Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Postcard: European schoolroom from 68 years ago

This black-and-white real photo postcard features an unidentified classroom within (I assume) some German-speaking country.

The information on the back is as follows:

  • Derember [?] 1951 in der schule, written in cursive
  • A purple stamp stating FOTO-TAUREG, Fuldastr. 15, 44079

That's it. There's no other info on the back of the postcard. It was never mailed. It appears that it was once pasted into a scrapbook.

I guess Germany is the most likely location for this classroom scene. But other countries with significant use of the German language include Austria, Liechtenstein, Swizterland and Belgium.

Thoughts, anyone?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Two decades of keeping the running bridge tally

In the 1960s, my parents went to Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where they met each other and also met a couple, Susie and George, would who become their decades-long friends. Mom and Dad were married in June 1969, and I came onto the scene in December 1970, while Dad was stationed at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, near Oceanside, California. The three of us eventually made it back to Pennsylvania, settling in Montoursville, a few miles east of Williamsport.

On Christmas Day of 1972, my parents sat down for a game of contract bridge with Susie and George, and they decided to start a running tally.1 That tally continued until October 10, 1992 — almost 20 years and one divorce later.

On that first day when a running score was kept, the names were listed as Alan (Dad's nickname), George, Iggy (Mom's nickname) and Susie. Susie edged out George for the most points that day.

The yearly breakdown of documented bridge sessions goes like this:

1972: 1 (Christmas Day)
1973: 5 (including Christmas Day)
1974: 2
1975: 9 (although three are grouped under one session)
1976: 4 (including New Year's Eve)
1977: 15 (bookended by January 1 and December 31)
1978: 10 (including January 1; one entry is for two dates)
1979: 3
1980: 3
1981: 4
1982: 8 (including Fourth of July & Thanksgiving)
1983: 0
1984: 0
1985: 4
1986: 0
1987: 0
1988: 0
1989: 0
1990: 0
1991: 0
1992: 2

The running scores over these many years were documented on just three sheets of paper — very efficient. When Mom died, I inherited the black clipfolder that held the three scoresheets, along with a little card detailing how to score all the trumps, tricks and rubbers of bridge. (Full disclosure: I have only played a couple of times and don't really understand the game. It seems to involve some bluffing, though with very strict manners regarding how you may or may not bluff.)

During their peak bridge-playing years of the mid 1970s, there was, of course, much going on in the lives of these four adults. The husbands changed jobs. There were moves to other states. My sister Adriane joined our family. Susie and George welcomed son Chip into their family.

As the oldest of the three kids, I probably have the most memories of the bridge sessions. I remember lots of laughter, occasional outbursts, lots of cigarette smoking and, strangely, Doo Dads snack mix. It was the only time I remember that food being available; I guess it was the official snack of Bridge Night™. These days, I like Chex Mix just fine, but I wish they still made Doo Dads.2

Sometimes the group played at our house. Sometimes we took short vacations to Susie's and George's house. While the adults smoked and played bridge, we three young brats would try not to get into too much trouble, playing with Star Wars figures and Matchbox cars and View-Master and Six Million Dollar Man action figures before pretending to go to bed when the hour got late. I'm sure the adults had to discipline us for not playing nicely more often than they would have liked.

There are other memories of the seven of us doing things together, including hanging out at the Jersey Shore and another time at an amusement park that I believe was probably Knoebels. There are beach pictures in one of my shoeboxes, but nothing from the bridge-playing sessions that were such a big part of their friendship. I guess there was just no one to take the photo; those are the kind of moments that we memorialize with a thousand smartphone pictures these days, but that no one thought to take a snapshot or Polaroid of back then.

In 1986, Mom and Dad got divorced and that was, of course, the end of the bridge sessions. For those two documented sessions in 1992, my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham, took Dad's spot. Mom then continued to play bridge with Helen and Helen's friends throughout the 1990s in Wallingford, Pennsylvania.

And the finally tally? After nearly 20 years of bridge sessions, it ended up like this, according to these three sheets:

1. Susie: 354,780 points
2. Iggy: 318,380 points
3. George: 291,260 points
4. Alan/Helen: 264,880 points

That's assuming there were no math errors along the way. I have the official documents, but I don't think I'm going to go back and check the work.

Related posts

1. The next morning (December 26), former President Harry S. Truman died, but that's just a piece of trivia that's not relevant to this tale.
2. Leigh Ann shared this recipe for homemade Doo Dads on her website, My Diary of Us, in 2013. I haven't tried it.

Potential Lost Corner:
Poignant tale by Jo Hogan

I love this little Twitter tale about books, childhood and family by the United Kingdom's Jo Hogan, who describes herself as a "working mum, aspiring writer, recent widow. Learning to live with loss without being a total miserable bugger." Her website is

I'm sharing this here, as always, in hopes that it give these words a better shot at surviving for posterity and reaching future audiences.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Great links: A Gallery of Youth-Made Climate-Strike Signs

The New Yorker, amplifying the efforts of Mmuseumm, published a gallery of signs used in the recent wave of record-breaking youth climate strikes around the world. (Those strikes are known as Fridays for Future, Youth for Climate and other labels and they come with social-media-friendly hashtags to help promote the needed movement.)

I am featuring a couple of the signs here, in hopes you'll check out The New Yorker piece and also Mmuseumm, which I hadn't known about before this post. It's pretty amazing. According to its website, "Mmuseumm is a style of storytelling about the modern world. It is Object Journalism. It is a new type of museum, expanding in a network of expected and unexpected locations, dedicated to exploring modern humanity and current events through revealing objects from around the world."

Category titles for Mmuseumm objects include "Personal Items of Immigration: Lost in the Arizona Desert" and "Objects Made by Prisoners or for Prisoners in United States Prisons."

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Book cover: "Ghosts Around the House"

  • Title: Ghosts Around the House
  • Author: Susy Smith (June 2, 1911 - February 11, 2001)
  • Front cover design: APTERYX
  • Book category (per back cover): Sociology
  • Publisher: Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster (1971)
  • Original publisher: World Publishing Company (1970)
  • Cover price: 95 cents
  • Pages: 178
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back cover excerpt: "Eerie eyewitness accounts of ghosts who've haunted some of the nation's 'best' homes. ... These spirits, and others, have actually been seen, heard, felt and duly reported by thoroughly respectable citizens. Their tales are chilling and fascinating."
  • Selected chapter titles: The Lost Dauphin, Ghosts in a Governor's Mansion, The Hut in the Brush, Fort Sam Houston's Harvey, The Curse of the Bell Witch, The Case of the Pregnant Angels
  • First sentence (from Preface): "Publishers love to have their authors make appearances on television and radio when a new book comes out; and the communications people appreciate having an author because they usually get some good conversation about a topic of interest."
  • Last sentence: "I have said it before and I'll say it again: Whatever they are, ghosts are real."
  • Selected paragraph from middle: "For several hours we sat in a circle in the den in the dark ⁠— only the barest minimum of light was coming in through the windows from the outside. We talked and enjoyed ourselves throughout the evening. There is one school of thought that insists that séances must be held in absolute quiet. We were subscribing to the theories of the other school, which believes that happy and interested conversation enlivens the physical conditions and makes it possible for spirits to use the power we thus generate to perform their manifestations."
  • Amazon rating: All four reviewers gave it the full 5 stars.
  • Amazon review: In 2013, Allie wrote: "I read this book MANY years ago and have never forgotten it ... the stories are from true events that occurred, and once you read it, it will stay in your mind, too! They are not terrifying stories, but just really eerie enough to keep you reading ... I highly recommend!"
  • Kirkus review excerpt: "Miss Smith, an explicator like Hans Holzer who has wafted to us from that other frequency, continues her tittletattle. ... If it weren't for those true believers, this wouldn't have a ghost of a chance."
  • Bonus random sentence from middle: "Perhaps it was a prediction of the Kennedy assassination that occurred just a few days later."

I'm hoping to write a full post about Susy Smith someday. In the meantime, here's an interesting website about attempts to contact her spirit following her death.