Saturday, April 17, 2021

Past and present:
Queen Elizabeth II

Been saving this one (and one more) for the somber and historic occasions that were inevitable. This is an undated and unused Kodak Ektachrome postcard printed in Italy and published by Young's Photo Reproductions of London. It features, per the caption on the back, "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II" and "His Royal Highness the Duke of Edimburgh" [sic].


I'm pairing it with this photo that was tweeted today by @PAImages: Queen Elizabeth II, who will turn 95 in a few days, sits alone (because of COVID-19 restrictions) at today's small funeral for her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the 950-year-old royal residence west of London. They were married for 73 years. 

As The Washington Post noted: "The image of a family forced to gather as a small group to say goodbye to a loved one is a shared experience in the brutality of the coronavirus pandemic: Millions of families around the world have had to honor their loved ones under stringent rules and regulations that are designed to keep people apart." 

Past Queen Elizabeth II posts

Saturday's postcard: "Dearest Mother & Emma"

Here's the first old postcard I've purchased in Arizona. I picked it up last night at a modest little shop with mostly coins, plus some other collectibles, in downtown Florence. (Also in Florence at dusk: Many bats.) The friendly proprietor gave me two Eisenhower dollars as change.

The Curt Teich & Co. postcard features the ornate fireplace in the West Lounge at Chicago's Edgewater Beach Hotel, which was built starting in 1915 and demolished between 1969 and 1971. The aforementioned President Eisenhower was among the many famous guests during its heyday. 

The Edgewater was also the site of one of baseball's more ghastly stories. As Wikipedia sums up: "On June 14, 1949, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Eddie Waitkus was shot and nearly killed by an obsessive fan at the hotel, 19-year-old Ruth Steinhagen; this later would be a large part of the inspiration behind Bernard Malamud's novel The Natural." (Barbara Hershey essentially played the role of Steinhagen in the movie version of Malamud's novel.) I recall Phillies color commentator Richie Ashburn, who was a second-year outfielder with the Phillies when Waitkus was shot, talking about this incident during 1980s and 1990s broadcasts.

This postcard is postmarked December 5, 1929, and was mailed from Chicago to Mrs. G.N. Chambers in Lexington, Kentucky. The note, written in neat cursive and shown below, states:
Dearest Mother & Emma
Guess you will be surprised to hear that I am in Chicago. We are here to an Alemite Convention. Will be here until Friday. We are sure having a good time.
Lots of love
You're probably wondering how I got Alemite from that scribbled cursive word. First, I had a lot of failed Google searches for different guesses on the combination of letters. Finally, I searched for Chicago convention Edgewater December 5, 1929. Success! The December 5, 1929, edition of the Chicago Tribune, on Page 26, has a small item labeled "Business Sessions Today." Under "Conventions, Expositions," it notes that Alemite Mfg. Corp. is at Edgewater Beach. 

Alemite is still around today and provides lubrication systems. It was apparently one of the pioneers of the grease gun for automotive service shops. Read more about it here.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

We're going to need to run a correction

From the historical archives for this date, here's the front page of the April 15, 1912, edition of the Santa Cruz (California) News. Mistakes have been made.
Indeed, it was decidedly not the case that "Wonderful wireless saves the Titanic." And the "Monster Ship" was not towed to safety.

This was the next day's newspaper...
The Santa Cruz News was hardly alone in its error. This 2012 article by Debra J. Groom on states: "The early news reported April 15, 1912, about the Titanic disaster was far from correct. Many newspapers across the United States and the world received early word that yes, the ship had hit an iceberg, but no, there were no deaths. Some papers even reported the ship didn’t sink."

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Clayton book attic

One of these days/years I would like to do a mini-series similar to Montoursville 2018 about my childhood memories from the time we lived in Clayton, New Jersey (summer 1978 through late 1980). 

Thus far, my tales of growing up in the little borough in Gloucester County have been sprinkled, often as short asides or footnotes, around many different posts spread over a decade. I've mentioned the cats we adopted while living there; playing with Star Wars figures; the kids' shows we watched on WKBS-TV; watching the Leonard Nimoy-hosted In Search Of... with my friend Michael; Brigantine Castle commercialsplaying The Sinking of the Titanic boardgame; listening to "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" by McFadden & Whitehead; and chunks of Jersey glass that we found in the yard.

But there's no organization to any of it, which makes me a little sad and a little itchy. Little Clayton deserves its own chapter; it was a fascinating and formative part of my childhood.

That said, I'm not going to help matters today, because here's another post about just a tiny slice of growing up in Clayton. I struck me recently that our house, up in its creaky attic, had what essentially served as my first library. 

My first solid memories of going to an actual library are Dr. W.B. Konkle Memorial Library in Montoursville, starting in 1980. In Clayton, I had perhaps a dozen books in my bedoom, I have vague recollections of a bookmobile occasionally passing through, and I got some books — including the late, great Beverly Cleary's Henry Huggins —  from neighborhood yard sales.

The place to browse through books was the attic of our very house.

Let me tell you a bit about that attic. The second floor of the old house had an L-shaped hallway. At the far end — at the top of the L — there was a door on the right. It opened to a semi-steep, half-spiral staircase that curved upward into the spacious attic. If it sounds creepy, it was. We fancied that it was haunted, of course. But that hardly stopped me from going up there often. 

The main room had low shelves (or perhaps they were just propped-up plywood) from one end to the other. And on those shelves were books. Many, many books. These were my parents' books. Books from their own youth. Books from their college days. And books they had accumulated throughout the 1970s. I was born a book browser, and this was my first experience with what would be a lifelong passion of just going through random piles of books and finding almost everything interesting in some way or another.

Many were paranormal-themed paperbacks that Mom had bought and read, and they were right in my 8- and 9-year-old wheelhouse, too (as you might tell from the second paragraph of this post). 

Here's what I remember for certain, 40+ years later: spook-themed books by Hans Holzer and Susy Smith; the distinctive Signet paperback of George Orwell's Animal Farm; several of Harry Kemelman's Rabbi Small novels (Friday the Rabbi Slept Late, etc.); other books compiling Fortean (not a word I knew at the time) vignettes, such as those Strange..., Stranger..., Strangest.... books by Frank Edwards

Other books that were likely up there include: various Ellery Queen paperbacks, J.R.R. Tolkien paperbacks, a copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull (which I believe was required by law for young families in the 1970s), surely some William Shakespeare plays from college, and much more. At some point, my memories begin to conflate with my parents' boxes of books in the attic on Willow Street in Montoursville and the books that ended up in the cellar of the Oak Crest Lane house in Wallingford, after many moves and a divorce. But they were all the same books, right? If they were published prior to 1978 or so, they were very likely in that spooky, sweltering attic in Clayton. Where I first discovered the joy of losing an afternoon to browsing books.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Rediscovered photo of Mitts

Time for some cuteness! Last weekend I stumbled upon this photograph (probably about a decade old) of Mitts, Papergreat's late, great polydactyl assistant. I dearly miss that friendly, book-loving fluffball.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Book cover: "Snowed Up"

  • Title: Snowed Up
  • Author: Rosalie K. Fry (1911-1992)
  • Fry's most famous work: Her 1957 novel Children of the Western Isles was republished in 1959 as The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry. The book served as the basis for the well-received 1994 children's film The Secret of Roan Inish.
  • Illustrator: Robin Jacques!!!
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (An Ariel Book, Weekly Reader Children's Book Club Presents)
  • Year: 1970
  • Pages: 124
  • Format: Hardcover 
  • First sentence: The first small snowflake wavered uncertainly past the window, followed by a little burst of larger flakes.
  • Last sentence: As he spoke, the candle quietly guttered out, bringing their little Christmas to an end.
  • Excerpt #1: "Oh, you lucky dab!" exploded Verity enviously.
  • Excerpt #2: "I don't know whether these things are swedes or turnips or even mangel-wurzels," she said uncertainly. "But, whichever they are, I'm sure they're all right for humans to eat. So that will at least give us a change of food."
  • Mangel-wut now? (1) Swedes are rutabagas. (2) Mangelwurzel (aka mangold wurzel, mangold, mangel beet, field beet, fodder beet or root of scarcity) is another root vegetable. It is primarily considered a fodder crop for livestock.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4.11 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads reviewer description of the plot: In 2018, Hilary wrote: "This was such a good old fashioned children's adventure, you could tell what was coming but that made it all the more fun. Four children are staying with their aunt and uncle in Wales, when disaster strikes the three younger children are sent home in a snowstorm and you can just imagine what happens next!"
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2012, Kathryn wrote: "Aside from one dreamy Christmas-inspired moment towards the end, the magical quotient in the book isn’t quite as high as that found in [The Secret of Ron Mor Skerry]. And for all the danger the Snowed Up children face, the basic tenor of the book is as bright as the sun sparkling on the snow that reaches all the way up to the second floor windows of Pen Mynydd."
  • Rating on Amazon: 5 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2012, "Panda" from the UK wrote: "This book might seem a little dated to todays children (no mobile phones!!!) - however it is a great short adventure and the children are remarkably resourceful in a very tricky situation. A delightful read."
Bonus: Interior illustration by Jacques...