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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gadget or Doohickey? Updated!

Thanks to one of the many astute readers of a favorite site of mine "Bits and Pieces" I have a link to an auction site that gives more background on this object. 

Mathman54 wrote:
I think either gadget or doohickey is apt, though I am slightly in favor of doohickey. I found this for you at http://www.mjdtools.com/auction/graphics/s09/a218950.htm “An example of HALL’S PATENT COMBINATION TOOL as produced by the Boye Needle Company, Chicago, Illinois. This tool was patented on February 10, 1926.”
If I was interpreting the auction site correctly, they were suggesting it was worth $80-$160.

Another tag sale find that I couldn't leave without. Paid $1. The sellers didn't know what it is. I have some idea, but the challenge I ask of you is not what it is, but how it is supposed to be used. Here are a few more images to help you guess:
The only text imprinted is "Boye Brand." It is possibly a level/miter of some kind and at 3" x 2.5" could have been meant for detail work, or work in a small scale.  There is also this swing out arm that lines up with one edge...
It looks like a handy tool, but it leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions. Please leave your guesses, or the explanation in the comments.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Perfect Gifts: 3 days and 74 years too late

Well, now that Christmas is over, this is a fine time to be coming out with a list of the "Must have" toys. However, this list is a little more than 3 days late.  As a continuation of the last post, which focused primarily on a scantily clad young lady and the faux-controversy of the a magazine's staff to put her there. I now bring you the article that contains many of the toys I would grab if I could just get that time-machine going.
Clicking on the article may expand it to a  readable size - The magazine is falling apart as I scan it, so no promises. After just finishing up trying to assemble and understand all the toys AVA was inundated with, this article provides some real perspective.  Times haven't changed;  some of these relics seem as equally complicated for the time and likely mystified the parents as to why their child would be interested in such a thing. Microscopes, erector sets, and my favorite the Lionel Plane, tethered, that takes off and lands. Reminds me of the Verti-bird toy helicopter that a friend had and I lusted after...
Click on the box to read the Wikipedia article
    Both seem to provide an adequate simulation of the excitement of flying...for a kid anyway.  Today's it's all done with computers, not the same. If you ever happen to see a verti-bird, don't let it go. They are selling for a good price on Ebay, and I am sure the same is true for the Lionel plane, though I doubt any can be found in working condition.

So I don't come across as sexist, there were plenty of choices for toys for the girls in 1936. This next image is a scan of the opposite page of the article.  Not a 50-50 split for both genders, but who says trains are for boys only?

Well, there you have it - my wish list for 2011. I hope to have maybe a piece of one of these items after shopping at some of the finest estate establishments which only seem to open on the weekends. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Cover Up! It's cold out there

Wow! If you ever decide to start blogging...don't ever stop! It is not unlike joining the gym - good for the body and mind, hard on the wallet and schedule. The experience I have had so far is that blogging is good for your Soul-cial life (pron. soul-shall), but it's not hard on the wallet, unless you're sitting on it.  It's not much of a work out either, unless a repetitive-motion like typing, or point-and-clicking is performed often enough to raise the heart-rate before it causes carpel-tunnel syndrome. My lament is that I was hoping to finish the year with 150 posts, but that would mean I needed to write 8 more entries this month!  Not likely. Looking through my collection, I found that I had only a few December-themed items, and then I remembered her:
I found this is in a box of magazines I picked up a while back, and as magazine covers go, it caught my eye. Maybe I'm naive, but I expected  the image to be from an adult magazine, but then by the title (and a little research) I discovered that this is a woman's fashion magazine. Pretty racy for 1936?  This might seem perfectly fine for today's check-out aisle tabloid, but I don't see the same woman of 1936 targeted by this magazine being anything but shocked...which may be the key. But then, what do I know about impulse marketing? ...other than the title of 99% of my posts!
This magazine, who's history I can not uncover, features fashion and lifestyle for the mid to upper class lady. Its condition is poor, but the shock value is gold. The edit staff even made their own cover the subject of an article.
(Click for an almost readable version of the article) I love the trumped up interplay between the editor and his staff. Neither argument seems to involve that both of these covers may be showing more skin than is normal for 1936. A riot in a teapot is more like it.  I am sure they were hoping for a riot at the magazine rack. I don't think it ever happened, but I am surprised that I can't find more than just a few other covers around the web.

The real reason I brought this issue up has to do with a breif review of the hot toys of the season (present cover excluded)...which will have to wait until the next post.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Joy to the World!.....I'm in print!

They are other greater joys, but few I can think of right now that compare to this email I got in November:

Dear Greg, My name is Aimee Pokwatka, and I'm the Managing Editor of The Newtowner. We're just finishing up this issue, and I'd like to send you a contract for your cartoon...

I had heard about a new art and literature magazine that was springing from a creative writers group one town over from me. The Newtowner, as described in their website here proclaims in their mission to:
Celebrate, showcase and promote new and established
local writers and artists.
  Well, I am all for that. I quickly discovered that they were accepting submissions for their inaugural edition. Nearing 150 posts for this blog, I felt there must be something I could send for the non-fiction section, and decided to include one of my drawings as well.  Not really knowing who these nice folks were, who wanted my cartoon, I waiting with as much anticipation as a confused tic feeding off a red water-balloon.  When I finally got to hold a fresh copy, which I had  unpacked from a stack waiting to be sold, I was blown away. Not by my own self appreciation, but by the overall quality of the publication:
This is no floppy, pulpy, newsprint ink-bleeding periodical.  The image on the cover, a beautiful re-rendering of the Newtown Meeting House across from the famous flagpole leaps out from the page in way that defies the reader's ability to determine if it is an oil painting, or a photograph, or possibly both?  Though I know very little of how a magazine is physically published, I can tell that a high grade of heavy-wight card stock must have been used for the cover, and a similar weighted stock for the pages. This magazine, as a whole, deserves not to be recycled to the local doctor's office dog-eared out-of-date Time, People and Newsweek collection. NO. This is a fine masterwork that deserves its own corner of the coffee table, as would a book of fine living, or "Above Yosemite." Placed strategically by the smarter Real Estate agent who will know that when their back is turned during the open house walk-through that the astute home buyer would see it and say, "This town has its own literary magazine? When can we close?"

I had intended to place a scan of the page where my cartoon now resides in the pages of The Newtowner, but as I am under contract, I will send you to where I originally posted the image back in April. The Publishers at The Newtowner have lovingly separated the caption from the image and typeset it to the right and generously given me a poetry credit as well.  I recommend that if you plan on reading any literary magazine in the near future and you want to support  local artists and businesses, you would be doing a good thing to check out this quarterly publication and consider subscribing. You'll be glad you did.  

Finally, if you ever had even just the smallest idea to write, compose, or create, you should consider sharing it with the editors through the submission links on their website. You too, will find that this is another kind of joy that makes the season bright.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dig Report: 12/11/10 - I don't know...What the heck is it?

If you remember the program called Wonderama, then you probably grew up in the New York metropolitan area, or within range of the transmitter on the Empire State building.  This was a kids variety show that  aired in the late 60's early 70's on Sunday mornings and featured all kinds of fun stuff. One of the segments presented an item where the kids were supposed to guess what it was.  The opening bump to that segment featured the host, Bob McAlister in a funny voice saying,"I dunno.Vat da heck is et!?"   Funny how some things never leave you.

I couldn't find the segment I wanted but couldn't help reminiscing.   Speaking of things never leaving:

At a local Estate sale this weekend, actually, the only estate sale (in range) this weekend, I was fortunate enough to find a "dig".  Nothing against the nice people running it, but it wasn't really anyone's estate, but a collection of over 100 years of what any family would accumulate and want to pare down. Mom is an artist and grandpa owned an apothecary in the city that had been abandoned for decades until the family had to clean it out because the roof had caved in. You know, just like in any family, stuff happens and the things that were rescued and kept eventually couldn't be kept anymore. AVA and I had fun digging, she attempted to type the great American novel on a 50 year old Remington, while I poured over books and odd apothecary bottles.  There are 2 categories of items I like to find at these sales: Things that I know what they are; and things that I have no idea what they are, though hold some kind of aesthetic interest. Here another look at the mystery of the week:

At 6" x 3" and 3" high, cast iron about 1.5 lbs and only a vague label on the front:

"The lever" was either the business or the manufacturer's "model" name for what ever this was. Or, maybe people just like to nickname their office supplies...There's a hint.

Buying items when you don't know what they are is risky and I wouldn't recommend it for everyone, especially if the "hoarder" gene runs in your family tree (that would be the branch that still has all the leaves). However, for the terminally curious like me...no problem. Half the fun is the deal.  After asking the family members running the sale, "What is this?" and getting the results of their internet search...not a clue..."Well, we think it is some kind of paper-fastener. " Then, I asked the important question:  "How much?"  The price started at $10. but  I won't pay $10 for something that has no origin. "How about $5?" I returned.  "How about $7?"  I backed off, by saying that I knew it wasn't a paper-fastener (I had tried it out) and I was only interested in playing detective.  He finally acquiesced and came down to my price.  But the exchange ended on a funny note with the seller saying, "Aw, what the heck.  That's one less item I'll have to bring to the dump."  Why do people need to win the psychological battle after losing  at the haggling game? If it was only going to be tossed (which I didn't believe) why haggle at all?  Getting  $5 dollars for the item put the "house" ahead because it was likely bought and paid for years ago. Their real fear is that the item is worth millions and they lost out because they couldn't search long enough to confirm it. I always advise sellers when approached with an un-priced item, let the buyer start the bidding, and with your own hi-lo price in mind, you might be surprised where they start. 

If I have piqued your curiosity as to what this is, stop here and do your own search and see how long it takes you find the answer.  If you are ready to guess or just want to know the answer - click the link to jump to the explanation.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Triscuit...a Taskit!

Found this a few weeks ago in a book, in an attic, in a farmhouse, in New Milford.  I wasn't looking for it, but I found it and bought it with a small lot of items (to be blogged later).  I like old advertising schemes and gimmicks. The Triscuit is another of those products that seems like it has been around forever, actually since 1902. I couldn't find the origin of the brand name, though I suppose it is a mash-up of "something + biscuit" possibly 3-layers of shredded wheat (never counted - same problem as the tootsie roll). This insert follows a pattern for many products from this era (early 20th century) a contest placed in a box appealing to kids or moms was a good way to engage customer's in a "soft sell" and see who's buying and from where.  
For school lunch with butter...hmmm and we complain about sending kids to school with processed meats. Of course, I like butter (it's the other white frosting!) almost as much as I like Triscuits. I have to read the contest over and over again...it looks like the idea was to keep eating boxes of Triscuits, until you have collected the whole alphabet, paint them, and then send it in to maybe win a prize. I guess in the days before radio there wasn't much for kids to do, so this would have been another activity to keep 'em occupied. A $100, or even $10 dollar prize would have seemed like a small fortune.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Articles of Conflagration

This is the Estate sale find that keeps paying off.  Tucked in all the Post Cards were 3 articles from a 1933 newspaper (or earlier). My apologies in advance to visitors from out of town, who may find these boring. I, however, think they are - how do the kids say it these days? -kewl.  I will try to appeal to a more general audience with future posts. For now, read and enjoy the benediction of refuse.  This first one is inflammatory based on the remarks made by townsfolk over Edna Ferber's portrayal of Brookfield-ites as mostly "poles."  You may need to click to read.
 This one should put the fires out, though I found this funny because parts of town are dealing with water quality issues (which isn't funny at all), but this spring would seem to be the answer to all their problems.

 I enjoyed this one because outside visitors are appalled at the condition of Brookfield Public Schools and the Minister walks out on graduation because of it.  Does that mean they don't graduate?

Thanks for reading (if you were able to)!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Post Cards from the Edge...of the early 20th Century (Part 2)

This is just a brief post to show a couple of the Yale post cards that came in the album I found in Redding. The images are in fine condition despite being written on.  Some post cards seem to have been designed to send merely as a "Hello", or a "Yup, This is where I am."  as the space to write anything is severely hampered. Seems that Twitter, in one form or another has been around for quite some time. The dining hall at Yale must have been some spot to eat.(click to enlarge)

I expected it had been torn down or re-purposed in the last 100 years, but no.
I Like how the 2 shots were taken from just about the same angle.  Seems the only thing that's changed are the servers, who now stand behind steam trays, instead of tables. These next 2 are of Woolsey Hall, home of the Yale Symphony and pipe organ. First, in 1905:
And present day:
Some things never change.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Post Cards from the Edge...of the early 20th Century (Part 1)

As teased in my last post, I found an estate sale that wasn't really a dig.  Hundreds of old books - 19th century and up - moved from somewhere else and for sale in a large barn in Redding CT. With the sheer number and disorganization I was surprised to find what I consider a prize.
The cover is faded and the condition is poor and the specks of green are either the color this once was, or mold that has taken the place of the once vibrant color, but in this case, cover-schmuver! Inside were 44 post cards from around 1905, all from Connecticut (except 1 or 2) and all sent to one person in my town! Now, here I am in Redding, but what are the odds I will pick up a single book and find local history, really local history, for the sum of $10?  Priceless!

The bulk of the cards are of various locations in New Haven, and the rest are scattered around the State.
This one has an interesting note: "Flora (sp)- I expect to stay here until Wed. and when I reach Clara's shall expect a letter from you.  Ret. " Seems rather demanding, but it could have been he was waiting for an answer to a question...Many of these cards have the last name of the recipient vary from Odell to Sagendorf. 

Stay tuned for next time as we try to unravel the continuing saga of Florence and her demanding beau...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving! and aToast to a Long-Gone Beer

As we went around the dinner table tonight, we all said one thing we were thankful for. AVA said "friends," my wife said "Family."  No one else could really top that, and the rest of us said a variation until it was my turn. I often wonder what other nations (besides Canada) think of our holidays. A long time ago at a dinner table far, far away I am sure that Yoda is looking at our celebration and exclaiming, "Holiday named I appreciation for thanks giving called!" Well as funny as the name sounds, I didn't go into any diatribe over how it could be better named, and gave my thanks, "I am thankful for the family that is here, and the family that is not...and estate sales." Not meant to be callous, though this could be compared to asking Santa for world peace and a machine gun. Truthfully, I really am thankful for a lot of things and whether you are reading this because I hounded you with email blast, after email blast, or you showed up randomly, or you came here via the growing number of other bloggers who post my link on their site...for them and you, and my guest writers, I am especially thankful. This blog has been an interesting exercise in writing, marketing, photography, goal-setting, etc., and the pay-off in experience alone is worth the effort.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank You.

I was thankful last weekend, when the only area sales within range were Redding and Danbury, CT. The Redding sale turned out to be a repeat of someone's items displayed in a 4-car garage. Only this time, the bulk of items were an odd collection of several hundred old books. Among them were 2 subjects that are among my weakness...beer, and other peoples mail. No, I am neither a lush, nor a spy. When the opportunity to spy on a famous brewer in 1950's New York came up, well, okay, by that definition I am a spy. I am also known for judging a book (not people) by its cover.
Ruppert Knickerbocker Beer Annual Report 1958
Unremarkable to look at, but at 10" tall and in good condition for 1958, definitely worth opening. Inside it is a year in the life of the board of directors of the then 90 year old brewery Rupert Knickerbocker. I remember the brand from other brewerina items I have found (and didn't keep), and had a fondness for beers that were truly New York brands (Rheingold, too) and now gone.  I quickly leafed through the book and saw some of the mention of their sales figures and opinions of ad campaigns and knew I had to buy this.
Ruppert Knickerbocker Beer Annual Report 1958 Ad
$5 later and back home, I am reading every word and sadly realizing that in 1958 this is a beer in decline. All their monthly meeting reports read the same: " We sold 99,000 barrels last month, which is down 1700 barrels for the same period last year...what happened?"  To me that sounds like New York, New Jersey and most of New England was drinking a heck of a lot of beer last month in 1958.  Unfortunately, not enough. The reports go on to talk of consolidation, plant closure, and even reduction of the number of paid board members, "Sorry Bob, you're history."
The comments on the ad campaigns are also great with some board members feuding over which tagline works best, and "Knock for a Knick!" losing badly at the table.
Knickerbocker Beer ad
This ad comes from a site on New York History and I have to thank the researchers there for digging this up and letting me use it (awaiting permission). Though this brewery lasted into the 60's, it was interesting to see why it wasn't going to last much longer than that. Included in the book is the transcription of the stockholders meeting where a very heated discussion occurs of the rumor that Anheuser-Busch may have wanted to buy them out and how the Board was silent instead of acknowledging or denying it. 

If you like Beer and its history, I may have found a gem, but that wasn't all I found at this sale:
Post Card Souvenir Album
not in great condition, but full of 100+ year old post cards...see you next post!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Stand for All Seasons

This is one of my all-time favorites.  It scores a five out of five on all the major find-scoring criteria, on the McNeely-Rand scale anyway. By the way, there is no McNeely Rand scale, I wanted some kind of viable scale to judge all "finds" on, but unless I invent something, well...  If there were such a thing, the criteria would have to be 1) uniqueness - it has to be something no one has ever seen before - or at least not for a long time.  2) Utilitarian - It must have served a useful purpose and the score here would be based on the question: Does it still...?   3) Condition - It has to work. a pinball machine might have been painted with wonderful artwork, but if you can't play it...Tilt!   4) Value - Someone else has to want this for their collection, in my case this may never be known. 5) Assumed provenance - If it lacks its own story, then the story of how it was found, and the history written from research can fill in for the fact that it might have been Davinci's, but he tossed it.

I was at a Bethel estate sale when I found this in the attic.  It was $4, and I must have spent 15 minutes trying get it to do whatever it was supposed to do.  I recognized the manufacturer, Sawyer,  a seller of accessories for 8mm and 16mm projectors and other 50's & 60's AV equipment.  I think they may have been the earliest manufacturer of the Viewmaster.  Continuing to poke around this pandora's box, I found the release and its purpose began to unfold: 

It weigh's almost ten pounds, but I was convinced at first that it was a glorified power strip and a lazy susan. Then it popped.
My first thought was, "Oh crap! I broke it." How was I going to squish its guts back in too small a container? I figured, rather than retreat I would go for broke, or broken, as a worse case scenario. Instead, I got the "Wholly Grail!" reaction from myself and the other diggers in the attic.
As I lifted the black metal plate, the base slightly spun as the metal straps fell into place.  I placed my palm down on the plate, now 4 feet off the ground, and with all my weight, I couldn't get it to budge. The gadget-ologist inside me howled with delight. It was a masterpiece of design. My definition being, that to look at upon it, your first impression would be, "That can't work!" But oh how it does, and without a wobble; it is solid as a rock.  For my next trick, I hit the release and spun/folded it back to its original flat self. It's a much better idea to haggle with an item that is in its reduced state, rather than its most prominent.
So, there you have it. This Sawyer Projector Stand is a definite 5 out of 5 on the McNeely-Rand ultra fictitious fabulous find scale.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Before and After: the 1884 Medicine show

If there were such a thing as time travel, (aside from the 60 sec/minute speed we're moving at now) I would like to take one of the handful of 19th century newspapers I've found and use it as a portal. Aside from all the comparative knowledge you could take to an era (My God! He has a ball-point quill!), you could actually verify all the things we know of a period and bring back some accuracy. I'm not calling foul to the historians and writers of the time, but I know I can't send an email or contribute to a meeting without the reply or the minutes being distorted. It's no wonder why internet search works so well, we seem to read and write in keywords only the rest is treated as just filler. Truthfully, in looking through those papers I only scan the articles. The real eye-catch are the ads, and there-in lie the greatest, well, lies.
These ads are from the "The Berkshire County Eagle"  April 22, 1884 (poorly scanned above).  Another gem from a box lot of items I found a few summers ago This one is not so acidified that it couldn't be rescued from the 12 folds that some previous holder had sentenced it to.  I could read these all day and never get tired. What the heck is "Spermatorrhea?"  Wait. Don't tell me. It is exactly what it sounds like. Next!
The "Before and After" is a great marketing trick. I wonder who thought of it first? Garden of Eden before, and Garden of Eden after. In the ad above, if you can get beyond sharing with family and friends that you would actually see a Dr. named "Dye", then you can trust that you 'll be transformed from a sickly young Abe Lincoln, to a vibrant U.S. Grant. I am not going for historical accuracy here, that's merely who the pictures look like to me. 

Right below one of these ads, of which there were several in this paper, was what I refer to as the penultimate "after" and may best describe how accurate all of the medicinal promises actually were.
Now, that's what I want - a hearse with all the Trimmings!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Droll, Very Droll

While I am out looking for the Holy Grail, or lost copy of the Declaration of Independence, I commonly look for items that might actually be useful in our daily life. In fact, because I sale so consistantly you might hear me ask, "Looking for something?"  Why? One, it's another excuse to go hit the sales,two, you are more likely to find something when looking for something else. Don't believe me? Try this experiment. The next time you lose something, instead of stressing over finding it. Begin looking for something else. Trust me, once you relax your brain is no longer worried about an exact match for the original item. Looking for something else actually widens your percepted subconscious field of view and you become more aware of your surroundings.  Did you just ask me what my Degree was in? Well, I know I got a BS in something...Anyway, I have tried this at estate sales, and it works.
The box of medical equipment I found this summer is a good example. It wasn't even in plain sight. A few Saturdays ago, AVA and I were at a junky, repeat sale; I was hoping that she wouldn't see something she had to have, and then I noticed something from the list of things to look for:
A Bird feeder is the kind of thing that can turn a bland backyard into something visual and useful. We have gone through numerous feeders thanks to the elements and the squirrels. Of course, if I wanted something lasting I'd have to pay for it.
$99! for some plastic and a bit of metal?  The right item at the right time on this day was only $2. Click on the description for a larger image.  I had seen Droll feeders, even one at a tag sale last year that was $85 and I couldn't believe it then. This wasn't the "spinner" which launches rats with good PR (read: squirrels) into space.  I had found the "whipper" the only feeder that uses S&M to keep the squirrels at bay. Actually, the perches are spring-loaded to only allow birds the size of cardinals to sit. Any larger (like those damned Blue Jays - hate them) and the perch gives way and bye bye big birdie.

So, the moral is: Be careful what your not looking for; you may find it, for a couple of bucks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Do Republicans Really want change?

When I go hunting for a story on the weekends, I have to admit, it is not the obsession I make it out to be. It's really all about prioritizing time management. I am a husband/father first, an employee next, then after a little sleep comes the urban archeologist.  The few sales I do hit need to have the kind of aura I am looking for. No, it's not a certain color, it's something else.  It might be a single item, or might be just the way an assortment of items has been cast around a room, letting me know that there's something in there.  Sometimes I just have to settle for the weirdest thing I can find.
Republican change purse

Case in point: What is this? I didn't know, but it is leather and 2.5" x 2.5" square. Inside, there is a sticker that say's "made in India."  The top is cushiony and most prominently is the GOP symbol stamped or branded into the red leather. I couldn't help but use this post's title as my way of approaching the owner to see if she knew what it was.

Being that it was a change purse, my opening line got such a good laugh from the owner that she gave it to me. Unfortunately, she didn't know anything about it's origin or how they had gotten it.  If you have ever seen one of these before, please leave a comment

Just to make sure my blog is not misread as favoring one party over another:
Billy Beer CanBilly beer can
Jimmy Carter was one of Dem...so I guess his brother must have been one, too.  Though after a few of these, well, a party's a party, right? I once had a medium sized beer can collection (read: it took more than 5 boxes to store it) and although I've parted with it, there are a few I had to keep.  My father scored this one for me, back in  '79 and even popped it from the bottom to save the pull tab on top.  This is probably a beer that should never have been brewed at all. Visit the Wikipedia page for a few more dismal facts on this meager brew.

Thinking about it now, maybe this was not the best prop to even the playing field on election day.  Then again, an empty purse VS. an empty beer can?  Hmm, the party's over and there no one to pay the piper....come to think of it, I have equally crashed both parties!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Happy Halloween!

I was hoping to find something from the vault for a Halloween post, but either I couldn't find it, or it doesn't exist. That means only one thing...gotta go get something! I guess this will just have to be a Halloween grab-bag of sorts. 

I get weak when I see a Sharpie (any color) and a blank piece of paper. AVA's snack bag for school is the perfect victim.
These are the bags we sent her to school with on Thursday and Friday.
I titled the one above "The great redundancy in the sky."  I started doing this to her lunch bags during Summer camp. One day, she came back from camp and said "they liked your drawing."  Starved for attention as I am, that was all the encouragement I needed to keep on going. 

Finally, I will leave you with a piece of Halloween nostalgia, although I can't say I've ever seen this on Halloween...I wonder why?

 Well, "The Great Pumpkin" it ain't. But with all the cable networks there are, I am surprised one of them doesn't buy the rights to air this classic.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

You could tune a piano...but you couldn't tune a fish...until now.

Guest author Janice Vance returns with another story of her travels and the treasure that is out there for the taking.

A fish story: the two that didn’t get away and the one that did

Okay, I confess to liking fish. Not just to eat. I like cartoonish fish with goofy expressions in wild colors, maybe striped or polka-dotted, fish that remind me of summer and beach cottages, fish that make me smile when I look at them.

So when I found the two small greenish-blue ceramic fish in my local Thrift Mart, priced at a buck-fifty each, I grabbed them without really looking all that closely. There was a maroon one too, but he didn’t fit into my color scheme, so I left him behind. Bad decision, in hindsight.

My fish are the same aqua color you might see on a 1956 Buick, and these little guys have Attitude in the same way the butler Jeeves does: upturned nose, a no-nonsense, disapproving gaze. The dorsal fin is part of a lid that lifts off. I thought: how clever, inside this little critter you could store sugar packets, cotton balls, spare change, or anything you really wanted to hide, like your Rolex or great-grandmother’s diamonds, because no burglar worth his watch cap would give these fish a second look. In the Thrift Mart, they stuck out from the surrounding mugs, wicker baskets, picture frames, candle holders and lamps, but that’s only because I have a well developed fish-interceptor sense.

It wasn’t until I got the fish home that I flipped them over and looked at the bottoms. Yeah, I know, all serious antiques aficionados always check out the bottom of plates, figurines, and vases, looking for Really Important Manufacturers. Not me. I’m thinking of color and function. They either work in the d├ęcor, or they don’t come home with me.

The Really Important Manufacturer information on the bottom of the fish turned out to be “Made in California.” But the oddity was the “Chicken Of The Sea Tuna Baker-Salad Server” line just below it. We all grew up eating Chicken Of The Sea tuna. In fact, my mother served me so many Chicken Of The Sea tunafish sandwiches for school lunches I pretty much cannot look tunafish in the face even today. But I had no memory of ever seeing a Chicken Of The Sea Tuna-Baker-Salad Server when I was growing up.

To the internet I went. In among the links to various tuna recipes (flipped past those real fast!) I found a few sites by folks selling various retro and classic ceramic items. And there was my fish, along with this information: “Bauer Pottery made this individual... tuna fish baker as a promotion for Chicken of the Sea in the 1940s.” Apparently the fish were available in several colors: green, yellow, red, and burgundy. Originally they came with a metal stand that fit snugly around the fish’s bottom section. Mine have no stand, but whataya want for a buck fifty?
You can purchase one of these fish online for $48 to $59, plus shipping.

Well. I’ve been looking at my fish more respectfully now. Obviously there is a reason they have Attitude. They are Fish with a West Coast pedigree. Fish made by an actual serious Art Pottery. Fish that can be viewed as a nest egg, instead of simply a vessel to hold a nest egg. I’ll keep them safe and warm.

And you can bet I won’t be using them to serve tunafish. 

Thank you Janice, for giving me the night off to get an extra hour of sleep..maybe.