Saturday, April 6, 2019

Valentine Funk's bad day in 1904

First of all, Valentine Funk is a real name. In fact, I found multiple persons in history who have had that name.

Second of all, in doing one of my mostly aimless online searches, I came across this harrowing tale of Valentine Funk vs. The Spider, documented in the Philadelphia-area newspapers of June 1904...

The Morning Post (Camden, New Jersey), June 25, 1904

The Courier-Post (Camden, New Jersey), June 25, 1904

The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 26, 1904

Full disclosure: I'm fairly certain that I was also bitten on the face by a spider in the summer of 2004, almost exactly a century after Mr. Funk. The right side of my face was swollen a few days, although a trip to the doctor was not needed. And there were no newspaper headlines.

A bevy of great reading suggestions for you to bookmark

Serious stuff

Not-so-serious stuff

The joyous illustrations of Johnny Gruelle's "The Paper Dragon"

Johnny Gruelle (1880-1938) was, among other things, the creator of Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy. (He was also a newspaper cartoonist who signed many of his works "Grue".)

In 1926, Gruelle wrote and illustrated The Paper Dragon: A Raggedy Ann Adventure. It was published by the P.F. Volland Company (as one of its "Happy Children Books") and dedicated to Evelyn, David and Judy Chambers. I came across an appropriately raggedy copy of the book a while back. It was given as a Christmas gift to "Sonny" in 1935 and has been drawn and doodled on over the years. It's also missing at least one page and has numerous other torn pages. But the story and vibrant, amazing Gruelle illustrations are still there. And they're well worth sharing. (Note: There have been recent reprints of this book, including the illustrations. And while they're pricey, they wouldn't be as raggedy or incomplete as this copy.)

First up is the back cover...

Here's the left-hand side of the endpapers...

And here's the right-hand side of the endpapers...

I have no idea who that man or woman with the green glasses is, but it's one of the coolest images I've ever come across for this blog. It looks like it belongs more in the psychedelic 1960s than the 1920s, doesn't it? Here's a closer look...

Moving along, here's the title page...

And here are three full-page, full-color interior illustrations by Gruelle...

Some history that's kept alive by a postcard

In the grand tradition of Water-Stained Works of Art and The Georgia Klinefelter Collection™, here's postcard from the 1910s that was postmarked in Urlton, New York, and mailed to Miss G. Kleinfelter [sic] in East Orange, New Jersey.

A century later, Urlton — which is located in Greene County, New York — is better known as Earlton, which itself is a tiny hamlet that doesn't even make Wikipedia's list of places you should know about in Greene County.1 It does still have its own post office, though, and has since 1886. Hence the postmark on this card. One post office history site says the change from Urlton to Earlton happened on January 1, 1929. Interestingly, the first postmaster of the hamlet was named Luman A. Earle.

And what is a hamlet, in terms of New York state's definition of names and places? It's this, per Wikipedia: "Though the term 'hamlet' is not defined under New York law, many people in the state use the term hamlet to refer to a community within a town that is not incorporated as a village but is identified by a name, i.e. an unincorporated community. Hamlets often have names corresponding to the names of a local school district, post office, or fire district." So it's a nicer term for what we just call incorporated communities here in Pennsylvania.

The hamlet of Earlton is located within the town of Coxsackie.

So what about Potic Mountain, which is noted on the front of the postcard? Again according to Wikipedia: "Potic Mountain is a mountain in Greene County, New York. It is located in the Catskill Mountains west of Limestreet. Indian Ridge is located west, and Flint Mine Hill is located east of Potic Mountain." Here are a couple excerpts from issues of Daughters of the American Revolution magazine of about 100 years ago...

  • Two hundred and forty years ago on a semi-circular line of hills, five miles from the Hudson and the Catskill of today stood a row of Indian wigwams. These Indians cleared the lowlands along the waters of the Catskill Creek by burning the trees, tilled the soil with crooked sticks and clam shells; hunted in the surrounding forest, and fished in the streams. On Potic Mountain was their fort.
  • Most country dwellings of Colonial days seek the shelter of the hills without regard to the outlook which in those days was restricted by an unbroken forest, but the Van Bergen house and the parsonage, now replaced by a modern building, were set on the top of hills and had inspiring views of the surrounding country; the Catskill winding around through green fields, crossed by the stone bridge of 1792; the village of Leeds with the white spire above the trees of the successor of the church of 1732, itself nearing the century mark, and across the flats Potic Mountain, upon whose sides the wolf howled, and the panther and wildcat set up their cry in the long winter nights.

Finally, here's the neat cursive note that was written to Georgia more than a century ago:
Am having a nice time. This is a beautiful place.
Swick [?]
1. These hamlets do make Wikipedia's list of places in Greene County: Acra, Cornwallville, Climax, Hannacroix, Surprise and West Kill.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Snapshot & memories:
Commodore 64 corner

How's this for a super-tech setup?

I lived at the house on Oak Crest Lane in Wallingford, Pennsylvania, from 1986 until 1993, though I was at Penn State from 1989 through 1993 and thus was only home part-time during that period. This undated photo was taken while peering in through the door to the bedroom at the top of the stairs.1

So this was the computer corner of my bedroom. Ignore the bedknobs and the ugly curtains and instead focus on the state-of-the-art computer system. There's a Commodore 64, a Commodore printer (it looks like an MPS 802, but mine was definitely a dot matrix printer, so I'm not sure if that's right), and the Commodore 1541-II floppy drive (I think). Next to the floppy drive is a shoebox filled with disks.

And of course an old CRT television with rabbit ears served as the monitor. A switch that would have looked something like the thing pictured at right allowed me to switch back and forth between the computer and the standard five or six over-the-airwaves TV channels. So it was basically computer games, school projects on the word processor, Philly sports and St. Elsewhere reruns on that TV.2

And how about all those computer games sitting on the shelves beneath The Far Side calendar? There are a bevy of Infocom games (Zork I, Enchanter, Zork III, Suspect, Zork II, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Planetfall, Cutthroats, and The Lurking Horror). There's The Crimson Crown (aka Transylvania II). There's Ultima IV, Summer Games from Epyx, Star Trek: The Kobayashi Alternative (which was godawful), The Movie Monster Game, an ice hockey game I can't ID, Commando, MicroLeague Baseball, Autoduel and some others I can't recognize. One of them might be the unheralded and underrated Alternate Reality: The Dungeon, which I played the heck out of. I still have the game's jingles in my head.

The other games I spent the most time with were the legendary Ultima IV and, winning by a landslide (or slide into home), MicroLeague Baseball. I had many of the accessory disks and spent many hours creating baseball teams and playing full seasons.3 One of these days I might post about the "yearbooks" I made for my team, the Wallingford Smashers.

More of "Snapshot & memories"

1. Here's the door (closed) that's featured in this photograph.
2. I also specifically remember watching some of the shows during Fox's debut prime-time season in 1987: The Tracey Ullman Show, Duet, Werewolf and The New Adventures of Beans Baxter.
3. USA Today used to carry complete, updated individual Major League Baseball statistics on Tuesdays and Wednesday. It's hard to overstate how cool and amazing that was for statistics nerds in the 1980s.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Classified ads from 1974 issue
of The Monster Times

The one true turtle avenger (sorry, Leonardo & Co.) is featured on the cover of this December 1974 issue of The Monster Times.

Yes, it's Gamera, whose name on this cover is spelled "Gammera" because of the 1966 U.S. release of Gammera the Invincible, an Americanization and spelling bastardization of 1965's Japanese film Gamera, the Giant Monster. It's Gamera, with one M. Period. And, yes, he's full of turtle meat. But you're never getting through that shell.

The Monster Times was a weekly magazine that churned out four dozen issues on newsprint between 1972 and 1976. It was heavy on horror, talking apes, kaiju, Star Trek and comics. This 1974 issue had a cover price of 75 cents, which was probably the bulk of an average kid's weekly allowance in those days. It's equivalent to about $3.86 today.

I'll be delving into some other groovy corners of this issue in future posts, but today I'm sharing highlights from the classified advertisements, which are dubbed "The Monster Fan Fair" and are featured on the next-to-last page of the 32-page issue:

  • Buy — Sell — Trade at Supersnipe Comic Book Art Emporium, 1617 Second Ave., NYC 10028 (212) 879-9628. New & old comics, original art, big little books, movie memorabilia, science fiction, & The Monster Times.1
  • Anybody who has any facts or photos of Anthony Zerbe or Robert Armstrong, please write to: Mary Demonte, 96 Bay View Ave., Lynn, MA 01902.
  • July 28 is the best day of them all and don't you mock it, me or ham. Mark Markham, 1041 #41 Shell Blvd., Foster City, CA 94404.2
  • Wanted: Stills and information on ape make-up. Send list and price. Chad Urbina, 1511 Kenniwick Loop, Alexandria, LA 71301.
  • Oregon's Department of Justice is not looking into Gothic Castle (CoF) Publishing Company. They handled one case against Gothic Castle which was satisfied by them.
  • Vulcan Fan Club join free. If you want penpals, if your [sic] looking or selling something at reasonable prices, then join. Write to: Steven Prange, 5202 Patterson Street, Indianapolis, IN 46208 or Steven Drofich, RR 1 Box 170-Y, Palmerton, PA 18701. It's only logical that you do.
  • Wanted for use in fanzine original sci-fi poetry about space, other worlds. Any style, length not in excess of one page. Send no poems yet, for info write: Brian Franczak, 336 Maple St., New Britain, CT 06051.
  • Wanted: A pen pal. my age 10, interested in UFOs. Contact David Mumford, 15 Saddlebrook, Houston, TX 77029.
  • Wanted: Monster pen pals, ages 11-13. Write to Ricky Perry, 3520 Beverly Dr., Ft. Worth, TX 76117.
  • I am seven and don't get a big allowance. If anyone has TMT back issues they don't want, send to Jim Cirronella Jr., 21 Wedgewood Ave., Colts Neck, NJ 07722.
  • Wanted: Color stills from Night Stalker, Frankenstein, True Story, Duel. Send prices to: Richard Ekstedt, 60 Dwight Road, Oakhill, Middletown, NJ 07748.
  • The Japanese Fantasy Film Journal, popularly known as JFFJ now taking orders for issue number 11. Contains a filmbook on Ghidrah, articles on Jap super heroes, special effects, much more. To reserve your copy, send 75¢ to Greg Shoemaker, 3235 Collingwood, Toledo, OH 43610.

1. Supersnipe was a famous comic book store that's worth its own post. But many others have done that, and I'm a generalist more than an expert. So I'll leave those other posts to do the job. In summary, though: Supersnipe was one of the first comic book stores in New York City. It was in business from 1971 until the mid- to late-1980s. Its owner, Ed Summer (who died in 2014), hobnobbed with the likes of George Lucas, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ray Bradbury. His tiny, influential store was often filled with Marvel and DC writers and editors. There's some nifty old material on this Facebook tribute page for Supersnipe. Finally, here's a description of the store from the August 23, 1976, issue of The New York Times:
"...[T]he store at 1617 Second Avenue, gives little heed to the aesthetics of decor. Its name is the SuperSnipe Comic Book Art Emporium, and its cluttered quarters leave room for only a small fraction of the 400,000 comic hooks, pulp magazines, science fiction periodicals, Tarzan books, Oz books and similar works that its clientele covets and trades in.

"The management says it can come up with the original first issue of Batman comics for a buyer willing to part with $1,250. Or, for $750, it will part with the first edition of a comic book called Special Edition, containing an early Captain Marvel adventure.

"Since youngsters, who are among the customers, are unlikely to come up with such sums, some books are available at two for a nickel, For those who might covet the first issue of Batman but make a point of never burdening themselves with cash, Master Charge is said to be acceptable. Old Donald Duck comics are said to be a hot item these days, for those who like to be au courant.

"The store, between 83d and 84th Streets, is closed Sunday and Monday. It is open from 12:30 P.M. to 5:30 P.M. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; on Friday from 12:30 to 7 and on Saturday from noon to 5:30 P.M."
And, yes, that "first issue of Batman comics," from 1939, regularly sells for $1 million or more now.

2. This one's an utter mystery to me.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

"Master Blaster plans to use them as his musical slaves ... forever"

The text from this back of this publicity still...
NBC Photo
Press Department
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, N.Y. 10020

METEORIC SUCCESS — NBC-TV's "Kidd Video" is the number three-rated Saturday morning show (11-11:30 a.m. NYT), and the highest-rated new Saturday a.m. series this year (its season-to-date average, as of Dec. 8, 1984, is a 6.9 rating/24 share, according to Nielsen Television Index). The series is a live and animated intergalactic adventure program with music videos starring Kidd (Bryan Scott, left)1 and Ash (Steve Alterman). With "Kidd Video," NBC's Saturday morning schedule, which premiered Sept. 15, leads in the ratings with NBC's "Alvin & the Chipmunks" being number 1, and NBC's "Smurfs," number 2.
Here is Kidd Video's premise, as described on Wikipedia:
"The title sequence explained the plot; Kidd Video and his band of the same name (played by live-action performers in the first half of the title sequence) were practicing in a storage unit when an animated villain named Master Blaster appeared, and transported them to Master Blaster's home dimension, a cartoon world called The Flipside. Master Blaster2 plans to use them as his musical slaves ... forever. They were rescued by a fairy named Glitter, and subsequently spent each episode of the series either helping to free the denizens of the Flipside from Master Blaster's rule, or trying to find a way back to the 'real world'."
The show tried to cater to 1980s kids by offering music videos, breakdancing, skateboarding and videogames. But, despite this seemingly foolproof strategy and ebullient press release, the Flipside magic didn't last. There were just two seasons and 26 episodes of Kidd Video.

And, yes, that's Robbie Rist — Cousin Oliver from The Brady Bunch — as one of the band members.

Some things, perhaps, are best forgotten. Although, little surprise, the show has its own fan website.

1. Bryan Scott went on to play "Party Guest" in Some Kind of Wonderful and "Additional Voices" in Ghost Dad.
2. Not this Master Blaster.

When in doubt ... chocolate

In these troubled times, there's no shame in turning to chocolate.

(And no, scientists don't believe we're going to run out of chocolate by 2050 because of climate change, but climate change is still a real and dire threat requiring immediate action.)

This is the cover of a nifty notepad featuring Hershey's cocoa recipes. The bottom portion of each otherwise blank page inside contains a tasty recipe with Hershey's cocoa as part of the mix. There are about a half-dozen different recipes.

There's no date of publication for this notepad, but, in examining the interior illustrations and also deploying my Spidey sense for ephemera, I'd guess it dates to the 1960s. Interestingly, the cover image evokes a kind of 1920s/1930s nostalgia that would certainly have appealed to folks living through the upheavals of the 1960s and recalling their childhoods. (Upon closer examination, though, the guy in the middle has a bit of an Eddie Munster thing going on with his hair.)

I'm not going to retype any of the recipes. Instead, I'll just share the images of some interior pages, which should be sufficient — you can always click on Papergreat images to magnify them — if you want to grab some cocoa from the pantry and make a treat.

Related posts

Monday, April 1, 2019

"You're gonna meet some gentle people there"

I love the psychedelic color and design of this postcard, which was delivered to my big black mailbox courtesy of Wendyvee. While it may partially evoke the Summer of Love, Haight-Ashbury, head shops, folks with guitars on their backs, blacklight posters and, of course, flowers in one's hair, I think this scene comes after the October 1967 "funeral" for the Summer of Love and after many had grabbed their copy of the Whole Earth Catalog and gone off to participate in the back-to-the-land movement. The young adults on the street car here appear to be 1970s proto-yuppies, and they've probably hidden their Grateful Dead albums, if they ever had them at all.

According to the back of the postcard, this is a Mike Roberts photograph. He was known as "America’s Postcard King." He spent more than a half-century snapping pictures and a tiny fraction of his work is celebrated in Wish You Were Here, written by his son, Bob Roberts. Mike Roberts (1905-1989) was a self-taught photographer who left home at age 16 with a box camera; he went on to shoot photographs for the 1939 World's Fair before a gig taking photographs for Standard Oil evolved into his full-time postcard profession.

One of his iconic postcards, per AI-AP's David Schonauer, was "a color photo of Alcatraz, surrounded by the blue of San Francisco Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. Adorning the image, in script typeface, are the immortal words, 'Wish you were here!'"

In addition to the AI-AP article, you can learn more about Roberts at Huffpost and The Image Flow.

"Gold-Dust Twins" snapshot

This found vernacular photograph measures just 2⅝ inches across. Someone has neatly printed GOLD-DUST TWINS across the bottom of the snapshot of two black women relaxing on a bench.

There's no writing on the back, but the information that came with the photo states that it was part of an estate collection and came from an album that dates to 1918-1920. That's it. Everything else is a mystery.

The Gold Dust Twins were part of the advertising imagery for Fairbank's Gold Dust Washing Powder, dating to the early 1890s. The moniker also came to be used generically during the 20th century, describing dynamic duos in the worlds of sports, entertainment and even politics. But much of the underlying material this was built upon stems from original advertising that is problematic at best and overtly racist at worst.

A 2015 article by Velma Maia Thomas on describes how the U.S. South "embraced" the Gold Dust Twins:
"From their first appearance in the Atlanta Constitution in 1903, the twins were frolicking and scouring. ...White America found solace in its docile Negro. By the turn of the 20th century, many were reminiscing about former slaves— faithful colored 'aunties,' 'uncles,' and 'mammies' — who cared for them and showered them with love and gentle correction. As scholars of the U.S. South have shown, the region’s culture still waxed nostalgic about the Old South. Novels, plays and films cast African Americans as trustworthy, harmless, happy servants. White consumers embraced Goldie and Dustie. Their sunny dispositions and willingness to work made white housewives feel secure. Such images allowed them to bask in a memory of a fabled South where the Negro was content, inferior, and eager to serve."
As the author goes on to describe, the depictions worsened when the popularity of Goldie and Dustie led to many vaudeville performers putting on blackface for acts incorporating the twins.

It's a shame these two women are connected to the Gold Dust Twins' history with the caption on this snapshot. They have their own histories and stories that will likely never be known. That level of mystery is part of the attraction, of course, with vernacular photos that have been removed from their original context. But it's a special shame in instances such as this one.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

It was funny at the time?

Ashar and I found a humorous juxtaposition between these two 45-rpm album covers while browsing through an antiques store earlier this year.

But now it's pretty much lost on me.

I think it had something to do with drinking alone and then ending up under the blade of a creepy barber.

Humor is fragile, and it can have a short shelf life.

(Apologies to Mantovani and Benjamin Bertram Leight.)

Chetwode (1903-1973) was merely an Astor family "cottage"

The caption on the front of this unused and undated American Art Post Card Co. linen postcard states: "'Chetwode', residence of John Jacob Astor, Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island."

Which Astor? The short answer is that it's John Jacob "Jakey" Astor VI, aka "The Titanic Baby."

They moneyed Astors have a tangled family tree, and it's especially tangled when it comes to the use of Roman numerals after "John Jacob Astor." Under the "Name Confusion" subheading for Jakey, Wikipedia notes:
"Even though some sources refer to Jakey as John Jacob V, John Jacob Astor, 1st Baron Astor of Hever (1886–1971) was born first and therefore is actually John Jacob Astor V. Sir Jakie Astor (1918–2000), youngest brother of David Astor, was John Jacob Astor VII; the 3rd Baron Astor of Hever is John Jacob Astor VIII. Jakey is sometimes (incorrectly) referred to as John Jacob III."
Confused yet? There's also this amusing note on the Wikipedia page of the actual John Jacob Astor III:
"Some sources such as Time magazine incorrectly list him as 'John Jacob Astor II' and discount the birth of his uncle John Jacob Astor Jr., who was unstable."
But for the purposes of moving forward on this post, all we need to know is that Chetwode was once owned by Titanic Baby Jakey (1912-1992), who got his nickname because his mother, Madeleine, survived the sinking of the Titanic while she was five months pregnant with him. Father John Jacob Astor IV went down with the boat, and his brave sacrifice is portrayed by Eric Braeden in the 1997 film.

Chetwode wasn't built for the Astor family. It was designed in 1903 by architect Horace Trumbauer1 for Mrs.William Storrs Wells, according to The Preservation Society of Newport County, which adds these details about the building's opulence:
"A limestone-clad brick Louis XIV style chateau, Chetwode ... became one of the most lavish villas ever erected in Newport. The white and gold paneled salons were in Louis XV and Louis XVI taste based on the King's private apartments at Versailles. The dining room, library, and morning room contained old master paintings set into the wall decoration."
That website goes on to note that Mrs. Wells sold the estate, furnished, to Jakey Astor in January 1934 for $150,000. There then followed some diminishing returns. Astor, following on his divorces, sold Chetwode for $70,000 in 1948. In was further sold for $45,000 in 1954 and $40,000 in 1957. It went through iterations as a church, apartments and an art school. A devastating fire in January 1972 made the 1973 razing of the structure all but inevitable.

1. Trumbauer has another Titanic connection: He designed Harvard's Widener Library, which stands in remembrance of another victim of the sinking, bibliophile Harry Elkins Widener.