Saturday, February 13, 2016

The QSLs of Loring A. Daniels: 1926

OK! Here we are, finally! This is the official kickoff of the series on the QSLs of Loring A. Daniels, first hinted at back in November 2014. Alert the media.1

The story: In Summer 2014, I came across an amazing collection of QSLs, gathered in a small chest of drawers, at an antique mall in Dover, Pennsylvania. There were hundreds of cards (possibly a couple thousand) and they dated back to the mid 1920s. They were for sale individually. It would have been far better, I know, for someone to keep the collection intact. But that's not how they were being sold and, anyway, I certainly didn't have the funds to purchase the entire chest. So I bought about four dozen cards, mostly from the 1920s and 1930s.

A quick refresher: A QSL is a written confirmation of the reception of a radio signal. In this case, we're specifically discussing amateur radio (ham radio). A QSL card details the time, date, radio frequency, type of equipment, strength of signal and other key information regarding the reception of the signal (or a two-way conversation between operators). QSLs are typically the size of a postcard and sometimes they're actual postcards, inscribed with the aforementioned information.

This collection represents the QSLs that were sent to Loring A. Daniels during his lifetime of being a ham radio enthusiast. The cards that I saw in the chest dated from the 1920s through 1980s. This was a hobby he enjoyed most of his life. (We should all be so lucky!) The earlier QSLs are addressed to Daniels in Tuxedo Park, Delaware. (Tuxedo Park itself — near Newport — is a bit of mystery; it must have just been a neighborhood or unincorporated community.) Later, he moved to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Daniels was born on April 4, 1907, and died on May 26, 1995.

With the help of the library at my workplace, LNP, I was able to track down this short obituary:
Loring A. Daniels, 88, WGAL retiree

Loring A. Daniels, 88, of 207 E. Main St., Hummelstown, formerly of East Ross Street, died of natural causes Friday at Integrated Health Services of Hershey at Woodlands, Derry Township.

He was the husband of Mary C. Crosby Daniels, and of the late Almyra Bishop Daniels.

Born in Beverly, Mass., he was the son of the late Charles L. and Nellie Daniels.

He retired in 1972 after 37 years with WGAL radio and television.

A member of the William Penn Shooting Club of Lancaster County, he was also a licensed ham radio operator.

He belonged to Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall, Lancaster.

Surviving besides his wife are two sons, Charles W., of Lincoln, Neb., and David A. of Leola, two stepsons, Dennis E. Barnhart of Loganville, Ga., and Jerry A. Barnhart of Hummelstown; a stepdaughter, Romona C. Weaber of Phoenix, Ariz.; four grandchildren; 14 stepgrandchildren; a great grandson; 10 stepgreat-grandchildren.

So, we do have a quick mention of his ham radio hobby, which is nice. I want to learn more about Daniels, if possible. As this series continues, I'll continue to do some digging. And it's also possible that these posts will draw some people and/or information out of the woodwork, which would be cool. Stay tuned!

I'm going to post the QSLs in groups, by the year of their postmark, starting today with 1926 — 90 years ago!

Some of these 1920s cards are "makeshift" QSLs. Standardized and personalized QSL cards2 didn't come into frequent use until perhaps the 1930s, though you will find some standardized cards as far back as 1919. (The earliest QSL dates to about 1916.) And I like these older cards precisely because they are unique, handwritten, one-of-kind records of communication between two radio operators. Every one, certainly, tells a story.

So here are the Loring A. Daniels QSLs from 1926, when Calvin Coolidge was U.S. president, Robert Goddard was working on rockets, Route 66 was first established, and Miles Davis and Harper Lee were born.

From: R.L. Fisher, 53 Glen Road, Larchmont, New York
Call sign: 2LA
Postmark: 6 p.m. on March 9, 1926, in Larchmont
Notes: Daniels' call sign at this time, which will be noted on all the cards, was 3AJH. ... This card is actually addressed to "Tuxedo Park Rur. Sta." in Newport, Delaware. ... Fisher adds the note: "Vry gld to QSO — Wat abt a schedule?"

From: F.E. Dominick, 11108 Jamaica Avenue, Richmond Hill, New York
Call sign: 2APM
Postmark: 4 p.m. on December 6, 1926, in Richmond Hill
Notes: This one is addressed to Daniels at "5 Delaware Avenue" in Tuxedo Park. ... Note states: "Vy gld to QSO. ... Vy few stns in Del. Ur 2nd I hv wkd. Some snow hr abt 7"." (QSL card writers were the original text messagers!)

From: W. Devereux, 1371 Greene Avenue, Brooklyn, New York
Call sign: 2-FA
Postmark: Noon on February 21, 1926, in Brooklyn
Notes: This one is just addressed to "Radio Station — 3AJH, Tuxedo Park, Delaware."

From: Unknown
Call sign: 2CYG
Postmark: 10:30 p.m. on January 13, 1926, in New York, New York.
Notes: The sender writes: "THIS BEST CARD I CAN GVE U AT PRSNT."

From: Arnold S. Doxsey, 11 Devine Street, Lynbrook, Long Island, New York
Call sign: 2AWX
Postmark: 4 p.m. on October 30, 1926, in Lynbrook
Notes: Doxsey notes that he is "on Long Island, 15 miles east of New York City."

From: J. Toman Jr., 410 East 70 St., New York City
Call sign: 2ANX
Postmark: Noon on February 5, 1926, in New York City
Notes: It looks like Toman neatly drew everything on all of his cards, except for the New York stamp in the middle. Pretty cool.

From: Robbins, 3. W. State St., Gloversville, New York
Call sign: 8CRF
Postmark: 1:30 p.m. on December 30, 1926, in Gloversville
Notes: This is one of the farthest QSLs from Daniels from this group of cards. Gloversville is in central New York and it was once the hub of America's glovemaking industry.

From: H.E. Ingalls, Garrison-on-Hudson, New York
Call sign: 2OQ (or 20Q?)
Postmark: 10:30 p.m. on January 20, 1926, in Hudson Terminal Station, New York
Notes: Ingalls writes: "Dear om — Ur sigs came in last sunday around 11 pm abt R5."

From: H.N. Hollister [sp?], 26 Plainfield Avenue, Lynbrook, Long Island, New York
Call sign: 2ET
Postmark: 9:30 a.m. on October 29, 1926, in Lynbrook
Notes: This card, like some others, was sent on the prepaid one-cent Thomas Jefferson postcard that was popular during this time.

That's all for today. But we're just getting started! On deck, we have the QSLs from 1927. And if you're interested in more, check out this post from last month about the life of radio operator Donald Joseph Senesac — a tale that evolved from an earlier post on Daniels. I hope to unearth many more stories like that one, with readers' help.

1. Never mind. I am the media.
2. Here is a sampling of my earlier posts on QSLs, if you're interested:

Friday, February 12, 2016

Book cover: "First on Mars"
by Rex Gordon

  • Title: First on Mars
  • Author: Rex Gordon, pseudonym of British author Stanley Bennett Hough (1917-1998)
  • Cover illustrator: Unknown
  • Publisher: Ace Books (D-233)
  • Year: 1957
  • Pages: 192
  • Back-cover blurb: "One man ALONE on an alien world. He crash-landed on Mars fifteen years ahead of any other Earth expedition. He was without communications, without supplies, and with nothing but the wreck of an experimental rocket for resources. What is more it was the planet Mars as astronomers know it really to be — not just a fictional fantasy background for glamorous adventure. It was barren, cold, more grimly inhospitable than the top of Mount Everest. And if it had inhabitants, they were conspicuous by their absence. The story of how one determined man set out to survive on a world whose very air he couldn't safely breathe is an astounding science-fiction saga of the most grippingly realistic type ... a novel to be remembered."
  • Notes: Eat your heart out, Matt Damon! (And Andy Weir!) This novel, published nearly six decades before The Martian hit movie theaters, told the tale of a lone individual, Gordon Holder, with scant resources attempting to survive on Mars. ... It was originally published in 1956 in Britain as No Man Friday. ... It's still on my to-read pile, but I understands that its similarities to The Martian include the protagonist's need to secure supplies of oxygen and water, and its (immense) differences include the introduction of several types of alien life living on the planet. ... The novel falls into a genre known as Robinsonade, survival tales in the vein of Robinson Crusoe. ... It's a great shame that we don't know the name of the cover illustrator. When The Internet Speculative Fiction Database doesn't know the illustrator's identity, you know you have a true mystery on your hands. ... The Cheap Science Fiction Book Covers Gallery blog wrote a nice bit about the cover illustration in a 2010 post and was impressed that the "artist cared enough to accurately represent the author’s concepts."
  • Reviews and commentary: "An obscure British sf masterwork?" by Ian Sales in 2010. ... Comparison of Weir's The Martian with No Man Friday and other early science fiction classics, by Kris Milstead.

Bingo cards from Rebman's carnival supply house in Lancaster

This old bingo card, printed on thick cardboard and likely from the 1960s or 1970s, features the stamp of Rebman's in Lancaster, "Pennsylvania's Old Reliable Carnival Supply House."

The Rebman family business — still in operation as Rebman's Flag Shop and Bingo Supplies on Columbia Avenue in Lancaster — has a storied, three-generation history, as detailed through a handful of articles in the archives.

Rebman's was originally established as a candy business in 1909 by Earl F. Rebman Sr. A popular Easter item was homemade chocolate eggs, which were first sold out of a wagon in downtown Lancaster. For many decades, coconut cream was the most popular flavor, eventually equaled by our modern love for peanut butter. American troops received personalized chocolate eggs from Rebman's during World War II.

Rebman Sr. also made and sold other candy, cough drops and gum. He eventually operated as many as three stores around West King and Water streets in Lancaster city. As the business grew, Rebman Sr. and then his son, Earl F. Rebman Jr., opened stores at 800 S. Queen St. in 1949 and Columbia Avenue in 1984. Rebman Jr.'s sons, Pat and Peter, later incorporated as Rebman Brothers to essentially continue the family business as it operates today, in its third generation.

Over the years, the Rebman stores focused on different merchandise, from candy to games to seasonal holiday items to U.S. flags to truck accessories and more. A party supply side of the business sold everything from pinball machines and pool tables to paper plates, plastic cups, school supplies, toys, candles, trains and wedding and funeral items.

The Rebmans, led by Earl Sr., also built a considerable collection of memorabilia, much of it related to games and carnivals. They had vintage prize wheels, old-fashioned candy-making tools, circus games, historic photographs, original U.S. Air Force flags, vintage toys and more. They had a booklet titled "A Four-year Historic Record of Lancaster's Salvage Work on the Home Front," which features a black-and-white photo in which a circus elephant is helping to load paper for trash collection in 1944.

All in all, it's been an amazing story of a successful family business spanning more than a century. A story that this bingo card helps to tell. sources for more details and history:

The bingo card at the top of the post is in excellent condition. I also came across a couple that show signs of considerable use. There's a story behind these and, on an aesthetic level, I think I like them even more than pristine samples. (Which makes sense, as I'm the guy who loves badly damaged postcards, too.)

Other bingo-related posts

Other Lancaster-related posts

Gravity gone wild, atomic nonsense at Mystery House in St. Augustine

This pristine undated brochure, which measures 3½ inches by 6 inches, touts the Mystery House in St. Augustine, Florida.

The oddball structure — one of numerous built-on-an-angle attractions that dotted the nation mid-century — was in operation from the 1940s through 1960s. It was located across the highway from the still-in-existence St. Augustine Alligator Farm.1

Here is a description of the attraction, which charged 40 cents admission, from the inside of the brochure:
Can the Law of Gravity be Defied?2
The whole world's a bit upset these days, but at one spot in Florida it's more upset than usual — so upset in fact that even the law of gravity has gone completely berzerk!

THE MYSTERY HOUSE ... has thwarted all attempts to explain the weird power that exists within and about it.

What IS this power that haunts THE MYSTERY HOUSE? It makes persons shrink a foot before your very eyes. Toss a ball in the air and it travels away from you and then returns! Step onto the average-size dining table with the ease of stepping onto a three-inch curbing! See a free-swinging pendulum that takes twice as much power to push one way as the other. Walk at a 45 degree angle and feel the terrifyingly powerful pull of the earth at this spot. Walk up a parlor wall as if you were weightless!

Some astonished visitors claim that they have been magnetized by the pull of the North and South poles3 — others suspect that an atomic reaction has taken place4 — still others have sworn off drinking forever!

The really amazing part of it all is that this is a natural mystery — no tricks — nor mirrors — nothing moving. To look at the MYSTERY HOUSE you'd say it was a normal house on a hillside — but once you get near it the world goes topsy-turvy. Once inside, gravity goes wild! Even the landlord, Al Mosher, can't explain it. It's uncanny. after you've seen it, you'll want to bring your friends and have fun watching their faces as gravity goes on the rampage. You'll have dreams about it the rest of your life!

According to a January 2012 article by The St. Augustine Record, the Mystery House was fairly small, with about four rooms. The "mysteries" were all done with distorted perspectives, and Mosher never revealed his construction secrets. You can check out some additional vintage photographs of the attraction here. One reader commenting on the 2012 article added the following:
"I was a tour guide at the Mystery House in 1953 and '54, during my high school years. Didn't make much money, but back then, you didn't really need much. I worked weekend during the school year, five or six days a week during the summer. It was a lot of fun. There was no real mystery to it, but the angle of the house distorted your perception and affected your inner ear/equlibrium. People got a kick out of it and I enjoyed sheparding them through. We were just across from the Alligator Farm, so we got a lot of action. Met some nice people from a lot of different places."

Finally, an interesting read is "Buddy Hough and the Ordinance of Doom" by Geoff Dobson, which mentions the Mystery House and states: "St. Augustine had always been fairly well laissez-faire attitude with regard to tasteless or historically inaccurate tourist attractions. Hucksterism was no stranger to the city. At the turn of the century there were four different structures operating at the same time claiming to be the 'oldest house in the United States.'" The essay specifically discusses Hough's Tragedy In U.S. History Museum, which could be a whole nother post for a whole nother day.

1. The Alligator Farm, by the way, has a BOGO special on the Crocodile Crossing and Python Farm this Sunday for Valentine's Day, if you're looking for a romantic excursion.
2. In other gravity news, it was announced yesterday that gravitational waves, as predicted by Albert Einstein, have been detected.
3. Wut.
4. I'm not sure these people understood atomic reactions in the slightest.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The One Where I Get Sucked into the Mecki Universe

This circa 1960 postcard, warped and heavily creased down the middle, served as my introduction to Mecki, the famed hedgehog of German pop culture.

If you're from Germany, Mecki needs little explanation. He's as ubiquitous as Bugs Bunny, Darth Vader or the Kardashians are here in the United States.

Gleaning information from translated German-language websites and a variety of other sources, here's what I can tell you about this anthropomorphic hedgehog:

  • Mecki has his genesis in the Grimm Brothers' tale "The Hare and the Hedgehog," which is, of course, a variant of the more ancient "The Tortoise and the Hare," from Aesop's Fables.
  • Then along came the Diehl brothers — Ferdinand, Paul and Hermann. They were pioneers in stop-motion film-making, with 1937's The Seven Ravens being perhaps their most well-known movie outside of Germany. During World War II, the brothers were commissioned to make educational films for the Third Reich. Out of that effort came a silent version of "The Hare and the Hedgehog," which featured the yet-unnamed Mecki. The short film was popular both in the classroom and with soldiers.
  • After the war, in 1946, a German equivalent of TV Guide magazine, titled Hörzu, was launched. A cartoon version of the Diehl brothers' movie hedgehog became the magazine's mascot, and it was named Mecki by Hörzu editor Eduard Rhein. The was some lengthy legal wrangling between Hörzu and the Diehl brothers, because Mecki's image had been used by Hörzu with permission. Eventually the two sides came to an agreement.
  • From there, we'll let Dr. Sigrun Lehnert pick it up, in this excerpt from a 2014 post on Animationstudies 2.0:
    "In a lawsuit, the publishing rights for comics and books were assigned to Hörzu, whereas the rights for the doll-production were assigned to the toy company Steiff. One of the Diehl brothers, Ferdinand, started his own cartoon film production in 1948 and made films on Mecki adventures. ... The Mecki films were intended to be educational, such as Mecki Fights the Flu (1952) or Mecki, the Just (1954). Moreover, stories of Mecki ... were used to increase the voter impact in times of German Bundestag elections: Mecki directly encouraged his audience to go to the ballot box and prevent the empowerment of radical groups — particularly those with pro-Nazi attitudes. Mecki made sure to point the viewers to the potential consequences of political abstinence."
  • And that was just the start, as Mecki developed into a pop-culture empire, with books, comics, toys and much more. Mecki's "friends" include Micki, Charly Penguin, Chilly, Poppo, Kokolastro (the villain) and, according to Google Translate, "the seven genuine Syrian golden hamsters."

Getting back to the postcard, it dates to those post-war, stop-motion films made by Ferdinand Diehl. The text on the front, Alles für die Gesundheit, translates to "for health" or "all for health."

Here are some Mecki film clips you might find interesting...

In "The Advanced Art of Stop-Motion Animation": History of Stop-Motion Feature Films: Part 1, author Ken A. Priebe makes an interesting point about one aspect of the Diehls' stop-motion film-making, both before and during the Mecki films:
"An interesting prelude to [1937's The Seven Ravens] shows a live actor taking a jester puppet out of a box and assembling it, before the jester comes to life through stop-motion and begins narrating the story. It was a common theme of the Diehl brothers to show the process of stop-motion in this manner, as if signaling to the audience right away that they were watching a puppet film. They also used the technique in their short films featuring Mecki the Hedgehog, who would come to life after being sculpted right on his workshop table. Because most films exist only within themselves and would not show the actual process, this was a unique approach to the puppet film. It seemed to suggest to the audience right away what they were actually watching, while at the same time creating a very realistic and believable world in miniature."
Here are a couple final links about Mecki:

This postcard is dated October 31, 1960, and addressed to the Fetterman family of Paterson, New Jersey. The message states:
"Dear Everybody, I left the hospital Oct. 22nd and get along nicely. Your long letter from Oct. 14th contains a lot of food for thought and was a welcome change for a 'penned-in.' The weather does not permit me to sit outdoors and therefore I stick my nose in books too. At the present I read Dostojevski's The Idiot. It's great! Congratulations on your new driving effort! More power to you. With lots of love to everyone from all of us."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Hampshire and deep thoughts on the inevitability of nothingness*

As our nation turns its eyes to today's New Hampshire Primary (is Morris running again?), here's a vintage postcard from The Granite State. I can't determine specifically when it was published based on the information on the back, but a fair guess is the early 1960s.

The numbered map highlights such attractions as the Flume Gorge, the Old Man of the Mountain (gone since 2003), the Whaleback Lighthouse, the Mount Washington Auto Road, Mount Chocorua, and the Mount Cranmore Skimobile (dismantled in 1989).

Nothing lasts forever. The Old Man has fallen, the Skimobile is gone and, some day, the Whaleback Lighthouse, which was erected 187 years ago, in 1829, will scatter as dust and Mount Chocorua will erode to nothingness.

In researching this post, I also came across a used-book store, Homestead Bookshop, that closed last April in Marlborough, New Hampshire.

Mountains, mechanical wonders, books, glossy postcards, presidential candidates ... they're all just fleeting. Ephemeral.

But I digress...
* * *

This postcard was never used. For the record, publishing information on the back includes:

  • NC475B in the lower left.
  • "Published by Bromley & Company, Inc., Boston, Mass. 02210"
  • Mike Roberts, Berkeley 94710
  • "C30346" in the stamp box
* * *
*This blog post title was supposed to be "New Hampshire postcard and deep thoughts on the inevitability of nothingness," but I think my slip-up actually works quite well, all things considered. Weird post, I know.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Doomed goat stars in Victorian trade card for Kerr & Co.

This Victorian trade card, which is about the size of a standard index card, touts Kerr & Company's Extra Six Cord Spool Cotton. It features a clever illustration of Aesop's "The Fox and the Goat," with cotton spools taking the place of the well in the fable.

The fable, which, like all of the fables, has many variants, generally involves a fox trapped in a well tricking a goat into joining him and then climbing up and over the goat in order to escape, leaving the goat trapped. Morals from this fable include:

Look before you leap.
Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties.

I have one quibble with the illustration, though. In the fable, the goat himself goes into the well. But the Cotton Spool Well, as drawn, does not have a wide-enough opening for the goat to fit. (Yes, I think about these things.)

Kerr & Co. incorporated in 1888 and was based in Paisley, Scotland. The history is a little murky, but it appears that Kerr was taken over by competitor J & P Coats around 1895. Though it has long been out of business, the company's trademark was apparently not dissolved until the first decade of this century.

Previous posts featuring goats

Sunday, February 7, 2016

More 1973 comic book silliness

On the heels of yesterday's post about the Glow Spokes advertisement in the November/December 1973 issue of DC Comics' "Sword of Sorcery," here's a portion of another advertisement from that same issue.

The advertisement is for products from The Gayle House of Flushing, New York. There are 10 products being pitched, and it's a weird mix of stuff:

  • Invite your friends over for a Haunting: Imagine how shocked your friends will be when you flip out the lights and they hear sounds like the howl of a wolf, a creeking [sic] door, chains rattling, screams, moaning and many more creepy sounds. This 7" 33-1/3 RPM special sound effects record is not sold in any store. Be the first to get it. Only $1.00.
  • Mr. Baldy Bigshot Skin Head Wig: Now's your chance to play the "big shot." You'll be "the boss" when you put on this skin head wig and look several years older. You'll get a million laughs. Only $1.00.
  • Giant Vampire Bat: This creepy creature of the night is made of life-like black rubber. Its wings spread out to a full 13" across and flap with a life-like motion as you jiggle its cord. Hang it in your room, car or anywhere else you think it will "shock" them. Only $1.00.
  • The Secret Seat Bomb: Place this secret seat bomb under the cushion of any chair or couch. When someone sits on it, the "BOMB" goes off with a blast! You'll get a million laughs. Completely harmless and may be used over and over again. Only 50¢.
  • Magician's Bag of Tricks: Your friends will be shocked and amazed at your new abilities to mystify and fool them. This bag of tricks contains all you'll need — four secret magician's devices plus a complete instruction book on how to do 102 different magic tricks. Only $1.50.
  • Magic Cards: Fool and amaze your friends many times over with this trick deck. You'll be the hit of the party. No one will know the secrets but you. This deck comes complete with easy to follow instructions for 10 different tricks. Only $1.50.
  • 50 Fighter Planes: You get 50 scale model unbreakable fighter planes of different countries — all you need to reenact history's famous air battles. Hang them from threads and fly them all at once! Only $1.00.
  • Frankenstein Mask: Put on this rubber face mask and you'll look like a nightmare come true. Authentic in every detail — you'll be sure to shake up everyone who sees you wearing it. Only $1.98.
  • Bloody Soap: Smear some of this powder on any bar of soap. When someone begins to use the soap, it will turn their hands and face bloody red. You won't be able to stop laughing. Completely harmless. Only 25¢.
  • Foaming Sugar: This appears to be normal sugar, but when it is dropped into liquid it foams right out of the cup, glass or bowl. Switch it for the real stuff then sit back and wait to laugh. Completely harmless. Only 25¢.

Vintage comic books advertisements have been rich fodder for bloggers, humorists, historians and folks looking for a nostalgia kick since the the Interwebs took flight. Here are some groovy links I found that discuss The Gayle House and some similar products.

Also, while I have not read it, here's a plug for the well-reviewed 2011 book Mail-Order Mysteries: Real Stuff from Old Comic Book Ads! by Kirk Demarais.

That book, with a five-star rating, appears to be one thing you can order by mail and not end up being disappointed.

Now, stop reading and go check on your Sea Monkeys!