Monday, July 8, 2024

Comments from readers while we melt in this summer swelter

From an America that doesn't much exist anymore. Plus, it's too hot for road trips.

Sharing some reader comments on this sweltering summer day — 113 here in Florence, 117 in Phoenix, 114 in Las Vegas, 124 in Death Valley. Plus two million people without power thanks to a rare early July hurricane in Houston. When I'm done I'll go put ice in the outdoor water bowls for the poor, roasting birds and animals (including community cats Mamacita & Creamsicle).

Saturday's postcard: America House Motor Inn: Anonymous writes: "America House was one of my family’s favorite vacation stops in the early 1970s. So much to do: the beach, pool, game room and observation tower. Perfect for a young person. Food in the restaurant was very good and I loved the grape Nehi, it was a great treat. Years later I returned with my wife and we found the motel run down with rusted doors, etc. The renamed motel now has campers and RVs parked in its spacious grounds and makes me leery about trying it again."

From the Rare Dust Jacket Files: Hucca's Moor by Manning-Sanders: Anonymous writes: "The dust jacket is by the wonderful artist William Nicholson."

I'll take the commenter's word for this. Nicholson lived from 1872 to 1959 and was involved with a lot of book design, in addition to his other artistic endeavors. According to Wikipedia, he illustrated The Velveteen Rabbit, and he designed the costumes for the original stage version of Peter Pan (article, illustrations).

Unfortunate apparel of 1980: The official Star Trek duty jacket: The Canadian author of My Curio Blog writes: "I posted a matchbook which also promotes the same jacket ... at a discount price!" 

Thanks! Good luck with the blog! 

1938 holiday postcard from Leinhardt Bros. of York: Anonymous writes: "I recently was passed a cedar box with items in it. It was stamped on the inside of the top: 'Lane presented by Leinhardt Bros. York, Pennsylvania.' Thank you for posting this information so that I had a frame of reference."

Phonic Talking Letters from 1941:
 Anonymous writes: "There is a new version available at"

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Gary Liljegren of Florida writes: "My story is like so many others. This was my first job as an 8 year old. As I recall, I was plenty successful. That was 75 years ago. ... I'm now 83 and been in sales my whole life. Still am."

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor (1926-2022): Anonymous writes: "This is Queen Elizabeth 11. I am alive and I live in Tacoma WA."

Queen Elizabeth 11?
Or Queen Elizabeth II?
In either instance, I have so many questions. 
We can start with, "Why Tacoma?"

"Jim and Judy," a 1939 grade-school textbook with a York connection:
 Anonymous writes: "Tags and Twinkle was the next book in the series, I believe."

A label for Frostie Root Beer (a jailhouse-born beverage): Margaret Harris writes: "I am 82 and have always lived in Catonsville, the birthplace of Frostie Root Beer. I remember when it was made on the Baltimore National Pike, but would l like to know the address of the abandoned jail which became the first home of Frostie. Do you have this information?"

Hmmm. As the blog post I cited notes: "George Rackensperger, president of The Frostie Company, decided in 1939 to open his own bottling plant. Renting an abandoned jailhouse in Catonsville, Maryland, a suburb of Baltimore, he used the garage that formerly housed the police wagon for setting up his bottling equipment ... and the various cells were employed to store sugar, crowns, and other supplies."

But despite further Google searching, I can't locate any specific information about the jail or its location. I cannot imagine the building is still standing, but who knows? Can anyone out there, especially Maryland history experts, help Margaret with her query?

Scholastic book: "Spooky Tricks": Anonymous writes: "I was just thinking of this book. Now in my 30s."

It's quite common to think back to the books of your childhood, whether you're in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s! See the next comment...

Alan Ormsby's 1970s: Summoning zombies and a Scholastic book:
 Anonymous writes: "I have this book, and, as someone else mentioned, I think in 2nd grade. My mom actually helped me make the paper bag Frankenstein head. I just wish I had a picture of that now. Still have the book in my basement."

Special events booklet from a 1973 VFW convention in New Orleans: Anonymous writes: "Here's a postcard sent in August 1973 by 'Betty,' who had just attended this convention:"

Great find! Thank you!

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Four years ago today...

Time flies ... and warps, distorts and eventually becomes a bullet train.

Four years ago today (May 30, 2020), I drove from Dover Township to the LNP | LancasterOnline newsroom at 8 West King Street in downtown Lancaster for the final time, to clean out my desk. 

No, not that kind of desk cleanout.

It was my first time back in the newspaper office since mid-March, when we had abruptly begun work-from-home protocol because of COVID-19, with no time beforehand to gather anything but the absolute essentials.

By late May, we were granted short windows to return to the office, one by one, and do a more deliberate cleaning and boxing-up of our workspace. We were boxing-up because, even before the pandemic, the plan for mid-2020 was to relocate to a brand-new, state-of-the-art newsroom a couple of blocks away in downtown Lancaster. 

But because of the pandemic, we never got to have an official farewell for 8 West King or a full-staff welcoming event at the new location. 

In fact, I've never been to the current LNP | LancasterOnline newsroom for a work shift.

I'm still working from home (50 months and counting) — only home is now the southern Arizona desert, instead of Dover Township, Pennsylvania. From here, I still do the same job I did in 2020, editing letters and columns about Trump and guns and democracy and public health. I just get up a lot earlier in the morning to start doing it on East Coast time.

Anyway, I took some photos four years ago today for posterity and am sharing them now for this four-year anniversary.
And this is a photo of a very green stairwell at 8 West King that I took in 2018. The building will live only in memories. The site is being turned into Mosaic by Willow Valley Communities, a residential high-rise for active adults ages 55 and over. I hope they include a plaque somewhere about all the amazing journalism that once took place at that location.

Friday, May 24, 2024

A Suspiria/Genesis twin bill?
One ticket please!

Someone on Facebook posted this 1977 newspaper advertisement, and it immediately reignited my wish that I had existed as a young adult in England in the 1970s. Playing at a theater on Shaftesbury Avenue in the West End of London were Dario Argento's Suspiria, with that epic Goblin score in "SENSATIONAL 4 TRACK STEREO" and Genesis in Concert.

Genesis in Concert doesn't seem to be very well-regarded as a concert film, with most of the criticism being of the direction and the decisions to keep cutting away from concert material. (It's a live concert, and people want to see the musicians!) But it must still be a great historical document from the band's post-Peter Gabriel era, even if it's only 45 minutes long.

And I would love to see (and hear) Suspiria on the big screen. Ash and I have been going to the "Spook-O-Rama" Thursdays, featuring classic horror films, at a movie theater in Tempe. They've shown everything from The Creature from the Black Lagoon to The Blair Witch Project, with a special focus on cult films from the 1980s. I'm hopeful that Suspiria will be the selection one of these weeks. And we could listen to some classic Genesis on the drive there!

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Book cover: "Will Eisner's Gleeful Guide to Occult Cookery"

Here's a curiosity from the wild and wacky 1970s. Between this and the Lovely post, you might think things are getting too racy here on Papergreat. But it's just a coincidence. I'm doing my best to keep it a PG-13 blog.

  • Title: Will Eisner's Gleeful Guide to Occult Cookery
  • Subtitle: The Saucerer's Apprentice (the first of many, many puns to groan at)
  • Additional cover text: "Brimful with tasty, enchanting recipes anyone can make in any average modern kitchen — each carefully selected to be used in casting spells, leveling curses and causing supernatural results in money and sexual affairs!"
  • Author and illustrator: Will Eisner (1917-2005), previously featured in a post regarding Will Eisner's Spirit Casebook Of True Haunted Houses And Ghosts.
  • Editor: Ivan Klapper
  • Recipes by: Judy Mann
  • Dimensions: 8½ inches by 11 inches
  • Publication date: 1974
  • Publisher: Poorhouse Press. According to the Lambiek Comiclopedia, the other books Eisner did with Poorhouse Press in the mid 1970s included The Gleeful Guide to Communicating with Plants to Help Them Grow; Incredible Facts, Amazing Statistics, Monumental Trivia; Living With Astrology; and How To Avoid Death & Taxes ... and Live Forever.
  • Format: Paperback
  • Original publication: January 1969, by Doubleday & Company
  • Pages: 64
  • Cover price: $1.95
  • Excerpt from the introduction: "OCCULT COOKERY is designed for the middle-of-the-road citizen who has never consciously compounded a curse or cast a spell ... but would like to know how. If you've ever suspected that a strange psychic force was toying with your fate, or yearned to possess the extraordinary power to alter the lives of friends and foes, this book is for YOU! OCCULT COOKERY is dedicated to the adventurous soul who would like to manipulate others. For good or evil. The anem of this magical force is WITCHCRAFT. You've heard of it, of course. But have you ever really believed it existed? ... Much help in this eerie enterprise was supplied by Judith Mann, a young sauceress and a no-nonsense professional caterer. She furnished all the recipes, which have been scrupulously tested for practicality."
  • Recipe names: These names, paired with Eisner's illustrations, are the best part of the book. Here's a large sampling: Bookie Bouillon, Miserable Mulligatawny, Adultery Ghoulash, Pox Meat Loaf, Wrack of Lamb, Drop-Dead Duck, Swamp-Bottom Lobster, Evil-Eye Eel, Toad Stool Flounder, Amorous Beef Stroganoff, Intercourse Pheasant, Grapes of Wraith Salad, Forbidden Zucchini, Fornication Fondue, Lust or Bust Soufflé, Gnome Cake, Inhuman Burgers 'n' Beans, Shrimp Psych-Out, Orgasmic Tidbittys, Cream Obscene, Ghastly Cake, Noodle Nut Necromancy, Chicken Caligula, Rigid Cheese Digits, Agony Niblets, Salmon Succubus, Lost Sole Fillets (groan), ESP Tea, Dracula Toddy and Warlock Wine. 
  • Trigger warnings: The book is absolutely a product of its time, containing some offensive material and often using references to sexual assault for "humor."
  • Cranky Amazon review: In 2015, Maine Rose wrote: "Not amusing, not interesting, not a good read — nothing."
  • More forgiving Amazon review: In 2019, Oldman437 wrote: "The chapter titles are cute, like 'Magic Charms' or 'Terrible Curses' with recipes for Adultery Ghoulash and Drop-Dead Duck. This book was published in the early '70s, so some of the ingredients are no longer fashionable (e.g. real butter, vermouth, etc.), but each recipe we made was delicious — and that's how I judge a cookbook."

Here are two pages from the book, complete with their recipes, followed by a couple more recipes.
Fornication Fondue
(which surprises me, because it's a non-cheese fondue)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup onions, sliced thinly
  • 4 tomatoes, peeled and cut in eighths
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, minced
Melt butter in a saucepan; saute onions until transparent. Stir in tomatoes, salt, pepper and garlic. Cover and cook over low heat 30 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Noodle Nut Necromancy
  • 2 lb. broad noodles, cooked and drained
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons grated lemon rind
  • 4 tablespoons grated orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups toasted almonds
  • 1 cup white raisins, plumped in hot water
  • 3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar
Separate noodes with a fork; add sour cream, grated lemon and orange rinds, sguar, almonds and raisins. Blend well with a wooden spoon, being careful not to mash noodles. turn into a serving casserole and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Serve.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Sunday evening miscellany

1. Here's a photo of me in my dorm room at Penn State University in October 1992 — 31½ years ago (yikes). I'm not sure of the reason for that expression on my face. Turtlenecks and sweaters were part of my wardrobe for a long, long time, but they are obviously a thing of the past now that I live in the Arizona desert. That's a MicroFridge behind me. According to a September 1990 article in The Daily Collegian (the student newspaper I worked at for four years), the MicroFridges were first offered that year to seniors and graduate students for $32 per semester. They were subsequently offered to underclassmen. The units weighed 87 pounds and saved power by turning the refrigerator off when the microwave is in use. In the background is my very messy desk, with my USFL Philadelphia Stars cap hanging from the lamp.

2. The Guardian last week had an article about all the interesting things Jonny Greenwood is involved with, including the score for the new Paul Thomas Anderson film that will come out on IMAX in the summer of 2025. Greenwood's love of music and instruments is contagious. At one point he had an opportunity to examine some of the oldest church organs in Europe, and his passion for the topic just pours through in this quote:
“I was able to actually play some of these amazing medieval instruments. The internal parts — what they call the ‘brain’ — are these incredibly complex pieces of technology. These huge machines, created centuries ago, were tackling the same challenges of synthesis and sampling and sound reproduction that we struggle with today. ... I love the idea that these ancient churches have centuries of sounds that have almost soaked into the walls and the organ pipes. Just looking around those Italian churches, you saw organs that summon up remarkable histories. Some of them have double sets of black keys, so the F sharp and the G flat keys are slightly different — as it would be in natural temperament. Some have keys which play percussion. One church in Comunanza, near the Sibillini mountains, has an organ with a little water tank that enables the organist to make this burbling noise that imitates birdsong. There was another church where Mozart is supposed to have visited and played the organ, so we were all rubbing the keys excitedly! Every church organ on Earth will have years of history embedded in it.”

3. I recently stumbled upon the existence of this nine-book 1970s Dracula series by Robert Lory. (And he published all nine books within three years!) Mostly, I think everything about the covers is amazing. Has anyone read these? How are they? A 2022 post on the website Fonts in Use by Florian Hardwig shows the covers in all their glory and indicates that the titles are done in Quaint Roman, a font that dates to 1890. 

There are plenty of (spoiler-filled) reviews out there on Amazon, Goodreads, Reddit and various blogs, if you want to know more about the series, which sounds like it's a lot of fun if you don't take it too seriously.

I like the 2011 post on the My Monster Memories blog, which may be in danger of becoming a Lost Corner of the Internet. Frederick writes: 

"My grandma's house was a few miles from a small bookstore called Bill's on Ingleside Ave in Macon, GA. As a young teen, when visiting her house on the weekend, I would sometimes walk the distance to look for the latest issue of The Monster Times or other cool magazines. After all, they had a better selection than the closer-to-home drugstore where I usually went. One summer, in 1973, I came upon the first in the Dracula Horror Series titled 'Dracula Returns,' and had read it nearly halfway through on the walk back to her house. It's a wonder I made it without getting run over, but I was pretty good at walking and reading. I still recall exactly where I was in the book at particular points as I walked home, passing under the oaks draped with spanish moss, blowing in the faint breeze."

These books are precisely the kind of treasures I go looking for when I have the opportunity to spend an afternoon in a used book store.

4. Finally, enjoy this photo of four cats tucked into a cat bed (from top: Spice, Autumn, Nebula and Bounds, aka Osmond Portifoy) ... 

Weird Ramen

I was at Walmart recently to stock up on cat food when I saw a display filled with these two "Limited Edition" ramen noodle cups from Nissin. There's "Breakfast," which is artificially flavored with maple syrup pancakes, sausage and eggs. And "Everything Bagel," with cream cheese and artificial flavors.

The display case was full. I was probably the first person who approached it.

I've been eating a lot of ramen noodles the past year. It's fast and filling, just like when I was in college. And now I enjoy experimenting and adding different things to the soup base: garlic, onions, egg, plant-based meatballs, parmesan, Old Bay, paprika and other stuff. (I even tried peanut butter once.) I've never thought to craft a bowl that tasted like breakfast or a cream-cheese bagel, but now I have that opportunity, thanks to Nissin. Unsurprising, Nissin once had a limited edition Pumpkin Spice ramen cup, but I missed that when it rolled around. I'm not sorry.

I've featured some odd foods on Papergreat occasionally over the years, mostly gelatins/apsics and some posts about deviled ham. One of these days I'd like to do some deep dives into mid-century and especially 1970s food products and packaging. There's so much weirdness to mine and discuss there. I mean, just look at this!
Goblin meat pudding (Goblin was the company name, not the type of meat. I think.)

Saturday, May 11, 2024

From the readers: Louie Youngkeit, Sunny Wicka, Paul Crockett & more

Today is, according to the internet, World Migratory Bird Day, Archery Day, Hostess CupCake Day, National Windmill Day and Twilight Zone Day (though no one seems to know why May 11 was picked for that last one).

Here on Papergreat, it's a day to share comments from readers. 

Saturday's postcard: Whale at Moon Valley Park in Milford, Pa.: Anonymous writes: "My family vacationed several times at Moon Valley Park in the 1970s and early 1980s. It was a wonderful place for children. I loved the 2 bears and the beagle pups that they sold. The Canouses were a wonderful family. Loved walking up to see the 2 waterfalls. We were
very sad when we heard the property had been sold. Our last visit was in the 'Bambi' cabin was in the early 1980s."

Morris didn't fare much worse than Louie Youngkeit: Anonymous writes: "I knew Louie Youngkeit. He was the kindest, most gentle person you'll ever meet. Eccentric yes, but a loving, sincere person. Rest in peace Louie."

1973's "Garage Sale Shopper":  Anonymous writes about author Sunny Wicka: "Beautiful Lady, watched her on To Tell the Truth." [Wicka appeared on the show during the 1973-74 season.]

1909 Christmas postcard mailed from Auburn, New York: Anonymous writes: "Just dropping by to say your blog is delightful and I really enjoy digging through the obscure knowledge you post. Thank you for your hard work!"

Your future partner, as "determined" by a 1940s vending machine: Anonymous writes: "This post has inspired me to look for these cards on eBay. I plan to shuffle them and let people pick a random card to tell their romantic fortunes."

Vintage Christmas card from Hawthorne-Sommerfield: Anonymous writes: "Thank you for this history and sample. I have a beautiful card from 1976 which I cherish."

Story time: The Bizarre Mysteries of Deep Creek Lake: Two spine-chilling comments on this:

In late February, Anonymous wrote: "We had a few weird experiences at our rental in Deep Creek Lake this weekend. It was kinda spooky."

In late March, Anonymous replied: "Where were you staying? We had a very scary repeating heavy footsteps at a certain condo on the lake."

Plenty of projects in Pack-o-Fun: Anonymous writes: "I had a subscription in the 1960s for my children. A shame it is no longer published. We had great fun with it."

[Of course, it's pretty easy to buy back issues, and the craft projects are timeless!]

Delving into Henry K. Wampole & Company: Anonymous writes: "I have a clear blown medicine bottle 7 to 8 inches tall embossed Henry K. Wampole Philadelphia PA. Curious of its worth."

[I'd check with an expert on antique bottlers, which I am not. Much may depend on some other specifics about the item's date and condition. Just glancing at eBay, it seems like some are being listed for up to $25, but, again, an expert would know best.]

The Lost Corners of Paul Crockett: Chris Harris writes: "Much has been said in a negative way about Paul Crockett. I witnessed over a period of two years having introduced him to many notable people that Paul Crockett had a tremendous ability to inspire a positive attitude in all the people he met, including myself." 

Illustrated map of "Desert of Maine": Anonymous writes: "My late husband and I were there in May of 2001. We took a ride on a trailer with a top on it, and had seats to sit down and a tractor pulled it. It was so much fun, we walked all over the place, and found gems in the sand. They said they were naturally there. It was hot that day, and there was a thermometer there in the desert. Can't remember the temp, but it was up there. Saw the old barn, with the old tools, and we both loved it. I remember it like it was yesterday. It's been almost 23 years now. I lost my wonderful husband to cancer, but at least we got to go there once. I'm still here from southern Ohio, we loved it there."

Thank you so much for sharing this memory. I'm glad it's a good one and that it's so vivid. I'm very sorry to hear about your husband's passing.

Cheerful Card Company can help you earn extra money for the holidays: Anonymous writes: "My mom worked there for a very short time in White Plains, NY. It was down the street from our apartment. I remember advertisements in the back of magazines to sell the cards door to door."

Even these Robin Jacques creations are hooked on books and reading: Finally, Katherine Swart writes: "Oh wow, this blog post is from 10 years ago. I loved Ruth Manning-Sanders books as a child, and especially the incredible illustrations. I remember this one very well! Wish I'd kept my A Book of Devils and Demons, and all the others. But my own child never loved the books as I did, mysteriously."

Sunday, March 24, 2024

1969's "Lovely," highbrow erotica by David Meltzer

Apologies in advance if this post is a little too, ahem, cheeky for some. Actually, it's going to get a lot cheeky, if you want to bail out now. I'm still ever-so-slowly chipping away at the Resimplify Me goal or the Semi-Swedish Death Cleaning goal or whatever we want to call it. I've pruned, sold and donated a fair number of books in recent weeks, and I'm starting to put some stuff up for auction on eBay. Today's book is one of those items, but I'm feeling the regret of never having done a proper blog post about it, so I'm doing that now, before heading over to eBay to make the listing that I hope will underwrite part of my July vacation.

  • Title: Lovely
  • Series: Brain-Plant. Lovely is #1, and it was followed in the tetralogy by Healer, Out and Glue Factory.
  • Author: David Meltzer (1937-2016), a renowned American poet
  • Cover illustrator: It seems that it's Milton Luros (1911-1999). That's based on what I read at this Paris Olympia Press post. The illustration, not the text, is what originally drew me to this book. 
  • Excerpt from lengthy back cover blurb: "Welcome to the Fun Zone, where the dark shadows of your private perversions are shielded from the world outside ... where breezy girls will blow all your troubles away ... where you can feast and be feasted upon."
  • Publication date: 1969
  • Publisher: Essex House, North Hollywood, California. Essex House was a short-lived subsidary of Parliament News, which was owned by illustrator Luros.
  • Format: Paperback (#0117)
  • Pages: 159
  • Cover price: $1.95 (the equivalent of about $16.50 today)
  • Statement on first page: "This is an original Essex House book — the very finest in adult reading by the most provocative modern writers"
  • First paragraph: "Now look. Things are getting worse. That's all there is to it. It's a simple matter of fact. The 25 Year War isn't working out the way we'd figured. It isn't 1) showing the big profit everyone hoped for, and 2) it's getting terribly untidy, out-of-hand. Quite frankly, off-the-record, Military Industry is in a jam."
  • Last paragraph: "And tomorrow you will be awakened and directed to the next room which, when used up, will shut off and lead you into the next room beyond it. Lovely. There is so much more in store for you, so much to do."
  • PG-13 excerpt #1: "Dr. Feelgood née Farley Blot née Asklepius Paracellus Wiltgeltstein vibrates with twin pleasure-syndrome snap-synapse wiring within him."
  • PG-13 excerpt #2: "The drunken Reb dances his giddy gavotte across the hardwood floor and slides on the shine, lands ass-first on the firm turf and slams the side of his head against a cast-iron replica bust of John Foster Dulles, an attic-gray antique from the old days, a full ten-feet tall."
  • Are there R-rated excerpts? Yes, there are very R-rated excerpts. But the racy language veers far more toward ridiculous than toward steamy and sultry.
  • Excerpt from lengthy postscript by sci-fi author/Harvey Milk speechwriter Frank M. Robinson: "As satire, Lovely is completely outrageous — until you consider the completely outrageous reality that it's based on. We all know that Christian, God-fearing America is quite capable of committing outrageous crimes in the names of its various Gods (so, incidentally, is every other country on the face of the globe)."
  • Commentary from the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction: "(Meltzer's) vision is even more sharply focused in the Brain Plant sequence ... in which cartoonlike characters ricochet surreally through a disjointed USA in a pre-programmed search for theme-park Sex, while the Secret Masters ... at the heart of the military-industrial complex rule on."
  • Excerpt from Adam Groves' insightful and R-rated post about the Brain-Plant tetralogy on "This unjustly forgotten product of the late-1960’s porno underground, consisting of the novels LOVELY, HEALER, OUT and GLUE FACTORY (all from 1969), is among the most complex and ambitious examples of pornographic literature ... ever written. ... Each of its four books are self-contained, but all must be perused to get the full effect of a saga that reads like an unholy mash-up of A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, NAKED LUNCH and Terry Gilliam’s BRAZIL. ... To be sure, the BRAIN PLANT saga is not without its share of overt flaws. It’s dense, frequently incoherent and often agonizingly self-indulgent, with satire that might charitably be called broad and obvious (as naming the central authority figure God unquestionably is). Yet it must be classified as a monumental work nonetheless, with a range, imagination and confounding intelligence that are without parallel in the [erotica] realm."

Young Oliver is definitely not old enough to read Lovely.

Sunday, March 10, 2024

"The Japanese Twins" by Lucy Fitch Perkins

  • Title: The Japanese Twins
  • Author and illustrator: Lucy Fitch Perkins (1865-1937)
  • About the author: Perkins was an Indiana-born children's author and illustrator who was wildly successful (or at least her publisher was), with Houghton Mifflin selling more than 2 million copies of her books. Born Lucy Fitch, she married architect Dwight H. Perkins in 1891. According to an outstanding article on the Evanston (Illinois) Women's History Project website: "Although Perkins started her career as an artist, she utilized her position in the publishing world to instruct social change to children through her writing. ... Perkins firmly believed she could teach tolerance and mutual respect to children by appealing to their sympathies and engaging their imagination through fiction, and that despite the melting pot America was becoming, there could be peace among the different nationalities of children within Chicago and Evanston schools. She was deeply affected by the oppressed and depressed nations flocking to American shores and worried how a homogenous national could be made out of such heterogeneous material." 
  • Quote from Perkins herself: This quote is from The History Girls blog, and I confirmed that it came from 1935's The Junior Book of Authors: "The necessity for mutual respect and understanding between people of different nationalities if we are ever to live in peace on this planet. In particular I felt the necessity for this in this country where all the nations of the earth are represented in the population."
  • About the "Twins" series: Perkins published The Dutch Twins in 1911 after being inspired by friend Edwin Osgood Grover, a publisher and educator. The series was a huge success, eventually growing to 26 books. The Japanese Twins, published in 1912, was the second book in the series. According to Wikipedia: "For each book, Perkins would try to interview an individual who grew up in the given country to gain an understanding of the particular customs. In later books in the series, such as The American Twins of the Revolution, history supplanted geography as the basis of the twins' backgrounds." The Evanston Women's History Project article adds: "Through her writing of the Twin series of children’s fiction, Perkins addressed significant issues such as the tremendous importance of land ownership, absentee landlordism, immigration, game preserves and themes of almost an adult nature. However, these gave the reader an appreciation of what was done historically in America to make it the country which attracted many nations to immigrate here, and demonstrated how a cohesive future could be created if cultures and customs were understood and respected."
  • Some criticism: It should be noted that, while Perkins' aims were generally praiseworthy, at least one volume in the Twin series received both contemporary and modern criticism. 1931's The Pickaninny Twins features two African American children living in the U.S. South. In an essay that appears in the 2014 book Ethics and Children's Literature, Moira Hinderer writes: "Series books with regional themese were particularly prone to descriptions of a never-changing, plantation South stocked with stereotyped Black characters, and the wide range of reactions to these books reveals the challenges that librarians ... faced as they sought to change racial representations in children's literature." Hinderer notes that while Perkins' books focused on themes of loyalty, family, honesty and bravery, "When Perkins wrote a book about Black children in the American South she chose to call it The Pickaninny Twins. The book was a classic plantation story about the frolicking misadventures of superstititious 'darkies.' ... The publication of The Pickaninny Twins brought quick public criticism from African American librarians [even as] Perkins's work was widely praised by mainstream professional publications."
  • About this book: My hardcover copy of The Japanese Twins is listed as "School Edition" and is through The Riverside Press. While The Japanese Twins was first published in 1912, there is no publication date on this edition. However, the "Also by this author" listing at the front includes books that were published through 1938, so this volume can't be from any earlier than that year.
  • Dimensions: 5½ inches by 7⅝ inches.
  • Pages: 178, plus introduction and end notes directed at teachers
  • Provenance: The name David Clarence Frost is written in cursive on the "This Book belongs to" page. I purchased this book at Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, Pennsylvania, about four or five years ago. I got a few of Perkins' other books at the same time.
  • Excerpt #1: First of all, they came into a broad roadway with beautiful great cedar trees on each side. Under those trees were little booths. Great paper lanterns and banners of all colors hung in front of the booths; and when they waved gayly in the wind, the place looked like a giant flower-garden in full bloom.
  • Excerpt #2: Their Mother gave them each a paper umbrella in case of rain. She hung a little brocaded bag, wtih a jar of rice inside, on the left arm of each Twin. This was for their luncheon. Then she gave them each a brand-new copy-book and a brand-new soroban. A soroban is a counting machine.
  • Excerpt #3: The "Kura" is a little fireproof house in the garden. ... In it Taro and Take and their Father and Mother and Grandmother keep all their greatest treasures. That is why Taro and Take were so glad to go there. Nearly everybody in Japan has just such a safe little house in the garden. Maybe you can guess the reason why. It isn't only because of fires. It's because of earthquakes.
  • Rating on Goodreads: 3.94 stars (out of 5)
  • Goodreads review #1: TheLibraryOfSarah wrote: "Still not sure how accurate this is, but this is a very sweet story and well-written. I liked how the author wrote it in such a way that it sounds like she's talking to the reader, and I give her a lot of credit writing a book about another culture in a positive light, attempting to teach children about how other people live, in 1912."
  • Goodreads review #2 (excerpt): Ashley Lambert-Maberly wrote: "Does anyone else think ... Perkins is a long-ago closet feminist? She makes this adorable characters come to life, they act like real children, the girl twin is clearly the equal of the boy twin, and yet ... society tells the girl 'you're limited, you're not as special, you get fewer choices.' It's very frustrating, and I think Perkins intends readers to walk away with a huge dose of 'but that's not fair!'"
  • Rating on Amazon: 4.1 stars (out of 5)
  • Amazon review #1: Stephen G wrote: "Easy to read for children to give them an idea of how other cultures treat their children. I'm living in Japan and although this book is old the traditional values it depicts haven't changed much."
  • Amazon review #2: Angela Whelan wrote: "Chose several of the twins series of books as a trip down memory lane. Can distinctly remember reading them as a child and wondered why I was so enamoured of them. Have discovered how I know various things about different cultures from these books." 
Some of Perkins' illustrations from The Japanese Twins...

Thursday, March 7, 2024

Somewhere out there: Unpublished stories by Ruth Manning-Sanders

Lay's Auctioneers in the United Kingdom had another high-price auction today involving material from the estate of Ruth Manning-Sanders. (I wrote about an earlier one in January 2023.) Tantalizingly, this one focused on Manning-Sanders' papers and, specifically, her unpublished stories! Boxes and boxes of unpublished stories. (Gasp!)

This was the official auction listing:
"A vast collection of folk stories and fairy tales in typescript.

A very large collection containing thousands of folk stories from around the world, almost all in typescript with graphite notes to titles showing origin, included in this important collection are unpublished works including the novel 'Fog in the Channel'.

"Ruth Manning-Sanders was best known for her collections of fairy tales and folktales from around the world. Her significance lies in her dedication to preserving and sharing traditional stories from various cultures. While some fairy tales were well-known and widely published, Manning-Sanders sought out and shared lesser-known stories. This helped shed light on narratives that might have been overlooked and ensured that a broader range of cultural traditions was represented in her collection at a time when the field of folklore and fairy tale collections was often dominated by male scholars. Manning-Sanders made a significant contribution as a female folklorist. Her work helped pave the way for a more inclusive representation of voices in the study and preservation of folklore.

"An important collection of folk and fairy stories.

"From the estate of the authors descendants."
So, we now know that Manning-Sanders wrote an unpublished novel titled Fog in the Channel. I wonder what decade it's from. Was this one of her novels for adults from her early writing days? Or one of her later juvenile novels? Perhaps the individual who won this lot will seek to have it published some day. I think it's also fair to hope that these papers and ephemera will eventually be housed in a research library. I'm glad they still exist, and I hope they continue to exist for future scholars.

Notes on these papers also serve to further emphasize the important role that Manning-Sanders' daughter, Joan Floyd, played in her mother's writing efforts. They truly seemed to be a two-person team in the creation of many of the folklore and fairy tale collections.

Here are some more of the Lay's Auctioneers photos from the auction preview, for posterity: