Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve mashup:
Infocom and Dan Fogelberg

Original implementers: Dan Fogelberg, Infocom.
Release 1.0 / Serial number 122416 / Post 2100.0

It is Christmas Eve, and a light snow is falling. You have been dispatched to acquire whipping cream for Irish coffee...

Grocery store
The holiday hustle and bustle is going at full steam. Carts squeak urgently across the floor. You smell gingerbread. Departments include fresh foods, a bakery, and, in the back, frozen and refrigerated foods.


Back of grocery store
The eggnog and apple cider have been well-raided. Scanning the shelves for whipping cream, you notice someone in your peripheral vision. She is wearing a blue coat and standing in front of a case of frozen desserts. Your heart skips a beat.


You are now standing behind her, as she continues to examine the frozen pies. Without thinking, you gently touch her coat sleeve. She spins around, a bit startled, looking exactly as she did at age 20. After a short moment of confusion, she recognizes you, her eyes opening wide. The two of you move simultaneously for a hug. But, as you do, half the items in her purse spill to the floor.


Laughing, the two of you crouch and pick the items off the floor. The scene seems absurd to both of you, and you can't stop laughing. You get a few odd looks from other hurried customers, which only feeds your laughter. Tears form in the corner of your eye.

After composing herself, she adds an apple pie to her cart. "I should go pay for all this," she says.


Grocery store checkout
You head up front together. The groceries are totaled up and bagged. The two of you make small talk, and the conversation lags a bit.


Time passes.

Through the big glass window at the front of the store, you see that it's still snowing. The groceries are bagged up, and she's ready to go.


"Do you have time for a drink or two?" you ask.

She smiles. That old smile. "Absolutely."


In front of grocery store
You carry her bag as the two of you exit the store. The street continues to the north and south.


Northern end of street
You see two bars, but they are both closed. It is Christmas Eve, after all.


In front of grocery store
The snow picks up a little.


Southern end of street
Another closed bar. But there is also a six-pack store, still open.



"We should get out of the snow," she says. "Let's drink it in my car."


Inside car
You set the groceries in the back. The two of you sit up front. Snowflakes plop upon the windshield.

She hands you a beer and opens one for herself.

"To our youthful innocence," she says.


Your score has gone up by one point.


"And to now," you say, tapping her bottle with your own. You both take a sip.

Your score has gone up by one point.

The two of you are silent.


You don't how how to do that.


Time passes and snow falls as the two of you drink. The conversation turns to how your lives are now. She tells you that she married an architect; he keeps her warm and safe and dry. But then she pauses, clearly leaving something out. She never did like to lie.


They are the bright blue eyes you remember so well.


"The years have been a friend to you," you say. "You look great."

Her blue eyes flash. You know that flash, but aren't sure what it means this time. Doubt? Gratitude?


Time passes. The moment is lost.

"Your career must be going really well," she says. "I see your records in the store all the time."

You lapse into your standard reply: The audiences are heaven, and life on the road is hell.

More beers are cracked open.


You drink again to innocence, and again to now. Bottles are tapped and tilted upward.

Your score has gone up by two points.


You don't how how to do that.


Time passes.

You are on your last bottles now. She glances at her bottle. "Last toast, I guess," she says, looking at you. "This one to innocence ... and time."


"Should old acquaintance be forgot," you sing, and then you finish off your beer. She giggles.

Your score has gone up by two points.

It grows silent.


There are six empty beer bottles. You are starting to feel tired.


What do you want to say?


You don't have anything left to say.

"Well, it is Christmas Eve," she says, finally. "I should be going. But it was so good to see you."

She leans over and gives you a kiss.

"Merry Christmas," you both say, simultaneously. You laugh again.


In front of grocery store

The store is closed now. There are only a few cars parked here. You stand and watch the tail lights of her car as she drives away. You start to feel a little lightheaded. You close your eyes...

...School, many years ago...

It is a beautiful autumn afternoon. The two of you are on the campus quad, parting ways. Sunlight pours through the golden leaves as she walks away from you, never glancing back. This is a familiar pain.

In front of grocery store

You are standing here alone. The snow has turned to rain.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Panel from a merry Marvel Christmas in the 1970s

Okay, you really have to click on this comic panel to embiggen it and see all the holly-jolly detail. It's from the March 1975 issue (meaning it was probably for sale in December 1974) of "Marvel Two-In-One." The Christmas scene features various members of the Fantastic Four, plus Medusa (the one with the ridiculous red hair) and Sub-Mariner's cousin Namorita, among others. Also in this 42-year-old issue, Ghost Rider and Thing dress up as two members of the Three Wise Men. (Sure.)

Perhaps, someday, there will be a Christmas issue of a Marvel comic in which Baron Von Papergreat reads Ruth Manning-Sanders' "The Christmas Crab Apples" to a group of young Inhumans.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christmas greetings sent overseas to France in 1913

The front of this postcard does not explicitly make it a Christmas postcard. It's a nice illustration, in greens and purples, of a child gazing at a field of sheep. The title is, indeed, "Lazy Sheep" and the postcard is copyright 1912, by Augener Ltd., which was located in London.

The caption of the back further states:


That would be Dutch illustrator Henriette Willebeek le Mair (1889-1966), who would have been just 23 when this postcard was published.

This postcard has been given a CHRISTMAS GREETINGS addition on the back, on the left-hand side, with the additional copyright of John Martin's House Inc. I can't tell if the addition is a well-placed stamp or if a special set of the cards was printed separately. You can see what the postcard looks like without the CHRISTMAS GREETINGS here.

This was postmarked on December 17, 1913, in Brooklyn, New York, and mailed — for just two cents! — across the Atlantic to Miss E.M. Whiley at the U.S. Consulate in Marseille, France. The postcard was sent by Aunt Mable, an uncle whose name I can't quite decipher and cousins David, Donald and Nelson Grainger.

A final fun fact: While researching this postcard, I came across a Joe Silvia article on titled "The curious cases of mailing children in 1913-1914." I think you'll find it an interesting rabbit hole to go down.

Old holiday card: Best wishes from the Laurelettes

I first shared the front of this vintage Season's Greetings card on December 4. When you open it up, it's a glorious 12½ inches wide and includes the printed message "All Best Wishes for the Holiday Season to You from the Laurelettes." Beneath that are the names of four Laurelettes. There is no other writing or identifying information anywhere on the card.

Who the Laurelettes are is a bit of mystery. I can think of three possibilities: (1) they are the members of a family with either the last name Laurel or perhaps even Laurelette; (2) they hail from a location with the name of Laurel; (3) the Laurelettes are an all-girl band, not unlike Josie and the Pussycats.

Even will all of these names, though, it remains a challenge to figure out who these folks are. It's going to take someone recognizing these names and contacting Papergreat [chrisottopa (at)], I think. Let's take a closer look at these Laurelettes...

P.J. appears to the chef of the group, as she's holding what appears to be a small roast turkey or chicken. Barb, meanwhile, is preparing to hit the ski slopes, though she's probably going to have to change out of that outfit.

Peggy isn't going to let Barb be "the athletic one." She's ready to hit the links for a round of golf. Peggy is also the shortest and possibly also the youngest of the Laurelettes.

And then there's Beth, who should clearly be the favorite of the Papergreat crowd. Not only is Beth a book lover, but she also has the superhuman strength to hold six heavy books aloft with a single hand, while keeping her other hand on your waist. You don't want to mess with Beth.

So there you have it. What do you think of the Laurelettes? Is this a mystery we'll ever solve?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

1945 magazine advertisement for Strathmore Magic Toys

I get a little bit bummed when a cool piece of ephemera is too large to fit on our home scanner. This Christmas-themed advertisement appears on the back cover of an oversized magazine titled "Children's Activities for Home and School."1 The magazine — this issue is from December 1945 — was a whopping 9½ inches by 12½ inches.

The whole cover wouldn't fit on the scanner, so I snapped a smartphone picture, which appears at right but won't have the same level of resolution as an image from the scanner.

The advertisement touts Strathmore Magic Toys, which are pitched as "educational fun for millions of ... boys and girls." Three of the products involved "Magic Slate Blackboards" — a fancy precursor to those gray pads that were cheap and ubiquitous in the 1970s and 1980s. You write on the board with a stylus and then lift off the covering sheet of plastic to erase whatever you were working on and start fresh. Strathmore offered a standard Magic Slate, a Mickey Mouse version and a deluxe Mother Goose Color Magic board that was 20 inches wide and 15 inches tall. That last item cost $1.50 (the equivalent of $20 today) and promoted the fact that it encouraged neatness.

This was the other item offered by Strathmore in the advertisement:
Full parlor magic outfit and beautiful full color Storybook BOTH in one Gift! Mystify family and friends. Put on shows. Book tells Peter's Life Story ... also how to do each trick. Complete with Wand and all Tricks in 4-color Gift Box, only $1.
If you look closely, the box touts "Mrs. Rabbit's Mystery Knife" as being one of the parlor tricks. I'm sure it was completely safe.

Here is a look at the full back-page advertisement, cobbled together from two different scans and, unfortunately, sitting a little bit askew.

1. This magazine, which was published by Child Training Association Inc., is worth its own post, which I'll get to another day. Fiddle-dee-dee!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Some great reads, if you need a break from Santa, Krampus & Belsnickel

Instagram image by me.

As we count down the days and hours until Christmas and the myriad versions of "Last Christmas" playing on the car radio, you might need a short break from the carols and eggnog and wrapping paper. That's what we're here for.

Collected below is the latest set of Great Reads, as curated by Papergreat's crack staff. This time around, they're sorted by Serious and Not So Serious, so that you quickly find something that suits your mood, and skip the heavy stuff if desired.

Not So Serious


Christmas postcard mailed to Mattoon, Wisconsin, in 1910

This is hardly an exciting Christmas postcard, but it was mailed 106 years ago — when William Howard Taft was president and Henry Fonda, Greta Garbo and Howard Hughes were all 5 years old — so that should count for something interesting, right?

The postcard was mailed with a one-cent stamp to Miss Ethel Pollock of the tiny village of Mattoon, Wisconsin. I think I found the obituary for Ethel; there's an Ethel Mabel Wood (née Pollock) who lived in Wisconsin from 1903 to 1988.

The postmark on the card is December 21, 1910. The note states:
A merry Xmas Ethel
How are you, anaway [sic]. We are all fine, very happy and busy as well. Now Ethel write me all the news, I get loneson [sic] once in a while for all of you. A merry Xmas to you all.
With love Mrs. Patzer

* * *
Because that's all I have from this postcard, I'll tack on a little bonus. Here's an image from the Matchbloc Instagram account, which very specifically exists for the purpose of "revelling in the graphics of Eastern Bloc matchbox labels." And so, of course, I follow them.

From the readers: Yes, people still go caroling in 2016

Three years ago, I wrote about an old "Carols for Christmas" pamphlet published by The Prudential Insurance Company of America. And I asked the question: "Do people still go caroling?" The quick answer, based upon a whirlwind of Google searches, was that caroling, though not as common as it once was, definitely still happens.

This week, an anonymous reader added a new comment on that 2013 post, further reassuring us that caroling is still alive and well:
YES! Folks still get together and go out caroling at Christmas time. One small troupe has been doing this in East Rutherford, New Jersey, EVERY December 23rd since the 1980s.

The friends are mostly past members of the Stevens Institute of Technology Glee Club. They were inspired to do this in honor of the founder and director of the Stevens Glee Club — Professor William F. Ondrick. Each year he would have the Glee Club perform an evening of Christmas songs on campus, complete with sing along. Then later he would host a Christmas party for the students, somehow making room for everyone in his home.

Everyone looked forward to those hours of song, fun and food.

In that same spirit we gather each December 23rd at the home of Connie and Joe DeFazio in East Rutherford. (Both were members of the Glee Club and Connie, being an accomplished Music Teacher and Choir Director in her own right, took over the reins of directing the Glee Club when Professor Ondrick retired.) The group tours the neighborhood singing the songs featured in that Prudential Insurance Pamphlet — in four-part harmony of course!
What a wonderful story and piece of Stevens Institute history. Thank you so much for sharing!

Any other active carolers out there with stories to share?

Monday, December 19, 2016

Early 1900s Oilette postcard from Tuck's featuring snowball fight

Are all of your Christmas cards mailed? Today's Christmas-themed ephemera is a Tuck's postcard that was postmarked eleven decades ago, in 1906. It features, perhaps unusual for the time, a full color photograph. It shows a rather unenthusiastic snowball-fight standoff, with a little girl dressed in red stuck in the middle. (I'm sure we can find some symbolism there.)

This is an "Oilette" card that was published by Raphael Tuck & Sons and printed in England. According to the website Tuck DB Postcards (, which has an extensive history of Tuck's, the Oilette cards were first published in 1903:
"This was a type of card used by Tuck, starting in 1903, with a surface designed to appear as a miniature oil painting. Early 'Oilettes' had a brush stroke simulation, but the vast majority of Tuck 'Oilettes' have a smooth surface. Many collectors refer to any facsimile of an artist's work as an 'Oilette'. The cities of New York, Quebec, Montreal, Toronto, Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore, Santa Fe and Ottawa were all well covered by Tuck 'Oilettes'. State views of Maine, the Adirondacks in New York, Jamestown Virginia, and others are well represented among the 'Oilettes'. Many 'Oilettes' also exist for many of the other countries in the 'Americas'."
Written across the bottom of this postcard is: "With best of wishes, Maud."

The card is addressed to Miss Mae McGinnis of Mahoningtown, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania. Mahoningtown is a neighborhood within the city of New Castle. It is also referred to as Motown, though I suppose we would have to specify "Not That Motown."

Lawrence County, by the way, also contains a borough named Wampum (birthplace of Dick Allen), census-designated places named Chewton and Frizzleburg, and an unincorporated community named Energy.

Related snowball posts

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas tradition: R.L. Ripples and the @TweetsofOld

The @TweetsofOld Twitter account (aka R.L. Ripples) is wonderful to follow throughout the entire year, when it is often on-point in contrasting current news with past sentiments.

But I really treasure @TweetsofOld during the Christmas holiday season — just as I used to love those red-and-green, softball-sized sugary popcorn balls — when it tweets out real "Dear Santa" requests pulled from old newspapers.

I did one of these roundups of my favorite R.L. Ripples gems back in 2014, and it's time for another one. Enjoy.

And be sure to follow @TweetsofOld!