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.