Friday, June 30, 2017

Cool illustrations: The New Human Interest Library (Part 20)

(This series might end up taking longer to finish than The Winds of Winter.)

When we get the inevitable rainy day this summer, and the kids are bored of playing the Atari 2600, Mouse Trap, and the Castle Amber module, here's 1929's The New Human Interest Library to the rescue!

Print out these four vintage puzzle pages, along with the handy answer sheet for yourself, give them some old-fashioned writing devices called pencils, and let them have hours of fun. The puzzles involve all sorts of wordplay and even some rebuses, with pigs and goats and bunnies and ducks mixed in.

In some cases, past readers have written in the answers (which just shows you how loved this book was), so you'll need to use Wite-Out or Photoshop to clear those away and let your kids start fresh. No biggie.

It looks like all of these puzzle illustrations were created by Conrad (Cobb) X. Shinn, whose name has come up a lot during this series.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Delightful illustrations from "The Blue Domers in the Deep Woods"

The Blue Domers in the Deep Woods was written by Jean Finley and published in 1928 by A.L. Burt Company. It was the third book in an eight-book series, with all eight books being published between 1928 and 1930.

Mary Crosson's "No Frills" Juvenile Series Book Information Site, describes the Blue Domers books: "This series follows the mild adventures of a group of children who love to play outdoors under the sky (hence 'blue domers.') The books are aimed at the same age audience as the Bobbsey Twin series, but the plots are somewhat tamer and more slowly paced. ... The illustrations are charmingly drawn in shades of black and orange, and the full-color appliqué covers are beautiful."

It's those illustrations that spurred this post. They should be saved for posterity. Plus, there are elephants! Here are three pieces of artwork from this book...

In addition, this hardcover book has endpaper illustrations, with separate artwork at the front and the back (which is really uncommon, in any era). Click on the images to view larger versions.

If you're interested in collecting this series, either for the stories or the illustrations, prices range from about $5 to $25 per volume, from the standard online sellers. Conditions will certainly vary greatly. This is a cute little book, though. Crosson was correct when she described the adventure as "mild." There's not much at stake or in jeopardy. And there are characters with names like Barney, Bert, Zed, Big Tim, Marietta Pancake, Percy Pickle, Bingo and a gnome named Paddy McQuoddy.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Want some ephemera?
Course you do!

Pardon my "wry" sense of obscure Return to Zork humor there.

I have been mentioning, perhaps ad nauseam, that I'm in the midst of trying to downsize my Stuff Situation this summer. Books can be donated to book sales and charity. But then there's the more delicate matter of ephemera — inherited papers from the three-plus generations that came before me.

Some of it (gasp) can just be recycled.

Too much of it, I'm keeping.

And then there's a third category: Miscellaneous ephemera that doesn't interest me, but that others might find interesting. Cool old paper, for sure, but paper that just doesn't make the cut here in the land of Too Much Stuff.

So I'd like to find it a new home.

If your lifelong dream is to be mailed Random Old Ephemera from a family you do not know, it might just be your lucky day.

Send your name and snail-mail address to me at chrisottopa (at), and I'll send you a lovely package that will have the others in your household exclaiming, "Why, exactly, did you want that stuff?" First come, first served.

* * *

Unrelated to this post, I received an email today from an awesome reader named Lisa who wants to send me some interesting ephemera that she came across. This isn't helping the downsizing, I know. But how can I resist such a nice offer? Lisa's hobby is postcards, and you should check out her website, where many nifty cards are featured.

Good morning. Here's a postcard for this fine morning.

It won't last, but we're in the midst of a beautiful stretch of midsummer days in which the temperature is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's sunny with a perfect light breeze. No need for it ever to be any hotter than that.

So here's an old "Good morning glory" postcard for you to enjoy. I'm assuming she didn't wear those slippers to bed, and has just put them on, so that she can trod downstairs and have some cantaloupe and corn flakes. Or perhaps some Egg-O-See cereal.

This postcard has never been used, and it has a big pink blotch on the back. A tiny logo indicates that this was a Bergman Quality postcard. That New York company was only in business in 1912 and 1913, according to Alan Petrulis' magnificent

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Pair of York County QSL cards

Here are a pair of York County QSL cards that I picked up, I think, within the past year at the store in York New Salem. The first one is from my new "town" of residence — Dover. (Technically, I'm in Dover Township. There is also a borough called Dover, with the township and borough being adjacent. Pennsylvania small government is weird. Actually, there is technically only one town in all of Pennsylvania — Bloomsburg. But even though it's incorporated as a town, it's treated like a borough. So there.)

The above card was for David Baker, whose call sign was 3W1763. There is no date anywhere on the front or back; this card was never used or mailed. Best guess for this QSL would be the 1950s or 1960s. I think my favorite part of it is the font used for PENNA.

This is a postcard that was turned into a makeshift QSL for Ernie from Dallastown. The black-and-white postcard shows St. Joseph's Roman Catholic School and Rectory, a parish that dates to 1850, according to its website.

Written in cursive on the front of the card is:

3W3834 - Base
128 W. Maple St.
Dallastown Pa.

I like how Ernie dots the I in his name with a circle. The back of the postcard has never been written on. It was published by The Tecraft Company of Tenafly, New Jersey.

* * *
I recently mailed an old QSL card to a Postcrossing card recipient in Japan who had mentioned, in his profile, that short-wave radio was one of his hobbies. After receiving it, he emailed back:
I appreciate your mail. I have never seen such an old QSL card! To tell you the truth, I was a ham radio operator... I got a license over 20 years ago when I was high-school student, but I stopped doing so because I was too busy for study. Newspaper business is changing in Japan too, as young people are not interested in reading it. It is hard to survive, but still journalism is important job, so good luck for your job!
Have a nice day,

Monday, June 26, 2017

4 Postcrossing cards packed with European folklife and culture

Sharing some folklife-themed postcards I have received in recent weeks via the joy of Postcrossing...

From sisters Vladimira and Alexandra in Slovakia. They write: "The postcard shows a type of our folklore — our heritage. You can also see the High Tatras — our beautiful mountains."

From Minna in Finland. She writes: "The card shows a typical farmyard from Finland before 1960's. And the old men and women have very typical farmers' clothes. But the good physical condition of the old men is not realistic. :D"

From Kseniia in Ukraine, who writes: "Motanka is a traditional Ukrainian handmade doll and also it is an amulet, a symbol of maternity, family and love."

Here's some more about the doll-motanka, from a website called "Family Nest":
"There were these dolls in every peasant house. They performed a variety of functions such as the protection of the house, of children, of sleep and of household. Children liked to play with it. This doll differs from a typical doll by the absence of face. According to the ancient popular beliefs, the face inspired a soul in a doll. The soul can be good or bad. These dolls are made from the natural materials such as (hay, straw, wood, herbs, dry leaves, grains, seeds). The doll-motanka was decorated by the national ornaments and by the embroidery.

"People believed that there was a spirit of ancestors in it and it could pass on the experience from generation to generation. The Ukrainian people believed that this symbol brought them wealth and fortune. The secrets of making this doll were passed on from mother to daughter."

From Angela in Germany. She writes: "This is a folk dance we do on the 1st of May. Men and women are dancing around a Maypole. Their colored ribbons weave a special design."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

More Swarthmore: Old envelope mailed to my great-grandmother

Here's an old envelope (now empty) that was mailed to my great-grandmother from Austria. This is when she and my great-grandfather were living in Swarthmore1, before they moved to the newly built house on Oak Crest Lane in the early 1950s.

I cannot tell the date from the postmark. But the REPUBLIK OSTERREICH Austrian stamp, which has a value of 1 Austrian Schilling, was issued in August 1946, as part of the "scenic 1945 issue of Austria."

There is some writing on the back of the envelope, presumably a return address in Austria, but I can't get much of a good lead from it. I'm not sure who the family knew in Europe at that time, and with Mom gone, this might have entered the realm of eternal mystery...

1. SWARTH-more and SWATH-more are both acceptable pronunciations of Swarthmore. I think I actually fluctuate between the two, depending on how quickly or precisely I'm trying to speak.

"Premium Prize Coupon" for
The Music Box in Swarthmore

Here's an old "Premium Prize Coupon" from The Music Box, a record store that was located at 10 Park Avenue in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania (just a few minutes from the old family home on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford).

If you collected a sufficient number of coupons, you could get a free 98-cent record or even a free $3.98 record. I have no idea how coupons were originally distributed. Maybe it was as simple as you received one coupon for every $1 or $2 worth of products purchased. So, perhaps you could get a free 98-cent record after purchasing ten 98-cent records.

According to the coupon, the store sold records, sheet music, needles, batterys [sic], high fidelity [equipment?], stereos and TVs. The shop's phone number was KI 3-1460.

Here are some other tidbits I discovered about The Music Box:

  • There's an advertisement for The Music Box in the 1947 edition of The Halcyon, Swarthmore College's yearbook. So the business dates back at least that far. In 1947, however, it had a different location — 409 Dartmouth Avenue in Swarthmore.
  • According to a short news item in the August 21, 1965, issue of Billboard magazine: "The Music Box, suburban music and record shop in Swarthmore, Pa., changed its name to Hi-Fi Studio-Music Box." So this coupon dates to sometime before August 1965.
  • And here are some lengthy excerpts from an article1 headlined "Component sales spurt among hi fi experts on local campuses" in the June 10, 1971, edition of the Philadelphia Daily News:
    Dick Shafer, manager of Hi Fi Studio Music Box, Swarthmore, can attest to that because this firm's sales among the teenagers and young college student set has been increasing significantly in the past few years. "The youngsters today think nothing of spending their money for good stereo systems," Shafer said recently. "It never fails to surprise me the amount of knowledge they have of the equipment and the latest developments. It also appears to me that young people must have ultra sensitive ears because they can pick out faults in a system almost immediately and it is very difficult to get anything past them."

    Nevertheless, Shafer and his boss, Harry Oppenlander, love to sell to the youngsters. "I learn something new every time I wait on a youngster here in the store," Shafer said. "For instance, I learned The Hi-Fi stereo component system has become somewhat of a status symbol among to day's younger set — particularly those attending area colleges."

    The way sales have been progressing in recent years at Hi Fi Studio Music Box, every dormitory room at Swarthmore College and most other area colleges must have its own stereo system. The little store in the heart of quaint Swarthmore has become a mecca for area college students because, according to Shafer, "the word passes from ear to ear very quickly among college students. They meet at parties and sports events and very often the talk evolves around stereo systems and the latest in hit records."

    But don't get the idea Hi-Fi Studio Music Box is only for youngsters. It's not, because the firm didn't build its solid reputation among students alone. "Just as stereo systems are growing among youngsters, so, too, are they growing in popularity among the older set," according to Shafer. "I think the youngsters have taught the older people how to really enjoy music," Shafer contends. "I know that we pass on the knowledge we get from the kids to the older people who come in and they are always amazed. For instance, most of the older people listen to the sound or the total score. We have been teaching them to listen for individual instruments and it has enhanced their enjoyment of the set."

1. I'm not sure whether this is an actual newspaper article or an advertorial. I have some suspicions about the urgency with which it is promoting the sale of stereos.