Sunday, December 31, 2017

James Blish is gonna help us party like it's "Year 2018!"

Here's an appropriate vintage sci-fi paperback for this rockin' New Year's Eve, as we make the transition from 2017 to 2018...

  • Title: Year 2018!
  • Cover blurb: "An Original Science Fiction Novel — One Man's Bridge to Eternity!"
  • Author: James Blish (1921-1975), who is perhaps best known for his novelizations of Star Trek episodes and for the original Star Trek novel Spock Must Die! (He liked exclamation points, apparently.)
  • Cover illustrator: Richard M. Powers (1921-1996)
  • Publisher: Avon (T-193)
  • Date of this edition: 1957
  • Book's first publication: 1956, in the UK, under the title They Shall Have Stars. (See information below on this series.)
  • Price: 35 cents
  • Pages: 159
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back-cover blurb: "IN THE YEAR 2018 ... Man undertook the most amazing project in human history — A BRIDGE ON JUPITER! In that frozen, raging, gaseous Hell, the Spacemen built a colossal, monstrous bridge out of sheer Ice IV — 30 miles high, 8 miles wide, and ever growing in its incredible length. What was the purpose of this fantastic project? What was the secret that lurked behind the stars? Only one man knew — SENATOR WAGONER of Alaska, who controlled the U.S. Space Flight Corps — and possessed the most tormenting knowledge in the Universe!"
  • A senator from Alaska... A dubious bridge... Indeed. There are some amusing Gravina Island Bridge parallels.
  • What is Ice IV? There are, apparently, 17 known solid crystalline phases of water, and they are designated by Roman numberals. Ice IV is a fully hydrogen-disordered, metastable phase of ice.
  • What does that mean? I have no idea.
  • Book dedication: To Frederik Pohl
  • First sentence (following a J. Robert Oppenheimer quote): "The shadows flickered on the walls to his left and right, just inside the edges of his vision, like shapes stepping quickly back into invisible doorways."
  • Last sentence of the main novel: "After a while, the man and the woman went to the window, and looked past the discarded bulk of Jupiter at the near horizon, where there had always been visible a few stars."
  • Last sentence of the coda: "As usual, MacHinery was wrong."
  • Random paragraph from middle: "The trailer city was far bigger than any nearby town except Passaic. It included a score of supermarkets, all going full blast even in the middle of the night, and about as many coin-in-slot laundries, equally wide open. There were at least a hundred public baths, and close to 360 public toilets. Paige counted ten cafeterias, and twice that many hamburger stands and one-arm joints, each of the stands no less than a hundred feet long; at one of these he stopped long enough to buy a 'Texas wiener' nearly as long as his forearm, covered with mustard, meat sauce, sauerkraut, corn relish, and piccalilli. There were ten highly conspicuous hospital tents, too — and after eating the Texas wiener Paige though he knew why — the smallest of them perfectly capable of housing a one-ring circus."
  • That's a ridiculous Texas wiener: Yes. I think that's the author's point.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.79 stars out of 5.
  • Goodreads review by "Manny" from November 9, 2016: "This little-known dystopian novel, first published in 1956, is, as the title suggests, set in the US of 2018. Under severe external threat, the country has descended into paranoia and become a Stalinist dictatorship which in practice is run by Francis X. MacHinery, the head of the FBI. The majority of American's citizens seek refuge from an unbearable reality in bizarre fundamentalist religions. How do science-fiction writers come up with these weird ideas?"
  • The series: This is #1 in Blish's Cities in Flight series. I found several suggestions and recommendations, though, to not read this book first. According to one forum, "the books are reasonably disconnected and can mostly be read in isolation. The first book is deep background from the pre-spaceflight era and may even be omitted if you're not interested in that kind of thing."
  • So, what's up with the ice bridge? You'll have to read the book.
  • Does Jupiter survive? You'll have to read the book.

Old business card for the Soudersburg Motel

This snazzy little relic is a 3½-inch-wide business card for the Soudersburg Motel in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. My best guess is that it's from the 1970s. The signage that can be seen in the photo of the front of the motel includes "Master Charge" (which became Mastercard in 1979), "Diners Club," "Heated Pool," "Color TV in Rooms," and "Guided Tours."

The information on the back of the card, as you can see, adds that the motel is opposite Dutch Haven (famous for ShooFly Pie since 1946) and beside The Pancake Man. It also notes that the rooms have air-conditioning and are within walking distance of three restaurants.

The Soudersburg Motel has now, sadly, gone corporate and is an Americas Best Value Inn. It touts itself as follows:
"The Americas Best Value Inn, formerly Soudersburg Motel, is comfortable, easy to get to, and close to all the attractions you want to visit in Lancaster County. Surrounded by Amish Farmland, the Motel is located within five miles of attractions like American Music Theatre, Millennium Sight & Sound Theatre, Strasburg Rail Road and Dutch Wonderland family amusement park. Enjoy shopping at the Tanger Outlets and Rockvale Outlets located within three miles of the Motel. There are a number of restaurants nearby, some within walking distance, including famous Miller's Smorgasbord, and Dienner's Country Restaurant."
I bet it doesn't have business cards as snazzy as this one, though.

Lost Corners addendum

In doing some light research for this post, I came across the postcard blog Having a Nice Time, which only had 57 posts in 2008 and 2009 but is worthy of preservation. In the blog's description, author Mark writes: "In this era of e-mail, instant messaging, and cameraphones, the notion of a handwritten note in the mail seems like ancient history. Postcards were once a quick and inexpensive way to drop a line. Today, old postcards provide remarkable insight into our past; massive archived collections provide sources for historic research. The images can be hilarious, nostalgic and bizarre, and the messages quaint, puzzling and often poignant."

The blog has an October 1, 2008, post titled "Beside the Pancake Man, Soudersburg, PA." You should check out the "Had a lousy vacation" postcard that he documents in that post.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Postcard: Riding horses on the beach in Atlantic City

Here's a lovely linen postcard I received this week that shows horseback riders on the Atlantic City, New Jersey, beach. AC's iconic hotels of the early 20th century loom large in the background, and the beach is essentially empty, except for the riders.

This is a Tichnor Brothers postcard, branded as Tichnor Quality Views on the back. It was postmarked on August 9, 1936, in Atlantic City. (Also on that date, Jesse Owens won his fourth gold medal of the Berlin Olympics, and the Philadelphia Phillies lost, 6-2, to the New York Giants, despite knocking out Giants starter Harry Gumbert in the first inning. Gumbert recorded just one out, walked three and had four wild pitches.)

On the back of this postcard, the short note from Mike states "I sure enjoy this."

The postcard was mailed to Mrs. Alvin Rutt of Mount Joy, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. That would be, I think, Gertrude D. Rutt, who lived from 1898 to 1990 and outlived husband Alvin by about 32 years.

Related post

"Little brownies I am married"
(Folklore of bees)

Last week, I shared some Christmas folklore, courtesy of 1949's Encyclopædia of Superstitions.

As I continue reading this fine and fascinating book, I wanted to pass along an item I came across on the importance of "telling the bees" about the big changes in your life.

The section on bees in the Encyclopædia is three pages long. It includes chestnuts such as "If a member of the family dies, the bees in their hives must be told, or they will die, or go away" and "Before moving bees, they should be told by the owner, or he will be stung by the angry insects."

This is my favorite tidbit:
"In the year of Grace 1945, the Daily Mirror, a London picture newspaper, sent a photographer to a country wedding. His best picture was of the bride in her bridal finery bending over the the hives and whispering 'Little brownies I am married.' It was explained to the photographer that this was essential, as should a member of the family owning the bees marry without telling the bees, they would take leave of the hive, and never return. Thus in 1945 we retained the superstition of centuries concerning bees."
The "bees" entry continues...
"Telling the bees of death was (and, still is, in some remote areas) a most elaborate ceremonial. The procedure was that as soon as the master or mistress had breathed the last, a member of the household visited the hives, and bending over them said, three times, 'Little brownies, little brownies, your master (or mistress) is dead.' Silence was then observed for a few moments. If the bees then began to hum, it was a sign that they consented to remain under the new owner."
I will be sure, now, to remember to tell the bees when I decide to wrap up Papergreat and move on to other projects.

For #FridayReads, here's the rundown on the other books I'm currently reading, in addition to Encyclopædia of Superstitions:

  • Little, Big by John Crowley (which I expect will take me all winter)
  • Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day by Ben Loory
  • Break Out: How the Apple II Launched the PC Gaming Revolution by David L. Craddock

Also, I recently finished Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly, a wonderful graphic-novel memoir of growing up in Iraq in the middle of the 20th century, and Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins, a non-fiction book about Hay-on-Wye that ended up not being my cup of tea, despite its subject matter.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Book cover: "Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint"

Here's a book that I'm sure some of you remember fondly from your childhood...

  • Title: Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint
  • Authors: Jay Williams (1914-1978) & Raymond Abrashkin (1911-1960)
  • Illustrator: Ezra Jack Keats (1916-1983)
  • Series: This is the first book in the 15-volume Danny Dunn series. My favorite book title: Danny Dunn and the Smallifying Machine.
  • Dust jacket blurb: "When Danny Dunn tips over the mysterious jar of glistening liquid, he has no way of knowing that he will involve himself, his friend Joe, and Professor Bullfinch in a wild flight between planets. But anything can happen when Danny is around — and practically does."
  • Publisher: Whittlesey House (McGraw-Hill Book Company)
  • Edition: Weekly Reader Children's Book Club edition published in 1957
  • Price: None listed
  • Pages: 154
  • Format: Hardcover
  • First sentences: Space Captain Daniel Dunn stood on the bridge of the Revenge with his eyes on the viewer screens. He could see the fiery trails that were the rocket ships from Jupiter.
  • Last sentences: Then he began to giggle too. And soon he was laughing louder than any of the others.
  • Random sentence from middle: Holy leaping creepers!
  • Amazon rating: 4.8 stars out of 5.0.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.88 stars out of 5.0
  • Goodreads review: From Christie Skipper Ritchotte in 2010: "I'm not sure what to rate this; haven't read it since I was a kid, but I can say that while Vonnegut, Burroughs, Tolkien, Bradbury, Golding, and many others all made me wish I could be one of those writer-people, this particular Danny Dunn book made me actually pick up a pen and do it in the 4th grade. I <3 Danny Dunn."

The Creators
The back of the dust jacket is entirely devoted to photos (shown above) and many tiny words about the co-authors and the illustrator. Here are some excerpts from those mini biographies...
  • JAY WILLIAMS is the author of five juveniles including THE ROMAN MOON MYSTERY which won a Boys' Club of America Award in 1949. ... Born in Buffalo, New York, Mr. Williams was educated at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, and the Art Students League.
  • RAYMOND ABRASHKIN is the author and co-producer of the very popular and successful "Little Fugitive" which was named Best American Film at the 1954 Venice Film Festival. ... In addition to over fifty children's records, he has written the librettos for four children's operas.
  • EZRA JACK KEATS has illustrated a number of books including Jay Williams' recent A CHANGE OF CLIMATE. ... Besides spending a year in Paris, his on-the-spot research for book illustrations has taken him to many different locations, including Cuba and Scotland.

Mark Felt helps with a Christmas postcard mystery

It's only been a few days since I posted that humorous and disturbing mystery postcard featuring snowman people, a Christmas tree and a severed human head. (Yes, you read that right.)

But "Mark Felt," one of Papergreat's top commenters and research associates1, was quickly able to solve the biggest part of the mystery.

MF writes that the postcard is "a macabre bastardization of the 1882 drawing entitled Bringing Home the Christmas Tree by an artist named (perhaps pseudonymously) A. Hunt." The original is shown at right, taken from the 2005 book Christmas Past, by Barbara Hallman Kissinger and Pelican Publishing.

MF adds that A. Hunt's artwork appears throughout many editions over many years of the Illustrated London News. You can see some of those wonderful illustrations, which run from 1850 to 1970, on this archival website.

Here's a side-by-side look at the original and modified illustrations, so you can get a better sense of how it was creatively modified. The only remaining question is who the second artist was.

Thanks again for moving this mystery toward a solution, MF!

1. Here are two full posts devoted to Mark Felt's sleuthing, from January and February.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Colorful bookplate inside "Stories from Old China"

Stories from Old China, by Edward W. Dolch and Marguerite P. Dolch, was published in 1964 as part of the Folklore of the World series from Garrard Publishing Company.1 Other books in the series covered Alaska, Canada, India, Hawaii, Italy, Old Egypt and Old Russia, among others.

We know that this copy of Stories from Old China belonged, at one point, to a girl named Jane Fall. That's thanks to the colorful mid-century bookplate that appears on the inside front cover.2

There is a lot of great detail on the bookplate illustrations. The brown-tinted image in the center is Dorothy, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. In the green-tinted illustration of the clowns, one of them has a sign on his back stating "KICK ME."

Click on the Bookplates label at the bottom of this post to see many other groovy vintage bookplates.

A couple other things about this book:

  • In the foreword, Marguerite Dolch writes: "STORIES FROM OLD CHINA brings to the children of today some of the stories that were enjoyed by Chinese children thousands of years ago. After you have read these stories, go to the library and find many other beautiful stories from Old China."
  • There are 20 tales in the book, including "Ma Liang and the Emperor," "The Kind Dragon," "The Magic Foxes," "Water for Peking," "The King of the Monkeys" and "The Peacock Dance."

1. Unfortunate legal footnote: Edward William Dolch died in October 1961 and there was a lawsuit — Dolch v. Garrard Publishing Company, 289 F. Supp. 687 (S.D.N.Y. 1968) — dealing with Marguerite Pierce Dolch's rights and monies owed from four existing contracts that she and her husband had with Garrard Publishing Company and Twin City Printing Company.
2. "Jane Fall" is too generic of a name for us to determine who she was with any certainty — short of the real Jane Fall raising her hand and exclaiming, "That's me!" But I did find one amusing "Jane Fall" tidbit from here in southcentral Pennsylvania. The January 11, 1937, edition of The Gazette and Daily of York, Pennsylvania, contains a section called "Boys and Girls Newspaper." Within that section is a story headlined "Pets Editor Gives Varied Replies to Readers' Letters" and written by Pets Editor Horace Mitchell. Here's an excerpt:
"Jane Fall wants a pair of horned toads. I guess the only way for her to get them is to have a pet store order them specially for her."

Monday, December 25, 2017

1970s Christmas snapshots of me

Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël! Glaedelig Jul!

If you're visiting Papergreat today, I thought you might enjoy these snapshots of Yours Truly during some childhood Christmases in the 1970s...


(This is terrible to say, but I can't tell whether this is the house in Rose Valley or Wallingford. That's Mom behind me, of course, and those are Dad's feet. The big dictionary sitting on the stand behind Mom is now in my bedroom here in Dover. I really knew how to pull off the jumper look back then.)


(Nothing to see here. Just me in a blue bathrobe and the greatest dang Fisher-Price castle playset in the history of the world. I am not joking. This might be the subject of a full post of its own in the future.)


(My sister Adriane makes an appearance for this Christmas photo. We are both truly stylin' some 1970s pajama-wear there. The label on the box I'm holding reads "Creative Playthings Pound-A-Ball.")


(OK, there is all kinds of awesome in this photo of me, Adriane and Dad. This is our house on Spruce Street in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. Yes, that's a deer skin on the stair railing. I'll have to ask Dad the full story about it, because we had it for many years. That chalkboard is still with us; it's in Adriane's art studio in East Berlin. Under the chalkboard are, I believe, snow-block makers, to create igloos in the yard. The framed Andrew Wyeth print to the left is now in my bedroom. Love the plastic Santas, but they're long gone.)

Bonus: Ashar & I (Christmas 2017)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Postcard: Cute little pigs get their chance to be reindeer

This rare old Christmas postcard features a young girl who is apparently delivering bottles of wine on a small sleigh pulled by two pigs. (They kind of look like pot-bellied pigs.) It's odd and festive at the same time. The girl's outfit is pretty amazing, too.

I'm not sure how thrilled those pigs are, though, in their roles as Dancer and Prancer.1

This postcard was printed in Germany, and there is no other identifying information about the publisher. Printed on the back is "1256/2."

The divided-back card was never mailed, but it was written on. It was addressed to someone named Deborah in Lakewood, New Jersey, and the short note states: "With love from, Papa."

1. Fun fact: In traditional folklore, Santa's sleigh is led by eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder (variously spelled Donder and Donner), and Blixem (variously spelled Blixen and Blitzen). The names Dunder and Blixem derive from Dutch words for thunder and lightning, respectively.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Merry Christmas...
What even is happening here?

Here's a disturbing postcard illustration, definitely worthy of the amazing @HorribleSanity Twitter feed, for this holiday season.

It's a Christmas mystery, too.

I bought this postcard on eBay in 2016, thinking it was a vintage oddity. (The listing was a bit misleading, it turns out.) It's actually a modern reprint postcard of what might or might not be a vintage oddity. I have no idea what the story is behind this illustration, and Google isn't much help.

In most of the other online occurences of this illustration (Pinterest, etc.), it's simply labeled "Creepy Christmas."

In addition to the Google reverse image search, I tried searching for things like "christmas postcard snowmen with severed human head." That didn't provide any leads, either. But it sure spices up my search history.

It sort of looks like something that Edward Gorey might have drawn. But that seems to be a dead end, too. If he did this piece, it would be famous.

So, for now, it just remains a Merry Mystery.

Sweet dreams!

Friday, December 22, 2017

The Christmas snake charmer

This snapshot of a snake charmer (possibly in Pakistan) was part of a Christmas letter sent to the Adams/Ingham residence on Oak Crest Lane, likely during the late 1950s or early 1960s. It's from Joanne Wixon, a member of the family and longtime friends who lived across the street.

On the back, Joanne writes:
Hi there! As you can see this is a picture of a snake charmer. Out at the beach snake charmers are all over. It is quite cool now and we whear [sic] sweaters most of the time. Since Christmas Cards cost so much here I am using these pictures for Christmas Cards. Hope you have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. This card is for Mary M. too. Love Joanne.
The matriarch of the Wixon family, Doris Hunter Wixon, died this past August at age 100. Joanne is one of her three daughters. Doris lived a pretty amazing life. Here are some excerpts from her obituary:
"Graduating high school at the height of the Great Depression, she attended Wayne University in Detroit and worked part time grading papers in the Accounting Department to pay her way. It was here that she met a young instructor, Rufus Wixon. Doris continued her education, receiving an MBA at Northwestern University, with Rufus making frequent trips to Chicago to visit her. They were married in 1939. ... In 1955, the five Wixons went to Karachi, Pakistan for two years, where Rufus served as Professor of Accounting in the newly formed School of Business at the University of Karachi, in a country equally newly formed. This was a life-changing experience as it stimulated a love of travel that continued to be a passion for the rest of their lives. Together they traveled all over the world. They shared a deep interest in genealogy and spent time traveling in Ireland, England, Canada, and in the United States, tracing their families. ... She volunteered for 32 years at the Helen Kate Furness Library in Wallingford, also serving on its board. ... She was known for the personal birthday cards she designed and made on her computer and sent to each member of the family, well into her 90’s. This April, Doris was joined by her entire family to celebrate her 100th birthday."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fruitcake: Lost corners, rabbit holes and recipes

I got a fruitcake as a present for someone this Christmas — it's okay, the person wanted a fruitcake — and that served as the launching-off point for me to waste some time peering into the lost corners of the internet for fruitcake discussion, history and lore. Enjoy these fruitcake tidbits!

  • Snopes has done a good job preserving versions of the "The Ultimate Fruitcake Recipe," which is actually a joke (not a recipe) that dates to at least 1959.
  • Earlier this year, the Antarctic Heritage Trust discovered an ice-covered, 106-year-old fruitcake that was described as "almost edible."
  • Here's an excerpt from a 2010 forum on, discussing what alcohol to use in fruitcake recipes: "I made one the other night using Nigella's Chocolate Christmas Cake recipe and it uses Tia Maria.....It is fair dinkum the best christmas cake I have ever eaten."
  • Full disclosure: "Fair dinkum" is a wonderful expression. Read more about it at World Wide Words and The Phrase Finder.
  • Peter Muise's New England Folklore blog, which has been going strong since 2008, has a post about a fruitcake recipe (but called "plumb cake") published in Connecticut in 1798. It might be the oldest published fruitcake recipe in the United States.
  • The computer-gaming community, of all places, had a discussion titled "Is fruitcake really that terrible?" five years ago on GameFAQs. Here's what some of them wrote:
    • "I've never seen one, maybe it's a thing of the past?"
    • "Man there is some delicious ****ing awesome fruitcake but I have no idea where my aunt got it or if she made it. That stuff in piles at Walmart around the holidays is disgusting and the ingredients are candy and candied fruit with extra candy and six fistfulls of straight sugar...or at least it sure comes off that way...ewwwyuck! The good one was like kind of chewy and mildly sweet and had lots of flavorful chunky bits but not all candy and sugar for crying out loud! It was like a really dense moist cake with dried fruit trail mix stirred into it... If you want bad fruitcake it's easy to find. Just thinking about that crud at walmart makes me sick to my stomach and my mouth."
    • "Fruitcake is amazing. It's god-tier dessert. Heck, I'll even eat industrial fruitcake, as long as it's drowned in milk to cut down on the sweetness."
  • Jogan fruit cake is an actual thing in the Star Wars universe, per Wookieepedia.
  • I found a 20-year-old post [December 08, 1997] from the Food and Food Storage Forum. It might not be around much longer, so here it is: "I like the weird stuff. My favorite all time food it the SAFEWAY stores fruit cake. Full of chems but it sure tasts good. Fortunately I can't afford to buy it! I used to have the recipe, from a safeway baker years ago, but have since lost track of it. What a pity. I like healthy food too, but when it comes to desserts and holidays I say let it roll... not the fruit cake, the fun!"
  • The Safeway Deluxe fruitcake is mentioned in an interesting Julia Homer article from the December 14, 1980, edition of The Washington Post that discusses the best fruitcakes in the Washington, D.C., area.

Bonus recipe

The 1960 staplebound Amish-Dutch Cookbook, written by Ruth Redcay and published by Ben Herman Dutch Books of Kutztown, Pennsylvania, contains a recipe for Christmas Loaf that seems close enough to fruitcake to share here. So here you go...

  • 3 cups scalded milk
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ yeast cake dissolved in
  • ¼ cup warm water
  • 6 to 8 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ lb. raisins, cut
  • ½ lb. currants
  • ¼ lb. citron, chopped
  • ½ cup almonds, sliced and blanched

Scald 2 cups of milk and let cool. Add dissolved yeast cake, 3 cups flour and salt. Mix well. Cover and set to rise in warm place overnight. In morning scald another cup of milk and add butter and stir till melted. Combine with yeast mixture and add sugar and balance of flour kneading dough well until it is no longer sticky. Use more flour if necessary. Combine fruit and sprinkle with some flour and add to the dough mixing well. Cover and let rise again till double in bulk. Shape in small loaves. Place in small pans and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Let rise for 2 hours. Bake in oven 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes.

1. is "a leading Australian website for all things conception, pregnancy, birth and parenthood."

Christmas superstitions collected by Edwin and Mona Radford

Encyclopædia of Superstitions is an excellent book (and a dandy browsing book) that was researched and written by Edwin and Mona A. Radford and published in 1949 by Philosophical Library of New York.1

In the preface, the authors write: "Some years ago the idea occurred to us that there was need for a work containing as complete a collection as possible of British superstitions presented in encyclopædic form, giving easy and quick reference to the reader. ... We accordingly began collecting and authenticating all the superstitions we could trace. The task occupied more than four years, and is brought to conclusion with the presentation of this volume, containing more than two thousand superstitions of Britain ranging over the past six hundred years, and extending down to the present day."

Their resulting book has been praised over the decades. Going through many editions, it has a five-star rating on Amazon and a 3.94 rating (out of 5.0) on Goodreads.

I thought it would be fun to share some the Christmas-themed superstitions presented in the Radfords' book. And perhaps this will even inspire you to track down your own copy of this tome. Used copies are reasonably priced (and make great holiday gifts).

  • A person born on Christmas Day will never be hanged.
  • A dark-haired man should be the first to enter a house on Christmas morning.
  • In Herefordshire — in the Blakemere and Weobley areas — no woman was allowed to enter a house on Christmas Day. Helps who were to assist at the Christmas Day parties had to sleep in the house on Christmas Eve. They could go home on Christmas morning if they so desired and then re-enter, but that applied only to those who had slept in the house during the previous night.
  • Evergreens should be taken down on Old Christmas Day (6th January) of ill-luck will follow.
  • To take holly into the house before Christmas Eve is to invite bad luck.
  • If a girl walks backwards to a pear tree on Christmas Eve, and walks round the tree three times, she will see an image of her future husband.
  • Fairies meet at the bottom of mines on Christmas Eve and perform a Mass in celebration of the birth of Christ.
  • Ghosts never appear on Christmas Eve.2
  • A midlands superstition was that a piece of Christmas mistletoe, tied in a bag and worn round the neck, would protect the wearer against witchcraft.

1. Philosophical Library was founded in 1941 by Romanian-born philosopher and scholar Dagobert D. Runes. That is a really great name. Almost as good as Svarsh Corduroy.
2. It seems that Charles Dickens was unaware of this.

Photo Shoot Outtake

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Jedediah Hotchkiss' Christmas gift to Chesley Doak Shultz

Elaborate efforts were made for this inscription inside a copy of 1891's Brave and True, Talks to Young Men by Thain Davidson. The inscription was typed up, signed, presumably trimmed down to the proper size, and then pasted to a blank page at the front of the book. As you can see it states:

"Christmas, 1894".
Mr. Chesley D. Shultz, Member
of the Sunday School of the Second
Presbyterian Church of Staunton, Va.

That this good book may prove a
helper and a blessing, through all
your life, is the hope and prayer of
Jed. Hotchkiss

Chesley's nickname was Chess, as the name Chess D. Shultz is written twice, in cursive, on the inside front cover. Chesley Doak Shultz was born on January 25, 1879, in Greenville, Virginia, and thus he was a month away from his 16th birthday when he received this volume from Hotchkiss.

Shultz's life came to a sad end, via suicide, in his early 50s. His Find A Grave page cites an article in the January 24, 1931, edition of the The Bee of Danville, Virginia. Shultz had died on January 21 by "deliberately stepping in front of an oncoming train for the purpose of self-destruction." It was just days before his 52nd birthday. The article cites "health and business worries" as leading to his final action.

The man who typed this inscription and gifted Brave and True, Talks to Young Men to Shultz in 1894 was fairly famous. Famous enough to have his own Wikipedia page. Jedediah Hotchkiss (1828-1899) was born in New York, spent some of his youth within the Lykens Valley in southcentral Pennsylvania, and eventually spent most of his life in Virginia. He was an educator and, most famously, a mapmaker. His maps of Virginia greatly aided the Confederacy and Stonewall Jackson during the Civil War.

Later in life, Hotchkiss wrote the 1,295-page volume on Virginia for the 12-book set titled Confederate Military History, which was published in 1899. Hotchkiss' journals were edited in 1973 and published as Make Me a Map of the Valley: The Civil War Journal of Stonewall Jackson's Cartographer.

You can read more about Hotchkiss on Civil War Trust and Encyclopedia Virginia, and you can see what remains of his historic map collection at the Library of Congress website.

Switching back to Brave and True, Talks to Young Men, I thought I'd close with a short excerpt from this very forgotten 1891 book, which was published by the Fleming H. Revell Company...
"Youth unquestionably is prone to excess; and on the sunny side of twenty there is a disposition to carry more sail than ballast. Nothing is more injurious to a man than incessant frivolity. To be always running after pleasure betokens a low type of humanity. Youth should be happy, but serious too. Continued levity emasculates the soul. To be ever cackling may befit a goose, but not a man.

"If is a fine thing to see a young man with some solidity about him, some moral backbone — to see stamped upon his very face, and gait and manner the self-respect that accompanies good sense, integrity, and virtue. Young men should strive to carry with them a moral momentum that shall drive before it the trivialities that encumber so many, and prove their ruin."

JFK reassures child: "You must not worry about Santa Claus"

The wonderful Twitter account of presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss tipped me off to the existence of this 1961 letter from President John F. Kennedy to 8-year-old Michigan resident Michelle Rochon, who was concerned that the Russians might bomb Santa Claus and the North Pole.

Her original letter to him stated:
Dear Mr. Kennedy,
Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole because they will kill Santa Claus.
I am 8 years old. I am in the third grade at Holy Cross School.

Kennedy's response to the girl, 56 years ago, assured her that she "must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas." JFK also added a note of political concern, from the U.S. perspective, about the dangers of atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.

In 1963, the United States and Soviet Union were among the countries that pledged, by treaty, to refrain from testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, underwater, or in outer space. It did, however, permit underground nuclear testing.

For more background on Rochon's letter, I recommend a 2013 article by CBC News' Mark Gollom. Interviewed for that article, Michelle Rochon Phillips says the letter from the president reassured her when she was 8: "All I understood was that he talked to Santa Claus and he was fine and he'd be coming around this Christmas. President Kennedy said so. So everything was good."

If only things were that easy.

Related posts

1920 Christmas postcard from the Bottjer family

Time and the elements have not been kind to this Christmas postcard, which was mailed 97 Decembers ago, in 1920. The front of the card has some creasing and staining. The card was postmarked at 10 p.m. on December 24, 1920, in Woodhaven, Queens, New York, coming in just under the buzzer for Christmas.

The message on the back of the card states:

Best Xmas
Come see our tree.
Edna & George
& little Bottjers.

At first, I thought that Bottjers might be some sort of odd first name or nickname for a child. But it turns out that Bottjer is the family's last name. So the children of George and Edna are "the little Bottjers."

George F. Bottjer was born in Brooklyn and lived from 1887 to 1964. Wife Edna Florence Kelly was also born in Brooklyn and lived from 1891 until 1978. The "little Bottjers" were Everitt (born in 1913) and Herbert (born in 1916), and so they would have been approximately 7 and 4 on this Christmas. And it sounds like they had a tree worth checking out.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

1921 postcard: "Please accept my hearty Christmas Greeting"

Apologies for my extreme lack of Christmas- and holiday-themed posts thus far this month. I am going to ramp up the frequency of festiveness in this final week leading up to Noël. (Of course, if you have a hankering to peruse great Christmas ephemera, you can always dive into Papergreat's Holly Jolly Very Merry Directory of Christmas Posts, which is mostly up to date and has more than 100 things to check out while your cookies are baking.)

Today's Christmas postcard was published by a short-lived New York company called Bergman Quality. It was postmarked on December 26, 1921, with a stamp that denotes both Flushing and Forest Hills in Queens.

Underneath the jolly illustration of Santa Claus on the front is the caption "Ah, good friend, What shall I send? Please accept my hearty Christmas Greeting." I love the typography and especially the design of the C in Christmas and G in Greeting.

This postcard helps us to confirm our solution to a mystery from earlier this year. It's addressed to Miss Lucy Steinhoff in Brooklyn. Her last name was badly misspelled as Stienhouph in a separate postcard I wrote about in September.

The short message on the back of the card states: "Hope Santa will be good to you. Love Aunt Julia"

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Memory from the Gettysburg Times

I came across this tweet recently...

...and it reminded me of a funny story from the first newspaper I worked for after college, the Gettysburg Times.

Don Shoemaker worked there as a photographer, and his talent for his craft was exceeded only by his kindness toward me, a rookie journalist learning the ropes of covering Adams County sports. Soon after my arrival, I found myself juggling the dual roles of sports editor and sportswriter in the summer of 1993. Don helped to keep me sane with his tips and guidance on the big teams and personalities in our coverage area.

For him, the toughest part of the job was our newsroom computer system. (I believe it was Atex.) These machines were heartless and finicky. They did not care about your work or deadlines.

One of Don's responsibilities as a photographer was to type his photo captions into this finicky editorial computer system, so that they would be available for the editors. Once, after he had spent an inordinate amount of time crafting a long caption — full of names and places and semicolons and background about a prestigious local organization, for a thankless grip-and-grin news photo — he went to hit the "save" button.

The computer froze.

The completed caption was there, but it could not be saved.

And there was no way in hell Don was retyping that cutline.

Angry but clever, Don grabbed his trusty camera. He snapped two photos of the computer screen. He developed the film. He made a pair of prints in the darkroom. He merged the two photos together and taped the finished product to the editor's computer. Take that.

I kept his caption photo, because I thought it was hilarious. And so I still have it, a quarter-century later. It's a nice journalism relic now, in addition to still being a wonderful newspaper story.

Donald B. Shoemaker died of cancer in May 1996. He was only 45. In addition to being a Spring Grove native and a fellow Penn State graduate, he had been an aspiring actor, an excellent golfer, a college instructor and a commercial photographer at Three Mile Island.

My memories are of a friend, a top-notch photojournalist, and a guy who never, ever let the computer win.

Friday, December 15, 2017

"Come and play with us, Danny."

This mid-century mystery photo, about 3 inches wide and with zero identifying information, shows two beautiful little girls who are clearly at a wedding or perhaps an Easter service.

But I think it's a sign of our pop-culture Zeitgeist for the past 37 years that many Americans would look at this vintage photograph and exclaim, "The Grady twins!" The force is indeed strong within King and Kubrick's The Shining.

Those girls who terrorized Danny Torrance haven't shown any signs of losing steam or going away anytime soon. I mean, they even have their own Funko POP! set, so they're pretty much here to stay.

Best picture of birds in kimonos you'll see this month

This delightful 19th century advertising card, for Liebig Company's Fleisch-Extract, is a companion to the one that I posted and wrote about in November 2015. You can read about the company and the voluminous number of advertising cards it issued in that previous post.

This near-mint card features a Japanese couple kneeling in their living with a trio of birds in kimonos.1 There is also an oversized container of Fleisch-Extract.

The German-language caption states:

Der Sperling mit der geschlitzten Zunge.
(Japanisches Kindermärchen) _No. 2.

That translates to:

The sparrow with the slotted tongue.
(Japanese children's fairy tale) No. 2

Shita-kiri Suzume ("Tongue-Cut Sparrow") is a Japanese fable or fairy tale that explores greed and jealousy and is similar in theme to other tales from around the world — tales that might feature dwarves, witches or other supernatural creatures in the place of sparrows.

You can read many versions of the tale at D.L. Ashliman's website, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh.

Related posts

1. Google, before this post goes live, says: "No results found for 'trio of birds in kimonos'."

Thursday, December 14, 2017

1914 postcard: "Road to White Horse Ledge and Echo Lake"

This beautiful old postcard was mailed in August 1914 to a resident of the Clifton Springs (New York) Sanitarium, which is now an apartment building. Published by the Atkinson News Company of Tilton, New Hampshire, it features the "Road to White Horse Ledge and Echo Lake showing Mt. Kearsarge, North Conway, N.H."

White Horse (or Whitehorse) Ledge is "a huge chunk of granite that is host to a wide variety of climbing styles from face climbs to cracks to of course slabs," according to Mountain Project.

Echo Lake, full of trout, covers 38 acres within Franconia Notch State Park in northern New Hampshire. Franconia Notch was best known for the Old Man of the Mountain rock formation, which collapsed in 2003.

Mount Kearsarge is located in southcentral New Hampshire. It rises to nearly 3,000 feet and it is said that you can see the skyscrapers of Boston from its summit on a clear day.

The short note on this postcard states:
I am at Intervale just now. Have been here for two wks. and expect to stay for two more. Was glad to receive your letter. I hope this card will reach you.
Emma B. [?]

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Would you like to play a game of Wizzardz & War Lordz?

Did anyone ever play this computer game? Because I can't find much about it on the Internet. It's the IBM PC game "Wizzardz & War Lordz," which was advertised in the December 1986 issue of Computer Gaming World. The game was offered by Ram Tek Co. of Fort Wayne, Indiana, and cost $29.95, which would be the equivalent of about $66 today.

Here's the advertising copy for the game, which was clearly hoping to be a fantasy best-seller alongside the likes of series like Ultima and Wizardry:
"I have slaved in many dungeons, but the one my new master, Vylgar, built for Wizzardz & War Lordz is absolutely the big leagues for hateful mutant warriors like me. Behold! 15 levels, over 500 rooms, hundreds of my fiendish friends. And enough surprises to keep you trapped down here a very, very long time.

"Fear not. You'll have a fighting chance. Design an unlimited number of characters. Choose their race, class and abilities, and bring them six at a time down our 3-D corridors, armed with any of thousands of weapons.

"Take it from a pro monster. This is the biggest, meanest, deadliest dungeon ever. And I love it, because more brave adventurers are challenging Wizzardz & War Lordz every day. A good thing, too, for I grow extremely hungry."

The trademark for Wizzardz & War Lordz was first filed in May 1985 and has long since expired. It was written by James Martin of Fort Wayne, with Thomas Martin also being a co-holder on the trademark. The advertisement for the game appeared in at least two other, earlier issues of CGW.

Does anyone remember this game? Did anyone play it? The only other thing I can find about it on the Internet is that it was quickly featured — just two months ago — on a Lazy Game Reviews video titled "Opening Stuff You Sent Me! October 2017." Here are a couple of screen grabs...

Monday, December 11, 2017

Old postcard: Castle Rock near Santa Barbara, California

Here's a peaceful and secluded spot. The label on the front of this old postcard states "Castle Rock, Santa Barbara, Cal."

(Of course, Santa Barbara, California, is anything but peaceful tonight, as the hellish Thomas Fire has pushed further into Santa Barbara County, leveling hundreds of thousands of acres.)

This Castle Rock is not to be confused with Castle Rock State Park,
Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area, or Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge, all of which are also located in California. And of course it's not to be confused with the fictional site of all those Stephen King horror tales.

This Castle Rock appears just to be the name of the rock formation that juts out into the Pacific Ocean along this piece of Santa Barbara County coastline. That's it to the left on this postcard, I reckon.

This postcard has survived for over a century. It was mailed to Media, Pennsylvania, in 1915. The short caption states:
We are on our way home — left Los Angeles this morning — leave here to-morrow morning.
The postcard was published by the Souvenir Publishing Company of Los Angeles and San Francisco and has this additional label on the back: "M 22 On the Road of a Thousand Wonders."

Sounds like a great road to me.

Heiligenblut am Großglockner,
a beautiful little spot in Austria

This looks like a nice place to retire to. It's a postcard of the municipality of Heiligenblut am Großglockner (we'll just call it Heiligenblut moving forward) in central Austria. The community of about 1,000 folks is situated within the Alps, at the foot of Grossglockner, which is, at about 12,400 feet, the tallest mountain in Austria.

From Heiligenblut, you can take the scenic Grossglockner High Alpine Road, which climbs to 8,200 feet and offers majestic views of the mountains. (You'll have to wait for it to re-open in May, however. It's closed during the winter.)

Another of Heiligenblut's notable attractions is St. Vincent church, which can be seen on the left side of this postcard. The church is home to a vial that is said to contain the blood of Christ. And thus that's how the town got its name. You can read the story of the "Heiligen Bluet" on this tourism website.

I believe this postcard is from the 1960s. It was mailed with a blue, Deutsche Bundespost stamp that was issued in 1966 and features the Brandenburg Gate. The postmark is too obscured to read the year on it. Here's the message that was written to a family in Irvington, New Jersey:
Aug. 19
Here we are in a very quaint town. The country around here is spectacular. Raymond has done lots of the driving. The mt. passes are really something. We had a good flight but this plane that was to pick us up in iceland [sic] was 8 hours late, motor trouble. They set down in Canada for repairs. I was scared to get on the darn thing. Regards from Erna, Max and Raymond.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Science-fiction book cover:
"Invaders from Rigel"

  • Title: Invaders from Rigel
  • Cover blurb: "A Science-Fiction tale of a community that had miraculously changed to metal."
  • Cover typography: Fairly boring
  • Author: Fletcher Pratt (1897-1956)
  • Cover illustrator: Unknown
  • Publisher: Airmont Books (SF-4)
  • Book's first publication: 1960 (though it is an expansion of a magazine novella first written in the early 1930s)
  • Date of this edition: 1976 (Airmont published four editions of this book between 1964 and 1976, with the price starting at 40 cents, rising to 60 cents for the second and third editions, and then peaking at 95 cents for this one. Source:
  • Price: 95 cents
  • Pages: 127
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back-cover blurb excerpt: "But Murray Lee woke up with a feeling of overpowering stiffness in every muscle. He turned over in bed and felt his left elbow, which seemed to be aching particularly — and received the shock of his life. The motion was attended by a creaking clang, and his elbow felt like a complex wheel. Why — he was metal all over!"
  • Silliness Level of that: 8.5 out of 10.
  • First sentence: Murray Lee woke abruptly, the memory of the sound that had roused him drumming at the back of his head, though his conscious mind had been beyond its ambit.
  • Right. What's an ambit? Merriam-Webster defines ambit as "the bounds or limits of a place or district" or "a sphere of action, expression, or influence."
  • Last paragraph: "Ho hum," said Ben Ruby. "The dictator of New York seems to be de trop. How does one get out of here?"
  • Random sentence from middle: The white knight, he wrote in a fit of impish perversity, is climbing up the poker.
  • Goodreads rating: 2.86 stars out of 5.
  • Excerpt of nice review from, written in 2009 by Raymond Mathiesen: "Right from the start of this novel Fletcher Pratt writes with a cheery, devil-may-care attitude that reveals that he has his tongue firmly wedged in his cheek. The book is filled with absurd circumstance, snappy dialogue and incredulous plot twists. The 'science' in the story is so weird that it can't tolerate a moment's serious analysis. Pratt has written a good-natured parody of the type of stories written in the 'Golden Age' of science fiction (1930's to 1950's). The ray guns, strange, malevolent aliens and super-fast flying-craft are all there, but with a mock serious aura. The story is closer to true fantasy, and interestingly Pratt had previously published seven fantasy novels, most of them with a humorous bent."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Two dozen dandy articles to bookmark for December reading

It's that time again!

Here's a roundup of all the interesting writing and photography that caught my eye during the past month.

Instead of sorting it into categories, I'm just going to present the two dozen links in random order. Serious and silly. Present news and history. Sports things and book things. Maybe that will lead to some thoughtful and unexpected connections as your browse through and find something (or multiple somethings) that you want to read during a break from wrapping presents and shoveling snow (if you live in Texas).

But wait. There's more!

For your enjoyment, here are just a few
of the tweets I loved over the past month.
Follow @Papergreat on Twitter to get ALL the retweets.

Want more great reading suggestions?
Browse through the Friday Reads category.