Saturday, May 22, 2021

The strangest piece of ephemera ever to appear on Papergreat?

It's times like these when it really hits home that I have no idea what people of the past were thinking. None. Zilch.

How is it that this piece of ephemera exists??

Now, I'm going to set a rule up front. I am not going to repeat the name of this product in the text of this post. Not because I'm a prude. But because the unseemly spam comments on Papergreat are already out of control — be glad I don't share them with you and that I delete them as quickly as possible. And I don't want to give those evil roving spambots any additional SEO fodder.

So, for this post, we're going to refer to the above product as Express Zing Vegetables

And so I ask, how the criminy did Express Zing Vegetables ever become a real thing? What's the deal, Mr. Bill Long of Apopka, Florida? (Apopka, by the way,  comes from Seminole word ahapopka, which apparently means "potato eating place," a phrase that I also considering not allowing in this post.)

I started by putting the term, ahem, "Express Zing" into

Among the top hits were:
  • "Express Zing" to lure Loch Ness monster — The Journal Herald of Dayton, Ohio (September 1970)
  • Express Zing in spray can — Lexington Herald-Leader (December 1967)
That ended my foray into and also forever changed my image of Nessie.

Just typing plain old "Express Zing" into the Google search bar is a very, very, very bad idea. So I tried some more specific variations, such as "Express Zing Vegetables" and "Express Zing" alongside "Bill Long," which is still rather fraught and likely to put me on a watch list. But these are the things I do for ephemera research.

Sadly, the fraught searches were for naught. 

There was one minor reference. The writer for the website notes, correctly: "A more recent label, but a label actually printed to be used. I have to wonder what they were thinking when designing this one. I doubt if the contents live up to the brand name."

I did, however, find some information about the Bill Long that doesn't mention his history with Express Zing. A November 14, 2004, article by Sandra Mathers in the Orlando Sentinel focuses on Apopka farmer Bill Long's induction into the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

"The former, longtime agri-business leader who plowed through layers of muck around Lake Apopka and carved out a farming domain that spanned nearly 50 years has managed to turn business negatives into pluses. He has not just changed with the times — he has thrived," Mathers writes.

It's a good story about Long's humble start and hard work growing sweet corn, radishes, carrots and other crops in extremely unwelcoming sandy soil.

"It's been a long, wild ride," Long told Mathers.

If only the reporter had asked him about the Express Zing...

P.S.: I was not kidding about Nessie.

Saturday's postcard: Morro Castle in Havana, Cuba

This postcard was mailed from Habana (Havana), Cuba, to Mr. R.E. Jennings in Hollywood, Florida, in April 1926. The 1¢ José Martí stamp is canceled with a postmark that states "COMPRE AZUCAR CUBANO. Buy CUBAN SUGAR."

Morro Castle, pictured on the front of the card, is known in Spanish as Castillo de los Tres Reyes Magos del Morro: Castle of the Three Wise Men of Morro. It was built between 1589 and 1630.

Writing on in 2017, Miriam Psychas observes: "By far my favorite way to enjoy the Morro is at sunset. You can sit on the massive old walls of the castle and ponder the power of this Caribbean jewel under Spanish rule. You can listen to the crashing of the sea against the ocean wall and watch the lights turn on as the sun sinks slowly over Old Havana. You can snap some stunning shots of Havana’s skyline absorbed in purples, pinks, and orange. It is a breathtaking experience, and absolutely worth the trip."

The cursive message on the back of the card states:
Please keep this P.C. for me. The picture does not give you much idea of the immense size of Morro Castle. It's too hot to sleep much at night here. Think we will be back to Hollywood about next Tuesday [?].

Friday, May 21, 2021

WNEP-TV staff from 1975, including Miss Judy

Full disclosure: The reason I wanted to do the series of posts on items in the November 13, 1975, edition of The Scranton Tribune is so I could conclude it with this glorious full-page advertisement for WNEP-TV that's featured on the back page.

I realize this will only resonate with a very specific demographic of people who are both of a certain age and grew up within the area in which Scranton-based WNEP could be picked up on the rabbit ears. That was the case for us in Montoursville in the early 1980s. 

WNEP meant the afternoon silliness of Bowling for Dollars and Dialing for Dollars. And it meant The Land of Hatchy Milatchy every weekday morning with Miss Judy (portrayed by Lois Burns). A 1984 article from The Morning Call of Allentown delves into the reasons why the children's show was such a long-running hit:
"The success of 'Hatchy Milatchy,' which takes its name from a song by Rosemary Clooney, can largely be accredited to this personalization. While Romper Room's hostess may look in her magic mirror and see Kenny and Michael and Jane, Miss Judy roots through the 200 or so letters she receives weekly and tells 4-year-old Benjamin Strohl of Forty Fort he'll find a birthday surprise under the living room sofa or wishes a speedy recovery to little Karen Crenshaw of Pittston, who's home from school with the chicken pox."

Anyway, if you're one of the cool kids who grew up in northcentral or northeastern Pennsylvania during the Miss Judy era, please leave a message in the comments.

And here are closeups of the WNEP-TV gang, including Miss Judy, from the full-page advertisement.

FROM LEFT: Elden Hale, Carol Bogart, Jim Ward, Dick Schorr and J. Kristopher
FROM LEFT: Uncle Ted (horror host and occasional Hatchy Milatchy guest Edwin Raub), John Glawe, Ed Martile, Miss Judy and Mike Stevens
FROM LEFT: Liz Pursell, Bob Carroll and Vince Carroll

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Postcard of a "River Scene" in Michigan

After another long and stressful day of editing and writing about the news and the importance of the truth1, here's a calm, relaxing photograph, in the form of an undated, unused vintage postcard. 

The caption on the front states, "River Scene, Battle Creek, Mich."

Battle Creek is essentially where our our morning corn flakes come from. If you need a nonfiction book recommendation, check out 2017's The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek, by Howard Markel. Or, if you'd like a shorter read that mentions the Battle Creek Sanitarium, see this recent article in The Atlantic about nervous breakdowns by Jerry Useem.

Meanwhile, I do have some questions about this image:
  • Is this actually a river? Or is it a lake? The water looks very still.
  • Are those ducks or geese?
An editor's mind never stops...

1. And the day was capped off by going to the grocery store and seeing a large, unmasked man wearing a T-shirt that read: "The deadliest virus in America is the media." It's available on Amazon, and plenty of other places, I'm sure. Though it turns out people filled with hate are also very picky. Wrote one reviewer: "I love the message on the shirt, but the quality of the shirt is awful."

Monday, May 17, 2021

Book cover: "Snow Above Town" (Armed Services Edition)

  • Title: Snow Above Town
  • Author: Donald Hough (1895-1965)
  • Publisher: Council on Books in Wartime
  • Year: October 1944 as Armed Services Edition N-12 (originally published by W.W. Norton & Company in 1943)
  • Pages: 287
  • Format: Paperback
  • Dimensions: 5¾ inches by 3⅞ inches
  • About Armed Services Editions: The Council on Books in Wartime, which included W. W. Norton of W. W. Norton & Company (publisher of Snow Above Town) and famed critic/scholar Mark Van Doren, was a nonprofit organization formed during World War II. Its primary aim, according to Wikipedia, was "the promotion of books to influence the thinking of the American people regarding World War II, to build and maintain the will to win, to expose the true nature of the enemy, to disseminate technical information, to provide relaxation and inspiration, and to clarify war aims and problems of peace."
But its best-remembered effort was publishing Armed Services Editions of fiction and nonfiction books, which it was able to sell to the U.S. government at a cost of just over 6¢ per volume. The government was, in turn, able to distribute the books to those serving in the military. There were nearly 123 million books, spanning 1,300+ titles, printed.
Regarding the postcard-sized dimensions of the books, Cara Giaimo of Atlas Obscura wrote in 2017 that the "paperbacks [were] specifically designed to fit in a soldier’s pockets and travel with them wherever they went. ... These books improved soldiers’ lives, offering them entertainment and comfort during long deployments."
"Whoever made ‘em hip pocket size showed a stroke of genius!” one soldier wrote, as reported in The New York Times. “I can’t say it’s next to my heart, but it is treasured.”
The books also had a huge side effect: As a hit with soldiers, they popularized the idea (and eventually the outright love) of paperback books in the United States. That was a boon for the book publishing industry (and the reading public!) in the decades after World War II.
For more, check out Giaimo's article, this 2014 Yoni Appelbaum article in The Atlantic and the 2014 Molly Guptill Manning book When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II.

Now back to the book...

  • Excerpt from back cover: Snow Above Town is the cheerful chronicle of a man and his family literally stranded in a valley town in the Grand Teton mountains of Wyoming, from the time the dust clouds settled at the rodeo until the snow came down and marooned the town itself.
  • About the author: Donald Hough was, according to Wikipedia, "an American humorist and author of several books and film scripts." Those film scripts included 1943's Prairie Chickens. The worked as newspaper reporter, wrote for outdoor magazines, did some public relations and advertising work, served as a forest ranger and even tried his hand as an inventor. During World War II, serving as a captain in the U.S. Army Air Force.
  • Dedication: To Berry and Sherwood
  • First sentence: Here in the Western mountains, winter comes down from above, not from the north or east or wherever it seems to come from in flatter places.
  • Last sentence: I push the door gently until I hear the latch click into place.
  • Random sentence from the middle:  We never would have taken on the kitty had we known that kitties sleep all day an dspedn the night coming in and going out.
  • Review of the book: There is very little by way of reviews of Snow Above Town on the usual websites. The original hardcover edition is relatively rare. So here's an excerpt from the 1943 mini-review from Kirkus: "The involuntary exile of the author, his wife Berry, their son Sherwood, in a Wyoming foothills town where they stopped off en route to Mexico, and where the gambling tables got their traveling and budget funds. They learned to love the place, the people and the life and this account in casual, informal manner, traces the discomforts, the delights, and the daily round of the community life. ... The things that go on around him and his way of telling them are contagiously enjoyable. Robust enjoyment here."
The other Armed Services Edition books in my little stack...

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Snapshot & memories: Posing with a Saturn V in 1982

Here's a snapshot — which I improved a bit in Pixlr but which remains blurry — taken during a visit to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston in July 1982. From left are my cousins Jeanette and Steve, yours truly and my sister Adriane.

We are standing in front of the massive Saturn V rocket (super heavy-lift launch vehicle). This historic, 363-foot relic of the "moon shots" arrived at the Space Center in 1977 and, laying on its side, has not moved since. "The passage of time, subjection to Houston humidity and the infiltration of local flora and fauna were not kind to the rocket, degrading it to the point of nearly being destroyed," the space history website collectSPACE reported in a 2007 article.

Eventually, that article continues, enough money was raised for a meticulous two-year restoration of the Saturn V, "including restoring the rocket's original markings down to the smallest decal." Additionally, a climate-controlled building was built around the exhibit, so that such levels of environmental wear would (hopefully) not happen again. 

According to
"There are only three Saturn V rockets on display in the world. The rocket at NASA Johnson Space Center is the only one comprised of all flight-certified hardware. The other two rockets are made of flight hardware, mock-ups and test components. The three segments, called stages, contain the powerful engines needed to lift off, entering orbit to reach the Moon. In total, 13 Saturn V rockets launched into space. ... Flown from 1967 to 1973, the rocket launched 26 astronauts into space with six successful missions landing men on the Moon. Saturn V also launched Skylab, America’s first space station, into orbit in its final mission."

Sadly, I barely remember anything from that visit to the Space Center. At age 11, wearing a Phillies shirt tucked into my shorts and sunglasses, I guess I wasn't interested or inquisitive enough to realize how historic and cool that place was. 

My puny knowledge of space exploration at the time was probably limited to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin; possibly John Glenn; the two Voyager probes; Skylab falling; and the fact that high-profile Space Shuttle missions had begun the previous year with Columbia.

I'm sure I knew nothing of Laika; Yuri Gagarin; the Mercury Seven; Alan Shepard; JFK's moon speech and its intrinsic Cold War context; the preventable Apollo 1 (aka AS-204) tragedy; the scandal behind Soyuz 1 and the death of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov; Saturn V's game-changing debut in 1967; Apollo 13 and the careers of Jim Lovell and Ken Mattingly; the fact that Shepard also walked on moon; and so much more. It's a wonderful thing that we never stop learning.