Saturday, July 29, 2017

From the readers: Family trees, travel memories, ghosts & clowns

Here's another round of dandy reader comments, including a slew of great insights and mystery updates from Mark Felt. Thank you so much, all of you, for your ongoing readership of and participation in this blog.

An odd warning on Page 1 of "The Midwich Cuckoos": Inky, who has a wonderful blog titled "On Shoes and Ships and Sealing-Wax" writes: "I love when books start with notes or disclaimers. The 'unimaginative' part makes me think of the remark on the 1946 cover of Peabody's Mermaid that says, 'If you cannot bring yourself to believe in the existence of a beautiful and irresistible mermaid, this book is not for you.'"

Emanuel F. Ness' 1924 guide to perfect poultry: Shadowy Ephemera Correspondent "Mark Felt" writes: "In addition to his infant son Marvin (d. 1911), Emanuel also fathered Paul Warren Ness and Lloyd I. Ness (a biological son, subsequently adopted by his aunt and uncle Edward and Lydia Ness. Interesting: Lloyd's aunt Lydia's maiden name was Floyd, the same as his mother Minnie's maiden name). Paul's dates are 1910-1950 (source). Paul served in World War II and died of "military" tuberculosis. Paul's death certificate (which confirms the names of his parents as mentioned herein) can be viewed here. His brother Lloyd's signature and address are affixed to the above-indicated death certificate. Lloyd's dates are 1912-1990. His biological mother Minnie died about six weeks after Lloyd was born; perhaps that led to his adoption by his aunt and uncle (source #1 and source #2). According to Find A Grave, Lloyd had several children, one of whom was named Carl Anthony Ness (1936-2014). Carl was better known as Pete. Carl fathered several children, one of whom is Donna Gonzalez of Pembroke Pines, Florida. Indeed, her Facebook page lists York, Pennsylvania, as her hometown."

Enjoy this vintage "cubist" postcard for Valentine's Day: Mark Felt writes: "Ellen Clapsaddle's signature appears on most (though not necessarily all) of her postcards — see here. Given that no signature appears on this particular postcard, it may or may not be her work. A companion card (514D) from the same series was postmarked in 1916 — see here."

Be careful looking through those Greycliff Girls books: Mark Felt writes: "A fear of clowns is known as 'coulrophobia' — or is it? Although the phobia is certainly real, the term itself appears to have been contrived in the last few decades. Then again, all words need to start somewhere, sometime."

Happy Sweet 16 to Sarah! Mark Felt writes: "Glee Gum (under the corporate moniker Verve, Inc.) was founded by Deborah Schimberg of Providence, Rhode Island, and was named 2015 Rhode Island Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration (source)."

Charles Simmons' cabinet card: Mark Felt writes: "Charles and Mary Simmons were the parents of Elizabeth (6/28/1874 to 2/24/1937), Charles Simmons Jr., James C. Simmons, Ann Gregg Simmons Carver, and Mrs. Florence D. Baylis (source). Charles and his brother Samuel were in the lumber business. Ann's husband was Henry Howard Carver (January 1867 to 10/22/1946) (source). All of the siblings are mentioned together here. 'Several nieces and nephews' and 'grandchildren' are mentioned in the various articles referenced above, so you no doubt have second and third cousins in Delaware."

Confusion over date of William Penn's 1682 arrival in Pennsylvania: Mark Felt writes: "Kenneth R. Rinker was quite the philatelist. This June 11, 1941, edition of the Greensburg (Indiana) Daily News referred to him as a 'local stamp collector.' He was also city editor of the same newspaper (source). Many of Mr. Rinker's philatelic covers can be found posted at various links, including: here and here and here and here.

Pair of York County QSL cards: Mark Felt writes: "'Ernie' is Ernest G. Smeigh (source). As to whether it's Ernie Sr. or Jr., the mystery continues."

Vintage "Auto Bingo" card, just in time for your Sunday afternoon drive: Wendy from the awesome-sauce website Roadside Wonders posted the following on Papergreat's Facebook page: "We had a set when I was little for the 5-hour ride to Grandma's ... and vacations. My sister hated playing it — but it was either that or hours of me doing fake interviews into my tape recorder with attached microphone. My parents must have really regretted getting that for me for Christmas."

Want some ephemera? Course you do! Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "Hmmmm. You may be on to something. I've been trying to downsize my ephemera as well. Some of it is so obscure, I'd hate to recycle/trash it."

Saturday's postcard: Miss Hilda Trevelyan (and cat): Wendy from Roadside Wonders writes: "That hair ... I would be a miserable looking specimen of a woman if I tried to do that."

(I'm sure you would not be.)

Mystery at Penmarth: a Ruth Manning-Sanders rarity: Trevor writes: "Hello, I'm looking for a copy of A Book of Ghosts and Goblins by Ruth Manning-Sanders. This is the one with the illustration of a goblin and a ghost on the front cover. I really don't know what year it was published. I know I enjoyed the stories very much. Do you have information where I can obtain a copy? Thanks."

My updated response: It's a great book and not too hard to find. It's available in both hardcover and (multiple) paperback editions. The hardcover came out in either 1968 or 1969. Here's a link to the Amazon page for this book: ... The prices are pretty reasonable, compared to some other Manning-Sanders books. However, read closely on the Amazon book descriptions. Most of the hardcover copies do not have dust jackets, which means you won't get the cover illustration you might be seeking (if that matters to you). Another option is eBay, where you usually see the exact copy you are purchasing or bidding on. Happy hunting! If you're not too picky about the condition of the book, this isn't going to set you back much.

Halloween Countdown #9: Who on earth would wear this? Anonymous writes: "Making your own clothes was fairly common up till the early 1970s. It was a different world where families were closer and did these sorts of things. I can recall my mother dragging me into stores with so many colors of yarn, the ones you mention above don't surprise me. That was when the doctors still made house calls — in other words, a long time ago."

Sunday's postcard: Nebraska's Crowell Memorial Home, circa 1910: Erica Bruner writes: "I work at Crowell, and I was so pleased to see this! How neat! I maintain our photographs and help with historical info on our website and Facebook pages, so I love seeing anything new. I had not seen this particular photograph. Thank you for sharing."

You're always welcome!

Also regarding this Crowell postcard, Mark Felt solves yet another mystery: "The indecipherable sender of this postcard was one 'Mrs. A.P. Flye' of Blair, Nebraska (as the postmark indicates). Here is an obituary notice for Mrs. Flye's brother-in-law Alvan McKenney, who died in January, 1915, buried in the Blair Cemetery (source)."

Photos of family members reading: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "In the picture of your mother, my guess is the book is a collection of stereographs. Looking at the pictures in the book, they seem to be 2 nearly identical pictures side by side with no text. I'm guessing the book would have come with a viewer you would set above the pictures."

Mom and her brother in Texas: Anonymous writes: "Who is the ghostly silhouetted figure to the left? Based on the obscured image of that person, and the fact that he (or likely she) is pointing in a similar manner as your uncle, the figure nearly appears as a shadowy apparition of your uncle."

My thoughts: I'm really not sure! I don't think it's my grandmother. It could be the mother of my grandfather (Jack Ingham).

Friday, July 28, 2017

Possibly my dream house, but I need to venture inside for myself

By Shuvaev (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this summer, returning from a baseball game, we found ourselves traveling through Parts Unknown in eastern Pennsylvania, with only Siri as our guide. We like to live on the edge that way. The road curved and we came upon a small town that looked as if it had seen better days or better decades; Pennsylvania is famous for towns of this type. We had come upon Slatington (Pop. 4,200).

As we passed through on the borough's main road, we came upon an incredible-looking house, situated on a corner. We didn't have time to snap a photograph, but Wikipedia had one, and it's shown at the top of this post. I can tell you, unreservedly, that the house no longer looks as good as it does in the Wikipedia photo. It's in much worse condition. There was a for-sale sign, but it looked like wishful thinking more than anything.

Yet I had to know what the story was with this place. And it turns out it has a name: the Alfred Kern House.

The Kerns were an important family in Slatington history. In 1737, Nicholas Kern was the area's first white settler. It was more than a century later that Alfred J. Kern came along. He was born in 1847 and made his mark as a miller and a businessman in Slatington. The house bearing his name was built in 1903, on the site of an old family mill, at the corner of Main and Diamond streets.

Alfred died in 1933, but his last surviving child, Beulah F. Kern (1890-1991) lived in her father's house until her death at age 101. She was, at one point, Slatington's oldest living resident.

It's not clear what became of the Alfred Kern House after Beulah died in 1991. Nothing too great, it seems. Some interior photos from last year are available on this 2016 post from Old House Dreams, but they're kind of heartbreaking. I'd love to take my own look inside, and really explore the nooks and crannies. A house like that must hold a lot of history ... and mysteries ... and ephemera ... and, who knows, maybe a secret passage or a hand of glory or a walled-up clock, plus a ghost or two.

I think I might still prefer the house with the goat on its roof, but the Alfred Kern House is definitely intriguing!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

1910 postcard: Roller coaster at Nantasket Beach's Paragon Park

This postcard, mailed in the summer of 1910, is labeled "Boulevard and Nantasket Roller Coaster, Nantasket Beach, Mass." The divided-back card was published by the Metropolitan News & Publishing Company of Boston, and it was printed in Germany.1

Paragon Park was the name of the amusement park that operated on Nantasket Beach for three-quarters of a century, from about 1909 to 1984. According to Wikipedia:
"Among the amusement rides in operation during Paragon Park's history was a traditional-style Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel (PTC #85) with hand-crafted horses, a bumper cars ride known as 'Auto Scooters,' a Ferris wheel, a horror-themed dark ride called 'Kooky Kastle,' and a wooden roller coaster known as The Giant Coaster."
The Giant Coaster — parts of which now comprise "The Wild One" at Six Flags America in Prince George's County, Maryland — did not open until 1917, so it's not the roller coaster that's shown on this postcard.

For more about Paragon Park's history, check out Andrea Shockling's 2013 blog post "Remembering Paragon Park" on Entertainment Designer;; Tim Flaherty's 2016 post "Midcentury Memories: Paragon Park" on the Medfield Historical Society website; Paragon Park Book; and this thread, started in 2005, on the Intercot message board.

As for the back of this postcard, it's fairly mundane. It was mailed to a woman named Rosemary and dated July 12, 1910. The message states:
Sorry to learn you are still ill and will not be down to see us. Hoping you & Grandma are much better and with love to all.

1. I'm sure that postcards printed in Germany made their trans-Atlantic crossings in relatively small batches, along with the rest of the mail, but it's fun to imagine an early 20th century ship's hold filled with hundreds of thousands (millions?) of pristine new postcards, ready for distribution to every shop and news stand in America.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

From the Earth to the Moon:
Nifty cover, bookplate and more

Pictured above is the enchanting cover of the A.L. Burt Company's hardcover edition of Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon. There is no publication date anywhere within the 339-page book, and there are no definitive answers online. My best guess would be 1890, but any time between 1890 and 1910 is possible, especially given that A.L. Burt might have issued multiple editions. A collection of many of the novel's covers can be viewed here.

Here are some more cool things from inside the book, starting with the bookplate on the inside front cover...

The name, as written in cursive, looks like Elinore Wackernagel and, indeed, there was a Louise Elinore Wackernagel who lived from 1922 to 2015 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. According to her obituary, she was known as "Elli."1 Here's a neat tibdit about her life:
"Elli was known for her sharp wit and fierce independence. She was a published writer and an avid reader with a special interest in science fiction. Besides her work with NATO, one of the high points of her life was her on-going written communication with C.S. Lewis’s brother Warren."
It's a reasonable guess that Jules Verne and this very book helped to fuel her love of science fiction when she was young.

One of her published works was 1974's Ellie's Songs, which is described as "a compilation of lyrics for and about God and other loves."

Meanwhile, here's the bookseller's label, which is also on the inside front cover...

I most "recent" reference I can find for Barr Book Shop of West Orange Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is from 1925. So that makes it pretty long gone.

Finally, here's a shot of the spine of this A.L. Burt book. They don't make spines like they used to.

1. Two more tidbits about Elinore Wackernagel: (A) She's one of the sources in this 2012 article about the overabundance of charity mailings. "They're playing on your heartstrings," she says. (B) After her death, some of her papers were donated to the archives.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Take a position for or against truth.
Prove the validity of your position.

Mr. Stukas was my Pre-Algebra teacher when I was a comb-challenged eighth-grader at Madeira Beach Middle School in Florida.1 We learned about cross-multiplication and the slope formula (y = mx + b), and we received a good grounding in preparation for high school math, where I was fine with trigonometry, geometry and basic algebra but eventually hit the wall — hard — in Pre-Calculus.

Anyway, my recollection of Mr. Stukas is that he was a fine and fair teacher. But as the school year crept to an end and the Florida days got hotter and our attention began to wander more frequently, he kept us on edge during those final weeks of Spring 1985 by warning us that the final exam would be very difficult and would count for a large portion of our final grade.

There was much concern and anxiety.

The day arrived — it might even have been the final day of the semester — and we filed into Mr. Stukas' classroom nervously. We sat at our desks, pencils ready, as he placed a single sheet of paper on all our desks and then returned to his own desk, which was at the back of the classroom. I'm sure had had a slight smile on his face as we sat there, dumbfounded, reading over our exam. After a few minutes, some people started to realize the joke, tentatively rose from their desks and were dismissed, with best wishes for a happy summer.

I've kept that "exam" for more than 30 years. What else would you expect from an ephemeraologist? Here's the text, in full.

INSTRUCTIONS: Read each question carefully. Answer all questions. Four hour time limit. Begin immediately.

Describe the history of the papacy from its origin to the present day, concentrating especially but not exclusively on its social, political, economic, religious and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America and Africa. Be brief, concise and specific.

You have been provided with a razor blade, a piece of gauze, and a bottle of scotch. Remove your appendix. Do not suture until your work has been inspected. You have 15 minutes.

2,500 riot-crazed aborigines are storming the classroom. Calm them. You may use any ancient language except Latin or Greek.

Create life. Estimate the difference in subsequent human culture if this form of life had developed 500-million years earlier, with special attention to its probable effect on the English parliamentary system. Prove your thesis.

Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat.

Based on your knowledge of their works, evaluate the emotional stability, degree of adjustment, and repressed frustrations of each of the following: Alexander of Aphrodisias, Ramses II, Gregory of Nicea, Hammurabi. Support your evaluation with quotations from each man's work, making appropriate references. It is not necessary to translate.

Estimate the sociological problems which might accompany the end of the world. Construct an experiment to test your theory.

The disassembled parts of a high-powered rifle have been placed in a box on your desk. You will also find an instruction manual, printed in Swahili. In ten minutes a hungry Bengal tiger will be admitted to the room. Take whatever action you feel appropriate. Be prepared to justify your decision.

Develop a realistic plan for refinancing the national debt. Trace the possible effects of your plan in the following areas: cubism, the Donatist controversy, the wave theory of light. Outline a method for preventing these affects. Critize [sic] this method from all points of view possible. Point out the deficiencies in your point of view, as demonstrated in your answer to the last question.

There is a red telephone on the desk beside you. Start World War III. Report at length on its socio-political effects, if any.2

Take a position for or against truth. Prove the validity of your position.3

Explain the nature of matter. Include in your answer an evaluation of the impact of the development of mathematics and science.

Sketch the development of human thought; estimate its significance. Compare with the development of any other kind of thought.

I think this amazing Final Exam jibes quite well the absurdist sense of humor that I would development, with some help from Dave Barry, Steven Wright, David Letterman and others, in later years, after I learned how to correctly comb my hair.

The Internet and the magic of Google4 allow me to do a little research regarding where Mr. Stukas might have found this Final Exam. Pieces of it can be found in many places, including many message boards, where it is often cited as Xerox humor (which Wikipedia has under the heading faxlore).

The oldest example I can find cites, as an original [?] source Chemistry, Volume 65, Number 6. April 1972, pg. 3. It includes a question that I see on many of the exams and that there might not have been room for on Mr. Stukas' sheet: "Cosmology: Define the universe. Give three examples."

Some later versions of the exam weave in modern disciplines. One exam has a section for COMPUTER SCIENCE: "You have been provided with several pencils and a stack of blue exam books. You have three hours. Write a smaller, faster version of Windows 95 that includes all current functionality and is the equivalent of the 1988 version of the MacIntosh operating system."

There's a version of the Exam that was copyrighted in 2006 and is titled Naval Reactors Aptitude Test.

And, strangely, a version of the Exam also appears in a 2011 book titled Inside a U.S. Embassy: Diplomacy at Work, All-New, Third Edition of the Essential Guide to the Foreign Service.

1. One of my classmates, a kid named James Rogers, brought a lizard to school what seemed like every other day, but I'm sure was less often than that.
2. Um, that hits a little close to home these days. Red telephones are nothing to joke about.
3. Um, that also hits too close to home in 2017.
4. At Madeira Beach Middle School, we only had TRS-80's with color BASIC and cassette drives.

Monday, July 24, 2017

My grandmother on the Wilmington Friends School basketball team

I've already had posts about my great-grandmother's basketball and softball teams. So, branching out into other areas of my family's athletics history, here's the 1936-37 team photo for the Wilmington Friends School girls basketball squad that my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams (later Helen Chandler Adams Ingham), was a member of. She's the fourth person from the left in the back row.

She would have been about 17½ when this photograph was taken by Sanborn Studio of Wilmington, Delaware.

My grandmother also enjoyed swimming and diving. For decades, we had a laminated newspaper clipping on the wall of the family den at 505 Oak Crest Lane. The undated caption reads: "TIME OUT FOR AIR — High divers and graceful ones are Alma Pickett (left), Marie Chavelier and Helen Adams, who are regulars at the Torrence av. pool in Calumet City. The pool is a big attraction at the Cook County forest preserve."

On deck for our family's athletic history: Mom's 1964 junior varsity field hockey team at Linden Hall.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Label for Harry Yerger's Art Shop in Wilmington, Delaware

In addition to sorting through so many family photographs, I've also been dealing with downsizing and donating a multitude of picture frames. This is one of the most unique ones I've come across. It measures 6 inches by 7¾ inches, and the front features etchings of tree branches, some fruit and a wooden fence surrounding the oval space for a photograph.1

It's not the most attractive thing in the world. Time and tape and scratches have left it with a sad and worn appearance (which is not necessarily a bad thing, in my book), but what really piqued my interest was the 1½-inch label on the back of the frame, for Harry Yerger's Art Shop in Wilmington, Delaware.

Here are some historical tidbits I discovered about this man and his business with the help of

  • Some advertising copy in the December 14, 1907, edition of The Morning News of Wilmington states:
    "Selected with artistic taste, the pictures being displayed at the art shop of Harry Yerger, at No. 419 Shipley Street, are among the best to be found in the city. Backed by many years' experience, Mr. Yerger has added to his collection of prints, paintings, posters and other art works one of hte best lines in Wilmington, and if it is a picture of any description your [sic] are thinking about giving as a present, you will do both yourself and the person to whom you intend to give the picture an injustice if you do not visit Yerger's. Possibly you have some picture or print you want framed? If that is the case take it to Yerger's. He knows how to do it and how to send it to you when he says so."
  • An advertisement from November 11, 1914, indicates that the store was open on Saturday evenings until 10 p.m. (It's not clear if that was the ONLY time it was open.)
  • A one-sentence notice on April 16, 1915, informs readers that Harry Yerger repairs window screens.
  • Around Christmas 1915, Yerger's shop was open "every evening."
  • In March 1916, Yerger had "Dollar Day Offers" and other price reductions. The store at this point was named Yerger's Red Front Art Shop, still on Shipley Street.
  • A news article on the front page of the April 5, 1924, edition of The Morning News states:
    Local Art Dealer for 50 Years
    Must Retire Because of Illness
    Harry Yerger, for more than fifty years identified with the art trades in this city, announced last evening he will retire from active business, although he will continue his shop at 419 Shipley street and employ a manager. Mr. Yerger has maintained the same stand during the past half century and is relinquishing active work to recuperate from an illness which has extended over the past three years.

    When but a young man, he started his Art Shop here on the basis of his knowledge of carpentry and cabinet-making, the great of his work in those days being confined to picture framing. The shop was small, indeed, but since that time has been built into a large establishment, dealing in materials used in nearly every branch of the art business.

    Charles Lee Stroman, nephew of Mr. Yerger, of Bethlehem, Pa., will take charge of the shop beginning today.
  • I found another advertisement for the store as late as December 1932.
  • Agnes A. Yerger, Harry's widow, died in February 1952. I can't find Harry's earlier date of death, though.
  • And, fast-forwarding to 1981, there is this item in the August 21, 1981, edition of The Morning News:
    "Strange things are happening way downtown in Wilmington — things that might interest old timers.

    "First, the original Hardcastle's art store at 417 Shipley is being torn down; a sad end for what was the town's earliest art shop.

    "Also, the next building, 419 Shipley, where Harry Yerger operated his frame store, is coming down."

1. The photograph that was once in the frame featured Rachel Matilda Austin Chandler (1829-1907), who was one of my great-great-great-grandmothers on Mom's side of the family. (Rachel was Greta Miriam Chandler Adams' grandmother.)