Saturday, September 1, 2018

Saturday's postcard: Istanbul's Galata Bridge and New Mosque



This Keskin Color postcard has Turkish stamps that were first issued in 1969 and what appears to be a 1970 postmark. So it's a glimpse back nearly a half-century ago — or more, depending when the photo was taken. It features a pair of landmarks in Istanbul, Turkey — the Galata Bridge and the New Mosque.

The Galata Bridge (Galata Köprüsü) spans the Golden Horn in Istanbul. Shown on the postcard is a portion of the fourth iteration of the structure, a floating bridge that was built by a German firm for 350,000 gold liras and stood from 1912 to 1992. It was replaced by the fifth and current bridge. The bridge has historically served to tie together culture. As Wikipedia states, it is "a symbolic link between the traditional city of Istanbul proper, site of the imperial palace and principal religious and secular institutions of the empire, and the districts of Galata, Beyoğlu, Şişli and Harbiye, where a large proportion of the inhabitants were non-Muslims and where foreign merchants and diplomats lived and worked."

Which brings us to the New Mosque, which is anything but new. It was completed in the early to mid 1660s, more than three-and-a-half centuries ago and generally speaking in the time of Samuel Pepys' diary, the Great Plague of London and the extinction of the dodo. The elaborate mosque features 66 domes or semi-domes, two minarets, a huge courtyard with an ornamental fountain and a mausoleum. The original complex was designed to serve both religious and general-society needs, and thus it had a hospital, a school and a Spice Bazaar, which is still a robust tourist attraction.

* * *

The postcard was mailed to an address in the Bronx and features a fairly boring cursive message:
Hi,
Just stopping here a few minutes on way home. Enjoying my flight & food on board. Hope all is fine. Bye.
Love, Pat

Just "stopping by" Turkey is not recommended these days for Americans. The U.S. Department of State has, at this time, a "Level 3: Reconsider Travel" advisory — warning of terrorism and arbitrary detentions — for those who might travel there from the United States.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Bookplate inside "The Thurber Carnival"


This three-inch-wide bookplate is affixed to the front endpapers (right side) of The Thurber Carnival, which features a popular collection of stories and drawings created by James Thurber between 1931 and 1945. This is the Modern Library hardcover (No. 85), which was published in 1957.

While the cover sketch is by Thurber himself, there is no credit for the rest of the design, including the colors and typography.

As for the ship-, globe- and book-themed bookplate, it appears that Edward S. Strauss is bit too generic of a name for us to get a firm foothold in any kind of search. There was an Edward S. Strauss who lived from 1864 to 1932 and is buried in Riverside, California. But he obviously died before this book was published. There are some other leads, but with nothing else to go on, there's probably no way of avoiding a wild-goose chase.

Clearly, this is why folks should put their city, date of birth, Social Security number and name of favorite childhood pet onto their bookplate.

From the readers: Mister Rogers, mock turkey, bookplates & more

Kicking things off for this edition of reader feedback is Laura, who emailed this Way-Wayback Machine question related to a June 2011 post:
"I have been searching for a couple of years now for the book Going to the Hospital from the Mister Rogers 'Let's Talk About It' series since I was a child. When I was four years old my kindergarten teacher gave me a copy before I had surgery and I loved it — I remember it being a great comfort to me. Now that I have children of my own, I'm dying to put it into their little library at our home but all I can find is another version with a different cover that appears to be nothing like the one I had as a child.

"I just came across a post on your blog in which you mentioned that you had found a copy of this book at a yard sale. This is going to be a long shot in so many ways (especially since the post was from 2011 — haha!) but do you by any chance still have it? It probably seems silly but for some reason that one book really had an impact and stuck with me over the years. I'm feeling very sorry lately that I don't have it anymore — especially since my husband downloaded every episode of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood for my children and they absolutely love it."
Laura, thanks for writing. I am sorry to say that I no longer have this Mister Rogers book. As you guessed, it did not survive the pruning and cleaning cycles of the past seven years. If I did still have it, I would happily send it to you. Few things please me more than to get a beloved book into the right hands. And I understand your passion for the specific edition that you remember from your childhood. I am the same way about certain books; it has to be the cover or edition that I remembered, to satisfy the nostalgia yearning and collecting desire. Good luck with your ongoing search. I am sure you will find it. I will keep my eyes open, too, and keep your email on file so that I can contact you if I come across anything.

Plucked from a yard sale, Part 1: Mister Rogers and How to Meet Men: Regarding that same 2011 post, Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "If you're going to write a book about meeting men, and using a pseudonym and that pseudonym's last name is 'Mann', you think she'd have gone with 'Anita' or 'Ivana' for a first name."

Saturday's postcard: Clara's rainy-day message from 1920: Wendyvee, who authors the delightful Roadside Wonders website, writes: "Bonus points for Wile E. Coyote reference. Also, my embarrassing fact of the day: I think that I was about 30 before I 'got' his name."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Regarding the post that keeps getting great feedback, an anonymous reader writes: "66 seems to be the magical age. I'm 66 as well. I proudly sold not only greeting cards, I also sold flower and veggie seeds during the same years. Can't remember if both products were thru The Cheerful Card Company, but I do remember the experience. My first big sale was to our local bank. My mom took me to deposit my 'milk money' from school and l brought my case. The manager was so impressed with my cards and sales pitch that he purchased imprinted Christmas cards from me for 3 years. Because we were military we moved often. I sold cards and seeds until I was a freshman in high school. Wonderful memories of my customers and personal growth. Still have boxes of cards."

Old bookplate featuring a beard-grabbing skeleton: Scott Cranin of Ivy Ridge Books writes: "Just found another book with this bookplate and read your terrific research, thank you! The book is Andrew Lang's Custom and Myth, which certainly fits with the theme of the bookplate and the interests you mentioned in your piece."

Montoursville 2018: Otstonwakin, Madame Montour and modern times: Wendyvee writes: "Wow, I've fallen down the Madame Montour Google Rabbit Hole already."

A groovy response from the CEO of Whirley-DrinkWorks! Anonymous writes: "I have a USS JFK cv-67 plastic cup. Found on beach in Western Australia after massive beach erosion into sand dunes under 10 feet or more ... in good condition."

They don't make high schools like this any more: Wendyvee writes: "That looks like it was a great building. Sad that it's gone."

Lineup card of the day: Joan, who co-manages Pengins for Everyone while juggling a zillion other things, writes: "That definitely has a fraktur/hex sign vibe to it!"

Menus and recipes shared by Mrs. Anna B. Scott in 1936: The recipes, including the one for mock turkey, led to this three-way exchange:

  • Wendyvee: That cover is EVERYTHING! Yes to the Chocolate Icebox cake but a great big NO to the Sardines!!
  • Joan: Also not sure about mock turkey.
  • Me: The mock turkey recipe itself sounds interesting, and pretty easy to make. No need to shape it into a bird, though.
  • Wendyvee: Chris, Chris, Chris ... if you don't form it into the shape of a bird then it's just a Rice-Nut-Egg Blob. Tsssk, Tsssk.
  • Me: Have you SEEN the shape of a Tofurky? Yummy blob for my tummy!

Board for Parker Brothers' 1936 version of the game Finance: Wendyvee writes: "These graphics are everything! This reminded me of my public speaking Prof in college. He loved to expound on the detailed history of Monopoly."

No doubt about these words: Our own Mark Felt writes: "What do you suppose the writer of this postcard meant by 'This pen stinks'? Was he referring to a tenement? Was it a religious epithet? Or just a writing utensil? We'll never know."

Touché, Mark. Touché

Montoursville 2018: My schools (Part 2): Wendyvee writes: "I remember those [Mr. Sketch] markers. ... For some time, I thought that I was a jinx. I was home sick (with the TV babysitting me) when Reagan, the Pope, and John Lennon were shot."

To be clear, Wendyvee is not linked to those assassinations and assassination attempts, nor are the Mr. Sketch markers.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Mix tape memories


Earlier this summer, Sarah got the notion that she wanted one of those old-timey boomboxes, along with some of those "cassette tapes" they used to play music. This made me feel very old.

So we went to an antique store in Harrisburg called Atomic Warehouse to find one. This also made me feel very old.

In addition to finding a proper boombox, we searched through endless stockpiles of used cassette tapes to find some music that she was interested in, finally settling upon Wham!'s Make It Big, Alice Cooper's School's Out and Genesis' Invisible Touch. While sorting through those tapes — the endless accumulations of Depeche Mode, Donna Summer and Rick Astley albums — I stumbled upon someone's old mix tape (pictured above).

I bought it just so I could write about it on Papergreat. Because I'm here for you.

There are no legitimate surveys or statistics, but I have to think 75% of us who were American teenagers in the 1980s made a personal mix tape at some point, right?

(By the way, the editor in me is going with "mix tape" on this one, as opposed to "mixtape." I think there is an argument for either, though. And I'll use mixtape as one word when quoting other material.)

In a December 2012 Forbes article titled "The Lost Art of the Mixtape," Michele Catalano wrote:
"The art – and make no mistake about it, it is an art — of making a mix tape is one lost on a generation that only has to drag and drop to complete a mix. There’s no love or passion involved in moving digital songs from one folder to another. Those 'mixes' are just playlists held prison inside a device. There’s no blood, sweat and tears involved in making them. There was a certain ritual to making a perfect mix tape, one that could take hours to finish. Maybe even days, depending on how much you wanted to impress the recipient. While the songs had to have a common theme ('I hate you and hope you die' was as common a theme as 'I would like to get to first base with you'), it wasn’t good enough to just take a bunch of love songs and throw them on a tape. It was about so much more than grouping some tunes together. They had to segue. They had to flow into one another. Each song needed to be a continuation of the one before it, as if all these disparate bands got together and recorded a concept album based solely on your feelings for the guy who sits in front of you in English class."

In 2005, Thurston Moore published a short and well-received book titled Mix Tape: The Art of Cassette Culture. In the book's introduction, which was excerpted that year on NPR's website, he writes about the early history of mix tapes:
"The first time I'd ever heard of someone making a mix tape was in 1978. Robert Christagau, the 'Dean of Rock Critics,' was writing in the Village Voice about his favorite Clash record, which just happened to be the one he made himself: a tape of all the non-LP b-sides by the band. The Clash made great singles, and they made great LPs, and they would usually put the singles on the LPs but not the b-side of the singles. This was a great idea to my rock critic-reading mind. And one aspect really struck me: Mr. Christgau said it was a tape he made to give to friends. He had made his own personalized Clash record and was handing it out as a memento of his rock 'n' roll devotion."
This old tape I came across is labeled "Dance Mix" on the side. On the tape itself, one side is labeled "ECHO" and the other side is "X—THE SAM." As you can see from the handwritten list of tracks on the cassette — a staple of mix tapes — it included a gnarly 1980s mix including "It's Raining Men," "She Blinded Me With Science," and, of course, "White Wedding" by Billy Idol.

So, if you're wondering, I did make a few mix tapes back in the day. I think I even made one for my sister, as a gift. They weren't very slick or professional, but that probably lumps them in with the majority of the tapes that were produced. Some of my stuff was recorded off the radio, rather than being made via vinyl-to-cassette or cassette-to-cassette. That made them even less slick, because the timing was impossible to nail.

The mix tape I remember best — and I can't believe I'm sharing this — was titled "Jogging with the Boys." I listened to it so much on my Walkman while running that I probably could have quoted the entire track listing to you, in order, if you had asked 15 years ago. Now, I can only recall parts of it with certainty.

  • Live version of Genesis' "Land of Confusion"
  • The Cars' "Drive"
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark"
  • A couple songs by Peter Gabriel — probably "Shock the Monkey" and "Solsbury Hill"
  • Much more by Genesis, including "Abacab" and "Afterglow"

I sort of wish I still had that cassette tape, but the only way I'd be able to play it is by borrowing my daughter's antique boombox.

Montoursville 2018: My schools (McCall Rocks! addendum)


When I was walking/nosing around Montoursville on that beautiful summer day last month, I discovered some wonderful art to the right of the front entrance of C.E. McCall Middle School on Willow Street. It was dozens and dozens of palm-sized rocks painted brightly with all sorts of symbols and designs. This is what the sign with the display stated:

McCall Rocks!
Permanent ART Display
By Students of Mrs. Hoinowski
Issued 2017
Inspired by "Only One You"

Here are some of the other photos I snapped...




Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Book cover: "All on the Team"


  • Title: All on the Team
  • Author: Frances Fox Sandmel (circa 1917 to 1989)
  • Illustrator: Sylvia Roman
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (New York and Nashville)
  • Cover price: $2.50
  • Year: 1959
  • Pages: 126
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust-jacket blurb: "Eli Cohen and Terry Parsons knew that they would be friends forever on the first day they met, the day they moved next door to each other. Didn't they both like baseball more than anything else? And wouldn't workouts together help them both get positions on the school team? But the road to friendship, and the team, was longer than they thought. It took time for the Jewish Cohens and the Protestant Parsons to get accustomed to living as neighbors. Once they did, however, it was not only the boys' baseball that improved; both families were enriched by the things each learned of the other's customs and religions. This a warm story of exciting baseball games, of happy life, and of two boys growing up, each in the best way for him. It should have real interest and deep meaning for children of every faith."
  • First sentence: At the moment he heard the knock on the door, two thoughts slid into Eli's mind at once: It really didn't happen, no one could have knocked just then; and, Who could it be?
  • Last sentences: Eli suddenly found his voice again. But what could he possibly say that was big enough for all?
  • Random sentence from middle: Eli was so puzzled that he stopped stock still in the middle of a crossing, and a milk truck screeched on its brakes about two feet from him.
  • About the author: According to her Find A Grave page, Frances Fox Sandmel was a Philadelphia native, Bryn Mawr College graduate and lifelong member of Congregation Rodeph Shalom. She died while taking a walk near her summer fishing cottage in Maine. While she taught writing workshops, I can't find that she published any books other than this one. I did come across some magazine articles, though.
  • Review: A 1959 review of this book in The New York Times begins: "There are very few stories, especially for children of the middle years, which deal so forthrightly with the friendship between a Jewish child and a Christian child as this one does. Frankly purposeful, it has its obvious moments, but it avoids the sickly sweetness of induced tolerance." ... Beyond that, there are unfortunately no reviews of this book on Goodreads or Amazon.com. It's a shame this good-hearted book wasn't more widespread and didn't generate more reader memories.

Great links: Groovy Lego set based on "The Three Investigators"


I have mentioned previously (April 2012, October 2015) my love for "The Three Investigators" series of young-detective novels created by Robert Arthur Jr. The books feature Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, Bob Andrews and Alfred Hitchcock as "Himself." That last bit of meta-twist is endearing, but is hardly the sole reason to love the series, which has titles such as The Mystery of the Green Ghost and The Secret of the Crooked Cat.

One of the things I loved, for example, was the secret headquarters of The Three Investigators. It's a forgotten trailer that's hidden under piles of junk in the scrapyard owned by Jupiter's uncle. It has everything a 12-year-old sleuth would want in a secret hideout — a phone, a library, a periscope, a darkroom (!), and several super-secret entrances and emergency-escape exits. Arthur absolutely tapped into every young boy's dream hideout with that aspect of the series.

And now, a group called NLR Creations is seeking support for a proposed Lego set based on The Three Investigators' secret headquarters.

On the website Lego Ideas, outside groups can pitch ideas for Lego sets. If there's enough public support, Lego will even consider turning those outside ideas into official sets.

And so an idea for a Three Investigators Salvage Yard & Headquarters is currently being pitched on Lego Ideas. And it's in need of everyone's support! As of this writing, it has 118 supporters and would need hundreds (probably thousands) more supporters to have any hope of getting the green light.

Here is part of the description from NLR Creations:
"The set includes The Three Investigators HQ and its many secret entrances,

"— Red Gate Rover leading through the multi-coloured fence surrounding the yard painted by local artists and children, into the Salvage Yard where the boys also leave their bikes and a trapdoor into HQ,

"— Green Gate One leading to Jupiter’s outdoor workshop and the boy’s rebuilt printing press and then into Tunnel Two,

"— Easy Three, a false door leading into the front of the trailer and that can only be opened with a key hidden in a box of other keys in the yard!

"This set also includes the Jones Salvage Yard Office (containing a hidden safe) and pick-up truck, as well as items of scrap and junk from which the boys regularly transform and rebuild their equipment, including personal radios, a tape-recorder and their HQ phone and loud-speaker system. The models are designed for playability and the roofs of the yard office and HQ come off easily to allow access to the areas inside."
And here are some additional photos from the group's pitch:



There are a total of 17 investigator-tastic photos of the proposal on Lego Ideas, so you should go check all of them out. More importantly, you should consider the proposal yourself, so that you can consider offering your support to help the project move forward. (You have to register as a user on Lego Ideas, but beyond that there's zero cost or obligation.)

Wouldn't this Lego set look great and dandy on a shelf next to a collection of Three Investigators novels?

P.S. — You can learn much more about The Three Investigators at Seth Smolinske's website, which launched in October 2000.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Montoursville 2018: My schools (Part 3)

[C.E. McCall Middle School on Willow Street, July 2018]

I attended Montoursville's C.E. McCall Middle School for two years: fifth grade (1981-82) and sixth grade (1982-83). The school is located at 600 Willow Street and was just a stone's throw (or two) from our house at the corner of Willow Street and Fairview Drive. So I was a "walker."

Here's what The Otstonwakin had to say about the school in that 1975 publication:
"The C.E. McCall Middle School was opened for the 1971-72 school year. It has a student population of about 1,000. It is modern in all aspects and well equipped. The Middle School provides education for students in grades five through eight. It has a building life expectancy of fifty years."
That life expectancy would take it to the year 2021. I haven't seen anything, in a cursory search, indicating that there are major plans in store for Montoursville's middle school, so I suspect that officials expect it to go significantly past its expiration date, so to speak.

My homeroom teacher was Barbara Johnson, and her classroom was located along the north side of the building. She taught social studies, but I never had her for a class. My teachers that I can distinctly remember included Mr. White (science), Mrs. Sheets (math), Mr. Koskey (chorus), Mr. Bailey (music), Mr. Derr (science) and Mr. Gruenewald (industrial arts). Looking at a staff directory from around that time, other names that ring a bell (but I can't quite place) include Dieffenbach and Solomon. I feel badly that I recall very little of English/language arts teachers from this period. I blame the early-onset Alzheimer's.

But here is a scattershot journey through things that I do remember from these two years of middle school; the childhood moments that did remain in my head, for whatever reason.

  • So, yes, since we had a "homeroom," this was also the first year that I changed classrooms throughout the day and had my own hallway locker. That was quite the adventure for a 10-year-old. It also meant groups and cliques traveling the halls together, trying to beat the bell while swapping gossip and jokes.
  • In Mr. White's science class, we were taught this great rhyme: "Johnny was a curious boy, but Johnny is no more. For what he thought was H2O was H2SO4."
  • Also in Mr. White's science class, I had to stay after school at least once for excessive talking during class.
  • My best subject was probably math. We learned a good bit about the metric system as part of an initiative toward that far-more-logical method of weights and measures, before President Reagan brought the U.S. transition to a crashing stop in 1982.
  • While I enjoyed chorus (more on that in a bit), my worst subject was probably music. One of my biggest educational regrets is that I didn't take that class more seriously and learn to read sheet music. It would have been such a gift for future me. As Red laments: "I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can't. That kid's long gone, and this old man is all that's left."
  • If you asked Mr. Derr if you could go to the lavatory, he would reply, "I don't know, can you?"
  • Gym class was typically amazing, especially when it rained and we had dodgeball games played in a mat-covered room in the bowels of the building and kickball games played in the auditorium/gymnasium.
  • Part of our curriculum involved square dancing, and we had an evening assembly at one point to show off our skills to the whole community.
  • The school offered an elective that was basically "Electronic Games". Rather than trying to get us to give up all those battery-powered games we were carrying around in our backpacks, administrators essentially shrugged and gave us one period a day to sit around and chase red blips across tiny screens. As others mentioned in a Facebook discussion this topic, oddball electives at McCall also included macramé, hook art and what I'm just going to call Advanced Coloring, perhaps predicting the craze of therapeutic coloring books geared toward adults in the 2000s.
  • In language arts, we were assigned to read A Wrinkle in Time, but I don't remember being able to grasp it very well. Also in this class, the teacher would read to us from Choose Your Own Adventure books and let the class vote on which path to follow. There was also the monthly excitement of the Scholastic books catalog being passed out, followed by the books (and maybe Dynamite magazine) eventually arriving.
  • Chorus with Mr. Koskey was very enjoyable. We gave concerts throughout the year at the school and around Lycoming County (nursing homes, etc.). I even vaguely recall caroling from door to door during the school day. A few of the songs I remember performing were "Brazzle Dazzle Day", "Song Sung Blue", "Heartlight" (the E.T. song), "Daybreak", "Drunken Sailor", and "Let There Be Peace on Earth".
  • In industrial arts, we made a metal lamp in the shape of a stove (which I no longer have) and this blue-and-gold plastic box, which I still have and use to store skeleton keys.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Can we have a national discussion about this vintage toy advertisement?




Why is a white man in a dress shirt rescuing a black man ... from a sleeping bag?

Why is a 1980s pro wrestler driving the rescue vehicle?

Did Permit Patty have something to do with this?

This was the Big Jim Rescue Rig, which was part of a series of toys sold by Mattel from 1971 to 1986. (That was right in the wheelhouse of my playing-with-toys youth, but I don't have any recollection of it.) The Big Jim Rescue Rig included a shovel, pick, axe, walkie talkie, lantern and chainsaw, according to ToysYouHad.com, which has the lowdown on all things Big Jim.

The guy in the denim vest driving the rescue rig is Big Josh. The black man who is in dire need of rescue in the midst of his nap is Big Jack. According to ToysYouHad.com, Big Jack came with trunks, a dumbbell, a baseball, karate board, muscle band and Big Jack Sportsbook.

Other elements of the wide-ranging Big Jim set of toys (all sold separately, of course) included: tattoo-covered Dr. Steel, arrow-shooting Chief Tankua, outfits for every conceivable sport, a tent, a "Real Action Gorilla," a treasure chest filled with treasure (actually small pieces of non-biodegradable plastic), a ski ramp, a "Kung Fu Studio," a sports camper, a motorcycle, a buggy, a "Sky Commander" set, a "Real-Action Alligator," a katamaran, and much, much more. Check out all the details on ToysYouHad.com, and share your thoughts and memories about Big Jim and His Very Serious Adventures in the comments section.

Late summer reads
on a sunny Sunday



It's late summer, right? We've already had regular-season high school football games here in southcentral Pennsylvania. People are tweeting out Halloween decoration displays from their local stores. And I passed a tractor trailer full of pumpkins a couple of days ago. So it must be nearly autumn.

Here's the latest collection of articles you might enjoy and/or have missed during the hectic days of mid-summer.

Serious

Not as serious



Mystery real photo postcard:
Man sitting in chair


This slightly worn (but not bad for its age) real photo postcard shows a well-dressed man sitting in a chair. The room is otherwise blank. No thrilling fabricated backgrounds of meadows or wooden fences or Cardassian architecture. It looks like this was just another stop on this gentleman's busy day of taking care of important matters. Or maybe he was on his way to see his mother — also an important matter.

As this is a mystery RPPC, there is absolutely no identifying information. The postcard was never written on or mailed. All we have is the AZO stamp box on the back for dating purposes. The configuration of the four triangles indicates that this RPPC was created sometime between 1910 and 1930.

So that's it. Just a snapshot out of time. We don't know his life story. Where he was from. Who he loved. Who his children were, and what happened to them. What he did for a living. What books he read. What songs he sang to himself as he walked down the road...

Here are some closer looks...



Other mystery RPPCs