Saturday, February 27, 2016

Promoting "Damian and the Dragon" by Manning-Sanders and Papas

This promo for Ruth Manning-Sanders' Damian and the Dragon appears on the back cover of the dust jacket for the 1967 reprint of her Red Indian Folk and Fairy Tales, published by Oxford University Press.

Damian and the Dragon, a book of Greek folk-tales, wasn't published until 1965, five years after the first edition of Red Indian Folk and Fairy Tales, so it's pretty neat that Red Indian Folk and Fairy Tales went through so many printings that it could be used to tout a much-later book by the prolific author.

The promo includes one of the illustrations by William Papas, who did both black-and-white and color artwork for Damian and the Dragon. It was, I believe, his only collaboration with Manning-Sanders. Papas (1927-2000) had a diverse and fascinating career that saw him serve as an illustrator for newspapers, magazines and more than a dozen books. He is, I am sure, the only individual who has illustrated works by Ruth Manning-Sanders, C.S. Lewis and Pope John Paul I (1978's Illustrissimi).

I like Papas' illustration of the dragon and the Greek boy (presumably, Damian). It reminds me a little bit of, perhaps, the Disney version of The Jungle Book crossed with Pete's Dragon. (And both of those properties, coincidentally, have remakes hitting the theaters this year. We shall definitely not speak of the non-musical Pete's Dragon remake. I'm not feeling very brazzle-dazzle about it.)

Here is the full text of the back-cover copy promoting Damian and the Dragon...
'... Damian stood in front of the chair, and the dragon clawed him all over, but gently, not to hurt him. "My son," he said, "you seem a fine young fellow. If you will be my eyes and help me, I will care for you and love you."'

And Prince Damian promised to be the dragon's eyes and help him, and he only only outwitted the witch-maidens who kept the dragon's eyes in a box guarded by two imps, he also won himself a gold and silver mare, and taught the king his father a lesson, to try and control his temper in the future.

This is but one of the twenty-one modern fairy-tales from Greece, retold by Ruth Manning-Sanders in her inimitable, amusing, and lively style.
If you're intrigued, there's at least one very cheap copy of the book available on Amazon at this moment.

Woolworth Building at night
and George Homiak of Atlas, Pa.

This gorgeous, creased old postcard highlights New York City's Woolworth Building, framed by a moonlit night.1

The Woolworth Building was completed and opened in 1913. Here's the information from the back of this postcard, which was mailed in 1932:
"WOOLWORTH BUILDING, Cathedral of Commerce. One of the highest buildings in the world. Height 792 feet, 60 stories. Gothic architecture. 12,000 people occupy the building. There are 3,000 offices. Contains 24 high speed elevators that can travel at the rate of 750 feet per minute. The power plant generates sufficient electrical energy to supply the requirements of a city of 50,000 population."
The Woolworth Building was the tallest building in the world from 1913 to 1930, when it was surpassed by the Bank of Manhattan Trust building, which is now called The Trump Building.2 Getting back to the Woolworth Building, its height is currently not in the Top 100 worldwide, but it is tied for 56th-tallest in the United States.

This postcard was postmarked on February 15, 1932, and mailed to Mr. George Homiak of 351 East Saylor Street in Atlas, Pennsylvania. The message states:
Dear Family
Arrived home safely. everything was O.K. Came home 10:00 o'clock. Bye.
There's a great story to tell about George Homiak. He lived in Atlas, a neighborhood just northwest of the borough of Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania. And he owned a bar in Diamondtown, a neighborhood that was a stone's throw north of Mount Carmel and a wee bit east of Atlas, to use technical terms.

There's a website,, with some history and great photos of "The (In)Famous Homiak's Bar."3 The site's author writes:
"Located in Diamondtown, PA. Homiak's was THE place to go during the 40s & 50s. George Homiak was the self-proclaimed 'Mayor of Diamondtown'. He was certainly a character. The bar had all types of contraptions rigged up to 'mess' with the clientele. From air hoses hidden in the floor that blew up girl's skirts, to the Padded Cell, it was a pretty cool place."
I also found a newspaper article indicating that George Homiak played for Mount Carmel High School's 1927 state championship football team and then went on to play football at Georgetown University. It appears that Homiak also had a short-lived career as a boxer, getting knocked out in the second round of his only fight, in 1931. He served in the Army in World War II before returning to Mount Carmel to open his bar.

In a 2001 post on an message board, someone wrote:
"Ask your relation if they remember Homiak's bar in Mt Carmel. My grandfather, John Halkowicz, used to play in a band there in the 1940s in a prision cell. The owner, George Homiak (who I think is still living in his 90s?) had a cool sense of humor and played a lot of pranks."
Homiak died in 2003 at age 93. If you haven't already done so, check out the vintage photos of his much-loved bar.

1. Other posts related to the Woolworth Building and moonlit skies:
2. I honestly had no intention of making a Donald Trump reference in this post.
3. Homiak's was also known as "The Mirth Place of the Nation."

Friday, February 26, 2016

Ephemera for Lunch #40:
1906 Laurel train wreck

OK, this one is only a partial mystery...

The caption on the back of this family photograph states: "Train Wreck, Laurel, Delaware 1906."

I actually tried to write about this way back during the first year of Papergreat. But I botched it pretty badly and had to punt.

Now I'm back, and I'm asking for Reader Help, because I cannot find anything online about this 110-year-old accident in Laurel, a tiny town in southern Delaware. It might be that, fortunately, there were no deaths or major injuries, and thus it was just a small, barely-newsworthy footnote in United States train history. That would be the primary reason, I think, why I can't find anything about this wreck. But it would sure be nice to know some details and get some additional confirmation about this bridge mishap.

If you know or find anything, share it in the comments or email me at chrisottopa (at)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Postcrossing message of peace from Kazakhstan to Germany

I had the opportunity this week, through Postcrossing, to send a postcard to a German named Lothar1, who likes to collect outer space and science-fiction postcards.

Lothar has a Tumblr site featuring all the cards he has received with that theme, and I checked it out to make sure I wasn't sending him a duplicate.2 The Tumblr was filled with astronauts, aliens, Guardians of the Galaxy, Boba Fett, Spock, and more.

But one particular postcard on the Tumblr caught my eye, because it was both hopeful and sad.

It was sent to Germany on January 31, 2016, by Dmitriy and Irina, residents of sprawling, landlocked Kazakhstan.3 Their message states: "Hello. We live in space. It's much nicer than the Earth: no oil, no wars, no economic decline. Only beautiful stars and planets. Take care!"

The message is tongue-in-cheek, of course (unless Dmitriy and Irina are way further along in space and mail-sending technology than the rest of us.) But it's kind of sad (and a little Gene Roddenberry-esque) to think that living and journeying between the stars is the best or only route to peace and good will.

Many people don't believe the world's problems can be solved.4 Someone asked me on Facebook the other day if I had an opinion about whether we're screwed. He was mostly asking with regard to the climate and environment. But I got a little revved up and sent him a long reply. Here's an excerpt:
Are we screwed? Well, that’s a pretty weighty question. I think human civilization, and this is nothing new, continues to be selfish, wasteful, inefficient, callous toward nature and other lifeforms, and just generally a bit of a plague on the planet. We aren’t very good caretakers of each other or of the amazing resources we’ve been blessed with.

Are humans screwed? Well, despite such amazing achievements in medicine and technology, I think that life will actually get more difficult for the majority of humans, save for a privileged minority, moving forward. Overpopulation, pollution, wars over resources, climate change, easy access to weapons of mass destruction, wars over religion and more are going to make Life on Earth anything but Easy Street in the next century.

Are animals screwed? A lot of them are. Species will continue to disappear. To the detriment of all. Some losses will be felt stronger than others; if we continue mucking things up for the bees, we’re going to put much more pressure on the “Are Humans Screwed” portion of the equation.

Is “nature” screwed? That’s probably the most resilient aspect of the planet. It can adapt and overcome all of these wounds that we’re inflicting upon it. But nature has the one advantage that places it above everything else – time. It will shake off our plague, but maybe not for 200 or 1,000 or 10,000 years. And it doesn’t care about humans. So maybe our environment will evolve into something that works great for the trees and the bacteria and the koalas and the bees, but isn’t at all hospitable to humans. Tough cookies for us. ...

One silver lining I can leave you with: I think social media and the Internet are great in the sense that we have more power than ever to raise awareness and try to change attitudes about all of the aforementioned doom-ism. People can connect with a click and share ideas in ways that we never could before. If we can use this new Hive Mind for good, and not just for sharing cat GIFs, maybe we (and Earth) have a chance.

Pretty pessimistic, I know. Sorry about that. I wasn't actually intending to throw that in when I began this post. But it suddenly seemed to fit, and perhaps it will be useful one day to scholars and people who write biographies of ancient-times bloggers.5

Let's end on a fun note, and one that ties in with Postcrossing, outer space and international mail. The U.S. Postal Service this week issued an awesome new International Forever Stamp that features the moon. Check it out:

Go snap up some of those sweet stamps and send postcards of peace and good cheer to people you don't even know in Kazakhstan, Fiji, Nigeria, Iran, Russia and everywhere else around this planet. It's the only one we've got.

1. Not the one of the Hill People.
2. I sent him a card from groovy Penguin Science Fiction Postcards box set that I received at Christmas from Dan Herman.
3. Coincidentally, I did postcard exchanges with a trio of very nice Kazakhstanis in December, because I wanted to receive some stamps and postcards from that country, to add to my list.
4. He says, as the USA barrels toward President Donald Trump.
5. Since robots will do all the work, people will have to find something to occupy themselves, right?

Ephemera for Lunch #39:
Young woman and young man

Wife and husband?
Sister and brother?

Today's mystery real photo postcard gives us no clues (that I'm aware of) regarding the relationship between these two young individuals.

If you forced me to hazard a guess, I would say it's a studio portrait of a Mennonite couple on their wedding day. (Maybe it was part of the photographer's package deal, and they didn't have anyone to mail the postcard to.)

The particulars of the AZO stamp box on the back, with two triangle pointing upward and two pointing downward, set the date range for this photograph between 1910 and 1930. There is no writing on the back of the card.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

"Creepy" would like to you drop that expensive smoking habit

Click on image for a larger version

Here is another intriguing tidbit from that August 1970 issue of Creepy that I featured a few days ago, for the Crawling Hand advertisement.

Long before anti-smoking campaigns were widespread or en vogue, Warren Publishing featured this public-service announcement, in the form of a comic strip, in its magazines. In this case, it appears as a half-page message on the glossy back cover of issue #34.1

So how did they convince young, horror-comic-reading Baby Boomers to put out their butts? In this case, it was by appealing to their wallets, their physical fitness and their love of surfing.

The six-panel strip, by Hall of Fame artist Frank Frazetta, opens with a pair of young smokers admiring a Dave, a formerly "boardless hodad"2 who is now riding the waves with a great surfboard and an attractive girl.

They ask Dave how he paid for his custom surfboard when they barely have enough money to pay for their "smokes."

Dave offers to let them try the board out, but one of them admits that he's "too winded" from smoking to get out on the surfboard.

Which brings Dave to the point, as he stares out of the comic strip at the reader: "You'd do well to quit burning up your pocket money on cigarettes! I did and banked the cash instead ... You're looking at what it got me!"

And then super-buff Dave exits stage left with his gnarly surfboard and bikini-bound girlfriend.

The final panel gives the hard data on the economics of smoking for surfer wannabes:

  • 5 cigarettes a day cost $32 or more a year
  • 10 cigarettes a day cost $64 or more a year
  • 20 cigarettes a day cost $128 or more a year

(These days, of course, you can put a much higher price tag on the cost of smoking. A 2015 study by WalletHub pegged lost/squandered income at more than a million dollars over a lifetime. And this 2012 worksheet lets you see exactly how much you're spending on cigarettes and imagine how that money could be reallocated to other needs. Hint: You can get a lot more than a kickin' surfboard.)

So what spurred this anti-smoking activism within the pages of Creepy magazine? Fortunately, we can let former Warren Publishing founder and president James Warren (1930-present) speak for himself, as he did in a full-page "Editorial to The President of the United States and All the Members of Congress — on behalf of our readers, most of who are from 10 to 18 years old," which appeared in Eerie #29 in September 1970. Here's an excerpt of the full message (which is mostly an anti-war missive) from Warren:
"We are a magazine publishing company that is in business to entertain and enlighten our audience. We don't publish politically-oriented magazines (3 of our titles are comics-format), but we do get involved in the serious issues of our times.

"... Still another involvement for us is the running of our Anti-Cigarette Smoking ad.

"Created at our own expense, this half-page Comics-Format ad "EASY WAY TO A TUFF SURFBOARD!" (written by Archie Goodwin, drawn by Frank Frazetta) has been running in all Warren Magazines for the past 5 summers. It's not the kind of ad you'll see in any other publication in America. It doesn't help sell our magazines, but we run it because we believe the message is important (more important than advertising revenue) — and deserves exposure in our pages."

And, for that sentiment, I think we should say "hats off!" to Warren and the folks behind Creepy's ghouls and goblins, who were decades ahead of the curve in their mission to get America to stop smoking.

1. The other half of the back cover features an advertisement for Conan adventure books, each costing 75¢ or 95¢, from Captain Company.
2. Urban Dictionary says that hodad is a "50's term for a greaser, someone who hung out at the beach, but definitely not a surfer."

Ephemera for Lunch #38:
Young skier atop the mountain

Today's mystery photo features a young skier posing atop the hill that he or she will, presumably, soon be skiing down. The photo is slightly less than 3½ inches wide. As usual, we have no identifying information or date on the front or back. And very few clues within the photo itself.

In addition to the skier, we have a wooden structure and a wooden sign (with nothing on it, unfortunately). Notice also, to the far left, A Person Not Fully Appearing In This Photo.

Beyond that, the skier might be holding a snowball and also appears to have been hit in the torso by a snowball.


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ephemera for Lunch #37:
Toddler in a rocking chair

As we continue with Mystery Photos Week on "Ephemera for Lunch," here's a real photo postcard of a young girl sitting outside in a wicker rocking chair.1

The postcard, never used, dates to between 1924 and 1949 based upon the AZO stamp box on the back, which has four squares and "PLACE STAMP HERE" as the text in the middle. I tend to think this is from the earlier end of that range of years. But that's just a hunch. The reality of the mystery is that this girl, if she's still alive, could be in anywhere from her late 60s to her mid 90s today. And the odds that she reads this blog are about the same as the odds that I'll win Wednesday's Powerball drawing.2

Of course, the reason we have odds is that there's always some chance of something happening. (So, yes, I'm telling you there's a chance, Lloyd. Black swan events do happen.)

All of these things are still technically possible in 2016:

  • Sylvester Stallone could win an Oscar
  • Philadelphia Phillies could win the World Series
  • Vladimir Putin could mail me a postcard
  • Donald Trump could be elected President of the United States
  • Electoral College could end in a 269-269 tie in November
  • Aliens could make contact with the citizens of Earth
  • I could win Powerball
  • The girl on this postcard could contact me at chrisottopa (at)

Of those possibilities, the most likely, by far, is Stallone winning an Oscar, and who would have considered that possible 12 months ago? Which is a good lesson in never saying never.

The second most likely from that list is ... well, let's not speak of that, and let's just hope that Putin is stamping his Hello Kitty postcard to me as we speak.

1. Want more real photo postcards? Here's a good place to start.
2. The odds of winning Powerball's grand prize are precisely 1 in 292,201,338.

Sweet little find for your friendly neighborhood ephemera blogger

Always on the lookout for a Bulk Ephemera Bargain, I hit the jackpot (relatively speaking) recently at an antiques store in Columbia, Pennsylvania.

While browsing through old furniture, collectibles, tools, trinkets and more, I came across a box — slightly smaller than, say, the box that held Gwyneth Paltrow's head — filled with hundreds of postcards.

The tag read "Box of PostCards $5.00."

My excited reaction, in pop-culture terms, was a cross between wide-eyed Daffy Duck in the cave of treasures and the Loki "Oh, yes" GIF.

So I snapped that box up faster than you can say "Wow, Chris, could you be more of a loser?"1

I've only been through a fraction of the box so far. There are easily 500 postcards, including a puffin postcard that I gifted to Sarah.2

While most of the cards and from the latter half of the 20th century, there's some really cool stuff in this batch. It's all the more reason I'm hoping to do another Postcard Blogathon in the late winter or early spring. Here's a sampling of some of the cool cards...

1. Speaking of geek loserdom, I was pretty proud of this weekend tweet, too. (And, yes, I know this whole post is wrecking my dating prospects.)

2. Sarah likes Puffin Stuff. Get it? PuffinStuff. GET IT?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Artsy Instagrams of penguins at Lehigh Valley Zoo

Sarah and took advantage of the slightly warm weather yesterday to take a trip to the Lehigh Valley Zoo. We checked out the owls, ravens, a chubby raccoon, a chubby porcupine, camels, an otter, emus, reptiles, goats and more.

And we spent a lot of time with the African penguins, who were fed while we were there.

Here are some Instagram snapshots of the little waddlers. (The third photo is the only #nofilter photo.)

Ephemera for Lunch #36:
A woman and an elephant

This week's "Ephemera for Lunch" theme will be the ever-popular category of Mystery Photos...

This is a found photo with absolutely no helpful information. There's nary a word or a date stamp on the front or back.

So all we know if that it's a woman standing and smiling in front of what might or might not be a real, living elephant. At first glance, I thought the elephant was real and that this snapshot was taken at a zoo. Now I'm not so sure.

If it's a statue or sculpture, that might make this location a little easier to identify, as the world can't have too many lifelike elephant sculptures, right?

Please share your thoughts on this pressing issue in the comments.

And what do we think about the style of the woman's clothing? Late 1960s? Early 1970s?

By the way, I believe this is the first Papergreat Pachyderm Post since the sad tale of Dondi in June 2011.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Your own Thing: "The Crawling Hand" from Captain Company

For those times when you could use an extra hand...

This advertisement is featured in the August 1970 issue of Creepy, a magazine from Warren Publishing1 that featured serialized horror comics. (It was published as a newsstand magazine to skirt the oversight of the Comics Code Authority.)

This ad certainly fits in with the magazine's horror theme. The hand cost $4.95, plus 50 cents shipping, which is the equivalent of about $34 today. It was sold by Captain Company, based in New York City, which also hawked 8 mm film for such titles as The Blob, War of the Colossal Beast and It Came from Outer Space in the full-page ad.

The copy states:
"TURN ON the switch the watch! THE HAND comes to life! THE FINGERS flex as the hand starts to walk across the room. The large ring on the third finger sheds a light of erie [sic] horror over the room. The silent life-like plastic hand, made of latex rubber with a bandaged wrist, stalks across the room and only YOU know where it came from."

I discovered a relevant forum that was started in 2007 on the The Classic Horror Film Board. The original poster asks: "So, what cool stuff did you order through Captain Company, out of the old Warren magazines? I got many of the Warren back issues, some great iron-on transfers, books, posters, too many things to name. And, do you still have any of that stuff?"

The first response, and the best one for our discussion, states:
"The one and only item I ever ordered from Captain Company was a doozy — the disembodied 'crawling' hand, complete with jeweled ring! I'd looked at that thing many, many times in the mags and finally begged my folks to buy me one. I wasn't disappointed! It came in a box, was a mechanized wonder with a battery compartment in the bloody stump of a wrist, and actually crawled across the floor when you flicked a hidden switch. Granted, it made a whirring sound, but hey, this was 1969! The outside of the hand was a kind of flesh-colored rubber that eventually deteriorated with age. Somewhere, I still have the skeletal structure!"

You should check out the forum for the other responses and also to see a vintage photo of The Crawling Hand packaging.

1. Warren Publishing was perhaps best-known for Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.