Thursday, August 20, 2020

Real photo postcard: Flooded Sunbury, Pa., in 1936

This real photo postcard was never mailed. On the back, the AZO stamp box has black squares in all four corners, indicating it was produced between 1924 and 1949, according to More importantly, someone has written in pencil, "Market St., Sunbury, 1936." We'll just take their word for it that the time and place are correct. Sunbury is a small city along the eastern bank of the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania. It is notable for being the home of the headquarters of Weis, a regional supermarket chain.

As the Sunbury Municipal Authority's Flood Control website notes: "The City of Sunbury is extremely vulnerable to flooding due to its exposure to both the North and West branches of the Susquehanna River and the effects of flash flooding from Shamokin Creek." The website details the flood that occurred in mid-March 1936, in which the water continued to rise until it came "rushing in torrents down Susquehanna Avenue, North Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Streets, carrying destruction and misery in its course." Houses were rocked from their foundations and when the water reached Market Street, "nearly all the plate glass store windows were broken." People sought shelter on the second floors of buildings and boats were called for rescues. We can see some of that on this postcard, as a couple of people are standing out on a second-floor ledge at a business called Bittner's. Other signs are for Miller Bros. Shoes, Light Heat Power Electrical Appliances, and Fisher (?) the Jeweler. There appears to be a Coca-Cola sign near the town clock in the center of the photograph.

At the worst of the 1936 flood, parts of Sunbury were under 15 feet of water. The Flood Control website has many more details about this 1936 natural disaster, including this:
"Radio broadcasting stations throughout the Susquehanna Valley played a big part in the memorable flood of 1936. From Williamsport to Harrisburg radio stations WRAK, Williamsport; WKOK, Sunbury; WHP and WKBO in Harrisburg did much to alleviate suffering, direct life saving activities and send out news to an anxious world outside of the flood area. Short wave operators hurried to the scene of devastation to assist in sending messages for flood victims to friends and relatives in the unaffected parts of the country."1
In a 2016 article for The Daily Item of Sunbury, Jean Delsite vividly remembered experiencing the flood as a 7-year-old girl, 80 years earlier: "I don’t think I was scared. We knew the water would have to stop coming some time. Our concern was hoping it would go down so we could get food."

1. Speaking of the radio, I listened to a few minutes of AM radio on Tuesday evening for the first time in ages. It was a bit surreal and depressing. Boeing had an advertisement about its commitment to working with airlines to boost health precautions during air travel. News reports mentioned Donald Trump, Michelle Obama and Vladimir Putin. I caught snippets of the Orioles-Blue Jays and Marlins-Mets games, but couldn't find the Phillies on the dial. Another advertisement touted telemedicine, so that you didn't have to risk anything by going out. Static-filled ephemeral moments over the airwaves amid a pandemic. These are difficult times for advertisers and for media platforms that need advertising to support their operations. An article in Variety noted: "The bonds between advertisers and the media outlets that serve them have begun to fray." That's not great news, for many reasons.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

1976 booklet on UFOs, occult from Southwest Radio Church

  • Title: UFOs and the Occult (B58)
  • Author: Southwest Radio Church, Rev. David F. Webber, Pastor
  • Publisher: Southwest Radio Church
  • Year: 1976
  • Pages: 31 (which includes 8 pages of grainy black-and-white photos)
  • Format: Staplebound
  • Dimensions: 5⅜ inches by 8⅝ inches
  • Price: 1 copy for $3 offering; 2 copies for $5 offering; 5 copies for $10 offering; $1 each in lots of 25 of more; available on cassette for $10 offering
  • Chapter titles:
    • UFOs and the Occult
    • Uri Geller and UFOs
    • UFOs over the Iron Curtain
    • The Bible and Flying Saucers
    • Star Trek — Fact or Fancy?
  • Excerpt #1: "We're going to look into the surprising relationship between UFOs and the world of secret doctrines and sinister practices known as the occult. ... Today, almost every bookstore has a section devoted expressly to these practices that are forbidden by God. And above such a section, you'll usually see a placard emblazoned with the word 'occult.' There you will also find several books devoted to the study of UFOs."
  • Excerpt #2: "Next, we'll look at Ted Owens, a Cape Charles, Virginia, man who claims that he is the spokesman for the 'Saucer Intelligences,' or 'SI's' as he calls them. Mr. Owens might be dismissed as just another crackpot, except for one thing. When he pulls off one of his mental feats, members of the news media are usually present in force."
  • Excerpt #3: "Geller is now 29 years old, and 30 is the age at which Jesus began his public ministry. On December 20th, 1976, Uri Geller will be 30 years old. Is he also building up to a public ministry of his own sort? There are no indications that he is a man of God. Let us be watchful then, and wary of this man, indeed of ALL men who offer a psychic pathway to salvation."
  • Excerpt #4: "Our age is very special. Never before have we known so much about the world, and never before have we suffered so much for it. Political, economic, and military upheavals around the globe are daily occurrences. Famine is rampant in large parts of the world. Environmental deterioration threatens to alter our way of life permanently. Serious crimes are on the upsurge everywhere. Rich powers are stockpiling nuclear armaments, while poorer nations watch in dread. We are seeing strange and threatening changes in our natural habitat. Even the weather is playing havoc with our world lately. Our planet is being increasingly ravaged by natural disasters: tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and drought have decimated food crops around the world and have left millions homeless and destitute. Undersea volcanic activity is on the rise."
  • Excerpt #5: "The prophet Ezekiel saw a definite object coming down from the sky. It was beryl, an aluminum like metal — it had the appearance of lamps — in other words there were several lights on it, and from the prophet's description, these lights must have been of different colors. From underneath the flying machine there was an exhaust of the power system, which Ezekiel described as a bright fire that came out like lightning. And as this flying machine hovered near the ground, Ezekiel saw several of the occupants, whom he described as living creatures with four faces and feet with soles like the bottom of a calf's foot."
  • Excerpt #6: "Certainly, the earth has been visited by astronauts from outer space for thousands of years. The Bible clearly confirms this. The earth is under observation — not from creatures from other planets who have evolved to a higher degree of intelligence than man — but rather by the angels of God who were created by Him for universal service in His kingdom."
  • Excerpt #7: "Whether all this is fact, fancy, or witchcraft, may be a matter of opinion. However it is impossible to deny that something is happening in the heavenlies. We believe that it is the forces of heaven, both the armies of Satan and the angels of God, preparing for a battle of the ages, probably just a few years from now!"
  • About Southwest Radio Church: According to the church itself: "Southwest Radio Church of the Air began in April 1933, when Dr. E.F. Webber, pastor of a local church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, preached a prophetic message over a local radio station, KTOK. His radio program was his radio church — thus the name, Southwest Radio Church. As the storm clouds of war began to rise over Europe and Asia, Dr. Webber was convinced that the world was entering the last generation. ... From 1933 to the present time, this ministry format has not changed." ... Noah Hutchings (1922-2015) was for many decades the host of the daily syndicated radio show "Your Watchman on the Wall." A primary focus of the show was biblical prophecy about the end times. Hutchings made predictions about the rapture, pondered whether Pope John Paul II might be the Antichrist, believed in the giants, Atlantis and UFOs, didn't believe in evolution, and was very stressed out about Y2K. We can only imagine what his thoughts might have been about the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Long Way Down (One Last Thing): Southwest Radio Church has had many publications over the decades. Here's a link to another one, from 1980, that's featured on Flashbak.

Related posts

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Great links: "Cull of the Wild"

On August 1, The Washington Post published an piece with the online headline: "Readers have many opinions on how to cull your book collection — and also why you never should." It begins: "When the coronavirus pandemic arrived in the United States earlier this year, forcing Americans to shelter in place, many suddenly realized just how cramped their homes were. It was now impossible to ignore the sheer amount of stuff we had, bursting from dressers and desk drawers, closets and bookcases."

For sure, having too much stuff is a First World Problem. Complaining about it is a sure sign of privilege amid a pandemic. There are too many with too little. We're going to be OK if the dresser drawer doesn't shut tight.

But too many books? That's just some nonsense right there. The Washington Post article details some who are aggressively pruning, culling, dismantling their home libraries. Hearteningly, it also includes the voices of those who advocate keeping their books, thank you very much.

“It is a fallacy of the ‘Kondo World’ that we need to get rid of our books," writes LadyManx. "Our leaders do not read. Look what that has gotten us. While it is fine to move so-so books along, books love us and whisper their thoughts to us, as we pass their covers. Can an ereader do that? Trying to find a favorite phrase or vignette in an ebook is a time-wasting fraud. My real books fall open to what I need. A book bought a long while ago will not call to me till years later and I’ll wonder how I knew to have it for just such a moment.

I also had some deep thoughts and empathy reading the comments section of the short article, in which some wonder about the endgame of their lifetime of bibliophilia:

  • "I have been saving my books since the mid 80s and have more than 2,000. I wish I could find someone or an organization that wants them."
  • "I recently realized I have more books on my TBR shelf and my Kindle than I have time left in my life to read them all, and my heirs have no desire to inherit my collection. I've called a moratorium on buying new books, and I'm suffering withdrawal pains. It takes all of my willpower to not browse used book sites; I love to read and I love a bargain. But life is shorter than I thought."
  • "With several downsizing moves in my past, I've given away hundreds of books. My strategy for feeling joy rather than loss is to spend an inordinate amount of time finding the right home for the right books."
  • "Having dealt with the frightening amount 'stuff' my parents left after they died (including a shoe repair receipt from 1958!), I vowed never to 'bequeath' the same to my descendants. I keep some relevant reference books and immediately, if possible, give away the fiction when finished. I don't want my family spending inordinate amounts time dealing with objects I could not be bothered to make a decision about when, instead, they could be reading a good book!"
  • "I love every single one of my many books, some inform me, others have memories attached to them and some bring me joy. I will never get rid of my books and when I see people walking down the street unaware of their surroundings because they are looking at their phones I am glad that will never be me. I pay attention to the world, to nature, to the people walking around me. The only time I get lost in another place is when I am with my books. My collection is permanent, I will never cull it, it is a part of me."
  • "Keep your books, let someone else worry about 'culling.'"
  • Before you clear out a deceased relative's book collection ... be sure to thumb through the pages. People of a certain generation made it a habit to conceal things in the pages of books. Currency, old stock certificates, and letters come to mind.

Finally, I love everything about this long note that Sandy Lawrence left in the Washington Post article's comments section:
"I am in the 'brimming bookshelves' in every room category.

"A few months ago, on a whim, I purchased 5 old school readers on ebay that were published in the early 1900s. When they arrived, I discovered that each of the books were filled with drawings and writings and had the name and town of the child who had originally owned it. I spent a few happy hours on ancestry tracking down what the rest of those children's lives had looked like.

"Based on their dates of death and how the seller came by the books, it was obvious that each of those 5 people had felt their school book had had enough personal meaning that they'd held on to them for the rest of their lives.

"This prompted me to look through my own brimming bookcases and pull out a small stack of about 50 books that had real personal meaning to me because I'd read them at a specific time in my life or because I'd found something in the words that had resonated and changed my perspective on life.

"However, I realized that no one will know that when I am gone. So, I have started writing short notes that I place in each of the books explaining why these were important books to me. My hope is that when I'm gone this will help my children decide which books to keep (and hopefully, to read). Call it a guide to mom's life through her books.

"As for the others, it will be easier now (I think) to rehome many of them. All books are wonderful, but only some are personal. I can finally let go of the ones that aren't personal and don't have real meaning to me, and that is a relief."

But wait, there's more
I've mentioned it before, but Roger Ebert's 2009 essay "Books do furnish a life" is an enjoyable short read.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Real photo postcard:
Steam Valley Mountain sign

I love the moody clouds in this real photo postcard featuring a sign for Steam Valley Mountain in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. It's a Devolite Peerless RPPC, which, according to, means it was produced in 1950 or after. The postcard was never written on or mailed. It was part of a series by Caulkins Photo of Morris, Pennsylvania, an unincorporated community in Tioga County that's known, according to Wikipedia, for its annual Rattlesnake Round-Up.

There are two things of note I could find about Steam Valley Mountain.

#1: Since 1939, Fry Brothers' Turkey Ranch and Restaurant has been located atop the mountain. According to its website: "The restaurant was opened at the current location on Mothers’ Day in 1939 and specialized in turkey dinners at a time when turkey was a rare delicacy. World War II forced the restaurant’s temporary closing but the brothers continued raising turkeys and kept the market going, raising up to 15,000 turkeys per year for the war effort." ... A Tripadvisor review from just a few days ago is headlined "Wonderful - They are taking distancing seriously" and notes: "Our first real restaurant experience since February. They take it seriously, maintaining proper distancing in seating and requiring masks. The food was exceptional. All three of us ordered the #1 and it was a complete dinner including sherbet. We stopped after hiking some of the PA Grand Canyon and heading home."

#2: There was a "bigfoot" sighting in the Steam Valley area in 1971. Here's an excerpt from the recollection by Daniel Burkhart on the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization website: "I looked to see what was causing the water to be so dirty, and when I turned my head back to the east, I saw this large hairy creature standing just across the stream from me, about 6 or 7 feet away I guess. It was massive. Hair covered it from head to toe, with a bald-like face. It's eyes were dark, and It made no movements toward me or away. This creature was pretty quiet for being so big. I was terrified, and sat frozen, only able to stare into 'it's' eyes."

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Book cover: "1700 Miles in Open Boats"

  • Title: 1700 Miles in Open Boats
  • Cover subtitle: "The Voyages of the 'Trevessa' Lifeboats"
  • Author: Cecil Foster (1887-1930)
  • Cover illustrator: Winston Megoran (1913-1971)
  • Publisher: Rupert Hart-Davis, London; published in the United States by Essential Books of Fair Lawn, New Jersey (see below)
  • Year: 1952 (first published in 1924)
  • Series: The Mariners Library (No. 19)
  • Pages: 191
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket excerpt: "This is the famous story of the foundering of the S.S. Trevessa in the southern Indian Ocean in 1923 and of the remarkable voyages made by the two lifeboats, told by the Captain himself. When they abandoned ship they were about as far from land as they could have been. ... To anyone faced with a similar situation the lessons learnt from Captain Foster's experiences might well make the difference between death and survival."
  • Provenance: The York Emporium
  • Dedication: "Dedicated to my wife"
  • First sentence: "The story of the voyage of the 'Trevessa's' boats here set down is based, in the first instance, on the log which I kept in a small pocket book."
  • Last sentence: "In a few cases death was probably accelerated by the drinking of salt water."
  • Passage from the middle: "It is generally recognised at sea that sharks will not attack a coloured man as readily as they attack a white man. Whether this is correct or not, I do not know, but I have seen many coloured men in the East who have been maimed by sharks. We did not see many sharks, and those we did see did not come very close or remain long in company."
  • More about Capt. Foster: This is from a 2011 BBC News story by Neil Prior: "Cecil Foster's time in the lifeboat during WWI taught him that the survival rations were all wrong. ... The rations stowed in the boats at the time were very similar to the ship's usual diet. It mainly consisted of tinned and/or salted meat, which was extremely difficult to digest, and sucked out a lot of scarce water from the men's dehydrated bodies. After the war, Cecil insisted that Hain [Steamship Company] changed the emergency drills and rations. Salted beef was replaced with condensed milk and hard biscuits, with high calorific content but easy for the stomach to break down."
  • Review excerpt: From a 2019 review of the book on the Morrab Library website: "The book is very readable and the text is punctuated by extracts from the logs of the two boats. ... The book could have done with a glossary of nautical terms since the language of the sea cannot always be understood by ‘landlubbers.’ The incident, though well known at the time and now largely forgotten, deserves to be remembered today and ranks with such long open boat voyages as that of Captain Bligh, cast off from the ‘Bounty,’ and Mary Bryant, who escaped from Botany Bay. One can also add Shackleton’s 800 mile journey in 1914 an open boat in the Antarctic after the sinking of HMS Endurance."