Saturday, October 26, 2019

In which we learn that Melvin C. Reed's nickname was "Midge"

As you can see, there's a silly monkey on the front of this dandy QSL card from Richard Kalakie of Ferndale, Michigan.1 The card, with Kalakie's call sign of WB8BCA, was sent in December 1969 to W3AIT, a call sign I've featured in three previous posts:

W3AIT belonged to Melvin C. Reed (1906-1987) of Frackville, Pennsylvania. But the short note from Kalakie on the back of this card states: "Sri I lost u Midge. QRM got bad. Hpe 2 BCNU agn."

A lot of that text is Morse code abbreviations. Sri means "sorry," for example, and BCNU, as you might intuit, means "be seeing you." And QRM (man-made interference) is specific to ham radio. But what intrigued me was the reference to Midge, which also appears on a number of the other W3AIT QSL cards I acquired. I wondered if Midge might be Melvin's wife, and perhaps she also participated in the hobby. But it's simpler than that, even. Midge was Melvin's nickname.2 I found that via his obituary in the July 31, 1987, edition of the Pottsville Republican:
"Melvin 'Midge' C. Reed, 80, of 336 Lehigh Ave., Frackville, died Thursday morning in Pottsville Hospital where he was admitted
July 1. He was born in Frackville, a son of the late Jacob and Edna Heim Reed. He was employed by the former Reading Railroad Co. for 48 years, retiring in 1971. ... He was a Scoutmaster for many years in Frackville. His wife, the former Mary Zimmers, died Feb. 1, 1980."
So that's a bit more about Melvin "Midge" C. Reed. There should be plenty more to come. And one of these days I must also return to the tale of Loring A. Daniels and his QSLs.

1. According to Wikipedia: "Ferndale is well known in the Detroit area for its LGBT population and progressive policies. ... In 2006 the city passed an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBT people from discrimination in public accommodations, housing, and business, with 70% in favor and 30% in opposition. Affirmations, a 17,000-square-foot LGBT community center in Downtown Ferndale, opened its new, expanded building on Sunday June 3, 2007, the same year the city elected the first openly gay mayor in Michigan." Way to go, Ferndale!
2. For future researchers who might be seeking information on me, my only nicknames, to the best of my recollection, are Toast, Ottoman, Toph and Topher. I've tried to encourage folks to call me "Hoss" but it hasn't really stuck.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Papergreat's 3,000th post,
with a special celebrity guest

I have blogged about these things

We have arrived at another milestone post. Three thousand posts about ephemera (and semi-related topics) spread over eight years and 11 months. That's a lot of stuff. That's a lot of words and images uploaded into The Cloud, where their safety is anything but guaranteed, especially on this platform.1

Papergreat has been mostly about the journey; about the people, stories and mysteries uncovered, and the many mysteries that will never be solved but have at least had a little light shined on their crypt doors. It's about using ephemera as a springboard to learn about Marguerite E. DeWitt, Guy Brown Wiser, Loring Daniels, Terry S. McMahon, Charlie O. Howard, Lada Draskovic, Helen Myers, Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris and Florence Darlington.2 (And many, many others.)

And it's about the readers and contributors who have made the journey anything but a solitary one. There wouldn't be 3,000 posts without Jo Ott, Wendyvee, JT Anthony3, Joan Concilio, Linda Chenoweth Harlow, Tom Beiter, Mom, Debbie Davidson (aka Dosankodebbie), David Southwell, Bonnie Jeanne (aka PostMuse), Mel Kolstad4, Jim Fahringer, and, of course, the amazing "Mark Felt." There are many others who I've not named here, including the zillions who have commented on the Cheerful Card Company post over the years. Reader submissions have fueled some of the very best Papergreat posts, so I cannot take credit for writing 3,000 posts. I'm just the curator here.

In that role, I've highlighted ephemera found tucked inside books, items seeped in school-days nostalgia, recipes, receipts, found and vernacular photographs, book covers, advertising, hundreds upon hundreds of postcards and more. About one-third of all posts have the history tag, because our ephemera is our history.

Examining found ephemera can help us bridge the gap between ourselves and total strangers from the past. Our own ephemera, meanwhile, helps us remember the milestones of our lives: newspaper clippings, autographs in a yearbook, vacation snapshots, book inscriptions, ticket stubs and countless other examples. When my son Ashar and I attended Steel City Con in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, in April, his cherished mementos included his VIP badge; the photograph, later autographed, of his brief moment with William Shatner; the iPhone video of Shatner's speech that he was able to share with his grandmother before her death; and the autograph he obtained from Walter Koenig. Those keepsakes, one of them digital, forever connect him to a time, place and experience. They will serve that role throughout his life. In the future, they might stay in the family. Or perhaps they will be mysteries for a future ephemeraologist to research.

I was thrilled to be able to attend the fan convention with Ashar. My approach was a little different. My journalist background motivates me to take notes, to write things down. To create a different kind of ephemera from the experiences we had a stone's throw from that mall where they filmed Dawn of the Dead. For funsies, I kept a list of all the cosplay outfits we saw on the floor of the convention center.5 And I also made notes following Ashar's interactions with Shatner and Koenig — recording details we might forget with the passage of days, months and years. For example, Shatner asked Ashar if he was still in school, what he does for fun, and what he wants to do for a living. When he said "tattoo artist," the 88-year-old Shatner grilled him on the steps he might take toward that goal, right down to who his first client would be and what tattoo he would ink. "You should pursue your dream. I hope you’re able to pursue your dream," Shatner told Ashar.

Koenig, meanwhile, had a wonderful long chat with Ashar during a slow morning at the convention. He talked about his mother (who was named Sarah), asked in detail about Ashar's recovery from spinal surgery, and talked about how people in the mid-20th century didn't have the medical options that we thankfully do today.

Ashar had one more interaction, with actor Dwight Schultz. They discussed how Ashar, perhaps unique for a 19-year-old 2019, has seen every episode of The A-Team and all five of Schultz's appearances on Star Trek: The Next Generation as the character Reginald Barclay. Schultz talked with humility about how grateful he was for the opportunity to be a part of the Star Trek television and film universe (he was also, memorably, in Star Trek: First Contact). To mark that moment with Schultz, Ashar and I agreed in advance that we'd make a very unusual request for his autograph. And that brings us to...

How cool is that?? Always plan ahead, folks! I knew back in April that I'd get to the 3,000th post eventually. I originally thought it would come around the Fourth of July. Life had other ideas, but I eventually made it here.

Now it's onward to the 3,001st post. Papergreat's posting schedule has been more erratic and inconsistent this year. Over the summer, I pondered concluding the blog with this post, so I can spend more time reading and focusing on other projects. Or maybe I'll just post until the end of 2019. Or until I get through one of my many lists. But, ultimately, I reckon there's no point setting artificial limits or deadlines. Maybe I'll go to 3,005. Or 3,200. Or twice a month until the year 2030. Who knows. There are never any guarantees; all we can do is see where the journey goes.

I have not yet blogged about these things

1. "And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually" — Jimi Hendrix
2. “Sit here,
so I may write
you into a poem
and make you
Kamand Kojouri
3. More evidence that the internet is as ephemeral as everything else: JT Anthony's blog, A Pretty Book, has vanished.
4. Mel's Ephemeraology blog is also gone, but you can catch up with her on Instagram.
5. Evil Jar Jar, Jason, Leatherface, Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, Aquaman, Captain Marvel, cats, Deadshot, Doctor Strange, Malificent, Ghostbusters, the creepy boy from Us, Scarecrow, Batman, Riddler, Deadpool, Chimichanga Deadpool, Harley Quinn, Ricky & Morty, Wonder Woman, Dunder Mifflin employees, Captain America, Khan Noonien Singh, Kamala Khan (no relation), Michael Myers, Gilligan, demonic Batman, Groot, Beaker, Freddy Krueger, Star Trek crewpeople, Stormtroopers, a winged werewolf, Hulk Hogan, zombies galore, BobRossPool, Jabba the Hut, Cloud Strife, regular Bob Ross, Spider-Man, and the Undertaker.