Monday, May 20, 2019

Compassion and good will
trump all else in Montoursville

Apropos of nothing, and certainly apropos of no specific event that might be happening in any certain place today, I wanted to share, proudly, this letter that Dad received 44 years ago, when we were living on Mulberry Street in Montoursville, Pennsylvania. It speaks greatly to his fine character and the overall fine character of that small town I grew up in.

The letter, dated October 2, 1975, is from David L. Stroehmann, president of the board of directors of Hope Enterprises, Inc., in adjacent Williamsport. (Hope, founded in 1952, still exists and does much great work in northcentral Pennsylvania.) Here is the full text of the letter Stroehmann wrote to my father, John Alan Otto:
Recently I had the opportunity to read your letter in our local newspaper. It was most gratifying to know that people with your outlook are willing to take a stand for others.

As you are probably aware, the situation of developing a residential home for children on Tule Street, or of finding an alternate residence for the children whom we hope to serve, is not solved at present. As we seek to find a solution, your help and encouragement are greatly appreciated. Your letter, as well as others, provides us with the knowledge that most residents of the area, and especially residents of Montoursville, are behind the project.

Certainly it has been our experience that group homes which provide a family environment are greatly enhancing to the development of handicapped individuals who live there, as well as to those associated with them.

I wish to thank you sincerely on behalf of the Board of Directors, staff and children we serve for your positive comments. Be assured that we will not give up trying to provide residential programs for our children and adults.
Acceptance. Equality. Inclusion. Good will. Charity. Compassion. Standing up for those who need help or are underrepresented. ... Those are the qualities of the small-town America I was raised in and believe in today.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Mystery RPPC:
What is this odd building?

Most of the mystery real photo postcards on Papergreat involve people that we'll likely never be able to identify.

This one's different. It's a building. A very odd building, in my opinion.

Any ideas??

This one's an Artura postcard that has never been written on. According to, it dates to between 1908 and 1924 (based on the design of the stamp box on the back).

Beyond that, we have absolutely nothing to go. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the commments or email me at chrisottopa (at), because I'd love to know where this building was and what it was used for.

Book cover: "Haunted Britain"

Mom loved "true-story" ghost books. She was in her early 20s in the early 1970s and had a fair collection of the likes of Hans Holzer and Susy Smith paperbacks. She was also fascinated with the United Kingdom, perhaps the ghostiest place of all, and had several books related to the ghosts and folklore of its various haunted grounds. She held onto these books long enough for me to discover — and become equally fascinated by — them in the late 1970s and early 1980s. One that I especially loved, partly for the spooky photos, was this volume. So I tracked down my own copy earlier this decade.

  • Title: Haunted Britain
  • Author: Antony D. Hippisley Coxe
  • Is that the most British name ever on Papergreat? Probably
  • What else did he write? Performance and Politics in Popular Drama; Classical And Circus High School; A Book About Smuggling in the West Country, 1700-1850; and — I kid you not — The Great Book of Sausages.1
  • Photographer: Robert Estall
  • House editor: Penelope Miller
  • Designer: George Sharp
  • Cartographer: John R. Flower
  • Indexer: Gerry Miller
  • Publisher: Pan Books Ltd.
  • Publication year: 1975 (Book was originally published in 1973 by Hutchinson & Co. I believe that's a hardcover.)
  • Original prices: £1.50 in the United Kingdom, $4.30 in Australia, $4.10 in New Zealand, $5.95 in Canada. (£1.50 in 1975 is the equivalent to about £14.88 today, which is equivalent to about $18.92.)
  • Pages: 201 (plus numerous maps after the final numbered page)
  • Format: Paperback
  • Front cover blurb: "A guide to the supernatural in England, Scotland and Wales"
  • Back cover blurb: "A unique collection of the uncanny and astonishing phenomena that may be found in haunted Britain."
  • Title page blurb: "A guide to the supernatural sites frequented by ghosts, witches, poltergeists and other mysterious beings"
  • Dedication: For Araminta remembering the occasional alarums and many excursions we have shared
  • First sentence of preface: This is a guidebook to places about which people hold some strange belief.
  • First sentence of book proper: The Duchy is as packed full of beliefs as a can is of Cornish pilchards.
  • What's a pilchard: "A small, edible, commercially valuable marine fish of the herring family."
  • So, a sardine? Basically.
  • Last sentence: The Colstoun Pear is supposed to keep the family lands intact and is still in the Broun-Lindsay family who alone can lay eyes on it.
  • Random sentence from the middle: Prehistoric ghosts are rare, but many people, including a highly respected archaeologist, have seen the Bronze Age horseman who haunts these parts.
  • Goodreads rating: 4.10 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review: In 2016, Jonathan Farley called the book "an entertaining gazetteer of ghosts around Britain."
  • Amazon rating: 5.0 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2014, Courtney wrote: "Instead of elaborating on the stories or offering theories about the supernatural, the book offers concise, matter-of-fact little snippets; it's arranged as the usual travel guide, region by region, with suggestions for day drives. ... Whether you're planning a trip to England in your daydreams or for real, you'll love browsing this book."

But wait, there's more

As a kid, I loved the visual aspects of this book. It had a system of symbols to describe each site. And the photograpy — some original and some from archives — was creepy and unsettling. Here are some peeks...

Hey, it's the ghost of Raynham Hall!

Mom and I loved this one. The caption states: "Spot the ghosts in this photograph taken by a former employee at Downe Court Manor. According to the owner, eleven phantoms are visible: Charles Darwin, a blackamoor in a three-cornered hat, a Cavalier, a Miss Smith, half a dozen faces, and a girl with a long plait.

Sausage footnote
1. The Great Book of Sausages does not have great reviews. Here are some from Amazon:
  • Under-cooked Book
  • What's not in this book? Any useful information on making or cooking sausages.
  • This was by far the biggest waste of my time and money that I have ever ordered for myself. This isn't the great book of anything.
  • The not-so-great sausage book

Friday, May 17, 2019

Farewell to a book

Earlier this week, I went to put some books into a Little Free Library that's two blocks from my workplace in Lancaster. It's a former newspaper vending machine that's been converted into a library, which is kind of cool. What's not cool is that, when I opened it up, I found that it had been stuffed, willy-nilly, with books. Being smashed and jumbled into such a small space was not good for the books ... and one of them did not survive the traumatic event.

So I spent a few minutes tidying up the library, adding my books and putting everything into some order for the next person who might come along.

I set the mangled book aside, figuring I would just deposit it into a trash can.

Then I looked at it.

What a beauty it had once been! I knew I had to document it here — give it a proper farewell — before sending it off to its landfill or incinerator fate.

Much of the dust jacket was still intact. Here's a look...

The book was Mystery of the Third Mine, written by Robert W. Lowndes and published in 1953 by The John C. Winston Company. The glorious jacket was designed by Kenneth Fagg. The book itself has mixed reviews, but David Hann, reviewing it on Amazon in 2006, liked it and noted: "I read this novel as a boy and later as an adult because I wanted to read it once more before giving it to a nephew. The third mine of the title is on an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. What I found fun and interesting about the book is how Robert Lowndes carried contemporary life styles, crime, music, and baseball, into the future."

There's another piece of great artwork inside: the endpapers by Alex Schomburg.

How could you not fall in love with books upon opening Mystery of the Third Mine and seeing that? As a kid in the 1950s, sure, but really as a kid in any era. Be kind to your old books, folks. They don't make 'em like they used to.

* * *

Speaking of Little Free Library, today is the nonprofit's 10th anniversary, and it's holding a big event today through Sunday. Here are the details:
May 17 is Little Free Library’s nonprofit birthday and this year, it also marks 10 years of Little Free Libraries! We invite you and book-lovers everywhere to celebrate this big moment by participating in The Big Share the weekend of May 17 – 19. It’s simple, here’s how:

Step 1: Stop by a Little Free Library May 17 – 19 and share a book.

Step 2: Take a photo of your visit.

Step 3: Tell us you participated! Share your photo with #LFL10 on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. If you prefer not to share a photo, click the participation button on our Big Share counter (available on this page starting May 17).

Step 4: Rinse and repeat! You don’t have to stop at just one Little Library, visit several! You get bonus points if you share a photo on social with #LFL10, because you’ll be entered to win a $20 e-gift card to Little Free Library’s online store.

We’ll be watching for your photos and sharing them on our website and social media. Check out the FREE 10th Anniversary bookmark and sticker designs below, too.

We’re excited to have you join us for The Big Share! Please help spread the word by asking your friends and family to join the fun, or by inviting them to The Big Share Facebook Event. Learn more about our year-long 10th Anniversary Celebration.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

When the USA made cool things like chicken drink coasters

Back when we truly knew how to party, we had these jazzy coasters to place our beverages upon. They were sold by the Rust Craft Greeting Card Company, which has quite the history — it involves a book store, the production of (possibly) the first Christmas card, TV and radio stations and, starting in 1980, a spiral of being subsumed by other companies as Rust Craft wound down and eventually went out of business.

I have no idea what year these 30-cent chicken coasters were sold. My best guess would be between 1965 and 1975. If we split the difference and assume 1970, that 30-cent cost equates to about $2 today, which is a lot for 12 coasters. As we see from the packaging, they were "styled by Brownie" and were touted for being drip-proof. The additional text on the back states:

"Soft and absorbent ...
wax backed for protection
designed for the
discriminating hostess...

It also tells us that these were made in the United States and that other products from Rust Craft at the time included plates, cups, napkins, table covers and party centerpieces. I'm sure those were also for the "discriminating hostess." Despite the poultry theme, these were for Serious Martini Conversations, not Timmy's Kool-Aid-Soaked Birthday Bash.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Mystery RPPC: Girl with bear

This mystery real photo postcard was picked up last weekend, when Ashar and I toured some Dover-area yard sales, mostly in search of cassette tapes for his boombox. To be clear, you don't see many postcards this old at yard sales any more, so of course I bought a few (for just 50 cents apiece!). I'll share them over the coming days and weeks.

There's no writing on this card and it was never mailed. The AZO stamp box configuration indicates that it dates to the period of 1904 to 1918.

The idea of a teddy bear stems from a 1902 incident involving President Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt. It's a sad story that, while containing a smidgen of compassion, still involves the death of a bear, so I don't want to glorify or sanitize it too much.

The first stuffed bears were made around 1903, by Morris Michtom in the United States and the Steiff company in Germany (which had been creating stuffed toys since 1880). Michtom's were the actual "teddy bears." Given that this postcard could be as old as 1904, the little girl could be holding one of the very earliest stuffed bears, teedy or otherwise.

Want more mystery RPPCs? Start here.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

10 years ago today:
A Papergreat precursor

Ten years ago today — on May 14, 2009 — I posted this image and caption on Facebook. This was when Joan and I were in the midst of our book-selling phase and had the pleasure of churning through many volumes each week to assess their sellability factor.

It was eight months before Relics (the short-lived and long-vanished first iteration of Papergreat) and 80 weeks before the first Papergreat post.

You can read more than you'd ever want to know about Papergreat's origin here. And you can read more about the "good, clean Gothic fun" of Dorothy Mackie Low's Isle for a Stranger on Goodreads.

Bonus Facebook memory: And nine years ago today on Facebook, I wrote this about Ashar: "While other students in Sarah's fourth-grade class did their 'Famous American' reports on the likes of Amelia Earhart and Jackie Robinson, Sarah chose to write about Vincent Price. Win."

Win, indeed!

Postcard: One-room Amish school near Arthur, Illinois

In August 2016, I had a unique post about the Water Garden at Rockome, a former tourist attraction in Arcola, Illinois. This undated mid-century postcard would count as a bit of a followup to that. It was produced by Genuine Natural Color Made by Dexter Press of West Nyack, New York. It was published by C.L. Bence of Mattoon, Illinois. And Bence was also the photographer.1

Here's the postcard caption:
Amish children attending 1 room school near Arthur, Illinois. The Amish people may be seen in most of the rural section near Arthur, Illinois. They are a religious sect who have retained most of the customs of their forefathers and make their living mainly by farming without aid of modern equipment.
Arthur is about 10 miles west of Arcola. Its Amish community was founded in the 1860s. Wikipedia adds: "The village of Arthur characterizes itself on its website as an Amish-friendly community, with more than 4,000 'Plain People' living in the town and surrounding rural townships. The Amish settlement near Arthur was founded in 1864 and had 30 church districts with about 150 people per district in 2013. Arthur community was the 8th largest Amish settlement in the world with 4,410, as of 2017."

The website Amish Illinois says this about current education in the Arthur area:
"The Amish schools around the central Illinois area are usually one or two room rural schools and they are staffed with their own teachers. These teachers are usually Amish men or women who have completed eighth grade.

"Amish children start school at the age of six and attend elementary school through their eighth grade. The Amish children walk, ride bicycles, or drive a horse and buggy to school. Each school is overseen by trustees to make up a board and records are kept for state inspection. The Amish schools are funded by the church districts. The school building have wood or gas stoves and no electricity. The Amish schools are built to use natural lighting.

"In school the Amish children learn English, reading, spelling, and penmanship. In arithmetic the Amish are taught addition, subtraction, multiplication, decimals, division, and weights and measurements to use in everyday life. All books that are used in the Amish schools are selected by the trustees.

"Amish schools stress community and accuracy rather than speed. Also, honesty, love, and cooperation are regarded highly by the Amish in education. The older Amish children help out the younger children in the shared classrooms. Amish families in the school district rotate preparing a hot lunch for the students."
So life at the Arthur-area schools probably isn't much different than it was when this photograph was taken a half-century or more ago.

1. Here's a small news item from the April 2, 1963, edition of the Journal Gazette of Mattoon, Illinois:
"C.L. Bence, 12 Noyes Court, has been awarded a wristwatch as a prize in the Dexter Bonanza Contest sponsored by Dexter Press, Inc., for color photographer-distributors. This was the first nationwide sales contest sponsored by Dexter Press, which prints postcards, color brochures and stationery."

Monday, May 13, 2019

1957 QSL card mailed from
France to Frackville

On the heels of last week's 1962 QSL card, here's another from what was once the collection of ham-radio enthusiast Melvin C. Reed of Frackville, Pennsylvania.

Following radio contact, this card was mailed from Camille Faulque (call sign F8NU) at 5 Bd. Victor Hugo, Cholet, France, to Reed, all the way across the pond. As the crow flies, there were about 3,628 miles between their connections (or 14.5% the circumference of Earth).1 The card itself says "C. Faulque" but I got the full first name from the Fall 1957 Radio Amateur Call Book. (Also, Amitiés Camille appears to be written on the card. Amitiés means "Friendship" or "All the best.")

The QSL was mailed with a pair of dark ultramarine Nice stamps, which were originally issued in 1955.

Fun facts about Cholet: Its name probably comes from the Latin word for cabbage, and it is home to numerous megaliths.

Fun facts about Frackville: It's named for early settler Daniel Frack, and this sentence appears on its Wikipedia page at this moment: "Frackville is indeed surrounded by many prisons."

1. It would take a cheetah, running at full speed without stops, two days and 22 minutes to run from Cholet to Frackville. If it had a bridge across the Atlantic Ocean. And maybe some Cheetah Snacks.

Recent Postcrossing arrivals and thank-you notes (May edition)

I'm overdue to sit down with some stamps and colored, fine-tip markers and send out a big batch of Postcrossing cards across the globe. Sending out a bundle by late spring would assure that my mailbox will be filled with cards from Europe, Asia and elsewhere throughout the dog days of summer.

In the meantime, here's a roundup of Postcrossing interactions from the past couple of months...

Received in the mail

From Alexandra in Germany (folk dance postcard shown at top of post): "Hello in the North of Germany at all time of day. I'm living on my beloved North Frisian island Föhr since 2 years+. I'm happy about it every day!! The costumes are alive here. Three clubs are caring about this old tradition & dance. One costume has a weight up to 6 kg. It takes 2 persons to put it on in 1.5 h. No buttons were used. The young girls wear it at first time on their confirmation. Föhr is 1 of 3 North Frisian islands, 83 [square] km big with 8,500 inhabitants. It takes 50 min with the ferry to the continent. Have a sunny spring! Greetings from the Frisian Caribbean."

From Marina in Russia: "Hello Chris! I live in Ural. The Ural mountains are the border between Europe and Asia, but my city Perm is in European part. Perm is a big industrial city, its population is about one million people. My best wishes to you."

* * *

Thanks from abroad

And here's another roundup of emailed thank-you messages from fellow Postcrossing enthusiasts across the globe. These always reassure me that, at least when you get to the level of individual citizens, there is so much more that unites us than divides us.

Anton from Russia wrote: "Привет, Крис! I was absolutely delighted to receive such a wonderful and flamboyant card from you! The stamps were splendid as ever as well. Every time speak with a person from a different country I feel awe-struck by how alike we are. There's nothing a reasonable person desires more in the world than peace and understanding between people of various walks of life. Баба Яга would be thrilled to meet you as well, I'm sure. She would like to eat one of your cats, so be wary of that. I'd love to see one of the photographs taken by you or read your book in the future (in case you haven't written one already). Любовь победит ненависть! It's bound to happen. Peace! Anton"

John from Ireland wrote: "Hello Chris, a great unusual card received today. Thank you very much, I like it. I particularly enjoyed the stamps you placed on the card. I did not have any of them either, although I have a lot of US ones in my collection. They barely franked them too, a bonus, so all beautiful and welcomed. Hoping you and your family have a terrific 2019. 'Athbhlian faoi Mhaise Duit' Regards, John”

Wei from Taiwan wrote:
“你好!(hello) \(ˊ▽ˋ)/♡ Chris
Thank you very much for your sharing.(◡‿◡✿)
I very like this postcard and the stamps.(≧∇≦)/♡♡♡
Happy Postcrossing. (^ω^)
Wei Ling”

Vitalij in Belarus wrote: "Hello Cris! Greetings from Delarus, from Minsk! Добры Дзень, Крыс! Прывітанне з Беларусі, з Менску! Вялікі дзякуй за прыгожую паштоўку! І за добры беларускі асобнае дзякуй. Усяго добрага Вам, вашым родным і блізкім! Віталь."

Natalia from Russia wrote: "Hello Cris! Thank you very much for your card! Yes, I’m a big fan of the Phantom of the Opera :). I’ve seen it 3 times in New York and 2 times in Moscow (we had a Russian language version). And I have a soundtrack CD in my car, that I’m listening to very often and sing :) (especially when I have to drive at night). I have one question regarding your interests mentioned and I appreciate your answer very much. You’ve mentioned ephemera among your hobbies. — did you mean the butterfly? Good luck and happy postcrossing! Natalya"

Hyein from South Korea wrote: "Hi Chris! Thank you so much for your nice postcard and stamps. The John Lennon stamp looks so cool!"

Irene from Germany wrote: "Hello Chris, I thank you for the amazing postcard with the 'scary story time'. You made my day!! I also be happy about the stamps you used. Since I was young — I was a big fan of John Lennon — the best Beatle ever! Wishing you a wonderful springtime and a year full of interesting and colourful postcards. Best wishes Irene"

Sunday, May 12, 2019

More from the "Best. Book. Ever."

About 53½ moon cycles ago, I had the first in a series of two posts on the Best Book Ever (Part 1, Part 2). It's an 1885 textbook titled A Brief History of the United States. I described it as great based upon "the book's physical appearance, the interior markings and inscriptions it has accumulated over the years and things that have been tucked away inside in previous decades."

There were many awesome things to note, and I tried to cover all of them. But, in flipping through the book recently, I found something cool that I missed. Opposite Page 226, there's an inscription on a blank page. Here's a transcription of the cursive text:

You scondrel [sic] yelled
young Jacob Green
At his good neighbor Browns
You kiss my wife upon the street
I ought to knock you down.
Thats [sic] were [sic] your [sic] wrong
young Brown replied
In account mild and meek.
I kissed her that I've not
But I kissed her on the cheek.

I found one version of the likely source material for this in the May 15, 1890, edition of Life, which was a humor magazine from 1883 until 1936 before it transformed into the photojournalism powerhouse of the mid 20th century that we're more familiar with. The poem, in this instance, is part of an advertisement for Dr. Pierce's Pellets ("purely vegetable and perfectly harmless").

Friday, May 10, 2019

#FridayReads: May the great reads be with you, Padawans

Ashar with a goat on May 4 at Lancaster Farm Sanctuary in Elizabethtown.

Instead of putting them into some semblance of order, I'll just present this batch in the order in which they were put into the file. Make your own connections. Draw your own conclusions about the endlessly odd pathways of my mind.

From Lancaster Farm Sanctuary's Facebook page: "Shout out to Annie hen, who we think is the first of all the birds here to climb aboard and hang out on the chicken swing! A few years ago our founder Sarah Salluzzo made the swing for the Cornish Cross birds, for fun and exercise. We wanted to help them stay healthy, despite their genetic programming to be 'meat' birds with abnormal breast and body weight. But we’ve only ever seen them go around or under it like a limbo stick so far! Until last week!!! LFS volunteer Pauline Brown just caught this awesome shot of Annie not only swinging on it, but also snacking on leaves! Go, Annie!!!! Sooo interesting because Annie is usually the last to come in at night, and more likely off doing her own thing away from the flock. As usual, farm animal intelligence and sensitivity is just blowing our minds over here."

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Dell mapback front & back:
"The Man in Lower 10"

  • Title: The Man in Lower 10 (though the pedantic side of me must note that most references and the title page of this book list it as The Man in Lower Ten)
  • Author: Mary Roberts Rinehart (1876-1958). She was a Pennsylvania native who had a successful and pioneering career as a mystery writer. She had sold more than 10 million books at the time of her death. I call her pioneering because, as Wikipedia notes, she "is considered the source of the phrase 'The butler did it' from her novel The Door (1930) ... (and) is also considered to have invented the 'Had-I-But-Known' school of mystery writing."
  • Cover artist: I'm not sure. It might be out there, but I couldn't find it on, J. Kingston Pierce's great piece on CrimeReads, or Mystery Scene. Answers or hot leads welcome!
  • Mapback artist: Again, I'm not sure. But it could be Ruth Belew, who did at least 25% of the mapbacks. On CrimeReads, Pierce writes:
    "Certainly the best-remembered of Dell's mapmakers is Ruth Belew, a rare women laboring within the male fraternity of mid-20th-century paperback designers. Biographical information about Belew is sparse, but she was evidently a Chicago illustrator, who — working from clues and descriptions in each book’s narrative — rendered her crime scenes on cardboard, at twice the finished paperback dimensions. She often added nifty identification banners and numbered 'keys' to help readers locate rooms or landmarks integral to the plot. Dell editors double-checked the accuracy of her drafts, requested any necessary changes, and then sent them to lithographic colorists who’d fill her compositions with arresting hues."
  • Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
  • Publication year: This is 1937 edition of a novel first published in 1909. Per the cover, this is No. 124 in the Dell series. The novel was later reprinted by Dell, with a different cover, as No. 403.
  • Original price: None listed.
  • Pages: 240
  • Format: Paperback
  • First sentence: McKnight is gradually taking over the criminal end of the business.
  • Last sentence: "Say," he called, in a hoarse whisper, "shall I throw the key down the elevator shaft?"
  • Random sentence from middle: Richey's flippancy is often a cloak for deeper feeling.
  • Best character name in novel: Budd Wilson Hotchkiss
  • Goodreads rating: 3.57 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2012, Janiece wrote: "The style of writing is interesting and the setting of the 1920s takes me back to a time when train travel was the norm. Being a fan of Mary Roberts Rinehart since childhood, I am re-reading her books now and see much more in them that I didn't get before. Solving mysteries is more about inductive reasoning and observation than high tech diagnostics."
  • Amazon rating: 4.1 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review: In 2014, Bratty_me27 wrote: "Is being the main suspect in a murder the right time to fall in love? Read this book and find out."
  • Previous mapback post: In 2013, I wrote about Date with Death.

Nifty photo postcards of Luray Caverns from 1906

Entrance Avenue

These five postcards feature J.D. Strickler's photographs from 113 years ago of the natural wonder that is Luray Caverns in Virginia. Never mailed, they are part of a 10-card series titled The Beautiful Caverns of Luray. It was, according to the text on the back, possible for the Luray Caverns Corporation to mail the set to any address for 17 cents. (Mailing individual cards at that time was just a penny.)

An article by by C.H. Claudy titled "Some Subterrestrial Photography" in the June 1907 issue of The Photographic Times discusses Strickler's work. Here's an excerpt:
"The making of photographs beneath the surface of the earth is not usually a popular occupation. Not that it is not of itself enjoyable, but because it is so hard to get below the top of terra firma! And when somehow, somewhere, we do get below the surface and take flash lights, what flat and uninteresting pictures we do produce, to be sure!

"In presenting the accompanying pictures of underworld marvels, it is of course evident that the photographer had wonderful material with which to work — nowhere in the three miles of rooms and galliers in the Caverns of Luray could a camera be set up and anything taken which would not be both wonderful and beautiful. On the other hand this particular photographer has displayed a great deal of taste in the selection of his pictures, and shown an excellent appreciation of the force of light and shade, and particularly of contrast in the making of these plates. It is with the more pleasure that I am glad to name him. Mr. J.D. Strickler of Luray, Va., and to praise his excellent work and the keen 'know how' he has displayed in getting his results..."
Despite that heap of praise, Claudy does criticize Strickler's choices and work a fair bit throughout the article. At one point, Claudy writes: "Mr. Strickler has used a long focus lens of twelve inches focal length on an eight by ten plate in most of the pictures. This is a decided mistake from all possible points of view — a wide angle — at least a seven inch lens, being clearly indicated." Ouch.

Here are the other four postcards...

Approach to Ball Room

Saracens Tent

Ball Room Looking Toward Millers Hall

Collins Grotto

Monday, May 6, 2019

Boris' Soviet-era QSL card

This QSL card between UA3-9 in Moscow, USSR, and W3AIT in Frackville, Pennsylvania, was filled out in 1962, at the height of the Cold War. I know that W3AIT was in Frackville, because I have other QSL cards sent to that operator, who was named Melvin C. Reed. He's also listed, with that call sign, in the Fall 1952 Radio Amateur Callbook. If I found the correct Melvin C. Reed on Find A Grave, he lived from 1906 to 1987.

Melvin made a lot of international connections with his ham radio hobby. And that includes this one with Boris in 1962. I wonder if they had a short conversation. Did Boris understand English? Did Melvin understand Russian? Or did they only know enough mutual ham radio lingo in order to log the connection over the airwaves? QSL cards are wonderful ephemeral evidence of past exchanges. But they leave so much that can never be known. I find it fascinating that, in the same year as the Cuban Missile Crisis, someone from a small town in Pennsylvania was connecting directly with a fellow ham enthusiast in Moscow. (Also, since there's no stamp or address on this QSL, I have to assume that Boris sent it to Melvin in an envelope.)

Sunday, May 5, 2019

"Old farmhouse in the Black Forest"

Need a vacation? Or maybe just to get away from it all?1 This 1960s postcard, never mailed, features an Altes Bauernhaus im Schwarzwald (as printed on the back), which translates to "Old farmhouse in the Black Forest."

Living on a quiet, pastoral farm sounds like an ideal life these days. (I suspect, though, that the seasonal maintenance of that huge roof requires a lot of sweat equity, especially after hard winters.) Sarah and I took a farm tour in Lancaster County yesterday, and the tranquility was interrupted only by the occasional insistent bleating of the goats.

There's a red stamp on the back of this card for Hotel Bellevue in Baden-Baden, Germany. Originally, I thought the image on the front of the card was Hotel Bellevue, but I was wrong about that.

If my research and translations are correct, Hotel Bellevue dated to the late 1700s and was once called Grüner Winkel. It was fully rebuilt into a luxury hotel in the late 1800s and held that status through the first half of the 20th century. It served as a military hospital during World War II and never truly bounced back after that. It was converted into a retirement home in 1982.

It's still faring well and appears to be in very good shape. These days, most of it is used for high-end senior living, but there are, once again, some hotel rooms. If you stay there, it's not much of a jaunt to visit the Black Forest...

Related posts

1. Please note: You cannot run away from climate change.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Helen's big 1973 adventure in Italy

I need to stay in good practice when it comes to reading the questionable cursive writing of my grandmother (Helen Chandler Adams Ingham). So today I'm challenging myself — with a little help from housemates — to transcribe her message of the back of this postcard that she sent from northern Italy to Wallingford, Pennsylvania, in May 1973.

The card itself shows Ristorante Tre Corone in Verona, Italy. (The restaurant has "helpfully" been circled on the front of the postcard.) But the card was mailed from Bolzano, Italy, which is about 95 miles north of Verona.

In a note to her parents (Howard and Greta), Helen writes:
Bolzano is lovely town — beautiful shops, old castles — aren't I glad it's Sunday!
Met Amer. Express tour at Touring Hotel in Milan yesterday. Today we started at 8:30 — stopped at Lake Garda, took boat across to Sirmione — lovely resort area — then to Verona saw Juliet's balcony?!

[entire indecipherable line, possibly about a beach ... or lunch]

cafe (pictured) — Lasagna — turkey cacciatore [?] on to Bolzano. Venice tomorrow. Rec'd my pkg (ticket) from AAA. No other mail though. See you soon.
Love Helen

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Unstaged shelfie just for the halibut 1

Some of these have certainly been blogged about.

Monday, April 22, 2019

At Muskoka Lakes (1917)

I'll write much more about this later, but this year I've been in the slow process of having numerous century-old negatives of family photos scanned and digitized at Camera Center of York. I'm also getting one print of each photo — the first time these photos have been printed, to my knowledge, because I don't recall seeing any of them in family albums.

I just wanted to share this one in a quick post, because it's a gorgeous snapshot. It was from a negative envelope labeled "1917 Muskoka Lakes." There is both a Township of Muskoka Lakes and a Lake Muskoka in Ontario, Canada. It appears to be a spot my ancestors vacationed at a century ago.

I'm fairly certain that the second person from left, in the white hat, is the oft-mentioned Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988), my great-grandmother. It's not immediately clear to me who the other folks are, but I might eventually be able to suss out some of their identities.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

From the readers: In which Phyllis gets a lot of web traffic

The March 11 Papergreat post "Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris" has been getting a lot of traffic in the past week, with more than 4,500 pageviews. Most of it — no surprise, I reckon — is from the same kind of Reddit and Twitter posts that inspired me to write about her in the first place.

There have also been some very kind comments left by readers on Phyllis' post:
  • Joan, of Ask Joan fame, writes: "I'm glad you tell stories."
  • Ingrid Medova writes: "Yes, sad there is not enough respect for this woman."
  • Unknown writes: "It does look like she is about to smile in her mugshot."
  • Tami writes: "Rest In Peace dear lady."
  • Mr Smith writes: "Highlighted by Reddit, given flesh by you. Thank you."
  • Siobhan writes: "Her photo was posted this morning on Pictures in History. Thank you for adding to her story."
  • Unknown writes: "Thank you for making her something more than a Facebook post that says 'Weed head, tramp.'"

Saturday's postcard: Driving through a redwood: Wendyvee of the awesome Roadside Wonders and possibly the forthcoming memoir Grand Auto Adventures in Brooklyn writes: "There used to be a photo of my grandparents and their car with a Giant Redwood ... lost to the sands of time apparently."

Soviet-era magazine cartoons: Joan writes: "I want a T-shirt of that hedgehog."

Plenty of projects in Pack-o-Fun: Rushd Lady, who is involved with a number of blogs, writes: "I grew up to recycling crafts featured in the Pack-o-Fun and Workbasket magazines. You wouldn't happen to know where Edna or John Clapper were buried do you? I'm a member of Find-a-Grave and I have a 'Creatives' virtual cemetery I would love to add them to."

Alas, I do not know where those two individuals are buried.

Fairy tale food & drink of Ruth Manning-Sanders: Joan writes: "I most enjoy 'wine in a sack.' But also radishes. And cabbage."

Bookplate inside "The Angry Planet": "Mark Felt," Stealth Research Assistant and Executive Vice President in Charge of Ephemera Reunions, writes: "Dr. Sally's youngest daughter, Lesa Lillibridge of Kent, Ohio, would be proud of the posting of her father's bookplate. Bless Dr. Sally's memory."

The Moorestown Mall and its questionable Monkey Cage: Wendyvee, commenting on Facebook, writes: "My college roomie had memories of them from when she was really little. I think that they had ducks in the 'mall fountains' too."

1970s gang graffiti inside a 1928 book of plays: Stewart lil writes: "Is this for sale by any chance?"

I'm not sure if I still have it! This post was way back in 2012, another lifetime ago. The days of keeping everything I've posted passed a long time ago. With nearly 3,000 posts, you just can't keep it all. But this was was unique enough that there's at least a chance I still have it ... somewhere.

Hans Gerhard Sørensen's cover art for "A Brief History of Norway": Unknown writes: "Looking for a list of Hans Gerhard Sorensen's prints and value so I know how to insure them."

Alas, I believe you would need to an expert for that. I am clearly just a generalist and amateur.

* * *

Bonus: Spam comment of the month

On "Old business card for Hayes Flying Service":
"Would you choose a pun-filled name for your business? Are puns effective in attracting consumers to your brand? We look at how puns can actually be beneficial clicking here your business and brand, and how it can build your consumer base through the power of humour!"

Friday, April 19, 2019

Book cover: "Syrian Yankee"

  • Title: Syrian Yankee
  • Author: Salom Rizk (1908-1973)
  • Dust jacket artist: Unknown
  • Publisher: Doubleday & Company
  • Publication year: 1954 for this edition. Book was first published in 1943.
  • Original price: $2.50
  • Provenance: At some point it was signed on the first page by the author. Book ended up at Canaday's Book Barn in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It had a listed price of $12.50, but I picked it up for a steep discount during the store's closing sale.
  • Pages: 317
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Front cover blurb: "This autobiography tells of the Americanization of Salom Rizk, a Syrian orphan who came from a land of poverty and oppression to the land of opportunity and freedom. One out of nameless millions, Rizk reveals why he loves his adopted country."
  • First sentence: Nearly all the things that happened when I was a boy, in the places beyond our hills — in Lebanon and Palestine and Turkey, and in the far places over the sea — I didn't know anything about or even dimly suspect because we had no books or newspapers in our village.
  • Last sentence: You can't beat the people who built and are still building this America.
  • Random segment from the middle #1: "The Republican party got the country into this fix," the Mason City businessman said.
  • Random segment from the middle #2: "Wall Street or the Republic party. What's the difference? Wall Street's got a strangle hold on the Republicans, and they run the party to suit themselves."
  • Random segment from the middle #3: "Wall Street knows there's only one way to get power and that's to get votes, farm votes and labor votes. They have to hoodwink you farmers into believing that the Republican party is the farmer's party, and they have to hoodwink the laboring man into thinking the Republican party is the laboring man's party."
  • Random segment from the middle #4: "You talk as if the Republican party was a closed conspiracy against the public interest," Larry's father retorted.
  • Random segment from the middle #5: "Sons of wild jackasses, all of them," cried the Socialist.
  • Were those actually random? No.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.27 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon rating: 5.0 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review excerpt #1: In 2003, Thomas Leavitt wrote: "This is truly a tale of America at its best, the bright and shining beacon of hope for so many people for so long. It is sad to see how tarnished that image has become in many people's minds."
  • Amazon review excerpt #2: In 2011, Ashor wrote: "This book should taught in schools for the American youth to show them what other societies are missing, how we became a spoiled and resource-abusing society."
  • Amazon review excerpt #3: In 2017, PJ wrote: "It's amazing how ... Salom Rizk was received AND treated back then, vs. today's attitude by the WH towards Syrians. This 180 in temperament [and] acceptance of one another has become the shame of this Nation."
  • About Rizk: The well-sourced Wikipedia page on this author has a few interesting points about Rizk and Syrian Yankee:
    • "The book has been called 'a classic of the immigrant biography genre', especially for the way Rizk's story portrays the American Dream and the virtues of cultural assimilation at the expense of his home country, which he finds loathsome when he returns for a visit."
    • "Rizk's description of youth is interesting for several reasons: First, it was not common at the time for Syrian immigrants to depict their journey to the United States. Second, Rizk leaves out the obvious fact that his native language is Arabic and distances himself from the Muslim aspects of Syrian culture. Third, despite being dazzled by New York City, Rizk's depiction of America 'resembles nothing so much as Hell'; it is not until he returns to his homeland and sees the problems facing both the Middle East and Nazi-era Europe (including the large numbers of Jewish refugees to Palestine) that he recognizes the fulfillment of his American Dream and begins to become a vocal advocate for American values, using his own immigrant status as the grounds for his expertise."
    • "Eventually, with the rise of ethnic pride movements in the latter half of the century, Arab American writers realized that Rizk's willingness to criticize his native culture was counter-productive, reinforcing ugly stereotypes and making Arab American readers feel even less free. Rizk thus stands as a testament to his age, to the changing tides of Arab American history and its vacillation between assimilation and diversity."
  • Final note: Before the Trump administration began to close America's doors to immigration, many 21st century refugees from Syria, and other nations, were coming to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Nifty & historic machinery in Postcrossing card from Germany

This postcard found its way to my southcentral Pennsylvania mailbox thanks to Postcrossing. It's from Tom, a fan of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, who writes:
"Hello Chris!
Nice to meet you here. ;-) My name is Tom. I'm 58 y.y. and this card is from my hometown. The coal-mine Zollverein in Essen is UNESCO WH and it's a very interesting location. Earlier industry and today culture!"
The Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex, which dates to 1847 (a mere 684 years after the groundbreaking for Notre-Dame de Paris), is perhaps best known for Shaft 12, which is what's pictured on this postcard. According to Wikipedia, Shaft 12 was "built in the New Objectivity style, was opened in 1932 and is considered an architectural and technical masterpiece, earning it a reputation as the 'most beautiful coal mine in the world.'"

Zollverein is also one of the settings for the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, which is on my long, long, long list of books to read.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Publicity still: Ninja and a lion

There was no information or caption on this random movie publicity still. But a Google reverse image search informs me that it's from the 1983 TV movie The Last Ninja. Said ninja is, improbably, portrayed by Michael Beck.

The website Vintage Ninja has a post about this movie and is in possession of the same publicity still. It has the original photo caption from ABC, which states, in part:
"Michael Beck, starring as a young man raised by a Japanese-American family and trained in the ancient arts of the Ninjutsu..."
Apparently, he's also trained in the art of being a Lion Whisperer.

Even though the film has some serious cultural appropriation happening, it is fairly well-regarded by some fans of ninja cinema. One of those commenting on the Vintage Ninja post states: "The movie was quite accurate in its portrayal of the Ninja and did a good job of representing the main character as a disciplined, responsible member of society and not some pajama clad killer."

Friday, April 12, 2019

TV flashback: March 8, 1978

A little nostalgia here for folks of my generation. The late-afternoon and early evening television listings that appeared in the March 8, 1978, edition of the Pittsburgh Press. Some very familiar titles, such as Gilligan's Island, Bowling for Dollars, The Brady Bunch, and Sha Na Na (there aren't supposed to be hyphens).

Today, 41 years later, Sarah and I will be in the Pittsburgh area to meet one of Mike Douglas' guests from these TV listings. Hint: This person once famously sang a song whose title appears in the 7:30 p.m. Evening Magazine listing.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Regarding Estella Canziani

Way back around Thanksgiving — more than four months ago! — I wrote: "I have posts about Estella Canziani, Phyllis Stalnaker, Florence Darlington, Loren E. Trueblood and Margaret Lynch Capone that I'd like to get cleared off the decks, so stay tuned for those."

Well, I've taken care of Stalnaker, Darlington and Capone. So that leaves Canziani and Trueblood. The latter, a potentially fascinating tale, still requires some research that I haven't gotten to yet.

But today's a good day to say a little about Estella Canziani. I can never quite remember the path that led me to certain discoveries online, but I believe this September 2018 tweet was primarily responsible for piquing my curiosity...

The tweet was accompany by this image of a bookplate...

Canziani has a short biography on Wikipedia, which states the she had the ultra-cool resume of British portrait and landscape painter, interior decorator, travel writer, and folklorist. She was a Quaker and member of the SPCA who authored three books: Costumes, Traditions and Songs of Savoy (1911), Piedmont (1913) and Through the Apennines and the Lands of the Abruzzi (1928).

The Wikipedia entry also highlights another of her amazing bookplates...

By Published by A Fowler, Kansas City, MO - The Bookplate Annual for 1921 (free pdf from, Public Domain, Link

On The Library Time Machine, Dave Walker wrote a pair of terrific, image-filled posts about Canziani in January 2016. I direct you to those (Part 1, Part 2) to learn more about her life. I especially loved this passage by Walker:
"In 1967, shortly after her death a newspaper described her as the Bird Lady, an eccentric old woman still wearing the fashions of her youth and the house as a shambles infested by birds and other small animals. It seems a shame that people are often judged by how they were (or might have been) at the end of their lives. When a life is finished we are free to look at the whole story, see the whole pattern and pick the greatest hits. No doubt the house in Palace Green was a bit of a mess but you could also choose to view it as a collection of wonders, mundane and exotic and a kind of wonderland. A lively little girl grew up to be a talented artist. She filled the house with mementos of her life and travels. Given her interest in folklore and fairies and the proximity of faery-infested Kensington Gardens you could imagine her house as a gateway into a world of wonders."

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

When nature calls and you're in the middle of ... nature

Pee in a tree?

This postcard caps off the trilogy of trees (Part 1, Part 2). (Unless there's a fourth card, and then it will no longer be a trilogy.)

It shows part of a felled redwood that's been turned into a Forest Loo, with "She" and "He" sides. The scratched-on caption at the bottom says this is at Burrill Redwood Terraces. And if you search for that phrase online, pretty much all you get is more pictures of this mid-century Privy in the Woods. I can additionally say that it was near Garberville, California, a census-designated place in the northwest part of the state that formed its own chapter of the Green Party in 2006.

This postcard was mailed, giving us more some information, though portions of the back are obscured. It appears to have been sent from Marshfield, Oregon, to Kernville, California, on March 28, 1942. The part of the note I can read states:
Dear Kids — couldn't find the umbrella Georges did [?] so used ... substitute. ... a lovely trip but glad ... back after all Oreg. [??] is OK. Hope every thing & ... o.k. up your way.