Saturday, September 11, 2021

Nifty envelope from Postcrossing pen pal in Ghana

On the heels of the nifty decorated envelope I received from Ukraine recently, here's an envelope all the way from the Republic of Ghana, the second-most populous country in West Africa. My pen pal Lee mailed this around Aug. 2, so it took a little over a month to arrive. (Not bad, in my estimation.) 

His letter included a wonderful collection of ephemera, including information on historic "mammy trucks," Kente cloth, Kaolin clay, the ginger-and-tamarind beverage lamugin, and Adinkra symbols. So much interesting stuff to learn more about!

Also, Lee included some dandy stamps...

Saturday's postcard: Old Woman's Shoe on the playground

Speaking of playground equipment, this advertising postcard, which was mailed in 1963, touts a spiffy new piece of playground equipment that was being offered by Los Angeles-based Jamison Manufacturing Company at the time.

The F-19 Old Woman's Shoe is described on the back of the postcard as being 11 feet, 3 inches long, 15 feet wide and 9 feet high. "Includes 10 foot long stainless steel bottom slide hidden behind the right side and a sliding poll from the back." It was then, "hot-dip galvanized after fabrication," which doesn't sound like a phrase one would use to describe playground equipment.

The price tag was $698 in 1963, which is the equivalant of about $6,000 today. Zoinks!

The "Fantasy by Jamison" series of high-end playground equipment also included the F-6 Satellite, F-20 Gates of Camelet and F-44 Flying Saucer, according to this postcard. Check out these online images of other Jamison equipment:

Today I learned there's a Wikipedia entry named Cold War playground equipment that deals with this specific topic. It notes that the equipment "was intended to foster children's curiosity and excitement about the Space Race. It was installed during the Cold War in both communist and capitalist countries. ... By 1963, Philadelphia had installed 160 space-aged playgrounds, which featured satellites, rockets, and submarines."

To take a deeper dive into Jamison's Cold War playground equipment, I highly recommend this July 2018 post on the blog Preservation in Pink: "Rare playground find: Miracle/Jamison 1975 Mark IV Imagine City." It documents a great discovery of a "metal spaceship-looking apparatus" in an overgrown field the eastern United States. You'll want to read all about it and see the fantastic photos of the wave slide, two-deck satellite tower, swings and more. Check it out! 

Meanwhile, I feel like the Old Woman's Shoe advertised on this postcard was Jamison's last hurrah of fairy-tale themed equipment before going "all in" on the futuristic designs that dominated 1960s and 1970s parks.

Snapshot & memories: Relocated fire engine in Montoursville

Writing this post was quite fun, thanks to some crowdsourcing of memories.

I snapped these photos of the red-and-yellow playground fire engine during a visit Joan and I made to Montoursville's Indian Park in July 2012. At the time, it jogged some hazy, pleasant memories. This unique playground climber looked so familiar. I knew I had spent time on it during my childhood. But I couldn't put my finger on any specific memories from Indian Park.

Turns out, that's because there weren't any. Not from that location.

When I was a kid, this fire engine had been located about a mile away on the playground at Lyter Elementary School, which I attended for first grade (1977-78) and again for fourth grade (1980-81). As folks in my Facebook crowdsourcing post explained to me, it was there for decades, from the mid-1970s until about 2010. Then, the playground at Lyter was renovated, but the decision was made to preserve this piece of equipment and move it to Indian Park. My photos must have been taken not too long after the move. No wonder it was initially such a disconnect for me!

It's still at Indian Park, by the way, according to this April Facebook post. It could use a fresh coat of paint, though.

So, yes, once I was able to think about this fire engine at the setting of Lyter Elementary, old memories fell back into place. I had climbed all over this thing, going along the monkey bars across the top and sitting in the driver's seat with the big "steering wheel." 

Here are some other people's memories from the Facebook post:
  • Yes it used to be on the Lyter playground. I have pictures taken on that very truck. If it helps I just turned 34 yesterday and that truck was at Lyter during my elementary days.
  • I remember this being at Lyter in the 70s.
  • I seem to remember it at Lyter and I graduated in ‘95.
  • I went to Lyter from 89-93 and it was there.
  • There was one like that at Loyalsock Valley Elementary School when I was a kid. We had our 3rd grade pictures taken on one.
  • It was still at Lyter in 2004.
  • It was there in 75.
  • Talk about something I thought I’d never see again! Also I remember a stagecoach, thanks for sharing.
  • I remember the stagecoach and trying to go across the bars and people standing on the ground trying to pull you down!
  • It was there in 77 when I was in 1st grade.
  • Yes it was at Lyter when I was there in mid 70s. I remember when they first got it.
  • I graduated in 2010 and the firetruck was one of my favorite playground pieces at Lyter.
  • I thought they put it in there around 76-77 ish.
  • I went to school at Lyter and remember playing on in in the early 90’s and yes after playground update it moved to Indian Park!!
  • Lyter in the 70’s. I remember falling off the back at recess, right into a mud puddle. I had to call my mom to bring me clean clothes. I was so embarrassed that I made her take me home instead.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Scoping out the packaging at the grocery store

I've been saving up some grocery store snapshots and I reckon I'll just lump them together into this post. Today's labels and packaging are tomorrow's history. People seemingly love to be reminded of decades-ago trips to the grocery store and the foodstuffs their parents and grandparents had in freezers and pantries. Tangibly reminded. Right now on eBay, there's a 1970s Pepperidge Farm Coconut Layer Cake box offered for $65; a 1970s Swanson Fish 'n' Chips TV dinner box for $37.50; an unused (!!) Good Seasons Zesty Italian salad dressing mix package for $25; and a 1970s Nestle oatmeal cookie mix package for $15.

What will be the grocery-shelf talkers of tomorrow? I don't know that answer. But I do know the things that catch my eye today, for various reasons.

First up, we were thrilled to come across this Tofurky product packaging that advocates for aggressive legislation that will help counteract the man-made aspects of climate change.

A July 16 article on the aptly named industry website Refrigerated & Frozen Foods states: "Tofurky, a leading independent producer of plant-based proteins in the U.S., is setting aside self-interest to call on consumers to join in the battle against climate change. For the first time, a brand is creating billboards at shelf level, dedicating its packaging to advocacy with the goal of inspiring widespread consumer action. ... Each package also features a QR code linking to a resources and activism page with additional information for consumers. Here, visitors can register to vote, find phone numbers and text services for their representatives, sign pledges and have access to scripts to use when contacting policy makers. There are also additional statistics to learn more about getting involved in the fight for change." 

Bravo Tofurky! Your products continue to be worthy of strong support by people who are conscientious about their food choices. And, yes, we need a Green New Deal, dammit.

Second is another plant-based product, but I'm presenting it for a different reason. Wicked is a company dedicated to selling, in its words, "delicious flavor-first, convenient plant-based foods from lunch and breakfast options to dinner, snacks, and desserts." That's good enough, all by itself. But its packaging is amusing and eye-catching. Full disclosure: I bought this one half for the food, and half because I never thought I'd see a food label sporting the word amazeballs.
I have childhood nostalgia for the monster cereals (Count Chocula, Franken Berry and Boo Berry), because I saw those commercials endlessly during Saturday morning cartoons. Mom smartly never put them in the shopping cart, though, so they remained an Aspirational Sugar Cereal, alongside other stuff Mom would never buy, most notably Lucky Charms and Cap'n Crunch. (We did, however, get Cocoa Pebbles, so it was never quite clear where the line was.)

Ashar, meanwhile, finds the monster cereals fascinating because they have marshmallows and because they're a groovy relic from long, long, long ago. (Sigh.) He likes to read about their history and, more than that, he likes to try them out and see if they're any good. So, during this year's seasonal re-release of the monster cereals, he's tried — and I've tried for the very first time — Boo Berry and Franken Berry. (The Count Chocula sold out in a flash, so we didn't get to try that this year.) I found the Boo Berry pretty respectable (for a monster cereal), but the Franken Berry wasn't my jam, no pun intended. Ashar liked them both. "Pretty tasty," he said. He also wanted to collect the boxes after we finished the cereals, because he's totally my son that way. 
Finally, another thing I'm nostalgic for is products containing my No. 1 favorite food: peanut butter. I sent out this tweet earlier this summer in honor of three favorites that are produced no more: PB Max, Milk Break Milk Bars, and Peanut Butter Boppers. I don't miss them enough to buy empty packaging on eBay, though.

Monday, September 6, 2021

1944's "Decorations for the Schoolroom"

American kids have been returning to school during the past few weeks, and more will return after this Labor Day weekend. The first days of a new school year can be so exciting; we all have cherished memories of what those days felt like, and of all the people who worked hard to make them special.

So it's heartbreaking to think of all the contemporary schoolchildren who've had similar moments dampened or erased because of the ongoing pandemic. Many missed out on the classroom buzz about the start of summer adventures during the last day of school in the spring of 2020 (which seems like a million years ago, right?). There were the long weeks of necessarily remote instruction during the 2020-21 school year. And now the 2021-22 school year has begun under the black clouds of the delta variant and the anti-science parents and politicians who are trying to bully school boards into mask-optional policies.

But kids are resilient. Past generations have attended school during numerous unsettling or nerve-wracking moments in U.S. history: World War II, for example.1 Today's ephemera is a staplebound book that was published in 1944, during that war, and is designed for teachers seeking ideas for the classroom.

I didn't do a full series of "back to school" posts this year, so these peeks inside that 1944 book will have to suffice. But there's a ton of stuff in the Papergreat archives. A good starting point if you're interested in School Days Nostalgia is this directory that I last updated in 2015. Or, if Scholastic Books are your jam, there's a whole subcategory for that. 
1. Or during the Cold War, when the threat of atomic or nuclear annihilation hung over our nation and our schoolchildren, who were instructed in perfectly useless "duck and cover" drills. I recently watched the excellent 1963 film Ladybug Ladybug, which offers a harrowing look how the threat of a war that could instantly wipe out millions of lives affected the psyches of students, teachers and parents. Without spoiling anything, I'll say you'll never forget this movie's ending. 

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Book cover: "The Extraordinary Margaret Catchpole"

  • Title: The Extraordinary Margaret Catchpole
  • Author: Ruth Manning-Sanders (1888-1988)
  • Cover illustrator:
    The name written on the illustration looks like Jane Paton. There's no credit given on the dust jacket or inside the book. And I can't find anything connecting her to this book in Google searches. There is an illustrator from this era named Jane Paton, though, so that's probably the best guess. There are no interior illustrations in this book.
  • Publisher: William Heineman Ltd., London
  • Printer: Latimer Trend & Co. Ltd., Plymouth
  • Year: 1966
  • Pages: 222
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket price: 21 shillings (Very roughly, I think that's the equivalent of about £20 today. Please correct me if I'm wrong.)
  • Dust jacket excerpt: The true story of a girl who was born in obscurity and became notorious through her loyalty to a worthless man. Margaret Catchpole was born in Suffolk, the daughter of a farm labourer in the days when farm labourers were lucky if they earned 10 shillings a week.
  • So Catchpole was real? Yes. She lived from 1762 to 1819. When I cited her Wikipedia page last year, she was described there as "an English adventuress, chronicler and criminal." That line has been revised and now describes her as "a Suffolk servant girl, chronicler and deportee to Australia."
  • Author's note: This is a true story. Margaret Catchpole was a real girl, and all the happenings in this book really happened. A word should be said about the use of the term coastguard. Actually the coastguard service did not come into being until 1831. Before that, the men who performed the same duties were known by various names: as preventive men, revenue men, coast-officials, excise men, or (if mounted) riding officers. But for the sake of clarity, it seemed best to use the more familiar word coastguards.
  • First paragraph: 'Lord save us! Whoa-o-oh, Punch! Whey-e-eh there! Whoa-o-oh!'
  • Last sentence: And so, knowing her valiant to the last, we take our leave of her: the guileless, warm-hearted, and astonishingly brave Margaret Catchpole, whose tragic fate it was to love a man not worthy of her."
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: Stephen Laud's cottage was in a very lonely spot, half hidden by the ruins of an old castle.
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: The horse and trap were run out, and Margaret, still unconscious, was driven off to Newgate Prison.
  • Reviews: There's extremely little about this book online. No reviews on Amazon or Amazon UK or Goodreads. I did find this tidbit about the book on, from the April 29, 1967, edition of The Age, a newspaper of Melbourne, Australia, written by Dennis Dugan:
"Margaret Catchpole's life finished in Australia, but Miss Manning-Sanders tells mainly of her life beforehand as a girl in Suffolk and her unfortunate romance with the dashing but easily led William Laud. 

"The story is well known, of the vivacious and venturesome farmer's daughter who, although transparently honest herself, became entangled with a smuggler and eventually went to prison because of her love, escaped, was recaptured and finally transported.

"Miss Manning-Sanders fills in the background with her usual sure touch — the over-fond father and the grumbling mother, the happy days of service with wealthy people, and the continual worry over Will's lapses into questionable ways.

"There is little about Margaret's life in Australia, for she was then a grown woman, but Miss Manning-Sanders accepts that story that she became associated with George Caley, the botanist. It is now generally believed that botanist with whom Margaret was 'keeping company' was James Gordon, sent out by J.A. Woodford, of the War Office."