Friday, November 4, 2016

A happy ending as an old, inscribed book returns home


As someone who tries, on occasion, to reunite old books with their rightful owners, this is as good as it gets.

The August post "She was proud of her father, the bookseller" featured a 1924 edition of A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony that included multiple inscriptions, including some by Heath McCawley.

Diana Thebaud Nicholson, who wrote the obituary for Heath's sister, Mary Yorke McCawley, first got in touch via email in late September. She also knew the girls' father, and wrote:
"E.S. McCawley was my mother’s older brother and one of the world’s delightful people. He graduated from USNA Annapolis, where he was my father’s roommate, in the Class of 1913. He was a prolific and gifted writer of letters and poems to mark any — or no — occasion, and had a highly tuned sense of humor. I remember frequent visits to the bookstore in Villanova, which no doubt contributed to my own love of books."
Diana also confirmed that Heath McCawley — they call her "Heathie" — is alive and living in southeastern Pennsylvania. That spurred some correspondence with her niece, Sally. As a result, I was able to mail the book to Sally, and she was able to share it with Heath.

This is the wonderful piece that Sally wrote about the experience and has kindly allowed me to share here on Papergreat:
A small, book sized package came in the mail Saturday. It was addressed to me with a York, PA return address. York, PA?
I didn’t remember ordering anything from York, PA.
Who would have sent me something from York, PA?
The only person I know who lives in York, PA is my cousin, Rob Parker. Why would he be sending me a package?

The return address only said Otto with a street address I didn’t recognize. That didn’t help. I don’t know anyone named Otto so I left the yellowish package on the table and went for a walk.

While walking I remembered the emails from last week about a book that had probably belonged to my aunts. Perhaps this odd package was the book in question.

I needed sharp scissors to start removing clear tape that had been carefully wrapped around the yellow manila envelope. The envelope itself had been folded over sideways and from the bottom to surround the contents in a solid, protective shield. As I poked with the points of the scissors to get create a small opening in the tape. My fingers held a tight grip as I ripped and pulled the tape hoping whatever was inside could withstand such abuse. When the outer layer was finally cut away and removed the little green book was fully clothed in bubble wrap held together with small strips of regular scotch of tape.

Exhausted from the struggle with the tape and envelope I decided to leave the final unveiling until my aunt and I could do it together.

Mr. Otto had pieced together family information by searching obituaries on the internet. He learned my grandfather had owned a book store in Haverford, PA and located both of my aunts. He knew one had died and hoped the other was still living so he could return the book he’d emailed about to her.

Apparently Mr. Otto collects old books. I guess that’s a hobby. His joy in life seems to be reuniting original owners with the books he collects. Clues left in the written inscriptions on the inside front cover and/or stamps placed in the inside back cover help him. If I’d taken the time to read his blog, a link to which he included in his email, I would have understood more about the process. I read it after I received and delivered the book in question to my 90 year old aunt in Villanova, PA.

In order to get in touch with me Mr. Otto, the book sleuth, ferreted out my cousin Diana who lives in Montreal, Canada via her website. How he connected those dots to her is a mystery. Diana directed him to me in Pennsylvania because about 13 years ago I took over my mother’s job of keeping track of family information.

I drove to my aunt’s where we opened the package together. It was fun to unravel the mystery together. On its voyage this 90 year old, little green book with tenderly turned pages and worn binding had traveled from Ithan to Virginia to York and finally back to Villanova. Ithan became a part of Villanova when postal zip codes were invented. My aunt has lived all 90 years in the same location. She was born in the house next door. Her parents gave their extra land to my aunt and uncle when they were married in 1948 where they built a house that has served many generations.

My aunt was delighted to uncover the 1924 edition of A Little Maid of Massachusetts Colony by Alice Turner Curtis. She touched the cover carefully, her thin skin and long fingers caressing an old friend. Her smile told me she had adored reading these stories as a child. She said there had been a complete series of books with stories of all the colonies and she’d owned all of them. She said the books, though written for girls, were a good source of history and wondered if the rest of the series is available! She’d like to share these favorites of hers with her great-granddaughters.

The inscription on the inside front cover reads Mary Yorke McCawley Christmas 1926 from Dady. We both laughed about the spelling of Dady. Mary Yorke McCawley, also my aunt, was the oldest of my father’s siblings.
Who had written in the book?
Her mother?
Her father?
Her sister?
Mary at age 9 and her parents would have known how to spell Daddy correctly. My aunt laughed and decided it must have been her mother who wrote the inscription quickly on Christmas eve. At the bottom of the same page ‘and Heath McCawley’ was penned with a different nib. Clearly this was done years later as Heath, my 90 year old aunt, was born in April 1926 and hadn’t yet learned to write by Christmas that year! The penmanship is indicative of a well-trained student from the Shipley School.
Her sister must have relinquished the books to her younger sister when she outgrew them.
At the top of the page it’s signed by John Brake of Virginia with the date of 1976 and in pencil the price of $12.00 is marked. My aunt thought the book must have cost at least that when brand new and found it amazing that a used book of this nature would be worth $12 fifty years later.
Now that I’ve gone back and read Chris Otto’s blog and checked the data he collected from obituaries and I did some searching of my own. I found a book my uncle had published in 1965 called Shotguns and Shooting. He worked for Remington Arms so it makes sense he would write about guns. The dealer says it’s in good condition.

This little green book has opened up more insight into the past. My aunt said her father’s book store in Haverford (the building still exists on Station Road) is where his mother lived in an apartment above the store. Apparently she lived many other places including Paris, New York and California. My aunt said she bought and sold houses the way some people change our clothes, seasonally. She’d been the only surviving daughter of Edmund Smith of the Pennsylvania Railroad who built Stoneleigh in Villanova, a home that has only been owned by three families. The last of the three, The Haas family, recently donated the house and estate to the Natural Lands Trust.

When I asked my aunt about what happened to the money left to my great grandmother my aunt said she spent most of it. She bought and sold houses for herself and her children. She educated her grandchildren. She travelled with her youngest daughter who married her son’s roommate from Annapolis. Her son-in-law became an Admiral in the Navy. Her son was a Commander. The Admiral and his wife were married for 19 years before their daughter Diana (Montreal) was born in 1939.

Coincidentally, my aunt mentioned a story about the Titanic.
Had I ever heard the story? she asked.
No, I said.
A number of years ago my aunt received a letter from a Scottish man. While cleaning out the attic he’d found old letters from his sister who had come to the United States on the Titanic. Yes, she’d been saved from the disaster and had written back to her family in Scotland about her life in the United States. The letters ended abruptly and the Scottish man wanted to know if my aunt knew anything about his sister after she left Pennsylvania. He knew she had gone to New Jersey, but that was all. He shared the letters with my aunt who said the Scottish woman described the buildings, roads and surroundings with impeccable detail, even mentioning the apartment over the book store in Haverford where she had lived. My aunt said the specifics in the letters could only have been written by a person who had spent time in the urban and suburban areas around Philadelphia, including Haverford. So this was no hoax. In fact, my aunt thinks the Scottish lady may have worked for and/or lived with my great grandmother. We wondered if, perhaps, this Scottish woman could have been a nanny to our cousin, Diana, who is in my aunt’s generation, but only four years older than I. The mysterious Scottish woman may have travelled with Diana, her parents and my great grandmother.

Thank you, Mr. Christopher Otto not only for reaching out to us and sending us the little green book but also for opening up another line of dialog with my dearest aunt.
* * *
Some final notes:

1. With reference to over-wrapping and over-taping packages, I am guilty as charged.

2. With reference to collecting old books as a hobby, I am guilty as charged.

3. Here is the information on the entirety of the "A Little Maid" series by Alice Turner Curtis, as mentioned by Heathie. There were two dozen of them published between 1913 and 1937.

4. Diana Thebaud Nicholson, who was copied on Sally's email, adds the following information and clarifications, which I think are important to include:
The second story that Sally relates is, I am afraid, not as accurate as Heathie might have been some years ago. In fact, it sounds more like my paternal grandmother who believed there was no point in telling a story unless you made it a good one. Afraid there were no vivid descriptions of the bookstore, etc. and I cannot remember ever hearing that my grandmother lived in an apartment upstairs. She did, however live near-by at the Mermont (sp?) Apartments as did Mum and I in, I think, 1942-3.

I was quite deeply involved in the Clear Cameron (the Titanic survivor) story and corresponded with her nephew, Ted Dowling, for some time.
The initial enquiry about a possible connection came through another of our cousins, Pauline York McGrath via some sailing friends. Pauline sent it on to me because I had inherited scrapbooks and diaries of my mother’s.

Clear did indeed work as a lady’s maid for Sally’s great grandmother, Mary Belle Smith McCawley. Sally’s grandfather was already at Annapolis (in fact he and my father graduated in 1913 and went to sea) and the elder daughter, my Aunt Betty (York) was engaged and very involved in social events. The ‘baby of the family’ (my mother), eight years younger, had come home from boarding school to keep her newly widowed mother company and Clear seemed to have quite liked her. (She wasn’t too keen on Aunt Betty!)

There was no explanation of why Clear left as she seemed to have been quite happy. However, the mystery was later solved; she left for the best of reasons – to get married.

“Clear had married in Philadelphia on 29 April 1914 to Ernest William Francis, an English butler over a decade her junior. Having never enjoyed her experience much in America, Clear and her husband left the USA in December 1914 aboard the Baltic, arriving in Liverpool on New Year's day. The couple settled in Surrey, living in Worcester Park for many years, but had no children. It is not certain if Clear and Nellie Walcroft maintained contact.” — https://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/titanic-survivor/clear-cameron.html

So, no, she never looked after me or traveled with any of us. In fact, she had returned to England more than 25 years before I was born.

Ted Dowling and his wife privately published a charming little book, Clear to America by Titanic and Beyond, which was an annotated collection of her letters.

Sadly, they both died without ever finding out what happened to Clear, as is explained in the article linked above.

I just came across this which wraps up the whole story quite neatly... A Titanic Survivor's Story in Haverford: One woman's journey from London to the East Coast was more than she bargained for. Her legacy remains on the Main Line.

Update: Morse-code mystery on vintage postcard


Tagged to the bottom of my final Vintage Hallowe'en Postcard post earlier this week was the revelation that the century-old postcard had a message that appeared to be in Morse code, which is certainly a little unusual.

I took a half-hearted stab at decoding it, made little progress and gave up.

For Step 2, Sarah and I combined our super-sleuth resources to begin decoding this very old message to George Pritchard of South Whitley, Indiana.

Sarah set herself up with the Morse code chart, I carefully read her the dots and dashes, and we came up with ... this:
HETTIHIWHIUWASMIRHIMIRGEMINGHASMEDHIUHANDITIREITSAIISEENTHEITHESSISEHIWISETIMZEMSISA
Hmmmm.

There are words in there, but are they significant or coincidence?
HETTIHIWHIU WAS MIR HIM IRGEMING HAS MEDHIUH AND IT IREITSAI I SEEN THE ITHESSISEHI WISE TIMZEMSISA
We figured there were several possibilities for this result. Among them:
  • It was just gibberish to begin with.
  • The writer was not skilled in Morse code and/or English.
  • Sarah and I did a poor job decoding old pencil marks.
  • The message is not in English.
  • There's a double code. Perhaps the Morse code reveals a cryptogram.

We let it sit for a day. One thing that gnawed at me were those first five letters: HETTI. It struck me that those dots and dashes, as the first "word" on a postcard message, should be HELLO. So why was it off? Did the writer mess up? Did we translate incorrectly? Or ... what if we were using the wrong key?

As it turns out, there were different versions of Morse code 100 years ago.

Sarah and I had used International Morse Code (below, left) for our translation. It's been in existence since 1848 and has been the most-used code, especially since it was officially made the international standard for wireless operators in 1912. But there was also American Morse code (below, right), which was the version that was first created by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail in the 1840s. And this code didn't just go away after the wireless standard became International Morse Code. According to Wikipedia: "American Morse remained the standard for U.S. landline telegraph companies, including the dominant company, Western Union, in part because the original code, with fewer dashes, could be sent about 5% faster than International Morse. American Morse also was commonly used for domestic radio transmissions on the Great Lakes, and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts."


Excited about this discovery, Sarah and I once again set about decoding the postcard, this time using American Morse Code as the key.

Success!

Well ... partial success.

Here's the first half of the translation:
HELLO.
HOW YOU WAS?
IF YOU ARE AFRAID OF GETTING HARMED
But then things get weird again in the second half of the message:
YOU SANDO LIKE ILCAYC ON LHE OLHER CIDE
HOW ICE TOM 7 E?
RICA
It's not a huge mystery, of course. We think the writer is telling George to read the front of the postcard if he wants to learn how to avoid harm. (The Halloween postcard explains that a ring of pumpkin seeds will keep the witches and goblins away.) It's pretty clear the writer (Rica?) is saying something along the lines of "You should look on the other side."

Sarah and I learned that translating the written form of American Morse, which has additional intentional spaces and two different forms of a long dash, is more difficult than translating the International version. So it's likely that our troubles with the translation stem from a combination of translator error and, most likely, an original writer who was not 100 percent skilled in spelling, grammar and/or his or her own use of American Morse.

But I think we have the gist of the message now. And we will go back and fine-tune our guesses as to what Rica (?) intended for this secret Halloween message from a century ago.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Comic-book ad scams of the 1980s: Mailing List Protection Agent


It's not that long since we finished up the 11-part Summer Comics Nostalgia series, but I can't resist diving back into old comics and their vintage advertisements. They're just too cool, even when they're perhaps fraudulent. (Or maybe because of that.) The full-page advertisement shown above is from the June 1984 issue of Marvel's "The Thing."1

The advertisement probably has more words, in tiny type, than the entire story within the pages of the comic book.2 (By my very rough estimate, there are about 1,500 words there.) The headline entices you with:

Make Up TO $275.00 or More
Extra Per Week As A
"MAILING LIST
PROTECTION AGENT"!

And to earn that kind of money — $275 a week then was the equivalent of a spiffy $632 a week today — all you had to do was mail $25 (the equivalent of $57) to Miami, Florida. Sounds too good to be true, right? Right??

Here are some excerpts from the long-winded advertisement:

  • This fabulous way for you to make money takes very little time and virtually no effort. ... What could be better?
  • We are the U.S. LIST PROTECTION COMPANY and we protect mailing list owners from having their valuable list of customers stolen or used without authorization. ... This is a very important service for a mailing list owner to have. He has to protect his mailing list because in many cases, it cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars to compile. If a mailing list was stolen and left undetected, it could very well put the list owner out of business.
  • You, as a Mailing List Protection Agent will have your address and a code name used as a decoy. For example, if your name is Robert Smith, you may give yourself the code name of James Smith.3
  • When your package of coded dated mail arrives at our office, we will count the number of pieces of mail in the package and send you a check the same day ... a payment of 30¢ for each coded dated piece of mail.
  • Examples: Suppose various packages contained the following quantities of coded dated mail on different occasions. ... Group Three contains 917 pieces in the package you forwarded us — WE PAY YOU $275.10 plus the postage money you spent to send us the package!
  • In order to get officially registered as a Mailing Protection Agent, you must pay a one time fee as indicated on the LIFETIME REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE. This fee covers all the computer costs of getting your code name and address integrated into the system.4
  • The amount of openings we have for Mailing List Security Agents is severely limited.
  • P.S. Please do not request that we register you without payment and later deduct it from your first check. We do not operate in such a manner because there are too many people willing to pay in advance.

So, to summarize: You have to pay $25 up front. You might never be used as an official agent. To score $275 in a week, you'd have to process and return a mere 917 pieces of mail. BUT YOU GET TO HAVE A COOL CODE NAME, DUDE!

If you haven't already picked this scam apart, consumer advocate David Horowitz completed the job in this excerpt from his column, which appeared in the March 2, 1984, issue of The Cincinnati Enquirer:
"Be a work-at-home 'mailing list protection agent'? In fact, that part of the ad is not as strange as it sounds. There really are such people. When a direct-mail advertiser rents a mailing list, it's good for one mailing. If the advertiser uses it more than once without paying the listing company for it, the advertiser is misappropriating that list of names. To guard against that, every mailing list contains a number of coded names and addresses of people who have agreed to act as 'list protection agents.' Whenever advertising mail arrives at those addresses, the agents return it to the listing companies. By checking the code names, the owner of those lists can tell which advertisers are using them, and for which mass mailings. The ad in question said that it will register applicants to be list protection agents for only $25. What makes this offer suspect is that there seems to be no such demand for agents. The Direct Marketing Association in New York told me it knows of only two companies in the country that provide this kind of mailing list protection. Each of those companies employs only 30 or 40 such agents nationwide, and there already are hundreds of volunteers on waiting lists for the next available openings. So save your money on any offer like this, one that you can't check out personally. Also, when in doubt, call your local Postal Inspector's office and see if they can give you any information on questionable mail-order outfits."
So there you have it. Heed Horowitz's advice. Save your favorite code name for a more legitimate adventure. And never send $25 to a company that's advertising in a magazine that features Dr. Doom.

Footnotes
1. Volume 1, No. 12. It's titled "Doomworld" on the front. The cover price was 60 cents. It was written by John Byrne.
2. Among the words in this particular comic book: "Hold, Demonspawn! Touch not the fallen female, or feel my fury!" Also: "Yeow!"
3. This would make you very boring. If you're going to fall for a scam, you might as well use a code name like Thumper McDandy.
4. It seems reasonable. That could easily be 30 to 45 seconds worth of keyboard data entry. Your address isn't going to type itself into the computer by magic.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Vintage Halloween postcard:
"Make a ring of pumpkin seeds..."


Make a ring of pumpkin seeds
An odd old-fashioned charm,
Makes the goblins howl with fear
And keeps you safe from harm.

That's the verse on the front of this trippy old Halloween postcard, which was mailed to Mr. George Pritchard of South Whitley, Indiana, but has a postmark that's too faded to read.

The illustration shows a quite-calm woman in a white dress who is, indeed, sprinkling a circle of pumpkin sets around her while a parade of witches and goblins gather. It's not clear how long she'll have to remain inside this ring. Or why the goblins looks like Martians.

A post on the blog Disenchanted & Co. has a couple of other postcards that are clearly from this same artist and series. The goblins have the exact same look. And those cards also contain four lines of verse.

The witches and goblins — such creative illustrations — really are the best part of this postcard. They're unlike anything else I've seen on the imaginative postcards of this era. Here are some closer looks at some of them...




Bonus mystery

This postcard to Mr. George Pritchard does not contain a standard note. Instead, it contains what appears to be a code. Morse code, perhaps, with its series of dots and dashes. Take a look...


If it's Morse Code, however, my attempts to translate the first portion of the message were thwarted, because this is what I came up with:

HETTI
HIW
HIU
WASM
IRHIM


Is there a code layered within the code? Or was it just silly pseudo-code to begin with? Someone will have to dive into this mystery and get back to us.

Vintage Hallowe'en postcard:
Witch declares that she's No. 1


OK, maybe I shouldn't assume she's a witch. Maybe she's just a daffy old lady wearing colorful clothes who went out to sweep the dirt road in front her house and is raising a finger for a passing ESPN College GameDay cameraman.

Unfortunately, no publisher is listed on front or back of this Hallowe'en postcard, which was mailed in October 1911 and also features an alarmed black cat, an owl, a bunch of carved pumpkins in a field and a starry night. Does anyone have any ideas about what her raised index finger really means? She could be pointing upward to something that we can't see, perhaps flying witches or Rodan or an alien mothership. She could be indicating that she, herself, plans to ride upward on her broom in a few moments. Or she could be testing the wind direction in preparation for such flight. So many possibilities...

This postcard was mailed to Miss Ruth Miller in Erie, Illinois. It's a tiny settlement in the northwest corner of the state that had about 800 residents in 1910 and has about twice that number now.

The note states:
Dear Ruth.
Don't you ever come to Albany anymore? I haven't seen you for such a long time. Can't you come in and see my? [sic] I'll take you over to school with me. Sounds interesting doesn't it? Haha.
Lovingly, Lida.
Albany must be Albany, Illinois, which is also located in northwestern Illinois, about 12 miles northwest of Erie. That's not too daunting of a distance, even for 1911. I hope Ruth went for a visit eventually.

Other vintage Halloween postcards

Dark & stormy night Halloween flick picks from Twitter's cool kids


Happy Halloween! This post is, appropriately enough, emanating from the Witching Hour (Eastern Daylight Time) of Halloween 2016. For me, one of the many great things about Halloween is that it's a socially acceptable time to watch and discuss scary movies. A conversation starter I've come up with along those lines is this: The trick-or-treaters are gone. It's getting a little stormy outside. You're going to turn out the lights and settle in for the night with a bowl of popcorn, perhaps some good friends or a three-legged black cat, and a triple-header of horror movies. What three movies would you pick?

I want the answers to be personal favorites. Comfort-food horror, if there is such a thing. My three, which change slightly over the years, are very solid but fairly uninspired. But they're my picks, so they're perfect in my world: 1959's House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price and Carol Ohmart, the iconic 1968 Night of the Living Dead by George A. Romero, and 1978's Halloween by John Carpenter, the holiday's ultimate dark fairy tale. Two unsurprising picks and a Vincent Price flick that Sarah and I could watch every single day. I love many other horror films, from classic to funny to terrifying. But those three represent the perfect Halloween night, in my eyes.

I wanted to share some other responses and thoughts. So I posed the horror-movie question to some of the great folks my Twitter feed (I'm @Papergreat, of course). They stopped what they were doing and here are the responses that they very generously came up with when I asked them about their personal three movies to watch on Halloween.

1. David Southwell (@HooklandGuide and @cultauthor)
Author, creator of fantastic realities such as Hookland County. I interviewed him for a two-part post last October, which starts here.
  • Quatermass and the Pit (1967) "The horror we love is often the horror we grew up with. It will not scare, the special effects creak and yet this is a gem of an English horror cinema. Both as well-structured thriller and depiction of swelling mystery, it stands up to repeated viewing."1
  • The Wicker Man (1974) "Possibly the best horror film of all time. Watch the uncut version and you will find a map of fear that leads you back to ancient places within the DNA museum. Stunning."
  • Who Can Kill A Child? (1976) "I first saw this whilst in a war zone. It takes a lot for a horror film to mean anything when it is viewed in the context of true human brutality, true monstrosity. More bloody than I usually like my horror, this turns the stomach and the mind."

2. J.W. Ocker (@JWOcker)
Creator of the Odd Things I've Seen (OTIS) website and author of several books, the most recent of which is A Season with the Witch: The Magic and Mayhem of Halloween in Salem, Massachusetts.
  • The Body Snatcher (1945, with Karloff & Lugosi)
  • The Changeling (1980)2
  • Dark Was the Night (2014)

3. Cheryl Zaidan (@FeralCherylZ)
Her Twitter bio: "Full-time marketer, part-time writer, horror movie lover and hardcore dreamer. I write awful stories about terrible people." She's one of the coolest folks I follow on Twitter.
  • Halloween (1978)
  • Trick 'r Treat (2007)
  • Night of the Demons (1988)

4. Colin Lorimer (@Colin_Lorimer)
He's a writer/artist whose supernatural comic book, The Hunt, from Image Comics, needs to be on your pull list.
  • The Innocents (1961)
  • Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971)
  • Dead of Night (1945)

5. Emma Finlayson-Palmer (@FinlaysonPalmer)
Her partial bio: "Mom to 5, Ravenclaw & Writer, I love witches, vampires, cakes, tattoos, tea & zombies." You can read her blog here.
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • Shaun of the Dead (2004)

6. Undine (@HorribleSanity)
Bio: "Edgar Allan Poe/strange history blogger. Horseplayer. Tweeter of damn fool nonsense. Crazy Cat Lady. Grouch. Abandon hope, all ye who follow here." Blog: strangeco.blogspot.com. Note: If you like seeing how cats are featured in vintage advertising, this is a must-follow Twitter account.
  • An Evening of Edgar Allan Poe (Vincent Price, 1970) "Hey, Price and Poe. What more do you need?"
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) "What makes this film so terrifying is that the world in recent years leaves me feeling like Kevin McCarthy in the final scene."
  • Carnival of Souls (1962)3 "I first saw this on TV when I was about five years old. Cheap and cheesy though it might be, there is something about this eerie movie that has held my imagination ever since."

So there you have it! Thanks again to all of the great people above who took the time to share their thoughts. (I also queried Bill Rebane4, who follows me on Twitter, but he didn't get back to me.) I definitely have some great new suggestions for scary movies to check out between now and Halloween 2017.

What are your favorites? Share them down in the Comments section and I'll include them in a future From The Readers post.

Footnotes
1. I grew up loving Quatermass and the Pit. Only, it was titled Five Million Years to Earth over here in the States.
2. I love The Changeling, too. It mention it in my 2013 post "Which movies gave you the biggest fright?"
3. Carnival of Souls became another one of my favorites after I discovered it about 10 years ago.
4. Bill Rebane, 79, is the director of such horror films as Monster a-Go Go, The Giant Spider Invasion, The Alpha Incident, The Demons of Ludlow, and The Game (aka The Cold). He is a former candidate for governor of Wisconsin. If he eventually answers, I'll share his selections.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Vintage Halloween postcard sent to Hulda Jacobus: The Witch's Dance


Here's a beauty of an old postcard; one of the most colorful ones I've had the opportunity to feature. It's part of the Halloween Series issued by Julius Bien & Co. It's labeled "The Witch's Dance" and it, indeed, features a red-headed witch dancing with a pair of anthropomorphic pumpkin men and an extremely gleeful black cat. The fiery autumn leaves lay on the green grass and stars are twinkling in the crescent-moon sky behind them. What a fun postcard! Not at all creepy, but 100% Halloween.

Dancing a little jig is a totally appropriate response to it being the day before Halloween, too. (And I still have two more dandy vintage cards remaining to share tomorrow.)

Underneath the illustration, someone has written, in pencil, "IS THAT YOU? HA HA." So, perhaps, this postcard was intended for a red-headed witch, a black cat or even a pumpkin-based person. Probably it's the first one. The address on the back had this going to Hulda Jacobus in Millstadt, Illinois.

Hulda Jacobus is a great name and I intend this in the best way possible when I say that it totally sounds like a name that an awesome witch would have. Clearly, a good witch. Because her name is so uncommon, it's not hard to find a little information about Hulda. She was born in Millstadt1, a village filled with Americans of German descent, on February 22, 1896, to Peter Jacobus and Caroline Tegtmeir. She had a sister named Viola. She married Eugene Edward Brucker (1896-1987) and had a child. And she died on December 7, 1961, in St. Louis, Missouri.

And that's it. A little more biographical information would be nice, but that's a good start.

This postcard, by the way, has no stamp or postmark, so I'm not sure if or how it was ever delivered to Hulda. But here's the short note:
Hello,
How do you intend to celebrate Hallowe'en. I was to a Hallowe'en Party last night.
Viola
Viola! So we can be 99% certain, I think, that this postcard was from her sister. I'd like to think they were both good witches.

Footnotes
1. As of this writing, the Wikipedia page for Millstadt includes a short section that I hope remains there forever. If not, here it is for posterity: "Some of the great stores in town include Dollar General, Casey's General Store, and Circle K. Circle K is a popular kid destination."