Saturday, June 6, 2020

Saturday's postcard: In Chattanooga

On this EKC real photo postcard, which dates to between 1930 and 1950 based on the stamp box, this is the only thing penned on the back, in cursive:
To Friddie
From Sherley Ann
(It could also be SherleyAnn, as those two words are written closely together.) We can also see that this lovely family was on the Chattanooga Choo Choo at Lookout Mountain, a natural and historic attraction at the corners of Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. We don't know anything else about them. So I'm just going to dream up how their lives went:
The mother (presumably Sherley Ann) taught high school mathematics for 34 years and was beloved by her students. Many of them wrote her letters, years later, thanking her for the inspiration she provided; one of them even helped to put a man on the moon. Sherley Ann loved classical music and jazz. Her hobbies included pottery, researching ancient number systems and serving as taste-tester for her husband's fine cooking. Later in life, she served two terms on city council to give back to the community she loved.

The older child loved making lists of birds in the backyard and walking through the neighborhood, telling all the porch-sitting folks interesting facts about the trees and animals in their own yards; these visits were greatly anticipated. In high school, there was a passion for theatrical arts and high praise given in the local newspaper for a lead performance. After community college, there was a long career as a park ranger, promoting conservation and educating groups that came from far and wide to hear the passionate and charismatic talks. Over the years, there was also a published book of poetry and an interview with Dave Garroway on "Today" that left all those folks on their porches beaming with pride.

The younger child was a bookworm. Every volume in the house provided fascination — even father's brittle copy of "Modern Cookery for Private Families." Friends pleaded for books to be put down and a basketball to be picked up, but the school library was home away from home. A business degree from Amherst provided the necessary background for launching, with a best friend, a hometown community center that offered art, fitness, literacy, and day care programs. A later run for the state Legislature fell short, but was followed by a successful campaign to build a new town library, four times the size of the previous one. Years later, the library was renamed to honor its beloved champion.
That's the way I think it should have been, anyway...

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Book cover: "The Tried and True Class and the Haunted House"

  • Title: The Tried and True Class and the Haunted House
  • Author: I.M. Purkis (There is a threadbare lead indicating that I.M. Purkis could be a pen name used by Coe Hayne (1875-1961).)
  • Cover illustrator: Unknown
  • Publisher: David C. Cook Publishing Co. (Elgin, Illinois)
  • About the publisher: According to Wikipedia, David C. Cook was founded in 1875 and is still in business as an American nonprofit Christian publisher. When David Caleb Cook founded the company, "he was motivated to provide affordable educational materials for children who had been left homeless in the Great Chicago fire." It moved its headquarters from Chicago to Elgin, Illnois, around the turn of the 20th century and then, after almost a century in Elgin, moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1995. The company's current website is
  • Original price: Unknown
  • Year: 1920
  • Pages: 40
  • Format: Staplebound
  • Provenance: "For Gladys with love from Cousin Maude"
  • Characters: Leslie Strachaan (president of the Tried and True Class), Josephine "Jo" Lane, Helen Baird, Muriel, Betty Bolton, Colista, Jane Landon, Catherine Somers, Mr. Primm, Bertha, Betty Boltby, Tom Clay, Lainie, Hazel, Mable, a monkey, Mr. Stagg, Mrs. Strachaan, Miss Humphrey.
  • First sentence: "Oh, girls, I have an idea!"
  • Last sentence: The girls of the Tried and True Class will never forget that prayer, nor the lesson they learned through their terrible experience in the "haunted house."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: The wind had been rising, and dark clouds were gathering.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: She was the president of the Tried and True Class, and if the president did not keep collected and brave, who would?
  • Random sentence from the middle #3: The ghost of the haunted house — the ghost that had terrified them so — was only a monkey — a little monkey that had rushed away as terrified of them as they had been of it.
  • Wait. Did I just spoil the book? Yes.
  • And also: There's a separate story, just a few pages, "How the Class Motto Solved the Problem," tacked onto the end of this slim volume. I'll leave that for some future blogger.

With that decided, she summoned Mr. Barr into the room.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

The kindness of others

After I received my 1,000th Postcrossing card from Kamila in the Czech Republic last year, we became pen pals.

But then those postal exchanges were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Both of us had other things to worry about amid the virus that upended the world. She emailed me in late March with a short note: "With children we must not out or just with a protective mask. ... I have 7 coronavirus infected in town. We got protective masks in hospitals too. We sew them at home on sewing machines and distribute them to hospitals, firefighters, police, retirement homes ... We try to be calm and take everything easy."

I wrote back, but then I didn't hear from her again until last week, when a small box arrived in the mail. Inside, much to my surprise, were the masks and face shields you can see in the photo here. In the short accompanying letter, Kamila laments that Easter passed without many of the usual traditions being observed. She adds: "I also send medical drapes, please give them to those who need and do not have them. ... I like the cheerful children's motives. I sew them in my hand. Otherwise, I would send more. I also [send] a protective shield that we print to the 3D printer at home for all who need it. Especially for hospitals, police, senior homes. ... At this time we must all help each other. I hope you, your family and friends are all right."

What an incredible and generous gift to send all the way overseas. They will be put to good use. And she's right, at this time we must all help each other.

Stay-at-home shelfie #65,
plus Shelfie Addenda

OK, I changed my mind from yesterday. I'm just going to combine the last few things into one post and wrap up the Shelfie 2020 series on this final day of May.

This last shelf is in our living room and it features cookbooks and food-related books. The Oxford Companion to Food, published in 1999, is a dandy encyclopedia of cooking and food history. As one reviewer on Goodreads sums up: "God I love this book. If you're a food nerd you can simply open it to some random page and you will lose hours." If you're looking for something a little less weighty, one of my other favorite books on this topic is Reay Tannahill's Food in History.

The blue-spined book between the orange- and red-spined books is a nicer copy of A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, a book I wrote about extensively in 2011 and 2012. I took the ephemera that was tucked away inside the falling-apart copy and put it inside this spiffier volume, hopefully to enthrall future generations of bibliophiles as it is passed down. Here's a rundown of all the posts on this book:

This 1953 edition of The Joy of Cooking, which has sold more than 18 million copies, is one that was removed from the Helen Kate Furness Free Library and subsequently brought home by Mom years ago. It's not the "family" copy. As I mentioned in a November 2018 post, I pruned the circa-1970 family copy of The Joy of Cooking, a decision that I am becoming more regretful about. For more about The Joy of Cooking, I recommend "A Case for Three Copies of the Joy of Cooking" by Alex Beggs, this recent installment of the Omnibus podcast, and "The Obsessive Sport of Shopping for a Vintage 'Joy of Cooking'" by Genevieve Walker.

The bizarre, wonderful and golden-spined Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices is a cookbook I wrote about in March 2018 and February 2020.

About half of those staplebound recipe booklets to the right are from the Pennsylvania Dutch cooking genre. I'm a little wonky about picking one up any time I come across them. There's truly no need to have that many, but I justify it by saying they don't take up much space at all. Here are some posts in which I've discussed them:

Finally, Pennsylvania Fairs and Country Festivals by Craig Kennedy includes a chapter on the York Fair, which, just a few days ago, canceled its 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here's an excerpt from its statement:
"(York, PA) The 2020 York State Fair has been canceled due to concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The Fair Board held a meeting on Tuesday, May 26 deciding to cancel the Fair. ... This is the first time the fair has been canceled since the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. We understand that this global pandemic has affected so many individuals and families that are normally involved or attend the fair. The importance of those people surpasses the difficult decision that had to be made. We also believe that while we are unsure of what the end of July will look like in regard to the pandemic, we know that opening the fair while following all guidelines set by local government and the CDC would be insurmountable at this point."

Shelfie Addenda
Speaking of the pandemic, I went into the LNP|LancasterOnline newsroom on West King Street in Lancaster yesterday morning to clear out my desk in preparation for our intended move to another building later this summer. It was my first trip to the newsroom since March 13; I have been working from home since then. In shelfie #25, I mentioned that I thought a book by Valeria Luiselli might still be at my LNP desk. Indeed, it was. So here's my "work shelfie":

And, to wrap it all up and with some help from Mr. Angelino, aka Banjo, on this sunny Sunday morning, here are some of the books that I acquired after starting the shelfie series on March 30. If I do another project like this in 5-to-10 years, perhaps we'll see them again. (The idea of that, though, is a bit exhausting.)