Saturday, March 16, 2019

Book cover: "Space Flight" (1959)

  • Title: Space Flight
  • Subtitle: "The Coming Exploration of the Universe"
  • Author: Lester del Rey (1915-1993)
  • Illustrator: John Polgreen (1910-1970)
  • Publisher: Golden Press (The Golden Library of Knowledge)
  • Publication year: 1959 (material originally copyright 1957 and 1958 by General Mills)
  • Original price: 50 cents in the United States; 65 cents in Canada
  • Pages: 56
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Provenance: Written on the title page: R.J. Fasnacht, 29 Lincoln Drive, Hanover, Pennsylvania. (I found a Richard J. Fasnacht of Hanover who lived from 1932 to 2009. That's possibly a match.)
  • First sentence: The Space Age began on October 4, 1958, when the first artificial satellite — Sputnik I — was successfully launched.
  • Last sentences: Perhaps there is really no end to space flight. But there is a beginning, and that has already been made.
  • Random sentence from middle: Being a spaceman will require the highest possible combination of physical and mental abilities, as well as courage.
  • Prescient section from the middle: Men may even build small stations further out to televise a full color picture of the whole hemisphere of Earth to the surface, where it could be studied in detail. Hurricanes beginning out in the Atlantic could be spotted in time to warn all ships. Such storms could be followed from hour to hour and warnings issued to cities in their path. Perhaps in time, as more is learned about weather, some way could be found to break up such storms before they could move inland or reach their full fury.
  • Gender equity analysis: For that era, Lester del Rey is about as progressive as one might have hoped, perhaps in a backhanded way, though. Here's an interesting excerpt:
    "In the future, most boys will dream about going into space. The idea of being a spaceman will attract young people just as many now want to become airplane pilots. Girls will also want to go out into the Space Service. They will probably do at least as well as men; for long and difficult trips, women may be preferred, since it has been proved that they are able to stand monotony better than men. Some girls may become pilots. The word spacemen must be used to mean either boys or girls, with no difference in the type of job they will do."
  • What others are saying: In an excellent 2011 post on Riding with Robots, Bill Dunford states:
    "The book itself is beautiful, and its content is an intriguing mix. Naive and wildly speculative on the one hand, hopeful and prescient on the other. It’s easy to smile at the blank spaces on the pictures of the planets and at the predictions the author got wrong. But my eyes widened at some of the things he nailed — a lot of it is spot on. Likewise, the book stirred a mixture of feelings about the state of space exploration today. We have accomplished so much of what the author hoped, and so much is still in progress ... or remains a dream even all these decades later."
    Indeed, is space colonization, funded by the likes of Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, our only or best hope against the coming catastrophe of global climate change?

Bonus interior illustration

Saturday's postcards: Sri Lankan mosque & historic home in Arkansas

First up is this unused postcard that was printed in the United States and published by Ceylon Pictorials. Designated as CP-62, the caption on the back indicates that the building is "Mohammedan Mosque" in Colombo, Ceylon.

Ceylon became the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka in 1972 and is home today to nearly 22 million people of many cultures and ethnicities. Buddhists comprise 70 percent of the population, according to Wikipedia, while "Islam is the third most dominant religion in the country, having first been brought to the island by Arab traders over the course of many centuries, starting around the 7th century CE."

Colombo is the largest city in Sri Lanka, in terms of population. This "Mohammedan Mosque" is today, in English, known as the Dawatagaha Jumma Masjid or Dewatagaha Mosque. The mosque, if I have my facts straight, is considered part of the Cinnamon Gardens neighborhood of the city.

According to, "Dewatagaha Mosque in Lipton's Circus, Colombo, has become a byword in every Muslim home, and no Muslim passes the shrine of the saint without paying his respects. The 150-year-old shrine [is] the resting-place of the Muslim saint, His Holiness Seyedina as-Sheikh Usman Siddique Ibn Ahdurrahman, who visited Ceylon from Arafat, Arabia ... and later resided in what was later known as Cinnamon Gardens."

A 2017 review on TripAdvisor states: "The Dewatagaha mosque is one of the prominent mosques in Colombo. It's huge and white, the architecture is lovely and beautiful, and we learnt that the mosque is about 200 years old. Its lovely exterior is almost an iconic part of the architecture in the city center in Colombo."

* * *

Switching gears to Arkansas in the United States, this is a real photo postcard from K.C. Studio in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The stamp box on the back, per, indicates that it's an EKC card published between 1930 and 1950. (The postcard has never been used.)

Pictured is the home of comedian Bob Burns (1890-1956) in Van Buren, Arkansas. Burns was known for radio shows, movies, a folksy newspaper column ("Well, I'll Tell You") and, perhaps most famously, the word "bazooka." For him, it was a handheld music instrument that functioned like a crude trombone. The name was appropriated in World War II and became the iconic nickname for a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher.

The Bob Burns House at 821 Jefferson Street in Van Buren was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. According to its application for that honor, it was "built in 1885 by Alex Lacy, a Van Burn merchant. It was a white frame two-story Victorian style home. The original floor plan had three rooms downstairs and three rooms upstairs separated by [a] hallway."

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Very obscure Manning-Sanders novel: "Mermaid's Mirror"

I've wavered at times over the years regarding what I believe to be the most rare, hard-to-find work by Ruth Manning-Sanders. These days, I believe it's her 1935 novel Mermaid's Mirror, which was published by Cassell & Co. For a while, I wasn't even sure if it was real, because it didn't show up on all of her online bibliographies. I have never seen it for sale on Amazon, eBay or AbeBooks. And I've never seen an online image of the book or its cover. WorldCat says it's held at four libraries overseas, including Oxford. (WorldCat also says it's at two school libraries in Texas, but I'm pretty sure those are false positives.)

I have also never found a summary or review of the book, which is odd.

All I have is this Cassell advertisement, which appears in the June 9 and June 16, 1935, editions of The Observer of London.

"A deftly-written novel of strange happenings on the Cornish Coast." That pretty much just makes me want to find this book even more.

Soviet-era magazine cartoons

Today we're again delving into the December 1974 issue of Sputnik, which, as I wrote in November 2017, "was essentially the Soviet Union's version of Reader's Digest and was primarily intended for Western readers." These are some single-panel cartoons from a feature titled "In a Lighter Vein." The funnies are from the newspapers Sovietskaya, Estonia, Nedelya and the magazine Ogonyok.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

1979 Star Wars toy ads

Pictured above is a page from a 16-page staplebound pamphlet published by Kenner Products in 1979 — 40 years ago! — to advertise the company's Star Wars toys. The front of the pamphlet is shown at right, with Darth Titan looming in the background.

This was about the same year my interest in these toys began to blossom. I suspect I had a similar arc to many American boys that age in that era. I probably had 8-to-10 Star Wars figures in the late 1970s when we were living in Clayton, New Jersey. They got pretty beat up from playing in the dirt, on the curb, on the wooden jungle gym and on the front porch, where they would take tumbles into the bushes. I also remember having a Kenner landspeeder and I think, at one point, the TIE fighter with the wings that popped off. I also remember being excited to send away for the Star Wars Collector's Action Stand, although I thought it was pretty underwhelming when it arrived.

Other than action figures (typically bought at drug stores, of all places), my collection of Star Wars toys never grew much in the early 1980s. I remember being jealous of kids with the huge Millennium Falcon, plastic light sabers and the towering (to me) Death Star Space Station, which my "cousin" Chip had. Chip got everything. Amazingly, the Death Star Space Station only cost $18, though that's about $55 in modern dollars so, yeah, I can see why Chip had it and I didn't.

Anyway, this booklet is filled with the usual Kenner suspects of the era, plus a few surprises. Action figures include the main characters, plus Boba Fett, R5-D4, Hammerhead, and the Power Droid, which was oddly one of my favorites over years of play. Sets include the Creature Cantina and the Droid Factory. There are also jigsaw puzzles and the obligatory plastic pistols and laser rifles.

Here's a closer look at a few toys from the page at the top of the post...

Dip Dots Star Wars Painting Set. "DIP DOTS provide the color and STAR WARS the action. New set features sixteen 8½" x 11" scenes based on STAR WARS movie with all the STAR WARS stars in action. Complete, ready-to-paint, with 8 colors of DIP DOTS instant water colors in non-spill plastic tray; STAR WARS scenes in bound book and brush. Ages 3 to 8."

Movie Viewer. "Now kids can see STAR WARS movies with their very own viewer! Exciting scenes of STARS WARS action. Crank fast or slow. The super-8 film never tangles! No batteries needed."

So, it was basically the Fisher Price Movie Viewer, which was one of my favorite childhood toys, even though I never actually had one. The Toy Box website ( has a nice history of this viewer, which was only produced from 1975 to 1979. Here's an excerpt of the section about Star Wars:
"These days it's relatively unheard of to have access to a film (legally) while it's still running in the theater, so when Kenner released one of its first products based on the film, kids and adults went nuts. Despite being only sixty seconds of footage, fans of the film were eager to see anything and everything they could over and over and over again. What better way then in the palm of your hand? Despite its major popularity, Kenner only produced four individually packaged cassettes, and the fifth, May The Force Be With You, which came packaged with the Viewer. There's no real answer known to the general public as to why there were so few cassettes, but we speculate that when the film took off like it did, Lucasfilm and/or Fox pulled the plug on the cassettes to encourage people to continue to fill theater seats."
I figured these would be super-expensive now on eBay, but it looks like you can get the Kenner viewer, plus one or more Star Wars cartridges, for prices ranging from $30 to $75.

Give-A-Show Projector. "Tells the entire STAR WARS story! Complete with projector, 16 full strips — 112 color slides. Projects giant pictures up to 8' x 8' on wall or any surface. Uses 3 "D" batteries, not included."

I think that girl might be the late Heather O'Rourke, of Poltergeist fame. She was a model for numerous toy advertisements, including Barbie. But I can't find any confirmation for this specific advertisement.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris

This is a post about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris.

She died 58 years ago, in January 1961, at the age of just 35. That probably would have been the end of it. An anonymous woman originally from the Midwest who died young after living a non-notable life in California, away from the spotlight.

But Phyllis was "revived." With the help of the internet. Decades after she or anyone else could advocate for her.

She didn't quite suffer the ignominy of becoming a full-blown meme. But her existence was nonetheless reduced to a punchline.

The image of Phyllis at the top of this post is a cropped-in version of her police booking shot from decades ago. It was featured on a wall at the San Diego Police Museum earlier this decade, and it appears to have been first noted on Twitter in November 2013.

But it really springboarded into the internet consciousness in October 2014, when her image was the main one accompanying an article on San Diego City Beat headlined "San Diego Police Museum seeks a new home." Phyllis is the dominant image and the lead of the story by Susan Myrland:
"She was a weedhead and a tramp. In 1944, that was enough to get Phyllis Stalnaker arrested. Her booking photo shows a pretty young woman sporting a jaunty striped top with a herringbone blazer and fashionably dark lipstick. She gives the camera a wary glance."
Weedhead and tramp. Ha ha, said some on the internet. Tweets, Pinterest posts, Tumblr posts, Reddit threads, Facebook posts ... many full of snark ... spread Phyllis' face across cyberspace. Weedhead, tramp. Weedhead, tramp. Weedhead, tramp. The only words tagged to her short life.

But of course that wasn't her whole life. Not hardly.

The thing is, we'll never know most of her history. But here's what is available, from online sources such as Find a Grave.

  • She was born Phyllis J. Stalnaker on October 19, 1925, in Nebraska (possibly in the vicinity of Columbus).
  • Her parents were Archie Laverne Stalnaker (1900-1946) and Mildred Clara Crawford Stalnaker (1907-2001). Mildred was a seamstress and member of the San Diego Zoological Society. She's buried in Mount Hope Cemetery.
  • She had a young brother, Gorden Rex Stalnaker, who lived from 1927-2007 and served in the Navy in World War II, and two other brothers: Darrell D. Stalnaker and Archie L. Stalnaker.
  • Shortly before her 15th birthday, she was seriously injured after being thrown from a horse. (That's per the October 10, 1940, issue of the San Diego Union.) That would have been about four years before her arrest.
  • At some point she married James Harris and they lived at 7575 Pacific Avenue in Lemon Grove, California (San Diego County).
  • She died on Jan 2, 1961, in San Diego, California. No cause of death was cited, though she was in a hospital when she died. Her service was in a mortuary, not a church. She's buried in Mount Hope Cemetery. According to her obituary, she had lived in San Diego County for 25 years at the time of her death. She did not have any children. Her three brothers were all living in Lemon Grove at the time of her death.
That's about it. There have been a half-dozen or so Reddit threads about her over the years, most of them riffing off her mug shot and charges. Rarely anything serious, although I did find this cached comment from about four years ago:
"Funny to some of us now because we take our freedoms for granted. But in 1944 in San Diego, charged as a tramp meant that the police officer didn't like her being where she was found on the streets. The law (CPC 647e) was only declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1983 (103 S.Ct. 1855, 1860] Rehnquist/White dissenting). Freedom isn't free. Rarely is it gained by blowing up foreigners around the world."
Rest in peace, Phyllis. I'm sorry we don't know more about your accomplishments, hobbies, favorite movie stars or happiest moments.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

My great-grandfather's nostalgia road trips, Part 2

On the heels of the Feb. 26 post, here's another batch of photos from a road trip some of my family members — specifically my great-grandfather and my grandmother — took in February 1965. They were checking out sites in Delaware connected to the younger days of my great-grandfather, who was born in 1894.

Caption on back: "Cemetery — Old Christ Church Broad Creek near Laurel, Del."
Glad to know I'm not the only family member who takes cemetery photos.

"Charles R. Horsey house, died 1906"
Charles is one of my great-great-great-grandfathers.

"Side of Charles Newton Adams house, Laurel, Del.
Note pecan tree played by Monroe H. Adams in 1908.
Barn dates from 1840."
Charles Newton Adams was my great-grandfather's father.
Monroe was my great-grandfather's older brother. He died in 1946.

"Old Christ Church Broad Creek near Laurel, Del."