Wednesday, December 28, 2022

The movie books before the internet and IMDb

This is the first movie book that I remember reading.1 My parents had a copy in the early 1980s, when I had little to no idea who Al Pacino (pictured on the cover) was, or that he would much later portray Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in a movie that nobody who followed Penn State football in the 1980s could have ever imagined.

Movies on TV, which we had on our living room bookshelf, was authored by Steven H. Scheuer (1926-2014). According to Wikipedia, there were 17 editions of Movies on TV between 1958 and 1993, and it was "the first guide of its kind," preceding the 1969 launch of Leonard Maltin's famous guides by more than a decade.

We eventually gravitated to those Maltin guides in the 1990s. And by the late 1980s I was also devouring the film writing of critic Roger Ebert through his annual Movie Home Companion books.

But I loved browsing Scheuer's book, which is just an amazing encyclopedia of thousands of movies, most of which I never imagined I'd be able to catch up with before the eras of TCM, video rental stores, DVDs, Netflix and streaming services. As Scheuer notes in the introduction, you had to be much savvier back in the day to catch films on television: "Careful planning, a carefree schedule, and the luck to live in a community within reception range of a TV station whose program manager or film buyer is a knowledgeable film fan will permit today's movie buff to trace the careers of their favorite performers."

Scheuer's book is fun right from the first page, which is filled with Abbott & Costello's many titles. (I was, of course, familiar with Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, but not the others.) It concludes with 1962's Zotz! and 1964's Zulu.

Mom loved to browse through it, too. She would go through it and put a little pencil dot in front of the titles of all the movies she had seen during her lifetime. If I still had that family copy, I would know all the films she had seen. At least I have a good idea of what her favorites were.

If those 1980s guides had a drawback, it was that they typically only covered English-language films made in the United States and Britain. Of course, even if Fellini and Kurosawa had been covered, there would have been almost no way for viewers to watch their classic films at home.

We are definitely in the Golden Age of having the opportunity to watch almost any movie (if a print still exists) that has ever been filmed, in any country. That's how I'm able to have such an eclectic list of my 20 favorite "first-time watches" of 2022, presented here in alphabetical order:

  • 8½ (1963, Federico Fellini)
  • Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-wai)
  • The End of Summer (1961, Yasujirō Ozu)
  • Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka (1961, Alexander Rou)
  • The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (1952, Yasujirō Ozu)
  • The Girl on a Broomstick (1972, Václav Vorlíček)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Wes Anderson)
  • In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984, Les Blank)
  • Let the Right One In (2008, Tomas Alfredson)
  • Licorice Pizza (2021, Paul Thomas Anderson)
  • Night of the Demon (1957, Jacques Tourneur)
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928, Carl Theodor Dreyer)
  • Plague of the Zombies (1966, John Gilling)
  • Rashomon (1950, Akira Kurosawa)
  • The Secret of the Blue Room (1933, Kurt Neumann)
  • Sazen Tange and the Pot Worth a Million Ryo (1935, Sadao Yamanaka)
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021, Destin Daniel Cretton)
  • Smile (1975, Michael Ritchie)
  • Spring Night, Summer Night (1967, Joseph L. Anderson)
  • Suspiria (1977, Dario Argento)
1. Unless you count Supermonsters by Daniel Cohen, which I wrote about in October 2021.

Friday, December 23, 2022

A "festive" Christmas recipe and some reader comments

Holiday greetings from the land of the cats at Montebello Manor in the lower Sonoran Desert. Instead of Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Dunder, Blixem and Rudolph, we have Banjo, Monkey, Titan, Orange, Autumn, Spice, Smokey, Bandit, Panda, Toffee, Nebula, Dusty, Socks and Osmond Portifoy (two-thirds of whom have colds 😟); plus holiday house guests Pengin, Phantom, PT, LP and Ice Bear; and favored outdoor strays Mamacita and her kittens Nubbins and Cirque. As we say dozens of times a day, "That's a lot of cats."

But I was hoping to check in at least once more before the end of the year. So here's a page from a 1955 magazine touting Fruit Cocktail Eggnog Pie, using Knox Unflavored Gelatin. Please let me know if you've ever had this delicacy. In 2015, the writer of the blog Grandma's Leftovers documented making this pie in the present day with a series of photos and the verdict was: "The ‘pie’ actually tasted pretty good. It wasn’t super eggnoggy because of the whipped cream, and it wasn’t too sweet either. Like I said, it was kind of like an eggnog pudding with fruit in it, and it was pretty good. I’d be tempted to make it again sometime with more gelatin to eat it as it’s meant to be eaten, maybe someday."

* * *

Also, y'all continue to do a far better job of providing content than I do, so I want to share the reader comments that have come in since mid-August before they get lost in the mists of time:

Inspirational Soviet postcard from the 1960s: Uliana writes: "Great postcard. And here you can read about Russian cursive"

Lamenting what we'll never know about Phyllis J. Stalnaker Harris: Anonymous writes: "Those kind of vague charges were used all over the U.S for years. I was arrested (and convicted) for 'lounging in the doorway' when I was 17 back in 1982. In the state where I live, there's a catch-all phrase that has been used to cover a lot of different types of offenses. It's called 'Disorderly Conduct.' Basically, if a cop doesn't like you, you disagree with him, walk away from him or if he's having a bad day, you can be charged with it."

Additionally, Stephilius, who blogs at Gods and Foolish Grandeur, writes: "Thank you for this, Chris. People's lives should be told with respect, not for laughter or to make a buck."

"It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.": Anonymous writes: "Thanks for sharing the info about the podcast [Eaten by a Grue]. I'll have to check it out! I was a big fan of the Infocom games when I was a kid. While everyone else was blowing up invading aliens on their Commodore 64 or Apple IIe, I was exploring underground, praying my lantern's battery would last just a bit longer."

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: In the summer of 2021, an anonymous commenter stated that their uncle was Thomas Doran, who sold Cheerful Card Company in 1966 and died in 1970. In October, "A Hoey" wrote in to add, "Tom Doran’s sister Eveline was my Grandad's first wife. She passed away a year after my aunt (half) Joan was born, Tom’s niece. Would love to know how you’re connected! Tom sold the company For $10 million in 1966 but not sure to whom."

OK, I'm totally not following that family tree. But, checking with The Inflation Calculator, $10 million in 1966 is the equivalent about about $86.5 million today, so Cheerful Card Company was clearly a resounding success.

However, another commenter wrote in to add this less-than-flattering portrait of working for the company: "I worked there in the summer of 1965. It was the most horrible place I have ever worked. Stuck in a back room with no a/c and no windows and we were not allowed to speak to anyone ever, among other things."

Scholastic Fest: #13, The Witch House and Other Tales...: Anonymous writes: "I was trying to track down what book had Jonathan Moulton's story in it and this post was so helpful. Thanks!"

Night of Household Items #4: "Makes your toilet paper sing!": Anonymous writes: "I had one that played 'The Star-Spangled Banner" and all our guests at our party loved it."

Photo: 1926 Army-Navy game at Chicago's Soldier Field: Anonymous writes: "Thank you! Been searching for these photographs. The football photo, bless you. Grandpa Howard Caldwell, and best-friend Tommy Hamilton, were playing for Navy. You've created an amazing website. So many interesting topics!"

A happy ending as an old, inscribed book returns home: You'll have to read through the long original post for any of this to make sense, but Pam Cowan writes: "Thanks for this little bit of information. I am the great niece of Nellie Walcroft, Clear Annie Cameron’s traveling companion. I have wondered about Nellie and Clear’s friendship. I don’t know when it began but it may have been a long standing friendship from well before their trip on the Titanic. Nellie had a younger sister named Clara Annie Walcroft who was born when Nellie was 15 years old. Nellie was 37 when she and Clear were on the Titanic. Nellie didn’t marry until she was 47 years old and then she lived with her husband in Brooklyn, NY. If Clear lived in the UK and Nellie lived in the US their friendship would have had to continue mostly via correspondence."

Sunday's postcard: Nebraska's Crowell Memorial Home, circa 1910: Anonymous adds this update about the building's history and ultimate fate: "Sadly, while Crowell Home the nursing/independent living community still exists just down the hill from the image, the Crowell Mansion itself was demolished in November 1971 — two weeks before final approval of a federal designation as a National Historic Site. There was a small group in town who wanted to preserve the mansion, but a far larger group who couldn't see the value of historic preservation in this case. Shortly before the designation, the mansion was structurally vandalized such that restoration was impossible."

Mild Fear 2022 mea culpa: Shawn Marie Mann of Cookbook Chat was very kind and wrote: "Never a time limit with blogging — you do it when you can. Thank you so much for taking care of those kitties! 

I'm trying!
That's Spice in the first photo and Smokey in the second photo. And I'm wearing my great-grandfather's plaid shirt, which he used to put on for autumn yardwork in the 1970s.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

Mild Fear 2022 mea culpa

Ugh. Mild Fear 2022 just got away from me this month, which is a major bummer. I failed badly, like the dude who gets knocked off in the first five minutes of the slasher film and is only credited as "Teenager in vestibule." 

The blame is all mine, though I would list as extenuating circumstances: taking care of 14 cats (plus another pregnant stray outside) every day; having to get up at 5 a.m. on weekdays for work; the workload crunch of the midterm elections; and the wonderful distraction of the Philadelphia Phillies' surprise run to the World Series. 

And I had so much dandy stuff lined up, too, some of which is shown above. Of course, there's no time limit in blogging. I hope to write about some of this stuff down the road. In our hearts, Halloween can be every month, right?

Ashar and I have also been watching a bunch of horror movies. It's a nice way to relax when my brain is mush in the final hours of the day. (I've always been a morning writer, not an evening one.) Most of them are new to us. Some of the best ones we've watched are: The Babadook (2014), The Haunted Palace (1963), The Plague of the Zombies (1966) and Let the Right One In (2008, Swedish). We're also still working our way through the nine Hammer Dracula films, which is a lot of Dracula, and a lot of coach rides through the day-for-night forest. And I introduced Ashar to a favorite from my teenage years: the 1985 TV movie The Midnight Hour. I could write a whole post about that. But that will have to come in another Mild Fear moment. For now, see ya on the other side of Samhain.
Above: Osmond Portifoy, aka Bounds, aka Prounce, aka Prounce de León.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Adolf Born's groovy title illustrations for "The Girl on a Broomstick"

The Girl on a Broomstick is a delightful 1972 comedy from Czechoslovakia that's still perfect for the Halloween season. It's about an alternate-universe witch-in-training named Saxana who is transported to our modern-day world, where she learns that school is no more fun here than it is in her own universe. There's plenty of hijinx — with jokes that work across all cultures — plus broom-riding and rabbits aplenty.

I don't know of all of the places where you can track down a copy, but it's currently available, in full, on YouTube. I first learned about the movie last year from the podcast The Projection Booth.

The opening credits set the kooky tone for The Girl on a Broomstick (Dívka na koštěti) thanks to the wonderful artwork by Adolf Born (1930-2016). It could be said that he was Czechoslovakia's version of Edward Gorey, though that comparison is a bit too simplistic. 

One of the more interesting footnotes Born may be remembered for is that he provided the artwork for the first movie version of The Hobbit, a 12-minute film that was rushed out in 1967 so that a producer could maintain the movie rights to Tolkien's novel. The film is barely animated, consisting mostly of camera movements and zooms on Born's artwork. While mostly unrelated to anything involving The Hobbit, it does include Bilbo stealing a magic ring from "Goloom."

Getting back to The Girl on a Broomstick, here is some of Born's artwork from the opening credits. Check out the movie itself; I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Olya Luki's beautiful autumns

I get a pretty good Instagram feed delivered to me, because almost everyone I follow is either an artist, photographer, or curator of great art and photography. I don't follow influencers, so my feed isn't mucked up by the commercial stuff that many people say ruin the Instagram experience for them.

Anyway, one of the artists I follow is Olya Luki of Russia. She's a great one to follow, if you're a fan of cozy, colorful scenes. These are understandably difficult times for Russian artists, for reasons that are no fault of theirs. I believe that artists should be embraced, wherever they are from. I'm glad that Olya Luki's artwork is out there for the world to see. I think it often dreams up a better version of what the world could be.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Frau Arndt's "Fairy Tales from the German Forests"

Nine years ago, I put on my Daniel Plainview voice and asked why I didn't have a copy of Fairy Tales from the German Forests on my bookshelf. A couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to come across a copy, and I didn't even have to swindle the Bandy family to do so.

It's a delightful little hardcover book that measures 4¼ inches by 6⅜ inches and runs 256 pages.

It was published by Everett & Co. of London. There's no publication year, but multiple sources indicate that it was 1913. The front endpapers (see illustration below) indicate it was part of "Everett's Library."

The most information I found about the book's history is from a 2020 blog post on Storytelling for Everyone. There, Kate Farrell explains that Frau Arndt, the listed author, is a pen name for Margaret Heaton, who was likely British (which means she was retelling German folklore as a non-native). She was related to novelist G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936), who provided the cover illustration and the single interior illustration (shown below). You can see the initials "G.K.C." on both illustrations, if you look closely.

Story titles include "The Engineer and the Dwarfs," "Kätchen and the Kobold," "The Dragon's Tale" and "The Nixy Lake." Here's the beginning of "The Dragon's Tail":
"I wonder if the girls and boys who read these stories, have heard of the charming and romantic town of Eisenach? I suppose not, for it is a curious fact that few English people visit the place, though very many Americans go there. Americans are well known to have a special interest in old places with historical associations, because they have nothing of the sort in America."

There are some interesting reviews of the book, most from the past few years, on Goodreads. It's praised for its "Old World, ethereal, otherworldly vibe" and for being a book in which one can "get lost in the whimsical world of the fae." Another reviewer notes that the book can be dated by the mentions of electricity, railways and dynamite — and the fact that it was clearly penned before World War I began in 1914. That reviewer notes, "The stories themselves show the author's perspective and prejudices, and a distinctly British tone and superiority in the expressions she chooses. Kings and dragons are generally old and tired, and forest people are working at keeping away from modern influences."

Here are some interior photos of the book.
And here's Osmond Portifoy (aka "Bounds") posing with the little volume. (This photo is from about three weeks ago. She's bigger now.)

Thursday, September 8, 2022

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor (1926-2022)

Britain's queen died today at age 96 at her 19th century castle in Scotland.

Her 70-year reign as monarch began in one era of the modern world and ended in a very different one, as The Washington Post noted:
"On the morning of her father’s death [in 1952], on the day she would become queen, 25-year-old Elizabeth was perched in a treehouse in Kenya watching a herd of elephants at a watering hole. Because of the distance and difficulty of communication, it took hours for her to get the news.

"On Thursday, in just one marker of how much the world changed during her 70-year reign, the news of her own sudden illness and death spread in milliseconds, via the royal family’s Twitter account. Flight tracking data revealed the paths of her children rushing to her bedside at Balmoral Castle. By the time the royal household staff posted the black-bordered death notice on the gates of Buckingham Palace, everybody knew. The BBC news anchors were already dressed in black."
The picture of Elizabeth II on this postcard was taken in front of Sandringham House in Norfolk, England. That's where George V and George VI died, and it's now owned by Charles III. The postcard was mailed from Edinburgh to Boston in September 1977 with a 10p stamp picturing the queen. The breezy note discusses apples and the weather.

The upcoming days will be filled with solemn pageantry and some reckonings, uneasy at best and veering toward fresh anger at Britain's bloody, oppressive past. Writes NBC News' Janelle Griffith: "While Elizabeth ruled as Britain navigated a post-colonial era, she still bore a connection to its colonial past, which was rooted in racism and violence against Asian and African colonies. There have been growing calls in recent years for the monarchy to confront its colonial past.

Longtime Washington journalist Stacy M. Brown added: "Elizabeth’s legacy isn’t necessarily complicated, but filled with enough ambiguity and action and inaction that it might be easy to understand why people of color might view her different that the adoring throng mourning outside of Buckingham Palace. The longest-reigning British monarch’s history on race will forever exist as part of her legacy."

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Letters 2022

Since March 2020, a large portion of my waking hours each day have been spent with letters and correspondence. There are the postcards and letters of the distant past and harrowing present. The email exchanges that come with Postcrossing and having pen pals. And then there's my job, which coincidentally has evolved into one that's primarily focused on assessing, editing and fact-checking letters written to the newspaper's opinion page. Some letters are insightful and eloquent, some are terrifying and unpublishable, and all of the letters are written from the heart, each one giving a glimpse into what we think of each other and our fragile world.

As a snapshot of 2022 for posterity, I want to share some lines from letters and correspondence in all of those categories. No commentary, and certainly no endorsements implied.
  • "The times are crazy. At least I will go to Ukraine on Aug 24 and hopefully see my friends and family."
  • "We live in a time of war, when the possibility of nuclear war in Ukraine is in the news. On all sides, trillions of dollars are going into armaments for the next generation of war. World War III seems to be our future."
  • "Allow gun owners to buy/own semi-automatics, but restrict them to HOME PROTECTION ... NOT to be carried around or licensed to hunt down anything, including people."
  • "Normally it's raining a lot where I live, but this year it's over 32°C (~90 Fahrenheit) and I'm suffering in my little flat under the roof [in Germany]. I'm half joking about moving to Sweden and half serious."
  • "Yes we have terrible heat, and lot of fires, it is not usual this situation! ... I hope here [Canary Islands] we don't rise [to] this temperature."
  • "I still dream of moving closer to the ocean or sea & mountains."
  • "What's the point of this never ending January 6th investigation hoax? Very few people care."
  • "Our history is painful for us, so we pay lip service to our painful eras and we move on, only looking back at what makes us feel good."
  • "Any system that gives you HRC and Donald Trump for Pres is by definition dead. ... America will collapse within five years. ... I'd have extra food, cash, water etc. Also, extra ammo for your AR 15s."
  • “We tell our children that school is a safe place. A place to make friends and learn valuable life lessons. One of those life lessons now involves how to huddle in a dark classroom, remain quiet and run for their lives if they need to."
  • "There is now only one major party that supports democracy, and that is the Democratic Party."
  • "The Democratic Swamp Creatures are coming for me & you. Stock up on your Ammo and have your guns ready. I'm ready. I have 12 Guns. Let them come. God Bless America."
  • "Peace."

Monday, September 5, 2022

A trio of cat postcards

With a little help from Bandit, here are three dandy cat-themed postcards I received in the mailbox via Postcrossing over the past week...
Above: This postcard is from Manon, a 24-year-old from Paris who loves cats. The black-cat illustration is by Théophile Alexandre Steinlen (1859-1923). Manon writes: "Living with 17 cats sounds like a dream to me. I like them so much. I'm catsitting this summer for their very much welcome company." 

We're actually now down to 14 cats. Three of the 10-week-olds found their new forever homes last week and, fortunately, their mother (Orange) is adjusting fairly well to their absence. I think more adoptions, getting us down to 11 cats, would end up being our best "running speed" moving forward. But if it ends up being 12, 13 or 14, it's not a huge deal. They're just adorable.
Above: Rob from Canada writes: "17 cats wow. We have one hedgehog named Polo that is enough. :) For fun I have a YouTube channel called That Dad Guy. Stay safe."

A lot of Rob's YouTube videos involve Postcrossing and stamps, which is pretty cool!

By the way, if I had a pet hedgehog, I'd name it Spiny Norman. And I'd give one of our naughtiest cats the nickname Dinsdale. 

One of our 10-week-old kittens, by the way, is named Osmond Portifoy. That's because I fancy being able to wander around the house in my bathrobe, holding a brandy snifter and calling out endlessly for Osmond Portifoy. Yes, it's a weird kind of cosplay here.
Above: Alexandra from Germany, who has a pet turtle named Manni 007, writes: "This postcard is from a cat cafe. There you can sit and pet the cats which live there. Maybe it is an idea for you? I think it must be wonderful with 17 cats. Meow!"

The cat cafe is Zur Mieze - Katzenmusikcafé in Berlin. According to an English translation of its website, cats Gretta, Caroline, Ali, Jewels and Kenzo "find their home here and contribute to a quiet, relaxed and stress-free atmosphere in the middle of the big city. Our kitties were from the animal welfare association."

The tale gets even more heartwarming. The animal welfare association is Hand in Hand for Cats eV, which has been working throughout the year to help Ukrainian refugees, their pets and animal-rights activists who courageously remain in Ukraine. They accept PayPal donations, if you want to help them continue their necessary work.

OK, that's all. Bandit is all tired out.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Carlos Mérida's delightful illustrations for "The Magic Forest"

So far as I can tell, famed Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida (1891-1985) didn't illustrate many books during his long career of focusing primarily on canvas, ceramics and murals. A Treasury of Mexican Folkways, from 1947, is perhaps the most notable example of Mérida doing book illustrations; he provided about 100 drawings.1

Mérida also collaborated with author Patricia Fent Ross on at least three books. Two of them are Made in Mexico: The Story of a Country's Arts and Crafts and The Hungry Moon: Mexican Nursery Tales. The third is today's featured book: The Magic Forest, which was published in 1948 by Alfred A. Knopf under the Borzoi Books for Young People label.

Here's a little about Mérida's career from, purely coincidentally, the website of the nearby Phoenix Art Museum:
"Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida is best known for creating Modernist abstract art that integrated Latin American culture with 20th-century European painting. ... In 1910, at the age of 19, Mérida presented work in his first art exhibition. That same year, he moved to Paris, where he lived for four years and met and worked with Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, and Amedeo Modigliani, as well as several prominent Latin American artists residing in Europe at that time. ... He was known for integrating figurative elements into his abstract art, such as colorful organic and geometric representations of clusters of people, and employed a variety of media, including watercolor, oil, gouache and pencil, and parchment and plastic."
Mérida's illustrations, including the cover and endpapers, for The Magic Forest are pure delight. As for the story itself, its characters include Concha and Coco Perez, who are twins; Peddy, the Chief of the Elves; Queen Peachblossom; Raul the Fox; Rosita Rabbit; Dido the Dog; Mario Monkey; Chippy Chipmunk; Mr. Bear; Bully Badger and Derry Deer. In 1948, a short review from Kirkus called it "a disturbing fairy tale for the five and six year olds [but] older children will find it enjoyable in somewhat the manner of the Wilde tales." That's the only review I could find online. The book isn't even listed on Goodreads, which is curious for something from a major publisher as relatively recent as 1948. I might go ahead and rectify that.

Here is a sampling of Merida's illustrations, starting with the front endpapers.
1. A Treasury of Mexican Folkways is subtitled "The Customs, Myths, Folklore, Tradition, Beliefs, Fiestas, Dances and Songs of the Mexican People." Reviewing it on Amazon in 2007, someone noted: "This fascinating book is a magnificent, all-inclusive account of the Mexican people, their colorful, dramatic, and ancient traditions and ways of life, worship, work, and play. It is filled with rare and wonderful stories of saints, heroes, cowboys, bandits; descriptions of exotic dances and fiestas; accounts of strange customs and ceremonies. All the folk arts -- pottery making, gold and silver work, carving, weaving, hand-drawn work -- are thoroughly described and lavishly illustrated with line drawings and photographs. ... [It] is nothing less than an encyclopedia, a virtual one-volume course in Mexican lore and culture." 

Thursday, September 1, 2022

"A beautiful woman, and a most horrid demon"

It's September 1, and the coolest kids declare that's the official start of Halloween Season. That's perfectly fine with me. We need all the horror escapism we can get these days, when the real world is scarier than Boris Karloff and Michael Myers. I've already been doing some posts that could qualify as Mild Fear 2022 since the blog reboot (1, 2), but I'll make this the first official post for that category of the year. 

It's also time for our family to finalize our 2022 Halloween Movie Festival, which will likely begin in September and bleed (ha!) into November. I'll share the lineup when it's done, but it's likely to include some lighter fare, like Mad Monster Party, Carry on Screaming!, My Name Is Bruce and the hard-to-find 1985 TV movie The Midnight Hour. We've also been working our way through the Hammer Dracula film series this summer. Because we can never get enough of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Anyway, for tonight's fun little post, this is a newspaper clipping I found on Page 2 of the May 11, 1865, version of the Lancaster Intelligencer.  I don't know what was in the water 157 years ago, but this is quite the wild ghost tale. I think if I had been the editor in the newsroom, I probably would have asked for another source to verify this before sending it to the press. But that's just me. I'm no fun anymore.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

1973's "Garage Sale Shopper"

Today we have a book that's a Goodwill find about shopping at garage sales a half-century ago. Garage Sale Shopper was written by Sunny Wicka and published in 1973 by Dafran House Publishers of New York. The subtitle is "A Complete Illustrated Guide for Buyers and Seller."

The book itself is an interesting find, but hardly a hidden-treasure rare book (which I'm always on the lookout for at thrift shops). There are a few copies for sale on eBay and AbeBooks for under $10. 

No, this book is most intriguing as a cultural artifact and a peek into the exciting world of scoping out yard and garage sales in the early 1970s. And that's cooler than you might initially imagine. In the 2020s, I still occasionally find items from the 1960s and 1970s at yard sales. So it's not hard to imagine that 1973 yard sales had items dating to the 1920s. Or earlier!

As Wicka notes, yard sales were still a relatively new phenomenon in the early 1970s. During the 1950s and 1960s, there was a transition from holding such secondhand sales at churches and other community centers to holding them in individual driveways in the new American suburbs, the perfect spot for walk-by and drive-by customers. Wicka writes: "It has mushroomed in the last few years to a national hobby of incredible proportions." Her reasons for the "mushrooming" include the economic savings of buying furniture and clothing new instead of used; the perhaps dubious idea that rich people with mountain cabins and lake cottages want to furnish those second homes at a discount; and Americans choosing recycling over continued wastefulness.

The book contains section that explains garage sales to newcomers, one that provides strategies for shoppers, and one provides tips for sellers, including pricing and advertising.

There's a big section titled "Garage Sale Finds" (not to be confused with the wonderful blog of the same name). And another section provides ideas on what to do with those finds when you bring them back home.

Some excerpts:
  • "At one of my sales, an elderly man confided to me that he lived on a large acreage with a big garden, and he intended to use the 15¢ ragged golf bag he had just bought for carrying his hoe and rake and cultivator to and from the gardening area. I say, right on, sir."
  • "Milk bottles, medicine bottles, decorative bottles and unusually shaped jars seem to go well if marked low. An antique shop owner told me that the present day ceramic and quality glass wine bottles will become scarce as more and more distillers are switching to less expensive type containers for their products -- making their old containers fair game for collectors."
  • "Another one of my clever friends and her equally clever husband mounted a collection of five door knobs on a gracefully shaped piece of wood. The final result was then installed in the entryway where visitors could hang their jackets and hats on brass, porcelain and copper."
If author Wicka is still alive, she'll be 88 this October. Maybe she still keeps an eye out for good yard sales in Minnesota. Here's a picture of her from the book, modeling one of her second-hand finds...

Friday, August 26, 2022

RPPC: 1913 Coquille High School girls basketball team

This real photo postcard from more than a century ago features the five members of the 1912-1913 girls basketball team at Coquille High School in Oregon. The basketball on the front has 1912 written on it, and two notations on the back state that it's the 1913 team. 

The AZO stamp box on the back of the card has three triangles pointing upward and one triangle (in the lower right) pointing downward, which means, according to, that the blank card was printed in 1911; there must have been a window during which they could be used.

The card was never mailed, but this is the note written in cursive on the back:
Hello Harry,
This is our Record breaking team. They aren't such a bad looking bunch are they? Wish you would drop me a card just once. 
Was Stella one of those five team members? Or a coach or someone at the high school? What record did the team break? 

To try to find out more, I found the 1913 Coquille High School yearbook, The Laurel, on The yearbook's editor-in-chief is listed as "Urqurart Adams," which is an unfortunate typo. As in, it's unfortunate when you're in charge and your own name is spelled wrong on the first page. His name is Urquhart Adams.

The bad news is that there's no mention in the yearbook of a girls basketball team. The boys basketball team, however, gets a three-page spread for its undefeated 6-0 season. Interestingly, the coach was Harry Oerding. Is that the same Harry that the card is written to? 

The school had a very small student population. Looking at some of the photos, I think I can spot some members of the girls basketball team. What do you think? I have some thoughts/guesses, but I don't want to influence anyone's analysis.

First up are seniors Ruth Woodford and Mae Lund, followed by the junior, sophomore and freshman class photos and captions.