Thursday, July 4, 2019

Excerpts from John Palmer Gavit's "Americans from Abroad" (1926)

On this particular Fourth of July, I want to share some excerpts from a very short book by John Palmer Gavit titled Americans from Abroad.

Gavit (1868-1954) was primarily a journalist during his lifetime, but also a social welfare worker, a trustee for the Common Council for American Unity and a member of the New York Microscopic Society. One of his biggest contributions, according to a fascinating (for newspaper folks) 2012 article in the Columbia Journalism Review, is that in 1903 he published The Reporter’s Manual: A Handbook for Newspaper Men, which was a very early precursor to The Associated Press Stylebook.

Americans from Abroad, published in 1926, was part of the Reading with a Purpose series from the American Library Association. Other titles — of which I have a handful — include Biology, Ten Pivotal Figures of History, Philosophy, Our Children, Pleasure from Pictures, Mental Hygiene and Citizenship.

In the introduction to Americans from Abroad, this is noted about the author: "As a journalist for more than forty years, John Palmer Gavit has been in a position to observe and interpret the contribution which men and women from other countries have made and are making to civilization in the United States. As a social worker during much of this period he has come into intimate neighborly touch with the lives of the foreign born."

And here are the excerpts I have chosen from Gavit's short volume:

  • "Imagine yourself driven by force of circumstances beyond your control — 'a push from behind or a pull from before,' or both — from your own country to a foreign land."
  • "Perhaps you are a child, taken thither by your parents thus circumstanced; happy if you are be old enough to realize and remember the bewilderment and wonderings of such a situation."
  • "Perhaps you go alone — all the more poignantly alone if you must leave behind those nearest and dearest, to shift as best they may while you seek a footing, a shelter and a living to which later you hope to summon them — when?"
  • "Now you must go, across wide lands and deep waters, to being anew among strange people, to whom your traditions, customs, inhibitions, habits of thought, religion perhaps, your point of view in general and your speech in particular are as uncouth and outlandish as theirs seem to you."
  • "You must sacrifice, with many kinds of loss and discount, things and values which have meant more to you than you appreciated; both in order to untangle yourself from old ownerships and responsibilities and to provide means for your journey and the period before you have found or made new footing. All the more if you are desperately poor."
  • "The harder it has been for you to stay where you are, the harder it will be to go where you may do better!"
  • "From every other country under the sun to these shores they have flocked to escape from conditions at home and in hope of finding in this environment opportunity to harness fortune more propitious."
  • "The population of the United States, baring a bare handful of Indians of pure blood ... is comprised of immigrants and the descendants of immigrants."
  • "Be it remembered also and constantly that upon this occasion we are not considering the highly controversial subject of immigration policy in any of its aspects. To be sure, the ethical and practical implications of that policy and its administrative application at present and during the past century and a half of our national existence — to say nothing of the two centuries or more of the earlier pioneer and colonial periods — have greatly conditioned and do condition today the physical and spiritual experiences and reactions of the newcomers. Both policy and administration are mightily different now that we are strictly, even fiercely and often inhumanly, begrudging our latchstring. In earlier times we welcomed, however clumsily, new brains and hands to help us in developing the wonder-country that we had usurped from its primeval inhabitants. While the bare physical conditions of travel are easier and the journey shorter and simpler, the guardians of our gate are in stricter, harsher mood."

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

The ephemera of children detained
by my fellow Americans

Read the reports from CNN and NBC News.

Papergreat's summer reads 2019

Instagram photo by me

Here's another batch of things that I've bookmarked or tucked away for rainy days. I hope you find some of these articles enlightening, too...

1. My Twitter response to this article:

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Stills from the mothership of my generation's longest-running joke

When I was 14 years old and living in Florida, a movie that changed everything about American comedy hit theaters. That film was Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, and it debuted on December 21, 1984. It only made $15 million at the box office. It did not win any Oscars. But, thanks to its amazing subtitle, it has had more ongoing fame than any other movie released in that fateful month.1 And its lasting impact upon our pop culture can stand proudly alongside such other 1984 films as The Terminator, Ghostbusters, Red Dawn, Sixteen Candles and This Is Spinal Tap.

Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo's trivia section describes the movie's legacy succinctly: "The phrase 'Electric Boogaloo' has become a common unofficial sub-title for any unnecessary sequel."

The movie's Wikipedia page, meanwhile, uses this pedantic and academic description:
"The subtitle 'Electric Boogaloo', originally a reference to a funk-oriented dance style of the same name, has entered the pop-culture lexicon as a snowclone pejorative nickname to denote an archetypical sequel."
(Not surprisingly, this description references a 2007 Oxford University Press article titled: "Phrasal Patterns 2: Electric Boogaloo." If you're having trouble sleeping, check it out.)

I'm far more expansive, liberal and forgiving in my use of "Electric Boogaloo." My philosophy boils down to this:

The second of all you do
... is Electric Boogaloo!

And so we can have:

  • Paul Blart 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • The Remains of the Day 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Gigli 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Casablanca 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Leonard Part 6 Part 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • The Great Gatsby 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Abbey Road 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Grocery List 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Trip to Florida 2: Electric Boogaloo
  • Papergreat 2: Electric Boogaloo

And on and on and on. It's not just a meme. Boogaloo is a lifestyle. But before the meme there was the movie, though few remember its specifics. The two production stills featured at the top of this post were released to the media by Tri-Star Pictures (now minus the hyphen and just TriStar Pictures).

The first photograph shows some very fashionable individuals2 having a pointed conversation while standing underneath an overpass.

The second photography has its publicity caption still attached to the back. It states:
"After a bad fall down a flight of stairs, Turbo (MICHAEL "BOOGALOO SHRIMP" CHAMBERS) lies in his hospital bed with a broken leg and tries to convince his friends to sneak him out of the hospital. BREAKIN' 2 ELECTRIC BOOGALOO is a Tri-Star release."
That's right. Boogaloo Shrimp was one of the stars of Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. Michael "Boogaloo Shrimp" Chambers is now 51 and most recently appeared in 2018's Groove Street. His non-Electric Boogaloo career highlights include appearances in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult and on the TV show Family Matters as the ... (checks notes) ... Urkelbot.3

1. The second-most important movie released in December 1984, meme-wise, was Johnny Dangerously. The movie belonged to rising star Michael Keaton, but it was Joe Piscopo's "Once!" lines that have lived on farther than Piscopo's career and are repurposable for every occasion. His original lines, as Danny Vermin, included:
  • You shouldn't hang me on a hook, Johnny. My father hung me on a hook once. Once!
  • You shouldn't grab me, Johnny. My mother grabbed me once ... ONCE!
  • You shouldn't have shot me, Johnny. My grandmother shot me once...
2. Ashar says the second person from the left has the best outfit.
3. That's actually not the correct usage of the "checks notes" meme. But, as I said, I am liberal in my use of comedy tropes.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Delightful Blair Lent illustrations from "Baba Yaga"

For some reason ⁠— lost in the sands of time of the past 15 years ⁠— I have just this single page in my piles of ephemera. Obviously, it stems from my Baba Yaga Fandom™; I reckon the rest of the book was too battered to keep.

That book is Baba Yaga, first published in 1966 by Houghton Mifflin. It was written by Ernest Small and illustrated by Blair Lent.

But here's the interesting thing: Ernest and Blair are the same person.

When Lent died at age 80 in early 2009, The New York Times obituary noted that "under the name Ernest Small, he wrote 'Baba Yaga' (1966), based on a witch in Russian folk tales." It was as an illustrator that Lent found his greatest success, which might explain why he kept that "brand" separate and wrote under a pen name. The Times article states that he "specialized in illustrating international folk tales retold by other writers. Using a broad variety of techniques, including cardboard cutouts, colored pencil, acrylic painting, and ink and wash, he provided the images for tales from Japan, Russia, India and Africa."

On her website about children's books, BooksTogether, Anamaria Anderson noted: "It was only when I read Lent's obituary that I realized that author Ernest Small and illustrator Blair Lent were one and the same person. I don't think I've ever seen someone credited separately, by pen name and real name, for the same book, but I agree that Lent deserves a lot of credit."

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Postcard: Parkwood Motel in Statesboro, Georgia

Mid-century postcards of obscure hotels and motels remain among my favorite pieces of ephemera and items for posting on Papergreat. It irks me that I didn't give them their own label (for sorting/archiving) purposes at the launch. So they're kind of just scattered all over the history over the blog, willy-nilly.

This is a dandy one. It's an aerial shot of Parkwood Motel, located along U.S. 301 near Statesboro, Georgia.1 There were myriad amenities, as noted on the back:

— Shaded by Beautiful Georgia Southern Pines —
2 Miles South of Statesboro, Georgia 30458
On U.S. 301 & 25
Tel. 764-9892
25 Air Conditioned & Electrically Heated Units with
Beautyrest and Pulse-A-Rythm [sic] Massaging Mattresses.2
Free TV, Swimming Pool, Playground
RESTAURANT — French American Cooking
Bill & Armande Wachniak

Armande “Sally” Wachniak lived from 1930 to 1989. According to her obituary, "the Quebec, Canada, native lived in Statesboro for 27 years and was part owner with her husband of the Parkwood Motel and Restaurant." William Wachniak lived from 1920 to 1997. According to his obituary, "the Canada native had lived for the past 34 years in Statesboro, where he operated the Parkwood Motel." One of their children, Lana, is a retired professor of sociology and criminal justice who studied the minds of serial killers (partially through their artwork) and also co-founded Kennesaw State University's Homelessness Awareness Week.3

After Bill Wachniak died in 1997, son Harry Wachniak and his wife returned to Statesboro to take over the Parkwood Motel & RV Park, according to a 2007 article in the Statesboro Herald that contains much history about the business. Harry's parents were not the original owners of the motel. They purchased it in 1961 and added an RV park in 1971. "I think that my dad felt that with the growth of the interstate system there would be more traffic and RV's," Harry Wachniak told the Statesboro Herald. "For him it was just another opportunity to expand his business."4

The business is still going strong in 2019, which is super-unusual for the mid-century motels that I research. You can read all about it on the Parkwood RV Park & Cottages Facebook page or on its website. A Facebook review from this past February notes: "This park is spotless, everything is kept nice and organized. Bathrooms were the cleanest of any rv park I have stayed at. I would recommend this park to anyone."

And Parkwood is having a Hot Dog Cookout this week for the Fourth of July. It notes on Facebook: "Come join us at the Parkwood for a hot dog lunch. Free for all guests and $2 for folks in the community. It'll be located next to the pool. After the lunch head to Mill Creek for the firework festivities. #parkwood #parkwoodrvpark #rvpark #4thofjuly #hotdogs #camping #goodsamclub #goodsam #patriotic #redwhiteblue #party #cookout

1. I'm not sure I've ever spent a significant amount of time on U.S. 301. It runs from Biddles Corner, Delaware, to Sarasota, Florida. So I could totally use it as a much slower, more leisurely route to go visit Dad in Bradenton, Florida. It looks like it might be kind of tricky to make sure you stay on the route, though, with a lot of concurrencies.
2. Author Heather David, talking to Metro in 2017 about her book Motel California: A Pictorial History of the Motel in The Golden State, said that Pulse-A-Rhythm vibrating beds were a precursor to Magic Fingers: "The thing about Pulse-A-Rhythm beds is that they promised a cure for pretty much everything. And the FDA came along and said, 'Unh unh uh' and made them pull all the devices off the mattresses and put them out of business. So after Pulse-A-Rhythm, Magic Fingers came into play."
3. A March 13, 2003, article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes that Lana "grew up around law enforcement officers who stopped in her family's motel/restaurant."
4. So, that effectively dates this postcard between 1962 and 1970.