Sunday, December 31, 2023

"I'm Going to Build a Supermarket One of These Days"

I love this little children's book!

  • Title: I'm Going to Build a Supermarket One of These Days
  • Authors: Helen Baten and Barbara von Molnar, adapted by Bill Martin Jr. (1916-2004).
  • Illustrator: William Papas (1927-2000). Credited in the book solely as "Papas." He was previously mentioned in this 2016 post about Damian and the Dragon.
  • Publisher: Holt, Rinehart and Winston
  • Year: 1970
  • Pages: 32
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Plot: The short book is basically a Dr. Seuss-like fantasy about what a grocery store would be like if it were run by children. Papas' pictures are a delight. The store would be called "Land of Milk & Honey." Everything would be free, and only children would be permitted inside. (There's an illustration in which adults are protesting outside, one with a sign stating "We Want Equal Rights.") The fantasy supermarket is filled with roller-skaters, elephants, kangaroos and a merry-go-round. There are impromptu baseball games and all sorts of treats, like cotton candy, ice cream and coconut cakes. Kids who don't want to shop can watch movies underneath the checkout counters. (Why checkout counters are needed when everything is free is not explained.) 
  • Reviews: There's almost nothing online about this book from a half-century ago, so I'm glad this post is serving in a small way to preserve it. There is one nice review on Goodreads, in which Sharla states, "This is one of my all-time favorite books from when I was young." She further notes that there were two audio cassette versions, one that was a straight readthrough and one that's a musical sing-a-long version! 
Here are some more of Papas' wonderful illustrations...

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Postcrossings to close out 2023

December was a busy month for sending and receiving Postcrossing cards and cards from some of my pen pals. Pictured are some of the jolly postcards that came to our mailbox. I got cards this month from France, Germany, China, Scotland, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Bangladesh, Slovakia, Czechia and elsewhere. 

One sender wrote of enjoying their first snow of the season. Another spread the message that we should be kind. A high school student shared that he's a movie lover and recently saw Christopher Nolan's The Prestige.

Also nice have been the email messages acknowledging receipt of Postcrossing postcards I've send around the globe. Here are a handful for the holidays:

Anne from Finland wrote: "We have some 30 cm of snow here and it's so beautiful outside. So it's going to be a white Christmas here as usual. I hope you'll get the rain you need there soon."

Sylvia from Ireland wrote: "Thank you Chris for your postcard with your nice message. We are sharing lots of hobbies — I also like collecting books — especially vintage ones; and old movies — Gone with the Wind, White Christmas are my favourites, and I have to say I did see all movies with John Wayne (my husband has all of his movies, so I had no choice); and folklore — especially Polish, as I'm originally from that country (just finished a beautiful chain for a Christmas tree made out of straw and crepe paper, from book published in 1920s). I'm reading books every morning before my kids wakes up. And I, actually my whole family, are animal lovers. We do have 2 cute dogs and nearly 16 years old cat lady. And I'm always on the go."

Marit from Norway wrote: "Thank you for your nice postcard. I am not a big fan of winter, especially when it snows a lot, then gets mild with rain, and then get cold again with ice as a result."

Simone from Germany wrote: "Thank you for your lovely card. It put a smile on my face. Now all the lovely snow is gone and it looks like a green and mild Christmas time for the rest of December. Now I am enjoying a hot tea and Postcrossing. I wish you a wonderful advent and Christmas time."

Linda from the Netherlands wrote: "Thank you so much for this cute postcard, I love it! And I get your love for cats. It so happens that my boyfriend (who's name is Chris) has a cat as well and I love snuggling with her and getting that unconditional love. Like you said, it is so wholesome in this world and how it is at the moment. I will check your blog out!"

Naomi from Japan wrote: "Thank you for sending me such a romantic postcard from the Arizona desert! I was surprised that you know so many old Japanese movies and actresses! I'm also a fan of Ozu. And his birthplace is very close to my house. It is now a very small museum and occasionally shows his films for free. By the way, my favorite American directors are Hitchcock and Nolan."

Hulya from Germany wrote: "Thank you so much for your beautiful card with the cats. My favourite films of Daniel Day-Lewis are My Beautiful Laundrette and Eversmile, New Jersey. I wish you beautiful Christmas days."

Merry Christmas postcard sent to Muskegon in 1916

We're still in the midst of the 12 days of Christmas, so here's a Merry Christmas postcard that was sent to Miss N. Bosch in Muskegon, Michigan, in December 1916, a month in which more awful things (including avalanches) were happening amid World War I, author Shirley Jackson entered the world and Grigori Rasputin exited it in grisly fashion.

I love the snowman on this Azo real photo postcard, though it doesn't look at all like it's actually made of snow. I suspect it was set up in a photo studio, and folks would come in and pose with it, then leave with their personalized RPPC to send to friends and family. On the back, Jane B. writes only "Merry Xmas & Happy New Year."

I used a Google image search to try to find the same snowman. No luck, but I did find a similar RPPCs here, here and here.

Snowmen have been around since at least the Middle Ages. According to Wikipedia, the tallest one ever built was 122 feet! Genesis has a 1978 song about a snowman titled "Snowbound," but there's debate over whether it's about an actual snowman, or a poor guy who has died of hypothermia. Here are part of the lyrics:
Hey there's a Snowman
Hey, hey what a Snowman
Pray for the Snowman
Ooh, ooh what a Snowman
They say a snow year's a good year
Filled with the love of all who lie so deep

Saturday, December 9, 2023

1909 Christmas postcard mailed from Auburn, New York

Have you mailed your Christmas cards yet? This vintage "Happy be your Christmas" postcard from 114 years ago was postmarked at 3:30 p.m. on December 22, 1909, in Auburn, New York, and mailed about 22 miles northeast to Syracuse, New York. I wonder if it arrived by Christmas Eve.

The recipient was Mr. Clinton L. Borst. The postcard is from his mother. It states:
My Dear Son,
I was so glad to get your letter today for I had been thinking of them all day — sorry, very sorry. I am fealing [sic] good now. I was [nauseous] last week. I do miss Miss Howl some and I miss you two. Are you going out to Euclid Christmas day. Hope you will have a good time. 
If I am correct in my genealogy websurfing, Clinton Borst lived from 1879 to 1947 and thus was 30 when he received this postcard. 

"Mother" is Catherine Malissa (Sitterly) Borst (1848-1938). It's pretty neat to have a postcard that is handwritten by a woman who was born the same year that the California gold rush began.

The April 7, 1919, edition of The Auburn Citizen noted that Clinton L. Borst of Auburn and Marvin E. Borst of Canastota, who did business as Borst Bros., in the town of Throop, filed a bankruptcy petition.

Monday, December 4, 2023

A 1975 introduction to horror cinema

Here's Smoky with 1975's Movie Monsters by Thomas G. Aylesworth. This is a battered (aka "much read") copy in a school library binding. Although someone removed all of the circulation cards and tried to obscure its provenance with a thick black marker, I can tell you that this copy was in the Brandywine Heights Elementary School library in Topton, Pennsylvania

This was a right proper book for an elementary school library in the 1970s, when monster-loving kids wore turtlenecks and corduroy trousers and inhabited a world with the hue of Polaroid photos and the haze of cigarette smoke. Aylesworth's book covers King Kong, Godzilla, Frankenstein's creature, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, the Fly, Dracula, The Bride of Frankenstein ("the greatest monster sequel," it states), Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man and Dr. Moreau's creatures (Charles Laughton version). 

There's also a section on the greatest copycat monsters, which basically calls the Hammer creatures of Christopher Lee and Oliver Reed nothing more than "interesting copies." And there's a short section on the greatest monster actors of all time, which cites only Lon Chaney Sr., Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price. The list could have been a bit lengthier and more expansive — Fay Wray? Elsa Lanchester? Barbara Steele? Agnes Moorehead? I know the idea of Scream Queens was still a few years away in 1975, but it would have been nice for Aylesworth to honor some horror actress pioneers.

Still, this book served as an solid gateway to horror cinema for a lot of kids nearly a half-century ago. In a 2009 review on Amazon, Rodney writes: "This was quite possibly the first book I purchased on my own as a kid. It set the stage for a life long love of monsters and horror movies."

And in a 2018 review on Goodreads, Timothy writes: "I had any of Aylesworth's books I could get my hands on ... when I was a kid. Read them over and over. It's 40 years later, and I am still an obsessed Monster Movies fan. I wish I could have met the man as an adult and told him how much joy I got from reading these little books, over and over and over."

Indeed, Aylesworth (1927-1995) wrote a lot of books for kids who were curious about monsters, ghosts, spooks and the paranormal. Even by 1975, he had quite the impressive bibliography, as seen here on the "Other books by..." page at the front of Movie Monsters

His papers from 1968 through 1983 are held at the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. That website's biographical note states that when Aylesworth began writing nonfiction for children, he focused topics of science and the environment: "He enjoyed tremendous success with This Vital Air, This Vital Water (1968), a book on environmental pollution that was translated into seven languages. After hosting a houseguest with an interest in astrology and witchcraft, Aylesworth began writing juvenile books on the occult. Servants of the Devil (1971), a book on witches, was well received and followed by similar titles on vampires, werewolves, mythological beasts, and paranormal phenomena. He also served as ghostwriter for young readers' autobiographies of several celebrities and co-wrote a series of seventeen travel books with his wife, Virginia."

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Update on an amazing house in Coudersport, Pennsylvania

From the Facebook page, posted November 23, 2023.

During a fun trip that Joan and I made to northern Pennsylvania in May 2013, I snapped a photo of a dilapidated house in Coudersport, Potter County. I added some filters and posted it here as a quickie snapshot of a "creepy old house." Later, I made it available as a postcard on Redbubble.

But it's no longer creepy!

Thanks to a post by On the Road in Pennsylvania that showed up in Facebook feed in early November, I learned that this house is undergoing an amazing renovation. 

The restoration is being documented on Facebook, Instagram and a blog so that everyone can follow along. I'm so glad I found out about this! Without that out-of-the-blue Facebook post, I probably wouldn't have known any of this. Now I want to help spread the word in my small way.

It turns out that there is a good bit known about this house. Located at 4 North Main Street in Coudersport, it's an Italianate house built in 1880 by Franklin W. Knox, a prominent lawyer and businessman. It was also formerly the Old Hickory Tavern.

According to the blog, "Construction began in 1878 and was completed in May of 1880, only a few weeks before a fire swept through the town." Knox had seen a similar house in Pittsburgh and wanted one for himself in Coudersport, built with locally sourced "maple, cherry, black birch, pine, oak, hemlock, chestnut and butternut." The estimated costed was $10,000, which would be a little north of $310,000 today (though I suspect using so much valuable wood would send the price far higher).

The house was electrified around 1905. After a couple of transfers of ownership, it became Coudersport's second Old Hickory Tavern around 1928. After a string of additional ownership changes over the decades, it was purchased by those who are currently renovating it in 2016.

Writing on the blog in 2021, co-owner Holly Mauser states, "I’m thankful for that, that so many people can see the beauty in an old house. They saw that beauty years ago when it was really not looking it’s best. I’m thankful that they saw potential like we did. I hope more people keep seeing the potential in these amazing buildings wherever they live." (The full post is quite wonderful.)

If you're interested in learning more, I highly recommend checking out all that's been documented on Facebook and Instagram about this epic renovation. I think we're all looking forward to the day when its 1880 beauty is restored as fully as reasonably possible. Coudersport is already a great place to visit, and the restoration of the old Knox house is just one more reason to take that road trip.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Extremely rare Sweetnik doll by Lada Draskovic hits eBay

It was more than 12½ years ago that I first learned of Lada Draskovic's "beatnik dolls," officially called Sweetniks, thanks to a small photograph in the 1961 Compton Yearbook.

Over time, I compiled everything I discovered about Draskovic in 2013's The Incomplete Lada Draskovic and 2018's An Addendum to "The Incomplete Lada Draskovic." It's a history tale for which I still have far more questions than answers. And the dolls themselves are rarer still; there can't be many still in existence. 

But another doll has cropped up. I have an eBay email alert for "Sweetniks," just in case it might provide a lead to learning more about Draskovic or her dolls. This newly listed doll is different than the other two I've seen color pictures of (one purple-haired, with a matching cat, and the other blonde). This one has brown hair (with maybe a hint of magenta) and is wearing an outfit that I think definitely qualifies as beatnik. It's amazing how unique each doll is.

It's listed on eBay for $1,300 by a seller in Illinois. That sounds about right, because we know that one Sweetnik was initially listed on eBay for $1,200 in 2018, and that the buyer later accepted the best offer (which was undisclosed). It, of course, only takes one collector who knows about the Sweetniks, is aware of their extreme rarity, and has the available funds in order to make a sale. So it will be interesting to see if someone snatches this one up. It's certainly a beauty.

The eBay listing doesn't tell us much that's new, stating "Vintage 'Sweetnik' doll from early 1960’s. Made in Italy by artist Lada Draskovic. These are very rare. Original made for Saks. Very few made it into the United States. Excellent condition. Hand painted. Doll is almost 15” tall."

But the photos are excellent — some of the best I've seen of these elusive dolls. I'm going to share them here for posterity; this post should be around much longer than an eBay listing, and I feel a deep obligation at this point to document everything that's known about Draskovic's Sweetniks.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Send the Popcorn Clown to get me

For the second year in a row, I whiffed on October/Halloween posts. I had so many grand plans and so much spooky/fun stuff lined up on the runway. Once again, I blame cats, work and the Phillies for stealing all my available time, but ultimately the blame should be directed at me. I just wasn't disciplined enough to keep Papergreat rolling during the best month of the year.

This clown was going to be part of the Mild Fear festivities. Maybe my punishment should be having to hang out with him in a haunted house on a dark and stormy night. 

Anyway, this colorful postcard was published in 1968 by Yankee Colour Corp. of Massachusetts. It shows — in the happy days long before Poltergeist and Bob Gray flipped the script on clowns — a red-haired clown selling popcorn in a Boston-area park. The caption on the back explains:
"Ye Days of Yore ... saw this Popcorn Wagon built by Mr. [Eleftherios] Alexion in South Boston, Mass., in 1915. Travelling Boston for 48 years, he became friend of young and young-at-heart at his frequented stop between the Common and Public Garden. Acquired by Mr. [Joseph A.] Coyle in 1963, this wagon still pops corn in a wire basket over white gas flame."
I wonder what happened to the wagon, which would be 108 years old now and would certainly be museum-worthy. 

When this postcard was posted on Facebook by Vintage Roadside, most of the comments were exactly what you'd expect. But I did like this one from Mary Beth: "I think this is really sweet, but I’m from the pre-scary clown era. What a lovely man to have spent 48 years brightening up days for kids and adults with fresh popcorn. Hard for me to see anything other than good vibes here. Send in the clowns — I love ‘em."

Maybe it's time to bring back Good Clowns and give them another chance. What do we think?

In the meantime, now I have the upcoming late autumn and winter to put all of my belated Halloween posts onto Papergreat. Winter chills, indeed.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Postcard of cat on a broomstick

This is one of my favorite Halloween-themed Postcrossing cards that I've received this autumn. Unfortunately, there's no clear indication who the illustrator is on this Hogwarts-inspired card. 

It was sent by Yi-Ning, who lives in Taiwan with four cats — Bacon, Babao, Licon and iPhoenix — all of whom are rescued strays, which warms my heart. Yi-Ning has some limitations due to health issues, but works part-time helping elderly citizens at the hospital and is a powerhouse on Postcrossing, with more than 8,000 cards sent and received. Postcards really do let you travel the world and meet other people, with the mailbox serving as your magic portal. I'm glad our portals connected.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

1968's "Voices from the Love Generation"

  • Title: Voices from the Love Generation
  • Editors: Edited and with an introduction and epilogue by Leonard Wolf (1923-2019), in collaboration with Deborah Wolf. They were married. I believe that Deborah Goleman Wolf is still alive; she is the author of the 1979 nonfiction book The Lesbian Community. Leonard Wolf went on to write many notable books about Dracula, especially focusing on Bram Stoker's novel. That makes him a good candidate to appear on Papergreat again in the future.
  • Cover design: William McLane
  • Interior photographs: Credited mostly to Ralph Ackerman (1941-2008), with some by Thomas Weir. The three photographs with this post are all by Ackerman. Weir is known for taking some famous shots of The Grateful Dead, though he is not related to the Dead's Bob Weir.
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Year: 1968
  • Pages: 283
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Provenance: This copy was formerly shelved in the Ramsdell Public Library in Housatonic, Massachusetts (not to be confused with Miskatonic University).
  • Dust jacket blurb: "Leonard Wolf, professor of English at San Francisco State College, has been involved with the Haight-Asbury Hippie community for over a year as an observer and as director of Happening House, a communications center in the district. Along with his admittedly straight sensibility, Mr. Wolf brought to his work in the community an open mind and a determination to understand the movement as it really is. Voices from the Love Generation is a collection of interviews with fifteen Hippies, recorded and arranged by Mr. Wolf and his wife Deborah. The startling candor, the rough language, the frankness about sex and drugs, indeed, the mere effort at communication with the straight world that characterize these interviews, are a tribute to the trust and respect the Wolfs have earned from the Hippies. This book is by the Hippies, not about them."
  • Dedication: "This book is affectionately dedicated to the entire Haight-Asbury community."
  • Quote from Lenore Kandel interview: "Love is a gift. No bargain. You love someone, you take them, and you accept them entirely. And they're supposed to accept you, wherever you're at, if they love you. The only way I know it's going to happen is by experimentation, by living, and by telling the truth."
  • Quote from Patrick Gleeson interview (pictured at right): "For one thing, I feel that if you want to find the roots of our present problems, the vital roots, you can go back to the seventeenth century and see them becoming public issues and big problems then. You can see the rise of technology [and] the thing Swift was so worried about — abstraction. It's only through abstraction that we can have cybernation and cybernation will finally free us from the hangups of the physical universe."
  • What is "cybnernation" in this context? Per Leonard Wolf's extensive glossary, cybernation is "electronically controlled industrial automation." 
  • Quote from Wes Wilson interview: "I think the hippies are sort of like a beginning of something which is going to be different. I think there will probably be very few people in the Haight-Asbury who will go into a very disciplined scene. ... I don't think the system we're living in is going to outlast the hippies. The system will change. The thing that's happening with hippies is a growth, not a static thing."
  • Full list of subjects interviewed: Peter Mackaness, Lenore Kandel, Steve Levine, Patrick Gleeson, Maggie Gaskin (pictured at top of this post), Charlotte Todd, Peter Cohon and Sam, Sandra Butler, Pancho, Tsvi Strauch, Teresa Murphy, Wes Wilson, Ron Thelin, Shirly Wise, and Peter Berg.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 4.20 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In a long, insightful 2012 review, Tracey Madeley noted: "Throughout all the interviews there is a naivety and a hope for a better way of living. This is a great primary source for anyone wanting to study hippies, their values and ideas."
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.80 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In a long and also insightful 2011 review, Mary Mekko noted: "Anyone who wasn't there will find these extensive interviews, in many cases classic hippie-druggie rambling, to be very insightful. They show the innocence of some of the aspirants to a New Life, those who wished to shed encumbrances, broken families, unhappy pasts including their aimless academic pursuits, odd jobs, careers, or lack thereof. Attracted by the Free Love ideals, both young men and women found the experience of free sex encounters at that time in history to be liberating. Aided by acid trips, the world appeared to them to be their love oysters. ... A great book for recording the genuine thoughts of the time, before the 'scene got ugly.' Note also ... that the Haight-Ashbury was a CHEAP neighborhood. The whole movement depended on free handouts, free food, donated clothes, welfare checks and parents sending money. ... This is the kind of book one should read, in retrospect, to see how our society has come in the direction it has. The young people seem incredibly innocent, if not disingenuous. They so much yearn for a world of peace, love and harmony — where they won't have to work, put up with rules, roommates, discomfort, etc. etc. And where has such a place ever existed, I do wonder? One can almost yearn along with them as one reads their ramblings. In the end, the movement was a yearning ending in a yawn."
  • Related post: "The Flower People"

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

How about a Bloody Mary and some catfish terrine?

Another find on my trip to the Queen Creek Goodwill store was this copy of 1990's The Evolution of Cajun & Creole Cuisine. If I were still a book picker who was targeting finds for resale, this might have been a decent find, flippable for a few bucks more than I paid for it. But I bought it because I wanted to share the inscription on the inside front cover. It's a short list of ingredients for Eddie's Bloody Mary Mix! (Their exclamation point, not mine.)

  • 46 oz. V-8
  • 16 oz. Vodka
  • lemon juice
  • 2T Worcestershire 
  • 1T Tabasco
  • 1 t. Horseradish
  • 15 dashes salt
  • 15 dashes pepper
  • 2 dashes celery salt

I've never had a Bloody Mary, so I have no idea whether this is a typical, superior or inferior recipe.1 According to a cursory browsing of the internet, some suggested ingredients to take a Bloody Mary to the next level include pickle juice, garlic powder, Old Bay, orange juice, Clamato and beef bouillon. But please mix responsibly and, especially, drink responsibly.

Another fun thing I found in flipping through the book was the above photo of Terrine of Smoked Delta Pride Catfish. Terrine is basically in the same family as gelatins and aspics, which received a lot of coverage back in the early days of Papergreat, about a decade ago. Here are the links if you want to check out some of those horrors:

1. I'm more interested in the origin of the name Bloody Mary than I am in drinking one. Interestingly, there are way more contenders than the obvious idea that it's tied to the monstrous Mary I of England, who had a lot of her subjects killed. In a 2002 Chicago Tribune article, Andy Badeker writes: "It was named for (pick one) Mary Tudor, the 16th Century English queen with a heretic-burning habit; the actress Mary Pickford; a bartender's girlfriend who was regularly late; or Chicago's Bucket of Blood club, where 1920s newsmen went to have their livers hardened. These credits come from John Poister's 'The New American Bartender's Guide' and Salvatore Calabrese's 'Classic Cocktails.'"

Monday, September 18, 2023

Great links: "A Wrinkle in Time" mystery is solved

In May, Sarah Elizabeth asked a simple question on the Unquiet Things blog: "Why is it that in this current year of 2023, no one seems to know who the cover artist is for this iconic Dell Laurel-Leaf A Wrinkle in Time cover art?? In a time when we have so much information available to us at our literal fingertips, how could it possibly be that the above marvelously and terrifyingly iconic imagery is perpetually credited to 'unknown artist'?"

Solving this mystery was not straightforward, but it was solved.

I was one of the members of Generation X for whom this was, indeed, an iconic paperback (first printed in 1976). We were assigned to read it at C.E. McCall Middle School in Montoursville in fifth or sixth grade, circa 1981 to 1983, and I recall many worn copies of this exact paperback lining a shelf below the classroom window. The cover was an attention-grabber, even if the story itself wasn't the easiest entry point into science-fiction for this middle school student. But I'm so glad my teacher introduced us to thought-provoking, challenging books. That matters.

Elizabeth's post spurred a lot of speculation and work by book sleuths. And the mystery was finally solved: The illustrator was Richard Bober (1943-2022). It took nearly a half-century for him to get public credit.

Taking the handoff from Elizabeth and finding the answer was Amory Sivertson of the podcast WBUR podcast Endless Thread, which focuses on questions and stories related to Reddit posts (Elizabeth had set Reddit to the task of solving the mystery.)

You can listen to the 44-minute podcast or read the full transcript here. It's hugely entertaining, especially for book sleuths. (And, as an aside that I can agree with wholeheartedly, someone says, "15% of everything is destroyed by cats." Also, the mystery comes to a conclusion in a Pennsylvania basement.

As Elizabeth wrote triumphantly, "I am a bit overwhelmed, and I don’t know what more there is to say about it anymore, but the case is cracked, and the mystery is solved!"

The story even caught the attention of The New York Times, where staff writer Amanda Holpuch described Bober's cover artwork thusly: "The mystery cover art shows a strapping centaur with delicate wings flying above a menacing green face with bright red eyes. Craggy mountains and fluffy dark clouds surround the haunting figures. The website Book Riot called the art 'nightmare fuel.'"

Menacing green face? Yes.

Haunting figures? Yes.

Nightmare fuel? Yup.

But mystery cover art? No longer. That was Richard Bober who fueled our 1970s and 1980s imaginations with his cover artwork to accompany Madeleine L'Engle's award-winning novel. 

Sunday, September 17, 2023

Examining "The Abominable Snowman" from all sides in 1977

Previous Contemporary Perspectives/Raintree children's books covered on Papergreat:

Today's book...
  • Title: The Abominable Snowman
  • Author: Barbara Antonopulos. I can't find anything about her or anything else she wrote. That's a mystery we should solve.
  • Cover illustrator: Lynn Sweat
  • Interior illustrations: Nilda Scherer (that includes the one above and the one below). A 1981 article in The New York Times mentions in passing that Scherer also worked as a courtroom sketch artist.
  • Publisher: A Contemporary Perspectives Inc. (CPI) book distributed by Raintree Children's Books, Milwaukee
  • Year: 1977
  • Pages: 48
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Photo research: "All photo research for this book was provided by Roberta Guerette." 
  • Chapter titles: Monster of the Moutain; Just How Abominable Is the Snowman?; Footprints in the Snow; Hillary's Search; The Village of Beding; The Snowman's Scalp; Man or Myth?; American Relatives?
  • First sentences: A small group of men made their way slowly up the steep mountain slope. The air was still. No one spoke as they climbed. Each man thought only of the blinding white snow and the steep mountain still ahead of him. Suddenly, the men froze in terror.
  • Last sentences: If these beasts are actually living in the mountains and forests around us, hopefully one day we will be able to prove that they do exist. By studying the Abominable Snowman, we may shed new light on the way people and animals have changed since prehistoric times. At this time, however, the strange case of the Abominable Snowman remains a great, unsolved mystery.
  • Pause for comment: I think it's important to point out here that these Contemporary Perspectives/Raintree books were rarely hyperbolic or sensationalized. Yes, they were attempting to attract young readers with topics like ghosts, spooky mysteries, cryptozoology, etc. — stuff most kids are fascinated by. And it was the 1970s, when Leonard Nimoy's In Search of... was a popular TV show. But, generally, these are reasonable, thoughtful children's books that try to get young readers to think about what is and isn't credible and decide for themselves. As I included in the Visions of the Future: Magic Boards post, one librarian stated, "We found that the books represented, throughout, both sides of the issue."
  • Excerpt from the middle #1: The scalp was examined by scientists in Chicago and Paris. But they didn't believe it had once belonged to a Snowman. In Chicago they believed that the "scalp" was really the hide of a serow — a wild goat antelope.
  • Excerpt from the middle #2: Others say the Abominable Snowman is really a human being. Lamas, the religious men of Nepal, sometimes wander in the mountains by themselves. From a distance, dressed in their large hooded robes, they could be mistaken for a Snowman.
  • About the above illustration: The illustration of Mih-Teh, Thelma and Dzu-Teh shows what the Sherpas describe as three types of Yeti. The largest is Dzu-Teh, which can be up to 8 feet tall. The middle-sized one is Mih-Teh, which is the fiercest and the most dangerous to man. And the smallest is Thelma, which is about the size of a human teenager. And it turns out that "Thelma" is as incorrect as it seems. Cryptozoologist Loren Coleman pointed out on Twitter earlier this year: "The editor of this book ... inserted a typo in the mix. The Teh-Ima, the Little Yeti, is a definite part of the history, not 'Thelma.'" You can read more about this on the Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.80 stars (out of 5)
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.00 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review: Matthew wrote: "This book I read when I was 9. It introduced me to the world of cryptids, ufos, and the paranormal. I've been looking everywhere for this book as I want to relive the nostalgia. Very good introduction to the abominable snowman."
  • Twitter mention #1: Folk Horror Revival (@folk_horror) calls it "a cool little book" and highlights more of the illustrations by Nilda Scherer.
  • Twitter mention #2: Richard Fay, responding to a post about favorite childhood books, wrote: "THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN by Barbara Antonopulos. Actually, the library in my grade school had a whole series of books about monsters and the unexplained. I read and re-read all of them! A while back, I ordered three of them to add to my personal library."
  • Movie moment: There are many, many movies about Yeti and Sasquatch. Most of them are low-budget films made during the 1970s that will likely never receive a Criterion release. I have not seen many movies from this genre, unless you're counting animated Christmas specials. My one recommendation, as a fan of most things Hammer, would be 1957's The Abominable Snowman, featuring Peter Cushing. And my recommendation of one to avoid would be 1977's Snowbeast. Joan and I watched it in August 2008 and, in our movie-watching journal, I wrote: "This made-for-TV flick is basically 'Jaws' with a Yeti, which we barely ever get to see. It's also 'Jaws' without a good script, good directing, good editing and good acting. But, hey, it's got Bo freaking Svenson." Why is that this 1977 children's book treated its audience with more respect than a movie made for adults in the same year? 

Saturday, September 16, 2023

From the readers: Saving the cats, McCall's chairs and baseball stickers

The latest collection of comments and questions from Paperback readers...

Postcard of good old Harry Truman:  Anonymous writes: "Love this postcard and love your thoughts on it. I too struggle with the idea of him staying simply on behalf of the 16 cats, BUT, as you said, it would have been more difficult than we could imagine today for him to have up and left with 16 cats in tow back in 1980. Where could he have gone and where would he have been welcomed with so many pets (and raccoons!)? I like to think what some of his family think — that he wouldn't have been able to survive much longer seeing his beloved home demolished. And not only that, had he not been able to take his cats with him, the mere thought of them being alone in the end would have added that much more heartbreak for him. His sister said she couldn't imagine a more 'fitting end' for him, and I think especially given the times and his cats/regular forest friends it was the inevitable, possibly most beautiful outcome."

I appreciate this thoughtful comment. It was an incredibly difficult situation. Given that we now have more cats than Harry Truman1, I think about his situation and similar plights quite often. Of course, we are unlikely to have a volcanic eruption here in the Sonoran Desert. But Mother Nature has many other disasters up her sleeve, as we've seen throughout this year and, devastatingly, just within recent days in Greece and Libya, and Morocco.

Our cats are our family, just as Harry Truman's were. We talk about action plans for immediate emergencies (no time to get out) and for emergencies when we might have only minutes, hours or a day to safely leave the premises. My stance is firm: I'm going to evacuate these cats or do everything in my power to do so, regardless of my safety. Hopefully such an awful moment never, ever comes.

Katherine Sturges Dodge illustration: Linda Drury writes: "I have that collection, the 1960 edition, and the illustrations have stuck with me for 50 years. Her work is beautiful, as are so many of the illustrations in these volumes." 

Vanished place: Old South Bar-B-Q Ranch in Clewiston, Florida: Anonymous writes: "Never visited, but will always remember the road signs they placed on US-27 in the manner of the old Burma Shave signs."

Speaking of which, I highly recommend the book The Verse by the Side of the Road: The Story of the Burma-Shave Signs and Jingles.

The elementary school in the City Behind the Fence: Anonymous writes: "I attended Cedar Hill (from) 1944-48. Have fond childhood memories of that area."

Receipt and more tucked away inside 1967 sci-fi paperback: nocynic writes: "Raimi's Curtains was funded and run by my grandfather, Jacob Raimi, and his wife, my grandmother Sylvia. They were Sam Raimi's uncle and aunt. My father ran it after his parents more or less retired. It was founded in 1924 and was a fixture in Detroit for more than 60 years." 

Very cool! Kind of neat to have, via ephemera, a tangential connection to the director of the original Evil Dead movies and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (which comes off delightfully as an Evil Dead homage). 

McCall Chair Co. ink blotter: Anonymous writes: "My Daddy drove for McCall's for many years. I rode with him on a lot of trips until I started kindergarten. My favorite chair though was the #90 Swivel. Mom and Dad had one until their house burned in 2005. My sisters and my brother, as well as some of my cousins, still have the rockers from Mom & Dad, and from my grandparents. Good quality, though time has forced some re-upholstering to be done."

Thank you for sharing these memories!

Scholastic book cover: "Alvin's Secret Code": poslfit writes: "Thanks for sharing the cover of my favourite childhood book. I went on to read the abridged paperback edition of Kahn's book before eventually finding a copy of the full original."

The commenter is referring to Dave Kahn's 1966 book The Codebreakers – The Story of Secret Writing, which was revised and republished in 1996 as the 1,200-page The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet.

Down memory lane with 1983 Topps Baseball Sticker Album: Anonymous writes: "I would package and sell my doubles to friends, and cheated by using that money to order the stickers I needed and filled the book."

I don't think that's cheating! The stickers were available for mail-order purchase, so buying the ones you still needed to fill the book was a perfectly legitimate path toward completion.

Also, wow, this post was 12 years ago. Do I still have this sticker book? I'll have to look. When I wrote this post, Bryce Harper was an 18-year-old minor leaguer in the Washington Nationals' farm system.2

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Here's the unedited version of what Anonymous wrote: "I sold four years Cheerful Cards and gadgets back in 1954 what fun I had helped to be more self confident and proud for selling. Every kid should have the great feeling I had all those years ago!"

We're up to 40 comments on this 2012 post. So many folks writing anonymously over the years about how memorable it was to be involved in this enterprise. Are all of these posts legitimate, or are there some spam bots at work in some instances? What do you think? What good would it do to post spam comments on a little-trafficked blog for a company from so many decades ago? It's an enduring mystery.


1. Household pet cats (19): Titan, Monkey, Banjo, Orange, Panda, Bandit, Toffee, Spice, Autumn, Smoky, Nebula, Bounds (aka Osmond Portifoy), Dusty, Socks, LP, IceBear, Pengin, Phantom and Pete.

Household temporary foster cats (8): Stubby, Venus and Mercury (via Cirque); Oliver, Poundcake, Transformer, Snugs and Stripe (via Mamacita dropping them off at our back door at age 3½ weeks)

Outdoor feral cats we care about but couldn't save in an emergency (9): Big Boi and Mamacita. Plus Mamacita's kids Cirque, Creamy, Fjord, Waffle and Splash. Plus Cirque's kids Drac and Jiji. And, yes, we continue to work our butts off to TNR them, though the fosters are consuming most of our time at the moment.

2. The Phillies, with Bryce Harper, defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 today, taking another step toward clinching a playoff berth. Kyle Schwarber hit his 44th home run and Ranger Suarez was the winning pitcher.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

"A Treasury of Witches and Wizards" — briefly annotated

That's Phantom. Isn't she pretty?
This book was one of my recent finds at the Goodwill store in Queen Creek, Arizona. Published in 1996 by Kingfisher1, it's A Treasury of Witches and Wizards, as chosen by David Bennett. This particular book is interesting because: (1) it collects the Ruth Manning-Sanders retelling of the Tyrolean tale "Gold," from 1966's A Book of Wizards; (2) one of its previous owners — a parent? a teacher? storyteller?  — has annotated the table of contents to provide some subjective thoughts on the 15 stories.

Here's the table of contents and its annotations:

  • "The Hare and the Black and White Witch" by Lynne Reid Banks — No!
  • "Petronella" by Jay Williams — fair, long
  • "Gold" by Ruth Manning-Sanders — fair to good, long
  • "The Mean Pear Seller" by Floella Benjamin — OK to good lesson, short
  • "The Boy with Two Shadows" by Margaret Mahy — kinda cute
  • "The Not-Very-Nice Prince" by Pamela Oldfield — fair 
  • "Yashka and the Witch" by Stephen Corrin — fair
  • "The Improving Mirror" by Terry Jones — fair to good
  • "Jack My Lad" by Alan Garner — fair to good
  • "The Fat Wizard" by Diana Wynne Jones — too long
  • "Glooskap and the Sorcerer" by Gillian Osband — fair - 
  • "Lizzie Dripping and the Witch" by Helen Cresswell
  • "The Tale of the Three Tails" by Charles J. Finger — good but long
  • "Hamish and the Wee Witch" by Moira Miller — good for Halloween, adapt & shorten
  • "Anancy, Old Witch and King-Daughter" by James Berry — fair

Final note: The cover illustration is by Virginia Chalcraft and the interior illustrations, including those on the table of contents, are by Jacqui Thomas.
1. The publisher's full name is Larousse Kingfisher Chambers Inc., and I'm unsure whether it's still in business.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Your future partner, as "determined" by a 1940s vending machine

This is one type of misogynistic card you might have gotten out of a "Vacuumatic Card Vender" made by Exhibit Supply Co. in the middle of the 20th century. You could drop a nickel in the "FOR MEN ONLY" side or the "FOR WOMEN ONLY" side and "Get a photograph of your future partner and family with a fortune of your married life." (Heterosexual relationships only, sorry.)

You can get a nice look at some of these vending machines on this webpage. The machines were in service primarily from the late 1920s through late 1950s and, in addition to "Future Partner" cards, they could dispense cards with famous athletes, hot rods, "bathing beauties," and cartoons. There were also many other relationship-themed cards, including "marriage prescriptions," romantic "advice" for women, and love letters.

The cards are the same size as postcards. It's easy to find them floating around on eBay and Etsy, including sets and uncut sheets. At a nickel apiece they must have been quite the novelty moneymaker back in the day. If my math is right, a nickel back then is about 80 cents today. I guess you could keep plugging in nickels until you got a partner you liked, and toss the other cards in the trash.