-Sanders books I've never read. The copy of A Book of Ghosts and Goblins has an inscription on the flyleaf, scrawled in crooked cursive by a previous owner, a little girl named Jennifer. The other two books are both school library books borrowed by generations of children, checked out as early as 1974 and as recently as 2006. All three feature Robin Jacques' magnificent and beautifully detailed illustrations."

"It feels only right that all of these books are used. They were read and owned and loved by so many other people before they fell into my hands. It feels only right that all of these books are gifts, just like that first copy from my librarian, given for no reason other than, as the sender wrote, 'Sharing books is one of the things that makes me happiest.' Now that her books are no longer in print, there's something beautiful about sharing what we do have, 'helping others discover ... or rediscover ... her.'"

"It feels like coming home."

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