Saturday, October 6, 2018

Saturday's postcard: The Munsey Building for Master Albert

This old postcard, which has been trimmed slightly across the top and the left side, features the Munsey Building and Battle Monument in Baltimore, Maryland. The year "1932" has been written across the top.

According to an article on, the Munsey Building was completed in 1922 and named after publisher Frank Munsey (1854-1925), who had added the Baltimore News to his publishing empire and wanted to move its offices there. The newspaper was later bought by William Randolph Hearst, eventually became the Baltimore News-American, and saw its offices move again, to a few blocks away.

The renovated Munsey Building now features "loft" apartments catering to city dwellers who want a bit of luxury.

Meanwhile, the Battle Monument on Calvert Street in Baltimore was constructed in 1815 and commemorates several War of 1812 skirmishes, including the Battle of Baltimore. According to Wikipedia, "it is an unusually democratic monument for the time in that it records the names of all who died, regardless of rank."

Because of the trimmings, some of the original information is gone from the back of the postcard. We know that it was mailed with a one-cent stamp that was cancelled with a "RED CROSS ROLL CALL JOIN" stamp and that it was postmarked on November 17, 1932, in Baltimore.

It was mailed to Master Albert Sprague Johnson at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys on Wilkens Avenue in Baltimore. The school had that name from 1866 to 1950 and today is called Cardinal Gibbons School.

The cursive note states:
Dear Son:
Do you know what street this is? Well Christmas will soon be here, so try and be a real good boy. I know you can be good if you want to. Why don't you write home some time a nice letter to us all. Love, [cut off].

Friday, October 5, 2018

#FridayReads: Autumn 2018

Titan, the newest of our five cats.

Here are some things for your reading pleasure (or necessary displeasure) while sipping on apple cider or a pumpkin-spice latte while sitting under some gloriously colored foliage.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Book cover: "The Vanishing Shadow"

  • Title: The Vanishing Shadow
  • Author: Margaret Sutton (1903-2001)
  • Series: The Judy Bolton Mystery Series (#1 of 38)
  • Cover artist: Unknown
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap
  • Cover price: Unknown. Dust jacket is clipped.
  • Publication year: This book was first published in 1932, but this edition cannot be from that year, as the dust jacket lists other books in the series that were first published as late as 1946.
  • Pages: 218
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket blurb: "Here is a mystery of the shivery sort, adventure that makes the nerves tingle, clever 'detecting,' and a heroine whom all girls will take to their hearts at once."
  • First sentence: "Hey, Judy!" called Lanky Edna Jenkins. "Get your nose out of that book and come to the mail box."
  • Last sentence: Judy waved her hand while Blackberry, who had climbed to her shoulder, waved the black plume that was his tail.
  • Random sentence from middle: And yet, even after they had left the hut, that black cloak and the sinister weapon haunted her.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.99 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review: In 2013, Celeste wrote: "Pretty good, though the mystery itself wasn't that interesting or captivating, and it really bothered me how everyone treated Horace (including himself) for not embodying stereotypically masculine traits. I may or may not read more in the series."
  • Amazon rating: 3.7 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review: In 2008, Arlene wrote: " I started reading the Judy Bolton books when I was ten years old and bought and read them as they were published. They are top of the line books about believable people who have believable adventures. I would recommend them to everyone. Even as an adult (70's +) I believe I will start reading them all over again and share them with my grandchildren."
  • Notes: Margaret Sutton, who has been mentioned before on Papergreat, was the pen name of prolific author Rachel Beebe. She was born on on January 22, 1903, in Odin, Potter County, Pennsylvania. Odin has become so forgotten that it's no longer even on the list of census-designated places (such as Roulette) or unincorporated communities (such as Elmer) within sparsely populated Potter County. ... Rachel Beebe didn't grow up in Odin, however. She was raised in Coudersport, Potter County. (Maybe she put this house into one of her stories.) ... The Judy Bolton Series, all written by Beebe under the Margaret Sutton pen name, consisted of 38 volumes published between 1932 and 1967. The Wikipedia entry on the Judy Bolton series cites an essay by Sally Parry within the 1997 anthology Nancy Drew and Company: Culture, Gender, and Girls' Series. In Parry's essay, she opines that Judy Bolton is a better feminist role model than Nancy Drew because "Nancy Drew is more likely to uphold the ideological status quo, while Judy Bolton is more likely to restore moral rather than legal order, because her mysteries tend to emphasize human relationships over material possessions." Also, unlike Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton often enlists the aid of family members and friends in solving mysteries; she "works in a collaborative way that subverts dominant values," Parry writes. ... On the website Vintage Series Books for Girls ... and a Few for Boys, Jennifer White adds: "The Judy Bolton series never attained the high sales of the Nancy Drew series but did command a very loyal following amongst its many readers. Judy Bolton is a real girl with real emotions and faces many of the same problems that face teenagers. Judy has friends that are both wealthy and poor. The main selling point for the Judy Bolton series was that each adventure was 'based on something that actually happened.'"
  • A bit of kismet: Finally, one of my stops for researching this post was and I was surprised to learn that today (October 4, 2018) is the start of a four-day July Bolton Weekend at the Westgate Inn in Coudersport. The website states: "Since 1991, fans have gathered in picturesque Potter County to explore the real life sites that served as inspiration for the Judy Bolton Mystery Series, to discuss the books, and to honor the author." This year's events include a wine-and-cheese reception; a focus on book #19 The Secret of the Musical Tree, a daylong tour of Potter County sites featured in the books; the annual Judy Bolton Trivia Contest; and the presentation of the Susabella Passengers and Friends 2018 Margaret Sutton Writer's Award. The four-day event also coincides with Coudersport's Falling Leaves Outdoor Festival.

Bonus: The (amazing) endpapers

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Early 1900s postcard showing path to Wissahickon's Devil's Pool

This postcard, from the first decade of the 20th century, has the caption: "Pathway near the Devil's Pool. Wissahickon, Philadelphia, Pa."

The Devil's Pool has been the sight of many deaths and injuries over the years, because, in a nutshell, humans are not bright. Many thrill-seekers (mostly young ones) travel there to swim or dive. Some don't come out alive. Here's an excerpt from "The Eternal Lure of Devil's Pool," an excellent article by Claire Sasko that was published by Philadelphia magazine in July 2015:
"Alex Bartlett, an archivist at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, says no one knows exactly where the name 'Devil's Pool' comes from. But he's pretty sure it stems from an old legend, a sort of urban myth, that the Native American Lenape tribe considered the pool an interface between good and evil.

"The site is maintained by Friends of the Wissahickon, a 1,600-member non-profit preservation organization. FOW executive director Maura McCarthy says Devil's Pool is the most trafficked area in the Wissahickon Valley Park. The organization last tallied visitors in 2012, counting 400 people in about a 10-hour time span — and only those trekking from Valley Green Inn, one of the two entrances (the pool can also be accessed from Livezey Lane). Devil’s Pool sits at the intersection of three Philadelphia neighborhoods — Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy and Roxborough — but it also attracts people from hours away, McCarthy says."
This past summer saw a doubling-down on efforts to keep swimmers safe and away from Devil's Pool. Here are some recent articles:

Meanwhile, we know that this postcard was mailed in 1910 because of the date included with the cursive message. That's good, because the partial PHILADELPHIA postmark and the STATION S stamp cancellation wouldn't have given us much help in dating. The card was mailed to Mrs. Ella F. Ward in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. This is the message:
Phila, Pa. 12-22-10
Ideal Friend:— Please ex. cards with Ideal 12709 and Oblige J.E. Turner [?] Box 2905 Phila. Pa. Please ans soon. Yours for a Merry Xmas.
It sounds as if "Ideal Friend" was a postcard exchange not unlike today's Postcrossing. Such exchanges were a big deal early in the 20th century. Here's a lightly edited excerpt from a MetroPostcard article titled "The Peak and Decline of the Golden Age 1907-1913":
"Adding to demand was public's growing interest in collecting cards, not just using them for correspondence. ... While many other collecting manias visited this time, it was the postcard album that families kept in their parlor, where it became the centerpiece of social gatherings. The production of most other types of paper collectables dating from older traditions faded away as it was replaced by this new desire. Postcard exchange clubs arose like The Jolly Jokers, which had more than 2300 members; The Society for the Promulgation of Post Cards with 5,000 members; and the Post Card Union with an astounding 10,000 members. Those who couldn't fathom the changing times often referred to these clubs as cults. Soon card dealers began to outnumber booksellers."

Monday, October 1, 2018

Montoursville 2018:
Our second house

This is what I looked like around Thanksgiving 1977, when I was nearly 7 years old and we were living in our second house in Montoursville, on Spruce Street. We moved there from Mulberry Street sometime in the mid-1970s, and we remained on Spruce Street until the summer of 1978, when we moved to Clayton, New Jersey. I believe we were on Spruce Street for a little less than three years.

It was a cozy little neighborhood, not that I knew anything otherwise at that time. There was a church on the corner (still is), plenty of kids my age running around, and an ice-cream shop right around the corner (more on that in a future post). The house was just a few blocks from Lyter Elementary School, so I often walked there in the mornings during first grade.

I've driven and walked past the Spruce Street house several times over the past 15 years. Unlike my false start finding the Mulberry Street house this past summer, the Spruce Street house is always easy to find, with its distinctive front and with the church on the corner serving as a landmark.

Spruce Street, mid 1970s
Here is a trio of photos, from the family snapshots, of the house in the mid 1970s. At one point there were faux shutters. Maybe they've come on and off over the years. I'm not sure what the chronological order is for these shots, though the first one is marked as being from 1976.

Spruce Street, 2018
And here are my photos from July 13, 2018...

In no particular order, here are some of my recollections of living on Spruce Street with Mom, Dad and my younger sister, Adriane, who was born in 1974, while we were still on Mulberry Street.

  • I spent a lot of time playing in the basement, with various Fisher-Price toys, including their famous record player and, to the best of my recollection, the circus train and the jet airplane. The furnace glowed orange through its grill, but I don't recall being particularly scared of it.
  • The house had an enclosed side porch, on the left side if you're looking at the house from the front. I recall sitting out there during storms and learning to count after each lightning strike, to gauge the proximity of the thunderbumper.
  • To my knowledge, there are no family photos of my bedroom. I recall that I had a 45-rpm record player and probably a radio. I remember listening to Shaun Cassidy's "Da Doo Ron Ron" and I recall composing a song titled "One Day I Picked Up a Rabbit."
  • Dad writes: "Both of you had your own bedroom. Adriane in a crib, Chris in a twin bed. Sang to Adriane each night with Grover on my hand. I still chuckle. That was when things were good."
  • One day, however, I almost turned myself into a Darwin Award recipient. I was going around the house trying to find uses for a skeleton key, and I stuck it straight into an electric outlet. I got shocked. Dad got mad (justifiably so).
  • There was a small breakfast nook in the back of the kitchen. I remember decorating Christmas cookies there.
  • Somehow, there grew a legend that one blizzard brought snow to the very top of the light pole in the front yard. I suspect the only way that's true is if shoveled or plowed snow piled up next to the pole.
  • Our neighbors across the street were the Goodspeeds, and they had two daughters. We played together often.
  • Once, Dad brought home an amazing piece of technology called a tape recorder. It provided hours of amusement.
  • I remember the Easter egg hunts at this house. And I remember there was a smell when one of the hard-boiled eggs went undiscovered for a few weeks. (Always count your eggs, parents.)
  • Adriane and I had the chicken pox in this house.
  • I was an absolute brat at one of my birthday parties, stomping upstairs (or perhaps being sent to my room) when things didn't go my way and I threw a mini-tantrum.
  • We had the game Mouse Trap, and I swallowed one of those metal balls. I'm assuming it's not still inside me, but who knows?
  • While we were living at this house, Dad taught me to ride a bicycle. We used the church parking lot for practice.
  • This is the house where a door-to-door salesman sold us the plastic Whirley mugs that I wrote about extensively in 2012. (Post #1, Post #2)
  • I remember exploring in the backyard and Mom teaching us about honeysuckle, clover, peppermint and a tiny leaf that tasted like pickle if you chewed it.
  • But if Mom got mad, there was a wooden spoon in the kitchen. She had only to mention it to end any disobedience. It was never actually deployed.

Inside Spruce Street house, mid-1970s
To close out this post, here are some old snapshots from inside the house...

This one is marked "Christmas 1976." I still have the little white rocking chair.

This is a repeat of the photo I wrote about last December.

This one is stamped May 1978, so it's probably from Christmas 1977. There's so much in this photo! I ended up inheriting all those old photos on the wall. I might still have one or two of the Christmas decorations, including the stocking hanging toward the right. I LOVED playing with sets of wooden blocks; that was my go-to activity for years. The cobbler's bench and clock atop the television are still in the family. That's one of the weights from a cuckoo clock hanging on the wall, to the right. I mentioned in this post the things that I remember watching on TV when we lived on Spruce Street.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Mystery photo of 3 women outside (likely in 1937)

This old snapshot, which measures 2¾ inches wide, features three women standing side-by-side in a backyard or field. In the far background, on the left, are what appear to be a pair of haystacks, but that's just my guess.

There is some writing, in different pens, on the back of the photograph. In black ink is the number "1937," so I'm guessing it's likely that's the year of the photograph. Other writing states:

  • 13—
  • 730—
  • Dec. 7 (or Dec. 700)

Click on the Mysteries label here or at the bottom of this post for more mystery snapshots and real photo postcards from the archives.