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."