Friday, January 27, 2017

50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 disaster

This vintage postcard shows President Nixon greeting Apollo 11 astronauts (from left) Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin as they remain in their Mobile Quarantine Facility aboard the aircraft carrier USS Hornet, following their return from their successful mission to the moon in July 1969.

This happy postcard almost never was.

Just 30 months earlier, the situation was much more grim for NASA and America's dream of landing a man on the moon.

On January 27, 1967 — 50 years ago today — Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, the astronauts who comprised the three-man crew of Apollo 1, were killed in a cabin fire during a launch rehearsal test at Cape Kennedy.

But the tragedy and its subsequent investigation spurred significant changes to the capsule design and safety features. NASA returned to space 21 months later. In a story about the Apollo 1 anniversary on NPR, Apollo 11 astronaut Collins, now 86, says that if the fatal launch-pad fire in 1967 hadn't happened, it's likely that a similar accident would have occurred in space. Such a higher-profile disaster might have spelled the end for NASA and the race to the moon.

"Without it, very likely, we would have not landed on the moon as the president had wished by the end of the decade," Collins said in the NPR report.

Read more about today's 50th anniversary of the tragedy at and in Sarah Larimer's piece in The Washington Post.

If you've never watched the 12-episode HBO miniseries "From the Earth to the Moon," about America's quest to reach the moon, I give it the highest recommendation. The second episode is entirely about Apollo 1 and its aftermath.

* * *

From the back of today's postcard...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Comments windfall: Who is my amazing Anonymous benefactor?

I've never seen anything like this in the six-plus years of Papergreat's existence. In the past two days, I've received no fewer than a dozen comments on posts from the archives. All of them are Anonymous comments, and all of them are wonderful and clarifying and helpful. I'm going to round all of them up for a weekend post, to share the insights that have been provided and the mysteries that have been unlocked.

If you're reading this, Anonymous, thank you! And if you'd like to share a little bit about yourself — your initials or your state of residence or perhaps a special code name or call sign — that would be cool. And if you prefer to simply remain Anonymous, that's cool, too. I just wanted you to know that I appreciate that you read Papergreat and have provided many interesting tidbits that help to improve upon these posts.

"Just like the manger scenes"

This postcard of the Sphinx and the Giza pyramid complex and a caravan of camels was sent to Yonkers, New York, in December 1978. The note states:
Dear Beverly,
This trip is like taking a step back into Biblical times. The way of life has changed so little since then & the culture is so different from ours. Driving through the desert you see scene that look just like the manger scenes. We are on a tour & it is very hectic. There really is a lot to see. We went to Cairo & Luxor & Aswan (we even saw the dam). The weather is hot & sunny & it's a nice change from Milan.
Love Ben & Barbara

These days, Egypt isn't the safest place for Americans to travel. The U.S. Department of State last updated its advisory for the country about a month ago, on December 23. It states, in part:
"The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of threats from terrorist groups in Egypt and to consider the risks of travel to the country. For security reasons, the U.S. Mission in Egypt prohibits diplomatic personnel from traveling to the Western Desert and the Sinai Peninsula outside the beach resort of Sharm El-Sheikh; U.S. citizens should also avoid travel to these areas. U.S. Mission personnel are only permitted to travel to and from Sharm el-Sheikh by air – overland travel is not allowed anywhere in the Sinai Peninsula.

"The Egyptian Government maintains a heavy security presence at major tourist sites, such as Sharm el-Sheikh, Hurghada, and other beach resorts on the Red Sea and on the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria, and at many of the temples and archaeological sites located in and around greater Cairo and in the Nile Valley, such as Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel. U.S. Mission personnel are allowed to travel to these areas. However, terrorist attacks can occur anywhere in the country."
So that's kind of sobering. These simply aren't the best days to visit the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Here's a look at the stamp that was used. It was part of a series of landmark-themed airmail stamps issued by Egypt on January 1, 1978.

Related posts

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Some 1965 Amazing Stories ads were too amazing to be true

Last summer, just before Independence Day, I shared some of the classified advertisements that had appeared in the back pages of the August 1977 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Several of them were creepy. It was the late 1970s, after all.

There were questionable dating services and ESP labs and a mad scientist seeking "assistants" and the Tibetan eye chart.

Now, let's go back 12 years earlier than 1977 and check out the classified ads in the October 1965 issue of Amazing Stories. Before typing these up, my prediction was that these Lyndon Johnson Era notices would be a bit tamer than those crazy ones from the Jimmy Carter/David Berkowitz Era.

Here we go...

  • AUTHORS! Learn how to have your book published, promoted, distributed. Free booklet "ZD", Vantage, 120 West 31 St., New York 1.
  • SF BARGAINS. List free. Werewolf Bookshop, Verona 47, Pa.
  • BOOKHUNTERS! Sent Wants! Atlantic Book Service, 10 N Cedar, Charlestown, Mass. 02129.
  • WHY Buy Books? Send 10¢ for information. Science Fiction Circulating Library, P.O. Box 1308, South San Gabriel, Calif. 91777.
  • INVESTIGATE ACCIDENTS — Earn $750 to $1,400 monthly. Men urgently needed. Car furnished. Business expenses paid. No selling. No college education necessary. Pick own job location. Investigate full time. Or earn $6.44 hour spare time. Write for Free Literature. No obligation. Universal, CB-7. 6801 Hillcrest, Dallas 5, Texas.
  • LEARN While Asleep, hypnotize with your recorder, phonograph. Astonishing details, sensational catalog free! Sleep-Learning Association, Box 24-ZD, Olympia, Wash.
  • DOUBLE Your Luck With this Unusual "Hotei" God inside Horseshoe. Rub his tummy, and you can't lose wearing it on your keychain. Only $1.98, 2 for $3.00. Erna's P.O. Box 646, 1615 N. Wilcox Ave., Hollywood, Calif. 90028.
  • ELECTRONIC Ray kills bugs moths gnats flies, mosquitos by millions. Free information Sunray Distributing, Old Fort, N.C.
  • CURIOUS? Strange, Weird, Unusual Surprise Package from HAWAII. Only for mature adults. $3. Box 3503 Honolulu, Hawaii.
  • FLORIDA Water Wonderland — Homesites, Cottagesites, Mobilesites, Established area $390, full price, $5.00 month. Swimming, fishing, boating. Write, Lake Weir, 38 bg, Silver Springs, Fla. Ad 6-1070 (F-1)

Indeed, while there is some odd stuff there, there's nothing that's nearly as creepy as the 1977 advertisement for "BEAUTIFUL MEXICAN GIRLS needing American boy-friends."

Taking a closer look at the 1965 notices, the first one that jumped out at me was the Werewolf Bookshop in Verona, Pennsylvania. Was that really a place? Is that really a place? Verona is a riverside borough located northeast of Pittsburgh. I found a couple interesting mentions about the Werewolf Bookshop online. An article titled "Way Down In Verona" by Howard DeVore details the (alleged) scheme by which the bookseller made money. An excerpt:
"He would tell you that he was going back into the Army, and that he must get rid of his inventory of books and magazines, one way or the other. He went on to say that rather than assigning them to a paper drive he was giving them away for the price of postage -- for six dollars postage you could pick out one hundred dollars worth of books. The postage was far too high but it was still a very good deal, so, you picked out $100 worth of books and sent him the six dollars. Eventually, you got a package from him, but when you opened it, it did not include the books you ordered. Instead, you got two or three old beat-up books, which were marked 'out of print, $50'."
There's much more to the tale, and you should read the whole thing for all the gory biblio-scam details. It's a bit amusing now, but all of the folks who got jobbed must have been (rightfully) furious.

The Werewolf Bookshop is also mentioned in a Walker Martin remembrance titled "COLLECTING PULPS: A Memoir, Part 12: Rereading UNKNOWN and UNKNOWN WORLDS." Here's that excerpt from Mystery*File:
"Finally in 1963, while attending college, I managed to put aside $50 and I started scouting around for a set of the 39 issues [of the magazine Unknown]. All I could pay was $50 but everyone I contacted wanted more. I even contacted the Werewolf Bookshop in Verona, Pennsylvania (this bookstore advertised in many of the digest SF magazines) and I still have the letter dated September 3, 1963. I stapled it into my Unknown book where I noted my thoughts and comments on the magazine. The owner stated that he had contacted three fans and only one was willing to sell and he wanted $200 for his set.

"Back in 1963 this was an outrageous sum, and it’s lucky I did not send money to the Werewolf Bookshop. It seems the owner was in the habit of sending you anything he had if he did not have the books that you ordered. Then when you complained about receiving books that you didn’t want, he would ignore your letters and keep your money. If I had sent him $200, there is no telling what he would have shipped me. Except that it would not have been a set of Unknown. I have read about and even met fellow collectors who fell victim to this scam."
So there are your Werewolf Bookshop cautionary tales...

Of course, you could have afforded all the books that your heart desired in the 1960s if you were an Accident Investigator. The sum of $1,400 per month noted in the Amazing Stories advertisement is the equivalent of about $10,800 per month today! But I'm guessing the dreams promised by that "job" were a scam, too.

As an alternative, you wouldn't have needed a high-paying job if you could DOUBLE YOUR LUCK. And all that required was a $1.98 investment in a "Hotei God inside Horseshoe." Hotei, also known as Budai or Pu-Tai, is an Asian folklore deity that is purported to bestow good fortune, especially if you rub his idol's ample belly. Hotei is one of the Seven Lucky Gods.

Finally, if you got one of those Florida "Wonderland" lots for just $390 and are still living happily ever after down in the Sunshine State, drop us a line. (Drop us a line, too, if you know any of the true details behind that too-good-to-be-true real-estate deal.)

Book cover: "The Memory Bank"

  • Title: The Memory Bank
  • Cover blurb: "A science fiction novel of time and worlds to come"
  • Author: Wallace West (1900-1980)
  • Cover illustrator: Ralph Brillhart
  • Publisher: Airmont Books (in arrangement with Thomas Bouregy & Company)
  • Date of publication: 1962
  • Price: 35 cents
  • Pages: 127
  • Format: Paperback
  • Words and phrases appearing on the back-cover blurb: Catastrophe, Earth, mankind, galactic, Centaurus system, Memory Bank, immortality, custodian, most beautiful woman, Marian, Merek, non-depositor, danger, weaken, easy prey, ravishingly beautiful Barbarian girl Iskra, vital part, resolve, defy.
  • First sentence: "When I need your advice, Lieutenant Commander," cooed the admiral, "I shall send you a plascript!"
  • Number of Google hits for "plascript" before publishing this post: 198.
  • Last sentence: Ignoring the others in the halftrack, Merek showed her.
  • Should we ask what Merek showed her? No.
  • Random sentence from middle: He had a chance to look into those fathomless eyes under brows which slanted upward questioningly; the high cheek bones and the dimple which played at the left corner of those lovely lips.
  • Dear lord, that sentence: Indeed.
  • Notes: Where shall we begin? I think it's fair to call West, who was born in Kentucky at the turn of the century, a minor author within science-fiction. Most of his writing was short fiction, though he also wrote a handful of novels, including this one. On The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, his "author tags" include time travel, subliminal control, Pluto exploration, breeding protoplasm, and mad scientist. ... Cover illustrator Brillhart (1924-2007) did artwork for a few dozen covers during his career, including Asimov's The Caves of Steel and at least one Clifford D. Simak novel. According to his short 2007 obituary in The New York Times: "He was an honorably discharged Marine and retired commercial illustrator, he loved photography and carpentry work, and never truly knew how talented and special he was. Ralph requested no funeral and that his remains be cremated." ... Airmont Books was an imprint of Thomas Bouregy & Company and, apparently, per the Judging the Books blog, "all the Airmont Books were reprints of Bouregy’s own hardcovers, issued without any additional payment to the authors." So that kind of sucked for the writers. ... This obscure book also earned a mention on the long-lived John & Belle Have A Blog, in a 2003 post titled, appropriately, "Ask not for whom the admiral cooed."
  • One more random sentence: Still Iskra merely shrugged her lovely shoulders after each burst of the Franklin gun.
  • Keeping this book? Nope.

Monday, January 23, 2017

"Not Your Father's Chicken Dinner Banquet"

This advertisement caught my eye earlier this month when it popped up in my Twitter feed as a post from the Reading Fightins (the Philadelphia Phillies' Double-A baseball farm team). There might be a couple too many fonts involved in the design, but I'm a sucker for the retro/nostalgia elements in the top half of the advertisement.

It's possible that this "flyer" only exists in this digital form. I doubt that there was a mass printing of dead-tree versions.

When I started Papergreat, the Phillies were in the midst of a new golden age that saw them win five straight National League East titles from 2007 to 2011 and capture the 2008 World Series. And then, after 2011, they fell off a cliff (figuratively). Now, they seem to be taking some baby steps toward contention again.

If a revival takes place, it will likely be thanks in part to some young players who played in Reading last summer, including J.P. Crawford, Dylan Cozens, Rhys Hoskins, Roman Quinn, Andrew Pullin, Jorge Alfaro and Scott Kingery. I hope we look back on this post in 2027 and say, "Gee willikers, Pop, that 2016 Reading Phillies team was loaded with future stars!"

1938 photo: Literal government pit in Great Lakes, Illinois

Here's an old photo, measuring seven inches across, that I found in the York New Salem store a while back. The caption in the lower-right corner states:


Naval Station Great Lakes still exists. It has been in continuous use since 1911 and is the home of the U.S. Navy's only boot camp. Its nicknames include "The Quarterdeck of the Navy." (As an interesting aside, the Great Lakes boot camp had its own intercollegiate football team, the Bluejackets, during the first half of the 20th century and even won the 1919 Rose Bowl, 17-0, over the Mare Island Marines, with the game being played just weeks after World War I had ended.)

Regarding those photo captions, the P.W.A. was the Public Works Administration and the W.P.A. was the Works Progress Administration, both being parts of the New Deal. It's complicated, but, in a nutshell, the PWA came first and exhausted all of its budget by 1934, even though its projects took many years beyond that to complete. The WPA was the followup program to the PWA and was tasked with additional infrastructure and arts initiatives. It's not surprising that a long-term project such as improving a powerhouse might have used both PWA and WPA funds.

Here's a closer look at some of the actual men who did the dirty and surely back-breaking work at Great Lakes.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

"I am almost Down Sick myself with Rheumatism and colds."

No publisher or artist is listed for this pastoral postcard, which was postmarked on February 16, 1911, in Pierceville, Indiana. It was mailed to Mrs. Hannah Moir, who lived on Brookside Avenue in Indianapolis, which is about 75 miles northwest of Pierceville.1

A long note is written in careful cursive on the card. Oddly, the date with the note is later than the postmark. The note states:
Pierceville Ind. Feb. 20 1911
Dear Sister was glad to get your card. Glad you are all well — Ana [?] is better. I am almost Down Sick myself with Rheumatism and colds. Sadie is not well — our Protract [??] is going on now. Ma is about to be up most of the time now. So you have moved [illegible] in work now. I am not able to do any thing much. The trouble is my Shoulders and left arm — I guess that I know just about where you live but don't know as I could find it. Will close. Don't wait as long to write. I have to move again in two weeks.
Bella Sadie

1. Some interesting facts:
  • Another thing that happened on February 16, 1911: U.S. Representative William Stiles Bennet (R-New York), unhappy with a foreign-trade agreement, introduced a resolution proposing that the United States annex Canada. The resolution was crushed in committee. But it left President Taft having to deal with ticked-off folks in Canada and the United Kingdom.
  • Pierceville is an unincorporated community in southeastern Indiana that had a post office from 1854 to 1976.
  • Pierceville's biggest claim to fame might be as the birthplace of Bobby Plump, who was the inspiration for the Jimmy Chitwood character in Hoosiers.

Reward of Merit card featuring a girl under an umbrella

This old "Reward of Merit" card features a young girl sitting underneath an umbrella and (possibly) whistling at the birds as a light snow falls.

I thought, at first, that she might be sitting under a dogwood or hawthorn tree that is shedding its spring blossoms. But it's almost certainly snow. The ground is covered in white stuff and she has a basket with holly branches by her side.

It's a cute little card, measuring about 4 inches by 2¾ inches.

The only thing written on the back, in cursive, is: "For dear Johny from Papa."