Saturday, February 20, 2016

1967's "Romania: A Guidebook" and the artwork of Val Munteanu

Here's a book you might wish to track down just for the artwork.

This is the dust-jacket cover for 1967's Romania: A Guidebook, which was published by Meridiane Publishing House of Bucharest. The compact book, which measures 5 inches wide by 6½ inches tall by 1½ inches thick and runs for nearly 500 pages, contains everything you'd want to know about various tourist routes through Romania nearly a half-century ago.

A few of the 21 routes covered include Bucharest-Ploiești-Brașov, Sibiu-Rîmnicu Vîlcea-Pitești and Turnu Severin-Timișoara. There is also a large, fold-out map of the Socialist Republic of Romania.

But, as I mentioned, the reason you might want this book is the artwork. Its pages are filled with dozens of full-color illustrations, many of which take up an entire page and all of which make browsing the book a delight.

The cover artist (and presumably the lead artist) was Val Munteanu (1927-1996). Munteanu was a famous illustrator and cartoonist who was well known for illustrating volumes of folk tales and classical literature. You can see many examples of his work on his website,, which is maintained by his son. It features considerable galleries. I especially recommend that you check out his work on The Beautiful Rora — Fairytales from Romania, Till Eulenspiegel, and Romanian and Saxon Fairy Tales.

My assumption is that Munteanu did the full-page illustrations in Romania: A Guidebook, but the specific artists are not credited on each work. The copyright page states: "Lay-out and colour illustrations by graphic artists Val Munteanu, Florica Vasilescu, Aurel Stoicescu, Ion Petrescu and Damian Petrescu."

Given the dimensions of this book, it wasn't possible to open it fully and place it on the scanner without damaging it. So the following gallery of its interior illustrations was done via less-than-ideal cellphone snapshots. They don't do the artwork justice, of course, but they can give you a good sense of how wonderful they are.

If any of this piques your interest, there are — as of this writing — a couple of used copies of Romania: A Guidebook listed on for about $6.

I really do recommend it for the artwork. But it's also an invaluable mid-century snapshot of life in Romania, for travel and history buffs.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Ephemera for Lunch #35:
Snow White and The Godfather

This week's final "Ephemera for Lunch" record cover is also the oldest of the week. It's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, a 45-rpm record published in 1950 as CF-620 by Caravan Records Inc. of New York.

The crazy thing is that I can't find much about the history of Caravan Records and the company's "unbreakable" red vinyl records.

I did, however, discover a few of their other children's titles, including Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Sleeping Beauty, Little Black Sambo, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Little Red Riding Hood. They also published something called Foodini's Trip to the Moon.

If anyone can point us in the direction of more information or memories about Caravan Records, that would certainly be appreciated!

Here's how the back of this paper slipcase describes the record:
"This the musical story of SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, a new version especially prepared for your child's entertainment. It follows the classic pattern of the original fairy tale, and is supported by original songs and sound effects that will delight any youngster."

While we don't know any more about the publisher, we are kindly given a set of credits for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The story is told by Merrill E. Joels and a supporting cast. It features Glenn Osser and his orchestra. And the original music and story adaptation were done by Paul Davis.

And that gets us to the best part of today's post.

Merrill Joels (1909-2011), the record's narrator, had a long career in show business. He also, according to, appeared in one movie.

That movie? The Godfather.

In a non-speaking role, Joels portrays the tollbooth collector who takes Sonny Corleone's money and then hits the floor as the bullets start flying and — spoiler alert — Sonny is turned into Swiss cheese.

I'd love to know the story behind this. If you're only ever going to appear in one movie, for just a few seconds, The Godfather is about as good as it gets.

As so, without further ado, I give you the cinema career of Merrill Joels...

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Ephemera for Lunch #34:
Three Star Trek tales

This 33-1/3 Star Trek record, unlike the other vinyl covers being featured this week, is a personal relic that has survived from my 1970s childhood. We pulled it out of a box in the far reaches of the basement while cleaning out the house on Oak Crest Lane last year.

I had a few cool Trek things as a kid, including a model Enterprise1, and watched TOS reruns all the time. And we're still a Star Trek family here in 2016. Sarah is reading the novel Q-Space, by Greg Cox, as I type this post. Also, earlier this week I was checking out the wonder that is Star Trek Continues after hearing an interview with star Vic Mignogna on Coast to Coast AM.

This record was published in 1975 by Power Records, which was a label of Peter Pan Records. There were, I learned, eleven different Star Trek stories released via 23 different records from 1975 through 1979, as the franchise was relaunching with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I learned this from the fantastic website maintained by Curt Danhauser. It lists all of the records that were released, details the original stories and has tons of other great information. You should definitely check it out.

My record was the first one released. It contained the stories "Passage to Moauv," "In Vino Veritas" and "The Crier in the Emptiness." I can still remember listening to and enjoying them, especially the sound effects of the cat-like critter in "Passage to Moauv."

I do have a question/concern, however, about this record cover. If you look closely, you can see that the Enterprise is labeled the NCC 1311. What's up with that? Apparently, these releases suffered from accuracy problems in other areas, too. Some of the records were accompanied by comic books and, according to Danhauser's trivia page, the comic artists "depicted Uhura as a blond, Caucasian woman and Sulu as a black man in a uniform with a blue shirt, instead of his usual yellow shirt."

The back cover of this first record has Uhura correct, at least.

Since this is Star Trek we're talking about this, many others have written about these 1970s records. Here are some links to other sites you might be interested in checking out:

Other Star Trek-related Papergreat posts

1. I have a fleeting recollection of having the Mego Enterprise Playset, but that might represent a faulty memory on my part. The mind can play tricks on you.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Ephemera for Lunch #33:
The Magic Fish and Choo Choo

Switching gears after two days of Peter Pan Records, today's two children's record covers are from Scholastic Records, a division of Scholastic, in the early 1970s. Scholastic was much more generous with its credits than Peter Pan. Here's what we know about these two 33-1/3 rpm records:

The Magic Fish
  • 11:28 long
  • Published 1972
  • Narrated by Alan Mills
  • Music composed and conducted by Arthur Rubinstein
  • Produced by Robert Mack
  • Directed by Bernice Chardiet
  • Based on the 1967 text by Freya Littledale
  • Illustrations copyright 1967 by Scholastic Magazines Inc. (The artist is Ed Arno, according to the well-loved 1967 book, which gets 4.8 stars (out of 5.0) on Amazon with 39 reviews.)

Choo Choo The Runaway Engine
  • 10:58 long
  • Published 1974
  • Narrated by Alan Mills
  • Music composed, arranged and conducted by Albert Hague
  • Produced by Robert Mack
  • Directed by Bernice Chardiet
  • Story by Virginia Lee Burton, aka Virginia Lee Demetrios
  • Text and illustrations copyright 1937 by Virginia Lee Demetrios

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Ephemera for Lunch #32:
Little Toot (Ha, you said toot)

Here's another vintage cover from Peter Pan Records, which was discussed yesterday. This one is the tale of "Little Toot" on a 45-rpm record designated as F1210. The record has "Little Toot" on Side 1 and "Pancho the Circus Donkey" on Side 2, a little bonus that isn't noted anywhere in the packaging. Poor Pancho gets no respect.

The back cover lists dozens of available F-series Peter Pan Records, including Puff the Magic Dragon, Smokey the Bear, London Bridge, three volumes of Hits From Sesame Street, six volumes of Romper Room music, Learn About Good Habits and Good Manners, Learn About Science and Weather, and Hokey Pokey.

Mostly, though, I just wanted to post this record cover because Sarah laughs every time I say "toot."

Every. Time.

P.S. — Another title listed on the back cover is Puff and Toot.

Monday, February 15, 2016

In which Hilda calls Ada's inaction "very shameful indeed"

These days, if you're upset with someone or just feeling a bit cranky, you'll probably make your thoughts known via email, text message, Twitter or maybe an uncomfortably passive-aggressive Facebook post.

But, a century ago, folks didn't have all those convenient and indirect ways of making their displeasure known. What they did have were postcards. And they only cost a penny to send (about the equivalent of a quarter today).

Today's sepia-toned postcard of blurry trees — with its © C.R.G. 1911 credit on the front — was mailed in 1912 and addressed to Miss Ada Mann in Millersville, Pennsylvania.

The note, scrawled sideways on the reverse side, states:
900 Main St. Stroudsburg
Dear Ada - I think the way you treated Stroudsburg this summer was very shameful indeed. We missed you. How are you and little Ruth? Stroudsburg has been very pretty this summer and I have had my usual good time.
Love from Hilda Bruen [sp?]
Sept. 18
So, yes, it appears that Hilda is throwing some shade Ada's way for not making the approximately 110-mile trip from Millersville to Stroudsburg in the summer of 1912.

Maybe Ada was too obsessed with that year's four-way U.S. presidential race, between Democrat Woodrow Wilson, Republican William Howard Taft, Progressive Theodore Roosevelt and Socialist Eugene Debs, to be bothered with a trip to Stroudsburg. Imagine if there had been Twitter back then!

Ephemera for Lunch #31:
Tales with Alice and Peter

After being on hiatus since that Soviet Union rocket ship on October 2, "Ephemera for Lunch" — in which I pick a theme for the week and have a short post at noon (EST) each day — is back.

This week's theme is record covers (but not stuff like Houses of the Holy or Song to a Seagull).

For today, there are actually two related covers...

Peter Pan Records was one of the biggest publishers of records for children from the 1950s through 1980s. If you were a kid in America during that time, you probably had a Peter Pan record.1

These two 45-rpm records, Alice in Wonderland (PP1021) and Peter and the Wolf (PP1010), were part of the Sunshine Series in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As best as I can tell, there were about 100 records in the Sunshine Series (and that might be a low estimate), including such other titles as The Wizard Of Oz, On the Good Ship Lollipop, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Romper Room Visit with Mother Goose, and Casper the Friendly Ghost.2

As you might guess, what I like best about these two covers is the artwork. It would be great to discover and give credit to the artist(s).

Did you have these records? Or a different version of these two tales that Peter Pan published, with different cover art, over the years? Share your memories in the comments section or email me chrisottopa (at)

1. The company has changed hands several times and now has the much less inspired name of Inspired Studios.
2. A partial list can be found here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Wanted: Info on other mystery houses and gravity hills

Friday's post on the long-gone Mystery House in St. Augustine, Florida, has whet my appetite for memories and information about other obscure tourist spots and roadside attractions that have vanished from the United States, especially "mystery houses" with forced-angle perspectives and gravity hills.

Send your recollections and tips my way and we'll share them in future posts.

I'm not the only one curious to learn more. Tom from the Garage Sale Finds blog was reminded of this this post on his awesome blog, which includes The Haunted Shack in Buena Park, California, and the Magnetic House in Cascade, Colorado.

And Mom writes that she remembers a mystery house "in New Jersey that I went to when I was a teenager ... almost exactly the same as the description of the one in Florida ... but I've never been able to find anything about it on the internet ... like it never existed...but it did, because I went through it. Maybe it was in Delaware or Virginia. Never looked there. It was on the way to the shore, so I always associated it with NJ, but I went to the shore in Delaware and Virginia too once or twice. It was a funny place."

So share your memories. Use the comments section below or email me at chrisottopa (at)

Vintage Valentine: Making the rounds with your accordion today?

This vintage Valentine postcard features a young boy, all bundled up, standing outside his sweetheart's window and playing her a song on an accordion. The caption states: "Oh hear me sing of a motive fine, Will you be my Valentine."

I wouldn't recommend this approach today in the Northeast U.S. It's currently 11° F, with a wind-chill temperature of 1° F. Your accordion would probably freeze solid. Plus, where did you get that accordion, anyway?

This card was postmarked in 1926 and mailed with a red two-cent George Washington stamp to Fannie Wentz of Spring Grove, Pennsylvania.

The Valentine sender wasn't much of a wordsmith. His entire note states "To Fannie, From Russell." We can only hope that she didn't know more than one Russell.

To check out all of the previous Papergreat Valentine's Day posts, featuring a couple dozen dandy vintage cards, click on the Valentines label at the bottom of this post.