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Monday, November 23, 2009

It is Tempting....

Parents just don't know what they do to their kids.  Take me, for example.  I could have become anything, but before I knew what I wanted to be or do, I was in the care of my parents. Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be writing my own "tell all" autobiography, "Martyr Dearest". Mainly because I have nothing juicy to tell - the skeletons in my closet are all ones I've found, plan to keep, and eventually share with you.  Unlike other obsessive (maybe a little compulsive) types, I know why I do this urban archeology thing I do.  My dad was an English teacher and tinkerer/carpenter.  He was in love with the sea and sailing and he would often take me beach combing.  Later on, my mother would teach me to drive, and I learned to parallel park at....garage sales.  Neither of my parents were collectors, so I guess it skips a generation?

Some of the first things I found at these sales were beer signs, bottle openers, other breweriana.  Like most of the things I've collected, very little of it has been kept more than 10 years.  I did have some large moving beer signs that were fun to restore and hang over the ping pong table in the 70s, but they were never going to make it into the late 80's.  I did gain an appreciation for these items, and now when I see something special I hang on to it.  This post card from the 30's is one I found more than 8 years ago:

Tropical Beer, Cuba, 1931 front

First, I had no idea what level of industrialization Cuba enjoyed. I know of very little Cuban history that predates the communist take over in the late 50's, or the various capitalist and mob influences before that.  Unfortunately, the better part of my Cuban history studies was spent watching "Godfather 2".  The next best part of the card is the reverse.
Tropical Beer, Cuba, 1931 back
Other than the spurious calculations peppered all over the back, I can't get over the brief and single purpose for Bill to send JP a postcard other than to tell him "Having a fine time. Beer is great." Yes, Bill. I am sure of that. Why he felt the need to jam it in poor JP's face is something we'll never know.   I am also amazed that the stamp survived and though only partially there I can see that the cancellation is Guantanamo Bay Feb 2, 1931.
What really got me about the card were the cartoon-ish stereotypes gathered around a giant bottle of the brew. I guess these are your average wealthy American businessmen (and the missus) toasting the symbolic Cuban Hops farmer. 
The military may approve of Tropical beer, but I'm not sure DCF would approve of the mother Breastfeeding her baby, while her daughter is drinking! That's going to be one tipsy-toddler. ( take a close look at what the child has in her right hand, maybe she is holding it for Mama).

Well, sports and beer do go together, though maybe not during the game.  I find it curious that  these men all seem to be striking rather effeminate poses? (maybe not Babe Ruth.)

Finally, we have the rest of the stereotypes, proving once and for all that "All Drink Tropical Beer". If you are feeling a little thirsty after reading this and want to learn about more Cuban beverages and a brief history of Tropical Beer, take a look here. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Get That Fighter!

It's funny how you can remember even the slightest detail of a discovery.  I never know what I am going to find, because I don't look for anything. I want to look at everything and then pick out the one item that has a story to tell, or something to teach me, or something to just occupy me.  20 years ago this 4" x 5" booklet was just sitting on a metal table in a garage on one of the numbered streets near the Danbury Hospital (2nd street, 4th,Street). I don't remember the street, but I can still  vividly recall that textured metal folding table. I took one look at "Restricted"  on the cover, and I was hooked. That word on any document is like someone showing you a control panel and saying, "Don't press that button." (What ever you do, DON'T click on the image for a closer view! - see! it's tempting.)



Despite the overall message "Kill or be killed", I love the visual nature and layout of this  1943 training tool for gunners in the Army Air Corps. Although I never would I am sure I could show this to my six-year old and she would have more than a sporting chance of shooting down a few "incoming!"

There are more pages to this manual but I wanted to scan the ones that gave the general idea.  The first half of the instruction is based on the physics and trajectory of the bullet as it leaves the gun.  The last 6 pages all fold out nicely to show different views and specs on 3 each of the German and Japanese best fighting machines.  It has held up pretty well and may be quite rare. I can't find another reference to it anywhere on the web.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Film Fun

What could be more fun than film? That's right "Film Fun". As long as there have been movies, there has been a magazine dedicated to highlighting and sensationalizing the "buzz".

I thought the year on this was a misprint when I picked it up in the basement of a Newtown estate sale. I studied film in college, but I didn't think things got rolling until the 1920's. Before that time I thought it was all faded and blotchy scenes from Edison's kinetoscopes. Nope, this is 2 years after the formation of Paramount Pictures, and the year before United Artists was formed. Charlie Chaplin had passed the $10,000/week salary mark and many of the covers of "Film Fun" during this time featured C.C.

10 cents a copy? If the caption on the cover is right, I think it is a funny coincidence that in 1918 you could see a moving picture or buy this magazine. Hey, it's your dime, spend it any way you want. Kinda different now, it would be like paying 12 dollars to read "People" - No thanks, 10 cents maybe.
I didn't quite get the cartoon below (click on any image for a little larger version) until I "googled" Yapp's Crossing and found that the illustrator was Johnny Gruelle who had been creating this cartoon for another publication since 1915. He was also the creator of Raggedy Ann & Andy.  Here he points his gentle wit towards the explosion of the film industry.
These next 2 pages I scanned to show the kind of audience this magazine was playing to, based on the advertisers interests.

Mommy seems anemic from lack of iron (you know, the Nuxated kind?) actually she is no doubt listless from all the movies she been seeing.

Nothing like the latest issue of "Film Fun" to take care of "Women's Aches and Ills".  Actually this magazine must have had a broad appeal because it was around for a long time.  If you would like to read more and see several other covers visit here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Canadian Mint and Other Eye Candy....

Canadian Quarter
I think a little clarification is necessary here. What exactly is the difference between a tag sale, an estate sale, garage sale, and yard sale, etc.?

There is no legal clarification for what a "sale" is allowed to call itself.  California recently had a sale,( no, not a fire sale).  They sold off a lot of excess items they had in storage.  While I am sure the government is in dire straits there, the fact that they called it a "tag sale" was coined by the media. Here is my best definitions of each:

Tag sale - They didn't know what to call it but their signs were too small and couldn't fit "Garage" maybe?  Tag sales rarely have any tags for sale.

Yard sale - They don't have a garage, or tables, items are commonly in boxes or strewn on a blanket with signs like "Everything on Blanket $1."  Many times I've asked at a yard sale, "How much for the 3ft?" but nobody ever gets that joke.

Garage Sale - Now we're getting somewhere. If true to the name, this is a collection of all the items that have overflowed from being tucked into corners, cubbys, pockets, and rafters - a sale is imminent if it is ever to be used as a garage again.

Moving Sale - We're getting close to estate sale territory here, but these are often "home goods" sales. If you are looking for furniture, large and small appliances, including bric and or brac.  Usually the best stuff is in the moving van, though.

Schaefer Beer Can
Estate Sale - The golden child of the group.  The one where you get to ask, "Is it throughout the whole house?" and the answer comes back "Yes."  These are the ones that are most often classified as "digs"  (Urban Archaeological Dig - that is).  They're not all rosy treasure chests of booty waiting to be spotlighted on the Antiques Roadshow, but some have potential.  My favorite phrase is "time machine". I'm
looking for the kind of sale where I can step into grandpa's workshop and feel as though I've just gone back in time.  The pencils in the old beer can with the dried out erasers have the names of long lost local businesses still clearly stamped on them. The drawers under the bench hold a multitude of nuts for which matching bolts no longer exist. If you dig in those drawers you may find at the bottom is an ancient coin. Kept as a good luck piece and forgotten when incessant hammering vibrated it into the void from which I rescue it.  The Centeime (front and Back) is a french quarter from 1918 and worth about 26 cents and was found in a box of hardware in Danbury. The half crown from 1959 is worth $1and was found in a drawer in an old barn in Ridgefield..  Just for clarification, none of these coins are gold, that's just my imperfect photography skills.

25 Centime coin french 1918

Then there are the hooks and nails affixed to the walls to hold that gadget, or thingamabob that's never left it's original packaging, still emblazoning it's false printed promise to solve some age old problem.  Beer can openers, swizzle sticks, folding tape measures, and worn tools, some whose purpose may never be known - unless you can tell me. What is this?

Seems to be designed to turn a piece of wood and shape it somehow.

Finally, the collection of manuals, old newspapers, calendars, etc. which were so very important at one time and could never be casually tossed.

It's all treasure to me.  Some to keep, or not, but worth appreciating, studying, and attempt  to understand the way you might at a museum of oddities.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Easy Pickings

I am on a kind of tear with books lately.  They always interest me for what they contain - on the pages, and between the pages.  If you happen to be looking at books somewhere (other than a library, or Borders) make sure you check the first few pages.  Not only to  check the year and whether you are holding a first edition, but to also look for an inscription, either to a past owner from a past gift giver, or better yet, the author.

"Easy Pickings" was a pulpy sort of novel from the early 30's. An autobiography of sorts relating the gritty life of the author.
As you may be familiar with my blog, I like to take the items that I have found and try to discover more of the story behind it (or them). I was rather fortunate to come across a very interesting site called "The Unsung Joe - Where bit part actors go when they die".  Everything you's guys would like to know about Al Hill can be read rather clearly (with pictures) if you click here. (a shout out to Diarmid for creating that blog and permitting me to link to it)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Jehovah's Witness Protection Program

No, I am not living under a new identity and I'm certainly not hiding from any Jehovah's Witnesses.  Though I may have not answered the door when they came knockin'.   I did find a book a few years back that I picked up for the title alone (and might upset the Witnesses).

I don't believe in ghosts. That phrase is almost an oxymoron, because by saying, "I don't believe in ghosts,"  I am actually acknowledging their existence;  I just choose not see them.   Kinda the same way I would turn down a second cup of coffee.   I see it on the tray I just don't want it.  I  have never seen a ghost and I don't expect to.  Would I like to?  Sure.  Nothing livens up a dull day more than a disembodied spirit from another dimension.

The author, Johannes Greber had the same feeling, well, almost.  In 1920's, as a catholic priest, he had his beliefs until he walked into a seance and communicated with a spirit sent by God, who then began to tell him, "Um, by the way, that whole bible everyone's been reading is missing stuff."  He becomes a spiritist and has many more communications with the spirit world, many with his wife as the medium.  He then goes on to translate a version of the New Testament which is used by the JW's for almost 50 years to support their beliefs before someone realizes, "Hey wait, this guy Greber was maybe communicating with demons. Whoops!" and they then remove all references to the use of his writings. While trying to research all this to understand it myself, I begin to get dizzy.  No, no spirits are appearing before me, I just can't make head or tail of the validity of what Greber wrote; what the JW's believe, and why so many websites are dedicated to exposing JW's use of his writings. For more on this take a look at one of those websites (go half way down the page for a pretty good explanation)  

The important part of this post is that while looking through the old farmhouse at the Elephant's Trunk Flea Market (they often hold tag sales there, maybe to sell of the stuff left behind in my previous post) I came across this book, and because of its age and because of one other important aspect, I grabbed it for 2 bucks.  Now, with all the history and controversy surrounding this individual, if what I have is real, then I think I have a rare find. After finding Greber's signature in another location on the web, though low resolution, I have verified that I have what is likely a first edition singed copy of his book. Take a look at the signature on the right and the inscription on the book above. Is it his signature? For an even better biography of Greber go here.Turns out he was a pretty amazing guy.