Saturday, August 7, 2021

100 years ago today in Arizona: "Tombstone town topics tersely told"

Excerpts from the August 7, 1921, edition of the Tombstone Epitaph, "the pioneer newspaper of Cochise County" in Tombstone, Arizona:
  • Saturday evening the coroner's jury at the inquest over the body of Augustine Garcia, found in a 50-foot shaft below town, returned a verdict that the deceased had come to his death accidentally. The body of Garcia was buried yesterday in the city cemetery by the county.
  • A call from W.C.T.U. headquarters has been received by the local club for clothing for the sufferers of the Pueblo flood. Please leave clothing at Mrs. J.S. Chambers' or Mrs. I. Tracey. The box leaves here Friday.
  • Sam Barrow, St. David cattleman, was a visitor today in Tombstone on business. He states that his neck of the woods has enjoyed more than it's [sic] share of rainfall during the past several weeks.
  • The washouts on the state highway wheer [sic] it is reported that three bridges are damaged, the one at Florence, Winkleman and Rillito recalls the fact that floods are no respector of bridges. It also impresses the need of a road from Tucson to Yuma via Ajo over which route no bridges are a necessity.
  • Mrs. Emily Scribner left today for a month's sojourn on the coast, most of the time to be spent in San Francisco.
  • A good sized stream of pure mountain water is flowing down the canyon from the Divide toward Tombstone. It is the largest stream that has run there for over 20 years and is plenty large enough for trout fishing — if the trout were only there — Review.
  • A party of Bisbeeites who were in Tombstone yesterday enroute to Fairbank, on a picnic were caught in a cloudburst and returned back to Tombstone drenched.

A new generation for Castle Amber ... and for Dungeons & Dragons

My son Ashar has taken to reading my old Dungeons & Dragons modules for pleasure, and I can vouch that they're still very fun to read after all these decades. Most recently, Ashar finished Castle Amber (Château d'Amberville), which was written by Tom Moldvay (1948-2007) and published in 1981 by TSR.

That striking artwork on the cover is by Erol Otus, who created numerous iconic D&D illustrations during that era. In an interview with, Otus described his time with TSR from 1979 to 1981: "This was a dream come true, literally. Painting and drawing D&D illustrations for a living. People were all very nice especially Dave Sutherland. He set me up a place to live on the 2nd floor of the Dragon Magazine offices. It was spartan but I didn't mind at all. It was my first time living away from home so I had nothing to compare it to. Later I was offered a room in a house Lawrence Schick and his wife were renting. That place was a real step up. Totally furnished, including a huge basement with a pool table and a workshop space perfect for painting miniatures. Many evenings were spent painting miniatures."

Ashar really dug the plot of Castle Amber, which features a haunted castle, cursed family members, an emphasis on exploration, plenty of ghoulish monsters and good guidance to help dungeon masters keep the players on track — making the adventure challenging, but not impossible.1 We talked about how one plot twist in the module reminded us of the 1945 Boris Karloff film Isle of the Dead, which we watched recently.

D&D has become a bit of a passion for Ashar during the ongoing pandemic, especially as we spent so much time at home throughout 2020. He loves following the Oxventure D&D campaign, a series of YouTube videos and podcasts put together by some very cool folks in the UK.2 There's a great fandom community around Oxventure that spans multiple digital platforms (Discord, for example), adding plenty of +2 modifiers to the fun and friendship levels.3 Ashar and I are looking forward to watching the season finale of The Orbpocalypse Saga together tomorrow morning on YouTube.

"Old" hobbies like the D&D roleplaying campaigns of the 1970s and 1980s have become hip again, bolstered by the available enhancements of the Digital Age. The Oxventure crew is mentioned in a November 2019 article by The Guardian's Keith Stuart titled "'It's cool now': why Dungeons & Dragons is casting its spell again." In that piece, Stuart cites the importance of the Netflix series Stranger Things in D&D's revival and writes:
"YouTube shows and Twitch livestreams have also played a part. Popular channels such as High Rollers, Critical Role and Oxventure feature funny and engaging players undertaking D&D campaigns over multiple episodes, with participants often dressing up and becoming immersed in their characters. These shows present D&D in an accessible format for young digital natives."4
Meanwhile, I enjoy revisting the highlights of D&D past, such as the module Castle Amber, both for nostalgia's sake and for discussions about what elements of fantasy roleplaying from decades ago continue to resonate with the hobby today. And it's incredibly cool that Ashar finds some of that stuff enjoyable, too.

I'm a fan of James Maliszewski's Grognardia blog, which casts itself as "musings and memories from a lifetime of roleplaying." Maliszewski posted voluminously from 2008 to 2012, then took a long break from the blog until the summer of 2020. I share his enthusiasm for the D&D module T1 The Village of Hommlet. And he's also mostly a fan of Castle Amber, writing this in 2008: "Castle Amber has a phantasmagoric, fever-dream quality to it that still holds up. ... It remains a good example of an approach to fantasy gaming that has largely been lost. ... Some of my most cherished gaming memories center around playing it with my friends."

1. Fun fact: Some of the module's plot was inspired by the weird writings of Clark Ashton Smith.
2. The Oxventure crew: Jane is Prudence, a tiefling warlock with the hots for Cthulhu; Luke is Dob, a half-orc bard armed with soothing lullabies; Ellen is Merilwen, a wood-elf druid with an affinity for animals; Mike is Egbert, a dragon paladin; and Andy is the dread pirate Corazón, a human rogue. All of their exploits are guided by Johnny, the expert dungeon master.
3. Some interesting articles specifically about D&D's surge in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic:
4. Also along these lines was a short-lived D&D podcast that I enjoyed listening to on commutes, called "Fate and the Fablemaidens." Rather than thriving during the pandemic, however, it seems that this podcast was sadly scuttled by the understandable pressures of COVID-19 on its talented creators. In a series of tweets on July 24, 2020 (five months after its last episode that February), they stated: "Fablemates, it is after great reflection and with heavy hearts that we say we will not be returning to Alinoch. Our lives have changed in unexpected ways since we last recorded. We are not sure of what our future holds right now, but we are so grateful for the journey we have taken with all of you. Truly, this community has been both humbling and transformative. Although our story stops here, we pray it has inspired you to start your own. May you have Fate’s whimsy, Wynni’s loyalty, Merryweather’s dedication, Twyddle’s spirit, and Adeena’s passion. Thank you for everything."

Star Wars notepads from the 1970s with Chewbacca and Darth Vader

The Force is strong with these nifty vintage notepads: Wookiee Doodle Pad and Official Duty Roster (as if Darth Vader was the one who was assigned to put that duty roster together each week; if so, that task was probably something he hated even more than sand.)

The pads measure about 4¼ inches by 7¼ inches. On the back, the company creating these is listed as Drawing Board Greeting Cards of Dallas, Texas. (American Greetings acquired Drawing Board Greeting Cards in 1985 and came up with the idea of using Drawing Board to publish risqué cards, according to a 1986 article on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel website.)

"Official Duty Roster" is still in its plastic wrapping, and there's a sticker on the front with the Star Wars logo indicating that these "Perky Pads" contain 100 sheets and cost $1.75. The fine print also makes it clear that the trademarks are owned Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and used with authorization. (Of course, the profits went straight into the pocket of George Lucas, who famously secured all of the licensing and merchandising rights for Star Wars prior to its initial release.)

There's not much that I could find online about these pads, which I guess makes sense. They're not as exciting as Star Wars figures or other collectibles. 

According to, though, the pads were popular and were "even used by screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan for notes on a draft of the Return of the Jedi script from 1981."

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Vintage postcard of Seattle's Volunteer Park

The front of this sepia-toned postcard has the caption "1065 Volunteer Park showing Water Tower, Seattle, Washington." Per the reverse, it was published by Edw. H. Mitchell of San Francisco.

Volunteer Park had an inauspicious beginning, according to Wikipedia, as its origin story involves some twice-relocated corpses:
"Volunteer Park was acquired by the city of Seattle in 1876 from J.M. Colman at a cost of $2,000. When Seattle Cemetery became Denny Park in 1884, the bodies interred there were moved to Washelli Cemetery, at the site of the future park. It soon became apparent that the land would be better suited to park use and the bodies were moved once again, this time to Lake View Cemetery; the park was renamed Lake View Park. This caused considerable confusion, leading to another renaming to City Park in 1887. J. Willis Sayre, a Seattle theatre critic, journalist and historian who had fought in the Spanish-American War, actively lobbied local officials to rename it once again — as Volunteer Park, to honor the volunteers who served in the war."

The water tower, complete with an observation deck (because why not?) was constructed in 1906 and still stands today. It's a bit of a tourist attraction.

This postcard was mailed from Seattle to Miss Blanche Lewis of Sioux City, Iowa, in August 1912. The cursive note states:

"Dear Miss Lewis, I am enjoying my trip immensely. I have visited Tacoma and today will see the government Navy yards at Bremerton. Next [?] I will see Alki point and go bathing there. The French girls, Viola, Helge [?] and I are going to Victoria Tuesday to stay a couple of days. I like the mountains out here better than anything else. I hope this trip will give me some new theme material and that I can use it in your class. Sincerely, Vierlyn Clough."

Even with such a unique name, I cannot find much about Vierlyn Clough, other than the fact that she married Charles C. Duerr and gave birth to a son in 1932 in Chicago. She was also an acclaimed pianist, according to newspaper items I came across.

The Navy yards at Bremerton are known today as Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Book cover: "Crazy Like a Fox"

  • Title: Crazy Like a Fox
  • Author: S.J. Perelman (1904-1979). He was a humorist, an Academy Award winner and apparently a fairly grumpy and miserable person. (The back cover of the dust jacket, however, lauds him as "button-cute, rapier-keen, wafer-think and pauper-poor.")  This book is responsible for boosting the usage of "crazy like a fox" in the American lexicon. This is my favorite line from Perelman's Wikipedia biography: "His Anglophilia turned rather sour when late in his life he (temporarily) relocated to England and actually had to socialize with the English." He retired to Erwinna, Pennsylvania, an unincorporated community in Bucks County that I had not previously heard of.
  • Cover illustrator: Edward McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954). He's not credited anywhere in the book or on the dust jacket. But his signature can be seen on the cover illustration.
  • Publisher: Garden City Publishing Company (from its Star Books line, which began in 1925 as Star Dollar Books. According to OWU Wordpress, "These were previously published books reprinted, initially, with common jacket designs at the same size as the original books.")
  • Year: 1945. (first published in 1944 by Random House, and containing material that Perelman had published between 1929 and 1944)
  • Pages: 269
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Provenance: Purchased for $1 at an Arizona thrift store, as mentioned on July 24.
  • Dust jacket blurb: "Here, with a touch of inspired folly, he makes the whole world spin. His new book, Crazy Like a Fox, is a merry-go-round of fantastic Perelmania and contains no fewer than forty-fix of his best waggeries. It includes many favorites for Perelman partisans and a sprinkling of new pieces in his best vein."
  • Dedication: For Laura and Abby Laura
  • First sentence: "Yesterday morning I awoke from a deep dream of peace compounded of equal parts allonal and Vat 69 to find that autumn was indeed here."
  • Last sentence: "That's a hell of a lot more than I can say for him."
  • Random sentence from the middle: "At the close of business every evening, Philomène retired to her room armed with a sixteen-inch steak knife, doubtless to ward off an attack by her Poltergeist."
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4.31 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review: In 2012, Tom Newth wrote: "Cherishable New Yorker-style wit, wordplay, and sardoncism to the nth degree, but a bit dated now and somewhat smug, and only occasionally actually funny."
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.7 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review: In 2014, Joseph L. wrote: "S.J. Perelman is a literary genius. I have to keep a dictionary handy for all of the new words I learn."

Sunday, August 1, 2021

1924 "Best Wishes" postcard and a baby with six teeth

Today's featured postcard is a lightly water-stained "Best Wishes" card that was mailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to North Dartmouth, Massachusetts in February 1924

North Dartmouth is actually just a section of Dartmouth, Massachusetts, for which the town motto is Utile Dulci — Latin for "Useful and Agreeable." Those are some characteristics we could use much more of in the United States these days. (Dartmouth the town, by the way, is not to be confused with the Ivy League college, which is located up yonder in New Hampshire.)

The postcard was written to Mrs. Mary C. Kentfield. My best guess from some searches is that she was born Mary Ella Cope, lived from 1891 to 1988, and married John Theodor Kentfield in 1917.

The punctuation-lacking cursive message states:
Dear Mrs. Kentfield
Received your postal was glad to hear from you. am fine but baby is sick at present he has six teeth and was walking about holding on anything he could get hold of, but is going to be put back I think with this sickness wish to see your baby now.
The signature might be "Mary J." with a last name I cannot decipher. Or it might be just "Mary J." followed by the word "Write." Or, now that I think of it, is that J an I? Any thoughts?