Sunday, March 19, 2023

1913 postcard: A melon field in Montoursville (plus ginseng farming)

Here's an old Montoursville, Pennsylvania, postcard that's new to me. As you can see, it's labeled "W.J. Artley's Melon Field." And those are, indeed, a lot of watermelons. Alan Mays posted another one of these cards on his Flickr page recently and states that W.J. Artley is Walter J. Artley (1860-1927), who was born in Tioga County and is buried in the sprawling, hilltop Montoursville Cemetery that isn't too far from the house on Willow Street where I once lived. 

Did Artley later move on from watermelons, or did he try to diversify his farm? I found a couple of Artley references in an old issue of Special Crops, a journal focused on farming of ginseng. Both references are from 1923. 

There's a small advertisement (pictured) and a published letter in which Artley seeks advice to limit crop blight: "Is lime or sulphur, or lime, sulphur and bluestone in a powdered form of a benefit to scatter on ginseng beds in spring before it comes up as a preventative of blight? Or is there anything else that can be used as an advantage to overcome blight? We had a great deal of blight on our ginseng last year and got but very few seed. We sprayed with Pyrox but it did not seem to control the blight. The stem of ginseng would get a brown spot on it and keep this up till the plant would drop down. Is this caused from blight, and what can be used as a remedy?"

The reply directs Artley not to use lime and recommends Pyrox, but states that the best way to fight blight is to have ginseng planted in high shade areas with good drainage and plenty of air. Too much heat and/or moisture will doom the ginseng.

Getting back to the postcard, it was mailed in June 1913 to Mrs. Edmund Shollenberger in Montgomery, Pennsylvania (previously known as Black Hole and Clinton Mills). Montoursville and Montgomery are only about six miles apart (as the crow flies) in Lycoming County. The note states:
Dear Clara: —
Maude, Lottie, and I will be down Sunday if nothing prevents. Thanks for the invitation.
Lovingly
E.M.A.

Monday, March 13, 2023

1959 Fleer baseball card showing the "Ted Williams Shift"

We're in the midst of Major League Baseball spring training for the 2023 season. Hope springs eternal. There's even a next-generation revival of the Steve Jeltz Fan Club. (Yes, I know I need to get around to that post.) 

In 1959, Fleer issued a special set of 80 baseball cards about Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams. The cards document Williams' life and baseball career, including its interruptions for military service for both World War II and the Korean War. Williams' Hall of Fame career was winding down at this point; he would play his last game for the Red Sox on September 28, 1960.

(Extremely weird aside: Williams died in 2002, and his head currently resides in a Scottsdale, Arizona, cryogenics facility 60 miles northwest of my house. The whole story is extremely bizarre. Google it, if you must.)

This card, #28 in the series, documents the Ted Williams Shift, which was used by opposing teams in a desperate attempt to limit the damage done by the Splendid Splinter, who had a redonkulous lifetime OPS of 1.116. The front of the card shows where some teams would position their fielders when the left-handed Williams came to the plate. On the back, the card states, "This was an attempt to curb Ted's right field power. Ted rarely hit to left field, so Cleveland swung all the infielders and the center fielder way over behind second and first bases. ... Fans gasped at this weird defense. How would Ted bat against it?"

For the most part, teams' usage of the extreme defensive shift did little to stymie Williams' excellence, though the shift was moderately effective in the 1946 World Series (when an injury was more of a factor in Williams' performance).

The shift has been used over the years against other superstar left-handed hitters who tended to hit the ball to right field. A 2017 article on FiveThirtyEight explains how the shift especially thwarted Philadelphia Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.

This season, such extreme defensive configurations will not be allowed in Major League Baseball games. According to a February 1 article by Anthony Castrovince on MLB.com: "The defensive team must have a minimum of four players on the infield, with at least two infielders completely on either side of second base. These restrictions are intended to increase the batting average on balls in play, to allow infielders to better showcase their athleticism and to restore more traditional outcomes on batted balls."

The prohibition on extreme shifts is part of a package of significant rule changes for the upcoming season, which include a pitch timer meant to speed up the pace of game. Baseball is constantly evolving. It will be interesting to see how these new rules affect play in 2023.

Saturday, March 11, 2023

Book cover: "The Wolf in Olga's Kitchen"

Title: The Wolf in Olga's Kitchen
Original title (Russian): Rebyata i Zveryata, published in 1925 in the Soviet Union
Author: Olga Vasilievna Perovskaya (1902-1961)
Illustrator: Angie Culfogienis 
Translator: Fainna Glagoleva
Publication year of this edition: 1969, The Bobbs-Merrill Company
Dust jacket price: $5.50, the equivalent of $45 today — this was a pricey book!
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 229
Perovskaya's dedication: I dedicate these childhood recollections to the bright memory of my dear parents.
Dust jacket excerpt: "THE CHARACTERS: Four sisters — Olga, Sonya, Natasha, Yulia; their mother and father; a wolf, a donkey, a fawn, a tiger cub, a fox, and an assortment of others, both human and animal. THE PLACE: Though it could be almost anywhere, anywhere there is easy access to a wolf, that is, the place is a village in central Russia which lies between two large rivers and is surrounded by mountains, forests, green valleys, and orchards. ... These are Olga Perovskaya's reminiscences of her childhood. Told with great warmth and humor, they evoke all the joys of childhood. She and her sisters are real."
First paragraph: "There is a fertile, blossoming plateau between two large rivers in Central Asia. Its name is Kazakh is Djety-Su, which means Seven Rivers. There are mountains, forest, green valleys, and orchards in Seven Rivers. One city, especially, is famed for its great apple orchards. This is Alma-Ata, which means 'Father of Apples.'"
Where is Alma-Ata? It is the largest city in Kazakhstan, located in the southeastern part of the country, and is now known in the West as Almaty. In 1906, when the author was 4 years old, its estimated population was 27,000. Today, it is home to more than 2 million people.
Random passage from the middle #1: "Now that we had two donkeys we would spend our days journeying up and down the mountains and through the forest. When someone asked Father where we were, he would go out on the porch and train his field glasses on the mountains. There, high up on the ridge of a mountain or on a slope, were two little donkeys climbing like goats with bright flashes of cotton dresses in between."
Random passage from the middle #2: "By winter the foxes had grown gorgeous new fur coats. They were healthy and lively and played very interesting games. The first snow fell at the beginning of November. Then the cold weather set in. The stoves were burning brightly in the houses and smoke rose from the chimneys above the white trees."
Goodreads rating: 4.33 stars on a five-star scale (with 171 ratings)
Goodreads review #1: In 2011, Sanal wrote: "Read this book when I was a little child. I was never the same after it. This taught me the value of compassion, and why you should be nice to every living being. I think every kid should read this wonderful book."
Goodreads review #2: Here's an excerpt of what Mary Deepthy wrote in 2013 (lightly edited): "I got this book from my elder sis, at the age of 8 or 9. I don't remember how many times I have read & re-read this. Amazing stories. ... I used to imagine myself in her place, and take my lambs along with me to empty fields —to grass. So many years have passed. But I still have the book with me, in perfect shape. It came with me to my husband's home, and then to our own house in Bangalore. I will pass it on to my son Aamie." 
Note: This book has also been published in English under the title Kids and Cubs.
Smoky, one of our 14 indoor cats. We do not have any foxes, tigers or wolves.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Two postcards mailed by my
great-grandmother Greta

Greta Miriam Chandler Adams (1894-1988), my great-grandmother, spent much of her time traveling the world, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Here are a couple of postcards that I pulled, pretty much at random, from the mail that she sent back to her husband, daughter and grandchildren (including my mother, Mary) back in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

The top card shows the cliffside Hotel Excelsior (which opened in 1834) in Sorrento, Italy. There's no date and I can't read a date on the postmark. It's mailed to my mom and my Uncle Charles, and I'd guess it was sent in the early to mid 1960s, when they were teenagers. The cursive note from Greta states:
Sat a.m.
Off for Capri, a nice warm day. Shops open at 8, so I have already been in there. Woke up early. You would love it here! Met some nice people on tour. Glen Ridge, N.J., couple I have talked to alot. No real young people. Lots of Americans here. 
Love,
Grandma

The second card  show Piscadera Bay Club in Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles. Apparently it's fun to relax on the cannons there. This card is dated April 1, 1966, and Greta mailed it to her daughter, who she oddly addresses as "Mrs. Adams Ingham" (my grandmother Helen was long since divorced at that point). This message states:

How are you? Hot weather Wed. & Thur. On ocean to-day so cooler — just right. Went in bathing & heard lecture about Jamaica & Haiti & a travelogue. What about perfume for you? Not heard. No parka around. Still meeting new people. No rain. 

L---,

Mother

Here are the stamps (Jamaica land shells) that Greta used for this card.

Sunday, March 5, 2023

"Satan's Bid for Your Child" and where have I heard all this before?

OK, so, this is a staplebound booklet featuring the text of "Satan's Bid for Your Child," a long sermon that was delivered by Pastor Jack Hyles on May 23, 1971, at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana. The sermon runs for 27½ single-spaced pages in the booklet.

This is the July 1972 third printing of the booklet. As of this printing, 300,000 copies of "Satan's Bid for Your Child" had been distributed across the United States. I don't know how many additional printings followed. Or how many drawers this booklet is still tucked away in. Copies aren't especially hard to find. The original sermon would have also been heard by the thousands who were bused in to attend Hyle's mega-church that day and by the untold number of folks listening along on the live radio broadcast.

All of that's a shame.

It's a bunch of moral panic nonsense.

Plus, Hyles was quite the hypocrite. (And likely far worse than that.)1

Not much has changed in 52 years, has it? Just the platforms via which the moralizing, nonsense, irrational fear and hatred can be transmitted to the susceptible masses.

We're deeply embedded in another moral panic in America at the moment. It's an especially hateful and harmful one. Dangerous folks are creating hysteria and convincing people to be afraid of children's books, of teaching students the full and true history of the United States, of transgender people, of refugees seeking asylum, of sex education, and of almost everything else that doesn't specifically relate to white evangelicals and their narrow worldview. And while doing all of this, many of them outrageously cast themselves as the true victims.

I'm going to use some asterisks in the middle of words in the next few paragraphs, because I don't want to give these folks even the tiniest benefit of search-engine amplification.

At a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference last night in Maryland, political commentator M*chael Kn*wles spewed this hatred: "There can be no middle way in dealing with transgenderism. It is all or nothing. If transgenderism is true, If men really can become women, then it's true for everybody of all ages. If transgenderism is false — as it is — if men really can't become women — as they cannot — then it's false for everybody too. And if it's false, then we should not indulge it. ... For the good of society, transgenderism must be eradicated from public life entirely."

That last despicable sentence — that threat of erasure, elimination or whatever you might perceive from such barbed words — drew loud applause from the audience.

And, no matter how you perceive those words, there can be no doubt that Kn*wles and other conservatives are putting transgender lives and livelihoods at risk with their venom and aggression. What they're doing is evil, full stop.

Then there's this, from this morning's coverage in The Washington Post of what's happening in the state governed by 2024 GOP presidential hopeful R*n DeS*ntis:
"Florida legislators have proposed a spate of new laws that would reshape K-12 and higher education in the state, from requiring teachers to use pronouns matching children’s sex as assigned at birth to establishing a universal school choice voucher program.

"The half-dozen bills, filed by a cast of GOP state representatives and senators, come shortly before the launch of Florida’s legislative session Tuesday. Other proposals in the mix include eliminating college majors in gender studies, nixing diversity efforts at universities and job protections for tenured faculty, strengthening parents’ ability to veto K-12 class materials and extending a ban on teaching about gender and sexuality — from third grade up to eighth grade."
Those are anti-democratic, anti-education, anti-LGBTQ initiatives from a state that's already been emboldened by its "success" in banning all sorts of books and curriculum from public schools. 

But, like I said, moral panics are nothing new in America. What's different this time, perhaps, is the ability of those in positions of power and influence to leverage moral panics for actions that cause widespread and real harm. Also, the verdict is still out on whether we as nation can successfully push back against this wave of hatred and prejudice, as we've done with past waves.

So let's circle back to Hyles and "Satan's Bid for Your Child." Here are some excerpts from his sermon 52 years ago. You may find some of it outrageous. Some of it laughable. Some of it hypocritical. But you should find all of it familiar. We've been down this path many times, the path of pointing fingers at the people, the institutions and the arts that we perceive to be "ruining" America. 

  • "The truth is that many parents do not know what is happening in our public schools. Hence, I am going to be very frank tonight and spend myself to save your boys and girls."
  • "Have you ever been taught evolution?"
  • "Do any of your teachers wear pant-dresses?"
  • "Have you ever heard the American way of life, the establishment, and capitalism criticized by a teacher?"
  • "Have you been asked to read such books as Of Mice and Men, Soul on Ice, The Grapes of Wrath, Catcher in the Rye, or any other book that includes cursing?"
  • "That battle is not just to save a country; it is to save your children!"
  • "Satan is after your child. He has pointed every gun in his arsenal at the soul, body, and mind of your child, and he is basically doing it through the school room."
  • "During the years of this extensive effort to use our educational system to help change the American way of thinking, a key propaganda gimmick used to keep communists, socialists, and other undesirables on teaching staffs was the cry of 'academic freedom.'"
  • "Many of you do not know what your kids are reading. You have not checked. You have no idea, so I have to tell you. I'm going to open a few of the books. I will not say the bad words; I'll just spell them."
  • "Television and radio programs by the dozens which have traditionally been for good solid music now have on their programs such guests as the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. I can't sing, I don't know much about music, but I know that is not music!"
  • "We must get back to decency. Rock music is ruining our young people and overwhelming our country with communism. What can we do about it? Here is what we must do: 1. Teenagers, destroy every record, picture, and magazine you have that has anything to do with these revolutionary singing groups. Don't give them away. Burn them! Break them! Destroy them!"
  • "Sensitivity training is sex education encouraging students to express all points of view freely. They also use four-letter words."
  • "Get your child into a Christian school. I mean it."
  • "It is time we called a national emergency on the devil. We've got to do it. Let's save our children!"

Not much has changed, has it? Hyles died in 2001. Were he alive in today's world, I strongly suspect that he would have attended and applauded at last night's CPAC gathering in Maryland.

But, wait, there's more (unfortunately)
Related posts
Footnote
1. Excerpts from those sources:
  • "The Women Who Knew Jack Hyles" (by David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, Sept. 5, 2021): "Each of these testimonies agree in major points that should cause any Bible-believing preacher to reject Jack Hyles as a gross hypocrite who was unqualified to be a pastor and as a cult leader rather than a true shepherd under Jesus Christ."
  • "Let Us Prey: Big Trouble at First Baptist Church" (by Bryan Smith, Chicago magazine, Dec. 11, 2012): "Multiple websites tracking the First Baptist Church of Hammond have identified more than a dozen men with ties to the church — many of whom graduated from its college, Hyles-Anderson, or its annual Pastors’ Schools — who fanned out around the country, preaching at their own churches and racking up a string of arrests and civil lawsuits, including physical abuse of minors, sexual molestation, and rape."

Friday, March 3, 2023

Great links: "Do youz want dippie eggs or eggie bread?"

Photos: Some French toast that I made for Ashar in June 2013.

Thanks to some Hatchy Milatchy research1, I stumbled across an amazing website (launched way back in 1995) called CoalRegion.com. It bills itself as "a collection of nostalgia and regionalisms from the Anthracite Coal Region of Pennsylvania. The region is made up of Schuylkill, Carbon, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Northumberland, and Columbia counties, and also the northernmost reaches of Dauphin county." 

While it has a dandy collection of regional recipes and other groovy features, my favorite part of the website is the A-through-Z CoalSpeak dictionary. I wish someone would publish it in book form (and save me from printing it all out), because it's an invaluable cultural resource that deserves better than becoming a Lost Corner of the Internet.

One of the entries on CoalSpeak is for eggie bread: "bread dipped in egg, then fried, and served with syrup, powdered sugar, or salt and pepper, usually at breakfast. Known to the rest of the world as 'French toast'. 'Do youz want dippie eggs or eggie bread before I run ya over ta Mass?'"

I've been making French toast for my son for years. My memories of French toast date back to Webelos camping trips that Dad and I went on when we lived in Montoursville in the early 1980s. For breakfast, the Scout leaders would have a huge container of egg/milk batter and set up an assembly line to grill French toast for everyone. Great times.

And I did not know that eggie bread was another name for French toast.

As for dippy/dippie eggs, Joan has written often about them on the Only in York County blog, including in July 2007, October 2010 and in this post about Yorkisms. It's such a fun blog to wander through, and it's another thing that I wish would be saved in book form for posterity!

Here are a few of the other entries from CoalSpeak:
  • my story: one's favorite soap opera.  
  • night fishin: from Sunbury ... Building fires at the Susquehanna River at night so you can fish for carp. The fishing area was first seeded with hard corn in the afternoon, then the hooks were baited with sweet corn upon returning at night. The two to three foot carp were taken home and buried in the garden for fertilizer.
  • slidin' board: the children's park or playscape item that kids slide down. To the rest of the world, it's a slide. To the coal region, it's a slidin' board.
  • tamayta or tamayda: tomato
  • warsh, worsh: wash, usually the laundry. (I use "warsh" all the time!)

Footnote

Monday, February 27, 2023

From the readers: Hatchy Milatchy, library tales, Maude Adams and more

A lot of great comments have arrived within just the past month. Thank you all so much!

WNEP-TV staff from 1975, including Miss Judy: Anonymous writes: "Hatchy Milatchy was magic. When the gates would open at the beginning of the show, my brother and I would be on the floor as up close to the TV as my Mom would let us and for that hour every morning life was magic! Was it an hour or less, I can't recall. The kid has become an old lady."

Thank you for sharing this memory! We need more Hatchy Milatchy memories for posterity. There are not nearly enough of them on the internet. Maybe I'll curate a post of YouTube comments. Please send in any memories you have of this and other regional children's shows.

"Prinzess Victoria" and a tiny old package of sewing needles: Anonymous writes: "I have just found one in a sewing case and I wondered if it had any value, it has a leather case, add an embroidery top with a zipper. And it has the stamp in your number 3 the silver eye Blunts."

I am rarely an expert in the valuation of anything that I feature on the blog, but I wish you well with learning more about this.

Some of the books that helped to inspire Ruth Manning-Sanders: Cat, who pens the Cat's Wire blog, writes: "I don't know Ruth Manning-Sanders — I'm from Southwest Germany — but the picture of the German fairy tale books gave me a huge flashback to my childhood! When I was a child and teenager, our local library had a whole shelf full of these books and I loved the look of all the beautiful spines together. As I obviously had neither the space nor money to own them myself, I at least wanted to read each one of them and also read them to my little brother, but I don't think I ever made it all the way through. So many books to read, so little time. That was 45 to 50 years ago, and the library doesn't have the books anymore, but the happy memory remains."

Thank you for sharing this great memory. Libraries provide some of our most cherished memories, which is one reason, of many, why we should be defending them strongly against critics in the United States who want to remove certain books from shelves and/or reduce library funding. In another related note, I'll have some posts in the near future about those Manning-Sanders books that were auctioned off. Some of them, happily, are now at my house.

Moving along, this might be the only blog that jumps from Ruth Manning-Sanders' fairy tale books to the history surrounding the Manson family...

The Lost Corners of Paul Crockett: Wings Hauser — probably the Wings Hauser — responded to an ongoing conversation in the comments section of this 2018 post. The following contains some small edits for clarity and, for full disclosure, I don't understand everything being referenced here by Hauser: "I grew up with the Watkins family at Lake Sherwood. Paul’s older brother was my age, David was his name — an intense painter of large canvas. The Watkins fam hated us. They were very dedicated Catholics. ... Paul was I believe prez of the TOHS [Thousand Oaks High School] student body. A year later he was procuring women for Manson ... after the Manson trials. Paul, Brooks and Paul Crockett show up at my house in Thousand Oaks. My wife fell under his spell and within a month we were living on SHOSHONE WITH THE PAULS AND BROOKS. I spent 6 months out there with this bunch when finally I took my daughter of 13 months and left the idiots behind. ... I’ll save what happen in those six months for a later day." 

Enjoy these vintage recipes for the Everhot Electric Roasterette: There have been some other comments over the years about the family histories of those mentioned in this post. The latest is from Julie F. Jackson: "Interesting info. My grandmother, Nettie Underwood, married Charles E. Swartzbaugh Jr. It was the second marriage for both of them; they both were widows/widowers. Charles died suddenly after a few months of their marriage."

Postcard: Maude Adams as Peter Pan: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "I was obsessed with Maude Adams back in the 1980s due to the movie Somewhere in Time, in which the main female lead, played by Jane Seymour, is based upon her. I have some sheet music with her photo on the front and did have her autograph for a while, though I ended up selling that."

I was also a fan of that Christopher Reeve time-travel film, though I think it was mostly because I loved its use of Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. (Of course, I didn't know who wrote that theme or what it was called when I was a kid. I also didn't realize at the time that the screenwriter of Somewhere in Time, Richard Matheson, was also the screenwriter of Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth. And that both were based upon his novels.)

Answering questions about my reading history and habits: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: 
"I started reading Martin Short's autobiography on vacation this past summer, but didn't quite make it to the end (a couple chapters left). It was good and I need to finish it. I find it hard to sit and read at home. I suffer like you do from the inability to stay awake more than 15 minutes when I read.
"Beverly Cleary's books were some of my favorites as a child as well, especially Runaway Ralph.

"My mother read Dr. Seuss and The Berenstain Bears to me and I have fond memories of that.

"I had a run during college where I read a lot of Stephen King (and Richard Bachmann). I went through them pretty quickly, reading for hours at a time.

"I belonged to a Science Fiction book club during college as well, so I ended up with quite a few books I wouldn't have normally read simply because I didn't return the refusal slips in time.

"I've been thinning my book collection recently and came upon the paperback version of The Three Investigators in The Mystery of Monster Mountain and thought of you. You've probably already read it and/or have it, but if you want it, drop me a line."

Thanks, Tom! And congratulations on spelling The Berenstain Bears correctly, even if that spelling is from an alternate universe than the one in which we grew up. Regarding your kind offer, about a year-and-a-half ago I came across someone who was reading the Three Investigators books to her grandchildren (or maybe it was her nieces and nephews), but she lamented that they were impossible and/or too expensive to find. So I sent most of my mine to her; that's where those books needed to be.

And, while we're on the topic, one final Three Investigators note...

The Three Investigators #1: The Secret of Terror Castle: Tom from Garage Sale Finds writes: "I found this page because I was looking for those graveyard endpapers. I still am a fan of the series that I started reading about 1970-71. The end of book #2, The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, has a great, spooky scene in an old cemetery. That chapter and the conclusion that follows are some of the best writing I ever have read in a children's book!"

1970 calendar tucked away inside 1936 book about Blacky the Wasp: Anonymous writes: "Black Sabbath's debut LP was released on February 13, 1970. I am so glad this handy source clarified the date."

Ha, ha, ha! Let's make jokes about cooking and eating elephants. Anonymous writes: "I love elephants too but I think this joke can only be taken with tongue in cheek in order to use the homophone for hare/ hair. Wouldn't you agree?" 

Yes, I agree. And it's definitely possible that my level of outrage was unnecessarily over the top in this 2016 post. I must have been cranky about something else. 

Elaborately designed envelope for Bennett Printing Company: Anonymous writes: "My father retired from Bennett's. He worked in the shop."

Snapshot & memories: Our little bookstore: Tom from Garage Sale Finds, who has been super-generous with comments this month and has a blog you really should check out, writes: "I just recently winnowed my own Amazon bookstore collection for similar reasons [to the reasons that Joan and I left Amazon circa 2015]. Too many listed that would actually result in a loss after Amazon's take. The books I have listed now easily fit on half of a small bookcase. Organizing by color is actually genius, I wish I'd thought of it when I had my full volume going. It was always a pain searching through my tubs to find that one book that sold. It was always the last one in the tub."

Finally, while it doesn't relate to a specific blog post, Christelle in Belgium shared some kind thoughts in early February after receiving a postcard from me through Postcrossing: "Hello Chris! Thank you for the nice postcard you sent me. I had a look at your blog and your cats' pictures on Instagram. ... About your blog, as you, I love old pictures and postcards! I like the story they can tell or the one we can imagine!"

Mama Orange next to some books that are sorted by genre, not color.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Package-filler postcards deserve some attention, too

I bought a cute postcard of a hedgehog on eBay so that I could mail it to a fellow Postcrossing user in Vilnius, Lithuania, who loves hedgehogs and ice hockey. When the hedgehog postcard arrived, it was protected in the envelope between two used postcards. 

Obviously, it's good to protect the items you're mailing, and I can understand that, if you're a postcard dealer and have a bunch of them around, it's cheaper to use them in packaging than cardboard. Still, it made me a little sad that think that these are just unwanted postcards, serving as filler that's expected to be thrown away.

I won't throw them away, of course. I'll find a way to use them or pass them along to another postcard collector who might appreciate them. Because every piece of paper tells a story, right? 

Pictured above are the fronts and backs of the two postcards that protected my hedgehog. The top one shows a beautiful pastoral setting in Almelo, Netherlands. It was mailed in 1968. If anyone wants to translate the full cursive Dutch message, please do so in the comments. (I did make out the phrase alles goed en gezond — "everything good and healthy.")

The bottom postcard features another peaceful scene, this one in Zwolle, Netherlands, parts of which date to the Bronze Age. From Wikipedia, I learned that residents of Zwolle are called Blauwvingers; that Zwolle is partly known for a historic district of Art Nouveau buildings; and that Hein Boele, the actor who provides the voices for the Dutch versions of Elmo and Gobo Fraggle, was born in Zwolle. So there's your story from that piece of ephemera.

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Book from the Renaissance Festival: "Hill Walking in Snowdonia"

Ashar and I spent the day at the Arizona Renaissance Festival in Gold Canyon (about 35 minutes from our house) on February 19. The festival is held for two months each winter and it's huge. We did a lot of walking that afternoon to check out the demonstrations, food, shops, animals, jewelry, artists and more. There was live jousting, a museum of medieval torture (egad!), a show featuring birds of prey and a vendor selling scrumptious European chimney cakes (Kürtőskalács). I would guess we only saw about 20% of everything on the grounds. And we definitely got lost at one point and had no choice but to retrace our steps to the entrance.

One of the things that was most interesting to me is that there was a full-blown bookstore on the premises! It had four rooms and wide variety of new and used books focusing on medieval history, English history, magic & mysticism, various religions, Shakespeare, royalty, costume-making, craft-making and much more. Several frightful books piqued Ashar's interest, possibly because we had just come out of the museum of torture.

I was "good," mostly because I didn't want to haul heavy books around the rest of the afternoon (the car was parked a mile away). So the only thing I bought was a lightweight booklet for $2. And so that will be today's book to examine here.

  • Title: Hill Walking in Snowdonia
  • Subtitle: "Routes up fifty 2000 foot peaks in the Snowdonia National Park"
  • Where's Snowdonia? It's a mountain region containing a national park in northern Wales.
  • Author: E.G. Rowland (Edward George Rowland, 1879-1958, though I found just one source on the year of birth)
  • Photographer: W.A. Poucher (William Arthur Poucher, 1891–1988)
  • Publication history: The book was first published in 1951. It was then fully revised in 1958. This is the 1972 reprint edition by Vector Publications.
  • Cover price: 25 pence
  • Dimensions: 4¾ inches by 7⅛ inches
  • Binding: Staplebound 
  • Pages: 80
  • Dedication: "Dedicated to the youth of Britain"
  • Title page note: "Indication of a route in this book does not imply a right of way"
  • Providence: Written in cursive on the title page is "Barbara Be---- Wales 1973." I can't decipher Barbara's last name after the "Be."
  • Excerpt from back cover: "While the main object of this book is to encourage beginners to come to the hills for a sport that will give them lifelong pleasure, more practised walkers will find new routes to interest them. It is not a rock climbing manual — the average holidaymaker with a clear head and reasonably strong leg muscles should have no trouble on any of the walks."
  • Some of the 53 mountains in Snowdonia with distinct peaks of 2,000 feet or higher (as spelled in the book): Snowdon, Crib y Ddysgl, Carnedd Llywelyn, Carnedd Dafydd, Penyrolewen, Foel Grach, Elidir Fawr, Moel Siabod, Pen Llithrig-y-wrach, Drum, Yr Aran, Garnedd Goch, Cnicht, Tal y Fan.
  • Excerpt #1: "Snowdonia, a name with some warrant from antiquity, covers some three hundred square miles of mainly mountainous country, centred on Snowdon itself."
  • Excerpt #2: "The big moorland rising up from Pen-y-Gwyryd to Siabod is not very inviting, but it gives a pleasant stroll on a clear evening."
  • Excerpt #3: "All hill walkers who take more than a very casual interest in the sport should pay the modest membership fees necessary to join one or more of the following Associations. This will keep you in touch with those that share your enthusiasm and you will receive much useful guidance. Even if you prefer to ramble in solitude, you should support movements that do much to preserve the countryside from threatened spoilation and provide facilities for those of moderate means."
  • List of Associations: The Rambler's Association, The Camping Club, The Youth Hostels' Association, The Holiday Fellowship, The Central Council of Physical Recreation, The National Trust, The Council for the Preservation of Rural Wales. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Vincent Price and "The Devil's Triangle"

For kicks, Ashar and I watched the 1971 documentary The Devil's Triangle last night.

There weren't many kicks. But at least it was all over in 52 minutes.1

There were really only two highlights:
  • Vincent Price's narration
  • The original poster, which far outkicks the documentary's quality

It's not even really a documentary so much as an assemblage of stock footage interwoven with a few short interviews with subjects whose only common thread is that they didn't disappear into the Bermuda Triangle but knew some folks who might have. (Those poor folks weren't abducted by aliens or Atlanteans or seafaring members of the Deros civilization, of course. They were simply unlucky victims of crashes, explosions and sinkings on an unforgiving sea.)

The poster contains these outrageous blurbs: "HUNDREDS OF SHIPS AND PLANES ARE MISSING" and "The Greatest TRUE LIFE MYSTERY Of The Century!" (Fact check: False.)

Across the top, it announced a $10,000 award "to any viewer of this film who can solve the mystery of the Devil's Triangle! (Information Available at Each Showing)." I am quite sure that the $10,000 was never awarded.

In addition to somehow wrangling Vincent Price to serve as the narrator, the documentary improbably includes music by King Crimson, an English prog-rock band that got its start around the same time as Genesis. I don't know any of King Crimson's music, so I couldn't discern what noises on the muddled soundtrack belonged to them. I'm guessing the band didn't have this on its resume.

The documentary was released by UFO Distributing Inc. (natch). Based on my Googling, UFO Distributing only ever distributed one other film, a 1974 drama titled And Baby Makes Three. (Tagline: "A Drug Addicted COUPLE... A Drug Addicted BABY... THEN WHAT?")

Finally, The Devil's Triangle was directed by Richard Winer (1925-2016). This was his best film, as the only other one he helmed was 1972's 96-minute film Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. That children's film has a catastrophically low rating of 1.3 stars (out of 10) on IMDb, probably due to the notoriety that comes with being selected as a subject for RiffTrax. 

The good news for Winer is that he had some success as an author. He was a ghost hunter who wrote several books on that topic, and he also wrote three books about the Devil's Triangle, one of which I'm pretty sure my parents had at some point. Apparently the books are more even-handed and skeptical about the idea of shenanigans in the Bermuda Triangle; it's a shame, I guess, that the same couldn't be said for the hyperbolic documentary.

Footnote
1. When it was over, we still had time to cleanse our palate with a fun episode of Night Gallery in which Larry Hagman appeared to be doing an impersonation of Orson Welles on the sly.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Snapshot & memories: Our little bookstore

Facebook served this up today as my photo memory from 12 long years ago. Have I posted this picture before on Papergreat? With 3,500-plus posts, who knows? Who hell even writes an ephemera blog with 3,500-plus posts?

This is the "guest room" in the basement of our house on Ashland Drive in West Manchester Township. That was two houses ago. Most of the time we lived there, the guest room was actually occupied by human beings who were staying with us for various reasons. But there was a period when we had no lodgers and, simultaneously, Joan and I were expanding our long-running side business of selling used books on Amazon and, later, at the Dover Antique Mall. It was not what you'd call a lucrative side hustle, but it was a tremendous amount of fun. We did eventually get overambitious, though. At one point our entire garage was filled with boxes of books. We eventually winnowed that down and moved the remaining boxes to this basement room. This photo from February 20, 2011, shows we had gotten to the point where Mr. Bill could fit into the room alongside the books, too. 

After books were assessed and listed for sale on Amazon, they went onto the shelves to await sale and shipping. Most of the books you see here never did sell. Books sales on Amazon were always a long, slow affair, until they completely cratered with the flood of mega-volume sellers and penny books. A lot of folks got out of online book-selling at that point and never returned. 

But I'm not going to digress about the crash of used book sales online. What interests me about this photo is that I sorted our "for sale" books by color. I'm not entirely sure what the point of that was. I suppose each book had a photo with its online listing, so I had a starting point for searching after a sale was made. But it's a truly odd way to sort books (not to mention that they're vertically stacked!). It probably helped that I had a much, much better photographic memory back then, so I had a Spidey sense for where everything was. But this wouldn't have worked with my cognitive function as it now stands. Alphabetical or bust, baby.

This was also the room where I kept items that could be turned in Papergreat posts. I had a couple drawers full of such stuff — a lot of early material came from those boxes of used books and the things that were tucked away inside of them. Twelve years ago today, the Papergreat post was "A photo of Ruth Manning-Sanders." That was only the 31st post ever on the blog!! This is the 3,546th!

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Paperback cover: "Tales from the White Hart"

  • Title: Tales from the White Hart
  • Author: Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008)
  • Cover artist: Richard M. Powers (1921-1996), according to Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Original publication date: 1957
  • Publication date of this edition: Third printing, November 1966
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (U2113)
  • Cover price: 50 cents
  • Pages: 151
  • Dedication: To Lew and his Thursday night customers
  • About: This is a collection of short stories by Clarke with the shared theme of being club tales told by a man named Harry Purvis. For more about club tales and Lord Dunsany's part in the subgenre, see the 2020 post "Stay-at-home shelfie #57."  
  • Table of contents: You can find it on Wikipedia, with hyperlinks to most of the individual tales.
  • First line of preface: "These stories were written in spurts and spasms between 1953 and 1956 at such diverse spots on the globe as New York, Miami, Colombo, London, Sydney, and various other locations whose names now escape me."
  • Colombo? He's talking about the city Sri Lanka. Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death in 2008. He was an avid diver and wrote books about his underwater explorations.
  • First passage of collection: "You come upon the 'White Hart' quite unexpectedly in one of these anonymous little lanes leading down from Fleet Street to the Embankment. It's no use telling you where it is; very few people who have set out in a determined effort to get there have ever actually arrived."
  • Random sentence from the middle: "It was obvious that the orchid had a highly developed nervous system, and something very nearly approaching intelligence."
  • Goodreads rating: 3.93 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2020, Erik wrote: "I read this when really young up at paternal grandmother Lajla's cottage on the southwest shore of Lake Michigan — on the great wicker couch in the living room, to be exact. It was a cool night outside. Clarke's device, setting up his stories in the context of tale tales told in a pub, the whole grownup Englishness of it, enchanted me thoroughly, made me think consciously that 'now, this is a good book!'"
  • Amazon rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2011, Paul wrote: "Readers of some of my other reviews know that I am partial to science fictional tavern or club stories. There are basically two ways of relating fantastic events in such settings. The first is to have the events occur in the tavern itself (as in the Gavagan's Bar stories or the Callahan's Crosstime Saloon tales). The second method is to have a "tall tale" spun out by a plausible narrator (as in the Jorkens stories or the Brigadier Ffellowes tales). ... The White Hart stories are funny. I have read them over a dozen times, and I still laugh at them. But you should understand. The humor is not a slapstick American humor. It is a dry British humor. Alec Guinness rather than Jerry Lewis."

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Sunday's postcard: Christmas greetings with Mary Kelynack

This undated, split-back postcard was published by F. Frith & Co. of Reigate, England.1 Across the top, it offers "All Good Wishes for Christmas." Across the bottom, the caption states: "Mary Kelynack of Newlyn, who at 80 years of age, walked to London to see the Queen."

I pulled bits and pieces of Kelynack's story, some conflicting, from several websites. It goes something like this:

Mary Kelynack lived in Newlyn, a seaside town in Cornwall, down in the southwestern tip of England. She had been having trouble receiving a pension to which she believed she was entitled (she was a widow whose husband had served in the navy). So, in the middle of 1851, she decided to walk about 300 miles (350 miles, by some accounts) to Mansion House in London and plead her case. The journey took her about five weeks. She carried a basket and "her dress would have consisted of a large shepherd’s hat of black beaver, a gaily coloured calico jacket, a coarse flannel skirt, an apron and buckled shoes," states an article on Cornwall Yesteryear. That's the traditional outfit of a Cornish fishwife. (In Cornwall, they called themselves fishjousters.)

By various accounts, Mary was either 75, 80 or 84 years old at that time.

One of Mary's other goals in making the arduous journey was to visit the much-ballyhooed Great Exhibition of 1851 held in the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park. Goods and wonders from all across the United Kingdom had been shipped to London for the exhibition, which ran from May through mid-October in 1851. Those in attendance included Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Charlotte Brontë, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll and Alfred Tennyson. 

Mary wanted to see the spectacle. But, for a brief moment, she became the spectacle.

Some newspapers had documented her long journey, so, by the time she arrived in London, she was a minor celebrity. Upon being greeted by the Lord Mayor of London, she said, "I never was in such a place as this. I have come up asking for a small sum of money. I am 84. ... I had a little matter to attend to, as well as to see the Exhibition. I was there yesterday and intend to go again tomorrow."

At some point during her whirlwind time in London, Mary was granted an audience with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. In her diary, Queen Victoria wrote: “The old Cornishwoman who walked several hundred miles to the Exhibition was at the door to see me, a most pale old woman, who was near to crying at my looking at her.”

Artists made portraits of Mary, and she received a number of gifts amid all the attention. At least one folk song was written about her.

Ultimately, Mary was able to make part of the return trip to Newlyn by train. But, despite her moment of national fame in 1851, her death in 1855 went mostly unmentioned and she was buried in a pauper's grave. She was 86. Or maybe 89. 

* * *

This postcard was never stamped or addressed, but a cursive message, written in pencil, covers the entire back of the card. It states:
My dear Lily,
Glad to hear you liked Washington. We trust you and Mr. Marshall will enjoy good health & be spurrd [?] & see old England again some day. Often think on you and pleasent [sic] hours we use to enjoy together. 

With kind love & best wishes,
Alfie [?], Aunt M. [?]
God be with us till we meet again.
Footnote
1. There's an interesting firsthand account of the final years of Frith & Co., in the late 1960s and 1970, at The Francis Firth Collection. The account concludes: "Sadly, it fell to me to print the very last Frith postcards. The final standard size postcards were cut off the last bulk roll and given an extra wash to better preserve them. They were then hand glazed, but not back printed. I still possess my copy as a memento, together with its machine negative. The other card (cards were printed two abreast) was given to the machine assistant. By the summer of 1970 my short career at F F & Co. was over and I got my P45 once the firm went into liquidation. The building was demolished and houses now cover the site."

Friday, February 10, 2023

Answering questions about my reading history and habits

It's a quiet Friday night. Or at least as quiet as it gets in a house with 14 cats. They just had some cheese, and most of them are now resting. It sounds like one of them is trying to eat a chair in the other room, which is the biggest commotion at the moment. To my left, Nebula is a little riled up, but nothing too bad. Spice, Monkey and Titan are asleep to the right of me.

For fun, I gathered some "Questions for book lovers" from various websites and thought I'd just give it a whirl at answering some of them. 

1. What book are you reading right now? The photo above is staged. The actual answer is Maude Adams: Idol of American Theater, 1872-1953, by Armond Fields. I wrote about it on January 31 and am near the end now. 

2. What’s your next read going to be? I have no idea. Choosing the next book is so hard. I often end up staring at the shelves for a long time. Usually, it comes on a whim; whatever genre I'm in the mood for at a particular moment. So we'll just have to see...

3. What’s your favorite childhood book? Longtime followers of this blog know that's an easy one. It would be a Ruth Manning-Sanders book. I'll go with A Book of Wizards, because that's the one that stuck in my memory enough from the early 1980s so that I could track down a used copy in the early 2000s. There were plenty of other favorites from throughout childhood, too, including Dr. Seuss, Beverly Cleary's books (especially the Ramona series), The Three Investigators and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald (which I've yet to really write about).

4. Can you remember what your parents used to read you before bedtime? I'm sure it happened, but I don't have any specific memories from that far back. If Mom were still alive, I'm sure she could answer this question.

5. How many different books do you manage to read at once? I typically have one primary book that I'm reading, and then three or four other books beside my bed that I might pick up depending on my mood and/or if I only have a few minutes to read. One of them is always a browsing book, while there's also usually a collection of ghost stories in the pile.

6. Can you name a book that kept you up at night? When I was a teenager, I could read late into the night, perhaps plowing through a hundred or more pages. Most often, those were Stephen King books. Now, it doesn't matter how great or compelling the book is. If I read for 15 minutes before dozing off, it's an amazing accomplishment.

7. What is the saddest book you read? Most of the literary fiction I read these days is sad and/or downbeat. Two that come to mind from recent years are Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera and Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun by Sarah Ladipo Manyika.

8. Which horror book did you find the scariest? I think the younger you are, the scarier the scary books are. I enjoy ghost stories and horror novels now; I find them entertaining and a nice form of escapism, because it's the real world that turned out to be scary. I'm sure I'm forgetting some that traumatized me as a kid, but a few that stick out are The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson (yes, it's a novel), the "ghost hunter" books by Hans Holzer and Susy Smith and, from Stephen King, probably It and Misery. And, when it came to Generation X getting an early education that the real world was far more terrifying than anything horror writers could muster, there was nothing scarier than the Helter Skelter paperback, with its blood-red lettering on the cover.

9. Do you prefer e-books or physical books? Physical books! I've still never read an e-book.  

10. Do you enjoy audiobooks? They're fine, but I rarely find myself in a situation where listening to them is something I want to do. I've occasionally listened to them on long drives. I know some folks who listen to audiobooks while multi-tasking or doing chores. I don't want to do that. If I'm interested enough in a book, I'll read it. And if I'm listening to an audiobook, I need to give it my full attention. If I'm going to listen to something, I'd rather listen to a podcast, as there are so many good ones out there.

11. Do you read out loud? I sometimes read out loud for my job with the newspaper. When I'm editing copy or going over something that I wrote, reading aloud can help me make sure I didn't miss anything and that it reads smoothly.

12. What are your favorite and least favorite genres? I have many favorite genres! I will read almost any topic when it comes to nonfiction, because I always want to learn something new: history, science, health, computers and technology, sociology, anthropology, architecture, civil rights, weather, film history, books about books, nature, hiking, farming, transportation, food, mythology, gaming — and the list goes on. I also enjoy most kinds of fiction, but will admit that westerns and romances aren't my cup of tea. I've never read much poetry, but I'm trying to make a concerted effort to mix a little of that in.

13. Do you ever annotate books? Occasionally. I've found myself doing this with some books that would fall under the rubric of sociology or personal essays. Two authors, of many, who give me a lot to think about are Rebecca Solnit and Ta-Nehisi Coates. I fill those with highlighting and marginalia.

14. Do you write reviews about the books you read? I generally find myself more interested in reading reviews and analysis by others. I like to seek out perspectives I might have missed, praises and criticisms after finishing a book. I am more likely to review a book if not much else has been written about it. I figure that's when I can best contribute to the ocean of knowledge on the internet. For example, I posted my thoughts on Ruth Manning-Sanders' 1938 children's novel Adventure May Be Anywhere on Goodreads.

15. Did you ever buy a book you had already read? Only with a select few books, if I like the design or cover of another edition. I have a few different duplicate books by J.R.R. Tolkien, because the covers are so gorgeous. And I am strangely drawn to the various covers for William Hope Hodgson's The House on the Borderland.

16. Do you want to visit a city or place just because you read about it in a book you loved? Does Hay-on-Wye count for this question? I'd love to go there. I like reading books about bookstores and their history, and I'd love to visit some of the iconic bookstores in the U.S., which is probably more feasible than hopping the Pond to get to Hay-on-Wye.

17. Have you ever met a writer in real life? I have many, many friends, colleagues and classmates who have written and published books. An incomplete list includes: Larry Alexander, Buffy Andrews, Ted Anthony, Mike Argento, Alisa Bowman, Joan Concilio, Dan Connolly, Bridget Doherty, Kimi EiseleMegan Erickson, Andrew Ervin, Leigh Gallagher, Mike Gross, Jessica HartshornDennis Hetzel, Tom Joyce, Bill Landauer, Lauri Lebo, Jim LewinCaroline Luzzatto, James McClure, Rissa Miller, Isabel Molina-Guzman, Dana O'Neil, Gregory Scopino, Leslie Gray Streeter, Beth Vrabel, Michael Weinreb and Laura Wexler. Go check out their works and discover something new to read!