Thursday, November 25, 2021

1916 Thanksgiving postcard
and "All good things..."

Happy Thanksgiving!

I like the message on the front of this vintage postcard: "May happiness with you abide and never leave your fireside."

It was postmarked and mailed to New York state in late-November 1916. The cursive note states:
"How is every one? We are all well but father. Had doctor for him Sat. Why don't you write? Where do you spend Thanksgiving?"
Today's an anniversary. I began Papergreat with this post 11 Thanksgivings ago. Thanksgiving also fell on November 25 in 2010. 

So there's symmetry if this is the final Papergreat post. Eleven years on the dot, 3,498 posts. Now, 3,500 would be a rounder figure, you might say. But 3,498 divided by 11 works out to exactly 318 posts per year, on average, so there's your round number. And, wow, that's a lot of posts, if I do say so myself.

Do I still have a Papergreat to-blog list? Of course. It includes Fisher-Price advertisements1; sci-fi author Jesse Miller; the Winchester Mystery House; the 1971 board game Drug Attack; the haunting Miss Christine; poster artist Bonnie MacLean; the Essex House book Lovely by David Meltzer; my Pappy's World War II reminiscences; the Steve Jeltz Fan Club, the postcard tales of Loren E. Trueblood; and essays I still want to write about a half-lifetime of working in the newspaper business and watching movies.

But there's always going to be a list, right? There won't come a day when I reach into a box and pull out the very last slip of paper that I could possibly write about. That's not how ephemera — or ideas — work. 

So regrets about unfinished business can't be the driving reason to keep writing Papergreat.

Is this the last Papergreat post? I don't know. I've wrestled enough with that question recently to know I don't have a definitive answer. At the very least, this is the last post for a while. Beyond that, I'm not sure. I know I don't want to continue with the short daily items I've sometimes posted merely to satisfy my self-mandated, OCD goal of a certain number of entries per week. 

Maybe I'll transition to only writing super-sized holiday or seasonal posts. And/or continue to put longer ephemera-themed writing projects here when they're ready. I am compelled to continue writing, and I want to try some longer pieces moving forward.

I suppose there's a chance that some writing might show up on, an intriguing domain name I've been squatting on for awhile. No guarantee of that, but I thought I'd mention it for posterity. And I still plan to maintain a Twitter presence

I'm still fascinated by history and ephemera. The stories that can be told and the questions that can be raised by mere pieces of paper. As the year-end holiday season approaches, I am reminded of one of my personal favorite Papergreat posts: A merry Christmastide to you, Marguerite E. DeWitt.

Finally, as I was mulling this post, I think it's kismet that I came across an amazing Twitter thread about the power and importance of ephemera. It's by @PajamaStew, and I'm going to share it here in its entirely. Again, for posterity. These stories do matter. And I'm grateful on this Thanksgiving for PajamaStew's amazing piece of writing and that it was released into the world:
I may regret sharing this, but I have a very personal story I would like to tell. I hope it doesn't get too long... Anyway...

I was 20 years old when I was sent to erase a man from existence and became haunted by him.

I was going to college in Texas at the time and a group of us were contacted about a service project. The State needed a handful of young volunteers over the course of a Sunday afternoon and I was one of about ten that agreed to help. We were asked to go to the home of an elderly gentleman that had recently died and help sort his belongings. He didn’t have any close relatives and his estate was going up for auction.

So, we were tasked with tearing everything out of his home and identifying items that had value to place inside “Auction” boxes, while the rest would be tossed in “Trash” boxes. I was excited about spending an afternoon doing service work with a group of friends.

I was not prepared for what I was about to face in this dusty little house somewhere in west Texas. It was immediately unsettling to step into a stranger’s bedroom and try to assign value to his possessions. Should we really be digging through his drawers trying to decide if any of the tiny bits remaining of his life were of any value now that he was gone? The truth hurt, as I was forced to admit that almost none of it had any value.

No one would want to buy an old deck of cards or a worn sweater. There’s no value in VHS tapes or water-damaged paperbacks. The “Trash” boxes grew heavy. The “Auction” boxes sat mostly empty.

I was already rattled by the experience when halfway through I opened a closet in a guest bedroom and found a stack of banker boxes. Inside I uncovered something that made my heart freeze.

I’m shuddering as I write this. The boxes were filled with several old photo albums.

I was tempted right then to just throw the entire cursed things in the trash without ever opening them. But I couldn’t do it. I was drawn by the mystery of those albums. They were covered in dusty fingerprints as if a ghost had prepared them and then led me to find them. And they were now pulling me gently down, begging me to open the covers and to be a witness of what was inside.

Inside I found a man’s life, compartmentalized into a stack of images, bound together in leather books. Photos.

At first of a young boy. Black and white. Faded. Surrounded by strange people. Happy. Brothers together in a field. A sister with long black hair. A dog on a porch somewhere. As I turned the pages, I watched as the boy grew. His hair became longer. He became a young man. He grew a mustache. It went away. Sometimes he was in the pictures. Sometimes the pictures were a vision seen through his eyes.

I saw what he saw. I saw what he valued and found beautiful. Stones. Light. Shadows. And then, suddenly, as if conjured from those stones and shadows, he was joined by a young woman. She was also beautiful. Flowing brown hair and brown eyes. Always seeming caught mid laughter. I could hear her. I still hear her. It was haunting. I fell in love with her, or rather, I fell in love with the way he had fallen in love with her. It was a love that caught in my throat.

They grew. Held hands. Were married. I smiled, seeing their joy as they stood together at the altar. My heart nearly stopped seeing her in her simple white dress, as if this man had possessed my body and was looking at these photos with me, through my eyes, one last time.

Time passed as I sat cross-legged on the floor meditating over the albums.

I heard my friends as they banged around in the kitchen and elsewhere struggled to move a dusty red couch from the living room, but I sat solemnly in the closet desperately looking at every picture in the dead man’s album. I felt torn. I could not look away.

So, I hid, and I forced myself to look at each and every picture.

I turned the pages, and the young man and the young woman grew old.

Here was a happy couple standing together at a white fence in front of a small house somewhere in west Texas, him in a tan fedora and matching suit coat, her in a dark green dress. Here was a woman on the porch drinking tea watching the sunset. There was a speckled dog sitting on the porch beside her.

Time passed so quickly as I turned the pages. It felt unfair as if I were hurrying their life on to its conclusion. The couple stood together and smiled at me apologetically from an old polaroid. I kept going.

There were no children. Only various friends. Side characters appeared for a time and then disappeared at random as new ones arrived. But always it was the two of them, the man and the woman. Adam and Eve standing in their dusty garden around a flowering Creeping Thyme.

The sun flickered in spirals across the pages. And then suddenly it happened. The woman, the beautiful woman, she started to change quicker than the man.

Her eyes became sad. Her laughing smile became less frequent. She looked tired. There were no more trips to the Grand Canyon. No more summer drives and picnics in the forest.

She was dying.

And then I turned a page and she was gone. There were still several more albums of this man’s life, but from that point on he was alone.

Instead of this beautiful laughing woman, he took pictures of stray cats. Instead of posing with her in front of motels on some blazing yellow-tinted adventure, he took photos of the moon over a dark house shrowded in purple twilight.

The man was less visible in the images now. As if he were already fading out of existence.

Sometimes he showed up in mirrors or reflections in dirty shop windows. An old man in a tan fedora, alone, in a house, somewhere in west Texas.

I closed the last album and sat for a long time on the closet floor, resting my head back against the wall.

My fingers burned with the realization of what they had to do next. It was time to make the choice about where the photo albums should go. Where was this man’s life going to be placed? Did it have value or was it “trash”? The answer to the question hung over my head like a sword.

I closed my eyes, replaced the lid of the box, and put it back in the dark corner where I had found it. I couldn’t do it. I quietly closed the closet door and walked away.

Later I returned to help some friends move a dresser from the same room and out the corner of my eye I saw where a shaft of light now fell onto a blank patch of carpet in the corner. The photos were gone. Maybe they had never actually even been there.

I thought about this as I helped maneuver the heavy dresser through the now empty ribcage of the home.

As we were preparing to leave, we were met in the yard by the person from the state that had called us to help. They thanked us for our efficient work.

I just stared at the ground in shame watching a cloud of ants as they carried away bits of something hidden in a tuft of nearby grass. We were ants. I shook my head. No. We were vultures.

As payment for our work, we were told that we could take one item from any of the “Auction” boxes to keep for ourselves. My coworkers leaned their heads into the cardboard tombs and somberly held treasures up to the sun.

They playfully fought over who could take the old jewelry that looked as though it hadn’t been worn in years (Only I knew how many). One boy took a heavy flashlight, another took a pocket knife.

I waited, uneasy with the whole ghoulish activity, and as I waited I wander through the ocean of “Trash” boxes. I ran my hands over the items with a reverence that I did not fully understand.

I felt like I knew this man, and it humbled me that I may be the only living person on Earth that did.

Was it possible that I was the only person to contain the knowledge of him, the only one to watch him grow from a young boy into a man, the only person to watch from a distance as he fell in love, the only person that saw him as he watched his love die?

I was a stranger, but I had, by strange chance, followed him through his life watching as his life boiled and dissolved down to a small collection of silent images, preserved and rifled through in the course of 30 minutes time by some young boy hired to erase him. That alone would be the gift, I decided. Just carrying the memory of this man secretly inside my soul. That is all I would take with me.

But then I passed a box full of black garbage bags and something caught my eye. I froze in place. I was suddenly unable to even breathe. With a trembling hand, I reached deep into the pile of discarded debris and touched it. It was real.

A tan canvas fedora. The same exact tan canvas fedora that I had seen this man wear so often in photos that it had almost become a part of him. It was in the pictures with his wife, and it was in the years that follow. This hat had gone with him.

I held it gently by the brim and lowered it onto my head. It wasn’t a perfect fit, but it somehow felt right. It felt, providential. I felt like something quiet and sad had led me to find it and now that it was on my head there was a change in the air. There was contentment.

I slowly walked back to meet up with my group as they waited to climb into the van. As I stood in line with them I stopped for a moment and turned around.

I was standing just inside the gate of a white picket fence on a paved walkway leading to a small house somewhere in west Texas. I turned to look at the house one last time, I adjusted my hat, then I closed the gate and left.

I wore that hat for the next ten years of my life.

It traveled with me around the world. I was yelled at once by a Ukrainian woman for placing it on the ground in a park. And I nearly caught it on fire by foolishly hanging it on a lamp in Mexico City. It was on my head as I climbed to Machu Pichu and it ducked through a stone doorway with me as I explored the Coliseum of Rome. And I was wearing it at the airport in Kiev as I waited for the plane carrying the woman that would later become my wife, and I held it behind her back in the rain a few days later as we kissed under the watchful eye of Lenin.

I have albums of pictures hidden away and I’m proud to say that this old canvas hat shows up in it often. I stopped wearing it around the time that my first daughter was born.

It was starting to get dingy and show its seams and there was something that felt disrespectful about that. So, one day I took it down off its hook and I walked to the shed and placed it in the box where I save my most loved possessions.

Someday, perhaps a long time from now, a young boy might open the lid of that box and find an old canvas hat and then ... who knows? 

— @PajamaStew


1. If this is going to be the last post, there has to be a silly footnote, right? So, I ask, what fresh hell is this, Fisher-Price?

Sunday, November 21, 2021

From the readers: Karloff, Garland, Ormsby, Merril & lots of spooky stuff

As we tumble toward Thanksgiving, here's another batch of your always-appreciated comments on Papergreat posts:

Mild Fear 2021 debuts with Boris terrifying Buster: Commenting on Facebook, Dad writes: "Pure comedy. Probably wouldn’t make the headlines today. People need something to enjoy and laugh at. But then, people are too serious and wound too tight to be able to let out air and live."

Halloween Countdown #14: Live Mystery Egg: When I put this 2011 post up on Twitter again, author A.G. Pasquella (@agpasquella) noted: "It's so strange the kind of animal isn't listed anywhere in the ad! Then again, Sea Monkey ads never mentioned brine shrimp, so I guess it's in keeping with comic book advertising."

Mystery vintage postcard: "Haunted House" near Delaware, Ohio: And when I reshared this 2016 post on Twitter during October, author Chris Woodyard (@hauntedohiobook) provided this additional information: "Perhaps the only structure left at 'Robinson House,' a lavish mansion built by an artistic 'pirate' on the banks of the Scioto. He vanished, leaving behind rumors of treasure. The site is haunted by the ghost of a young Spanish woman. I wrote about it in Haunted Ohio III."

From the Rare Dust Jacket Files: Hucca's Moor by Manning-Sanders: Desmond Banks emailed in September to identify the cover artist of this novel: "Thank you for your Papergreat website. The dust wrapper was the work of my grandfather, William Nicholson, See page 229 of William Nicholson: The Graphic Work by Colin Campbell (Barrie & Jenkins, 1992)."

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris: Wheels Go Round asks: "Isn't it far more likely that she died in childbirth?"

My response: "There's nothing in the scant news clippings to support that she died in childbirth. And if she did, the child died too, without even being listed as a stillborn death anywhere. So I'm not sure about that hypothesis."

Spinnerin selling the privileged yarn-based lifestyle in 1963: Tom from the dandy Garage Sale Finds blog writes: "re: The cover. What the heck is going on there? Tide rising? Flooding? They'd better not get those knitted sweaters wet. They'll shrink!"

Vintage chipmunk postcards and the love of nature's critters: Joan writes: "This post was exactly what I needed on a bleary-eyed morning."

Postcrossing roundup: Early autumn 2021: Joan, postcard & notecard designer extraordinaire, writes: "Thank you so much for introducing me to one of my favorite things this year."

Sci-fi book cover: "The Best of Judith Merril": Brian Busby of The Dusty Bookcase writes: "Judith Merril is a name from my pre-adolescence. I'd never read her until a few years ago, after coming across an inexpensive first edition of her debut, Shadow on the Hearth (1950). An early Cold War novel set largely in the aftermath of a nuclear explosion in Manhattan, it isn't so much about the death and destruction, rather how the government and select citizens exploit the ensuing chaos. "Atomic Attack," the 1954 The Motorola Television Hour adaptation, captures much more than one might expect of the novel. Both are recommended. Looking back through my notes, I see I described Shadow on the Hearth as my most memorable read of 2017 in the pages of the Montreal Gazette. I think they were expecting a new book, but who is to say it isn't contemporary. I'm happy to learn of this collection, Chris. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. You've reminded me that I meant to read more Merril. I've just ordered a copy."

Postcard: House on the Rock in autumn: Wendyvee writes: "This has been on my 'to do' list for a very long time. That increased all the more with American Gods."

Where does this Kodak snapshot rank on the Mild Fear scale? Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes, regarding the Halloween mask: "That's a good one. I checked the archives (aka Google) and couldn't find any that matched it. It's amazing how many variety of witch masks Collegeville and Ben Cooper produced."

Vintage classroom poster that sparks mild fear: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "Wow, that's dark. The kid would have made it if he hadn't chosen to perform his mime routine 'Pulling a Rope' in the middle of the road."

Snapshot & memories: Kitchen at Willow Street house in Montoursville: jhkh writes: "Hi! I was digging around Facebook and found your pic of the Lyter fire engine. [Note from me: More on that at the end of this post.] ... I was at Lyter from 72-77. I wanted to find a pic of the Lyter 'spider' playground equipment and this led me back to your blog here via a Google search. Then I found this post about Willow Street. I grew up on Pine Street near the intersection on the other end of Willow from your place. My parents still live there! Fun memories."

Kicking off Halloween with a postcard mailed 100 years ago: Anonymous writes: "I live in the house that was the summer home of the Silliman family and, eventually, Mary's home until her death. What a fun thing for me to find so long after you posted it!"

Saturday's postcard: RPPC with family, jack-o'-lantern and cat: Tom from Garage Sale Finds asks: "I'm wondering about that Jack O' Lantern. It has a handle. Is that a real pumpkin they put a handle on? Or is that a metal (or other) fake pumpkin?"

My response: "That's a great question. There was a jack o'lantern with a handle in an old photo the other day, too. I have to think that 100 years ago, it was typical to rig up some kind of homemade handle on real carved pumpkins, because I doubt the mass-produced ones we're familiar with today were either widespread or inexpensive. But it would be interesting to investigate further."

Do you want to hear something REALLY scary? Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "I never had these records, but really wanted them, particularly this one that was advertised in the back of comic books: The scariest recording I can think of (at least scary to me at the time) was on one of Leonard Nimoy's 'In Search of...' episodes where a team of ghost hunters made recordings from tombstones in a cemetery. I recall one EVP that said, 'I'm scared.' The idea of a ghost being scared really bothered me as a kid. Thanks, Leonard."

1977 children's book about actual (maybe) haunted house: Tony Zimnoch writes: "Great Blog! I just found you! I have given you a plug on mine. Keep Up The Good Work! Best Wishes from Tony."

Saturday's postcard: Japanese girls imitate the three wise monkeys: Commenting on this 2012 post, Marnie writes: "Hi Chris, I'm a Japanese researcher specializing in modern culture and ran across this webpage. Let me explain about the Japanese text, though it may be too late. The text is written in the old character form of Japanese, from right to left. It says 'Union Postale Universelle Postcard,' the same thing as in French, unfortunately."

Judy, a black cat and a ghost book:
 Commenting on this 2014 post, Ken from Dublin writes: "Just saw the photo on 'Pointless,' the British game show. Couldn't find the book either, though there is a book of the same title from 2012. I wonder was it's title inspired by this photo."

Alan Ormsby's 1970s: Summoning zombies and a Scholastic book: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "This is such a great book. I got from my classroom library in 2nd grade (and kept it, but that's another story). I tried to use the makeup tips in the book to create my Halloween costume in 4th grade, but I didn't come out looking like the kids in the book. I still had fun though."

And Bob writes: "I enjoyed your article, and thank you for the shout-out to our Jillian & Addie channel (this is their father, Bob). Alan Ormsby certainly is an interesting man! Happy Halloween!"

Eight awesome things you'll never find inside e-books:
Commenting on this 2013 post, Anonymous writes: "I worked at Ell's in the 1960s assisting Mr. Ell Senior and can remember his reliance on Englishmen to manage the store's leading departments, like Toys and Books. It was an enjoyable period of employment."

10 postcards showing Atlantic City as you've probably never seen it: Miranda Reitz writes: "I have 2 varieties of these postcards, one is the ocean scene showing Traymore, Chalfonte, and Haddon hall as shown in the photo, and the other is view from Ventor pier. I have quite a few of each, and none of them were ever circulated. I'm looking to try and find what their value is, if possible? If anyone can help give me an idea of worth, I'd be appreciative! (And if anyone is interested, feel free to contact me!)"

Snapshot & memories: Relocated fire engine in Montoursville: Finally, after this blog post went up on Sept. 11, people continued to share memories and photos of the fire engine and the stagecoach on my Facebook crowdsourcing post. Here are some of them:

  • "Was a staple on the Lyter Elementary playground! Fell off of that and got hurt many a times. Baseball players could also become legendary for hitting balls over the 'fire truck' from the Little League field. Lol. Awesome memories! Ty for sharing."
  • "I played on this fire truck at Lyter when I was a kid. This playground truck brings all of us memories of our youth."
  • And Chris Palmer shared these pictures from mid-1970s Lyter Elementary School yearbooks:

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Fun at the New York World's Fair in 1965, Part 1

This week I'm going to share a few illustrations from inside "Fun at the Fair ... where and how to find it," a 4-inch-by-8-inch staplebound brochure that Bell Telephone Company distributed for the second year of the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. (For a bunch of past World's Fair posts, click on the label down below.)

A disclaimer on the third page states: "This booklet is distributed free by your Bell Telephone Company. It is not for sale. Rates, schedules, etc., given here are based on the best available information at the time of printing. Naturally no promise of accuracy can be made, since there may very well be unanticipated changes later on. To prevent inconvenience it is suggested that you phone ahead to verify any information that may be important to your plans."

The information number to call 56 years ago was (212) 888-1212. It doesn't appear as if that New York City number is for anything special anymore.

Anyway, here's the first series of illustrations. It shows a very 1960s white American family using telephone technology to plan a family excursion in a snazzy sports car. Note that Dad has a pipe in every illustration. And a bow tie.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Book cover: "COMPUTE!'s Guide to Adventure Games"

  • Title: COMPUTE!'s Guide to Adventure Games
  • Additional cover text: "A comprehensive guide to designing, writing, and playing computer adventure games. Includes 'Tower of Mystery' a ready-to-type-in adventure  game for virtually any home computer, as well as reviews of many popular commercial games."
  • Author: Gary McGath
  • Cover designer: Unknown
  • Publisher: COMPUTE! Publications, Inc., one of the ABC Publishing Companies, Greensboro, North Carolina
  • Year: 1984
  • Pages: 203
  • Format: Spiral-bound paperback
  • Cover price: $12.95 (That was very pricey for 1984! The equivalent of more than $32 today. I reckon they figured that everyone who dabbled in home computers in the 1980s had money.)
  • My experience with this book: I've had this book since it was purchased during a visit that Dad and I made to a small computer store in Pinellas County, Florida, in either 1984 or 1985, when we were living in Largo. I think Mom and I must have tag-teamed typing the six-page BASIC program listing, "Tower of Mystery," into our Commodore Plus/4, because I wrote some marginalia on those pages stating "NOTE: WHEN A LINE BEGINS WITH REM YOU DON'T HAVE TO COPY IT." Mom and I were playing some Infocom games and a few Scott Adams games during this time, and we were happy to have another short text adventure to play.
  • About Gary McGath: He still has many footprints online in autumn 2021. Based in New Hampshire, he's on Twitter (@GaryM03062); he as an author profile page on Goodreads, which indicates that his other books include The Magic Battery, Yesterday's Songs Transformed: A Historical Tour of Song Rewriting; and Files That Last: Digital Preservation for Everygeek; and he has at least two webpages: and I like this statement from McGath atop one of those websites: "Words are the most powerful things on Earth. Words change everything. They keep our knowledge alive. They let us stay in touch with each other. They can convey beauty. They give us four of the best things in life: talking, listening, reading, and writing."
  • Chapter titles: Stories in Software, What Makes a Good Adventure?, Infocom Adventures, Scott Adams Adventures, Sierra On-Line Adventures, More Adventures, Action Adventures, A Field Guide for Frustrated Adventures, How They Work, Doing Your Own, Tower of Mystery: A Simple Adventure Program, The Edge of the Future.
  • Acknowledgments: "Thanks are due to many people for providing information and ideas for this book. Special thanks go to John Baker, Kevin Bernier, Denise Bouley, Stu Galley, Scorpia (for more than just that material that appears under her name here), and especially to master adventurer Steve Wright. In addition, I would like to thank the many members of the CompuServe Game SIG who have widened my knowledge of adventuring."
  • Dedication: "This book is dedicated to all the creators of new worlds."
  • First sentence from introduction: "One of the major fringe benefits of working in MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science in 1976 was being close to ARPAnet."
  • And what was cool about ARPAnet? As McGath continues: "One of the most popular programs that we received over ARPAnet was a new game, by Will Crowther and Don Woods, called Adventure. I was hooked from that start and spent many weekends at the lab trying to find my way through the Hall of Mists, past the Troll Bridge, and out of the maze of twisty little passages."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: "Remember, no matter what the program does, don't let them have that number!" [McGath is describing the 1982 game Prisoner 2.]
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: "If prefiltering reveals no problems, the next step is to call the action routine for the particular verb token."
  • Goodreads rating: 4.6 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2011, Kevin Rubin wrote: "I bought this book in 1984, and I've been carrying it around the world with me since then, I took it to college, I took it to the big city when I got my first job, I took it to India when my job took me there and I still have it on my nearby bookshelf in New York City. It's not particularly useful now, but as it was the first computer book I ever bought, I'm quite attached to it."
  • Amazon rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2014, Marek wrote: "Book is very good (if you put it in its proper time era context) in introducing the reader to the genre as well as teaching about the basics and more advanced elements of the text adventure game design and even introduces the reader to the programming."
  • Another online assessment: In 2017, We Are the Mutants' Brother Bill summarized the book, chapter by chapter, with a few of his thoughts added in.
  • Final note on text adventures: If you want to take a deep, fascinating dive into the history of text adventure games right up to present day, I recommend Aaron A. Reed's "50 Years of Text Games" Substack, a yearlong series that is heading into the home stretch. It has covered The Oregon Trail, Hunt the Wumpus, Super Star Trek, Zork, Pirate Adventure, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Photopia and much more. Reed's main website is

Saturday's postcard: Le Trocadéro in Paris

Here's an E. Le Deley postcard with a front view of a long-gone structure in Paris, France, that I first mentioned in a post way back in July 2012

The Palais du Trocadéro existed in full from 1878 to 1936. (The postcard I referenced in 2012 called its demolition "a perfect vandalism!!!") According to Wikipedia, "The palace's form was that of a large concert hall with two wings and two towers; its style was a mixture of exotic and historical references, generally called 'Moorish' but with some Byzantine elements. The architect was Gabriel Davioud."

This building was expensive and not well-received. You can read much more about it in this excellent 2019 post titled "The ugliest building in Paris" on the Parisian Fields website.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Football obsession, 60 years ago

This editorial cartoon by Frank Miller, poking fun at the obsession over football, appeared on the front page, above the fold, of the Sunday, November 12, 1961 edition of the Des Moines Sunday Register. Exactly 60 years ago today.

At three columns wide, the cartoon is the main art on the front page, with a two-column-wide head shot of Jean Seberg serving as the only other prominent artistic element. ("Otto got rid of me like a used Kleenex," Seberg states in the article, speaking of director Otto Preminger. Seberg died at age 40 in 1979; her short life with was beset by tragedy and she was the target of viciously unfair treatment.)

This was amid the long heyday of American newspapers. The Register billed itself as "The Newspaper Iowa Depends Upon." Its Sunday edition featured 202 pages spread over 11 sections, for a cost of 20 cents. (The advertising revenue was surely tremendous.)

Miller was a staff cartoonist for the Register from 1953 to 1983 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning in 1963, for his cartoon about the futility of nuclear warfare.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi postcard from Japan

This Postcrossing postcard from Yoshiko, a castle and Moomins fan in Japan, brought some good cheer amid a busy and stressful workweek. 

It features the work of Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861). Yoshiko writes, "This card is an ukiyo-e print. ... It's unusual to draw a cat. She is brushing her's [sic] cat's hair. I hope you like it."

Ukiyo-e, which dates to the 17th century, is a style of woodblock prints and paintings. The term itself translates to "pictures of the floating world," which is quite beautiful. You can see many examples of this colorful style of art on Wikipedia.

Kuniyoshi's ukiyo-e subjects included cats, women, actors, landscapes and mythical creatures. He made this amazeballs triptych titled "Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Spectre." Imagine having a large print of this on your wall!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Dandy movie posters: "Nashville" and "Licorice Pizza"

First up, I love Robert Altman's 1975 film Nashville, and I also love the design of this particular German-language poster for the movie.
I first introduced to Nashville by a few of my Spartanburg Herald-Journal co-workers in the late 1990s, with it serving as a background movie for our card-playing. Honestly, it didn't make much of an impact on me at the time. But other viewings over the years, minus any focus on a crappy hand of cards, have paid rich dividends. It's an amazing film; a little bit of a miracle, even. 

It seems that Paul Thomas Anderson's newest film, Licorice Pizza, may have a bit of Nashville in its veins. I've been torn between wanting to know more about it and wanting to avoid too many spoilers. (And I've already read a few.) Today was the day that reviews, impressions and spoilers could first be posted on social media, so I think I might have to stay off @Papergreat on Twitter and the movie websites until after the national release on Christmas Day. It's not immediately clear how I'm going to manage that feat, though.

I did like this spoiler-free collection of thoughts on the Licorice Pizza from Rodrigo Perez (@YrOnlyHope). He wrote:
"If you consider PTA Altman PTA and Kubrick PTA (1st & 2nd halves of his career), then #LicoricePizza is like an early PTA Altman movie made by a later PTA Kubrick. Warm, nostalgic, romantic and affectionate, but cinematically ok with just hanging out and just vibin’

Maybe you could call it a Master-like pace.

In that sense it reminds me of Hal Ashby the most and true Altman (Boogie Nights is actually more coked up and Scorsese and Altman was never that keyed up as his early movies)

In a sense it’s much more Inherent Vice than it is Boogie Nights, minus the density of that film and the Zuckerberg jokes. It’s a PTA film that could potentially divide as much as IV did and there’s something exciting about it.

I’m still processing, but it’s largely great, if languid and baggy in spots (like a Long Goodbye), but Alana Haim is just luminous and outstanding.

Anyhow, it’s a film that don’t fit into one tweet, feels like 3 hrs, is sprawling, but still largely terrific."
That made all the sense in the world to me, and makes it sounds like Licorice Pizza might be Paul Thomas Anderson channeling Nashville through his own unique vision, sense of humor and style. Which sounds perfect. As is this poster.

Superstition connection from nearly 40 years ago

We have old Adams/Ingham/Otto postcards tucked into different corners of the house here in Florence, Arizona, but it was still a surprise when Joan came across this coincidental family postcard the other day while writing and mailing out her own delightfully decorated cards and postcards to various parts of the globe.

In March 1982, my grandmother, Helen Chandler Adams Ingham (1919-2003), received this postcard at her house in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. It shows the Superstition Mountains, which I can see to our north if I walk a few blocks to the edge of the development. And it was postmarked in scenic Sedona, Arizona, which we visited back in early July (see a couple of pics below).

I'm not sure who the WTL's are, but they seemed to enjoy this part of Arizona back in the day. In March 1982, I was living in Montoursville, Pennsylvania, and surely had no notion I'd find myself living in The Copper State some day.

My July 2021 Sedona pictures...

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Mystery RPPC: Century-old class photo

Here's an old real photo postcard featuring a school class photo from what was likely a one-room schoolhouse, in Somewhere U.S.A., some year. It's a Kruxo RPPC with no stamp box on the back. So I think that roughly puts it between 1910 and 1920. There's no writing on the back, and thus we know zilch about who these kids are.

It's always interesting to zoom in and examine the faces of all these children and wonder about how their lives unfolded. After doing that, this is a good place to start if you want to check out more RPPCs on Papergreat.

Climate crisis postcard from Germany

As the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference continues in meeting rooms in Glasgow, Scotland, and environmental activists continue their urgent marches and speeches in the streets outside those meeting rooms, I received this postcard with a scene of simple natural beauty this week from a fellow Postcrosser in Germany. 

The self-described "plantmom," vegan and zero-waste proponent wrote:
Hello from Germany! I hope we can create such a world before it's 10° C too late. The earth time is running out so fast. I hope politicians and rich people realize that money can't fix the problems with climate change. But I have hope in younger people, they don't take the shit anymore they have to live with. Wishing you happiness and health. 

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Movie posters for Agnès Varda's "Le Bonheur"

Just a short post today to share some of the amazing international posters for Agnès Varda's acclaimed 1965 film "Le Bonheur" (Happiness). It's one of the best films I've watched this year, and I'll be thinking about it for a long time.

I don't want to say anything about the plot, because if you have the opportunity to see it unspoiled, please do so. After you've seen it, a few interesting links you might wish to check out are this one by Abby Monteil, this one on the film's use of music by Adam Scovell, and this extensive, insight-filled photo essay on The Cine-Tourist.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Postcard for Haag's Hotel in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania

After all that Mild Fear, it's time for some food. Komm Esse states this postcard, which translates to "Come eat!" It's for the big spread at Haag's Hotel in Shartlesville, Pennsylvania.

Shartlesville, in a middle-of-nowhere spot just off Interstate 78 in Berks County, used to be quite the tourist spot, as it was also home to now-disassembled-and-gone model train layout extravaganza Roadside America (from which I have a big souvenir on my wall. I'll write more about that place before calling it quits on regular Papergreat postings.)

Haag's Hotel was also apparently quite the spot for good eats. The current building is what was rebuilt by Albert Jacob Haag in 1915 after a fire, according to

Retro Roadmap visited Haag's in 2012, and this is part of what Mod Betty had to say:
"While their website indicates they do technically have some hotel rooms for rent, it’s probably more well known for its PA Dutch breakfast that includes '15 or more dishes from which you may eat all you can' – do I know how to make Retro Roadhusband happy or what? While RRH was busy seeing if he could eat ALL that scrapple (yep. He did.) I ate my fill of bacon and then was off snapping photos of the grand interior, which can seat up to 350!"
Indeed, banquets were part of the hotel's business model, according to the information on the back of this Dexter Press/J.E. Reppert postcard:

Shartlesville, Pa. 19554
Shartlesville (Center of Town), Pennsylvania, 45 miles East of Harrisburg. Leave U.S. 22 (Interstate 78) at Shartlesville Exit. Telephone Bernville 215-488-6692. Open Daily, Sundays and Holidays. Closed Xmas. Pennsylvania Dutch Family Style Meals served from 11:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. Standard Time. Air-Conditioned. We cater to banquets and bus groups.
Writing on Berks County Eats in 2016, Zach Brown also noted that Haag's Hotel was known for its collection of more than 200 ducks: "The ducks are everywhere. Stuffed. Wooden. Plastic. Rubber. From the moment you walk through the door, you can’t escape them. They’re on the wall. They’re on the window sills. There are even wicker napkin holders shaped like ducks on every table."

Yes, I wrote was known. The hotel closed on December 23, 2017, according to the Reading Eagle, and was put up for sale in January 2018. It hasn't reopened.

I found a bundle of photo posts with memories of Haag's Hotel on public Facebook pages (one nice thing Zuckerberg's site is good for):

One person reminisced: "I was last there a few years ago, before they closed. When I was younger it was one of my grandmothers favorite places to go. We used to make it a day by going to Roadside America, and more recently Cabela’s. Last time there the food was not what it used to be and the sweets and sours on the table family style were limited to 3 items. Just not the same."

On another page, I found that someone recently sold an original Haag's Hotel porch stick chair dating to around 1915. Here's a picture:
Getting back to this postcard, it was addressed to a woman in South Nyack, New York, but there's no postmark or year indicating when it was written/mailed. This is the cursive note:
"Thurs. Eve — Drove all day in the rain — Had dinner here & stayed in this Dutch Motel where we stayed 3 yrs ago  — Home tomorrow & I will be glad  —  Love Edith & John"

Sunday, October 31, 2021

1963 cover from "Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery" comic book

Happy Halloween! Mild Fear 2021 began on October 1 with Boris Karloff, so we'll bookend it nicely with this post about the horror icon. According to, "The Boris Karloff Tales of Mystery comics were originally published in the 1960s in a series of 97 issues by Gold Key. Each issue contained approximately 6 original stories featuring Boris Karloff. There were additional stories, puzzles and games in each issue, all in vibrant color by wonderful artists of the day."

This is the 12-cent July 1963 issue, which was No. 4 in the series. I wrote about one of its advertisements in April of this year

Regrettably, my online searching could not discover the name of the artist who deserves credit for this wonderful cover illustration. Perhaps someone else out there knows; there are a lot of experts on comic book history. I did find a great post on Tony Isabella's blog about issue that follows this, #5. For that one, he identifies the cover artist as George Wilson. But I don't know if Wilson also did this one.

So, that's a wrap. I'll leave you with these thoughts from Mr. Karloff...

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Alan Ormsby's 1970s: Summoning zombies and a Scholastic book

Alan Ormsby, now 77, has had quite a career. He wrote or co-wrote movies as diverse as The Little Dragons and My Bodyguard (both of which I watched ad nauseam on HBO in the early 1980s), Porky's II, the Michael Keaton ice hockey romantic comedy Touch and Go, and the 1982 remake of Cat People (which is stylish, but skip it and watch the 1942 original). His other writing credits include a few episodes of the TV series Nash Bridges

Ormsby's only significant acting credit, meanwhile, is a big one in the realm of cult horror movies. He plays the obnoxiously dressed and mannered lead character in the 1972 zombie film Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (see the 2013 Papergreat post "Which movies gave you the biggest fright?"). His character in that movie, pictured at right, is so despicable that there are cheers at the end when he gets his comeuppance at the hands (and jaws) of the undead. 

Also in the 1970s, Ormsby was the creator of Kenner's Hugo: Man of a Thousand Faces doll, which was kind of a do-it-yourself Lon Chaney Sr. makeup set, except that the doll looked like Ed Harris after a bad acid trip. One of the places Hugo lives on these days is in the adventures of Jillian and Addie over on YouTube.

In addition to all of this, Alan Ormsby authored a Scholastic Book Services book in 1975. Which brings us to this post. The nonfiction book is titled Movie Monsters, with the subtitle "Monster Make-Up & Monster Shows to put on." Ormsby further explains the book's approach in a note to the readers on the copyright page:
"Movie Monsters has three parts: The Greatest Movie Monsters — for your delight, information, and reference, page 3; How to Make a Monster, including make-up and recipes for monsters, page 29; and How to Put on Monster Shows, page 63. Happy Ghouling!"


Ormsby absolutely knows his stuff. Part 1 starts with Chaney Sr. and works its way to explaining the magic behind the Universal classic monsters. Ormsby showers make-up artist Jack Pierce with deserved credit for the success of Frankenstein's monster and other horror icons. (Coincidentally, Ashar and I watched a documentary about Pierce earlier this month as one of the extra features on The Mummy Blu-ray.)

Ormsby quickly works his way up to 1972's Blacula, writing:
"As portrayed by actor William Marshall, Blacula is as much victim as villain: He was transformed into a vampire because he asked Count Dracula to sign a petition which would abolish slavery! Blacula's make-up is more elaborate than earlier vampires. He wears bloodshot contact lenses, and form-fitted vampire fangs (like Christopher Lee) but he also wears heavy black eyebrows and sideburns that grow up to his eyes. Dark make-up has been applied around his eyes and his hairline has been filled in to make it more prominent."
In the second section of the book, Ormsby discusses his own history with make-up effects. There's an adorable picture of him as a vampire at age 12 (which would have been circa 1955). He discusses the importance of light and shadow; safe ways to make warts, blood and scars; and ultimately how kids can transform themselves into Dracula, Blacula, Countess Dracula, the bride of Frankenstein, the phantom, the mummy, the wolfman and more. And there's an emphasis on making sure kids don't get into hot water.
"You will need your parents' approval and cooperation to do some of the make-ups and recipes," Ormsby writes. "In fact, you may need their financial help, so be sure to check with them before you start cooking up monsters. ... Don't 'borrow' your mother's or big sister's make-up materials without their permission. This includes powder puffs." Ormsby also rightly insisted that kids, for health reasons, not use talcum powder. (If only others had been so proactive.)

The final section of Ormsby's Movie Monsters gives tips for putting on a "monster show," be it at school, a carnival, for Halloween, or for whenever. He even gives kids a sample sketch that they can perform or adapt as they see fit. There are directions for including some pretty cool special effects in the production, too, including a disappearing ghost, a floating head and spooky sound effects

All in all, it's a nifty and creativity-encouraging book. I can see why there's so much nostalgia for it in comments on Amazon and Goodreads. Some excerpts:

  • In 2007 on Goodreads, Don Roff wrote: "This book gave me the courage -- at a young age -- to hoist my love-of-monsters freak flag high for all to see. I used to make myself up as Dracula or the Wolf Man and prowl around the Saturday-night neighborhood, growling at unwary pedestrians through the hedges. The book is probably a big reason why I work in the film industry -- it was a look-behind-the-curtain peek at magic world of monster movies."
  • In 2012 on Amazon, James E. Transue III wrote: "I picked up this book when I was in grade school - probably at one of those book fairs they have. I loved it and read the instructions over and over. I memorized the 'monster show' in the back. To use the vernacular of that time, it was awesome!"
  • In 2014 on Amazon, R.M. Ries wrote: "I have loved this book since I was 7 years old."
  • In 2009 on Goodreads, John Young wrote: "I wrote a will at age 8 which specified that this book was to be buried with me. It was a life-changer!"
  • In 2013 on Goodreads, Michael wrote a long review that concluded: "I guess I have to say thank you, Alan Ormsby, for adding so much pleasure to both my childhood and my childish adulthood."

The book's illustrations, by the way, were also by Ormsby.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Em Emberley's psychedelic children's witch book illustrations

Ed Emberley (born 1931) is fairly well known among those of us in Generation X because his books made us laugh and helped us learn to draw when we were kids. Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces (1975), with its step-by-step instructions for every character a kid could possibly dream up, is one that I especially remember. But it was just one of many. He had a Big Green Drawing Book, A Big Red Drawing Book, Drawing Book of Animals, and many others, including a Drawing Book of Weirdos, with his interpretations of the classic Universal monsters on the cover.

Emberley has also illustrated books for others, and earlier this year I came across Suppose You Met a Witch, which he illustrated for author Ian Serraillier (1912-1994) in 1973. Emberley's intense, psychedelic illustrations steal the show in this short children's book. It's like Yellow Submarine meets Bonnie MacLean — yes, I know I still have to do the post about her — meets Peter Max. All within a disturbing fairy tale.

It's a fairly difficult book to come across, though I suspect that's more due to folks who have a copy not wanting to surrender it. In late 1973, The New York Times children's editors selected it as one of the best books of the year, calling Emberley's illustrations are “a tour de force ... [with] rhythms every bit as striking as those in the text.”

Kirkus also gave it a glowing review. Here's an excerpt:
"(Emberley's) flamboyant art nouveau swirls, the sweeping curls and marble-like sea-foamy flames are gracefully spectacular, and his green, gulping witch quite lives up to Serraillier's description of Grimble-grum as 'all willow-gnarled and whiskered head to toe.' Most important, his sensuous ostentation is totally in keeping with the dramatic transformations of the Grimm-based story and the compressed, onomotopoetic extravagance of Serraillier's musical verse."

I'll share a few more images from my copy below. But if you want to check out the entire book, you're in luck. The Haunted Closet blog posted beautiful scans of the whole thing in 2019. It would be wonderful to see a new edition of this published, so that more kids could have it on their shelves.