Saturday, December 22, 2018

Vintage Christmas postcard and bad news for bunnies

Today's vintage "Christmas Greetings" postcard features a Father Christmas figure, in a sensible brown robe, distributing items from his bagful of toys to happy children who are running around in the snow. The child on the left is about to receive a colorful mannikin. Other toys in the bag include a doll, a drum, a book and a hobby horse. We can only assume that Daddy C. has a Bag of Holding, in order to carry all of the gifts he'll need.

I believe that this German-made card was mailed in November 1911, if I'm reading the blurred postmark correctly. It was sent from Parkersburg, West Virginia1, to Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania, with the following cursive message:
Say Old Man,
come dow[n] and have a rabbit hunt with me got five rabbits and two quail yesterday am going tomorrow again

1. Parkersburg is the birthplace of 90-year-old actor Paul Dooley, who played Wimpy in Popeye and Molly Ringwald's dad in Sixteen Candles. He was interviewed on an entertaining episode of the I Was There Too podcast this past summer.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Get the kids a Think-A-Tron for Christmas 1961

I had so much fun delving into for the Charlie Brown post that I thought I'd do it again.

Fifty-seven years ago, the Think-A-Tron was advertised as a Christmas present in the December 18, 1961, issue of the Statesman Journal of Salem, Oregon. It was part of a four-day sale at Pay Less Drug Store.1 According to the advertisement, the Think-A-Tron was an electronic question and answer computer game. "The machine that thinks like a man — feed it questions and it answers them."


So, in addition to being sexist and thinking "like a man", it was kind of like Google. But without the SEO drama. The $10 price was discounted all the way down to $6.44 a week before Christmas. But that was still the equivalent of more than $53 today, according to the trusty old Inflation Calculator, so it was a pricey gadget!

According to the System Source Computer Museum, which has a nice photo of the Think-A-Tron, it came out in 1960 and required two D batteries. Users would "pick a punched computer card with the multiple-choice question (A,B,C, T or F) to be answered. Then feed it to the machine, push the button and the computer starts whirring. Wheels turn, lights flash and within seconds the correct answer appears on the screen!" So the thinking and remembering parts might have been a little oversold. HAL 9000, it wasn't.

There are some additional good closeups of the machine, which was offered by Hasbro, on the website Flashbak. It seems to have more knobs and dials than were actually needed for something that's just reading a punch card. But that was, of course, part of the thrill and magic.

On Flashbak, one commenter stated: "I was trying to think of one of my all-time favorite Christmas presents from when I was a little kid in the early 1960's. It was Think-a-Tron... I thought it was such an awesome gift. Thanks for taking me back to better times."

Here's a dandy YouTube demonstration of the toy...

I checked eBay and there are some original Think-A-Trons available for prices ranging from $30 to $100, if you have a hankering for a bit of computer history.

1. Other toys included in the Pay Less Drug Store sale were: Matey and Sister Bell talking dolls; the Horsman "Butter-Cup" doll (drinks, wets, cries real tears); the Bridge and Turnpike Building Set (605 pieces); the Fantastic Sno-Cone Machine; Magi-Cutter Outfits; and the Shark Racer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Vintage Polish Christmas card

Today's vintage postcard, as the 2018 Christmas countdown continues, features another family around a candle-adorned Christmas tree. In this case, it's Mom, Dad and three little girls. Toys include dolls, trucks and a train. The family is dressed to the nines, but the tree, sitting on a table, is fairly modest. Almost Charlie Brown level modest.

This postcard, which was never written on or mailed, was printed in France but features a Polish caption on the front:

Wesołych Świąt
Bożego Narodzenia!

The first line translates to Merry Christmas. The second line, I believe, translates to Christmas Day or on Christmas Day. I see both phrases paired together, as they are on this postcard, quite often. Perhaps someone familiar with the Polish language can explain their combined usage better than I can.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

It's a "fierce rock 'n' roll dance sequence," Charlie Brown

Clipping from The Gaffney Ledger (Gaffney, South Carolina) on November 26, 1965.
(Why does it look like Charlie Brown is holding a hand grenade?)

It was 53 years ago this month that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" made its television debut. Just for fun, I did some searching through and sampled some of the coverage before and after that first broadcast. Here's the snapshot, for your holiday amusement...

Before the broadcast

  • "Charlie, Lucy, Linus, Snoopy and all the rest of the Charlie Brown gang now are being put onto film for an outing called 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' ... The only advance word on the story of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' is that it will tell how Charlie and friends learn there's much more to Christmas than a git list, as opposed to a give list. They get involved with a Christmas play, and that helps further their understanding." (Will Jones, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, November 7, 1965)
  • "Here are some more details on that Dec. 9 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' session on CBS-TV, from a guy who has seen about 12 minutes of the show in rough-cut form: 'It will be the first half-hour special in TV history, totally animated except for a brief moment at the end of the show when Charlie Schulz himself appears on camera. ... [There is] a Christmas play directed by Charlie Brown in which Lucy is to be the Christmas queen; a fierce rock 'n' roll dance sequence; [and] a great deal of search on Charlie's part for an appropriate Christmas tree. ... It is, in effect, an animated documentary.'" (Will Jones, (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, November 14, 1965)
  • "If the Christmas special is successful, there will be more television efforts starring Charlie Brown, the little character who is destined to grow up and live on Coffee Lane or some similarly named street. But the transition from newsprint to television will not be an easy one. True, Charlie Brown and friends have appeared on television before, acting and talking in some very commercial commercials for a motor car company. Or is it automobile? ... In an entertainment, rather than a commercial world, Charlie Brown will have a chance to say 'aaugh.' But how would an entertaining Charlie Brown say 'aaugh?' 'GOOD GRIEF' is relatively easy, but 'aaugh' is something else again." (Bernie McGovern, The Tampa Tribune, November 19, 1965)

The day after the broadcast

  • "Worried Charlie Brown, aggressive Lucy, musical Schroeder, insecure Linus — all the inhabitants of the delightful, satiric comic strip by cartoonist Charles Schulz were participants in a Christmas special on CBS last night. And by some reverse magic, the moment the little penline characters were animated, moved off the printed page and acquired voices, they lost most of the special, piquant charm. Thus 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' became an explicit demonstration of the sad truth that some good things are better left alone — particularly in cases when about half their charm is in the eye and imagination of the beholder. ... Anyway, Charlie Brown and his friends fell on their little round faces as television stars last night, and maybe it is a pity. Maybe it's just for the best — we have enough TV stars now." (Cynthia Lowry, Associated Press, in The Miami News, December 10, 1965. Headline pictured above.)
  • "The comic strip known as 'Peanuts' stake [sic] out a claim to a major television future Thursday night on CBS-TV with a half-hour animated special about the commercialization of Christmas. ... In brief, Thursday night's offering tried, with humor and gentle world-weariness, to recall the real meaning of Christmas. ... Needless to say, Charlie Brown finally gets his message across. But, as might be expected, that crazy-silly-wonderful dog Snoopy was the scene-stealer every time he appeared — playing the guitar, mocking Lucy or dancing like a swinger. His doghouse, by the way, was wildly decorated with all those ugly lights and blinking designs that human beings also have been known to use on their homes at Christmas time. ... Finally, a few words should be said about jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi's lovely, gentle, mood-setting score, which — uniquely — helped give the half-hour an unexpected and attractive contemporary tone, mature in an almost eerie yet enticing way, weaving a spell half-way between that of a Chicago pub and an asylum playground." (Rick Du Brow, UPI, in the Leader-Times of Kittanning, Pennsylvania, December 10, 1965)
  • "There wasn't much rhyme or reason to the basic story of 'Charley Brown's Christmas' Thursday night, but I imagine children of all ages got a kick out of it. ... You see, Charlie is concerned because Christmas is too commercial (but you'll notice his program was sponsored) but finally finds involvement by becoming the director of a neighborhood pageant. ... And that's about it. The dialogue was clear and cute, but I notice that the voices have changed since they were selling Fords not so long ago." (Percy Shain, The Boston Globe, December 10, 1965)
  • "Most Christmas programs for children have all the rich, imaginative appeal of the message on a box top. Whether it's puppets, animated cartoons or one of those musical specials jazzing up a Grimm fairy tale we must perforce endure the angels with the four inch beaded lashes and the reindeer with the rolling glass eyes and avalances of sequinned snow. But there was none of that rubbish in 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' As shown last night on CBS, this animated half hour in color featured all the regulars from the Charles Schulz cartoon strip. Schulz wrote the scenario, too, and the voices were those of real children. Sweet, simple, untutored voices, not character actresses of 50 giggling in wee, excited tones. If you missed Charlie Brown's first date on TV I am sorry for you. Write to CBS and say that all you want to Christmas is to see that Charlie Brown show — preferably next week. A repeat next Christmas is very likely, of course." (Harriet Van Horne, Scripps-Howard, in The Pittsburgh Press, December 10, 1965)

* * *


Now let's skip ahead 53 years and check out the holiday headlines of 2018...

Or maybe let's don't.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Blair family's 1942 Christmas postcard

Holiday cards and postcards that are personalized with family photos are a big thing in the 21st century, thanks to the likes of Shutterfly and a zillion other cheap and easy print-on-demand online services. I'm not sure how much rigamarole the Blair family had to go through 76 years ago, in 1942, to get "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" family-photo postcards in the middle of World War II, but this card is evidence that it could be done. And the eight family members pictured took a great photo.

All I know about the Blairs is that this card was postmarked on December 22, 1942, in Jackson, Michigan, and mailed across town to Mary and Elton Heglund.

Fun useless fact: In March 1973, Elton Heglund won a "Super Special Sale" of a Knapp's $300 charge account at the Westwood Mall, according to The State Journal of Lansing, Michigan.

Christmastime advertisement for a year of Pack-O-Fun

This Rudolph-adorned advertisement was, back in the day, stapled into the center of the November 1971 issue of Pack-O-Fun, a crafting magazine. I've written a bunch about Pack-O-Fun over the years, mostly from 1970-71 issues, so you can check out more about the magazine's history at the links below.

This offer represented a good value for the magazine. A one-year gift subscription of 10 issues cost just $4. Even adjusted for inflation, that's just a little over $24 and represented a 20 percent discount for the holidays. The advertisement anticipates today's online shoppers by touting the idea that Pack-O-Fun gift-givers didn't have to bother with shopping malls ... or even leaving the house:
"Shop from your easy chair! No crowds. No waiting in line. And no parking worries either. Give Pack-O-Fun and your favorite people are reminded of your thoughtfulness ten times during the year instead of just once. To make your 'shopping' even easier, we've reduced the price $1.00 during this special offer. So be sure to include a subscription for yourself, too."
The advertisement further suggests that subscriptions could be given to teachers, Sunday School leaders, Cub Scout and Webelos den mothers, Brownie and Blue Bird leaders and others.

On the inside flap, the advertising copy adds: "The first issue will arrive by Christmas in a special gift envelope — with a gay gift card hand-signed in your name. Can you think of an easier way to do your Christmas shopping than this?"

Other Pack-O-Fun posts

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Christmas postcard printed in Germany for Leo Uhlfelder Co.

This vintage, hand-colored postcard features Father Christmas bringing dolls and drums to a pair of happy children. Does anyone known what he's holding in his hand? Is it some sort of brass instrument? A lightsaber?

Embossed across the bottom of the postcard is: "MADE IN GERMANY FOR LEO UHLFELDER, NEW YORK." That company was around for a long time, but I'm not sure if it's still in business today. It was founded in 1895 in Mount Vernon, New York, and marketed gold, silver and imitation leaf, plus other art supplies for gilding. This 2005 website,, is the last internet presence that I can find for the company. I also see that still sells Luco products that are co-branded Leo Uhlfelder Co.

On the front of this old postcard, there is also a circular logo with the initials N.P.G., for Neue Photograpische Gesellschaft AG of Berlin.

Turning to the back, the card was never mailed. The only thing written there, in lovely cursive writing in black ink, is "From Floy Locke."

There was a Floy Locke who lived from 1918 to 2008, spending almost all of her life in Oklahoma.

There was also a Floy Locke who lived from 1934 to 2014 and died in Columbus, Mississippi.

There was also a Floy Locke who might or might not have received shares of railroad stock following the ajudication of a series of wills circa 1900.

So I guess we'll never know for sure which Floy Locke this is.