Saturday, May 30, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #64

It's the last shelfie in the bedroom! (We're not quite done yet, though. There's a single shelf housing my books outside the bedroom, so we'll get there tomorrow. And there will also be a final post after that with some addenda. Because Shelfie Addenda would be a great band name, and I hereby claim it.1)

This part of the final shelf contains two books about outsider artist Henry Darger, including this one by Klaus Biesenbach. There is Modern Ruins: Portraits of Place in the Mid-Atlantic Region, by photographer Shaun O'Boyle, which was a gift from Joan via the famed YDR Auction. And perhaps my favorite book of photos (and a favorite of many): Uncommon Places by Stephen Shore.

Then are some family members' school yearbooks: The 1934 and 1937 volumes of The Dunes, from Hammond (Indiana) High School (my grandmother's); the 1967 Lycoming College yearbook (Mom and Dad); and the 1988 and 1989 volumes from Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, Pennsylvania (mine). Here's an interesting article from The San Diego Union-Tribune about one group of yearbook editors who worked hard and found creative ways to finish their Class of 2020 yearbook this spring after schools closed due to COVID-19. I'm sure it's a scene that was repeated in many different ways across the nation.

And there's the 1969 facsimile reprint of the 1908 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog. It was a gift long ago from Dad to Mom. He inscribed it: "Given as an early Christmas present to my wife on Dec. 18, 1970 — 4 days after the birth of Christopher. JAO."

In the 1980s, for fun, Mom and I would make lists using the Sears catalog. We'd imagine that we were living at the turn of the century and had, say, $200 to stock our new house with furniture, kitchen gadgets, etc. We'd keep track of how much money we had left and try to make the wisest purchases possible while still having all the household essentials. If we did well on own spending, perhaps we could splurge on a 25-cent tin of peanuts or even a spiffy pocket watch. That's what we did for fun back before the internet, kids! Much to my disappointment, none of those old lists are tucked away inside the catalog. But I still have the memories!


Friday, May 29, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #63

We have arrived at the last shelf in the bedroom!

I am a big fan of David Macaulay books, as you can see. Castle and Cathedral are probably my two favorites. Albert Lorenz has some similarities to Macaulay, with his epic illustrations.

My personal story of 9/11 in a newsroom can be found in this post.

House on the Rock in Wisconsin has long been one of my hoped-for road-trip destinations. Is that a little less likely now? Time will tell.

It's a Book by Lane Smith was a Christmas present from Mom about a decade ago. The gag was that I was always able to tell which of my Christmas presents were books ⁠— because, duh ⁠— and I would exclaim, "It's a book!" But, more than a gag gift, this a slender volume about how truly lovely and satisfying books are, compared to other forms of media in this digital age.

Those are some browsing books on the right.

Back over on the left, the two volumes with nothing on the spine are the same beautiful book: 1882's The Heart of Europe From the Rhine to the Danube. A Series of Striking and Interesting Views. With text by Leo de Colange. I discovered the beat-up copy years ago, when I really started collecting older books. And I loved it so much that I later tracked down a nicer copy. I wrote about one of the interior illustrations in 2017.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #62

Shelfie #62
There are some books here. There is an exit to your right.


There is nothing tremendously noteworthy about this small collection of books.


I don't know the word "ENCYLPEDIAS".


You already did that in Shelfie #61.


What do you think this is? Project Gutenberg?


They are not your books to touch.
Your score has gone down 2 points.


Okay, buddy. Enough of these shenanigans. Take it outside.


It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

QSL sent from Loves Park in 1973

This QSL card, which looks like it's straight from the land of Barney Google and Snuffy Smith, was sent to Melvin "Midge" C. Reed of W3AIT in mid-December of 1973.1 In a short note filled with ham radio abbreviations, Midge is thanked for a nice chat and wished a happy holiday season.

Littlejohn is a common name in the Loves Park area of Illinois. And there's no listing in any archived online directory for the call sign WA9SFY, so there's a little bit of a mystery here — even though we have a full name and full address. Would be curious to learn more about Clarence (Bud) LittleJohn, who lived at 5716 Hollis Avenue in Loves Park, Winnebago County, Illinois, 47 years ago.

1. Also in December 1973: Pioneer 10 relayed the first close-up images of Jupiter and The Exorcist made its debut in U.S. movie theaters. (Pioneer 10 was 11.4 billions miles from Earth as of January 2019.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #61

No respectable home should be without a set of fine encyclopedias! I firmly believe this, even while acknowledging that predatory sales tactics of the past resulted in families buying overpriced sets they could hardly afford. "Encyclopedia Sale Abuses Go On Despite New Laws," an article by Grace Lichtenstein in the September 26, 1971, edition of The New York Times noted:
"The Department of Consumer Affairs ... charged, among other things, that [Encyclopedia] Britannica salesmen used language 'designed to instill fear and anxiety in parents that their children will fall in school unless an encyclopedia is purchased.' It also said salesmen first offered the 24‐volume set for $1,200 and then came up with a 'special deal,' which was actually the same set in a much cheaper binding.1 ...

"Many of the tactics mentioned in complaints were heard by a reporter when, posing as a potential customer, she was visited by salesmen from Field and Grolier last month. The two Field salesmen based their pitch on 'concern' for 'your children's education.' Declaring that children now must know a great deal when they enter kindergarten, they suggested both the 15‐volume Childcraft and the 20‐volume World Book encyclopedia for a special price of $320.35, plus finance charges2 if bought on an installment plan."
But time and changing access to information caught up with the encyclopedia salesmen. In 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica announced it was going fully digital; door-to-door sales had ended in 1996. The Saturday Evening Post wrote about the history of these knowledge peddlers in 2017.

My encyclopedia was inexpensive. I purchased it a couple years ago at York's Book Nook Bonanza (which has canceled its 2020 event because of COVID-19). It's the 1946 edition of Compton's Pictured Encyclopedia and Fact-Index, which was first published in 1922. Guy Stanton Ford (1873-1962) was the Editor-in-Chief. It wasn't until I got home that I realized — despite being sure I had triple-checked — that I was missing a volume. I had no M! How could I continue without "Macaroni" through "Mythology"? Eventually, an eBay seller came to the rescue with the single volume I needed (although it's from 1948 instead of 1946). Now I can read all about Mexico, Milwaukee and monks.

Laying across the top is Science Year, The World Book Science Annual for 1971, which I wrote about in March 2019,

1. $1,200 in 1971 is the equivalent of $7,682 today. Even with an installment plan, that's ghastly.
2. The finance charges were 12% annually!

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Stay-at-home shelfie #60

Can Zen be found within in a book? Have I been seeking enlightenment — or just collecting another little subset of books? Can all simultaneously be true?

These books, for temporary lack of a better spot, had been sitting atop the books of shelfie #59. Their location also puts them within the direct view from my shikibuton each evening. I figured I'd given them their own shelfie, though I do not really know what to say about them yet. Perhaps I will just list them.

* * *

Highly recommended related reading

Please check out Susan Jennings' "Abandoning hope then putting it back together," published just a few days ago on My Inside Voices. She writes of struggling with the concept of hope amid the COVID-19 pandemic and notes at one point: "I think that’s the type of hope I’m after. That we can’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but that we can attempt to be better within that."

Monday, May 25, 2020

From the readers: Geometry, Cheerful Cards, Mecki and more

To kick off the latest installment of reader comments in grand fashion, we have this wonderful email from Greg Frederickson, who refers to the 2012 post 1959 receipt from The Colonial Bookstore in York, Pa.
"Your [post] caught my eye, because I got a great start on a sub-obsession as a result of that bookstore. My mother Margaret had been searching there for a birthday present for me and found this obscure geometry book written by an Australian patent examiner. It was Geometric Dissections, by Harry Lindgren, published by D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc. in 1964. It sat more-or-less unexamined on my bookshelf at home until 1969, after I had graduated from college and had started a job teaching mathematics at a junior high school in Baltimore, Maryland.

"I wasn’t the most prepared math teacher that Baltimore had encountered, having had no instruction in education courses, aside from doing practice teaching in the summer school before the school year was to begin in the fall of 1969. But as an inner-city school district Baltimore was desperate for math teachers and was willing to take a chance on me. It was tough sledding that first year, and at times I was almost ready to give up and risk being drafted into the army and sent to Vietnam. But the supervisory personnel there were first-rate and gave me lots of good advice. One specialist from the downtown headquarters kindly observed that my classroom was a mess, with pencil scrawlings all over of the student desks and absolutely nothing on my pristine bulletin boards. Besides attacking the desks with soapy water, I ransacked the few math books that I had brought with me to Baltimore to see if I could find something to put on my bulletin boards. The cover decorations on Lindgren’s book were really eye-catching, so I took some colored construction paper and cut out large pieces, which I then stapled onto a bulletin board to illustrate how to cut one geometric figure into pieces that would rearrange to form another figure.

"My supervisor was sufficiently impressed. But more importantly, I ended up being intrigued by a number of geometric dissections in the book. Knowing almost no one in the city and having lots of time to play around with interesting things, I treated myself to a much more careful look at the book. The author had made a big deal about trying to find the fewest possible number of pieces for any given dissection problem. One morning on a weekend, I discovered a way to modify a dissection so that it used one fewer piece. Suddenly I was off and running: I had my first dissection record! Many more have come since then. Always they were unexpected — coming before work, late at night, during meals, or at other times when something else was planned.

"And after every couple of dissections I would hurry off to get them copied and then mail them halfway around the world to Harry Lindgren in Australia. When the original printing of his book sold out, the copyright was taken over by the paperback publisher Dover Publications. Since I was the one who had rendered parts of his book out of date, Harry assigned me the responsibility of revising his book. It was then retitled Recreational Problems in Geometric Dissections & How to Solve Them, and I was officially listed as the reviser.

"After my third year of teaching in Baltimore, I went on to take some courses in Computer Science at the University of Maryland and eventually graduated with a Ph.D. I landed a tenure-track position in the Computer Science Department at Penn State University in 1977 and then became a full professor at Purdue University in 1986. I transitioned to an emeritus professor there a couple of years ago. Besides my many publications in Computer Science, I have published four additional books in geometric dissections, listed on my webpage

"So I enthusiastically acknowledge a big and grateful 'Thank You’ to the Colonial Bookstore of York!"
Much thanks to Greg for taking the time to share this story, the kind of behind-the-scenes history of a life that can so easily become lost. And it all began with that bookstore in York.

Examining the Tunguska Event via newspaper headlines: Tom from the ever-delightful Garage Sale Finds (highly recommended if you're seeking a nostalgic rabbit hole while spending more time at home) writes: "I remember reading The Fire Came By back in the 80s when I was fascinated will all things paranormal and space-related. It bothered me that Dan Aykroyd referred to it as the Tunguska blast of 1909 rather than 1908. Hey, I was (am) a nerd."

Smile-worthy old AP Laserphoto: I tracked down photographer Blake J. Discher on Twitter, and he responded: "Yep, that’s me. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. Pretty funny photo. You can’t dream this stuff up... the guy fell asleep at work!"

Philadelphia Phillies spring training photos from March 1984: Wendyvee from the wonderful Wendyvee's writes: "Which reminds me ... I think my mom has a picture with my Dad and Tug McGraw somewhere. I'll have to find it because it was an especially good picture of Dad. Also, I was 'Today Years Old' when I found out why he was nicknamed Tug ... and I maybe wish I wouldn't have, lol!"

1970s Woodsy Owl bookmark: "Give a Hoot! Don't Pollute." Two new responses on this one. Anonymous writes: "A relative by marriage (my great aunt's nephew Barry) was the voice of Woodsy."

And Carol Hunter writes: "I could have sworn the following lyrics were in the Give a Hoot jingle that I remember from my childhood: 'Give a hoot, don't pollute, let your outdoor manners show, help to stop pollution in the North South, East & West ... the Nooorth Sooouth East & Weeeest! Hoot Hoot!' Does anyone else remember it this way? Or did I make up lyrics as a kid because I couldn't remember the original ones?"

Anyone have any help for Carol? I can say that it's turned out that 50% or more of the lyrics I thought I knew as a kid were incorrect. Sometimes comically so.

"Only long enough to make a beginning": Joan writes: "I am pleased with your choice of photo-staging props." (She is referring to Titan and Foghorn, who were gratuitously posed with the book.)

Scholastic book cover: "Mystery of the Piper's Ghost": Checking in again, Tom notes: "I love those Scholastic mystery books. I have a number myself, but haven't seen this one. I love the idea of putting them in the Little Library to introduce to a new generation. I wonder if kids still like to read books like that. My own kids' Scholastic flyers are absent of anything like this. I never did get our Little Library built this year, shooting for this year. My intent was to populate it with Scholastic books from my collection as well."

A family history told through newspaper blurbs: Nathan Bland writes: "My Grandmother was Francis S. Staley from the old blue Concrete business card in the post for the IDEAL Concrete Stone Co. in Yellow Springs, Maryland. In case you want any more info on the family tree."

Stay tuned, folks, because I'm definitely going to follow up on this. It's nice to have a chance to circle back to a 2011 post!

Sci-fi book cover: "Star Ways" (aka Kilts in Space?): Tom writes: "If you hadn't given the publication date, I would have guessed this was a retitled novel with the intent to ride the Star Wars wave of the late 1970s, especially the way the title almost looks like a sticker placed over the original."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Unknown writes: "I am a legend of Cheerful House. I used to sell door to door. My neighbors would look through the catalog and buy from me. Christmas cards, birthday cards, oh my God those were the days. Every one who saw them wanted to buy them. That was back in 1972. Cheerful House just brought tears to my eyes and a lot of wonderful memories. I was 12 years old back then. Today I'm 60, and it feels like it was just yesterday — 48 years have passed. I thought they were gone for ever, but when I saw this ... it's a great feeling." ... Responding to another comment that children should not be prevented from working, Unknown added: "I feel the same way. I sold cards for them when I was 12. My mom got jealous. I was earning more than her full-time job."

I continue to be amazed at how the Cheerful Cards comments (28 and counting) took on a life of their own after that 2012 post. Having the ability to remember and discuss that cherished part of their childhood has been so important for folks. Glad to provide the outlet for it!

The One Where I Get Sucked into the Mecki Universe: Anonymous writes: "My mother brought one of these from Germany — it was 1953. She used to chase us around the house with it. It's not scary at all, unless of course it's chasing you, LOL. Mom has passed away but we still have the Mecki. It is about 2 feet tall and in great shape for its age. Who would have thought that doll would be a family heirloom like it has become?"

Story time: The Tale of the Gothic Lullaby: A trio of comments on this story that Ashar and I wrote together:

  • Joan writes: "This is definitely the highlight of my week (and month). Thank you!!!"
  • Wendyvee writes: "Which is why I always sit way, way in the back of the theater."
  • Darlene Swords writes: "I am standing up and applauding the gothic lullaby. I loved it! It was beautifully written ... like James Patterson ... with short chapters."

Dick Gendron's QSL card featuring the Cherry Street fire: John Whitehouse adds some sad history regarding this October 1963 blaze: "The fire was at 108-114 Cherry Street, which housed BF Goodrich, a paint store and a barber shop, as well as eight apartments. A Deputy Chief, George Carty, lost his life due to electrocution. The building was a total loss. Dick (Gendron) was an avid photographer, as well as a very friendly guy. His daughter told me that most of his photos were lost when, ironically, his residence and six other buildings were destroyed by fire. Some of his pictures survive and hang on the walls in Burlington, Vermont, fire stations."

Delving into Henry K. Wampole & Company: "Dirtdoctorjak" writes: "I’ve a bottle 7/8ths full with the box that I recovered out of a old home demo in California."

Stay-at-home shelfie #10: Inky from On Shoes and Ships and Sealing-Wax writes: "This shelfie makes me happy given that quite a few of these grace my own shelves and book piles (I admittedly have not read The Angry Planet yet, but I love the cover). As a huge fan of Mervyn Peake, I highly recommend reading him."

Does anyone still own a 1-square-inch Texas ranch? Anonymous writes: "I was one of those suckers. Not sure where my deed is now."

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris: Unknown writes: "I don't know how I came up on this thread. When I looked into it it just made me really sad. Thank you for sharing a little bit about her life. Unfortunately she probably died because of domestic abuse."

Stay-at-home shelfie #20: Inky writes: "Hooray for the Ruth Manning-Sanders shelves! I've never come across any of her non-fairy tale books, though I certainly love her 'A Book of...' books and consider the mermaid one to be one of my favorite fairy tale collections."

1941 advertisement for the Modern Talking Picture Service: Unknown writes: "My AV department at South Orange Maplewood, New Jersey, ordered many films from MTP Service back in 1972. Also ordered films from Films Incorporated. I've often wondered where all those reels went. Be nice if they were offered on eBay."

Night of Household Items #4: "Makes your toilet paper sing!" Unknown writes: "I bought several of these when I lived in New Jersey in 1988. I still have one, but it doesn't work anymore. I loved them! They were great fun!!!"

Book cover: "So you want to be a Ham": Dave Conley writes: "I also discovered this book at the library, and just about reduced it to shreds by checking it out repeatedly. Robert Hertzberg was very good at communicating his love of the hobby."

"Siss Noch Unvergleichlich": 1962 Pennsylvania Dutch Days brochure: Wendyvee writes: "How very Pennsylvania. Also, one of my grandmothers made funeral pies that were so sweet, I swear I can still taste them. Eeek!"

Would you like to play a game of Wizzardz & War Lordz? "arik24" writes: "It's been archived at"

Happy gaming, everyone!

Stay-at-home shelfie #59

A miscellaneous collection of older volumes here. The super-skinny hardcovers are part of the American Library Association's Reading with a Purpose series from the 1920s and 1930s.1 Their original provenance was the Drexel Institute of Art, Science, and Industry library. I got them a few years ago during the (lamentable) closeout sale of Canaday's Book Barn in Carlisle. You can see one of the old Drexel bookplates at right. Titles include Biology, English History, Invention and Society, The United States in Recent Times, George Washington, Americans from Abroad, The Europe of our Day and 1931's The Pacific Area in International Relations, which contains this nugget:
"The diplomatic history of the Far East in recent years has in fact been largely concerned with the problem of keeping such demands as Japan made in 1915 within reasonable bounds and maintaining on the one hand the territorial integrity of China, and on the other the right of all foreign powers to trade on equal terms in the Chinese market, while at the same time giving China an opportunity to set her house in order and free herself from restrictions on her sovereignty."
Moving along, other eclectic titles include Principles of Clothing Selection (May 2018 post), Choosing an Occupation, Airways, and The Nürnberg Stove, which was featured way back in 2013.

1953's The First Book of Space Travel, written and illustrated by Jeanne Bendick, is as fabulous as it looks. Also on this shelf is my great-grandmother's 1904 book on George Washington, with its protective cover.

1. For more on this series, check out these two articles by Salvatore De Sando:

Dad's thoughts about Memorial Day 2020

Phoenix Cemetery, Gaines Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, May 25, 2010

Thought this would be an appropriate post for this morning.
And I also want to help keep it from becoming a Lost Corner of the Internet.

John Otto
May 21 at 9:18 PM

Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2020 occurs on Monday, May 25.

Thousands in WWI and WWII

Many more in Korea

58,000 in Vietnam

Iran, Afghanistan and many other places.

And yet, their generations are still
here to fight the war against the virus
and the stupidity of our elected officials.

When was that last time you drank
with the Governor at a bar or
ran into a Senator at a grocery store.

They are not everyday people.
They think they are Shepherds leading
the sheep.

We are not the sheep.

It’s time for the flock to run on its own.

Be thankful when you see someone
you knew before the lock down.
They are a survivor just like you.

Together we will endure!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Sunday's postcard: Maude Adams' summer home in the Catskills

In the sort-of shelfie #37, I mentioned in passing a biography of American stage actress Maude Adams: 2004's Maude Adams: Idol of American Theater, 1872-1953 by Armond Fields.

Adams had a fascinating life that is worthy of far more than just this paragraph. She was the first actress to play Peter Pan on Broadway, survived the 1918 influenza epidemic despite falling seriously ill, worked on technical innovations in stage lighting and color photography, taught drama in college and spent her quiet retirement in the Catskills region of New York.

And that brings us to today's postcard. On the front, the sepia-toned card is labeled:

Maud Adams Summer Home.
Onteora Park, Catskill Mts. N.Y.

It's regrettable that Maude's name is misspelled. Onteora Park is, according to Wikipedia, a residential area in Greene County, New York: "The district is characterized by woodlands and open space and features breathtaking panoramic mountainous landscape views." A peaceful place to retire after the hustle-bustle of New York City, for sure.

The postcard was mailed with a one-cent stamp from Tannersville, New York. The year on the postmark is obscured, so I can't say for sure when it was. (It cost one-cent to mail a U.S. postcard from 1898 to late 1917 and then again from mid-1919 until the end of 1951.) The card is a "GENUINE PHOTO made by EAGLE POST CARD CO., N.Y." for J. Frank Lackey of Tannersville. Lackey was a postmaster, pharmacy owner and member of the Democratic Party in Tannersville and Greene County. He died in 1943.

The postcard is addressed to someone named Basta at 777 Madison Avenue in New York City. The cursive note on the postcard states:
My dear Theresa!
How are you getting along? Are you feeling better?
I presume you are as busy as ever.
Give my best love to all.

* * *

Bonus earworm lyrics
Lady Godiva was a freedom rider,
She didn't care if the whole world looked,
Joan of Arc with the Lord to guide her,
She was a sister who really cooked,
Isadora was the first bra-burner,
Ain't ya glad she showed up? (Oh yeah!)
And when the country was fallin' apart,
Betsy Ross got it all sewed up.

(And then there's Maude),
And then there's Maude,
(And then there's Maude),
And then there's Maude...

Stay-at-home shelfie #58

Toward the left there is a single volume from the My Book House series and a book about the history of the series: Olive Beaupré Miller and the Book House for Children, by Dorothy Loring Taylor.1 I've mentioned My Book House previously in the posts Pete and Jeff's lending library and Katherine Sturges Dodge illustration.

The reddish book in the middle is 1914's Better Rural Schools by George Herbert Betts and Otis E. Hall. I need to keep up my reputation for having obscure stuff on the shelves, right? This volume is filled with wonderful illustrations and old photographs of schoolhouses. And one day I should probably ... well, you know. I can add that this book, per inscriptions up front, previously belonged to Walter Kramer and Pearl Fogelsanger. (Probably this Pearl Fogelsanger.)

This is the 1960 seven-volume edition of Lands and Peoples from the Grolier Society. I'm surprised there isn't more written about these beautiful and informative books, which went through many revisions and design updates from the 1920s onward through at least the 1970s. The best memories I could find were via Amazon reviews of the 1957 edition:

  • "I devoured this series growing up, and found in it again my inspirations for dance."
  • "The world as it used to be! Lots of photos of places no longer there or so changed you wish you could have seen in the old days."
  • "I had this set as a child. I loved it then and I love it now."

Helen Hynson Merrick is listed as the Editor in Chief of the 1960 edition. When she died in October 1973 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, at age 67, The New York Times noted in her obituary that she was also the author of two books for children: The First Book of Norway and Sweden.

1. It's also interesting to see what has and what has not changed compared to this January 2016 shelfie, which was in a whole nother house.