Saturday, September 10, 2016

Postcrossing card: Qingkou Hani ethnic village

One of my favorite aspects of Postcrossing is learning about people, places, foods, folklore and other things that I had never heard of before. This beautiful postcard came to me from Stella, one of 34 million residents in the metropolitan region of Shanghai, China, and it shows one of the villages belonging to the Hani people, an ethnic group that numbers fewer than 800,000 worldwide (most of them being in southern China).

The Hani people, who have their own language and a cultural history that dates back more than 1,200 years, practice terraced rice cultivation, which is what we can see in the foreground of this postcard.

The back of this postcard describes the site as the "Qingkou Hani Ecological Village," but I could only find one Google reference for that specific site name. The more common name for the location appears to be "Qingkou Hani ethnic village."

Here are some tidbits about the village:

  • It is located 6 kilometers south of a town called Xinjie in Yuanyang County, Honghe Prefecture, Yunnan province, China.
  • The website Yunnan Adventure Travel describes the village thusly:
    "Qingkou is a typical Hani Village, which consists of 150 families and has a population of 800 of Hani ethnic minority. This Hani village is mainly presents the common characteristics of the Hani Terraced Fields culture. It maintain an integrated ecosystem among the forest, water system, villages and terraced field. ... The village is shrouded in luxuriant forests where you can here the humming birds and cicadas in summer and experience the primitiveness. Walking around the village along the stone path, you can see the change of time as well as the local unchanged life on magnificent terrace fields. The earth-made houses on the both side of path are well ranked, whose housetop looks like a big mushroom. These houses are called mushroom houses, which are the traditional residences of Hani people. They are comprised of earth-made walls, bamboo or wood frameworks and straw housetops."
  • A spring named called Bai Long Quan (White Dragon Spring) serves as the main water resource for Qingkou, according to Top China Travel. The site also further describes the "mushroom" houses: "The special structure of it make the inside warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The roof of this house will be designed into 4 slopes. Each floor of this house may have its unique function. The 1st floor will be used for housing cattle and horses. The middle floor is designed for fire prevention measure. And during the harvest season, the roof can use for drying food."

To learn more about the Hani people (and the related Akha people), especially from official academic research, this page on Ethnic China is a great jumping-off point.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The joys of walking & exploring
(even if they are vicarious joys)

One of my #FridayReads is A Walk Around the Snickelways of York.1 The illustrated guide, written by Mark W. Jones, doesn't detail the Pennsylvania city that I have lived near for 18 of the past 22 years, but instead offers a fascinating historic tour of the 1,945-year-old English walled city that began its life as Eboracum.

Snickelways2, first published in 1983, has gone through at least nine editions over the years. I'm reading the 1984 second edition. So, not only am I reading a book about a place that I can't walk around, but I'm reading about it as it existed 30-plus years ago. Some of the paths and alleys and secrets described in the book have, I'm sure, been lost in the name of "progress." But I like that. The book serves as both a vicarious tour and a time capsule of an ancient English city as it was in the 1980s.

I like books about walking tours.3 With the good ones, I can transport myself to a different world. It's like having one of those Star Trek transporters, but for your mind. OK, enough with the similes...

I picked up the colorful set of 1970s England walking guides pictured at the top of this post at the York Emporium earlier this year, and I can't wait to dive into those, too. The Diamond Geezer blog describes the guides and their history, which dates to the 1930s, in this 2014 blog post. Later, Geezer tries one of the walks from the 1970s and finds, to no one's surprise, that things are no longer as they once were. Which is why books like this are all the more valuable. (The fact that they're so aesthetically pleasing doesn't hurt, either.)

Philosophically related posts

And three more related books, one old and two new...
  • The London Nobody Knows, by Geoffrey Fletcher (first published 1962)
  • A History of the World in 500 Walks, by Sarah Baxter
  • Landmarks, by Robert Macfarlane

1. I haven't had a ton of free time for leisure reading lately, but my other #FridayReads include Rare Books Uncovered: True Stories of Fantastic Finds in Unlikely Places by Rebecca Rego Barry, Doctor Strange #11 and I'm giving Gwenpool a try.
2. Snickelways is a fabulous term coined by the book's author. It is "a portmanteau of the words snicket, meaning a passageway between walls or fences, ginnel, a narrow passageway between or through buildings, and alleyway, a narrow street or lane."
3. Related: The Last Great Walk: The True Story of a 1909 Walk from New York to San Francisco, and Why it Matters Today by Wayne Curtis was a gift last Christmas that I'm still working my way toward on my hefty to-read list.

Non-immediate family member and friend in damaged old photo

We've explored the idea of Water-Stained Works of Art in the realm of postcards quite a bit.1 Today, I present an old photograph — broken, chipped, water-stained and spotted — that I believe still holds aesthetic value. I find this much more interesting than I would an utterly pristine piece of ephemera from 120 years ago. (Though that might also speak to my spot in the collector/appreciator food chain. I'm not the guy buying or even touching high-end ephemera. But I like my spot on the chain.)

At its widest point, this piece of cardboard with an oval photo mounted on it measures 4 inches wide.

The scrawled notes on the back are difficult to decipher. The person on the right could be Marjorie Simmons, a first cousin of my great-grandmother, Greta Chandler Adams.2 And the person on the left is a "friend," possibly named Alice Poole.

I wonder how they spent their childhood days?

1. Some posts in this category:
2. A potential Marjorie Simmons was also mentioned in this July post.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

"Cradle Roll Class of a One Room Sunday School"

Tucked away inside Volume 1 of 1929's The New Human Interest Library1, I found this single page, which had been separated from a smaller, unknown book. It's a photograph labeled "Cradle Roll Class of a One Room Sunday School." A cradle roll is a list of the young children and infants of a church's members. And, as we see in this case, it could also be used to describe the youngest class at a Sunday school.

It would be nice to figure out what book this page originally came from. But I fear that's a long shot. Neither a Google reverse image search nor a search for the specific text of the photo caption turned up any useful leads.

The page itself measures 7⅛ inches by 4⅞ inches, in case that fact ever proves useful down the road.

Here's a closer look at some of the children and the size of the page as it compares to the book it was inside.

1. The New Human Interest Library is, to my surprise, a jaw-droppingly amazing book, especially with regard to its illustrations. I'm going to devote a month or more down the road to all the great stuff in its 400-odd pages. To pique your interest further, I can tell you that the table of contents includes sections on drawing, clay modeling, bookmaking, woodworking, 4-H clubs, art education, children's reading, music education and "conquering self-importance."

For the historical record
While I was writing this post, it was announced that Paul Thomas Anderson's next film, set for a late 2017 release, will star Daniel Day-Lewis and will be set in the 1950s London fashion scene. (Insert your There Will Be Pants joke here.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Postcard: Now-vanished motor court with amazing chimney

This linen postcard, mailed in 1947, features the Grande Vista Motor Court and Gardens, which was located six miles south of St. Joseph, Michigan, on U.S. 12.1 The pre-printed text on the back of the card states: "At GRANDE VISTA MOTOR COURT, you will find cleanliness the keynote. Everything is spic and span at all times so you may thoroughly enjoy your stay midst restful surroundings and healthy environment."

The motor court has an interesting history. It was constructed and operated by a nearby religious community called The Israelite House of David (also known as The House of David or, presently, Mary's City of David).2

The lodge/resort — "motor court" was perhaps too modest of a title — cost $150,000 to construct in 1935 and featured a theater, ballroom, restaurant, bar, "plush accommodations" and gasoline station. The stone chimney that serves as the centerpiece of the postcard image was three stories high.

The chimney came down about 16 years ago, according to a July 2000 article in The Herald-Palladium headlined "Spectacular Grande Vista chimney to be demolished." Here's an excerpt of that piece by William F. Ast III:
STEVENSVILLE -- From a distance, the three-story fireplace chimney at the dilapidated Grande Vista East Court building is handsome enough, if not spectacular.

Seen up close, the structure can make one's jaw drop. The chimney, built by the House of David, is made up enormous crystals and geodes and large chunks of petrified wood.

The chimney, along with the run-down and abandoned wood building it once served, is about to disappear into the annals of history. The building is due to be destroyed in a controlled burn by the Tri-Unit Fire Department, and the chimney will be demolished.

The building is "50 years beyond redemption," Lincoln Township Supervisor Kevin Gillette said. "The chimney itself won't be saved. There's no way to save the chimney apart from the structure."

The main building on the west side of the complex burned decades ago, and the building on the east side hasn't been used in decades, Gillette said.

"It's a shame it got to this point," Gillette said. But the only way the chimney could be salvaged would be to reassemble the stones once they are knocked down, he said.
The rest of the article delves into the history of the motor court and the construction of the mighty chimney.

The site of the former Grande Vista Motor Court and Gardens is in the process of returning to wilderness, according to an eyewitness, though some artifacts remain.

To wrap things up, the postcard was postmarked in July 1947 and mailed to a woman at the Ferrara Candy Company in Chicago. The note states:
Dear Pauline:
We read that it has been hot in town. It's been cool every day here except last Saturday, but we are having a good time. Regards from Donald & Sue.

1. U.S. 12 runs from Washington state to Detroit, but has long since been replaced by newer highways and routes. There is a US-12 Heritage Trail running for about 200 miles in Michigan.
2. If you are interested in this topic, you might want to check out a 1994 article titled "The Last Days of the House of David" by Adam Langer. There's also a 1970 Sports Illustrated article by Jerry Kirshenbaum about the hairiest baseball team of all-time — sports were a major part of the House of David's philosophy.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

3 cool things: The Story of Siegfried (published 1931)

For tonight's installment of "They Don't Make Books Like They Used To," I present the 1931 edition of The Story of Siegfried, as published by Charles Scribner's Sons of New York and London.1 This edition was written by James Baldwin (originally in 1910) and features some very early work by Peter Hurd (1904-1984), who studied under N.C. Wyeth and eventually married into the family.

The cover, featuring a paste-down illustration of Siegfried riding a rainbow-maned horse, is the first cool thing about the book. This awesome horse precedes Rainbow Brite by many decades.2

The second cool thing is this old bookplate on the inside front cover...

I have no idea who Henry Stern Good was, but he had excellent taste in bookplates.

Finally, there is the endpapers illustration3, which is presumably also by Hurd. It's too large for the scanner, so I had to snap a photograph. Here it is, in all its glory...

This would appear to show Thor and his flying chariot, led by the goats Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr. I have no idea why Thor's flying-goat chariot hasn't yet been portrayed in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Possibly because it would cause a riot of everyone wanting their own flying-goat chariot, which is understandable.

1. Siegfried in a nutshell: Better known as Sigurd or Sigurðr, he's a key figure in Norse mythology. His father fought Odin (and lost) before he was born. Siegfried served as a stable boy to kings, eventually getting Grani as his own steed and then going off on his own series of adventures that involve a dragon, a magic ring, hoarded gold, the ability to converse with birds, dire prophecies, the shieldmaiden Brynhildr, and enough fighting between various combinations of lovers to fill an entire season of Dynasty. And that's just one version of his tale.
2. Sarah and I nicknamed Sophia on The Walking Dead "Rainbow Brite," even though her T-shirt did not, technically, feature any horses or trademarked characters.
3. Other Papergreat posts feature awesome endpaper illustrations:

Postcard: Great-grandmother Greta on the Wiener Riesenrad

My great-grandmother Greta sent this postcard, dated and postmarked May 21, 1958, to her two grandchildren back home in Pennsylvania.1 There is a special Munich, Germany, postmark with the phrase "Europa blüht auf," which celebrates Europe (and specifically its economy, I think) once again thriving or flourishing in the years after World War II.

Vienna, Austria's 212-foot Wiener Riesenrad was built in 1897, repaired after being severely damaged during World War II and featured prominently in the 1949 film The Third Man.2 At one time it was owned by a Jewish man, Eduard Steiner, who was taken by the Nazis and killed at Auschwitz.

One of the earliest Ferris wheels ever built, Wiener Riesenrad was the tallest of its kind in the world from 1920 until 1985. There are now a couple dozen wheels ahead of it on the height list. (I'll keep my feet on the ground, thanks.)

Here's my best attempt at deciphering my great-grandmother's note on the back of the postcard:
May 21, 1958
I went up in this the other night with a few of the Tour. It is the largest one in the world. It moved slowly & was [?]. The view of the city, so pretty. Went to "Vienna By Night" Tour & it took us there & to 4 cafes. Last one long show & good! Got home at 2AM. Awake 7:30. Bought a camera here in Germany. Love, Grandma.

1. Also in May 1958, Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo was released in theaters across the United States.
2. Another image of the Wiener Riesenrad is featured in this 2013 post.