Saturday, August 19, 2023

Saturday's postcard: Coney Island's long-gone Dreamland

I've written before about postcards featuring some of the attractions from a century or more ago at Coney Island (Part 1, Part 2).

This is card was published by I. Stern of Brooklyn, New York, prior to the start of the split-back postcards in 1907. (The back of this card is for the address, only.)

It offers a spectacular view of Dreamland, which was only in operation for a relatively short time in the grand scale of amusement parks — 1904 to 1911. It opened as a direct competitor to Luna Park. But a devastating fire in May 1911 ripped through the wooden structures and brought an end to the Dream. By 1921, the site was a parking lot. 

The large central tower shown on this postcard was called Beacon Tower and was illuminated with many electric lights at night. (I've read estimates of the number of bulbs that range wildly from 44,000 to 1 million.) At around 375 feet, it may have been the tallest structure on Coney Island at the time. Here's a short excerpt from Jeffrey Stanton's excellent history of Dreamland:
"Beacon Tower ... was a replica of the famous Giralda tower of Seville, Spain. The 50 foot square tower that cost $100,000 to construct was painted pure white and studded with 44,700 electric bulbs that made it a tower of light after dusk. Electricity costs were $1 per minute. A rotating searchlight at its top was a beacon for all of New York City. Unfortunately its alternating red and white beam too closely resembled that of Norton Point's lighthouse. The city feared that it would lure ships onto Coney Island's beaches and ordered it removed. Visitors could ascend via two elevators to its observation deck for a magnificent 50 mile view including all of Coney Island and in the distance the island of Manhattan."

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Vintage postcard of Circleville (Ohio) Pumpkin Show

I'm writing about this postcard before adding a message to the back and mailing it off to my pen pal Marte in the Netherlands. It's a Dexter Press postcard highlighting the Circleville Pumpkin Show in Circleville, Ohio. The caption on the back states "Looking west on Main Street, the giant display of pumpkins attracts thousands of people to the annual October event." 

Some of the signs include "Blood Bank Today," "Frostola" (an ice cream vendor that I can't find much about on the internet) and Gallaher Drugs.

It's labeled as card 69781-B, and, according to this "Dating Dexter Press Postcards" article by Diane Allmen on, that means it was published in 1963.

In 1963, the Circleville Pumpkin Show had already been in existence for six decades! This year's event is slated for October 18-21.

According to the show's fact sheet, "The first Pumpkin Show was held in 1903. George Haswell, Mayor of Circleville at that time, decided it would be a great idea to try to get the country folks and the city folks together. So he invited the country folks to bring the best of their produce to town on designated dates and display them on the streets of Circleville so that the city folks would be able to appreciate their efforts."

There is, of course, a contest for the largest pumpkin each year. Last year's winning pumpkin was 1,837½ pounds and was grown by Bob and Jo Liggett. The Liggett pumpkin-raising family has done very well in the competition over the years, and the show record is a 1,964-pound pumpkin grown by Bob Liggett in 2014. That's a lot of pumpkin pie.

The autumn event also features competitions for baked goods, other vegetables and fruits, arts and crafts, and window decorating. There are Miss Pumpkin Show and Little Miss Pumpkin Show competitions.

According to the website's "fun facts," about 23,000 pumpkin pies and 100,000 pumpkin doughnuts are sold during each festival.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Fun reading for 1970s kids? "Visions of the Future: Magic Boards"

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

Today's book...
  • Title: Visions of the Future: Magic Boards
  • Why are they called magic boards? Because the word Ouija is trademarked, currently by Hasbro.
  • Author: Saul A. Stadtmauer (1929-2018). He also wrote 24th Forward: The Pictorial History of the Victory Division in Korea and co-authored Jewish Contributions to the American Way of Life. He was married to poet Colette Inez (1931-2018). There's a photo of Saul and Colette on the sixth page of this PDF.
  • Cover illustrator: Lynn Sweat
  • Publisher: A Contemporary Perspectives Inc. (CPI) book distributed by Raintree Children's Books, Milwaukee
  • Year: 1977
  • Pages: 48
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Interior illustrators: Wayne Atkinson and Alida Beck
  • Photo research: "All photo research for this book was provided by Sherry Olan." (More on her in a moment.)
  • Chapter titles: The Unexpected Visitor; Where It All Began; Searching for the Spirit Seth; Dr. Hegy's Magic Table; and How to Build Your Own Magic Board. (The Spirit Seth involves the famous case of psychic/medium Jane Roberts (1929-1984) allegedly channeling a personality called Seth.)
  • First sentence: Pearl Curran and her friend sat facing each other in the darkened living room.
  • Last paragraph: Even if you never receive a message from the past or from the future, the magic board is sure to be fun. Some say that your success depends on how much you believe.
  • Random photo caption from the middle: Ed and Lorraine Warren, famous "ghost hunters," advise against amateurs trying to contact the spirits.
  • Random sentence from the middle #1: Dr. Hegy's game was similar to the magic board, and he planned to play it with passengers during long, fog-filled ocean nights. (Context: Dr. Reginald Hegy penned a 1935 book titled A Witness Through the Centuries. According to Weiser Antiquarian Books, "in this volume he outlines the experiences which led him to become a believer in spiritualistism. He then offers practical advice on how to start your own spiritualist 'home-circle' and test for yourself the actuality of the spirit world.")
  • Random sentence from the middle #2: It is very important that the board has a slippery, smooth surface so that the triangle-shaped pointer you make can glide from letter to letter.
  • Online reviews: Alas, none.
  • Attempts to ban the Contemporary Perspectives books: I found a pair of examples of attempts to ban these books from school libraries. I'm sure there were other examples during the satanic panic of the 1980s and 1990s.

1. In 1991, a school board in Dallas, Texas, had to deal with a parental challenge on Visions of the Future: Magic Boards, for "poor writing." I don't know how the challenge was resolved.
2. A May 4, 1992, article in the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, details a request by the Rev. David A. Wade to permanently ban eight Contemporary Perspectives book, including Spells, Chants, and Potions, from the school system. The books deal "with such subjects as witches, palm reading, ghosts and astrology," the article states.

The article explains that the books were purchased by the school system in 1981. As just two examples, officials noted that Spells, Chants, and Potions had been checked out 32 times in 11 years, while Visions of the Future: Magic Boards had been checked out eight times in 11 years.

But Wade worried that many young students may have simply read the books in the library without checking them out.

”I’m not going to stop,” Wade told the Daily Press. ”We’ve got to get these books out of the city school system. They’re horrible.”

From the Daily Press article: "Perhaps the most intriguing of the eight books is 'Spells.' It has a whole chapter on the use and significance of different colored candles in making spells but gives somewhat sketchy information on three 'enemy' spells. The book concludes with a detailed 'recipe book' for a love spell, a spell to make money, and a good-luck spell."

Librarian Pamela Neilson defended the books: "We found that the books represented, throughout, both sides of the issue. They were not advocating to the reader that this was something to do.”

Neilson cited a seven-page account of an Apache medicine man in Spells, Chants, and Potions as having value and said the Contemporary Perspectives books all contained disclaimers regarding any inherent truth regarding topics like witchcraft, astrology and numerology. 

The Daily Press' thorough reporting involved contacting Contemporary Perspectives: "Sherry Olan, president of the company, said she doesn’t remember the books and declined to comment further. 'We stand by the books we publish,' said senior editor Kenneth E. Baranski."

A short item in The Virginian Pilot in June 1997 explains how Wade's dispute was resolved:
"FIVE YEARS AGO. Books on voodoo, witchcraft and astrology were placed back on the library shelves at Hampton’s Forrest Elementary School in June 1992 after a parent’s complaint prompted some restrictions on who could read them. A series of eight books had been pulled for review after the parent requested they be banned as too explicit for young children. The books, the parent said, contained too much detail, such as a list of recipes for spells and a detailed explanation of tarot card reading.

"It was subsequently decided that only children who received permission from a parent would be permitted to check out the books.

"Today, the books still have a place in the school library, with the staff continuing to follow the procedure handed down five years ago, according to Forrest Elementary librarian Pamela Neilson."

For what it's worth, there doesn't seem to be a single copy of Spells, Chants, and Potions available for sale anywhere on the internet. I guess the lucky private owners are hoarding that spell to make money.


Finally, here are a pair of interior illustrations from Visions of the Future: Magic Boards, both by Wayne Atkinson.
Contemporary Perspectives/Raintree children's books to be covered some day on Papergreat (hopefully):
  • The Bermuda Triangle
  • Ghosts and Ghouls
  • Witches
  • Bigfoot: Man, Monster, or Myth?
  • The Mystery of Stonehenge
  • The Mysterious Ghosts of Flight 401

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Interesting RPPC on eBay: The wreck of the Alice

Here's a neat listing I came across while browsing eBay this weekend. It's an unused (and expensive) real photo postcard that's described as being of a mother and daughter clamming in Long Beach, Washington, with the Alice shipwreck nearby.

The Pacific County Tourism Bureau website for Washington's Long Beach Peninsula features a 2020 article titled "Graveyard of the Pacific." It states, "From Tillamook Bay on the Oregon Coast to Cape Scott Provincial Park on Vancouver Island stretches a deadly coastal region known as the Graveyard of the Pacific. Thick fog banks, strong currents and waves, and powerful winds have been the peril of many ships since exploration began in the 15th century."

According to the article, the Alice was a French square-rigged ship carrying 3,000 tons of cement that ran aground near Ocean Park during a storm on January 15, 1909. "The entire crew made it to shore, but the cement hardened, causing it to sink deep into the sand," the article states. "The mast and rigging became a landmark and tourist attraction until about 1930. Today, the Alice makes rare appearances during extreme low tides."

Given how long the shipwreck has been there and how visible it was in the first decades, there are probably a lot of postcards and RPPCs showing it. Maybe clamming in front of it was the "hip" thing to do, as I found a similar postcard on Worthpoint. And here's an eBay listing of just the shipwreck (no clamming) on eBay.