Saturday, September 18, 2021

Seasons, shadows, sunlight & song

Here are frames from the four films I watched this past week.

La Notte (1961), dir: Michelangelo Antonioni, cin: Gianni Di Venanzo
Le Bonheur (1965), dir: Agn├Ęs Varda, cin: Claude Beausoleil & Jean Rabier
David Byrne's American Utopia (2020), dir: Spike Lee, cin: Ellen Kuras
City of the Dead (1960), dir: John Llewellyn Moxey, cin: Desmond Dickinson

Thursday, September 16, 2021

1982 advertisement for East Coast Sports Service Inc.

I plan to write a post one of these years about the Street & Smith's baseball yearbooks of the early 1980s, as they were an integral part of the growth of my baseball fandom. Tonight, however, I just want to share this advertisement from the inside back cover of the 1982 Street & Smith's (which features Rollie Fingers and Pete Rose on cover).

"East Coast Sports Service" only gets me three hits on Google (prior to this post going live), so it's truly been lost to the sands of time. It was a sports "forecasting" service that claimed — for a price, of course — to have all the insider information that bettors needed to have the most chance of success with their sports gambling.

This was decades before there was easy online access to crucial information like injury reports, daily roster moves, weather reports and statistical breakdowns (like righty-lefty or home-road splits). So East Coast aimed to make its money by gathering that information from baseball "insiders" in each Major League Baseball city (probably just a guy who subscribed to the local newspaper, or perhaps a sportswriter in some cases) and aggregating it for folks who sought to make educated bets on the games.

The advertising copy includes these pitches (no pun intended):

  • "East Coast has the expertise that comes only from years of winning experience to correctly analyze the information and produce flocks of winners."
  • "The ability to pick underdog winners is synonomus [sic] with East Coast Sports!"
  • "Therefore, by teaming with us you maximize your profits and minimize your losses."

Then there are the testimonials, which, of course, are impossible to validate. (We've been down that road often on Papergreat. See, for example, Glover's Imperial Mange Medicine.) One bettor claims to have financed a three-week trip to Acapulco with his gambling profits. Others say they netted $10,000 or $12,500 (even with the 1981 baseball strike). There are no testimonials, though, from the many folks who surely lost their hat, shirt, dog and/or house. 

Gambling doesn't pay, kids. Don't gamble. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Book cover: "The Art of Coarse Rugby"

  • Title: The Art of Coarse Rugby
  • Secondary title: or Any Number Can Play
  • Additional cover text: "A moving and hilarious book" Spike Hughes
  • Author: Michael Green (1927-1919)
  • About the author: Green was a journalist in the UK who hit it big with this book as a best-seller and went on to write a whole series of The Art of Coarse... books over more than two decades. Other titles covered sailing, golf, drinking, cruising and, err, sex.
  • Illustrator: John Jensen
  • Publisher: Hutchinson of London
  • Year: 11th printing, 1963 (first published in 1960)
  • Pages: 128
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Dust jacket price: 12s 6d net (in UK only)
  • Provenance: Bought for $1 during a day of going to thrift stores in late July
  • First sentence of preface: I do not wish to pay the author's customary tribute to his old college tutor for correcting the proofs of this book, because I have no old college tutor (in fact I haven't even got an old college), and even if I had, I would not have allowed him to touch the proofs.
  • First sentence of book proper: Anyone who plays rubgy very soon finds out there are two sorts. 
  • Last sentence: Eastern Park (3 p.m.): Bagford Vipers 'B' v. Old Rottinghamians Extra B.
  • Random sentence from middle: The referee tried to object but Slasher asked him what Law he was breaking, and he couldn't think of one.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.86 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review: In 2017, Amanda wrote: "Gentle and amusing look at the lower level games of rugby that occur on various windswept fields during the winter months in England. Quick read, some chortles, mild entertainment."
  • Amazon rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2000, Neil wrote: "It was one of the funniest books I ever read, but will appeal only to those who play, or are at least familiar with, rugby."
  • About the book's legacy: In a 2014 column for The Rugby Paper, Brendan Gallagher wrote: "Green’s The Art Of Coarse Rugby has run to 23 reprints over the last 50 years – that’s well in excess of 250,000 books – and to this day remains both the template, Bible and excuse for 90 per cent of the rugby playing world." 
Gallagher asked Green about the book's enduring popularity:

“I remain mystified to this day about the book’s success, it came from nowhere and teaches you never to give up in life,” mused Green in between mouthfuls of mince pie as we made ourselves comfortable in his den at Twickenham – the town, not the stadium. “I always wanted to pen the ‘great novel’ – I still do but of course never will – but I wrote a newspaper article for The Observer about the kind of rugby I played and loved and a publisher phoned me up the next week and offered me a few quid to try making a book out of the idea."

Monday, September 13, 2021

Vintage chipmunk postcards and the love of nature's critters

The backyard wildlife is much different in Arizona than it was back in Pennsylvania. In recent weeks here, I've had to deal with black widows, a furry spider I don't care to indentify, a plague of crickets, piles of pigeon droppings, and an unknown mammal (or possibly an owl) that pooped on our artificial grass and also tried to dig up Mr. Bill. I reckon I should be grateful, at least, that I haven't had any encounters with scorpions or rattlesnakes.

Ashar and I had spent the pandemic year of 2020 getting very closely acquainted with the adorable animals in our backyard in Dover, Pennsylvania. We watched families of bunny rabbits grow up and grow fat on the grass and the birdseed. The birdseed, of course, was mostly gobbled up by cardinals, blue jays, catbirds, robins, wrens, finches, mourning doves and other songbirds. We were able to start differentiating the squirrels by their facial markings and their personality quirks. We had a resident field mouse for a while. And then a family of raccoons that we pampered with peanut-butter crackers (sorry, not sorry). A groundhog made a couple of funny cameo appearances. And, very best of all, we trained the chipmunks. Yes, trained them.

I started by sitting very quietly for long stretches in a chair, just watching as the chipmunks came up and grabbed peanuts I had put near my feet, before scurrying away. The next step: I put the peanuts on my feet. They grabbed those too. After that, and over a series of days and weeks, I sat cross-legged on the ground and waited patiently as the chipmunks eventually began to climb into my cupped-together hands for a peanut feast. Sometimes they grabbed a nut and ran. Other times they sat there and nibbled away, or attempted to see how many peanuts they could stuff into their comically bulging cheeks. 

After a while, Ashar got into the act, and surpassed me as a Chipmunk Whisperer. We would sit quietly, side by side, and wait for the chipmunks to venture out for their snack. It usually didn't take long. In addition to climbing into Ashar's hands, they would venture up his arms and even up to a shoulder, seeking peanuts. As long as we didn't make sudden sounds or movements, they were completely at ease. We could even turn our heads slowly and whisper to each other while the furry little visitors went to and fro, taking treasures back to their dens. Great times.

Anyway, today I want to share a little collection of vintage postcards featuring chipmunks. The one at the top features adorable "Chippy" at Smugglers Notch, Vermont. Presumably that's Smugglers' Notch State Park. The card was mailed to Mr. Robert C. Moore of Bingham, Maine, in August 1934, and the cursive message states:
Dearest Daddy,
We were so happy to get your letter. We went up to Smugerlers [sic] Notch yesterday. The "Chippy" you see in the picture is tame: We saw him. All the Birds and Animals around Smuggerlers [sic] Caves are tame. Lots of love.

This next one might nor might not be a chipmunk. The caption, as you can see, states that it's a golden brown squirrel at Crater Lake, Oregon. The golden-mantled ground squirrel is native to that part of the country, and it certainly looks like a chipmunk, so I think it should count as one. So there. This real photo postcard was never written on or mailed.

Next up is another unused real photo postcard of "a native at Diamond Lake." There are many places called Diamond Lake in the United States. But clearly the Diamond Lakes that have tame chipmunks are the very best.
This next one is labeled "NUTS about Northern California" on the front. It was mailed in 1937 to Mr. and Mrs. Knuckles in San Mateo, California. The note on the back states:
Cloverdale - June 9th
Everything O.K. Rain this A.M. Read about Burlingame Fire in S.F. Examiner. Hi-school tonight.
Finally, it's Yours Truly. For fun and posterity, I used Redbubble to publish a vintage-looking real photo postcard showing me feeding a chipmunk in Dover. We do miss those little fellas. You can see a few more photos, including one of Ashar feeding them, in this October 2020 post. (It's really hard to believe that was only 11 months ago.)

Hide your children & scaredy cats

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Dad's memories & Pappy's photos of Hurricane Diane in 1955

(All of these captions are written by Dad) Northampton Street in downtown Easton, looking east toward Phillipsburg, NJ, and the Northampton Street bridge. Parts of this bridge were destroyed by debris floating down the Delaware River.
The Northampton Street bridge, showing sections underwater.


Those living in the United States are still recovering from the impacts of Hurricane Ida and its rainy remnants. That recovery will go for a long time in many places that suffered the worst devastation and flooding. Hurricanes and tropical storms are overwhelming natural disasters that work their way into the fabric of our history and the tales we pass down to each generation.

Of couple of days before Ida even formed in the Atlantic, Dad sent me his latest installment of childhood memories. In this case, coincidentally, it involved memories and his own father's photographs of Hurricane Diane, which hit the northeastern U.S., including Pennsylvania, in August 1955 — 66 years ago.

Here's what Dad wrote: 
How did I spend my 8th birthday? In August of 1955, Hurricane Diane hit the mid-Atlantic states and  a good portion of eastern Pennsylvania. Rain from the hurricane flooded the Delaware River valley and surrounding streams that drained into the Delaware. The worst flooding occurred August 19, 1955, my 8th birthday.

I found these photos. I believe Dad took the photos and I was with him.

At that time, there were three bridges crossing the Delaware between Easton, PA, and Phillipsburg, NJ. The 3rd Street bridge (the southernmost bridge), the Northampton Street bridge (this was the main street in Easton's downtown) and the relatively new Route 22 bridge (north of the Northampton Street bridge, connecting Route 22 in NJ to the new Route 22 in PA).

It took several days for the flooding to subside. Traffic between Easton and Phillipsburg could only use the Route 22 bridge for a long time. (How long, I can't remember.) My grandfather's house still stood after the flood and, after cleanup, became livable again. 

I had a rather low-key birthday that year.
Northampton Street in downtown Easton and the Northampton Street bridge.
The 3rd Street bridge south of Northampton Street. I believe this bridge was completely washed away and never rebuilt.
This is the Route 22 bridge, again looking east toward Phillipsburg, NJ. On the far left of this photo is a water tank. Not shown but two blocks away from this water tank was the three-story brick home of my grandfather, Frederick Hartford (my mother's father). It was on the Bushkill Creek that flowed into the Delaware River. At the height of the flooding, only the top of the chimney was above water.

3rd Street in Easton and the 3rd Street bridge.

For the record (and for search engines), the following businesses and signs are visible in the above photos: Epstein's; Hotel Easton and Hotel Easton Tap Room; Army & Navy; Coastal [something]; Lyons (carpets, linoleums, rugs); Pep Boys; Packard; and Kowitz Furniture.