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What on Earth!? Archive

Things we've found that the previous owners left behind. (Its a long story...)

June 13, 2003

What on Earth!? (a brief explanation of all this stuff...)

Category: What on Earth!?

We bought this 1914 bungalow from a woman whose family owned it for 70 years. With all that history and an interest in collecting (plus quite a bit of cash which they didn't spend ON the house), they'd developed quite a houseful of things from around the world. Like this:

As a result, we gave the seller a 30-day rent-back period after the official "closing" to sort through and remove her family possessions (well, we didn't charge her any rent, actually. Just utilities...we felt sympathy for her...there were so many things to sort through). Then, three days before she was to move, we received a letter...

The seller had not removed all of her things and didn't intend to. She also did not clean. She told us that since she was "officially" a renter, not a seller, that she was within her rights to leave the house in any condition she wanted to. Surprise!! We were caught a bit off guard, as you might expect. That night we went through the house and found that 50% of what was originally there still remained. She had hired an auction house to come through and they took most of the furniture. We found books, pottery, glass, paper, trash, kitchenware, rocks (really) and boxes and boxes and more boxes.

After some discussion, we ended up negotiating an agreement. We were rather overwhelmed (we had to rent storage for our own things for an additional month and delay our move into the house) but figured we could rent a dumpster to quickly get to the task of renovating our new home. But then came the second surprise--some of the things in the house were really cool! (There was still a lot of trash and dirt too.) So, yes, it has set back our renovation by months and months. And we are finding many more things to fix in the house as we peel back the layers of grime and "stuff".

We've decide to make lemonade out of these lemons and share the experience. So, we're going to start posting photos of the items we've found. Well, some of the 1000's. We'll just keep plugging away until you have no more patience to peek in here with us.

To see all the photos we've taken so far click here and scroll down. (Just a warning--there are lots of photos to download!!)

Update: We're now offering some of these items for sale via our "Virtual Estate Sale." To see what we're offering click here.


June 13, 2003

The First Batch

Category: What on Earth!?
While my computer savvier husband sets up an integrated website, I'm going to start posting picture of old and ends we find in the bungalow. Please be patient with us! There are so many odds & ends. Whew.

If you have a particular story or comments about the item, use the 'Comment' link below each entry. (As in" My grandmother had one of these, and she used to make us....)

You can send all correspondence to It is so terrific to be able to share all of this, the overwhelming nature of it all, with people who REALLY know what the word "overwhelming" really means.

Item #1--

I thought that this elephant would make a good doorstop, until I noticed the Asian signature on the bottom (see red insert). Any ideas on this one?

Item #2--SOLD

No home should be without a "Beckwith Reed Organ" made in Chicago. Do you know this sweet little thing still works? The 4 middle stops need to be reconditioned. See this in the Estate Sale.

Item #3

A signed copy of the rare book, "The Great Myth", (about American Indians) signed by the author, John C. Wright, with a postcard from the author to the recipient inside. I didn't dwell on this too long, but I know that this was the author who wrote "The Crooked Tree". And that is cool. Wright's grandmother was reportedly the great granddaughter of Pontiac, the revered Ottawa Chief who led the last rebellion against the English at Detroit in 1763.

Item #4--Sorry, these are, um, gone

These are lovely plaster cast foot molds of the PO's mom, who I suspect was having special shoes made. We have two pairs of them. Found in a paper bag.

Item #5

And then there was an unusual children's play book from the late 80's (the, um, 1880's)

Item #6-Adopted

A metal and plastic, never used, in the box, Melodica from Hohner in Germany. The reading material places it around 1950's.

This was an interesting family. We'll find out more about them when we tackle other things in the house and their origins....

June 16, 2003

The Second Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

Item #1

This is a Buddha from Japan in Bronze. He has an incense burner in his lap. I need to some research on his markings/history.

Thanks to Naomi M., I have more information about this little piece! (look under Comments for this entry...)

Item #2 - Happily Adopted

A Zenith H725 AM/FM "Portable" Radio. Works beautifully.

Item #3 < Adopted

Here is a U.S. Army Standard-issue "Service Set" It was sponsored by Gilette and features: A collapsible razor (non-disposable), a silver box of blades (never used, good as new), and a mirror.

Item #4

This is just one room from the second floor. Yowsa. Eventually all of the historical records and paintings/pictures find their way here too.

Item #5 < See him in the Estate Sale Shop

Mr. Peanut bank. Never used. We blew a lot of dust off of this guy. Found out that this is actually a desirable collectible, especially in mint condition. Who knew?

Item #6

And this is giving you even MORE of an idea of what we've got going on here. Shelves and shelves of glassware, pottery, porcelain, fossils/rocks, lighting, clocks, metal and well as 20 years of Boy Scout supplies. Did I mention the rocks?

June 17, 2003

The Third Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

Okay, we knew it had to happen sometime. Get down to some "nitty-gritty", marks on the bottoms of things, and all that. What is this stuff? Is there a market for it? (Albeit a small one) Can we finance our new bathroom tile and kitchen repairs from these things? Or just buy a new tea cozy?

Item #1--Has new home

Part of the "branded" collection. Tarnished silver top and filigree over glass. Between silver exterior "cup" and top is the word "Nestle" in the glass.

Item #2-Has new home

We've adopted this one, but we're still curious. We think it is a "netsuke" from Meiji Japan that used to be used as decoration for traditional Japanese clothing,,,,

Item #3

This looks like a gold painted porcelain ashtray. The mark is difficult to read, but seems to be a fancy "coat of arms" type design with the words "Stouffer Fine China" on the bottom.

Item #4 < Adopted

Salt and pepper shakers. No further explanation needed, eh?

Item #5

Metal Boy Scout Wall emblem? That's all we can think of,

Item #6 < Adopted

A "Rumford" metal measuring cup, greatly in need of a good polish. It says, "Rumford Measuring Cup" and has marks for "Quarters" and "Thirds".

June 18, 2003

The Fourth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

Well! I rummaged through the historical papers and postcards and tickets and menus and so on today while waiting for the pest control people.

This family is certainly well-traveled. And at interesting times too.

Picture is well after World War I. A young "L" enters law school at some point...single, attractive and smart. With well-heeled parents who have invested in international stocks and real estate (and I don't know what else) that allow her to "see the world" with a girlfriend DURING THE U.S. DEPRESSION (1929 - 1936). Her future spouse, W, is also traveling the world at this time. I don't know if they knew each other yet or not. But there they are, our globe trotting pair.

Item #1

Someone was in pre-WWII Germany in 1930.

Item #2

And pre-WWII Pearl Harbor in the early to mid 1930's.

Item #3

We know that both made it to the "Orient" sometime during the early 1930's. From shop receipts, I would trace probably L (?) to this cruise with her girlfriend. I know that she focused most on Japan and China.

Item #4

On another trip perhaps, the Japan-China War of 1937 broke out? Or perhaps something smaller beforehand. I believe the President Taft they refer to is "ex"-President Taft and maybe the "current" President Hoover (1929-1933). I do not know who the Baronness is in Tokyo. But there were refugees, and barricades and confusion. Maybe someone more familiar with history here could comment. I believe this card was part of the traveling "presentation" that W & L gave after marriage to small church groups and so forth. The kimonos, tea and sake sets and so on are still here. This would explain the overpopulation of Asian antiquities a LOT though...

Item #5

Someone was also in Cuba, pre-Castro. Fidel did not assume power until 1959. But this seems to be post "Republica" (1900-1930's?) We also have maracas...pretty strong evidence, eh?

Item #6

A cruise to Bermuda in 1934...very relaxing in the midst of all of this global tension!

Item #7 See this in the Estate Sale Shop

And after all of that, I just want to know...WHO began stealing the ashtrays from hotels in Europe??!

June 19, 2003

The Fifth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

J's unexpected journey through the linen a trip back into her grandmother's all-American "kitsch-en".

And yes, make us an offer on those things that haven't been adopted. We have thousands of things in this house. No kidding. And we will be having a garage sale within the next month. But wanted to give bungalow folks and friends a chance to see and perhaps even own a little Americana at garage sale prices.

You can send all correspondence to

Well! What have we here?? Our built-in linen closet yields wonders.

Items #1- A lot

Potholders and dishtowels GALORE! (Chrissy and Elaine...are you catching this? Some of these potholders were DEFINITELY in Nanny's kitchen.) I couldn't post them all, just a representative sample. Has anyone absorbed the MAGNITUDE of this yet? (As in, what is with ALL OF THE STUFF?)

Item #2 -- Has new's a long story

And if you are enterprising, you will use a mangle like this one (working with instruction booklet and original light bulb still wrapped in packaging) to iron all of your linens. (And shirts and clothes, etc.)

I am not enterprising in this way. We are looking for a nice home for a super low mileage mangle. A B&B in a neighboring city bought one recently or else...perfect. Ah well, their loss? Your gain?

June 20, 2003

The Sixth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

Some Japanese and Chinese Items

Paper Items Sample: We know the owner brought back items from 1931 China and Japan...we just don't know which items are from "when." I believe they went back during the 1950's as well. We have other paperwork from 1931 that places at least the one of the couple before they were married in Japan.

Porcelain Items Sample:

Blue flower piece: Writing says "Nishikawa Japan" with a border above and below. I think there is an artist's signature (?), but I cannot understand it.

Spotted piece: This only has a signature or name. I cannot discern it.

Floral piece: This says "Maple Ware...Made in Japan" with the imprint of a red maple leaf.

Small Cup: The writing on this piece looks like raised white letters on white. The foot and bottom of this piece are not glazed.

Sake jar (?): Again, the writing "Nishikawa Japan" with a border above and below. The cups that go with this piece are very delicate and beautiful...they remind you of the shape of the jar, but their rims are carved into flowers that have cut-outs in the porcelain.

Pottery: The glaze on this piece is rougher...the markings are on labels. The one on the side says "J 7 5 9".

Laquerware: We now have found three sets of these...all with matching lids (not pictured here). I imagine them to be pretty common.

Cup with Characters: The bottom of this cup says "WAKO China Made in Japan"

Bronze, brass and metal items sample:

Item #1
< On hold

Bronze Elephant: I tried to reproduce the signature on the bottom because it does not photograph well. It is in the red square.

Brass (?) Teapot:

Wooden items sample: < Has been adopted

Netsuke (perhaps?): I cannot place this piece. No signature on bottom. Perhaps had a slight red stain on lips at one time. Detail of clothing is exquisite.

Paper arts items sample: < On hold

The first one is from "Collection". The second and third are individual pieces that were once in frames.

Thank you so much to the discussion group for helping out a very perplexed me. They specialize in interpreting marks from China and some from Japan, as well as helping to identify the age of objects. The site is fantastically educational with lots of great pictures. So check it out if you get the chance.
Look in the comments for a note from "HR" who helped me out with a few items.

June 23, 2003

The Seventh Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

I am so tired from endless cleaning. You'll have to guess the story of these items and send in your guesses. Are they related? Are they even identifiable?

Items...Random or no?

Boy Scout Bandana!

Note: There's a neat story someone sent about this. Check out the Comment entry from WC...

And...Chicago World's Fair, Fisher Price, a porcelain fish from a Chinese roof, Richard Hudnut, slide projector, lithograph of the London bridge, Hibachi-Ets, Chicago Photographer's badge, retro salt and pepper, black opaque Chevalier de la Nuit by Ciro Parfum...

< New Home
< New Home

< New Home
< See this in the Estate Sale Shop
< New Home < New Home
< See this in the Estate Sale Shop

Yawn!! Goodnight!

June 25, 2003

The Eighth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

More random (or no?) pictures of items from "the house."

Item #1 - Has new home

I am obsessed now. Many people who have come over to gape at the museum which is our house turn over everything they look at. Now they have me doing it too. Like I know what I am looking at?! This dish says "Royal Albert, Bone China, England, Cotswold." I was in Cotswold for a lovely weekend after working outside of London in June of 2000. Other than that, I have no idea what this "mark" means.

Item #2 < Adopted

There was nothing on the bottom of this coffee can. But there are a few different ones in the house and people seem to like them anyway.

Item #3 - Has new home

This is a vase that we dig. It has symbols on the bottom and is from Austria. We don't like it for the bottom though. We just think that it is nice. You can't read the bottom in photos, which is frustrating.

This is better and just cooler looking as a photo. Some people are probably laughing right now, saying, "She doesn't even know that she has a famous Leffenhoffermausten Vase."

And they are right. Which is why I never felt a need for ADT before this point in my life. Now we have ADT from the previous owner AND our dog. And still have no idea why.

Item #4

This is much more funny than vases. It comes with the weight set, too.

Item #5

Headless turkey salt and pepper shakers. Also kind of funny.

Item #6

Some say Michelin Man...some say Stay Puft Marshmellow Man. To us, he's just a little mystery man.

June 26, 2003

The Ninth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

It's Ladies Day (or Night) here at "What On Earth?" Or, at least, the stereotypical Ladies persona created by marketers earlier this century.

But I'm digressing into a rant about marketing and feminism. Which would pretty much wreck the lightheartedness of these pages. So, we can talk about that topic on postlacesociety when it is up and running. ("Lace" as in "shoelace" as in a bunch of clog, sandal and Teva wearing pals blogging about modern topics of interest. You know who you are.)

Note: These are all being handled as a seperate kind of sale to be announced later. Some are available online at the Estate Sale

In the interest of time, I've had to take photos of "groups" of these items. Sorry we couldn't linger on each one, but that would take forever!!!

Group 1

These perfume bottles fascinate me. Especially the ones with just a wee bit of perfume left. What was the owner saving it for? What special occasion? Or maybe they just moved on to a new scent. We'll never know.

From left to right:

Sortilege Le Galion
Paris, France

White Rose
(Quadruple Essence)

White Rose
(Quadruple Extract)
Crofts & Reed, Chicago

Crab Apple Blossom
Essence de Luxe
A. J. Hilbert & Co.
Milwaukee, USA

Group #2

Then there were these cool refillable containers.

From left to right:
Skylark Power Puff
in marble jar

DeVillbiss Perfume Bottle (S500-119)
etched crystal with 24kt gold plate

Unknown Bottle

Group #3

Everything in here is interesting. Because now I'm beginning to see bottles sometimes "disguised" as other things. And names of perfumes that suggest unspeakable feelings and acts :)

Far right/front:

Unknown refillable bottle in black silk pouch with faux jewels

Middle row, left to right:
J Lanvin
Paris, France

Mon Desir
Ivel Perfumes
New York

Penthouse (Whisper, B, C, N)
Lucien LeLong

Back row, left to right
Yanky Toilet Water
Richard Hudnut
New York/Paris

Eau de Toilette
Yves Saint Laurent
Paris, France

Group #4

Tiny "mini-me" bottles. We have quite a few of them. Too many for photos.

From left to right:
Le de Givenchy

Cabochard de Gres

by La India

Fleurs de Rocaille

Parfum "Y"
Yves Saint Laurent

Group #5

Agh! Now it's like an overload of perfume bottles. And it is late and I am tired.

In this line up:

Tabu (Diana, Paris); Fleurs de Rocaille (Caron, Paris); My Sin (Lanvin, NY), No. 4711 Blue & Gold (Colonia, Germany); Corday; Evening in Paris (Bourjois, NY/Paris); Cologne Aphrodisia (Faberge, Paris/NY)

Group #6

Stop! Stop! I'm overwhelmed!!

In this line up that haven't been mentioned already:

Shocking de Shiaparelli (New York); Quadrille (Balenciaga, France); Blue Grass (Arden, NY); Tweed (Lentheric); Youth Dew (Estee Lauder, NY); Marbert Man--how did this get in here? (West Germany); Illegible Name (___RCHIEF); Cinnabar (Estee Lauder, NY); Shanghai (Lentheric)

Group #7

Belle de Rauch (Madeline de Rauch, Paris); Lilies (Floris: Perfumer to the King, London)

Couterines Doll Lipstick Case (Revlon, NY); Extrait 14 (Hugues Guerlain, Paris)

Facial Powders (Richard Hudnut, NY/Paris); Je Reviens (Worth, Paris, France)

Last Group

Yup. This is me on a motivated evening when not cleaning. Just to compare. What is here? Facial Powder (Clinique, NY/London/Paris), Great Lash Mascara (Maybelline, NY); Perfect Blend Crayon (Cover Girl, Maryland); Carmex (Franklin Wisconsin); and--because I became addicted to it in Anncey, France--Allure (Chanel, Paris).

Thank you to the supporting cast of scents and make-up that were fascinating but not photographed:

Young Hearts (Avon, NY/Pasadena); Nectar Lipstick (Avon, NY), Contina No. 7 (Detroit Michigan), and Hawaii Nei Pikaki Lei of Fragrance (Honolulu, Hawaii)

June 26, 2003

The Tenth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?

(A's on deck for the page tonight :)

Original Prints

Here are some prints that J photographed today...

And they're signed....

June 29, 2003

The Eleventh Batch

Category: What on Earth!?
kitsch, kich, n. items mass-produced for the American Market (i.e. souvenirs and the like); generally something that recalls a specific vintage genre through its symbolism. Sometimes these items could be considered outlandish. Generally they symbolize an "age of excess" and the items are of value in that they were of popular appeal at one time while now they might be considered sentimental and of "poor taste"...leading kitsch to a charm of its own.

tacky, tacki, adj. 1 : not having or exhibiting good taste: as a : marked by lack of style : DOWDY b : marked by cheap showiness : GAUDY


Today we present you with a variety of items. But! Are they "kitsch"? Or "tacky"? (Or neither?!) I'm still a beginner on this topic. "Kitsch" is actually a genre of collectible. And can create some really cute results when displayed the right way. But how does one distinguish between "kitsch" and "tacky"? Can you tell?

We're going to test your knowledge by offering some photos of items left in the house...and you can give us YOUR opinion.

Item #1

A tissue holder made of yarn. Kitsch? Tacky? Neither?

Item #2

Pictures made from the bark of trees. These are unmarked. Could be Mount Fuji in Japan. Could be something in the Western U.S. We're not sure. But they are all about being three-dimensional.

Item #3

A photo of Boris Yeltsin superimposed onto a hanging banner. Very tiny. Maybe 7 inches high.

Item #4

A slightly blurry picture (sorry) of a "faux" ship's wheel clock (unless the ship was 4 feet long...then it isn't faux it might be real!) from Telechron. It's electric and it still works.

Item #5

It's, um, a bedpan. Of white metal edged in blue.

Item #6 < See these on the Estate Sale Site

These are brass candle holders...what do they represent? It's a mystery. But my husband used to live in Nebraska and they are vaguely familiar to him. (UPDATE: No longer a mystery, we found them in a book on ART DECO DESIGN! They were designed by Bruno Matheson. We couldn't believe it. Ystad, Sweden. Crazy. Some folks online were saying 1950's, but, well, there they were in the Art Deco Book. So.)

Item #7

Now these are nifty! If you have a lot of cups, these "...hold six cups in fond embrace, and take up little cupboard space."

Items #8 & 9

I know you want this one on the left. You know you want this. Burlap and yarn has never looked so good. And, confess. Someone gave you one of these (on the right) during your lifetime. Probably in the seventies.

Item #10

It's from Austria. Land of Lion Heads. Painted onto ceramic trash cans.

Item #11

We have two of these. No shades though :( The color blue is super cool. They would be even more vivid if I had time to clean the dust out of the little nooks in the porcelain.

Item #12

More usefulness!! These are bamboo cups from Jamaica. I know this because "Jamaica" is carved on the side of them.

Item #13

Fruit. Chalkware wall hanging fruit. These were featured in the latest issue of "Country Home Living." Strangely, many things that we've found in the house are in there. Wild.

Items #14 & 15

To go with these lovely placemats on the right (and they are in nice condition...they roll up for storage and remind me of mats in Asia. But I think they are from Hawaii or Mexico), are a set of curtains (see photo on left...this is just one of many.) The curtains are from Peru, I believe.

It could be a whole new Tiki look for your breakfast nook. :)

June 30, 2003

The Twelfth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?
Tonight, we are playing a NEW GAME here on WHAT ON EARTH??!! It is called...


I have a brother-in-law named Mark. And, although he is a pretty cool guy, this game is not about him.

A "mark" according to one of the MANY definitions of the word in the Oxford Dictionary means a "badge, brand, device, emblem, hallmark, label, seal, sign, stamp, standard, symbol, trade mark."

Many things have a mark or label or signature on them. Picasso's signature is a "mark." The words "Coca-Cola" is a "mark." Even "Made in Japan" is a mark. People who watch "The Antique Roadshow" dig marks.

Marks can help you to discover the story behind items, even if that story is as bland as "Hmm. She bought this at Walmart."

Item #1

A mark can be very clear...but its origins can still be pretty mysterious. (The writing on the front of the plate says, "Combined Thresher and Harvester at work near Connell Washington.)"

Item #2

The statue base is wood. I know the statue is not plastic, but what is it? Ivory? Something else? And who is G.R.? And what's with the fish?

Item #3

Why is this elephant doing aerobics?

Item #4

A blurry mark leads to frustration and speculation that you might need new glasses.

Item #5

Some marks are cooler than the actual item (to me, anyway. Though this is a really bad picture of this vase. The outside is unglazed and therefore shows fingerprints well. Especially dusty ones. The inside is glazed white. Who was Von Tury de Vegh?)

Item #6

Some marks make you take a second, than a third look. Is this a really good fake? Or does that really mean what it says..."1840 Italy"?

Item #7 < Virtual Estate Sale

Hedi Schoop in Hollywood, CA...glam!

Item #8

This is a brand I do not recognize. But maybe someone out there does? By the way, the "preserves" in these jars are little white tablets. That makes me wonder.

Item #9

No mark on the bottom because no glaze. That seems significant. Is the mark ON the main part of the piece? Argh. I cannot read Japanese...and I wish that I could!

Item #10

This is Royal Haeger's kidney bean shaped dish. And this reminds me...thanks mom, for never making me eat kidney beans.

Item #11

Now this is a mark!!! No guessing here!

Item #12

In a world before lighters were disposable...there was "Ronson"...I especially liked the "two-handed smoker" twin lighter set.

We really need to start thinking up prizes for these's bad enough that everyone is nervous about the possibility that I could pick their name in the Christmas name swap this year...

July 1, 2003

The Thirteenth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?
Tonight, we are playing a NEW GAME here on WHAT ON EARTH??!! It is called... NAME THAT MARK

I'm ready for a loooonnngggg weekend. Which means less babble, more photos for a few days. Still! See if you can "Name that Mark!"

What do these marks tell us about these items?

Item #1

Item #2 < Adopted

Item #3

Item #4

Item #5

Item #6

Item #7

Item #8

Item #9

July 2, 2003

The Fourteenth Batch

Category: What on Earth!?
I spent the day cleaning out the basement, so I don't have much time tonight. But here are some interesting artifacts from other countries for you to peruse. As always, you can respond via the Comments button or you can send a correspondence to . Item #1

Item #2

Item #3 Adopted

Item #4

Item #5

Item #6

Item #7 < 2 out of 3 adopted

Item #8

Item #9

Item #10

Item #11

Item #12

July 6, 2003

Batch #15

Category: What on Earth!?

It is time for another installment of "What on Earth?!!" Today's what on earth has us trying to sort out items that are very definitely future garage sale from possible private sale or eBay items.

Garage sale items are usually:

a) Too big or WAY too fragile to ship.
b) Just don't warrant eBay charges.

Some things are obviously garage sale, albeit some very COOL garage sale items. And when we get that garage "sale friendly" (i.e., there is room to PUT things in the garage), you're all invited. Camping in the backyard is possible for roadtrippers. Less adventurous roadtrippers could make a weekend of it in one of lovely Chicago B&B's or hotels. You may fulfill your garage sale dreams here. Or you may just enjoy all the bungalow and Frank Lloyd Wright sightseeing that our fair city has to offer. :)

Slidetrays and storage boxes. Four cardboard boxes of them. < Two boxes full of slide trays are adopted

A lovely pleather carry-on bag:

More luggage. A set of "That 70's Show" Samsonite:

More Samsonite. This a little the box. (Took out for photos) Oh yes. And all baggage has keys for locks. Nifty eh?

This is a set of audiocassette and VHS tape holders that I know you are wanting...NEEDING...sorry. Couldn't find the 8-track tape holder.

Actually, these next three are kind of cool. Just two big for shipping. Both of these bags are from before W and L were married. So, I believe they are pre-1934 or so...

And I just really dig this one because it is an "Amelia Earhart" suitcase. Celebrities were used for brand identity pretty early it seems. My guess, just out of respect, would be that this is from between 1928 and 1937...

And would it be a garage sale without vintage appliances? In this case, we have many typewriters. And adding machines. And lawyer's files, steel file cabinets, wooden file trays and other office items galore. They were lawyers and many of their office things wound up here. Here's just a typewriter (of a few of them):

Next....Batch #16!!

July 8, 2003

Batch #16

Category: What on Earth!?

Today's game is called...


We've found quite a few items around the house, which COULD belong to the bungalow era of this abode. OR they could belong to a more recent era (like the 50's or 60's...). OR they could belong to a different house entirely. (Remember, W was a collector...who knows where this stuff came from. We are still finding windows in the garage that we are fairly sure did NOT come from this style of house.)

YOUR job is to guess BUNGALOW...OR NO? And to also tell the rest of us what the item is.

There are many items that we hold up and play these games with. "Could be a hands-free clamp? An Art Deco cigarette holder? A torture device? Your call...."
Now it gets to be YOUR CALL!

For example, WHAT WAS THIS?

I've lettered the items to make them easier to refer to. You can click on a picture to get a better look. And you can leave your answers in the comments section of the page.


July 9, 2003

More...BUNGALOW...or NO?

Category: What on Earth!?

We're back with BUNGALOW...OR NO? Everyone has been so helpful in identifying things that we are starting to sort it out...sorta.

Here's the latest batch (remember to click on the picture to make it bigger):

This is A < Adopted

This is B

This is C

(You were relaxing there for a minute, weren't you? Thinking, "Oh, man! This is too easy!!!" Well...!)

< E is adopted

< Adopted

Whew! It's been a day. I've got to go to bed. 'night!

July 11, 2003

Batch #18

Category: What on Earth!?

Overloaded "to do" sleep. Quick random batch for all you "what on earth?!" fans out there. (And yes, there are things on this page that we have not figured out. Though we know the last one antique toaster. No joke.)

July 11, 2003

Staring at the ceiling at 4 am...

Category: What on Earth!?

I don't know why I can't sleep. But, man. Birds get up EARLY! They started their little morning bird songs at 4 AM! I wish I didn't know that.

But the "What On Earth?!" fans are excited because that means I'm going to try to go to bed early. So it's pictures of stuff, stuff and more stuff. (There's an especially exciting flashback for you North Park University fans.) And remember! Click on something to make it larger.

From vintage Japanese Comic books to Coca-Cola....

< See this on the Estate Sale Site

Cufflinks, Mardi Gras, Huggie, "Pit" The Game!, barware....

< Adopted

< Adopted

< Adopted

July 12, 2003

Bungalow Context

Category: What on Earth!?

I am starting to realize why I am as fascinated with the history of this house as I am with fixing it....I need context. The big picture. The story.

I mean, who slept in the room I'm sleeping in for all of those years? What did they think as THEY stared at the ceiling not able to get to sleep at 4 am?

I've been corresponding with a very nice person who I found by doing a search on the last name of the oldest deed we have on the house...Kjeldsen. I found her daughter's email address and, like a big geek, wrote her daughter about my research project. That day, the daughter's mom answered me...she is a first rate researcher and great geneaologist! I'll share more of what we found in the next installment.

Tonight, though, I need some bungalow context...

Like, this thing?

This needs a context.

Many times when I pass the shelves downstairs, I sigh, wondering about these "What are they?" or "Why are they here?"

I decided that what I was lacking was context.

So here's a little exercise dedicated to Jane Powell and Linda Svendsen (Bungalow Kitchens--excellent book)

Here is a picture from page 111 of Bungalow Kitchens (remember to click on it to make it larger...and check out the book if you want to see some cool bungalow kitchens!):

And here is a photo taken at our house, hastily, at 3:30 am, from things on the shelves and in the basement.

Not an exact match. But a much more fun way to sort things off the shelves!

July 14, 2003

Random Stuff

Category: What on Earth!?

I was just yanking stuff out of boxes today and taking pictures of it. For awhile, I tried to have a system. Now...whatever. But our garage sale this Fall is going to be a BLAST!!!

Part of going through things is wondering about how it ended up here. What was it originally intended for? And where did it come from? And when?

When I pulled this out of the pile, all I could think of was "Hmmm. Brainwashing little kids...1947-style...." (Click on the picture to make it bigger)

But when I opened up the record jacket (it folds open), I SERIOUSLY freaked out.

Whoa! That is a SCARY WALL! Besides, if this woman had actually LISTENED to her big sister's record (the woman who sold us the house...she's in her late 50's or so), the walls might have actually been BRIGHTY-BRIGHT! But, they were pretty yucky-yuck, actually.

And then there is Bach (conducted by Pablo Casals...who is cool), filed on the shelf next to...

COOLEST! And just in case we thought that the whole "War Protest" incident downtown back in March was a new thing for law enforcement here...

The inside of the record album cover demonstrates that perhaps there's been a teensy issue there for awhile...

There are SO many things wrong with this picture, I can't even begin. But. Gene Autry's version of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is also in this slipcover. And that makes me feel better. He's a trustworthy guy.

Would you trust this santa doll with your mommy? Would you??!! All that white velvet...

This is the reel-to-reel version of this recording (no lie). Makes the phrase "Get comfortable...I'll just put some music on..." safe for many a wide-eyed maiden. Going nowhere fast...

I found this too close to the santa doll.

< Adopted

No! No! NOOOOOOOO!!!!! I DID NOT LIKE having my picture taken when I was a kid...especially around Christmas time. I don't know why. I was sure I couldn't look or sound that geeky in real life, else I was DOOMED. And Christmas involved:

a) the wearing of some kind of pajama,
b) the showing of visual expressions of appreciation, and
c) waving/smiling and looking otherwise "Christmas-y".

As a dark, brooding 14 year old, "visual appreciation" was a look I had yet to learn...I was better at "sullen" or "cranky".br>

Did anything ever scare you or make you cranky about Christmas? (I mean, I like it NOW. Just back then...)

July 16, 2003

Playtime with Batch #21

Category: What on Earth!?

Oh BOY!!! Look what we found in an old wooden chest!

Do any of these bring back memories for anyone? Or do you wish they did? :)

Item #1

Item #2

(Cut glass bowl not included...but we had to put the marbles in something close by...those are Peltier Banana marbles)

Item #3--Gone to loving home :)

Item #4

Item #5 Happily adopted

Item #6 < See this on the Estate Sale Site

Item #7 < See this on the Estate Sale Site

Item #8

Item #9

Item #10

Item #11 < Adopted

Item #12

Item #13

Item #14 < Adopted

Item #15 < Adopted

Item #16--Adopted :)

The tag says "American Character Doll" and its about 2 ft high---but no one ever played with this doll.

Item #17--Wooden furniture has been adopted

This wooden dollhouse furniture is so reminiscent of the bathroom and kitchen fixtures that are supposed to be IN the house...Sigh. The baby doesn't seem happy either.

July 18, 2003

Batch #22

Category: What on Earth!?

Just a box full of stuff.

< Some of these on the Estate Sale Site

Whoa! How did this get into such a classy box of stuff? And where is the mood ring?

A carving in ivory and bone...

< See this on the Estate Sale Site

And the Inuit artist with his hometown...

These things look like either something to do with female grooming in the 1940's or implements of torture...

July 20, 2003

Stockperson at "Someone Else's Life Mart"

Category: What on Earth!?

It's like I've opened up the door to a big closet and all of the contents have fallen on me.

Some days there is wonder and other days (especially hot, sticky ones) it easy to feel like a lowly stock person at "Someone Else's Life Mart".

July 22, 2003

Our Next Play Along Game...WHERE on earth...

Category: What on Earth!?

are these things from?

2 points if you guess the correct continent
10 points if you get the country
100 points if you get the city and can prove it (because sometimes I don't even know THAT!)

Just fill in your answers in the comment form below. You can use a "nom-de-plume" if you want to take a chance but don't want that advertised in our forum!!

p.s. I threw in 1-2 "ringers" so be careful....

GOOD LUCK TO ALL! Oh, and click on the picture to make it larger.

Item #1 < Adopted!

Item #2

Item #3

Item #4 < Adopted

Item #5

Item #6

Item #7 < all adopted

Item #8 < adopted

Item #9 < Adopted

Item #10

Item #11

Item #12 =Adopted!

Item #13

Item #14

Item #15

July 23, 2003

Flotsam & jetsam

Category: What on Earth!?

It's amazing, how much there is to learn about things.

What do my things say about me when I've left them behind? The sweater on the little train in the Swiss Alps. My wallet in...many, many places like that field where we went on the Apple Holler hayride in Wisconsin. My car, also many places.

I guess these things say--"she's not paying attention to the details, is she?"

More flotsam and jetsam from the upstairs tonight...

You know, I don't think I ever appreciated their musical versatility until I heard the Sons of the Pioneers sing "Tumbling Tumbleweed" AND "Tiny Bubbles" on the SAME audiocassette.

If you don't recognize these items above, then you have never been a grade school teacher at any point in the last two decades.

The logical result of all of those empty cookie tins, obviously. The first aid would come in when she can't get any of her food to fit through the big red circle slash thingy... (click on photo to make larger).


Are "Leatherlines" related to "pleather", do ya' think?

Eusi Schwiz!! NO WAY!!! Party tape. Easily. Because when you get Eusi together with Toni Schlumpf Schattorf (or "The Schlumpf" as we in the biz say), then, it's like wild...

To be listened to "AT LEISURE". Got that? Not while working or driving heavy machinery...AT LEISURE ONLY!!!

Yup, yup. This is gonna be one heck of a garage sale all righty...

July 25, 2003

Lights, Cameras, Action!

Category: What on Earth!?

Someone I met today heard our story and wondered if the PO left behind any cameras. Boy, do we have cameras!

< Adopted

And that's just for starters...

< Adopted < Both Adopted < Both adopted!

< Adopted =Kodak 35mm Adopted

< Adopted

But wait. Would they really have had all these cameras without alot of cool accesories, too? Of course not...!

< Adopted < Adopted

July 29, 2003

Hmmm. Where to research these?

Category: What on Earth!?

Sometimes, it is easy to figure what something is and where it is from.

And then, sometimes it is not.

No mark, but we don't care. It's perfect bungalow style and color. Picture doesn't do it justice.

< Adopted

We like the "crazy stork"...but he has no mark either. What is his story?

< Adopted

Aha! Something we recognize! Watts Bowls, #'s 6, 7 & 8...Single Apple Pattern. Phew! Somthing familiar. =Adopted

No such luck mark.

Ok, yup! Uncle Mistletoe...and he says so right there on his, er, bottom. :)
< See this on the Estate Sale Site

Augh. The flash went off--not doing much for the color of this sweet Art Deco (?) leaf lamp. And no mark. But it's green/blue glaze is very pretty.

These fun carafes from Inland Steel's "Aluminum Club" series (c. 1951) are platinum-banded glass...and perfect for the serious coffeee host or hostess :) Boxes make research easy...

4 miniature "personal" carafes...all in their box. It's a caffeine buzz for four.

July 30, 2003

Um. What is this?

Category: What on Earth!?

Okay. We give up.

What is it?

Here is the top of what we saw when we opened the box...(and yes, those cogs and wheels were just lying there.) (Remember to click to make it larger.)

Here's what we saw when we took it out of the box and turned it over...


We don't even have a good guess. Uses a handle? Gears? And something that looks like it might be a motor that gets wound when you crank the handle? Or do none of these parts go together?

Oh, dear departed W. Please explain the mysteries of this box!!! We beseech you!

August 4, 2003

New Game...Trash or Treasure??

Category: What on Earth!?

Tonight, in honor of my sister Elaine's birthday, we bring you....

le garage. And an edition of...

TRASH OR TREASURE????!!!! (Click on photo to make it larger.)

(Elaine IS a treasure...just wanting to clarify. She is the younger, smarter, cooler sister...and she is very TALL. And can easily clobber me.)

YOU get to choose...trash or treasure?? And this is a game everyone can play, 'cause frankly, we don't know the answer yet either. But we're working on it! And we'll let you know when we know...

Item #1 < Adopted

Item #2

Item #3

Item #4

Item #5

Items #6-8

Item #9

Item #10

Item #11

Item #12

Item #13

Item #14

Item #15

Item #16

So, submit your answers in the feedback form below. You do NOT have to put a real name OR your email address.

But let us hear from you!! It cheers us up. And good luck!!!

August 6, 2003

What is value?

Category: What on Earth!?

Has something ever caught your eye and made you wonder...hmm? What IS it with that? It looks quite ordinary and yet...maybe not?

That's pretty much how we spend our days here at Chez Stuff. And 99 times out of 100, the article in question is quite, quite ordinary. Taking-up- too-much-floor-space ordinary. Hard-to-vacuum-around ordinary.

And then, there was this wooden bowl...which popped up (of course) at 3:00 in the morning when I couldn't sleep... (click to make the picture larger)

After I dusted it off, I noticed that it was quite pretty actually. The sides were so thin and porcelain. I went ahead to research the mark on the Internet:

Hmm. James Prestini:

Zoiinnnkkkss! Argh. This is going to blow the whole estate/garage sale. Which will only work if we have garage sale prices. This bowl can't be an estate sale item. More research work turned up turned-wooden bowls and a very old hand carved bowl:

So, in a bit of nervousness, I abandoned researching wood for another day. We did something much more straightforward over the evening that required less time. I would pick up the book, call out the characteristics to A who would then look it up on the book sales sites. We'd look for the same book in the same condition, write down the price and then set OUR price for a third of that. It would be nice to sell this all online, but this parallel life is all out of whack.

So, here were the books that had the strangest titles (to me!)

This book could explain a LOT about this house. We expect it was W's. And we are almost afraid to read it because it might ruin the suspense.

And the alternative would be....?

Groan. Collectible cookbooks...we start running into trouble again on a few.

Okay. Time for bed. Anytime an advertising pamphlet about Americanized Mexican food veers into "not for garage sale" territory price-wise, I'm outta here. I do not understand collectibles obviously! I have a collectibles-blind-spot. Oh drat.

August 7, 2003

Modern Design? or Mod Squad?

Category: What on Earth!?
Yes, I know. It is unusual to put two "What on Earth" entries in a row...but I've asked some designer pals to peer in this week and help me sort out my Modern Design from my Mod Squad.

Because, well, I have no clue.

So here is a random offering of items that could be Modern Design...or Mod Squad...or neither. (Remember to click on the image to make it larger...)

< Going to experts

< Adopted < Adopted < Adopted

< Adopted

So...what do you think? Some folks have mentioned "Russel Wright" or "Chase" or "Schlumbohm". Don't forget to look at other "what on earth?" entries (especially the garage)...this stuff is everywhere. Everything is mixed up.

If you want to test your knowledge, this site is a good place to start!

August 12, 2003

Chicago, My Kind of Town: Part 1

Category: What on Earth!?
Okay, time for the next installment of "WHAT ON EARTH??" Sorry for the delay, we've been cataloguing and moving books off of the 2nd floor in a desperate race to free up that space for construction.

Going through the historical paper and books in this house is like peeling back an onion. Layer by layer, we learn more about the previous owners. And it's just as FUN to share the wacky stuff as it is to share the "finds".

These are things we found from "Chicago". (Remember to click on pictures to make them larger.) If you were doing the bungalow archaeology in this case, what would they tell YOU about the previous occupants? :)

< Adopted
=Adopted < Adopted

And how about these? What do they say about this family?

< Adopted < One adopted =Adopted

Hmm. And then there are these things...

< One Adopted

More layers...

What was the Girl Scout Congress excited about in 1959? New stewardess-like uniforms!!

And what about this coin that I found under the workbench? (It's blurry...I can't focus the camera on something that small.) One side says "Paper Doll Cocktail Lounge 1001 N. Clark Street.

= Adopted

Unfortunately, the Paper Doll is no longer. Now it is a "respectable set" of doctor's offices.

ut the OTHER side of the coin is more cryptic. It says "5 cents, good for free drinks". That's right--plural--more than one. How much did a cocktail cost in the 1930's anyway??

Too many Chicago things for one night! Tomorrow: University of Chicago, spam--30's style, the Medinah Temple, maps, souvenirs, news and books.

Especially the U of C stuff should raise some eyebrows.
Note: University of Chicago Alumni, tune in tomrrow!!

August 13, 2003

Chicago, My Kind of Town: Part II

Category: What on Earth!?
It's kind of a testament to university loyalty when you find THIS much stuff connected to one place--the University of Chicago-in the house. We can't even post it all here. But here is a taste:

And not that I'm saying anything...but I'll let this 1959 issue of the U of C magazine speak for itself:

And, just for the record (off-topic), I think Al Franken is hilarious.

And this was their class show in the 1930's. I think Prohibition in the United States ended in 1933.

This loyalty extended all the way back to Bloom Township High School, apparently.

=Going home to Bloom perhaps?

This tells got lost quite often, decided to make the best of it if all the way out in the suburbs (?), finally quit driving and just hoofed it?

Ended up liking to read about Chicago...A LOT!!

They had "mail spam" and "chotchkes"...just like we do now. Except our spam is via email...

And they had this "thing" about matchbooks wasn't only ashtrays. I think a few of these places are still around...

August 17, 2003

The Tuba Mouthpiece of Michael Lind

Category: What on Earth!?

So, as we are leaving church this morning, C, a friend and neighbor who had come over in the first days of the house debacle, stopped us in the narthex.

We had found three mouthpieces in the house that C had investigated. If you are a professional musician, a mouthpiece is incredibly important and also can be very expensive (on a musician's pay!) Each individual musician has a mouthpiece that works best for them.

There were two that were given to another pal from the church who plays tuba and also has a neat band, Red Vinegar.

The third mouthpiece was a Vincent Bach-New York mouthpiece.

Above is a photo of a regular modern Vincent Bach mouthpiece. We hadn't taken a photo of the one in the house because we weren't that far along when C came over.

Well, it turns out that his friend, Michael Lind of the Stockholm Philharmonic (or Stockholm Filharmonikerna), has been looking for this specific mouthpiece! The vintage ones were made in New HE is getting the mouthpiece! How cool! (Click on the far right hand box of the Kungliga Filharmonikerna website for a lovely recording of their music.)

And if you thought tubas were all about oompa've never heard an amazing tuba player. Check out some of the track samples on Michael Lind's album with Christer Torgé for some lovely music. Christer Torgé & Michael Lind


August 18, 2003

Is there such a thing as synchronicity?

Category: What on Earth!?

As I was typing in our website address to blog a new entry tonight, I had to laugh. Unconciously, I had typed "houseOFprogress" at a time I think that we are SO FAR AWAY from progress right now. A is much more positive. He thinks that we have made tremendous progress in our planning. I am more morose. I keep seeing the dust on every surface and wondering, "How will we ever be clean again?"

However, in exploring items and meeting people regarding the house, I am more curious about Jung's concept of synchronicity, that principle which explains "meaningful coincidences" such as a beetle flying into his room while a patient was describing a dream about a acausal principle that links events having a similar meaning by their coincidence in time rather than sequentially. He claimed that there is a synchrony between the mind and the phenomenal world of perception. *


Do I believe in the theory of the collective unconcious? I don't know. I don't NOT believe in it. Do I believe that Michael Lind's mouthpiece found him through us and C somehow? Or that an item here will finally find its "owner of purpose" least for the time being. Or that a house was meant for someone?

I don't know. I wish I had as much faith in those things as I do in my other kinds of faith :) Maybe I wouldn't notice the dust so much.

Tonight is a random collection as we sort out some plans and get back to you with those stories. I did not choose a theme for these, unless you are wishing it so of me from our collective unconcious.

This book from 1900 is fascinating for so many reasons. It documents the Palestine of the Ottoman Empire in photographs and gorgeous maps.


And of course I wonder, where will all this stuff be a year from now? (Hopefully not still in my house!)

< Adopted!

John Freyer really explored this in depth two years ago with his fascinating and groundbreaking site, ALL MY LIFE FOR SALE (the web address is now owned by the Museum of Art, University of Iowa). He sold everything he owned, then spent a year going to visit it. :)

He wrote about his exploits in a book, which looks fascinating to me.


I don't think I'll have time to visit the stuff. Plus, we are wading through other people's lives most of whom are no longer on the planet. And a book is NOT in my future plans. But it is cool to think about all of the connections we will have made with people through this site...

* Quotation is from The Skeptic's Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions by Robert Todd Carroll

August 23, 2003

what on earth?? random mix.

Category: What on Earth!?

OK. It's late and we just got back from JG's B-Day bash. Happy Birthday, big guy. You don't look a day over....40 :)

So, I'll make this one fast. Plus, I have a lot of very VERY cool news about possibly finding the relatives of the Niels Kjeldsen, the first owners of the house that we know of!!! (And maybe even the builder!) Or, they found us. We are so excited. We'll fill you in tomorrow.

Meantime, here are some randomly-chosen "what on earth" items to amuse and entertain...

Circa 1973, reproduction of the 1920's tray
< Adopted
These are original though :) "My Better Half" mugs, making sure your spouse doesn't forget to bring you coffee

Very ornate candleholder of brass

A gen-u-ine Fuller Brush crumb sweeper, in the box, circa 1940's-50's. These were usually handed out as samples from "The Fuller Brush Man." Seems W or L were targets for traveling salespeople, we also have a water treatment system from Amway

Kind of cool bottle from France which we don't recognize-- On hold
< Adopted

The buds at Breaktime know what this is, probably some Bungalow buds do too!

1930's-40's Valentine :) We have hundreds of valentines from as far back as the late 1800's. And Christmas cards, Easter cards, postcards, sigh. That's a winter project.

Oh YEAH. Who DIDN'T love Jello!

An advertising card from a radio repair shop in Chicago. Even cooler because it lists the programs for the week of Feb. 1, "Amos & Andy", "Little Orphan Annie", "Walter Winchell", "Crime Clues", "Death Valley Days", "Jack Benny", "Burns & Allen" "True Strory" and "Barn Dance"

August 25, 2003

What lasts?

Category: What on Earth!?

Too hot to do work in most of the house today. Our windows will be (hopefully!) fixed soon and we will have some ventilation. Until then, we hunker down next to the A/C and keep taking inventory.

I have been nervous about handling the historical paper. The house's dirt and dust have discouraged me...I don't want to ruin anything. Even the word for some of these paper items--ephemera--means "something that doesn't last, something that is transitory in time." But I don't want to be responsible for rushing it to an earlier demise! On the other hand, I've wanted to look around for ideas for Rubber Trouble at Slumberland.

Vintage advertising is fun for this. Art Deco, Art Nouveau...a lot of designs might look good as stamps! (Wendi would know more about what makes a good candidate...) A short stack of Harper's Bazaar magazines from the 20's and 30's looked like a good place to start.

-- Adopted

Sorry about the flash on the photo. Taking pictures in the wee hours of the night doesn't leave you with many options.

I noticed that these early covers are attributed to an fact, even the covers of travel brochures name the artist. Erte, Benigni and Barbier, all of whom are famous for Art Deco fashion drawings.

Here are some other very pretty covers. I'm looking at these in a new light frame-worthy art.

-- All Adopted

And then, there is the, um, not so "art" this decoupage.

Or this "fake painting" on cardboard that, I think, used to be in my orthodontist's office in the 1970's.

< Adopted

The most poignant moment of the day, though, came when I went to look up "Mount Lowe, California" where all of these postcards came from:

I found out that Mount Lowe's Lodge and other attractions have been in ruins since the 1930's.

Which makes me wonder. If ephemera describes "something that is transitory in time", what if the paper

Sorry for the melancholy sentiment. It's late and the windchime next door is blowing and I need to go to bed...

August 28, 2003

Preparing for the backyard BBQ with friends weekend

Category: What on Earth!?

In other years, on other holidays, we've had to scrape around for things to use for gatherings with family and friends outside.

This year, WE ARE SET!!! Kinda.

We have the "Beef...It's Whats for Dinner" thing...scary enough to make vegetarians dive into the bushes. (Click on picture to resize)

This is a SERIOUS steer. If I could only remember which ex-Bull player he looks me out guys!

We have all of this stuff...

Wow. It's a Boy Scouts of America axe.

< Adopted

Things for cooking and grilling out...relaxin'.

In case we want to make SHOES!

Or need to beat a path through the garden to the GARAGE!

< Adopted

I have no idea what these are, but I'm SURE we'll need them. (KJ! Help! What are these, Alaska-girl?)

August 30, 2003

Life hasn't changed much, has it?

Category: What on Earth!?

I took Wendi's suggestion (at Rubber Trouble) and scanned some of our old magazines for advertising. And do you know what I found?

Same stuff, different decade. Clothes, liquor, cigarettes, jewelry, furniture, perfume, lingerie, cars. Except everything was from the 1920's and 1930's. And most of the things were line drawings instead of photographs.

And there were fewer "truth-in-advertising" laws back then. Obviously. (click to make picture larger)

OUCH! The chin...THE CHIN!

Why, even your doctor says that these cigarettes are "less irritating**..."

**...then sticking a burning twig in your mouth.

Okay. I happen to know that this issue was published during the Great Depression...the first one. So, who is their target market?

Aha! The target market is "lazy, scantily clad people."

Who, um, wear furs. (This is SO pre-Austin Powers. I hope.)

September 5, 2003

Remnants & Bridges

Category: What on Earth!?

Remnants: a small part or portion that remains after the main part no longer exists

What will be the remnants of me?

It is hard not to think of these philosophical questions as we poke and prod on through these things.

Someone must have loved Alma Sutton very much to have made her this box for Christmas.

But...who was she?

Who's schoolbook?

Who kept this money clip in their pocket for so many years?

< Adopted

We've found so many letters. So many cards. This one from Fanny? Jenny? Chase-Jones.

We always think about the subject of the photo. Who was behind the camera that took this photograph?

And then there are bridges to the past. This plate is from the collection of dinnerware that the congregation of the First Presbyterian Church in Boonville, Missouri purchased (according to the folks who responded to my note, probably in the 20's or 30's.) This winter, when we have more time, we are happily reuniting the plate with the church. And we were also delighted to chat via email with L & J who ALSO purchased a bungalow home. The world is much too small, yes?

September 6, 2003

Freak out factor

Category: What on Earth!?

You know, this house has a very high freak out factor.

So, we're researching and tagging last night with the full intention of still having an estate sale. Some of the items will only be sold through the website because we don't have time to go through them now (like most of the ephemera).

Today, we also found out the making the bathroom work will most likely cost more than we had planned for in our budget. So we were kind of down. Whatever leaked up there back in the 1950's seriously damaged the floor and ceiling below, possibly got between the walls and pushed out the wood lathe. Which can't be reused if that is the case. Some days, I want to weep for this house. It deserved better.

We squared our shoulders and kept tagging. But certain items kept drawing me back to them. Like this plaster or chalkware "sculpture" (?):

I think it is very pretty. And the writing scratched into the back? I never thought to plug it into the computer. It is signed:

Enrique Alferez
6016 Ellis Avenue

I thought, how sweet! Maybe a very talented local person who took up a craft.

And then Google spit these out at me:

The Life of Enrique Alferez

Molly Marine Photo

The Hunt for Pancho Villa

Palmolive Building, Chicago

So not only was this guy an Art Deco sculptor and amazing, he served in PANCHO VILLA'S army in Mexico!

How do you...what do you....okay. So, where do we go from here?

September 13, 2003

Okay. Does EVERY home come equipped with a blowgun?

Category: What on Earth!?

One of the stranger items we found while dilgently digging out the basement this weekend.

Hey K! You're gonna put somebody's eye out with that thing!!

JS easily looks like the Amazonian warrioress with the spear of DEATH!

Wait!!! That's the side you blow into, you're right!

As A and JS laugh at them from safely BEHIND the camera, J and K have fun playing with the blowgun, the quiver with the poison arrows and the little jawbone thing, and the spear.

And now some helpful information from the Organization for Responsible Blowgun Ownership (ORBO):

Every blowgun owner should carefully consider the reasons for having a blowgun. If there is no compelling need to own a blowgun, remove it from your home. A blowgun increases, not decreases, the danger to your family.

If you own blowguns or spears or poison darts, carefully consider where to keep them. Hall closets, nightstands, drawers by the outside doors of your home and other traditional places are often where criminals, and curious children, look first.

Store blowguns unloaded and locked up. Consider a lock box for poison darts and clubs. Store poison darts separately - and locked up.

If you are a family member and are experiencing high levels of anger, fear or depression, remove blowguns from your home. It is during these times a blowgun is often used against a loved one or against ones self.

Never handle a blowgun when under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Never leave a blowgun in your vehicle. Blowguns are often stolen from cars.

Teach children never to touch a blowgun or spear without supervision, and to immediately tell an adult if they find a blowgun.

Know where your blowguns and spears are at all times. You are accountable for them, and you are responsible for your blowgun not being used against a family member.

All blowgun owners should receive training in the safe handling and care of their blowguns and poison darts.

**Jawbone accessory not always included. More instructions needed for safe jawbone handling. (See link below)

View image

September 14, 2003

Makin' Bacon

Category: What on Earth!?

The 70s was a wonderful era. Bell bottoms. Great rock and roll. Cooking bacon vertically...

Wait, cooking bacon vertically!?

Yes, now you too can cook bacon using authentic 1970s methods with the original "Bacon Maker and Meat Rack" by Nupac!!!

Why cook bacon vertically, you may ask? Well...

Easy to clean and dishwasher safe!!!

How much would you expect to pay for this in stores? $99.99!? Nope. $79.99! Nope, still lower...

Through this special offer, you can have this amazing tool for just $9.99! That's right, just $9.99. What are you waiting for!?

Plus, act now and we'll throw in this
Milwaukee 6509-22 10 Amp Sawzall Reciprocating Saw absolutely free! Now that's a great deal!!

Act now!!!

Note: Additional restrictions may apply. Milwaukee Sawzall not included. Item may or may not actually be shipped upon receipt of payment. Do not use for unapproved purposes.

September 16, 2003

different stuff different day

Category: What on Earth!?

sometimes it is enough to wander through the house and point the camera...*CLICK!*

You see Bambi-- Adopted

And a 12 foot long bamboo fly fishing rod

You see Catalina

And "Come Into Our Kitchen" 1939 -- Adopted

You can hear the foxtrot

Captain Kangaroo with Buster Brown< See this at the Estate Sale

And a Mattel Musical Map of Disneyland

You can see Smokey the Bear's Game < See this at the Estate Sale

A Stagecoach Glass from the 1950's

And a Swedish Dalla horse or two -- Adopted

And piles of fruit fruit included.

< Some adopted

September 18, 2003

Bungalow Sleuth Award :)

Category: What on Earth!?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Nancy Drew.

Honest! Barbie? Bo-o-o-ring. She was so INTO herself. But Nancy? She had ALL of the fun. Always chasing bad guys and using flashlights and solving mysteries. THAT sounded like the best time to me!!

So, when we got the house, I went into FULL TILT Nancy Drew Sleuth mode. I still am. I want the stories...where is this stuff from? Why is that door missing? Who ripped out the bookcases from either side of the fireplace in the front room?

Okay. We actually know the answer to that last question.

I still get a thrill each time I hunt down an important clue. And still feel frustrated each time I get stuck.

You can imagine how this big box of KEYS makes me feel.

If you guessed "nutty", you guessed correctly. The big box of keys makes me nutty. WHERE ARE ALL OF THE LOCKS???

Another thing I can't stop thinking about is this set of plates.

They were made by a company named "Gefle". The only lead I've had is that "Gefle" is Swedish. I have 11 plates and 2 big bowls with this cool pearlescent glaze. There are Gefle marks on the bowls and initials carved into the bottom of each plate. They are fuzzy initials because it looks like they were carved before the piece was glazed and fired. Perhaps the first one is "J"? I cannot tell.

But last night, at approximately midnight, alert HouseInProgress reader, Charlotta S., sent me an email that set my heart aflutter!

do you mean Gefle ceramics/porcelain?

If so, check out


Any Nancy Drew fan knows that these notes are CRUCIAL! Whether they come by email or whether you find them in the OLD CLOCK! (Inside joke for ND Fans here)

So, with Carlotta's link to guide me and NO knowledge of Swedish, I got a little bit farther in my quest.

Blatt Band



A very fast knowledge of how to read Swedish. And deciphering the artist's initials on the plates.

AND THAT IS WHY...CHARLOTTA wins the Nancy Drew Sleuth Award! For thinking like a real detective. Way to go, Bungalow Sleuth Charlotta!!! And many thanks...

September 19, 2003

Lost the manual?!

Category: What on Earth!?

Not these owners! Not only did they buy and keep everything they saw, they were serious about manuals.

Of course, there's more...

How do I grow sprouts indoors again? Oh yeah...

How was that thingy supposed help me take better photos?

I'm having trouble parking my car. What can I do?

September 22, 2003

Buried Treasure Mateys...Argh!

Category: What on Earth!?

Many more times than we have thought possible, we get a variation on the following comment when people hear about this house: "Man! You lucky ducks! All of that treasure!!! I wish it had happened to me!"


See, there's this thing about "treasure". It has a limit. When you stumble across a, say, really cool coin on the beach. Or a great bargain at a garage sale. THAT is fun! Because you can go home, put it on a shelf, look at it when you want to.

Then there is this.

Stumbling over a stack of 12 apple bushel baskets on your way to investigate a noise in the basement. As you thread your way through boxes full of tin buckets and 4 large spools of macrame rope, you wonder when it will all be gone.

Because the electrician and plumber can't start work around this stuff. No one can turn around quickly in the basement or something invariably crashes to the floor in shards. So you are constantly running interference..."No! Not that! NOT THERE!" And you can't ever get anything CLEAN because you would have to clean around everything single last thing in the place.

That is the downside of treasure. The line between treasure and "junque" suddenly becomes very, very thin. And then you find out that you weren't able to fully inspect the plumbing because you could not get behind this "treasure" and now most water supply lines have to be fixed or replaced. Which is going to blow your budget. NOW the treasure must "pay off" or you are financially wrecked...or without a bathroom.

Suddenly a plain Jane house with no "treasure" sounds very, very VERY good to you.

If you go LOOKING for treasure, that is a WHOLE OTHER STORY! And some people do and it can be very exciting. If you don't have to sleep with it in your room :) Like these folks from "Lost Treasure"...or the folks from iVillage's "Great Finds" discussion board. They find treasure as one should...little batches at a time. :)

Oh, yeah. And for those of us who missed "Talk Like a Pirate Day" (What was I thinking???!!), you can still get your official Pirate Name here.

You can all now call me the Cap'n Jenny FLINT! Arghhhhhh....

"Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. Like the rock flint, you're hard and sharp. But, also like flint, you're easily chipped, and sparky. Arr"

September 25, 2003

Hurray! Two people dear to us...

Category: What on Earth!?

...announced their engagement and I am digging through the basement for ideas about what to get them...(wink, wink)

(double-click to make the pictures larger)

This seems too anti-"equal rights"...

Hmmm...we probably can't afford to send them here...though that would be nice...

Um. A California Art Pottery Clam Dish? Just not quite "them."

I think we should hold off on the fertility statue...

Recognition that their impending nuptials will be nothing less than "royal"...? Seems a little over the top. (On Hold--the item not wedding!)

I think we should wait for the official registry...

p.s. Congratulations KJ & Joe!

September 27, 2003

Amazing connections

Category: What on Earth!?

This house is full of amazing, wonderful and just unusual connections. Sometimes it is finding something that you remember from your childhood or from a movie set. Sometimes it is getting to witness someone else's memories (which moves my heart).

Sometimes you find things that make you wonder, "I wonder if this place still exists?" or "What was happening in the world when they bought this pocket watch?" And sometimes things seem driven by divine intervention.

Last night and this morning, I "met" a jazz musician from Portugal through his father, Mr. Lincoln T. Beauchamp, Sr., Attorney at Law.

Apart from being an incredible musician, Lincoln T. Beauchamp, Jr. is also an accomplished writer and has a new baby girl, nine weeks old. I found his father's photo in a John Marshall Law School of Chicago yearbook from 1932. We both marveled at his father's wise and wonderful choice of words as a quote for his yearbook photo.

It was another late night for me (maybe 2:00 am) when I found the book and I was idly wondering who I could send this book back to. Mr. Beauchamp's quote captured my imagination

..."No man is born into the world whose work,
Is not born with him."

I wondered about him and his life which seemed destined for greatness from those very words, typed in the name, and Google pointed the way towards the article referenced above. Two emails later and this slim volume will be on its way to Portugal for a new generation of Beauchamps to enjoy.

We've found many unusual law books in the house, and books on theology, military history, world affairs, psychology and other interesting topics. Someone was a voracious reader.

We suspect that person was W. Many books are inscribed to him these books from John L. Strohm--Editor, Publisher, Foreign correspondent and Founder of the National Wildlife Magazine. W and Strohm were both members of the Pan American Council, we believe. Strohm also wrote the book, "I Lived With Latin Americans" in 1944.

He gives thanks for W who "Gave me a shove around the world..." which is highly likely. W loved to travel around Chicago and give presentations of his travels to other countries and cultures.

We found an inscription to Peter Weil in a book from the infamous jazz baby, Sophie Tucker. We're not quite sure how that ended up in the house...or which Peter Weil this might be?

< See this at the Estate Sale

Another interesting book is about Elbert Hubbard, who was significant in the Arts and Crafts movement with his founding of the Roycroft School .


Other connections fall out of schoolbooks like this one (we seem to have every schoolbook from three generations of students!)

It is from "Mrs. Jones" (who we suspect is Mary Ganning, 809 South Oak Park Avenue, sometime before 1920) who writes: Dear Madam, Will you please come to my tea this after-noon [sic]. Your new friend, Mrs. Jones"

We found the note in a copy of "Jed, the Poorhouse Boy" from 1899. But the book was owned earlier by Frank B. Hodek, Jr., Dec. 8, 1903 "From Hubert"--Mary went and doodled through his name before claiming the book in a large, loping script :)

Finally, this book by Winifred Boynton contained a letter to W, thanking him for the gift of a belt he made for her. The Boyntons built their own interpretation of a Norwegian chapel, BY HAND, on their estate in Door County, Wisconsin. Winifred is an almost intimidating inspiration for OUR house with her energy, faith and enthusiasm.

Which reminds me...we have to work on this place for a couple of days!!! So our entries will be short and to the point.

Bear with us as we kick off the "reclaiming" of the wood windows and begin work making space for the plumber, tile craftsman and electrician. Things are starting to roll midterms are almost upon us. Teachers (like myself) are frantic to get things done by midterms. We will try to keep posting something everyday though!

October 3, 2003

Foundry Design, or...the Die is Cast ;)

Category: What on Earth!?

What on earth is in the basement today?

Stuff made out of metal. Specifically, stuff that I think was made in a "casting process." What do I know about this process? Practically nothing. But my dad knows a lot.

I know this is a flower frog. You put it in the bottom of a vase or bowl and it helps your flowers stay arranged. I know that.

But all I know about metals and metal casting is that I usually can spot something that has been cast. Because, well, I've hung out with my dad all my life. And, if this were a sixth grade paper, I would describe his job as "my dad designs systems to make castings." How do I know this? Because he told me.

One of my early memories of my dad at work is visiting a foundry in Ohio with him when I was 6 or 7.

Not this foundry.

They were pouring molten metal that day and everything was HUGE and there was fire and sparks. It was pretty cool.

In the wintertime, after work, I used to drive home past A. Finkl & Sons in Chicago because you could see in the open, sparks, molten metal...the whole thing. Still cool 25+ years later.

Here are some bells made in the casting process:

The first two look like sand castings. The third...could be a wax cast or a sand cast with the edges filed off and buffed for smoothness. I know those bells of Sarna were taken from fraternity to fraternity to secure buyers in the 1920's. India was still a mystery to the U.S. then. And the casting process, goes back to 4000-3000 B.C. It you look closely, the dust on the bell in the second picture probably also dates to that era.

I don't know if this will work, but here is a newsclip from the 1930's-40's (?) illustrating the importance of foundries. You should have Windows Media Player.

Download file

Okay, we're back to researching and tagging soon :( Groan. I need this stage to end finally!

October 4, 2003

If it's is SO outta here.

Category: What on Earth!?

"What on Earth" fans will appreciate the next few weeks as we frantically try to catch up on the majority of your research and tagging. We live in the basement now...though that makes things awkward because Dave the Cat escaped twice today. He's been doing that lately.

Here he is looking all "What? Who? Me?"

Do not fall for his, "Oh, I am so tired!" act. This cat opens doors. With no opposable thumbs. That we know of. (If you look closely, you'll notice he really never sleeps...that eye on OUR right? Slightly open and incredibly alert.)

Today we had to learn the fine art of photographing glass. Since I am dogged in my pursuit of photographing what I can (it won't be everything) especially when it helps to do research.

Here is what we have found so far.


This is by no means all of it. And we are almost finished tagging 1500+ books.

This is the bottomless basement.

A 1948 Martini Shaker set -Whoops! Now someone wrote that it's Deco.--Adopted
B 1 Anchor Hocking bowl - Manhattan (Thanks K!)
C Working on it
D Working on it
E Chrome Top Dripcut Syrup Pourer =Adopted!
F Collection of 4 Retro Swag Glasses = Adopted
G Working on it
H Working on it
I 6 Elegant Glass plates - Imperial or Morgantown?
J 10 Crystal wineglasses by Capri - Italy - Adopted
K 5 Bands & Punties Cut #3001 (Elegant - Anchor Hocking)

October 6, 2003

Fraternal connections :)

Category: What on Earth!?

It was a pleasure conversing today (via email) with KW of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of New Mexico.

These connections are taking us all over the place.

It started with this:

And then I found this:

"The Beta Delta Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha is not only the first fraternity on the University of New Mexico campus; it is also the first in the entire state. What began as a social club called the Yum Yum Boys before the turn of the century evolved into the Alpha Alpha Alpha Fraternity. It was the Tri-Alpha Fraternity, in conjunction with then-university president William G. Tight that designed and built the historic landmark known around campus and the world as the Estufa. On May 22, 1915, Tri-Alpha was Absorbed into the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity, and into the history books. The Beta Delta Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha is the only chapter of any fraternity in the world that has its chapter building separated from the rest of the house."

Okay. So I sent them a note. And they sent one back. And that's a little bit of their history going home.

Somehow might there be a connection between a young W heading out to San Diego via New Mexico and picking up a print in New Mexico which we also found in the house...? I'm stretching on this one. It's a mystery.

October 9, 2003

The "Do Not Call...or send sharp knives...list"

Category: What on Earth!?

What ever happened to GOOD swag? Swag is the business person's term for "stuff given out by advertisers--promotional products" and is probably an acronym. I have no idea what it stands for.

Now, you get a phone call. And thus, the Do Not Call list.

GOOD swag used to include pen knives--those seemed quite popular. As in this folding knife from Swift & Company, meatpacker in Chicago who helped inspire Carl Sandburg...and a lot of labor organizers :)

(Click on a picture to make it larger)

But Swift & Company is no more! Still, its swag lives our basement.

Let's see...other swag in our basement:

Amelia's Beauty Salon on Diversey gave out key chains...

But the building she was in doesn't seem to exist anymore. The address was between these two buildings. (FYI...I did not drive around to get these pictures. It's Internet magic...I'll explain it at another time.)

K&D Liquors was also fond of pen knives...

They also seem to have moved on...

The Bowmanville Bank at Lincoln, Lawrence & Western Avenues would accept this coin on deposit (worth 50 cents) for opening up a savings account of $5.00 or more. They will also pay 3% compound interest on your savings! Which sounds like a great deal today! I wish they were still offering that.

All we know about the bank is that it was chartered as Bowmanville National Bank of Chicago in idea when it closed. Or was bought up by a hungry, larger bank.

The Medinah Temple is still around, even though the building was sold by the Shriners more recently...

Outside of Chicago (in Dayton, Ohio), there is this swag "thing" (?) from L.M. Berry & Co....

But hey! They are still around!

Some stories end happily. Some don't.

Like this story about the Society of the Divine Savior in Wisconsin.

Or our memories of the Beloved New Hampshire Old Man of the Mountain.

So swag outlasts us too. Wow.

A surprised me with some funny swag that he had doodled up one night on the computer. This site allows you to create your very own swag.

He bought me a mouse pad to make me laugh. Silliness. Someday, someone may find it in a drawer and ask...."Who were these nutcases?"

Well, they were nutcases trying to bring a house back to life and not lose their sense of humor in the process.

October 10, 2003

The Adoption Process

Category: What on Earth!?

Our new friends and neighbors, S & T, are NEAT people. They teach art in Chicago's schools.

They also bought a bungalow in need of some repair. Maybe not as much...they have excellent taste!

T is interested in vintage cameras, so we were happy to invite them over (they are two doors down) to look at the "stuff". Here we see S happily looking for treasure...

Finally, they gather up their treasure of vintage cameras and accessories. T is SO excited. Some will be for "show" and she hopes to use some in her work. Go T!

The adoption process has turned out well for everyone! S and T with their new box of vintage things! Vintage things who have found owners who will care for them!

*sniff* It's beautiful.

Our last good bye is a close-up on the little "dude". Bye little camera. Make your new mom proud.

October 12, 2003

The things that lurk in the basement

Category: What on Earth!?

Just some more things from the basement. In no particular order.

Fire King Fruit & German Christmas china...

< Adopted
= Adopted

Nursery Rhyme glasses, Bombo Glass (Paramount in 1939), gauze table runner from Mexico, a pewter ink sander, an ink sander jug, a Safe-Lok Media table, Depression Glass salt dips, Anchor Hocking toothpick holder, Trailbreaker sled, Ve Po Ad calculator, Angel Dish from Italy, Nodder Band from Germany (pre-WWII), Nodder (Bobble?) Horse, Retro Enamel Ashtray...

< See this at the Estate Sale = Adopted! < See this at the Estate Sale

Insane, isn't it?

But then, so is living with a bathroom where you can see into the basement, I guess. Or a kitchen with appliances that don't work.


October 14, 2003

Vintage Fashion

Category: What on Earth!?

You are getting two in one today :) At 5:00 am, my mind works overtime.

Did you ever wonder what they were wearing in the bungalows of yesteryear?

Wonder no longer. It was all in our upstairs bedroom or tucked into our linen closet.

We have pre-June Cleaver even! More vintage aprons than you can possibly imagine.

< See this at the Estate Sale = Adopted < See this at the Estate Sale

< Adopted < See this at the Estate Sale

< See this at the Estate Sale < See this at the Estate Sale < Adopted

= Adopted < See this at the Estate Sale

And a little something for someone at the BBQ...circa 1970's...(one of the few post 50's items in the house!)

But what about when you're leaving the kitchen behind and are going out for a night on the town? Well, a gorgeous vintage COAT!

Soft smokey grey cashmere outside and Persian lamb (?) inside...

Black lamb outside with a warm mink collar...

< Adopted

Pink and grey wool, black cashmere...

< Adopted < Adopted

And, my fave, FAUX fur! (All the warmth and fun of the real thing ;)

< Adopted

The perfect attire for standing around and wondering how to fix the furnace in the dead of winter...or for fun wear while directing a hair dryer at frozen pipes. Oh yeah. Home renovation can be fashionable...

And this, um, "box of fur"? (No, I am not kidding.)

I see teddy bears in this furs' future.

p.s. Recycle used furs when you can! Or go FAUX! Thanks!

October 15, 2003

Um, honey? There's a flea market in our basement

Category: What on Earth!?

How? How did it all fit in here originally? How?

These were pictures taken right before we went to bed on SUNDAY. With only 50% of the things we have in here brought down to the basement and garage. I couldn't photograph I did a corner. That's only 12% of what is in this place. (And we hadn't brought down some very good stuff at this point, because we nervous about fitting it all in!)

So, let's see, as I take a look around the ENTIRE basement, that's...

-7 grab boxes of assorted craft and art supplies...check.
-3 boxes of assorted vintage Christmas stuff...check.
-1 whole room of camping, sports, BSA and other type equipment...check.
-5 or 6 shelving UNITS of art pottery, Depression glass, bottles and breakables...check.
-2 shelving units of woodenware, boxes, tins and so on....check.
-1 wall full of shelves and hooks with vintage barnyard tin, silver, pewter, copper and other metals...check.
-1 huge table and 3 chests full of vintage kitchen supplies, all sorts, from 1800's - 1950's...check.
-3 shelving units of audio visual and camera supplies...check.
-6-7 shelving units of books and some videos...approximately 1000+ of them...check.
-One half wall length of vintage vanity stuff (clothes, purses, etc.)....check.
-Stuff from many other countries scattered everywhere...check.
-Stuff I am not remembering because my brain is too full...check.

This does not include what is in the garage. Nor does it include vintage paper (a winter project). While we have only a few pieces of furniture...we do have three coal buckets. Hmmm. Boxes (be they leather, wood, lacquer, cigar or otherwise?)...we have about 25 of them. So, there is definitely an OVERabundance of some categories while there is an UNDERabundance of others. Very few things here are larger than a breadbox. Which we have. One. Lithographed tin. From the 30's or 40's.

After the past few months, I strive for this look someday. Maybe two decades from now...

My dad is already striving for it. He made two lamps out of things from the house...(he did buy new shades). Those are 2 vases and a beautifully cut and painted base. He got more mileage out of four vases that way. He is SO GOOD! He recycles.

October 18, 2003

The Collectors!

Category: What on Earth!?

You know, you pick up a whatchamacallit, and turn it over in your hands, and think...hmmm. And wonder, "can this be the only one?"

Well, no. Not actually. Because there are little niche groups of people out there...enchanted with...and maybe a little obsessed with, certain items.




We kid you not. (** This image is from Steve's website, and I posted it here because I REALLY want you to visit his site. And, unless you saw an example of the incredible stuff there, you might not click the link. So visit Steve and, if you love his museum, click to donate so these important artifacts can be saved...)

They are happy when they are sitting next to a Airline Safety Card Collector! (No in-flight turf wars...)

I've actually been fond of airline safety cards myself. A co-worker and I (Mr. J Brown!) kept ourselves awake and choking with laughter re-labeling our airline safety card on a late flight for a business trip. The original was, you had to be there, but it looked kinda like this...

Like I had to be there.

Across the globe, there is never a shortage of PERFUME COLLECTORS!

There is the...


Antique Hose Nozzle Collectors need NEVER feel alone!

Those who wish to make a spectacle of themselves are welcome to do so here.

Vintage Coleman Lantern collectors ALWAYS get invited on camping trips.

And movie cameras? Sure...

< Adopted

Glass? Pottery? Yes and yes.

And, rest assured, that items like calculators, slide rules, adding machines and typewriters will always have homes as well...

It's nice to be appreciated!

October 22, 2003

What is all of the fuss about?

Category: What on Earth!?

I have to admit. Flying home on Chautauqua Airlines, I slipped the Safety Card out of the "seat pocket in front of me" and studied it closely.

All apologies to those who collect them, I still can't see the excitement. But maybe it wasn't a very exciting card. They do seem to be getting more generic these days.

It got me thinking about everyone who asks me about the stuff in the house. And my own surprise when I happen to get curious about something, plug it into the computer and find out that it is worth very little or something more. Sometimes the dollar value doesn't quite sync up with the worth that I would place upon it.

But that really doesn't matter in the world of collectibles.

< Adopted
< Adopted

Often, the price of a "collectible" will depend upon its rarity and the desire of people to collect it. I never really thought about "rarity" before in the whole value equation. To me, something is valuable if it evokes a memory, if I think it is attractive or useful AND attractive (double bonus)!

But rarity can depend upon so many things: When was it made? How many were made? How hard was it to keep in one piece? Did many people get them? Did they pass them down? Sometimes, things that I think are UNattractive ARE rare and, well, that does make sense. If everyone LOVED them and thought they were gorgeous and had them, they are probably not rare. Even though they might be very attractive.

And "attractive". That designation is completely subjective. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and all that.

< Adopted

So, how do you learn what is valuable and what is not? If you want my opinion, you focus on something that you feel interested in and you get to know it INTIMATELY. Because I can tell you from experience, when faced with a mountain of thousands of different types of items, there is NO WAY to know what is valuable and what isn't all of the time. Unless you have a lot of storage, a lot of time and a whole lot of patience. Otherwise, if you are like me, you approach the whole thing as a curiousity, pick up certain things and write about them. The rest of it, you just let go of.

There are some things that we are asked about over and over again...children's books, toys and furniture. Things that people tend to overlook? Technical books, glassware, small kitchen appliances and cookbooks. The fastest moving discussion groups I've ever seen are the ones on Pottery and Glass. These things are fragile, therefore they are rare. Whole sets don't often survive. This makes others LOVE them.

< Adopted

Other things that get overlooked? Things that are destined for a creative second life. Things that can be framed (brochures, magazine covers, ads, sheet music, aprons, doilies...anything flat). Things that can hold other things...coalbuckets holding firewood, pails holding flowers, Depression Glass bowls holding guest soaps. It's the Martha Stewart syndrome. Before the trading scandal. Things that can be used as furniture...stacked suitcases, fruit crates, wooden sleds and wooden boxes.

Let's take this case in point. A DripCut, red bakelite handled syrup pourer.

< Adopted

Which could still be used for syrup. OR for granulated sugar. Or for dishsoap at the sink. (This specific one has been adopted by a couple of friends of ours. And will be living its second life soon.)

The fun of this stuff is what other people make of it. And the stories they tell us. And the surprises. Otherwise, this would be very overwhelming.

October 24, 2003

"The Boy Scout Room"

Category: What on Earth!?

We have this one room in our basement that we call "the Boy Scout room." It isn't actually full of Boy Scout stuff (anymore), but the previous owner was a Troop Leader for 20 years who was well respected in the community. This room is full of all the camping and outdoor equipment that he used with his troops. Many of the things are from his days in WWII. So you see a lot of Army issue, and Coleman, and signal flags, and camp chairs and cooking stuff and, well, more things than we can really catalog.

I never would have though that one day I'd have a Boy Scout room...

October 25, 2003

Virtual Estate Sale

Category: What on Earth!?

Ever since we've moved in to "the house with all of its stuff", we've received many, many (MANY) suggestions for dealing with the contents. Everything from "Garage Sale" to "Dealers" to "eBay".

However, there wasn't a "one-size-fits-all" solution for our need to liquidate and move on.

The range of items is too diverse for appraisers and we really wanted to experience the fun of interacting directly with the folks who wanted a specific item for nostalgic or other reasons. There are too many items to do everything online. There are some fragile items that were suited to an "in person" inspection and not the shipping process. Some items would be handled too roughly in an estate or garage sale. Fixed price was better for some things that don't have lots of buyers looking the same week. Auction was better for more popular or well known items.

So, at some point or another, we will be sampling most varieties of "stuff" sales. And then stop. Because this isn't our priority...the house is. We want to combine efficiency, fun, ease and a fair return.

In some ways, it is a humbling experience. I don't think I have ever HAD to sell anything to afford something bathroom tile. Or fixing a ceiling before it falls on us in our sleep. But in our situation with this house, if we can reach our goals within 8 years instead of 15 and the stuff helps, be it. It is life. Most days it is lemons. So lemonade must be made.

A has created a new "Shop" link at the top of this page or you can read on for his description about the details...

We've been getting so many questions and requests for items we've decided to put some of them online. That way everyone will have a chance to participate as we distribute the interesting and unexpected array of items we've uncovered. Unfortunately, we won't be able to offer up everything online. Some things are just too difficult to ship. In other cases we just can't afford the time.

So, think of our virtual estate sale as the unique and collectible "top shelf" of a very, very large collection that we need to distribute as painlessly as possible while learning something in the process and maybe having a little fun too.

We'll add things to the shop for as long as we are digging through boxes and find things that wouldn't be appropriate for an in-person sale. Like some of the books. We haven't even looked at most of the ephemera--hopefully, long winter nights will give us some time. And other items that are unusual.

Browse around. A larger "bulk" of items will be offered in a public estate sale on an undecided date.

October 29, 2003

Holidays in a HOUSE! Oh boy!

Category: What on Earth!?

I had this HUGE realization last night...Halloween is coming and we're living in a HOUSE. A house! With a front door and door bell? Get it???


After years of living in multi-unit buildings, I realized that holidays would always make me feel wistful. No trick-or-treaters. No carolers. Sometimes I wanted to hike to a street with houses and just enjoy watching the kids goof around. But if you do that these days, people get the wrong idea. Which is sad. What is more fun to watch than a bunch of little kids hopped up on sugar with goofy costumes running around like crazy people?! Especially if you don't have to deal with the dentist bills.

But this year....Halloween! Candy! Dishing it out! Whoo hooo!

Couldn't find any Halloween stuff to show you. The drains were enough of a horror. But Christmas stuff? Since it is already on display at the local Target (say that with a French accent please..."Tar-jzay"), I hauled some out for your nostalgic pleasure.

Last year at Christmastime, we were in Alaska visiting A's sister. It is pretty beautiful up there but very, very dark this time of year. A lot of folks went caroling while we lagged behind and just tried to stay warm. And it made me remember that caroling AT people was always more fun than being caroled TO. I have no idea why I believe that.

Maybe the whole "being caroled at" thing has to do with someone singing to me. I never did like that. When I was a babe in arms, my mother sang lullabies to me and I cried until she stopped. (I really did. She told me.) Her intentions were good. I was always a better producer than audience member, even back then. Sorry Mom.

< Adopted < See this at the Estate Sale

< Adopted

It was kind of cool finding the silver snowflake placemats in the Wieboldt's box. How could someone have these things and NEVER USE THEM?????

*If you click on the Wieboldt's link, you can hear Lou Boudreau flub a live Wieboldt's spot at a long ago Cubs game at the bottom of the article. Ah, memories.

October 30, 2003

Christmas on State Street

Category: What on Earth!?

One more "What on Earth?" this week and then it is work, work, work for a couple of days.

I'm going to finish up the Christmas box and, in so doing, will salute that great street--STATE STREET--in Chicago. There is nothing like State Street in Chicago at the holidays.

First, Marshall Fields. My FAVORITE department store. Which is saying something. Because I'm not a shopper by nature. Fields has been around since 1852 and is pretty much the symbol of great stores in Chicago. There's nothing like tearing into a Marshall Fields box. :)

< See this at the Estate Sale
< Adopted

They actually put up a 45 foot high tree (I know, I know...Rockefeller Center. But, this is INSIDE) with 1,200 themed ornaments and 25,000 lights in the Walnut Room. There are the 13 animated windows and the decorations hung in the 10-story atrium (the glass above? Made by Tiffany.) It's pretty amazing.

They also invented Uncle Mistletoe"...a beloved children's character who went on to appear in books and local television. This year, Fields is offering an Uncle Mistletoe Cookie Jar because they are in such demand. But nothing beats the design of the original late 1940's - early 1950's jar. Which is in the house.

< You can see him at the Estate Sale

They are also celebrating Christmas on State Street this year with a new book about State Street in the 1940's (featuring, yes, Uncle Mistletoe!). It looks very cool.

< Adopted
< Estate Sale

These little trinkets look SO familiar to me...though I don't know if we had these. Maybe my grandmother did? The Tavern Candle on the end is not familiar but it has a funny story. It was distributed by the Socony Vacuum Oil Company...the ancestor of Exxon Mobil. The company taken all the way to the Supreme Court in 1940 on Anti-Trust charges. THOSE were the days :)

Okay, wow. I am getting overwhelmed by this one box. Candles, candles, candles. A zillion of 'em. Enough for a bunch of Santa Lucia's...which I missed, by the way, because I married a Swede but didn't grow up as one. So, plan a holiday in Chicago...there's tons to do and see. We love our city.

p.s. Tully Monster asked in the last entry if we found any angel mobile's and we didn't. But we did find this mobile from Occupied Japan in the Christmas box!

< Adopted

November 3, 2003

What is this thing?

Category: What on Earth!?

Can you guess what this is? (We found it in the basement. Yes, we are still finding things.)

We think we finally figured it out. Do YOU know? It says "Ultrasonic #2400 Radionic Industries, Chicago 10, Illinois" A good quiz for a Tuesday. (If you are a family member and already talked about this with us, hold back for now and see if someone new knows :)

November 4, 2003

Loudspeaker...Blues Brothers Style :)

Category: What on Earth!?

Those were great answers everyone! To our surprise, Tully actually had the real answer! It's the thing from on top of Elwood Blue's car!

Well, actually, "anonymous" actually got closer to the real answer. It is a portable megaphone, probably used in Boy Scouts or in the military or both. W was in WWII and then was a troup leader for a couple of decades. I don't know if this one is as old as WWII or not (there is no date, only a patent number) but, from the design of it...

Coco' s microphone is SHARP!!! It comes tucked INSIDE of a compartment in the box, along with 4 9-volt batteries. The microphone plugs in on the outside, you hang it on a special hook on the front of the box while carrying it by the leather strap. (If you are new to the site, click on any picture to make it larger.)

Or, you COULD conceivably strap it onto your small foreign import to get that Blues Brother's feeling :) Though for the best results, you might want to get a battered Chevy Caprice...

November 7, 2003

Things you might see on a bar

Category: What on Earth!?

Now it feels like we are playing "Password" here on "What On Earth?"...everything starts to look like it belongs in a category. Such as these things...

Did this really inspire the movie "Alien"? If you go to uncork the bottle, is it meant to scare you away from whatever is IN the bottle forever?

Hmm...this seems to be a pretty fancy place.

Some vintage Galiano from the top shelf behind the bar...

A classy retro enamel ashtray from Bovano...

Whoops! The bartender is a green horn...

Now I'll never get my Shirley Temple cocktail! I bet he doesn't know the right ratio of maraschino cherry juice to 7-Up....

November 10, 2003

Chicago Mysteries that require Nancy Drew...

Category: What on Earth!?

This house, as I've said before, brings out the "Nancy Drew" in me...

Here's why...

The box says "Chamber Music" (most likely from our church way back when) but there are many more audio reels in there...

What did W record with the "Mobile Recording Studios"? What will we hear on this custom record?

Who are in these photos of people practicing their music? It looks like a symphony...

Did Mrs. O'Leary's cow really do the deed? Or was she a victim of "wrong place, wrong time"?

November 13, 2003

Many big drawer

Category: What on Earth!?

Not everything is sorted out in our little house o' stuff. Often, we will find things that are from different countries and different decades sharing the same drawer or box.

It is a big puzzle we are unraveling.

On a different note, we get many emails on different topics or about certain items that we post here. This evening, I fell over as I discovered that my email "box"...valiently trying to sort out the volume of mail I receive from different sources...stashed a bunch of your notes in a place that I didn't expect. So I just found them. A lot of them. Which means that many of you think that I am unspeakably rude for not replying to you before now. This happened to me once before about 6 months ago and I am still unraveling that "glitch". It is what I get for relying upon technology to organize me. Friends, I'm slowly winding my way through your notes. Dear guests, if you have questions about certain items in the house o' stuff for sale, keep an eye on our Estate Sale page where we post things as often as we can. If you want to know when we have updated our pages there, try out Bloglines to notify's free and very nifty.

Here is a "drawer" full of things from near and far for you to poke around in...

These are mostly from "South of the Border", I think...I know they had traveled to Mexico, Peru, Columbia, Patagonia and other countries...

The pink pottery bowl is Swedish "Gefle", an "antik" as they say :)

Pierced tongue as letter opener is really too awesome. Especially with the mother-of-pearl eyes...

This is either Italy or Occupied Japan paste porcelain. The porcelain decorative candles slip out so that you can substitute real ones on occasion...

Leather camel, woven donkey and rider. Mmmmhmmm.

November 17, 2003

Chicago, Part Trois

Category: What on Earth!?

We still find things. Last week, I grabbed a yardstick out of the pile we have and used it to measure something. Then, I read it.

Hm. "Leadership Beyond Measure." "Daley 1967." Wasn't that the same year that....yep. And right before...? Yep.

The Bell Telephone Hour!

The Chicago Railroad Fair!

The Chicago insurance?

But who trumps the Chicago Sun? The TRIBUNE, of course. :)

And it was important to INVEST IN PROPERTY in, uh, our neighborhood actually. But a long, long time ago...

Something tells me this tin sign we found in the garage isn't referring to the vacuum cleaner...

Hoover? For President.

November 20, 2003

The Crazy Wall

Category: What on Earth!?

This is a bedroom wall in our house.

Yes, really. No, I'm not kidding. Yes, you're right, there are small notes on the maps...we're assuming its places they visited. I don't know...I guess they just were ok with letting their son decorate it the way he wanted to.

We are thinking we will change this part of the house.

November 22, 2003

More of the Crazy Wall

Category: What on Earth!?

Due to popular demand, more pictures of the bedroom "I like football and maps!" wall...

We don't know why the Green Bay Packers are up here. If you are from Chicago, don't blame us :)

When we looked really closely at these maps, we saw that some of them had been written on...locations were marked, notes were made.

As in "7-24-71...Harold, LRH and WWH"

They also had written a lot on a map of New England, including the words "Old House" in Quincy, Massachusetts (but information I've found on the family puts them one side in Chicago Heights at the turn of the century and the other side in Texas...?) And a big circle around Newport with the words, "Vanderbilt's House" sketched in. Well, of course.

So, A's grandpa, Keith, decided to join the fun during a visit. Now we think that we'll encourage all of our guests to draw on the walls until this room is done. And since it will be one of the last rooms on our list...

You know, I've always wanted a good reason to draw on the walls.

November 25, 2003

Prepping for work over the holiday

Category: What on Earth!?

My students took their last quiz today and it's less than 4 weeks before I have to write the final. And the media project we are still working on is STILL giving us problems on the hard drive. And then there is work at my other job and A's full time job.

And then there is the house.

So, Thanksgiving is coming up and we are giving thanks that we even have jobs and a house and it has electricity. Not the plumbing we need but electricity and heat. Those are good things. So, I am going to throw some random "What On Earth?" stuff up here for you to gander at and then try to get some sleep.

Like this random pile of purses. (Just click on something to look at it more closely. Or don't if you would rather avoid the dust and details.)


And! (Of Albany, NY)

And postcards PAINTED wooden dish (whew!)

And painted wooden dish (from Scandanavia) to a pamphlet (from the Chicago Public School System...)

Phew...I'm tired. Let's finish the alphabet game another evening...

December 1, 2003

Restoring a house? Get Nervine!

Category: What on Earth!?

Today was the official last day of fall for me. I'm a little behind. So, I spent the morning of my day off stuffing leaves into the "Blue Bags" the City of Chicago uses for recycling "lawnstuffs".

I also tend to listen to Public Radio a lot when I am home during the day. I love Public Radio, but I am TOO emotional--really--to listen to it all of the time. Current events have me a little, um, tense. On top of everything else. (You might want to click on these pictures to make them a little larger.)

So I ESPECIALLY got a good laugh when I came across this old booklet that tells the story of "OUR PRESIDENTS"...

...sponsored by...

NERVINE "Take it when you're cranky, fidgety, sleepless, nervous, anxious, irritable, depressed...I guess just about any time you are restoring an old house..."

Now, about our presidents...

Oh, yes! Back to our regularly scheduled....ADVERTISING! For MORE NERVINE! Take it when you've been ROBBED! (Take it by the bottle says that....right there.)

And byAlka Seltzer! Interesting that the Alka-Seltzer ad is superimposed over a picture of the White House.

I don't make this stuff up. I just report on it. Honest.


But it's super funny.

P.S. This is for Anna from Little Red Boat

Anna--I feel the record is the least I could do...but I wish it could be this other request you had: "a proper global commitment to fair trade, the AIDS crisis and the Kyoto treaty." (We'll both wish for that together.) However, if you change your mind about the handbags or shoes, we have some posh (for, um, 1942) ones in the attic. All the best from ATP, J

December 5, 2003

Something new that needs detective work

Category: What on Earth!?

So, we are still finding things in the house. The place where this was stored led to its being damaged and that is so sad. It is still beautiful, even with the damage. Rolled onto cylinders of dark wood, it is a painted rice paper scroll which is as long as our dining table (about 5'6")

(Click on the pictures to make them larger)

The detail of the figures makes me curious as to who they represent.

Also sadly, the artist's signature is rolled onto the end of the scroll and too difficult to photograph. You have to turn the end of the scroll to read the figures. However, there were paper tags on the ends.

So, does this tag mean something auspicious like "wisdom"?

Or is it a price tag? ;) And what was the value of 3.50 in this denomination in 1931 in Asia?


December 9, 2003

Ouch! And...Girl Scouts.

Category: What on Earth!?

Those two topics in the title only go together because:

a) I have a WHOMPIN' viral infection that makes typing this entry feel like my fingers will fall off. That is how much my body hurts right now.

b) I am going to post some things in a booklet I found to get out of a lot of typing.

Circa 1952 (click on the pictures to make them larger):

I was a Girl Scout. In 197_something, something. And I remember feeling badly because all of the COOLEST badges were going on with the Boy Scouts. Archery. And canoeing. And killing bears.

Okay, maybe not the bears.

So, to soothe our souls, my friend Vicki and I set out to assemble the BIGGEST, BADDEST collections of badges EVER. Cooking and sewing and domesticating our little hearts out with some feminist "environmental recycling" thrown in.

But, I still wanted that Kayaking Badge.

I had no idea of the legacy that had been left to me. How far the Girl Scouts had come at that point. (And how far they are today...)

But, now I know where Martha Stewart gets her "know-how" anyway. She was probably an overambitious badge collector too. Except that she turned it into a media empire and I lost interest in favor of POWER TOOLS!

Nice stealth marketing on behalf of Stanley Home Products, by the way.

I look better with a SawZall in my hand than a mop, thank you very much.

(I'm off to take more Tylenol now...ouch. Ouch!)

December 12, 2003

Another Random Batch (while we recover)

Category: What on Earth!?

Some tiny things. Doll-sized things. Itty bitty stuff. Some of it, anyway.

(You can make these things LARGER by clicking on them :)

Like tiny garden tools for little kids. So they can have their own tiny co-op. (There is a tiny snow shovel, broom and dustpan around here too. Somewhere.)

Teeny Tea Cup with a parrot handle!

Tiny pottery birds.

Tiny Marshall Field box...

...with tiny doll UMBRELLAS!!!

Now, if my tiny respiratory infection would get TINIER...that would be most excellent :)

December 17, 2003

Ode to Stuff

Category: What on Earth!?

I wish that I would never see...

(Although some are as cute as cute can be...)

As many vintage coffee cans...

Or wood and bakelite camera stands...

Maybe not so many silver spoons...

And definitely less antique cartoons...

Fewer books would be quite nice*...

And fewer racquets paradise!

It would be nice to make some more room...

And get my bathroom back from storeroom. :(

* Though this one is quite beautiful and old and covers more fonts than Textism! That is saying quite a bit.

December 19, 2003

Paper Bells and other wall oddities

Category: What on Earth!?

We found this in the ceiling, in between the 2nd and 1st floor, when we took the bathroom ceiling down.

It was next to the place where the old electrical box was. It's about as large as my hand (but my hands are small).

Is it related to that? Perhaps a symbol for the folks who built the house out of parts that were milled elsewhere? (We think our house was one of a pattern that made 5 houses on this block...and which were assembled by the first person to live here.)

Is it an old Christmas decoration that slipped between the floors somehow? By how? And why only one?

Other things we've found in the walls:

The marbles were especially interesting. I'm trying to classify them.

This Breakfast Cocoa Lid is adorable. It is from Walter Baker & Co Ltd of Massachusetts...

Finally, this ghostly image on this negative. Early 20th century? The clothes look that way. It is hard to reproduce here on the site. The figures are gathered in a circle of chairs...

They are so mysterious. I wish I knew who they were.

December 21, 2003

Tiki Tissue Holder

Category: What on Earth!?

This thing is NOT in our house.

But someone searching for it found our website and we mentioned it in yesterday's entry.

Diligent reader KIM let us know where the real thing can be found. You can follow her link in the comments section of yesterday's entry.

This has to be one of the funniest things I have ever seen for sale during a holiday season.

December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas

Category: What on Earth!?

Merry Christmas from House In Progress.

And Laurelle Guild from Kensington Aluminum (Art Deco, 1930's).

January 1, 2004

What did YOU get for Christmas?

Category: What on Earth!?

I got some spare time to hunt around the attic. Because we really haven't discovered everything in this house yet.

Like a whole tissue wrapped box of embroidered and printed handkerchiefs. I am so not kidding. And here is one of them that has me completely puzzled.

Old Mother Hubbard,
She went to the cupboard:
To get her poor dog a bone,
When she got there
The cupboard was bare:
And so the poor doggie got none.

I didn't remember the rest of the rhyme on the handkerchief!

Dear Foxy Grand Pa
With the boys and a hamper:
Heard it by wireless phone.
With a new hat for the old lady,
They dined where it was shady
And the dog he got fat on the bone.

Foxy Grand Pa? Wireless phone? I don't get it. From the markings on the box and the wrapping, these handkerchiefs are from the late 1800's through the 1940's, maybe early 1950's (but that is a stretch). What was a wireless phone back then?

Maybe it was some sort of radio? Or "walkie talkie"? That was invented in 1938.


January 8, 2004

(Little) Folks in Uniform

Category: What on Earth!?

We haven't had a "what on earth" entry for awhile because we've been doing (oh my gosh!) REAL WORK on the house.

So it's the best time to do another What on Earth? Tonight's theme: little folks in uniform.

One of the previous owners was in WWII and he was a Boy Scout Leader for 20 years. And his wife was a Girl Scout leader for about 10+ years. Which makes things SUPER interesting. I mean, BIG merit badge flashbacks for me all of the time.

We've posted a few things already and I can't post the rest of EVERYTHING tonight, but here are a few new things:

Thin Mint cookies

Mug from camp...

An issue of "Speideren", a Norwegian magazine from 1930. This one IS pretty unusual considering Scouting was banned from Norway by the Nazi Partyin 1940 and everything related to scouting was burned. Very few things exist from there today that weren't mailed out of the country before that time (such as postcards).

Join the Boy Scouts!

Small world! A used to live in Colorado Springs!

And finally, because I found the pictures, Ryan models the tent backpack that he was picked up from us this fall. Looking good, RJ!

And yes, ladies, he's single :)

January 12, 2004

What on earth miscellaneous

Category: What on Earth!?

So tired. Busy weekend and week. Dave the Cat is missing somewhere in the house (probably in the walls) and we cannot find him which makes me sad and frustrated.

So here is what I have for "What on earth?" It doesn't have much of a theme or make any sense that I can see. Maybe a kind and gentle reader can link together the meaning of these objects sharing the same spece.

The Vintage handkerchief "Found Alphabet" game

Put it together and WHAT DOES IT SPELL!?! Um, farg? That's pretty much summed up the last week for me.

Wacky, silly girl scouts back then!

And the Swiss?! With that RiColA joke? So funny.

You know, if I had the talent for it, these handkerchiefs (there are about 100 or so of them) would make a great duvet cover. Sigh.

January 18, 2004

Living with History

Category: What on Earth!?

Just found out recently that The Palmolive Building in Chicago was renovated from offices to condominiums.

The Palmolive Building's elevator friezes were designed and sculpted by Enrique Alferez...we had found a signed piece of Alferez's work (2 years before the Palmolive) in the house early on. He did the work for the Palmolive in 1929 while he was still a student of Lorado Taft.

And the council who re-designed the building had the good sense to preserve the best Art Deco the elevator friezes (which we are dying to see). The condominiums are breathtaking. Too fancy for us. But gorgeous.

Enrique Alferez lived at 6016 Ellis Avenue in 1927. Now, a building at that address no longer exists. Next door and across the street, the buildings of the University of Chicago campus have taken over the area.

And Molly Marine, Alferez's statue for the women of the Marine Corps, was just rebronzed and moved to Quantico.

Two more things: the Palmolive Building used to house the Playboy Offices and Club (news to us!) and it's beacon was turned on by Herbert Hoover in 1930 via a telegraph button from the White House. Called the Lindbergh beacon, after Lucky Lindbergh.

We have items in the house linking all of these. Together or separately, it still is pretty awe-inspiring to live among all of this history. Even if you still need a shower that works correctly.

January 22, 2004

Solving a few mysteries

Category: What on Earth!?

Late at night, when I cannot sleep, I look up the information I am finding in the stacks of postcards that we have found in the attic.

This one (click to enlarge):

was mailed from the town of Brillion, Wisconsin in 1921 by pastor's wife, Hulda Moor. It shows the M.E. Church and Parsonage.

It's a lovely little town in Wisconsin and, strangely, they also struggle with the mysteries of their origin!

I contacted the very helpful H.Zander from Brillion who sent me photos of a few current Brillion churches to see if there was a match between the church in the postcard and the church today.

Hmmm. What do you think? Do we have a match? Or do we need to keep investigating?

It's possible that there were changes to the M.E. Church...or that it no longer exists. But it would be terrific if it does still exist....and to visit it. Someday.

January 28, 2004

The Mystery is Solved!

Category: What on Earth!?

Community Development Director, Heather Zander, of the city of Brillion, Wisconsin has been quite brilliANT when it has come to tracking down information related to our most recent mystery....(see previous story)

The "M.E." church on the 1921 postcard in our attic is....the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brillion! (Click to enlarge)

I'll let Heather tell you the rest of the story:

Here’s the information I received from a parishioner of the Church.

The church over the years was added on because of the growing congregation. The parsonage, unfortunately was razed in 1963 due to a sagging foundation. I have attached some pictures of the site as it stands now, and also a picture of the pipe organ inside the church. You have a gem of a photo. Thanks for sharing!

It is an INCREDIBLE pipe organ...quite beautiful.

I'm sure this is a cozy modern parsonage....sigh...though the older one was much more romantic looking.

Our next mystery involves the church on THIS postcard...a 1920's M.E. Church from Battleground, Indiana...

January 31, 2004

Old books about babies

Category: What on Earth!?

I love old books.

I have more right now than I can keep....ever....anywhere. But I do love old books.

Came across this one the other night. And thought that it was very quaint for its day...

It is so funny to me that, in 1938, Dr. Aldrich (from Northwestern University Medical School) and his wife felt it IMPERATIVE that someone recognize the fact...yes, babies ARE human beings.

Until I realized that the book was a follow-up to an earlier failed study in 1928.

February 5, 2004

Cabin fever.

Category: What on Earth!?

It's snowing a lot here.

A lot.

I think I have cabin fever.

Which may explain the dirty, smelly house rant yesterday.

Or, it could be the holes in the walls.

I wouldn't have survived 5 minutes in the Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder would have kicked my fanny on the prairie.

Here on some other things from the attic for you. I'm going to do something about the ice hanging off of the gutters. Or go on a Prozac bender. One of those two.

February 7, 2004

Who's that girl?

Category: What on Earth!?

Who is the mysterious woman?

Is she Salome?


Is she Josephine?

Is she the lovely Miss Pan American?

Is she Peggy O'Neil?


She's just a girl. But she's our girl. :)

February 13, 2004

Happy Valentine's Day, 1888!

Category: What on Earth!?

Yes, I know. I know. We're a day early.

But, you know, before you left for the weekend and all, I guess...well....(kicks toe of house slipper against uneven floor board in kitchen)....we just wanted you to know that know....appreciate you. And all that kinda junk.

Whether Annie Hartman is your name or not. And even though we found this in the attic, it especially for YOU! Oh, absolutely. Er, well, it's the thought that counts, right?

p.s. A very belated apology to Richard Pratt, my classmate from the 5th grade who always pulled my hair and tormented me during reading class. It wasn't enTIREly a coincidence that I rhymed "Pratt" with "brat" on that valentine, but I hope it didn't scar you for life or anything. Especially if "or anything" means that you'll be showing up on C.O.P.S. with your face pixelated. Because that really would be terrible.

February 13, 2004

One more Valentine...again, 1888

Category: What on Earth!?

Which means that these Valentines are 116 years old.

That is really old. Love that old is a pretty cool thing.

February 20, 2004

Unraveling a Mystery: Prussia to Chicago

Category: What on Earth!?

Up late. Again. The scanner and I. I've had less time to look at stuff in the house since it is all covered up to protect it from construction.

So I pulled out something small and accessible. Postcards.

And thus began another mystery. (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

So....who is Frank Dolde? Where is this 1909 postcard from? And where is 737 North Lincoln Avenue in Chicago? (Lincoln Avenue begins at 2000 North).

I kept finding more postcards. 1906-1911. Before this house was built. All sent to Frank Dolde. But steadily moving more north on Lincoln Avenue.

The first stamp is from the Deutches-Reiche...the German Empire (Prussians) prior to WWI. The "Osterreichische Post" stamp refers to Austro-Hungary in 1910, I think. But the city of Laupheim? Where was it then and where is it today? And the postcards from Emma Dorfler and Carl in Austro-Hungary...what cities are they from?

These postcards were sent before the house was built and the last name is not familiar. The family we purchased the house from has a German ancestry...was this a relative?

The family that built the house was from Denmark and, in 1864, Denmark lost part of the country (Sønderjyllands Amt) to the Prussians (not gaining some of it back until 1918.) Are these postcards to one of their family members?

Finally, why has Frank Dolde moved from 737 North Lincoln to 739 North Lincoln to 2820 North Lincoln between 1906 and 1911?

And where is 737 North Lincoln? (Or 739 North Lincoln for that matter.)

Oh, help. Anyone adept at reading German and deciphering handwriting out there?

February 29, 2004

Dolde, Laupheim and Who On Earth?

Category: What on Earth!?

Alert readers Beth and Chuck helped us to solve some of the mystery of WHO were the Dolde's and WHERE is Laupheim and WHY do these postcards have a now non-existant street number from Lincoln Avenue in Chicago on them?

We still don't know why they are in the house. Or what they say.

I was able to confirm Beth's suspicion on the street numbers and the 1910 Census Information when I found THIS postcard (click to enlarge images):

To Miss Elsie Dolde at 2836 North Lincoln Avenue in 1910. Go Beth!

We did find a postcard from Laupheim in English (?!) and it appears a Chicago friend visited Germany to call upon Frank's family. He writes:

Dear Friend (Mr. Dolde),

Am now in Laupheim and having dandy trip. Saw Mr. Dolde and wife, they are feeling fine, especially your father, he looks like a man of 50. Received a letter from Elsie, many thanks. Will leave for Schwietz (spelling?) tomorrow.

Best regards to all, from father, mother & Max.

We don't know much else about the Dolde family because these postcards are in German. If you can decipher any of them, please let us know. Or if you know anyone who is from Laupheim, please let us know. It would be so interesting to know if the town still looks like these beautiful depictions of it. (I guess be careful for what you wish for...10 minutes later and...LINK and LINK.)

I did find this postcard/photo with no writing in with these postcards but I don't know if these are Frank's parents or some other unidentified family.

(And we aren't sure why there are holes punched in the card below card...also a mystery. Or perhaps someone trying out a new hole punch. Sigh.)

Do I wish I could go back in time? You bet! At the very least to 1996 when I backpacked through Europe and was so very close to Laupheim...I traveled from Munich to Freiberg (well, Staufen) and took the train through Ulm. Ulm is 15m from Laupheim. :( Argh. Life.

But I do know that the Dolde's lived here or in the building next door. Ah, the magic of the Internet.

And Carl Laemmle is also a native son of Laupheim who, within a few years of these postcards, made it "big" in Chicago by founding the Independent Motion Picture Company (which later became Universal Studios) and has unintentionally brought this entry all the way around to The Acamedy Awards tonight.

Not pre-meditated. Such weird "six degrees" happenings here this evening.

March 8, 2004

Yes, there's still more stuff here

Category: What on Earth!?

Thought we'd come to the end of "what on earth?" No, no! We'll be digging stuff out of here for years. Decades. Ouch.

I need to start taking pictures at a "brighter" time of day again. Unfortunately, three a.m. is my only free time.

Are you feeling "tied down"?
A little overwhelmed with your life? Do you LONG for the financial independence to do ANYTHING you'd like?

Well, YOUR DAY HAS COME! 5 acres and INDEPENDENCE! Because there is nothing like having a HUGE WORKING FARM to get you out from under all of those messy entanglements with responsibility!

Or, you can spend your time reading this whole set of Art Deco-illustrated Children's Books...which are pretty cool. (Only a few of them are pictured here. It's a big set.)

Please pass the mustard. The really OLD mustard. (Though the 1700's seems a little old, even for this house. I suspect something within the last century.)

Why would you need the mustard? Why, mustard is PERFECT for HAM!

Except....GREAT SCOTT! What on EARTH did they do to this HAM????!!!

You've heard of Honey-baked ham? Meet "Sissified Girlie Ham."

March 14, 2004

California Dreamin'

Category: What on Earth!?

It was cold again here over the weekend, which means that the little shoots of flowers that were starting to peek out were shivering in the ground. Just as well that we didn't take the storm windows down.

So we are dreaming of warmer weather. And places with warmer weather.

Like these postcards and pamphlets we've found of sunny California :) Ahhh, Catalina Island...decades ago.

And the famous, S.S. Catalina...

Decisions, decisions. Where to go first?

Wow, the Hollywood Bowl looks impressive.

Especially when taken from an "aeroplane."

Here is a surprise! A sketch of one of our previous home owners as a young man...the world traveler...the gentleman who worked for the CTA. I recognize him from photos. Except for the mustache...perhaps a temporary thing?

March 27, 2004

Whoa Toto! Watch out!

Category: What on Earth!?

Found this interesting postcard today...

With a little research...

From the National Weather Service-Indianapolis: Indiana Weather History:

"March 23, 1917- New Albany...45 people were killed and 250 injured by a tornado 1000 feet wide as it moved through the north side of town at 308 mph. 200 to 300 buildings were destroyed and 2500 people were left homeless. A picture and a jar of pickles from a store were found later in Skylight, Kentucky...25 miles away. The sound of the storm was described as a saw mill in low key."

From THAT description, I would say that the sender of the postcard is lucky that only ONE side of the house was destroyed(Viola & Gilbert...they only had 2 good rooms left after this tornado but everyone made it out alive in the family). Yikes!

I spent a few years in Ohio as a young girl (including coming too close to the twister that flattened Xenia in 1974) and A spent some years in Nebraska. We have a healthy respect for tornadoes.'t blown THROUGH the city of Chicago ever...right? Right?

April 4, 2004

Another Year Older

Category: What on Earth!?

I have never been a big fan of my own birthday.

As the "sensitive to stimuli" type, the ruckus with the cake and the singing and the other kids and the protocol and the pressure makes it clear that I would have made a lousy Head of State. Perfectionism often shows itself in fear, as it did 2 hours before my 5th birthday party when I was practicing the "clothespins in the milk bottle game" so that I would be sure to get it ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

("Perfectionism-driven fear" is why A is my perfect spouse. While I am fussing about making the hole in the wall...Should it start here? Here? How big? What shape?....he just makes it. After that, I'm okay and feel fine about pitching in. I'm also great in emergencies that require action over cat hairballs at 3:00 a.m. I excel at dealing with stuff like that.)

So, how is it that my fellow birthday travelers this month--my nephew, J.C. and my godson, Jake--are the epitome of cool and composed at birthday time? Besides being incredibly handsome and smart, they are SO COOL!!! And my friend Beth? And other recent birthday travelers, (sis-in-law) Kjerstin and (niece/godaughter) Morgan? Gorgeous, smart, composed, cool.

This is not something that they have learned or inherited from me. (sigh)

Did I mention that I have no memory, am horrible at acknowledging other people's birthdays on time and have not yet unpacked the official "birthday calendar"? I know I am forgetting someone. Probably you.

I am an awful, aging person with no brain cells. From stripping wood. Please forgive me.

(The cards are all from the house. From a box. Of a million different cards. Late 1800's through 1940's. Please. If it is your birthday, accept one of these sentiments from me. With my gratitude for the person that you are and who I appreciate you to be all 365 days of the year. Not just one.)

April 8, 2004

1945 Headlines From Our Attic

Category: What on Earth!?

If you were wondering what kind of insultation** we found in the attic, don't wonder anymore.

(** "InsulTation was a slip of the fingers on the keyboard. It should be i-n-s-u-l-a-t-i-o-n. Freud at work here.)

Between the sawdust layers and the fiberglass cotton candy clumps, we found this (click on an image to make it larger):

Because who DOESN'T love a Chicago Gangland killing from 1945 keeping their house toasty warm in the winter?

What lucky person got to dig up this guy?

Unfortunately, the case of gangsters Cecil "Red" Smith, Renoro Lolli and Lawrence Mazzanars plus Chief Storms, Detective Hellstern (killed in Rogers Park), Detective Brady (killed in Rogers Park) and Detectives Smicklas, Alcock and Juric couldn't be found on the Internet...because, you know, end of WWII...Manhattan Project...a lot of other things were going on at the time.

Did this guy finally get his Edelweiss beer after doing all of these dishes? He may have left his apron in our house.

Fanny May, we hardly knew you...

April 14, 2004


Category: What on Earth!?

Too much stuff. Overwhelming.

This, unfortunately, sounds like the name of a burlesque queen.

These are pretty cute. Rocket Needles.

This tin is so FULL of brand marketing (WITH a snake bite kit thrown in.)

Yes, we're still finding Christmas stuff. It's Christmas all the way through the stacks, I suppose.

It's the Chicago Planetarium (before it was the Adler Planetarium)!

This is a book for, ahem, "young married ladies" circa 1893 (this is the revised edition from 1895). It's a very comprehensive tome on the birds and the bees and was probably way ahead of its time. It was written by Alice Stockholm, MD and dedicated to her daughter. Frankly, I was impressed by the amount of information.

"Tokology" comes from the Greek word, tokos, meaning childbirth. Thus, this is the study of childbirth; midwifery or obstetrics. Thank you, American Heritage Dictionary.

April 23, 2004

Dusty old bookshelf

Category: What on Earth!?

When it comes to books, it is difficult for me to be impartial. I love them. Ink seems to run in my veins instead of blood. I still have the very first library card which was truly my own (from the Peters Township Library).

My mother tells me that I could read before I could speak (?) and this led to some awkward pronunciation issues. (I'm afraid that this still happens. I mispronounced the word "braziers" in a talk at a church potluck last week. "Brassieres" are not what I wanted to talk about.)

Since last June, on sleepless nights, I've alternated posting in this journal with reading the books found in the house. Because it is safer to fall asleep typing or reading than stripping paint.

That is one of the original photos of a room containing the books in the house. There were four rooms of books. There were over 1500 books here.

These are a handful of the best late night reads so far.

Folk Tales of Assam: A clever collection of short stories from Lakishminath Bezbaroa's Birhi Air Sadhu (Tales of a Grandmother), translated from Assamese by Jnandabhiram Borooah in 1915. (This is the second edition from 1955). I've read many cultural folk tales and I am familiar with the threads of common themes across them. Most of these stories are fresh and original, which is lovely. The complex illustrations from this 1955 edition added to the narrative (Borooah also added some new stories to this version as well).

Horse and Buggy Doctor
(available at I have no interest in medical texts outside of a fierce curiousity about Oliver Sacks. I couldn't understand how this novel drew me in...the autobiography of a country doctor jumping into his profession in the 1800's. Suddenly, I was peering over his shoulder with great interest and fascinated with his work. Warm, human and with a style of writing that mixing descriptive prose with a gentle education in the highs and lows of a career in the healing arts. If I ever have to travel back in time and be subject to kitchen table surgery, please let my physician by Hertzler.

Rusty-A Cocker Spaniel: Okay, okay, You can laugh at me now. But I really enjoyed this "Good Dog Story" by Colonel Meek from 1938. It appeared on the bookshelf one night when I REALLY needed something light. Boy raises championship dogs. Boy meets Girl. Boy snubs Girl's new puppy when it doesn't meet his expectations of "champion show dog." Girl says, "Phooee! I'll show him what my dog can do." Lively story, strong heroine and very endearing dog. Loved it. That's why they call them "Good Dog Stories."

Yankee Lawyer-The Autobiography of Ephraim Tutt (Available at In this age of political disillushionment, we all need an Ephraim Tutt. Someone who prizes integrity and upsets the political applecart of many a backroom politician. The quote he selected for his title page gives you some insight into this character: "The glow of one warm thought means more to me than money." (Thomas Jefferson) I kept having to check the date of publication for the book (1943) because this guy's predictions were ON THE MONEY. Way ahead of his time. He leaves a healthy surprise at the end which really makes you think about your ability to discern what is real. No, I am not going to tell you about the surprise. You could probably find it on the internet in another review but don't spoil it for yourself! Read it first.

Kinfolk (Available at I love Pearl Buck's depiction of the subtleties of Asia, its social struggles and the emotional struggles of the different people who live there. Other nations of the world, in 1949, had different stereotypes that defined the Chinese people. Pearl set out to bust right through them. This adventurous story of four siblings traveling BACK to China from New York after their parents had immigrated demonstrates how "lost in translation" and transition many young people would be in similar situations. There is the constant awareness that they existed between two places and nowhere...all at the same time. A detailed, interesting picture of a complex period in China's history. (Though China's history is never simple.) Very worthy book.

The Royal Road to Romance (Available at Recent college graduate of the 1920's tilts at his adventures like windmills while living on pennies a day. He shows us a devil-may-care attitude in his diary and a heart which longs for beauty and poetry. A flip of a Lincoln penny or a blind jab at a map dictate his route. His writing is fearless and his humor dry. He is the Artful Dodger of travel, routinely snubbing the "No! Don't! Forbidden" signs he stumbles across, gets thrown into jail in Gibraltar (he even makes THIS sound fun), and slips away every time. The 1925 version has the photographs...the updated 2000 reprint doesn't seem to. Try to get your hands on an old copy. The photographs are amazing. The one of the baby Skushok Lama of Lei (the living incarnation of Bakola) is arresting.

He later published the diary in 1925, lectured, and died with as much fierceness as he lived at age thirty-nine (while pursuing a new adventure). This book ignited my longing for travel when I first read it eight years ago and made a strong case for shouting down the fear of traveling alone in foreign countries. I am rereading him eight years on and finding his writing as new to me as it was eight years ago. (The benefits of losing your memory, I suppose.)

Like this reviewer, I did have to remind myself of the culture at the time the book was written in order to get past some things.

April 29, 2004

Local art from a trip long ago...

Category: What on Earth!?

These are lovely. I don't know anything about them. I do know that the previous owners took a trip to Japan in the 1930's.

I wish I could read the characters in Japanese...I don't know if there is a signature here or a story.

(Click on any image to enlarge it.)

So if anyone out there can deciphers these...we are curious about what they say.

Japanese pictures of "the floating world" were beloved by Frank Lloyd Wright. The Japanese influence in some of his work emphasizes the simple elegance and organic sensibilities of his design. I would love to take a roadtrip like this one.

I do not believe that these are pictures of the same era as "the floating world." Still, I find them charming.

May 6, 2004

More boxes, new stuff

Category: What on Earth!?

No, it really doesn't end. We will be pulling random things out of boxes and drawers and cubby holes FOREVER.......

And not be really able to explain them.


This couple looks very angry that they missed Cinco de Mayo...

I mean, they brought all the accessories and everything!!!

But they received these lovely parting gifts...they just don't know WHAT these things ARE!

Can you help them to figure some of these out?

May 11, 2004

Someone Was More Frustrated With This House Than We Are

Category: What on Earth!?

Something we omitted from yesterday's events....when The Attic Experts were up in the attic removing the last of the insulation he found a spent bullet!

How weird is that? Definitely a very "What on Earth!?" moment!

May 16, 2004

"On my honor I will do my best"

Category: What on Earth!?

In tribute to Wes, who became an Eagle Scout today, here's more Scout-related stuff we've found in the house...

Way to go Wes!

May 22, 2004

Vintage Marlboro? Smoke em' if you got em'!

Category: What on Earth!?

Rummaging around in the knee walls today J found an old pack of Marlboro Cigarettes.

Of course as the consumate researcher she went straight to Google. As of 8:20 PM this evening here's what we know...

Discovery #1: Jeanne was unable to find a package online that matched this. Therefore, she assumes the pack dates from between 1902 (when Phillip Morris first became a US corporation and started selling its British brands, including one called Marlboro) and 1950 (the earliest package she found).

Discovery #2: The pack has a stamp stating "20 Grade A Cigarettes," which means it has to be from after 1911, because Fatima was the first major brand to be sold in packs of 20.

Discovery #3: Ah ha! "In 1924, Philip Morris introduces the mass market Marlboro, a women's cigarette that is "Mild as May"." (A women's cigarette...really?)

And that's as far as we got...the package dates some time between 1924 and 1950. That time period is actually strange, since our house was built in 1914. The pack was actually in a dead space behind a wall where the chimney passes through. Someone must have gone in there after the original construction and worked on the chimney or something.

In case anyone is interested, here are a few more distinguishing characteristics that could help to date it more definitively:

  • It is label of origin is "Factory No. 7, District of Virginia."
  • The back reads "Cigarettes are made of a selection of choicest imported and domestic tobaccos, scientifically blended to suit the cultured preference for extreme mildness, enlivened by the rich aroma of Oriental leaf."
  • The red script across the front reads 'Philip Morris.'
  • Marlboro represented less than 1% of the market until 1964 when they launched their "Marlboro Country" ad campaign. Marlboro became the world's best-selling cigarette in 1972.

And finally, since no entry on vintage cigarettes should conclude without mention of how awful smoking is or how deceitful big tobacco has historically been, here's a doosey from a 1943 Phillip Morris ad in the National Medical Review:

"'Don't smoke' is advice hard for patients to swallow. May we suggest instead 'Smoking Philip Morris?' Tests showed three out of every four cases of smokers' cough cleared on changing to Philip Morris. Why not observe the results for yourself?"

Times change...

(Note: Most of the facts came from the excellent timeline here.)

June 2, 2004

The Quest for the Provenance

Category: What on Earth!?

Until I began closely examining some of the items in this topsy-turvy house, I had no idea what a provenance was. Now, I do. The essence is is the story of something...its lineage. Who owned this object? This artwork? This book? And why?

We all have our own provenance, I suppose. And our belongings do. An article with an interesting "provenance" almost ALWAYS attracts the attention of the folks on shows like "The Antique Road Show." So tracking down something's provenance is not only outrageously interesting to people like me, it can value an item.

How do you track down a provenance? Let's start with this seemingly innocuous book by John C. Wright called The Great Myth.

It has a history that weaves together: American Indians, FDR, Woodrow Wilson, a collection of rare Indian artifacts, a few cities in Michigan, a few historians, some Chicago history "firsts", Hollywood, the Chicago Field Museum...the trail is long and winding if you follow it.

Every once in awhile, I will go back to something from the first days in the house. Something that was put aside. It is usually late when I do this and the house is asleep.

This book is one of those things that was pulling me back. I couldn't find out much about it. But it had two names and two towns...John C. Wright from Lansing, Michigan and Albert Green Heath from Michigan.

I spun the wheel of chance, signed on to and left a note in the ether for an ancestor of John C. Wright. It is like calling down a canyon. You never know if you will get an echo or a surprised greeting that meets the enthusiasm of your own.

For the research buffs out there, I will share a bit of how the provenance of this book has unfolded over last month.

From: jm
Date: April 10, 2004

I am looking for the family of John Couchois Wright, the author who's books include "The Crooked Tree" and "The Great Myth". He lived in Michigan in October 1922. Also, trying to research the name of Albert G. Heath, which is linked with Mr. Wright's.

Thank you.

From: Dave
Date: April 11, 2004

John Couchois Wright had no children. His brother Robert Wright has descendants. Information about two generations of them can be found on my Bailly "family tree"
I have more information than what is posted there, but do not know any living descendants. Lowell has a wealth of information about John C. Wright, and is constantly researching more. He lives in Petoskey, Michigan - not far from Wright's home. His e-mail address is:
According to my computer genealogy program, I am a second cousin three times removed.

Billings, Montana

From: Dave

Date: April 11, 2004

Good Morning!

I posted a response to your inquiry on the Rootsweb geneology forum regarding family of author John Couchois Wright. I am a distant relative, and self-appointed genealogist of the Bailly family.

As you undoubtedly know, it is very difficult to find published information about Wright. For a start, I am enclosing a rare photograph copied from a 1915 newspaper; discovered by Lowell, a retired building official in Petoskey, Michigan who began researching Wright several years ago at the suggestion of the curator of the Odawa Cultural Center. They, too, were frustrated that so little was known about the tribe’s most prominent storyteller. I have advised him of your inquiry, and given him your e-mail address.

I have spent some time checking stories told by Wright for factual content, and have found them to be amazingly true with only incidental errors. His “Indian grandmother” Sophia Bailly Graveraet lived a long life, and was known for her uncanny memory. John was as good a listener as he was a storyteller.

Sophia’s mother, Angelique McGulpin was the daughter of Makatoquet, or Black Cloud, a chief of the Grand River Band of Ottawa, who signed the treaty of Greenville in 1795. The claim that Maketoquit’s wife was a niece of Chief Pontiac is most likely true. It is backed by independent stories, but not yet fully verified.

Angelique’s older brother Francis Bailey remained with Maketoquit’s village, running a trading post at the site of present Maple Rapids, Michigan and dispensing a mixture of traditional Algonkian healing and white pharmacology. He was widely known as a “medicine man”.

Perhaps the Wright tale that is hardest to believe is “1000 Miles In A Canoe” from “A Crooked Tree”. It accurately recounts the 1814 journey of seven year old Sophia Bailly from the LaFramboise trading post at present Lowell, Michigan to L’Arbre Croche (present Middle Village near Petoskey, Michigan) to Mackinac Island just ahead of the recapture of the territory by US forces; then her detour to join her brother (by adoption) Joseph LaFramboise (Jr.) in Prairie di Chien, Wisconsin and fleeing with him to St Peters (near the present Minneapolis airport) Minnesota. She stayed there until early 1817, when she joined her adopted mother Madelaine LaFramboise, who was building her retirement home on Mackinac Island.

I will be happy to share any information that I have, and am sure Lowell will also.

Billings, Montana


From: jm
Date: April 12, 2004

Dear Dave--

Thank you for your wonderful note and for the photograph. Let me tell you my story.

Almost a year ago, my husband and I purchased a bungalow in Chicago, Illinois. We had expected to move into an empty house that needed about a decade worth of work. (This house had been in the same family for 3 generations--70 years--and was with one other family for 20 years prior to that. It was built in 1914.)

Unfortunately, the house was not left empty. It is a long story, but the previous owner abandoned the property when she sold it and--after taking what she wanted and having an auctioneer try to walk through--left it as it was for us to clean. This has proved to be a Herculean task...this family "hoarded" things--tinfoil to rocks --and nothing was sorted or categorized. Because I used to be an ethnographer and a researcher, I convinced my husband and our friends to sort through the items in the house (versus throw them in a huge dumpster) and I chose items to research. My intent is to try to determine WHICH pieces of the house or the lives that passed through here belong WITH the house as part of its history. Since this is a natural extension of my previous career, it is something I like to do, though I usually only get the time to do it late at night!

I've especially enjoyed the books. That is the one thing I do have a weakness for.

I reselected a volume from the bookcase a few nights ago that I found during one of the first days here. It is "The Great Myth" by John C. Wright. It probably would be unremarkable, except the book has a provenance--a written history of its ownership.

The book is inscribed as follows:

Sincerely, your friend,
John C. Wright
Lansing, Michigan
October 3, 1922

Underneath this handwritten information is a note in a different hand that says:

Olga Mae Schiemann bought this book from Wright Howes, Chicago, Illinois 1953

On the facing page is a bookplate with the name "Albert Green Heath--Ex Libris"

Inside is a postcard written by Mr. Wright. One side is as follows:

Lansing, Mich
Oct. 3--
Dear Friend:
Yours rec'd. Will write you soon. Am sending book with my compliments by this mail. There is no charge for this. As ever, yours
426 W. Mich. Ave

The other side is addressed:

Albert G. Heath
Harbor Springs, Mich

The postmark is: Lansing, 1 PM, Oct 3, 1922, MICH.

As interested as I am in the history of John C Wright and his book, I am also curious about his correspondence with Albert Heath and the mysterious notation "Yours rec'd." Wright Howes was a bookseller in Chicago...I do not know how Olga Mae fits into the story of the house as of yet.

If any of this information it helpful to you, I'm glad of it. If you have any information as to who Albert Heath is, that would be interesting to me as well.

Thanks so much.


From: Dave

What a nice story! I suppose the only thing that might top it would be if your house is at 428 Blackhawk Street.

Several members of the Bailly family were prominent in their time, but were quickly forgotten as the upper midwest rapidly matured. Ms. Schiemann was a very thorough historian and scholar, who researched at her own expense and preserved the family history with very little help from anyone actually in the family. The original of her paper is in the Duneland Historical Society Library at Chesterton, Indiana. By 1922, J.C. Wright was fairly well known, and a good representative of the "family", and I'm tickled to learn that he was able to show his appreciation to Ms. Schiemann.

The attachment is a copy of the cover page for Olga Mae Schiemann's 1955 paper (it is actually a book) on the Bailly family.

Joseph Bailly (J.C. Wright's great-grandfather) was a French-Canadian fur trader on the Great Lakes who married twice, both times to Indian women. His last home, and the family cemetery are preserved within the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, east of Chicago. The suburb of Monee, Illinois is named for his second wife. The family includes John H. Whistler, the first child born in Chicago; Joel H. Wicker, who with his brother Charles originated the Wicker Park neighborhood; and Francis Howe, one of the organizers of Chicago's first railroad company.

Your interest in the history of the house has netted you a genuine artifact of Chicago history!


P.S. The name Albert Heath is not familiar to me, but Lowell may know who he was. J.C. Wright was not good with money and often forced to depend on friends. He often set up a stand in the resorts of Bay City, selling and autographing his books. When the tourist trade was down, he was known to visit friends for extended periods of time, essentially saving his own expenses by their hospitality. It might be easier to just come out a say he was a notorious sponge, and it would not have been out-of-character for him to send Mr. Heath's copy to Ms. Schiemann.

P.S.S. As an incidental bonus to the historical implications of the book, I am a 4th great-grandson of Capt. John Whistler, the "founder" of Chicago.


Dear Dave--

How incredibly interesting!

From the notes in the book and on the postcard, I am convinced the book was originally sent to Albert Heath. There is a notation in the back from Wright Howes (the gentleman who ended up with the book and sold it to Olga) that is very clearly from his "grades" the condition of the book and sets the price in 1955. So Olga may have purchased it to compliment her research.

And John C. may have sent the book to Albert Heath as a friend or a potential person to "sponge" from :) We may never know.

How the book ended up from Olga to this house is what is interesting to me. The previous owners were Rxxxxx's, Hxxxxxxx's and Hxxxxxxxx's. They did collect a great deal of things, including books and one of the previous owners was an avid Boy Scout Troop Leader (for 20 years) with an interest in Indian folklore, rocks/minerals, survival literature, science, astronomy and so on. This may have been bought as part of that interest. Is Olga still alive? Was her estate liquidated? Her address on Blackhawk Street isn't near anything associated with the's present address, the previous owners' old addresses, the University of Chicago, their places of employment, etc.

Very odd.

Thank you for the information!

Well, here is a clue! Albert Green Heath

And another...the gentleman who wrote about the Heath Collection is Daniel Eck from the Field Museum in Chicago.



From: Dave
Date: April 12, 2004

I think you are correct. In the bio that you found of Albert Green Heath, it said he spent many summers at Petoskey, building his collection. He would most certainly have been John C. Wright's friend!

I think Ms. Schiemann was born 11 Jun 1894 and died in Chicago in September 1976. In her book, there is a "family tree" dated February 1952 which lists "John C. (Couchois) Wright". She obviously knew quite a bit about him. His mother, a widow with one child by Robert Wright; married the widower of her sister named John Baptiste Couchois. He had three grown children and two at home by his first wife, and two daughters by the second wife. Thus, the aunt became the stepmother of her two nieces.

He lived only long enough to get her pregnant with John; and died before he was born. The two girls died, and Rosine (John's mother) sent her other step-daughters to live with the oldest grown sister. Rosine resumed using her first married name of Wright, and John chose to follow. Later, he legally changed it. The parentheses seem like an ideal way to say it.

The article on Heath's collection said they sold duplicate items in 1956-57 to pay the balance of costs for acquisition.

In college in the late sixties, I hung around used bookstores. One which was located on the tourist road to Estes Park, Colorado frequently bought "remnant lots" from museums in the exact same manner as one might imagine the Chicago bookseller having done.

A good percentage of John C. Wright's work was great inspiration for Boy Scouts.



From: Dave
Date: April 12, 2004

In case you didn't know.........

Petoskey, where Heath was reported to work on his collection, is a working community on the south shore of Little Traverse Bay which had a significant Indian population at the turn of the twentieth century.

Harbor Springs, where Heath received the book, is a resort town on the north shore (four miles by water, nine miles by land from Petoskey).

John C. Wright was a resident of Harbor Springs, probably in Lansing for the first printing of "The Great Myth" by the Michigan Education Company (now Michigan State University Press). The book that he sent to Heath was undoubtedly a "first edition".


From: Dave

The attachment is the forward to a handwritten issue of Wright's "Chicago-jig.......The Indian Tradition of the Happy Hunting Ground" that he presented to the Governor of Michigan in 1934. The print version was published in 1935. I thought you might find want to compare it to yours.

Wright died in 1939 in the Gratiot County Infirmary at Alma, Michigan and was originally interred in the indigent section of Riverside Cemetery. Friends collected donations to rebury him in Lakeview Cemetery of Harbor Springs, Michigan with a nice monument. In 1940, he was posthumously awarded a Presidential Medal by Franklin D. Roosevelt on behalf of Indians and conservation.

Have a good day.



From: Dave

The "yours rec'd" may have been the money from this sale:

On 20 Nov 1922 a deed was recorded at the Emmet County Courthouse (Book 74, Page 372) which read:

John C. Wright of the City of Lansing, Ingham co., Michigan (said John C. Wright, a single man) to Frank J. Gilbault of Good Hart, Emmet Co., Michigan, $200. Lot 30, Middle Village on Section 36, T 37 N, R 7 W.

It was a lot he had inherited from his mother. The final deed to him was recorded 17 Mar 1920 (Book 68 Page 511). It read:

Robert H. Wright & Annie Wright of Munising, Michigan to John C. Wright of Good Hart, Michigan. $50.00. Lot 30 of the Village of Middle Village, Section 36, T 37 N, R 7 W. (It is understood and agreed that Robert H. Wright, one of the parties of the first part and John C. Wright the said party of the second part are sons & only heirs at law of Rosine Wright, deceased)

His mother had died 6 Feb 1920.

Wright kept on writing letters to local newspapers, and showed his sense of humor while in the county hospital.
Articles printed after his death inferred that he had lots of visitors, and enjoyed himself to the very end.


From: Dave
Date: April 14, 2004

How fascinating !!!!!

Albert Green Heath and his wife are buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Harbor Springs, Michigan:

Heath, Albert Green, d. Dec 23, 1953, Sec J Lot-32
Heath, Edith, d. Mar 12, 1947, Sec J Lot-32

How close is Section J, Lot 32 to John Couchois Wright's grave in Section I, Lot 48? Was Albert Heath one of the friends who paid for the Wright re-burial?

Also, this shoots holes right through the probability that Heath's estate may have sold the copy of "The Great Myth" to Chicago bookseller Wright Howes, who resold it to Olga Mae Schiemann in 1953. Not too many business days were left in 1953 after Dec. 23rd.


From: Lowell


I’ve been puzzling over what connection an Albert G. Heath could have to John C. Wright. Now I know, thanks to you. John seems to have been a bit of a promoter. I found several letters at the Clarke Historical Library that appear to have been his efforts to promote his works by writing to prominent people such as the governor and sending them hand-made copies of his books.

What I have on his places of residence so far is as follows:

1874-1920 – Lived with mother, first in Harbor Springs and later in Middle Village.

1922 – 320 W. Genesee, Lansing.

20 Nov 1922 – Lansing – when he sold property in Middle Village, Lot 30, where he had lived.

1923 – no entry in city directory, but "The Great Myth" was published by the company he worked for – Michigan Education Co.-Lansing.

1924 – 320 W. Ottawa St., Lansing

1925 – no entry in city directory

15 Apr 1926 – Lansing, when he bought lots in Middle Village from the State Conservation Dept.

1927 – Roosevelt Hotel, 220 Seymour St., Lansing.

July 1927 – sold two lots, bought another in Middle Village – residence, Lansing.

1928-1931 – No city directories available.

19 Nov 1929 – Living in Los Angeles when he sold his remaining properties in Middle Village.

30 Jan 1930 – News item that he had recently been in Washington DC, visited Mrs. Woodrow Wilson and others to promote "an American club" for people who could claim at least ¼ Indian blood.

1934-1935 – editions of "Chicago-jig" published in Alma, Gratiot Co. Henry Babcock, his old friend and former employer who formerly published a newspaper in Harbor Springs owned "The Alma Record" at this time.

17 Oct 1937 – enters the Gratiot Co. Infirmary.

17 Mar 1939 – Leaves Infirmary.

15 May 1939 – returns to Infirmary.

23 May 1939 – dies at Infirmary.

All of the Lansing addresses, including the 426 W. Michigan one on the postcard, are in the same general area just north and west of the State Capitol building. For 3 ½ years in the late 60’s, I lived at 1101 Seymour, nine blocks north of the old Roosevelt Hotel. If I get to Lansing this spring, I want to see if any of the old rooming houses where he lived are still there.

What he was doing in Los Angeles is still a mystery. He does not appear in any 1930 census index. Since the enumeration started on 1 April, he may well have been traveling at the time. The two witnesses to the deed of sale in Los Angeles were an attorney and his secretary. I found both of them and there seems to be nothing that suggests anything other than the fact that he had the attorney handle the transaction. I tracked the attorney through a couple of census years looking for a family or geographic relationship of some kind and found nothing.

Right now I have started the long slow process of reading through the 1930-1940 microfilms of The Emmet County Graphic" scanning for news items about Wright. Only 8 ½ years to go!

From: Lowell
Date: April 14, 2004


Here is what I’ve found on Albert Heath.

He and wife Edith were listed as residents of West Traverse Twp., household 63, page 3-A, in the 1930 Census.

A brief notice in the Petoskey News-Review, Monday, 21 Dec 1953, states that he died Sunday in Chicago (DoD 20 Dec 1953)

An obituary published on 22 Dec 1953, says that the body will arrive Wednesday for a committal service and he will be buried next to his wife. Came to Harbor Springs as a summer visitor with his parents. Owner and proprietor of one of the largest collections of Indian relics and regalia in this country and he furnished the eagle feathers for the cinema ‘Whoop-ee’. (Eddie Cantor – 1930)

The obituary for Edith, 13 Mar 1947 noted among others, that she had a brother, Dr. William S. Beyers, of Los Angeles. Also that she came to Harbor Springs "about 25 years ago." Among her pall-bearers was Fred Ettawageshik, a leading Indian of the area. His son is an artist and the present head of the Little Traverse Bay Band.

Albert’s father, Charles A. Heath was the head of the Albert Dickinson Seed Co. of Chicago and a poet. He also seems to have been interested in history. I found the following citation in an article on T. Roosevelt; Charles A. Heath, A Trial of Trail: From Cody to the Yellowstone. (Chicago: Franklin Press, 1905)

Pure speculation so far but we have the following;

Albert Heath, visitor and later resident in the Harbor Springs area, collector of Indian "relics", father interested in American history and an amateur poet. Wife Edith has doctor brother in Los "Angeles. Albert supplies some feather props for 1930 movie.

I’m wondering if John didn’t go to Los Angeles with the idea of promoting his works to the movie-makers or in hopes of writing for them or possibly working as a consultant. I have seen mention of him coming up from Lansing or Alma during the tourist season to hawk his books. As I mentioned before, he does seem to have worked promoting his books. It wouldn’t be out of character for him to try to use his connections with the Heaths.

This obviously needs more thought but I think I now have a lead on his trip to Los Angeles.


From: Dave

Wow! You work fast! I agree with your hunch about Wright's 1930 trip to Los Angeles. Self-promotion is an absolute requirement for most writers. There is an old line that purportedly quotes a publisher as saying "If I wanted to promote it myself I would steal your story. Royalties are paid on the work you have yet to do."

Hollywood was booming as a bungalow resort community when the first motion picture company (Nestor Pictures) arrived in 1911. All through the "silent" era good writers found refuge among the rich and not-famous that owned the bungalows, and a few like Zane Grey broke through the barrier into big movie royalties.

It was, however, a very fickle environment. Old Butch Cassidy himself had a friend pitch his "property" (story line manuscript) to the studios in early 1935..........but got told it was not credible enough for the highly popular "oaters". Yet the biggest "B" movie of 1934 was a Kansas City telegraph office clerk named Gene Autry who did a movie about an invasion of space aliens being driven away by cowboys who liked to stop every so often and sing corny songs in close harmony. Go figure!



From: Lowell
Date: April 14, 2004

Hi Jeanne,

I’ve been corresponding with Dave Fredrick for some time now regarding some of the ancestors of John C. Wright. Dave alerted me to your posting on the Rootsweb site and has forwarded an image of the inscription in your copy of "The Great Myth".

If you are interested, I can send you a PDF file copy of some of the information I have on John. I also have a few scans of photos of him that appeared in some of his books and in newspapers.

Dave’s web site has information On John and his ancestors. I provided some of the material on John and we have been sharing information on the ancestors.

Briefly, John was born in Harbor Springs in 1874 and lived and worked there until some time in 1922, about two years after his mother’s death. He moved to Lansing and lived there through most of the 1920’s. In the late fall of 1930 he was in Los Angeles when he sold the last of the lots he owned in Middle Village, Emmet Co., Michigan. In the early 1930’s he worked for the publisher of ‘The Alma Record", who had previously published "The Emmet County Graphic" in Harbor Springs.

As his health deteriorated, John eventually entered the Gratiot County Infirmary, where he remained from late 1937 until March 1939. He left the infirmary only to return in May 1939 where he died a week later. He was buried in what some called a pauper’s grave. A year later, friends raised the funds to have a vault built, one of only two, in Lakeview Cemetery in Harbor Springs and he was reburied with full ceremonies in his home town. A plaque on the vault reads " John C. Wright, 1874-1939, Michigan’s Indian Poet."

My work on John and his family is in a "work-in-progress" stage, but I would be glad to share information if you are interested.


p.s. We haven't been able to work on this for awhile since the second floor project is going gangbusters, but Lowell has put us in touch with a historical museum in Michigan who we would like to donate the book to. It is an important piece of history to them and therefore, to us. More on that later. We may even be able to get out from under this work schedule and visit up there later in the summer. Which would be incredible.

This has truly been one of the side benefits of the house. Getting to know these wonderful people.

June 9, 2004

Random Access What on Earth

Category: What on Earth!?

Because we have NO time today, I'm just putting together a random series of "What on EARTH?" objects for your viewing pleasure. It's kind of like, um, a reality blog. This is how WE find this no particular order.

So, you can block AND tackle.

Back when men were men who wore tights and smart little matching a manly manner...on book jackets.

And back when you really could run out of gas while on a date. No cell phones either!

Mmmmm. MEAT from the 1934 World's Fair....

And COOKIES!!! COOKIES!!! COOKIES!!! (okay, I have a soft spot in my heart for this little can. It's shinier than anything in our whole house right now. And it makes me sad that it was still in the box and that no one has ever stolen anything out of it.)

June 17, 2004

Where on Earth could you listen to this?

Category: What on Earth!?

Inspired by a kind note I received from a professor at the University of Chicago, I was inspired by an insomnia-fueled episode to explore the "world music" part of the record collection a little more closely.

I can't document all of them here and many of the oldest are 78 rpm in paper jackets...not interesting to photograph over and over. But some visually interesting selections did pop up.

Yma Sumac was the Peruvian sensation of the early 1950's...a mysterious figure with "a panther and a cardinal in her throat." There is more than one site on the Internet that pays tribute to her. And that's pretty fascinating to me.

"Son et Lumiere" is described as an "anthropological audio project with music and voice that took place in the areas of the pyramids, the Sphinx and the Citadel of Salah el Din and lasted six months. Undertaken by the world experts of Son et Lumiere, a large number of Arab and foreign archeologists collaborated in choosing the historical materials that "are for the first time to be heard on the the most ancient of archaeological sites."

There is also a "Son et Lumiere" theatre at Gizah where the Greatful Dead performed in 1978.

The jacket explains that "the music was composed by Mr. Georges Delerue. Two musical themes, added by Mr Halim el Dabe, infuse the whole with a truly pharotic tinge."

Gregorian Chants of Easter Music by the Benedictine Monks of the Abbey of St. Maurice and St. Maur, Clervaux, Luxembourg.

Kimio Eto seems fascinating. The album cover art is beautiful to me.

Antarctica was a trip that the parents of the previous owner took later in their life. Folks at the neighborhood church remember hearing about this trip firsthand. This was recorded in 1971 and has never been opened or played.

I love the artwork of this album. Lilacs out of the Dead Land is from Manos Hadjidakis--a recording of traditional Greek music.

Imperial Record's, Vladimir Niedzielski & Russian Balalaika Orchestra, with Russian Sher No. 2 and 3 as well as Korobushka.

Victor Records, Milan Verni Victor and Tamburica Orchestra, with Croatian-Serbian music, Ja Sam Sirota-Valcer (I am an Orphan) and Adio Mare (Goodbye Sea).

Finally, I found this strange "marketing" recording...

A “small” 33 1/3 record distributed by Jack Lenor Larson in New York to accompany a new line of fabrics inspired by Africa. This is a collection of selections from indigineous African music (with an introduction by Mr. Larson.)

There are lots more...Israeli folk, Jugoslav Circle Dances, German, Italian, French, Irish, Scandanavian, Italy, Japanese, Bolivian, Eastern European Polkas and Canadian Square Dancing.

Although we have an old Victrola in here, we don't dare play the records on it. We are afraid of its heavy steel needles. So we will have to wait a bit until we can locate a nice, old stereo so we can dance to Jussi Boerling.

June 20, 2004

Junior Birdmen, UNITE!

Category: What on Earth!?

We are still messing with the walls of the bedrooms on the second floor.

Stuff falls out of them. Generally, this is stuff you don't want to keep. petrified raccoon party favors which made it from the attic into the walls (courtesy of balloon framing!) And lots of sawdust from the Balsa Wood insulation. And broken plaster keys.

And then we find things like this...(Click to enlarge)

In the wall between the built-in and the plaster, we found:

-A cast metal sword, about 7 inches long
-A small leather change purse (empty)
-A Membership Card to the Junior Birdmen of America!!!

This membership card is the most exciting part. It reads:

Junior Birdmen of America
Membership Card

Eugene Palm
is a member of the Chicago Herald Examiner Wing
and is entitled to all privileges

No. 15504

Signed: George Hearst
National Committee

What was a Junior Birdman? I have no idea. But they had a SONG! And a special identification SIGN (scroll down after you click...!

WOW! A Junior Birdman lived in THIS VERY HOUSE! That is absolutely historic!

Especially since we know that the Palm's rented from the previous owners twice, during the 1930's and left in 1941. The membership card would have had to have been left here between 1931 and 1939. (When the Chicago Herald Examiner coincided with the existance of the Jr. Birdmen)

After much oo'ing and ah'ing is was back to work.

Look Ma! No walls!

p.s. I know. I am already crying about losing our plaster. It has been the saddest, saddest thing ever. We went back and forth on please don't send us notes that say, "but what you could have done was..." We consulted so many old house lovers on this one. It came down to moldy wooden lathe due to years of uncorrected water damage and other issues that would have created an enormous expense. We aren't using drywall though! So don't hate us. We are going with blueboard and a plaster skim coat. More about that in an upcoming issue. And we are going to try to save the plaster on the first floor.

p.s.s. I think this would be SO especially cool if we could find Eugene Palm, son of Ehrenfrid and Anna Palm. Gotta keep at it.

July 1, 2004

You get to guess it! (What on Earth?)

Category: What on Earth!?

Okay. What is it?

(Click on the image to make it larger)

More images...

I think it was Beth who, last weekend, asked me, "How have you had the patience to look at all of this stuff?"

We were talking about the option to dig through the stuff in the house versus pitching it all in a big dumpster Day One.

I answered as truthfully as I could. It hasn't been patience. It has been denial.

Last summer, cooped up in a small 10 x 12 room with a window A/C unit and hiding from 90 degree heat, I had two choices:

1) Think about the holes in the walls and ceilings all around us.


2) Focus on one piece of glass, one postcard or one thing-a-ma-jig at a time.

The choice was clear. "Wow! Look at this tiny, tiny little mark on the bottom of this glass. Hmmm...."

I'm sure everyone who ever took a psychology class in school will see a lot in this story. Let the head shrinking begin!

July 8, 2004

Traveling History Mysteries

Category: What on Earth!?

When I was younger, I loved to travel (still do...but it will be awhile before I sling on my backpack again.) China, Costa Rica, St. Lucia, Germany, Austria, France, Canada, UK, Switzerland, Italy. All magical, all memorable. No tours! Just a backpack, a guidebook, tiny bits of money and willingness to make friends with my fears.

To talk to ONLY natives to the country. To travel 2nd or 3rd class on the trains. (Except for China, we needed a BIG bed for Aaron. And it was still a couple of inches short.)

So when I found so many travel books in the house published in the early part of the 20th century, I was THRILLED. Especially over the photos.

"Italy without Sicily leaves no image in the soul--Sicily is the key to all." Goethe

This book, Picturesque Sicily, was written by William Agnew Paton and published in 1898. I couldn't find much about Paton online, apart from this account of his meeting President Lincoln. (You'll have to scroll down.) But it gives you a sense of Paton's era and why these travel books with photographs are so very fascinating. The first mass-marketed camera, the Brownie, wasn't introduced until 1900. So Paton's photographs are not the offhand photos of a casual traveler. I don't know if they were complex to set up and shoot.

Il Foro Italico. Palermo. Monte Pellegrino. (Links of 1989 photos via René Seindal Photo Website)

Around the World in 1000 Pictures is a different kind of book. Use of the camera was more common by the 1950's and the book displays like an extended retro travel brochure than a frank look into the spaces of the past. I cannot make out the inscription in the front of the book...any ideas?

(Double-click any picture to make it larger)

The most interesting pictures to me were taken of the places that have changed because of political issues or aggressive "progress." As interesting as what is included are the countries NOT included...such as the continental U.S. (as the audience for the book was in the U.S.--I suppose knowledge of such was assumed), China, much of the Middle East, and so forth.

Photos of Cuba...right before the Revolution.

And then there is this little mysterious tome. I always thought that steamship travel was steeped in an air of mystery and drama. Obviously, someone else thought so too...and was probably around to take advantage of it.


July 16, 2004

Card found behind wall

Category: What on Earth!?

When I was pulling trim to repair a few second floor walls, I was gently easing the trim away from the old lathe and *POP*!

Out fell this card from behind the trim.

(Click on the picture to make it larger)

It looks completely unfamiliar. It is the size of a small "Mass Card"...the kind I used to collect as a child. There is nothing on the other side and no signature of any kind.

I don't recognize the scene or the style. A woman and a girl with a pitcher (?) between them. Perhaps Dutch? Perhaps English?

I don't know what this is.

July 25, 2004

More House Archaeology

Category: What on Earth!?

Every evening, we come home to this light in the front hallway:

We have researched it and have determined that it is from the Atomic Age circa late 1950's. It is the original of the copy offered by Rejuvination Hardware called "Cove."

We're fond of it but it doesn't fit this 1914 Craftsman bungalow at ALL. So, it must go. Into the Estate Sale it goes. Sigh.

Ah well. With three cars (one of which needs to be sold to pay for the one other) and a large bill rolling in for the supplies on the second floor (not to mention the new $670+ low water warning system for the boiler)....

House rich, cash poor. Isn't that what they say?

July 31, 2004

More "What on Earth?"

Category: What on Earth!?

We are still cleaning out portions of the basement and the attic which we have never seen.

Don't laugh! You can't imagine the amount of things we still need to go through. So the alley folk are loving us yet again for the amount of of "things" making it out to the trash.

Doesn't everyone have a 50's Chevy Nova bike rack / collapsible pet cage from the '40's (with red painted wooden handle) / stacks of WWII mosquito netting / a box of picture frames from the 70's / miscellaneous plywood pieces / a vintage rack for golf clubs, golf balls and divots / burnt camp out cookware / a homemade grill with lava rocks / an old lock / 3 canvas sacks / a small homemade set of shelves / old campfire starting wool / among other odds and ends?

Among some of the more interesting treasures?

This mosquito net hood that is kind of like a beekeeper's hood. Or something. I have no idea what it was used for.

This is a children's side oxygenator. Full kit, ephemera and various propoganda pieces included.

And then there is a the 1950's car screen for mosquitos'. In the pre-Air Conditioning days, you had to keep the car windows open. And if the car windows are open, there will be bugs. And that's where these handy things came in handy:

One unwrapped, and one not wrapped. (The frame draws the netting tight.)

August 8, 2004

Rocks...older than dirt

Category: What on Earth!?

I don't think people believed us when we said we found a lot of rocks in the house. Some of them were just rocks....bags of sand. Paper bags of gravel. We imagine that they were for gardening. They were in drawers and in cabinets, in closets and the kitchen and the basement.

And then there were fancy rocks. Like these:

So when I picked up this old copy of "The Reader" (Chicago's free news), I was surprised to read about rocks like ours. Or, rocks that were here in the house anyway.

The Vanishing Mother Lode of Mazon Creek

And the photos of the fossils in the article looked mighty familiar. Turns out that fossil hunting in Illinois has always been big and that folks used to grab rocks that looked promising, leave them in their backyard and hope that they split in two revealing a fossil inside. Which explains the split rocks inside and outside of the house.

So, I guess one man's rock is another man's, um...let's see. Fossil treasure? Gem?

Some of the fossils had these fern and stem fossils from Coal City, Illinois...April, 1957.

The fossils below I recognize...they used to be sand dollars!

This house can reveal itself as half junk pile and half side show. Which makes you appreciate just a simple cup of tea...and definitely scares you away from garage sales and flea markets!

p.s. Have to give a shout out to blogging pal, Tully Monster, in this entry. :)

August 15, 2004

Self Help Retrospective

Category: What on Earth!?

I am slowly pushing my way (each sleepless night) through the books left behind in the house.

I have put together a collection for our counselor pal, Beth (who we met through Lisa & Chris...thanks guys!) because these selections seem...

Valuable? Hmmm. No, that's not quite it.

Absurd and will make her laugh? Yes! Yes! That's it!

I DARE YOU to push the very boundaries of yourself with this collection. :) Especially since the publisher has gone through the expense of creating this super cool, raised leather cover.

Privately printed--shocking, I know--in 1971 by William H. Danforth, the Founder of the Ralston Purina company who DARES YOU! to STAND TALL! LIVE TALL! THINK TALL! and, um SMILE TALL! (I was tracking with him until this last sentiment. If you are not physically tall, can you "smile tall"? If you were short but could "smile tall", would this look very freakish?)


Have you ever thought to yourself: Why DO we behave like human beings? When I was little, I wanted to be a horse. And my sister wanted to be a dolphin. I think that the dolphins may behave a little better than we do. So, why humans? If you were wondering, this book explains it.

Until George A Dorsey published this book in 1925, a whole WORLD waited to know the answer to this question. Especially his parents to whom the book is dedicated. Parents who kept daring to ask the question in his formative years, with more than a hint of exasperation, "George! Why can't you just behave like a human being??!!"

So George went to the University of Chicago, figured it all out, and became a curator at the Field Museum of Natural History. Way to go George!

With more than a touch of drama, Alfred A. Hutschnecker (his real name!), and in his excitement at accepting the human being Dorsey encouraged him to be, explored Human Nature's emotions of LOVE and HATE in his book published in 1955...

...the follow-up work to his book, "The Will To Live", which was lauded by Professors of Medicine, Surgeons, General Practitioners, Psychiatrists and...Gynecologists (?) everywhere.

Before you can get "The Will to Live", you have to pass through "Mastering Fear" because Bradley comes before Hutschnecker (his real name!) in the alphabet and 1935 came before 1955.

I believe that I HAVE Mastered FEAR. I have FEAR down to a science. I can summon up FEAR more quickly than anyone I know.

Is that lead paint? Do we have CO2 in our basement? WHAT IS THAT NOISE!!???

Stop! Stop with the compliments already. It's a gift, really.

It goes without saying that you could only benefit from ANY of these had your MIND been ALIVE! (Though I know certain college graduates who have become CEO's and...ahem...high ranking political leaders without meeting this specific requirement.)


Once ALIVE!, you were only 5 Minutes To Happiness in Maxwell Maltz's 1962 America. And any celebrated plastic surgeon turned author who uses psycho-cybernetics KNOWS what he is talking about, my friend!


With a little Creative Aggression thrown in, you were a regular self help Michelangelo! (Or, the very least, a self help Van Gogh.)

Love the photo on the cover of this book. The back states--in large type--NICE GUYS WRECK LIVES! Um, yeah! Right on! Actually, I think that this would make a good band name.

Alternative titles that didn't make the grade: "Imaginative Hostility," "Decorative Violence" and "Fecund Hell Raising."

Finally, the essential book for anyone attempting to change their house. TM*. I don't know what it is, but if it can really deliver on the promise to "discover inner energy and overcome stress", count me in.

Though that is what I usually use blogging for.

August 19, 2004

Okay, so I need sleep

Category: What on Earth!?

The lovely folks at Northwestern Memorial Hospital Sleep Disorders Center (thanks Julie!) were ever so kind to place little sensors all over me a few nights ago and then encourage me to sleep.

As if I can ever sleep. Ha!

But I have to say. Even with the sensors and wires and stuff attached to my face and in my hair, in the strange room, and even with an intercom and a camera trained on me? I slept. Because...hey folks...the room was CLEAN! And the walls didn't have holes! What is NOT to love about that?

So, I am feeling a bit loopy. I'm posting at random. I cannot be held responsible...until you let me have it tomorrow. Oh well-sy!

I don't know what ANY of this is...

Oh wait! Oh wait! I know THIS one! Penguin parents kvetching at their penguin kids! Am I right? I think I'm right.

Should we be frightened of something called a "Yogurt Maker" that comes with its own recipe book? Or is this a good thing? I absolutely have no idea.


Right, then. Moving along...

Oh..c'mon! Ponies and babies! Everybody loves ponies and babies!!!

And everyone's gonna love THIS!

Whatever this is...

Okay, this next one is much MUCH easier to identify...

Okay, here's another one! And a bunch more! And I'm going to sl-e-e-ep...

You thought I was kidding? What are you still doing here? I need to sleep. I'm going now.

Good night.

(pssst...turn the page before you go, 'kay? Thanks.)

August 24, 2004

Give us a clue...PLEASE!

Category: What on Earth!?

We have no idea what this is. It fell out of the basement ceiling (it was above the plaster.)

He looks kind of "tramp art"...meets the Far East. But with holes in his head??

We are stumped!!! Any ideas?

August 31, 2004

Is it art? Or what?

Category: What on Earth!?

Art from the attic? A blue-eyed rooster?

Cross stitch looks more familiar...

And then, from the other side of the world...

Coming back home again to pick up a diploma in Northern Indiana! (And putting it in a super nice frame!)

One thing I'm curious about, however. Where is this place? In this picture?

September 10, 2004

Say Cheese!

Category: What on Earth!?

This old photography brochure was very educational...I loved it! It was for the old Polaroid Land camera.

(If you click on the photos, they get larger.)

Watch out for that lobster, Sparky!! Oh, that wacky dog.

"Breaking the Ice" using a Polaroid Land Camera. Among the Thumb Head People of Thumbnisia.

"Gosh Mary Jane! You're prettier than that! Let me retake this very expensive in 195-whatever photo and also risk getting more sand in my camera."

October 5, 2004

Sing a Little Tune

Category: What on Earth!?

(Psst! Don't forget to vote in our "worst house project" contest! It's more fun than a barrel full of pundits!!!)

I am SO COLD! It is freezing in Chicago. September got away from us because of work and put us behind schedule. So, that insulation in the attic? Those stripped and repainted storm windows? The weather stripping?

Um. Those aren't done.

So, we freeze. And as we freeze, we sing to stay warm. Right? Oh sure. We're dunderheads that way.

We start off with "Whispering" because we are afraid to open our mouths too wide. Teeth will freeze.

We strike up a rousing rendition of "On the Road to Mandalay" because that sounds warmer than where we are now.

Moving on to sheet music where the people look warm because they are huddling together...

Like here, in "The Moon Got in My Eyes." (We are not, however, going to sing THIS, because it is too cold. Two, because it is too weird.)

Or on the cover of "The Moon of Manakoora." Dorothy Lamour always looks warm.

We would like to curl up by the radiator and "Let the Rest of the World Go By." But that is not likely to happen. :(

So "Where Do We Go From Here?" Into the trunks to look for the heavy blankets. It's going to be a long week.

p.s. This last piece of sheet music is kind of a mystery. It is from the Girl Scouts of America and I can't find any definitive reference to it online. Anyone know the story behind this one?

October 11, 2004


Category: What on Earth!?

I am tired from today's frantic scrambling towards winter-proofing the house before the temperature takes a permanent nose dive.

So. Here is some stuff.

Calamity Jane was a raccoon AND a cowgirl. And a musical. (I was wardrobe mistress for that musical in 7th grade, I think.) Also...a movie.

Whitefish Bay Resort was near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The resort pictured here on the cup was built by Captain Frederick Pabst (of beer fame) in 1889 and it was a popular lakeside travel destination until 1914 (the year our house was built...hopefully, no connection.) It closed in 1915 and was redivided up into multiple residential lots. So, Whitefish Bay Resort is no more. (But the Bed & Breakfast is still across the street.)

Our friend Paul's daughter laid claim to this Boy Scout treasure pretty early. Its vintage look is just the thing for an oversize purse.

Ahhh. Lil' Buttercup. Gilbert & Sullivan Pictur-tone Record recorded by The Merry Singers :)

And what winterizing project would be complete without digging these out and shining 'em up?

Can you guess what they are?

October 18, 2004

Oh, it's always about the stuff

Category: What on Earth!?

Enjoy this collection of very, very random things.

Like this tourist guide to the Tokyo Olympics in 1940 which were NEVER HELD!!! A very strange relic indeed. (Click to make any image larger.)

John Marshall Law School Quarterly circa 1941 (we entered into WWII close behind...)

An embroidered pillowcase...

A painted "Farmhouse" plate...from Sterling Vitrified China in East Liverpool, Ohio. Most restaurant ware was meant to advertise the specific restaurant it was from...but I can't figure this one out...can you? The backstamp says "A-4".

A "Hollywood" film splicer (the good kind...the kind you have to use on a physical piece of FILM!)

Tiki Salad Bowl Servers...

And a map of the Suez Canal.

I can't always explain the museum...I just live in it and dust it.

October 24, 2004

Spin It Right Round...

Category: What on Earth!?

Ever since The Evangelist posted some great track leads during HIS adventures with insomnia, I've been jonesing for some new music to strip paint by...

Here are some of the vinyl tracks that we discovered within our first few days of being in the house. Actually, there is more vinyl in here than a thousand 1970's jackets from the Rusty Zipper.

I can't wait to find a record player in this house so I can hear some of these...especially the classical tracks.

Madama Butterfly... Franck Symphony in D Minor... Verdi's La Traviata... Debussy... Tschaikovsky... Franz List... AND Peter Churchmouse... AND Jesus Christ Superstar...

Carmen... Rigoletto... Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C Minor... AND Christmas Hymns and Carols...

Hours and hours of gorgeous Pablo Casals and all of the Beethoven Sonatas courtesy of Artur Schnabel...

Cole Porter... Bing Crosby... The Original Cast Album of Oklahoma... Walt Disney's Tales of Uncle Remus... and Uncle Don's Playland.

Uncle Don's PLAYLAND???!!! What is there not to love?

p.s. Actually, I'm curious. Who is Uncle Don?

November 5, 2004

Children's Book Illustrators

Category: What on Earth!?

If you're a regular reader, you already know that I am fascinated with books. I don't just like them. I don't just read them. I CONSUME THEM.

Because my memory is very poor, I can read them more than once and be content.

I really like children's book illustrators. Especially in some of the vintage books in here. They have this sense of style that is so...I don't know. Not being an illustrator, I can't describe it.

(Click on any photo to make it larger...)

I've been trying to decipher the signatures on some of these illustrations from our late 1800's edition of "Mother Goose."

E. Stuart Hardy, an illustrator from London, did this one below.

Can you recite the nursery rhymes that go with these drawings? How well do you know your Mother Goose? :)

p.s. No cheating by using the Internet!

November 11, 2004 find.

Category: What on Earth!?

Yes, we are still finding things in here.

What on earth do we do with a very old SnoFog fire extinguisher? (Dig that crazy label.) Any ideas out there? We're wide open to ideas here...

November 23, 2004

Wizard Cam?

Category: What on Earth!?

We found this camera in the house last spring (and its case). Funny, it's a camera that has a very visible a role in the second Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Harry's friend, Colin Creevy, uses it in several scenes when he is "playing journalist." It's an Argus C3 Matchmatic 35mm camera! This camera saves Colin's life, when he glimpsed the Basilisk through its lens instead of with his eyes.

(Photo courtesy of The Leaky Cauldron)

We even have the funky flash! Or, we did have this. The "Harry Potter Camera" is now in its happy new home with our neighbors, the Chicago Art Teachers.

I really like Harry Potter. My nephew, JC, turned me on to the books and I think that they are awesome. He's always updating me when there is a new movie or book coming out. Thanks, J!

If any Basiliks try to take over our street? These muggles are SO READY for them.

December 4, 2004

First Night Stuff

Category: What on Earth!?

Wow. I ran across a group of somewhat blurry pictures of random things that were on top of the piles the first night we took possession of the house. It's a bizarre collection. I can't explain all of these things.

You can click on any one of these to make it larger.

Who was the public relations rocket scientist who came up with "Have a Great...Chicago"???? Granted, it was the 70's. The decade that also spawned "Ancient Chinese secret, huh?" and "Rosie and the Quicker Picker Upper"...

Were you a First Day Rider in 1969? Somebody was.

This is Hoduri the Tiger from the Seoul Olympic Games...

But there was this lovely lady lamp floating through the piles...

December 19, 2004

We don't know JACK!

Category: What on Earth!?

No, really. We DON'T know Jack.

We're dying to know! Who is the illustrator who created these funny cards? They are done by hand and seem to be markers for something because the name of the person shown in each picture is on the reverse side of their card.

Here are some more:

This last one belongs to a gentleman named Robert.

Do you know Jack? Have you seen him around? Please...tell us!

December 31, 2004

Old Photos...A Reunion Story

Category: What on Earth!?

Everyone seems to be doing lists and recaps today...internet, TV, radio, print media. "What happened this year?" "Top 100 _insert your adjective and noun here__."

I'd like to close this year with something that made me pause with wonder and emotion last week. It is a story that began with a valentine. From 1888.

This is a valentine that we had found in the house. I pored over census lists and message boards to uncover clues about its mysterious owner. And then, something that made me hold my breath. A possible relative. An email address. A connection.

Out of respect for her privacy, I won't disclose any of her information. But after she answered a few (probably confusing) emails from me, I was 99% positive that this woman was related to Annie. I wanted to make sure that Annie's valentine was returned to someone who Annie also loved.

She gave me the town and address that Annie had moved to after she left Ash Grove. It turns out that I lived 10 minutes from Annie's old house for a number of years.

On a whim, I scanned and shared some other old photos I had found here as well. There was Annie.

Before I could scan more photos and determine which prints showed Annie's kin, I became sick and was struggling with my health and the house. The Annie Project rested on my desk for weeks.

Right before Christmas, I was determined to send Annie back. The house was torn apart, but I dug up an intact box. On December 19th I didn't have a lot of time to get the package to its destination. I sorted through the other photos, looking for Annie's face or other prints from the same photography studio. I was able to pack up a handful and ship them off.

On December 23rd, I received a touching note (here is an excerpt):

I opened the box and there, on top, was a picture of my grandfather! Then down a way, there was one of my Dad that I'd never seen.

I cried. Sending these photos back was as much of a gift for me as it was for her.

The pictures I have of my grandparents and other relatives are so important to me. I love to look at them and search for connections to the faces of my sisters, my niece, my nephew. Whose eyes? Whose hair? Who made the choices that placed me where I am today?

And then, on Christmas Day, Aaron's Aunt Marvel (who IS a marvel :) handed me a gift.

It was a photograph album. Aaron as a little boy. Aaron's family--his mother, his grandparents, his great grandparents. It was one of the most special things anyone could ever have given to me. I have a wonderful family, and I've gained a wonderful family. Few things could touch my heart more than the trust that they have placed in me with these precious photos.

I felt like Annie was paying me back for sending her home.

January 5, 2005

Miniature What On Earth

Category: What on Earth!?

We were working on the laundry chute and found this between the floor of the "back attic" and the ceiling of the first floor.

It is a tiny, perfect clothespin for a doll's dress.

When you hold it, it makes you want to whittle nine more just like it. If only to amaze a little girl.

Except, oh. I don't know how many little girls would still know what a clothspin is. Which is sad, really, because playing hide-and-seek between hanging sheets on laundry day is an experience that few have anymore , isn't it?

I think when it is sunny and warm again, I will try to hang my sheets to dry on the line like I did last summer. I'm sure I raised a few eyebrows in the neighborhood, but the sheets smelled fresh from the sun. So I'll take my chances.

January 11, 2005

Ephemera and other mysterious items from the attic

Category: What on Earth!?

Unpacking boxes still untouched in the attic, I feel bounced around the world and decades like the Super Ball I found in the backyard. It's dizzying and overwhelming. Except for being left behind in the house together, these items don't seem related to each other...

Like this issue of VOKS from Russia...the All-Union Society of Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries. I don't know much about this organization or the connection with the house. In the timeline of things, this could be Stalin & Trotsky or Stalin & Krushchev. Either of these name combinations sounds like a maker of fine Russian leather the case of the latter, shoes would certainly be appropriate.

Cathedral Church of Canterbury...Chaucer and Beckett and the Wife of Bath...oh my.

Paper of the Main Communications of Italy? A map.

Old Coin Exhibitions...I believe that this one was from 1956 and involved members of the Chicago Coin Club...

Perugia in Italy...oh, for a villa right now!

And the mysterious "White House" trinket box...where was this produced? And for what event?


p.s. Alice at ThatRabbitGirl posted about a delightful site called "Ephemera Now"...very fun stuff. We've said it before...we love librarians.

January 16, 2005

My "What on Earth?" Drawer

Category: What on Earth!?

We didn't find many pieces of furniture in the house. I did save an old bureau which has a very special drawer.

I call it my "What on Earth?" drawer.

This drawer tends to collect the smaller things we come across when working on the house. Things that fall out of the ceiling or out of the walls. Things in the bottom of large boxes. Things I want to tuck out of harm's way.

If you opened the drawer, here are some of the eclectic things you'd find.

A group of miscellaneous things, including: a hand-carved folk art rooster, a clay marble, a wooden domino, a metal driving man, a package of Shaeffer's Skrip cartridges, something that looks like a wooden trash can for a doll's house, and a whole lot of glass marbles. (Besides these marbles, we have a whole bag full of Peltier Banana marbles in the basement.)

By way of marriage to Aaron, I have Norwegian relatives now. So I think the most interesting thing in the above collection is the rooster. There was an early folk belief among Norwegians that chicken and geese were connected to fertility. Norwegian folk artists decorated many things with chicken and geese. Heaven knows what a rooster would mean!

Since we are on the subject of carved wood and folk is a beautiful hand-carved foal:

And a funky wood and metal pipe. The pipe stem seems to be made from some kind of real stem.

After some hasty research, I'm thinking that this might be an Austrian or German-style pipe. You can read more about the history of these pipes here (If you don't care for music with your web page, be sure to turn your volume down first! :)

There is plenty more in this drawer...I think this will take up more than one posting!

January 20, 2005

"What On Earth?" Drawer: Take Two

Category: What on Earth!?

More items from the very cluttered "What on Earth?" drawer in my little bureau.

A baby doll with moving arms and legs. I am afraid to scrub her because she seems to be made of a material that is like paper mache only MUCH harder. I don't know how she should be cleaned. So I feel a little sad for her. Maybe because I can relate so well to never feeling clean.

Two American Indian represented by Western cultural stereotypes. (Sorry, I can't help thinking those kinds of things. It's my nature.)

One seems to be extremely suspicious of the other. Or maybe she is thinking, "What is it with the buckskin outfit? With fringe no less??! Where is "What Not to Wear" when I need them!?! Can she even blink? I wonder if she's had a facelift..."

The snarky doll making the critique is dressed in calico and wrapped in a woven blanket. Tres chic.

The Greek Doll looks a little like a 50's diner waitress who has dressed for a costume ball.

Well, that's my opinion anyway, which means very little in the doll world. Man, I think I have been hit in the head with the snarky branch too!

On a more serious note, I was fascinated to find out a little more about the Sonny Boy American Character Doll that we found WAY back in July 2003.

At the time, I knew very little about this doll except that it has "magic skin"...a new experiment for this doll that enabled its skin to react to sunlight. I was told that these dolls didn't last very well after they had been exposed to the sun. Their "skin" would tan and then get saggy.

Well, HELLO! I actually have FOUND an American Character doll who was allowed to tan. If this is not the best ad for sunscreen EVER, I don't know what is.

GAH! Ohmigosh! Anymore time in the sun and he would have knocked the original Bain de Soleil model from the 70's right out of the park!

Sigh. More from the drawer on another day.

January 30, 2005

"What on Earth?" Drawer: Part 3

Category: What on Earth!?

Button, button, who's got the button?

GAH! Okay! Okay! We do. Sheesh.

We also have the key...

...the flick... (Mickey's Mad Dog, 1932)...

...the vintage Field Siren...

...and the snuff box. I think it's a snuff box. It's silver and much too large to be a locket.

February 11, 2005

What on Earth...Is Cooking?

Category: What on Earth!?

The irony of these items found in the house is that I am not the best cook in the world. know. Food! From! The! Fifties! (and even earlier) The forerunner to Poundy's Weight Watchers recipe cards.

First you have to send away for your recipe book. With a postcard that says (and I am quoting)..."Gentlemen: Please send me the big SPRY cookbook containing all those tempting recipes my family will enjoy."

Not "might" enjoy. WILL enjoy. They will be forced to enjoy them. Thank you.

p.s. And click HERE for the full dish on Aunt Jenny, who will flog you with her Spry-i-nator until you are a better cook...

Okay...I used up all of my emotional energy today on the introduction. So here are some more RECIPE BOOKS FROM THE HOUSE...but this is a tiny sample out of, oh, one HUNDRED or so. Yes, that is a lot of cooking that I will not do.

"Rhett, what would you like for dinner tonight?"

"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

Behold...the egg.

Jello. THIS I might actually make.

oh, for the love of Pete...WHAT is THIS THING? This looks like something I tried to cook which came out wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

Actually, I think one of my relatives had this very book.

People who know me will also know that I will never EVER need this book. Ever. My mom tried her hand at canning while we were growing up but she also did macrame (large owls) and decoupage. She was crafty. I am not.

Bonus recipe from Pillsbury's Best 8th Grand National (for those of you who have read this far).

If you make this recipe, PROMISE ME THAT YOU'LL TELL ME HOW IT TASTES!! Because, frankly, you are a heckuva lot braver than I am.

    (by Senior Winner Mrs. A. F. Pulliam, Sullivan, Missouri)

      BUTTER.......6 slices day-old bread

      SPREAD......each slice with 1 Tbsp. small-curd cottage cheese, then 1 Tbsp. sweetened applesauce

      SPRINKLE...1 Tbsp brown sugar over each slice. Top each slice with an additional slice of buttered bread, sandwich style. Cut sandwiches into quarters.

      SIFT.......... 1 3/4 cups sifted Pillsbury's Best Flour with 1 1/2 tsp of baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt, together, into mixing bowl.

      ADD...........3 unbeaten egg yolks, 1 1/2 cups milk and 3 Tbsp melted butter. Beat only until blended.

      BEAT..........3 egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold into batter.

      DIP............sandwiches into batter, coating completely.

      FRY............(yes, that says "FRY") in skillet in 3/4 of an inch of hot Crisco (or SPRY!) until golden brown (about 2 minutes on each side). Turn only once. Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar. Top with tart jelly, if desired.

I can't completely get past cottage cheese plus apple sauce, but if you can, GO FOR IT!

March 2, 2005


Category: What on Earth!?

More sheet music...these are older photos we took but never posted. Some of these will look very nice framed.

Serenade from the ballet "Les Millions d'Arlequin" by Riccardo Drigo, circa 1911. Mikhail Baryshnikov danced a pas de deux to this piece with Cheryl Yeager in 1982.

Wabash Blues as performed by Isham Jones and his Famous Orchestra. The Wabash flows past Purdue University (where jm got her undergraduate degree). Isham Jones moved to Chicago in 1915 (a year after our house was built) and led the Isham Jones Orchestra at the Green Mill (a favorite hangout of ours!)

All By Myself by Irving Berlin.

Don't Sit Under the Appletree...sold by the Jess Dowiers Music Shoppe on Church Street (perhaps in Evanston?) Frank Masters was the leader of a house band in Chicago. He and Isham Jones both played at the College Inn located within the Sherman Hotel, a famous jazz age nightclub in Chicago. (How cool is that?) Sadly, the Sherman Hotel was taken down and replaced by the State of Illinois Center at the corner of Randolph and LaSalle. Replacing your Driver's License is less fun than listening to cool jazz.

Neapolitan Memories is a collection of songs in English and Italian which includes Santa Lucia (the melody of Santa Lucia is the tune for the Swedish Christmas song--Ray Charles did choral writing on the Italian version of the song which was recorded by Perry Como). Teodoro Cottrau, an Italian composer who lived in the mid-1800's, wrote the music.

This is the official march of the John Marshall Law School. By Queenie Secord. Which is quite a name. Unfortunately, I can't find this song on iTunes and my piano skills have hopelessly deteriorated. So I can't tell you how this one sounds quite yet. But I can tell you that "Primus et Optimus" means "First and Best." Or "Oldest and Best." Something like that.

A Rendezvous With A Dream from the Paramount picture, Poppy (starring W.C. Fields ! With Rochelle Hudson and Richard Cromwell ! And Rochelle was a Secret! Agent! During World War II !)

Okay. It's late. I have a different kind of rendezvous with a dream.

March 13, 2005

Stuff from Nooks and Crannies

Category: What on Earth!?

Again, old photos that I never got around to posting from some of our first days in the house. Odds and ends. Stuff.

Mostly bowls and cups.

I love these Asian bowls (? Teacups?). The designs are so beautiful.

I turn to Gotheborg when I have questions about Asian pottery. A truly amazing collection of information.

Just as beautiful, in a different way, is this hand carved wooden bowl. Its slight imperfections make it more lovely. Its surface is worn by many hands.

April 5, 2005

Sing a Song of Spring

Category: What on Earth!?

After this cold, dark winter....

I will be very happy if it is very warm for May :)

And if I can open the window "Over There" so that a nice warm breeze comes through the screen? That would be lovely too.

The rest of the sheet music? I don't know much about it, unfortunately.

There is music from the Seabees...which begs the question, what are Seabees?

Donald Novis? I know about the Coconut Grove Nightclub, but Novis? Not so much.

I don't much about the Ludwig Drum or Bugle Corps...

Have you got spurs? Do they jingle? Jangle? Jingle? Save 'em, Fred! (Macmurray)

We hear the beat of the Voodoo drum!

Jesse Crawford, organist at the Chicago Theatre, asks, "When Shall We Meet Again?"

Well, probably on my next break from working upstairs. Sigh.

May 2, 2005

Million Dollar Recipe

Category: What on Earth!?

I caught a preview for Million Dollar Recipe over the weekend...and it made me laugh. Especially since we have such an incredibly large collection of vintage Pilllsbury Bake-Off cookbooks and other old cookbooks in here.

I know from talking to a friend who has participated in Pillsbury Bake-Offs that they can be EXTREMELY intense and competitive. Crazy competitive. Aunt Fanny takes her special Crunchy Cranberry Bran Muffins With A Twist VERY seriously when there is one million dollars on the line.

So, in honor, of this special occassion, I'm throwing our collection of Pillsbury Cook-Off books into the Estate Sale shop. We haven't had time to unpack and put anything up for sale since last fall, but these are pretty easy to reach. And momma needs a new footing under the sunroom. Sigh.

And here is a FABULOUS vintage Pillsbury Bake-Off recipe for all of our budding gourmands out there. I think it is safe to assume that, with my cooking skills, that I will never win the Bake-Off. Unless I can figure out a way to bake peanut butter & jelly. That would be excellent!

I could have posted about the Mexicali Meat Pie or the California Veal Casserole, but instead, here is the recipe for...


by Mrs. Peter S. Harlib of CHICAGO, ILLINOIS!

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

Measure out...

1 1/2 c. sifted Pillsbury's Self-Rising Flour


1/2 cup butter or margarine; add gradually
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar, creaming well


1 egg and
1 egg yolk; beat well (reserve white)

Blend in...

1/4 teaspoon French's Vanilla
1/8 teaspoon French's Maple Flavoring (if desired)

Add dry ingredients to moist ingredients gradually; mix thoroughly. (Dough will be soft. Chill, if desired.)

Arrange split pecan halves in groups of three or five on greased baking sheets to resemble the heads and legs of a turtle.

Mold dough into balls; dip bottoms into unbeaten egg white and press lightly onto nuts. Use a rounded teaspoonful of dough for each, so tips of nuts will show when cookie is baked.

Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F) for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool and frost tops generously.


Combine 2 squares (2 oz.) chocolate or 1/3 cup cup semi-sweet chocolate pieces, 1/4 cup milk and 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine in top of double boiler. Heat over boiling water until chocolate melts; blend until smooth. Remove from heat.; add 1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar. Beat until smooth and glossy. If to thin, add additional confectioner's sugar until of desired consistency.


May 4, 2005

Mad Props!

Category: What on Earth!?

This week, on the latest episode of HouseInProgress: The Surreal World...What On Earth Edition, Aaron and Jeannie are contacted by Peter Gelfman, mad props master for such movies as Crossing Delancey, Men in Black, and Curse of the Jade Scorpian.

He wanted something out of the basement for a new movie, Fur, about the life of photographer Diane Arbus and starring Nicole Kidman. The glamerous prop he wanted? This...

...Western Reserve Portable Resuscitator, Oxygen Inhalator and Anesthesia Machine from 1955.

You know, there are days when I pine for an already done, simple condo with clean floors. How I'd like to wave a magic wand and whisk us away from this half done house with things poking out of the walls and floors that never seem entirely clean.

And then there are moments of interesting fun, like this one. Where something from the house might end up in a movie and we were able to be a part of that.

So very odd.

Now. Is anyone making a movie about dying houseplants? How about Attack of the Thousand Leggers? Because we can hook you up.

May 17, 2005

The Last of the Songs in Here...I Think

Category: What on Earth!?

More sheet music. Does it ever end in here? I want to run away to Cali-for-ni-ay.

That would be fantastique.

Or maybe Ireland...that would be nice too.

...just sit and watch the harbour lights...and not think about the windows at all...

...which I've been thinking about night and day...

...but...when the windows are done, they'll let in more sun...

...and I can get out and dig, dig, dig in the garden next.

Slog on!

May 22, 2005

We Really Need to Set Up a 'TrashCam'

Category: What on Earth!?

So all day Saturday we returned to an old theme--cleaning out the stuff that was left behind in the house.

We were proud to make three trips to the local charity resale shop, and they were definitely thrilled to see us. The woman behind the counter commented on how much we had, so I gave her the short answer: "Well, we bought this houses that was full of stuff..." "That sounds great!" she responded. I just said "yeah, it sure is." Some things defy simple explaination.

Beyond donating to charity, we've come to terms that there's some stuff here that just isn't worth the effort. And so, we turn to that magical exchange of free goods in Chicago--the back alley.

Not only is there someone out there to take things off our hands, the process serves up plenty of entertainment too...

Here's just a short sample of the interesting things that happened behind our garage throughout the day:

  • A guy walking his tiny dog was walking by and glancing at the piles when I came out with another box. "That's a lot of stuff," he said. Assuming he thought I'd acquired it all myself, I said it had come with the house and we just didn't have use for it all. Five minutes later I saw him pass by the other way and carry off something he liked.
  • One guy in a truck stopped by and pretty much rummaged through everything. He even took stuff out of the trash cans. At the end he left, taking nothing and putting nothing back in the cans.
  • Our neighbors got a steel work stool and a wooden chair with a seat that needs to be recaned. They're very crafty, so I'm sure they'll go to good use.
  • Another neighbor came out when he saw us, and proceeded to explain how our previous owner would often grab discarded stuff from up and down the alley. I took a mental note of the irony of that fact.

So, all in all a success given that pretty much everything is gone as of this evening. The great weather certainly helped. We always check for rain before we put things out...don't want things to get wet before they're "picked".

I'm just happy that other people find use for this stuff, so that very little of it will actually end up polluting landfills out there somewhere.

May 24, 2005

Donating a Garage Sale to Charity

Category: What on Earth!?

Because a few folks are curious, I'm posting the list of all of the things we just donated to "It's New to Me", it's interesting to record for posterity yet another list of all of the things that were left in here! (At the very least, I want to make sure I'm recording this for folks like Cory Doctorow :)

Why did we decide to donate 6-8 station wagon loads of items instead of having a garage sale? Well, honestly, we don't have the time, energy or space to have a garage sale. In a frenzy of spring cleaning, I decided I needed to begin to reclaim the basement.

"It's New to Me" benefits Swedish Covenant Hospital (SCH) in Chicago. SCH has been around for 120 years and, besides the great care it has offered to many patients over the years, it also assists people in the community with low incomes by providing free or subsidized services while recognizing the need to maintain the dignity of the individual during the consideration process. That is a huge benefit to many people who cannot afford access to quality health care...and the preservation of dignity and compassion is without price.

So, 6-8 carloads later...(on top of the Friends/Family Estate sale, eBay, virtual estate sale, giving things away to family & friends, other donations, leaving things in the alley)...we still have an attic and a garage to go through. But we will have a basement soon! Hurray!

So, if you're local to Chicago and any of these things sound interesting, OR if nothing here sounds interesting but you want to visit a great resale shop which always has fun things, please check out It's New to Me. Fun vintage stuff for sale for a good cause.

(Lest you think I'm a little detail-obsessed, I needed to submit an itemized list with the items anyway. The order is just the "sort" feature in Microsoft Word.)

1 10” carved wooden olive bowl
1 10” high red vintage cookie jar
1 10” wood serving bowl
1 12 x 8 framed vintage floral print
1 1950’s black bakelite desk fountain pen with stand
1 1960 Boyd Dairy Bottle
1 antique pair wire rimmed glasses
1 apron
1 baby bottle figural plant holder
1 Ball jar
1 Bennington Pottery Mug
1 Bicentennial bronze bell
1 Blue & silver vintage brooch – costume jewelry
1 Bociano enamel candy dish
1 bronze altar bell
1 bronze goat bell
1 Butterfly bamboo tray
1 ceramic flower basket pill box
1 ceramic plant dish
1 china bowl – unmarked
1 cotton blouse
1 cradle figurine
1 Cross Pen set
1 cut glass decanter
1 electric dish warmer
1 electric frying pan
1 electric plate warmer
1 embroidered dress bag
1 Evenflo Glass Baby bottle
1 exercise video
1 food strainer
1 German beer stein
1 glass spice rack set
1 gold lame coin purse
1 gold painted serving platter
1 Grayline cup rack
1 hammered aluminum serving/chafing dish
1 Japan Painted Lacquer Box
1 JVC mini-microphone
1 large glass carafe
1 large vintage purse
1 Lefton china Christmas tree
1 McCoy planter
1 Medinah Temple candy dish
1 Metal candy dish
1 pack Linweave Tarot cards
1 package of Duraflash Flashbulbs, circa 1950’s – 1960’s
1 painted porcelain bowl
1 pair vintage children’s medium swim fins
1 palm coolie hat
1 pewter stein
1 picture frame -wood
1 pressed glass footed candy dish
1 pressed glass oil lamp
1 punch bowl/10 cups
1 Rena chafing dish
1 retro 50’s Atomic Age sconce
1 russian brocade wallet silver thread
1 Santa hat
1 set of Muslin sheets, Marshall Field’s, 1950’s, still in packaging
1 silver platter
1 silver-plated card tray
1 silver-plated crumb catcher
1 silver-plated serving tray
1 slide viewer table screen
1 spaghetti lamb figurine in porcelain
1 spun aluminum WestBend Serving oven
1 tin tray
1 VePoAd adding machine
1 vintage Beadcraft outfit kit (scouts)
1 vintage California pottery platter – aqua clamshell – 21” across
1 vintage china teapot
1 vintage Chinese pottery tea set
1 vintage Chinese teacup
1 vintage Christmas tree stand
1 vintage Cub Scout printing press (used)
1 vintage figural laundry shaker
1 vintage Hollywood film splicer
1 vintage Jardinnaire
1 vintage lace potholder
1 vintage pair children’s leather skates
1 vintage pair of adult leather skates
1 vintage Polaroid camera and case
1 vintage silver platter
1 vintage Thread box
1 vintage tin bread box
1 vintage wooden elementary school ruler
1 vintage wooden tennis racket
1 wicker beach bag
1 William Rogers Hostess Set
1 wooden & plastic Chinese abacus
1 wooden palm boat – 21” long
10 vintage skate guards
11 carving knives in wooden block
128 contemporary softcover books
16 vintage softcover books
2 boxfuls of vintage country kitchen items, including 3 Universal meat grinders, andirons, etc.
2 china holly candleholders, signed but unidentified
2 china soufflé dishes
2 decorative tins
2 Elegant-glass cut glass serving platters
2 hammered aluminum plates
2 Indonesian tin masks
2 Kachina Indian root carvings
2 Kholoma Russian painted spoons & 1 eggcup
2 Lefton china Christmas mugs
2 porcelain pheasants
2 pressed glass platters
2 Pyrex glass pie plates
2 raw silk placemats
2 silver plated bud vases
2 small glass carafes
2 small vintage purses
2 spools of carpet thread
2 straw hats
2 tin TV trays
2 videos
2 vintage china cockatoos
2 vintage china plates – unmarked
2 vintage cigarette lighters
2 vintage watches
2 Walt Disney videos
2 wooden recipe boxes
20 silver plated utensils-different marks
3 books on tape
3 Depression glass root beer mugs
3 drinking glasses
3 glass Coca Cola bottles
3 lace doilies
3 Mexican pottery Cuernavaca bells from 1950’s -1960’s
3 Pyrex glass baking dishes
3 small enamel vases from China
4 Corningware bowls
5 Anchor Hocking punch cups
5 vintage ashtrays
60 contemporary hardcover books
67 vintage hardcover books
7 jewelry boxes (wood and leather)
1 Set of Rio Stetson Vintage China:
-1 serving bowl
-8 dinner plates
-8 soup bowls
-Creamer & sugar bowl with lid
-6 coffee cups
-16 dessert and salad plates
Many tiny items too small to mention individually...antique vanity things, tiny penny toys, etc.

137 lawn and silk, embroidered and printed vintage handkerchiefs
1 cotton Judo outfit from Japan
1 knitted vest
1 leather-tooled jewelry box from Mexico
1 linen tablecloth and 4 linen napkins
1 pair of leather lace up shoes
1 pair of rubber ladies shoe protectors
1 snakeskin covered journal
1 wooden footstool
1 wool scarf
11 silk scarves
12 pairs of vintage leather, silk and net gloves
16 vintage hardcover novels
2 feet of black beaded fringe
2 knitted scarf/hoods
2 lambswool scarves
2 large cotton scarves
2 pairs of felt ear warmers
3 pair knitted mittens
3 sets of knitted caps with matching scarves
4 contemporary softcover novels
4 wool tam o’shanters
6 fringed silk and rayon tuxedo scarves
9 contemporary hardcover novels

(These items went to the Salvation Army in Evanston, because It's New to Me wasn't open on Monday, and I needed to empty the wagon:)

1 24” high Peruvian woven basket
1 Atlas Warner Dual 8 Film Editor
1 box of Peruvian Christmas decorations
1 box of vintage camera accessories, lenses and manuals
1 box of vintage plastic Christmas decorations
1 decorative glass bottle (28” high)
1 double chafing dish
1 electric pot
1 figural iron chair
1 filmstrip projector
1 Galiano bottle
1 Galiano figural decanter
1 Haeger flower pot
1 jacket
1 Lenox candy dish
1 set of children’s leather figure skates
1 slide projector
1 tin TV tray
1 vintage purse
2 casserole dishes
2 Corningware casserole dishes
2 film splicing reel-to-reel set-ups
2 pie plates
2 Walkman cassette players
20 volume Time Life set of books
3 decorative tins
3 iron candlesticks
4 antique iron kitchen items – figural nutcracker, wood handled bottle opener, 1 scissor lemon squeezer, 1 lemon press
4 kitchen pans
4 pieces of Pyrex kitchenware
4 softcover contemporary books
5 paper novels
5 wire chafing dish holders
50 hardcover vintage novels
6 brass Victorian tie-backs

May 26, 2005

House, Looking for Owner

Category: What on Earth!?

I have finally been able to reach some of the photographs that we packed away carefully last Fall. In sorting through them, I found this:

It's of someone else's house from June 21, 1909. San Antonio, Texas.

I would love to find a photograph of this house so that we could see how it looked "way back when." Thus far, no luck.

So when I am looking at this, I wonder whether the house is still standing and whether the current owners (if they exist) would want a picture of their house.

Luckily, there is an address on the back of the photo:

502 Goliad
San Antonio, Texas

I immediately looked up a map of the area to see if the address still exists:

And it seems to. But I don't know San Antonio, I've never visited, and I don't know how to track down the existence of this house easily.

Any suggestions?

October 7, 2005

Chicago Antiques Guide

Category: What on Earth!?

Someone asked me recently if we had finished taking photos of everything that was left behind in the house. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is still a LOT here. Sigh. In the attic. In the basement. In the garage. In fact, there are things in the attic that WE haven't even seen yet because we haven't been able to get back there. Gah.

Until I get the energy and time to begin hauling things out and photographing them again, here is a site to check out...


The Chicago Antiques Guide..."What is it worth?" It's like an Antique Roadshow for your computer!!!

I "met" Brian Meyer (on the phone) when I thought we might have the room to conduct an estate sale in the house to get rid of everything in one fell swoop. (Alas, we did not...too much construction going on. I didn't think we could make enoug room.) But we had a GREAT conversation. Brian is extremely knowledgable about antiques and vintage things. He's also a crackerjack estate sales organizer...they take care of EVERYTHING. Even display cases (if needed) and disposal of any unsold items afterwards.

So, if you are curious about "old things" like I am, check out Chicago Antiques Guide. Need to have an estate sale or interested in attending one in a city known for having really good stuff? Check out Somerset Estate Sales. And tell Brian that I said hi!

November 30, 2005

Chicago Cab Medallion c. 1928

Category: What on Earth!?

It's been awhile since I've had the time or energy to do a "What on Earth?!" entry, although there is still PLENTY of stuff left in here to document.  But this was really too good to pass up.  We found it when we were (yet again) cleaning out more of the garage a couple of months ago.


It's a taxi medallion from a 1928 Chicago Cab that is nailed to our garage wall.  I'm amused by the "35 M.P.H. or less" qualification" as I've been in the back of cabs trying to beat the clock for a departure from O'Hare.  Hee.

What was happening in Chicago in 1928?

The "Straightening" of the Chicago River

Al Capone was still doing deals in Chicago, but moved to Miami, only to orchestrate the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in February of 1929

Well, actually there was still a lot of crime-related activity going on in Chicago, even with Capone in Miami...and there was even some coverage of Chicago cabbies in Time Magazine in 1927...

And, what did a taxicab look like in this era?  Probably something similar to this one...

Ah, the Chicago History in this house.

January 30, 2006

Weighing In

Category: What on Earth!?

Since I haven't been able to begin any projects that would take longer than 15-20 minutes (the amount of time segments my life has been reduced to in these first months), it was BACK TO THE ATTIC!

Today, we took the opportunity to use a vintage Jay Bee Baby Scale to weigh the munchkin...


Grammy is lending a helping hand.  Thanks Grammy!

Such a cute scale!  But it only goes up to thirty pounds and the kid is already eight pounds now (at three weeks).  Nooooooo!  She's growing too fast already!


So, some things from the attic are darn useful!

March 3, 2006

Tales from the Past...Old Postcards

Category: What on Earth!?

Three a.m. has been an excellent time to wash bibs and go through old postcards that we found in the house.  Don't ask why I've been up at three a.m.

We have hundreds of postcards from the 1890's through the 1980's.  In rummaging through  them, I've noticed that many of them are ongoing conversations that span many postcards so I only get a short idea of what is being said.  Sometimes the messages sound like the ones which Garrison Keillor reads on his Prairie Home Companion Show...snippets of information sent through Keillor to the folks listening back home.  Other times, the lack of context can be very confusing.  For example...


On the back, here is what it says:

Dated:  Feb 6 1921...Niagara Falls, NY...7 pm

Have been on the walk for nearly 4 hours on our old tracks.  Father

This makes me so curious.  What walk?  Which tracks?  What is the backstory?  I've been to Niagara Falls...was I on those tracks?  Ah, well.  I'll never know.

Then there is this postcard...



Dated:  July 16, 1930...Cherbourg...via S.S. Europa

You're a hound and probably don't deserve a card - but I'll send you one anyway.  How do you like my front porch?  Honest, it is!  My address is Conservatoire Americain - in case the bus leaves town.  Love, baby

Or this one (which is one of my favorites):



Dated: Feb 27, 1908...San Antonio, TX...9:30 am

Murray, we was riding an auto yesterday from 11:30 till about 8 PM.  All kinds of trouble.  Will tell you the rest when I see you.  Help Mamma all you can.  Your Papa

These all seem like ideal jumping off points for writing a short story.  All of these writers have provided a tiny little window to peer out the window of a moving train...we catch a glimpse, an impression of an exchange, and we are left to assemble the rest.

Not that I have scads of time to write short stories.  Which leads me to the obligatory picture of Miss new general contractor, site boss and taskmaster.


She's a slavedriver, all right!

March 7, 2006

What is it worth? Um, more than we thought.

Category: What on Earth!?

Way WAY long ago we found an interesting turned wood bowl in the was one of my "insomnia discoveries".  And we packed it away offsite for safekeeping.  I've always been meaning to go back to it and get some idea of what is what worth.  That was almost three years ago.


So, I wrote to my pal, Brian, at the fabulous Chicago Antiques Guide.  Brian is "in the know" about such things.

If this is true, we may just be able to get the footing for the sunroom fixed sooner than I had hoped.  (You'll have to click on the link to see the surprise.)  And digging through all of the trash left in this house, as well as having to clean over and over and over again, will have been worth it.  It may have even been worth sleeping in this room, with no heat or ventilation or light, for two years.

So, remember!  Turn over those things you find in your house!  Look for those marks!  Someone's trash really CAN be treasure after all.

By the way, Brian and his team organize estate sales.  So, if you are looking to sell your treasures or seek out some new ones, sign up for their email notices for upcoming sales.


March 31, 2006

Cash in the Attic Basement: Part 1

Category: What on Earth!?

Those of you who have been following along know that we sent photos of some of the items that were found in the house to Brian at Chicago Antiques Guide to get some guidance on what to do with them. Two of those items were a bowl by James Prestini and a maquette by Enrique Alferez. In regards to the bowl, we initially got a nice surprise from Brian...until I actually unpacked the bowl again and realized that I had given him the dimensions for the wrong bowl! (Argh. It had been three years.) Yes, we actually have TWO Prestini bowls, but the larger one has a crack in it. The smaller bowl is still worth something, though, just not as much as a pristine larger bowl would be. Sigh.

Why are we so interested in auctioning off these two items? Well, in the spirit of one of my favorite shows, "Cash in the Attic", we have a problem that needs to be solved. And the solution will involve raising some cash. Here is the problem:


The footing under our sunroom is cracked in more than one place.  It was like this when we purchased the house and we don't know how long it has been like this.  The previous owner's attempts at covering up the damage didn't work very well. 


The sunroom has settled a bit lower than the rest of the house (which is supported by a foundation...separate from the footing.)  I'm not sure how much it has settled or how quickly it continues to settle.  But, honestly?  It is bugging the stuffing out of me.  Everytime I think of the front room, I think of this footing and how it should be fixed.  I can't get past it to thinking about the aesthetics of the front room of the house until this infrastructure problem is taken care of.  Yes, I am obsessed with it.  In my way of thinking, working on the "look" of those two rooms without addressing this problem would be like slapping lipstick on a pig.  Nice red lips, but...still.  It's a pig.


And when we remove those crazy overgrown bushes from the front of the house....ewww.  Our sultry, scarlet-lipped pig will be exposed to the world.  So to speak.  (Kudos to Aaron for indulging his obsessed spouse on this issue...good karma will be his.  Eventually.)

So, will we raise enough money from auctioning off these two items to fix the footing?  I don't know...I've never been to an auction before and have not one iota of knowledge as to how they work.  So, stick around.  There will be more to the story forthcoming.

April 2, 2006

Cash in the Attic Basement: Part 2

Category: What on Earth!?

(Read this first to get the whole story)

Brian at Chicago Antiques Guide was immensely helpful in connecting us with a reputable gallery for our two items.  I sent him very specific information about the Prestini bowl and the Alferez maquette, including digital photos from many angles, measurements and weight.  (Accurate detail is important when asking for an estimate or referral.  A lesson I learned all too well when I gave him the wrong measurements for the Prestini bowl.  The estimate was 50% with the corrected size.  Ah well.)

The gallery reviewed the photos and indicated an interest in accepting the items in an upcoming auction.  So, I set to find out a little more about the auctioneer, John Toomey Galleries of Oak Park, Illinois.


John Toomey works with the Treadway Gallery of Cincinnati to present a number of major auctions a year.  They specialize in 20th Century Decorative Arts (so, all of you Arts & Crafts lovers out there...take note!) 

Aaron and I were hesitant about putting the pieces up for auction, even with the awesome pedigree of Treadway/Toomey.  We had toyed with the idea of keeping the pieces for a long time...we had never owned something so beautiful and rare.  (And probably won't again.)  So, it was a tough decision to let them go.  I kept thinking, "How would we ever keep these safe and intact?!"  It's an awesome obligation to own something like this and I kept imagining them either falling to the floor in a million pieces or packed away in a box forever.  Neither scenario was comforting.

We would have to hurry to get the pieces to the Gallery in time for the 20th Century Decorative Arts Auction on May 7th.  The items would need to be inspected and photographed for the catalog.  Looking at samples of other items already in the auction, we were suitably impressed!


Stickley, Handel, Baumann, Teco, Mougin, Nelson, Tiffany, Grueby...oh my!

I called to find out how I should get the items to the Gallery.  I left a message for Lisanne Dickson, their expert in Modern Design and my contact.  Unfortunately, she had the flu!  But, what a trooper.  She left a nice message with instructions on what to do with the pieces, even though she was out.  This impressed me no end, since she was obviously extremely busy and I can't even think of picking up the phone when I am suffering from the flu.

I bundled Grace into the car and we headed to Oak Park.  The front door of the Gallery was locked but I could see through the glass that there was a lot of activity in the back.  I walked around.

The back entry doors were open to staff members carrying all kinds of treasures into the gallery.  Lamps, paintings, furniture.  Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, Modern.  Anne Dickenson (the patient staff member who had answered my questions over the phone) greeted me and went to find someone who could help with the pieces.  Jane Browne helped to write up the contract and explain the terms to me.  Everyone was so pleasant and efficient, even in the midst of an extremely busy afternoon.  From what I could gather, there was much more to this type of auction than displaying the items and taking the bids!  There was a photoshoot in progress of items for the catalog that will be available for potential buyers.  The items had to be unpacked and sorted out and inspected and researched.  A plan for display had to be devised.  Stacks of paperwork to be dealt with.  Insurance.  Logistics and transportation.  Advertising.  Mailing lists.  I'm sure there is even more behind the scenes work that I don't know about!

Because our items were appraised above $1000 each, the terms of the sale were set at 15% plus 1.5% for insurance.  I took a deep breath, signed the contract, and left the Alferez and Prestini in their hands.

More updates soon!

June 8, 2006

There's always someone worse off than you are...

Category: What on Earth!?

Whenever we feel frustrated about how our own house was packed full of stuff when we bought it, we seem to come across examples to remind us that it could always be worse.


July 27, 2006

What on Earth: Gerber Knives

Category: What on Earth!?

It's been a long, long time since I've looked in any of the remaining boxes, trunks and whatnot from the items still in the house.  Yes, still in the house.  Over the last three years, we've gifted items, sold items, donated items, recycled items, pitched items.  And there are still MORE THINGS!

Just for grins, I took some quick photos of a wooden box that I stumbled upon while cleaning out a drawer in preparation for some work on the first floor.



Looks innocent enough, eh? 

When I opened it, I found a set of EXTREMELY sharp stainless steel knives with the mark "Gerber-12" on one side of each handle and "MIMING" on the other.



Given that the only "Gerber" I'm familiar with these days is the baby food, I did a little research on the Internet.  Here's what I found out:

Joseph Gerber started Portland, Oregon's Gerber Advertising back in 1910. One Christmas, he hired a local knifemaker to craft 25 sets of kitchen cutlery as client gifts. The knives were so popular, Mr. Gerber ultimately left his agency to launch Gerber Legendary Blades in 1939.

Based upon the brand's logo on the documentation, I'm guessing that this particular set was manufactured between 1947 and 1952.  And the set looks like it has never been used.

The current tagline for their knife designers is hilarious..."When one of these guys gets a knife stuck in his brain, it's a good thing."  I don't believe this particular set of knives was destined for use by a Navy Seal or fireman, but one never knows.

The Miming Set are steak knives in a walnut presentation box, I know that much.  They are pretty sleek looking and ouchy-sharp.   We already have a set of steak knives, so these will probably go back to the basement for now.


August 14, 2006

Buried Treasure

Category: What on Earth!?

My family was in town this past weekend for Grace's christening and it was great fun to have everyone here.  My brother-in-law, Mark, brought along his trusty metal detector since he had heard about our house of "stuff" and was intrigued by what else we might find.



My niece and nephew assisted in canvassing our yard, front and back.  And it yielded...buried treasure!!!  (Arghhhh, matey.)



To be specific, he found:

A pure silver quarter from 1941.  (Quarters are no longer made entirely of silver...strangely, this one was not even tarnished.)

MANY wheat pennies, the oldest from 1916

A broken pen

A pocket knife

Some metal fasteners

A button

And only one nail.  Which surprised him but did not surprise me.  Because no one had ever done work on this house since it was built, I believe.  (Except for the wonky back porch added in the last few decades.)  How can there be nails lying around when no one used nails to fix anything?  Now, if we had found an empty tube of Liquid Nails?  That would have made sense.  There was a lot of that in the house.

August 17, 2006

A wire shopping basket

Category: What on Earth!?


Another basement find.  These are pretty common in the city... 

Many people use them for a trip to the grocery or laundromat.  Aaron teases me about my wanting to use one but hey!  It's handy!  And if you want to save on gas and not drive, what better way to cart things around?

Plus, it folds flat which is way cool for storage.

We found a couple of them so we donated this one to our local garden project run by a student from North Park seminary.  They raise produce for a little farmer's market and donate harvested goods to food pantries.  (I'll be doing a little post about them soon.  It's a very cool project.)

This one is circa 1965?  1966?  (Oh man, it's as old as I am!)  But you can also get new ones around town as well.

Interested in the history of the shopping cart?  It's a pretty cool story, actually. 

August 23, 2006

1928 Edition of "World's Greatest Newspaper"

Category: What on Earth!?

What did we find under the kitchen floor?

The publishers of the Chicago Daily Tribune were very confident in 1928 that they had every other newspaper--IN THE WORLD--beat. 


All that bravado for only two cents an issue!

What was news on April 14, 1928?

As you saw from the headlines, the German-Irish Flyers had landed.  (This is reference to James Fitzmaurice, Hermann Köhl and Baron Ehrenfried Guenther von Hünefeld completing the first transatlantic flight from East to West.)

What is amazing is that the Pineapple Primary in Chicago occured just four days ealier and only gets a small mention!

Boy comes out of coma and shares identity...truck driver steals money, cries "Thief!"  (Click on the photos for an even LARGER photo!)


The question that they pose to people on the street is an eerie foreshadowing of The Onion's American Voices column.

"Would you like to be a film actor?"


Frank Forbes, New Southern hotel, salesman:  "That sounds good to one who has natural talent, hum, hum: a diamond in the rough.  Some years ago I followed the rainbow to Hollywood, expecting to get on, but I found the people there starving to death with no chance to get in."

Wow.  Some things never change!  It's just that starvation is the "look" in Hollywood these days.


Wally J. Bush, 3256 S. Halstead Street:  "You betcha, I'd like to be in the movies.  I'd stand on my head, swim across the lake, climb a flagpole, walk to California--but it wouldn't do any good.  I know that.  But, gee!  Look at Charlie Chaplin, how did he do it?"

Wally, those kind of antics will get you kicked off of the Paramount lot these days.  :)  (Wow, did I just snark?  I think I did.)

(To be continued, she typed and smiled ominously...)

August 24, 2006

1928 Edition...Continued

Category: What on Earth!?

The World's Greatest Newspaper, found beneath our kitchen floor, continued from yesterday.

Oh, those wacky topers in D.C.!  Always voting for something that they won't hold to themselves...  (1928 = Prohibition.  Toper = drunkard.  Click on a picture to make it larger.)


One of the oddest articles I've ever seen written in a newspaper. It reads like a script from a mobster movie! (Syndicate = Mob.  Pinched = whacked = sent to live with the fishes. arrested = thrown in the slammer = sent to the hoosegow.  < I stand corrected!  Thanks Glorious Noise.)

The mob was pretty high profile in Chicago in 1928.


Oh James Cox!  That you and your running mate, FDR, could have saved the United States from Warren Harding, Coolidge and Herbert Hoover!  When will this country ever learn??!!


Interesting ad for the Sauganash neighborhood in Chicago, which is just blocks away from where we live now!


My guess is that the house in that ad is still standing, somewhere, in Sauganash.

September 19, 2006

Edgar Guest on Talk Like a Pirate Day

Category: What on Earth!?

I found this picture in the basement (one of the many things left behind in the house) and thought, hmm.  How would Edgar Guest have said this on Talk Like a Pirate Day?  Well, hey!  It IS Talk Like a Pirate Day!  So let's see:




-That scallywag, Edgar Guest-

A glad arrrr an' a hearty grip

Be th' first beginnings o' mateyship

An' Father Time in his kindly way

Bends us closer tide by tide

We grow from th' smile an' th' kindly hand

T' know each other an' understand

An' I hope some tide ye will find in me

Th' faithful matey that I want t' be

Ya horn swollgin' scallywag!

October 4, 2006

Voices Gone But Not Forgotten

Category: What on Earth!?

As you know, there was a lot of stuff left behind in the house by the previous owner.  Including a pretty large collection of vintage LP's and 78's that I have been wanting to listen to.  So, with my allowance money, I purchased a turntable that could "rip" vinyl to our computer.

Before I have time to dig through the collection already in the house, I need to address something very special.  There are three records in my possession.  Special records.   


They are the recordings of this man, his family and his friends.



This man is my grandfather.  Born in New York in 1903, James George Costello was a smooth-talking Irishman who became a cop and then a detective.  He worked in Hell's Kitchen and lived in Brooklyn, New York.  After retiring from the force, he owned a series of businesses...a doughnut shop, a paint store.  He co-owned three bars at three of the four corners of Madison Square Garden.  He knew politicians, members of the mob and was a completely colorful character.

Sometime in the 1940's, he gathered his friends together and threw a party at an inn at Walker Lake, Pennsylvania. Beverages were served.  And three records were made.  The effect of the beverages on the recordings becomes more apparent as you progress through the tracks.



This was about the time that the Presto Recording Corporation had its instantaneous portable recording equipment involved in the recording of telephone conversations and other types of communication for law enforcement agencies.  Presto also never entered the home consumer market.  This leads me to wonder if my grandfather "borrowed" the equipment for his impromptu recording session from the New York City Police Department. 

Many Presto recordings were destroyed over the years as Presto paid for discs to be returned to them and used as scrap in the early 1950s.  But these particular discs, although badly scratched and worn, are still here.

I've made six recordings of the six sides of the discs.  And, as I sat in my office chair late last night mixing the audio, I was blown away as I heard my grandfather's voice for the first time since he died in 1982.

I'm not sure if you will be able to download this easily.  And I had to compress it to get it uploaded, so the sound quality has been compromised yet again.  But, for those who can hear it, here is Track No. 3 from the Lost Walker Lake Recordings.

The first song, Bridget O'Flynn, is sung by someone who I don't recognize.  (Perhaps my Great Uncle Harold?  Someone says "sing it again, Harry!")  But my grandfather starts everyone off for 'Til We Meet Again

Sounds like they're having fun, doesn't it?  I miss him. 

January 4, 2007

It Came from the BASEMENT

Category: What on Earth!?

Wow.  It's been a long time since I've been able to post anything that is "What on Earth?" related.  I'd say that 85% of the stuff left behind in the house has been dispatched out into the world.  Between Christmas and New Year's, Aaron and I attacked the basement and hauled three more station wagon loads of stuff to the Salvation Army in Evanston. 

While I was digging through yet MORE BOXES, I came across what looked like plain wrapping paper folded up.  I couldn't resist peeking inside before I pitched it and I'm glad I did.



Ten interesting linoleum prints made by Siegfried R. Weng in 1928. 


And I discovered some interesting overlap between some art pieces we've found in the house.  Siegfried Weng studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago.  In 1928, he was Lecture Assistant to American sculptor, Lorado TaftEnrique Alferez, the sculptor who did this piece that we found in the house, worked with Lorado Taft between 1927 and 1929 (perhaps longer) and lived in his studio for at least part of that time.  He also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago around this time.  Rufus Bastian showed up in a news release from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1942, though I am not entirely sure of his connection.

Were these people students together at the Art Institute?  Are the other pieces of art I've found in the house and not researched yet also connected to this group?  Is James Prestini connected (the bowls we found)?  He studied at the Institute for Design (now IIT) in Chicago in 1939.  And how about all of the ephemera and artifacts from the University of Chicago that I've found in here?

And how are they all connected to this house?

It's still a mystery. 

More about the Weng prints soon.


January 5, 2007

Weng Block Prints

Category: What on Earth!?

Scans of the prints we found really don't do them justice.  They are very beautiful.  They aren't reproductions, but they also aren't numbered.  That is a bit confusing to me, as I thought linoleum and woodblock prints were always numbered (?)

It's a bit difficult to see the detail in the jpeg's of these scans.  Like the reflection of the rabbit in the pool of water...




Woodblock prints were very popular in the Arts and Crafts era, from artists such as Arthur Dow, Frances Gearheart, and Margaret J. Patterson.  Those prints were often done in more than one layer of color and these Weng prints are monochromatic.  But the Weng prints are charming in a different way.


I believe there is a Viking Ship sailing at the bottom of these cliffs below... 



This style seems familiar, I think I've seen it somewhere before but can't remember.  Depression-era perhaps?  Eastern European art?  The print below with the horse makes me think of Russia or Hungary but I cannot tell you why. 


There seems to be a chapel tucked into the picture between the hills... 



The print of the wave is one of my favorites and seems to be inspired by Japanese artists in my humble, non-art-educated opinion. 


And, of course, the last print makes me think of Maryam in Marrakesh.  I don't know if it is really of Morocco.  But it seems like a very romantic subject, don't you think?   



January 9, 2007

Another (Red) Thing

Category: What on Earth!?

I totally forgot about this little red gem that I had set aside for myself a LONG time ago when we were first digging through all of the things that we found in the house...



Isn't she a beauty?  A lovely vintage red Royal Typewriter with glass keys in her original case. (circa 1930s) And she WORKS! 


Just the thing for when I type my memoirs on that little island off of the coast. (I wish.) 

(Yes, I am old enough to have used a typewriter to write my high school term papers.  No, I am not old enough to have ever used a quill pen.  Yes, these are answers to real questions that my fourth grade class asked me the year I was foolish enough to teach media and technology to K-8 students.  They were awesome kids, but have you tried to teach anything new to a fifth grader about computers?  It was a race to keep up with THEM!) 

March 27, 2007

Postcards from a Vacation

Category: What on Earth!?
Yes, the circle of life spins around once more as I find these postcards in the house among the stuff left by the previous owners. Especially interesting to me? This postcard, which also happens to be...

flapostcard3.jpg actual picture that I took while visiting Anna Maria. Small world.


Some vintage postcard selections...



This hotel is still in Miami, but it has a different name...




Who was the art director responsible for this one? "Let's make the dad more...I don't a creepy uncle-type figure. Yeah! Here, give him this hat. Oh! And this picnic basket. Tell him to run like his knees are fused together. Perfect!"


Oh, the seventies. Such a funny, funny decade. The hair. The clothes. The drugs that caused a guy to drive his car into the surf...


April 20, 2007

Hmm. Steer horns?

Category: What on Earth!?

Doesn't everyone have a set of these in their basement? You know, for emergencies or something? (I'm not talking about the table saw.)


May 2, 2007

Ephemera: Chicago Advertising

Category: What on Earth!?

I can't sleep so I'm amusing myself by scanning some ephemera found in the house. I am so fascinated by the fonts and the copy. The mark of a true "paper geek".

This is a more pleasant ad for Wellsworth Glasses than their "Death At The Steering Wheel" Ad. Say that out loud. Can you say it normally? Because when I say it, I have to make my voice very serious and loud and very much like an old time radio announcer. Thank goodness everyone else is asleep right now!


"Adolph Stabler, Umbrella Hospital"...this location seems to be a consignment shop these days. Oh where will we take our sick umbrellas now?!


This laundry company was replaced by Sheil Park in the 1970's. Pity, because that is an excellent price for laundry.


The Milwaukee Solvay Coke Plant looks a bit neglected today. But the area surrounding it still sees plenty of action since it is an EPA Cleanup Site! June all winter? How's that global warming coming along?


Oh no. Oh no. I just had to Google "kumyss", didn't I? Because I thought, "Hey! Great for nervous fatigue? This stuff sounds great! Where can I get some?" Do you know what kumyss is? Fermented mares milk. Someone out there is thinking, "Don't knock it 'til you try it." But I think I will pass. Thanks. But if you'd like to make your own 1915 kumyss recipe, American-Style? Here you go. Let me know how it turns out.


May 9, 2007


Category: What on Earth!?

This is for Jamaila who is as much of a font geek as I am. Here is a book that I found in the house.

60 Alphabets by The Hunt Brothers. 1930.


Back when type was set by hand...totally old school and way cool.



It is what it says it is. A book of 60 alphabets.



If you are completely geeking right now, you'll want to read the intro to this book. I'll try to up expanding thumbnails of those pages right here by tonight.

Right now, I have to rescue the baby as she has learned to turn on the television and Teletubbies is on. Um, no. That is not allowed.

June 2, 2007

(Growing Accustomed to) Robert Downey Jr's Furry Face

Category: What on Earth!?

During a late night, couch-sitting, laptop-typing session after the baby was asleep (I know, we're just fools in love, aren't we?), we finally rented Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus. We didn't really care about the story (I think Arbus was a very imaginative photographer, this movie is not about her real life), we just wanted to see if that weird medical device we sold to Peter Gelfman back in 2005 ever made it into the film.

Perhaps you remember the Western Reserve Portable Resuscitator, Oxygen Inhalator and Anesthesia Machine from 1955? It was in our basement. It came with the house.

Imagine our excitement when one hour into the movie,we caught a glimpse of this:


Yes! Do you see it? Do you see it? That is the air-bag thingy from the resuscitator! And it's in HOLLYWOOD BAY-BEEE! All of that funky tubing? I'm not sure where that came from. My guess is that they added it for effect, because the original device wasn't sexy enough or something.


And then, and then. This.


That's the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece that I had held in my hand. The mouthpiece pressed up against Robert Downey Jr's furry face. Of course, that and sixty-one nickels would buy me a tall latte at the local big coffee chain.


But if I ever meet up with Robert Downey Jr, at least I'll have something to talk about. Since that is soooooo likely to happen.

July 25, 2007

A rare find…number tacks

Category: What on Earth!?

Back when everyone had wooden storm windows that had to be taken off and replaced each season, you could find nifty numbered tacks at any local hardware store. They were used to match up the wood storms with the window jambs that they were fitted to. Now, they are nearly impossible to find or, if you do find them, each tack has a separate number which have to be combined to make double digit numbers.

And then, I was digging around in our stash of stuff that was left in the house for some extra window hardware.

Voila! I hit the motherload of numbered tacks.


Only an old house geek would have let out a shriek of joy. Which is what I did while doing a little jig in my work clogs.

Proof positive that I am very, very much an old house geek.


September 14, 2007

What is It? Japanese Comic Book?

Category: What on Earth!?

It's been awhile since I've posted anything that we find in the house, but I came across this the other day and I can't find out anything about it.

It appears to be a Japanese Comic Book of some kind. Anyone recognize this? (I put these in here as pop-up images, so you can click on the photo and make it larger.)

There are many, many more pages. It's about the thickness of a beefy magazine. More Wired thickness than Newsweek thickness. I couldn't find a date on it anywhere, though it was in with other material from the 1930's and 1940's.

October 17, 2007

What is this? Russian?

Category: What on Earth!?

Found this (in the house, natch.)


It's tiny. It's a pin. It looks like Russian letters but I'm not entirely sure.


October 25, 2007


Category: What on Earth!?

Found while cleaning out the woodshop today. These were left by the previous owners.


I love vintage advertising. I love old fonts. And I love the word Shinola.


Also pictured: Venetian Shoe Cream (they still make it!), Omega Shoe Wax and Meltonian Shoe Polish (also still made!)

(Meltonian also seems to be a secret weapon of book repairers. See?)

Meanwhile, treat yourself to a history of the humble shoe polish, including its involvement in World War II. Try out a recipe for homemade shoe polish. Shine your wooden furniture with shoe polish.

November 8, 2007

Philately...the forgotten stamps

Category: What on Earth!?

I visited a lonely corner of the basement today and found this.


A little wooden box filled with a child's forgotten stamp collection. It isn't very looks like it is from the late 1950s or early 1960s.

I used to collect stamps as a child, too. Mostly to try and satisfy the wanderlust that I could not fulfill myself by dreaming over these little traveling stickers.


I didn't care as much about the value or condition of each stamp. I treasured the illustrations, the names of the countries, the mysterious of them. This was my downfall as a stamp collector. I collected absolutely nothing of value to the philately community.




It looks like this child also collected nothing of value, perhaps. So we won't be financing the replacement of the living room ceiling with a stamp.

But they are still fun to look at!

December 19, 2007

More Doll House Memories and My First Woodworking Project Ever

Category: What on Earth!?

The plastic doll house furniture came with the House in Progress. The WOODEN doll house furniture? That came from my mom's attic and it used to be mine. (Read all the way to the bottom for an early example of my woodworking prowess. Nick, Trissa and Jenny are going to be OH SO PROUD!)


Do you see that pristine farm sink up there? So many old house fanatics would give their RIGHT ARM for that sink. Well, if it were full sized. But STILL!

Some of the furniture is from "Mini Land" and the quotes are their quotes, not mine. I don't have any information on it. It was made in Taiwan and has a logo that says MSR. Probably from the late 70's and early 80's.


Other pieces are from Chadwick-Miller in Canton-Massachusetts and are 30 years old or so. Not vintage by any means. (I hope! I mean, I'm older than 30, sheesh!)


These were from my short lived mid-century modern phase. I have no idea who the manufacturer is. These are from Barton (also here) in the 1960's.


My dad made my first doll house. A simple affair with four rooms that my mom lovingly decorated with contact paper. However, as a small child, it perplexed me that there wasn't a BATHROOM. I mean, c'mon! How in the world could that be?

So I built one. Out of popsicle sticks. This is probably my earliest woodworking project.


I was a very quirky and intense kid. Obviously.

(And did you know that investigators sometimes use doll house miniatures for crime scene investigations??!! Apparently, Barbie had found out that Ken was cheating. Now Barbie is doing thirty to life. So sad, really.)

February 2, 2008

Have a seat.

Category: What on Earth!?

A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous. -Mies van der Rohe

You know that What on Earth isn't finished yet, right? That there are still things left in this house that I have not yet photographed or researched or even examined?

Like this chair.


A chair that is so cool looking, it is like a work of art to me. It is solid oak and it moves to conform to the curve of your body as you sit in it, hunched over to type on a computer or typewriter. The design of it is fascinating and I have not yet figured out its clever hinges and ball bearings.


It was made by the Remington Rand Company, which is a company beloved by geeks the world over. Why you ask? Well, Remington Rand made quite a few snazzy looking typewriters in the early days, along with electric shavers, adding machines, library and office equipment. However, it was also the manufacturer of the UNIVAC I, the first commercial computer made in the United States (1951). Eventually, Remington Rand was acquired a few times until it evolved into today's Unisys.


This is where six degrees of separation creeps in.

In 1951, the Remington Rand company headquarters was the Rock Ledge Estate in Rowayton, Connecticut. A beautiful Tudor-revival mansion with amazing woodwork and lovely steel casement windows. A building that I had been in many, many times and knew pretty well. Because I used to work for the company which owned it during the last few decades, Hewitt Associates, and traveled there between 1994 and 2000 for my work. I remember at least one afternoon tucked away in an office there, gazing out on the Long Island Sound and dreaming up the user requirements for electronic performance support systems.


(Click on the image of Rock Ledge if you want to get a better look. Beautiful, isn't it?)

Unfortunately, Hewitt sold Rock Ledge in 2003 which makes me shudder to think what might have happened to that gorgeous mansion. I don't even like to think about it.

Ahem. Back to our chair.

That's all I know about it. I know that Remington Rand made wood furniture, probably in the late 20's through early 40's (but I am guessing at the dates). Very little of it has turned up in my online searches. An oak print case at auction. A teacher's desk on eBay. A wooden card file.

Lots of history. One weird connection to my past. No more information offered by Google this evening as I drowsily tap the keys on my MacBook, the sleek great grandchild of the Univac. Off to bed to dream of Tudor mansions by the sea.

February 21, 2008

In Memorium: Siegfried R. Weng

Category: Daily Diary

I'm sitting here with the laptop, watching the Democratic debate, and checking my email. And I received this note:

I was just on line looking for the obituary for Uncle Siegfried when I saw your post.

Mr. Weng died Tuesday night in Evansville, Indiana. He was nearly 104. He was my husband's uncle.

K Kramer

Over a year ago, we discovered these beautiful prints made by Mr. Weng in the house. I enjoy them so much and cannot wait to display them once our living room is finished.

How odd life is, these connections that we find through the things in the house even now.

I did not know Mr. Weng but his work is amazing and he was obviously beloved by many. Here is his obituary for posterity since I do not know how long the Evansville Courier Press will have it online.

Siegfried R. Weng, 103, died at 11:05 p.m. Tuesday, February 19, 2008, at St. Mary's Medical Center

He was director of the Evansville Museum of Arts, History, Science, 1950-1969.

Siegfried was born in Osh-kosh, Wisconsin, on May 20, 1904. His father, the Reverend George Michael Weng, was the highly respected Pastor of Evangelical Lutheran Christ Church, Oshkosh, for many years. He was an outstanding leader in the community. His mother, Jennie F. Hillemann Weng, was a homemaker, teacher, organist and artist. She and Siegfried shared their interests in art, music and nature.

Siegfried was preceded in death by his parents; three infant siblings; a brother, Armin G. Weng, who was a Lutheran Pastor and President of Chicago Lutheran Seminary; his wife of 18 years, Gertrude Schantz Weng; his wife of 40 years, Geraldine Daener Weng; and a niece, Christine Bahnemann.

His education includes courses at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, which were honored by the University of Chicago. He holds both a Bachelor's Degree and a Master's Degree from the University of Chicago, 1927 and 1928. In 1929, he studied at Harvard University in preparation for his museum work.

While a student at the University of Chicago, he studied with and became lecture assistant to Dr. Lorado Taft, noted American Sculptor. Siegfried posed for Dr. Taft's well-known sculpture of Abraham Lincoln, having been exactly Lincoln's height, 6 feet, 4 inches. The sculpture can be seen today in a city park in Champaign, Illinois. Also during his university years, he sang baritone in the University of Chicago Choir and served as cantor in the then new Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. He studied cello and played in a string trio. Throughout his life, he was in demand as a soloist. On December 20, 1931, he sang a solo part in "The Messiah" with the Westminster Church Choir in Dayton, Ohio.

In 1929, at age 25, Siegfried became Director of the Dayton Art Institute. Under his leadership, a museum building became a reality, the art collections were increased and a highly respected art school was established. In the auditorium of the museum building, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra was organized. It performed there for several years, and Siegfried was a member of the Philharmonic Board. It was a unique achievement to have been able to open a new art museum in Dayton at the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

During the years 1933-1934, Siegfried was the Regional Director of Art Projects under FDR's WPA Program; and in 1935-1936, he was the State Art Director of Ohio, Federal Art Project. He was Art Instructor, University of Dayton, 1939-1941; Assistant Professor of Art, University of Dayton, 1941-? He was a member of the American Federation of Arts; the Art Museum Directors Association; the American Association of Museums; the Photographic Society of America; a member and past president of Midwest Museum Association.

Siegfried was Director of the Dayton Art Institute until 1950 when he was invited to Evansville. He came to lead in the planning, fundraising and achieving of the Evansville Museum building, and acquiring of works of art for a substantial permanent collection. He and his wife, Geri, traveled the country over, talking with museum directors, collectors and artist friends to bring to Evansville quality works valued collectively at over a million dollars at that time. He developed various programs, added the planetarium, created the Mid-States juried show and exhibition, and brought the locomotive and train cars to the museum. He retired from his position as director in 1969.

In 1960, Dr. Weng was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree by vote of the Faculty of Evansville College. In 1985, he was presented the Mayor's Arts Award for "more than thirty years of inspiring leadership and counsel." He is Director Emeritus of both the Evansville Museum and the Dayton Art Institute. On his 100th Birthday, Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel proclaimed May 20, 2004, Siegfried R. Weng Day.

Siegfried enjoyed nature and being outdoors. He loved the river. He bought a houseboat in 1944 and brought it with him to Evansville in 1950. Many happy hours were spent on the Elaine and also in his amphi-car, which traveled on both road and river.

Siegfried was a successful artist, producing drawings and prints over a period of 70 years. After his retirement, he had his drawings and prints reproduced on note cards which were sold widely throughout the Midwest.

In 1999, he was invited to show his art work in the Michael Dunn Gallery at Oakland City University. Later that year, he was honored with an exhibition at the Dayton Art Institute, followed by a show at University of Louisville in 2000. In November of 2004, the year of Siegfried's 100th Birthday, the Evansville Museum presented an exhibition of his work as a part of the museum's 100th Anniversary Celebration.

Siegfried's legacy speaks for itself. If you seek a monument, look to his two museums. It was his great pleasure to bring art and culture to those around him. He was an inspiration to all who knew him. He showed us all how to live, love and laugh. He will be greatly missed by his family and many friends.

He is survived by his wife of twelve years, Carolyn W. Weng; nephew, Armin G. Weng, his wife, K. Krewer of Orion, Ill.; niece, Elizabeth Weng Johnson, her husband, Kenneth W. of York, Pa.; other nieces and nephews, Nathan Truninger of Orion, Ill., Michael J. Weng, his wife, Karla of Milan, Ill., Jasmine Adams of California, John Weng of Palatine, Ill., Matthew Weng of Bloomington, Ill., Michelle Weng Runge and her husband, Rick, of Grand Rapids, Minn., Joy Johnson Bahnemann of Elgin, S.C., Peter Bahnemann of New York, N.Y., Paula Johnson Tibbetts and her husband, Tyler, of St. Johns, Fla., Jennifer Tibbetts Weinhagen and her husband, Jonathan, MacKenzie Weinhagen, Madeleine Weinhagen of Fredericksburg, Va., and Sarah Johnson Richardson and her husband, Gordon, of Waldorf, Md.

There will be no visitation, with a private graveside service only at this time. Interment will be in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Ky.

A Memorial Service of Celebration will be held at Neu Chapel, University of Evansville, at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Evansville Museum of Arts and Sciences, 411 SE Riverside Drive, Evansville, IN 47713 or to the Dayton Art Institute, 456 Belmonte Park North, Dayton, OH 45405, or to the charity of your choice. Arrangements by Alexander Newburgh Chapel, 5333 State Road 261.

February 29, 2008

Dead Mouse or....?

Category: What on Earth!?

I had to take apart the old dryer the other day (don't ask) and found this underneath it.


In the dark corner and covered with plaster dust and lint, it looked like a flattened, dead mouse. (And is it at all surprising that I know what a flattened, dead mouse looks like? No, it shouldn't be.)

Instead, it is a...

...kind of creepy, tiny leather glove. A kid-sized kid glove, if you will.

deadmouseglove1.jpg deadmouseglove2.jpg

Ewww. Gross.

In rummaging around for something else related to my little side project, I also came across a brown paper wrapped parcel. Inside of it were six items. All with the some variation of THIS character on it:


Would anyone like to take a guess as to the contents of the brown paper wrapped parcel? And if you guess it from this funky character logo, you WILL get a prize because this is pretty obscure.

March 4, 2008

Dog. In a Top Hat.

Category: What on Earth!?

I suppose to question the inspiration of 1950's graphic designers is to not appreciate the influence of the three-martini lunch on their craft.

But what is with the dog in the top hat?


My only conclusion is that this particular junior artisan was on a quest to make this dog the Microsoft Bean Man of its day.


He would not be dissuaded. Because this dog in a top hat was a character, see? And perfect for every situation, see?


His co-workers groaned every time he pulled out Dog in Top Hat for a client meeting. Thankfully, Powerpoint hadn't been invented yet. Having to draw freehand slowed him down at least.


Eventually, his project manager put him in the office the size of a coat closet and gave him the American Red Cross Water Safety account. "I don't understand it but they love Dog in a Top Hat," he grumbled. "So, draw." And Smithers happily doodled the rest of his career for the Red Cross.


Of, maybe I'm reading this wrong. Maybe this was a water safety course FOR DOGS. In top hats. Where they had to learn the "human stroke" since they already knew how to doggy paddle, because, duh. They are dogs.


Maybe it was an underground movement led by the dogs themselves to appear more human! "Here Fifi. Wear this top hat. And these swim shorts. No one will suspect you!"


Those were the only two possible explanations that I could think of. Any others?

May 9, 2008

What on Earth is Back!

Category: What on Earth!?

Because I need something to distract me from the disaster that is under my sunroom, I am reviving What on Earth?

All of you junk hounds can commence high-fiving each other now.

If you don't know what What on Earth is, you probably need to start reading here. Give yourself a few hours, maybe even a day, to go through those entries. I had a lot of insomnia when we started working on the house.

I'm going to try digging through a box in my attic and writing about something I find every Friday. I may write about things more frequently than that, but I will at LEAST write about something every Friday.

Rummaging around in the attic we go...

We will be starting with the ephemera that I have not been able to closely examine since we bought the house. Font, retro graphics and obscure history fans of the world? You're welcome.

Here is something that was on the top of the pile: A small collection of two cute paper dolls and one slightly creepy one.


The copy on the back reads as follows:


Five of these beautiful dolls with ten complete suits comprising American, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, German, Swiss, Turkish and Indian costumes will be sent post paid to any address on receipt of 5 heads of the girl holding the pie, cut from the outside wrappers of None Such New England Mince Meat and ten cents in silver, or we will send them FREE for 20 heads of the None Such New England Mince Meat Girl. Merrell-Soule Co. Syracuse, N.Y.

Reading that makes me want to shout, "BRING ME THE HEAD OF THE NONE SUCH MINCE MEAT GIRL!!!"


So, None Such Mince Meat dolls, circa 1895, available for FREE if you send me 20 heads of the None Such New England Mince Meat Girls. Which is a small price to pay, really.

This is the third doll.


As if it isn't creepy enough, this one's head was already off when I discovered it. As was the foot. And the clothes come off.

beheaded doll.jpg

It has no information as to its origins, but how sadistic were these little girls of the late 1800's? That's the question I have.

Everything else you've ever wanted to know about paper dolls, including free print outs.

May 12, 2008

Help I.D. This Mid-Century Melamine Plate

Category: What on Earth!?

I'm helping out a local not-for-profit on this one. They were cleaning out the ancient kitchen in their basement and preparing to put boxes of items on Craigslist. I spotted these plates from across the room. They are magnificent.


They are melamine with this awesome, organic mid-century modern design. And, get this, there are 22-24 of these plates. There are also beautiful, round aqua serving bowls (maybe eight of them?) and about eight or ten sleek, birch-colored gravy boats.


The gravy boats look like a little bit like this but they are sleeker, like a Russel Wright piece, and they are a different color. They have the Melmac mark with the triangle and the number 045. The bowls and plates have no marks. I'll get pics of those soon.

I'm trying to figure out how to value these for them so they can a) sell them to someone who will love them dearly and, b) get a fair donation for them so that they can add to their currently slim building revitalization funds (they are trying to restore portions of their 1929 building).

Any ideas? Any Melmac or mid-century sleuths out there?

May 20, 2008

Vintage Postcards

Category: What on Earth!?

So, there are still some items that were left in the house that we have not examined very closely.

Like the boatloads of vintage postcards.


Here is a postcard that you, dear reader, might have sent to your sensitive mom from Europe in the 1950's with the words "Have finally found the man of my dreams!". A kind of stylized and cool representation of the first bullfight. Theseus and the Minotaur.


Here is the postcard that you would NOT have sent to your sensitive mom from Europe in the 1950's with the words "I've finally found the man of my dreams!". Unless you wanted her to faint dead away at the feet of the mailman. It's the statue of The Little Bacchus from the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy.

You'll have to scroll down for this one.


Because what a scary looking turtle that is!

October 14, 2008

A hunka, hunka burnin'.... rose quartz?

Category: What on Earth!?

Aaron found this in the basement, among the things we still hadn't investigated that were left behind in the house when we bought it. (See more about THAT here.)

It's a hunk of rose quartz.

It's huge. Fourteen and a half pounds. Of rose quartz.


What would YOU do with this find?

Doorstop? Garden ornament? Sell it on eBay (if it is even worth anything)?

It is Grace's alternate birthstone (January), but I think it is a bit large for gifting, yes?

January 16, 2009

Oh My! Are You Looking in My Drawers???

Category: What on Earth!?

A friend from another city IM'Med** me yesterday about the pink drawers full of treasure that I referred to in my last blog post.

**Instant messaged

"You don't really have stuff left over from when you moved in, do you?"

Oh. Don't we? Yes, we do. To Aaron's dismay. We've managed to unload quite a bit of it, but you don't get rid of 70+ years of debris overnight. Not when you are married to a research wonk.

Behold, the wall of pink drawers.


That shade of pink is horrible (and was all over the house...bathrooms, sunroom) but those brush steel 1940's mod drawer pulls? DIVINE!


Gawker's paradise. That's what we call it.

December 2, 2009

Stick 'em up.

Category: What on Earth!?

From the junk drawer this morning.  Found while I was looking for a pen.  It was left in the house. 

From Kane County Sheriff's department.  Heavy brass.  Looks like some kind of seal in the center. 

Anyone want to write a short story about how it ended up here or its history?  Because this is the kind of thing that HAS to have a story.  Possibly involving a doll or a dame, and a guy with a fedora.

Cross-posted at LifeinProgress

January 1, 2010

Back to the Boxes!

Category: What on Earth!?

Wow.  I haven't used the word "boredom" for a looooooong time.  I believe that the last time I used it was before we bought this house, and it was certainly before Grace was born.  Therefore, after four days of an enjoyable stay-cation, after having finished scrubbing the basement floor on my hands and knees, and after having purged BOTH bathroom built-ins of expired over-the-counter medications, I was at a loss for how to entertain myself when Aaron offered to take Grace to an indoor playground.  Leaving me all alone.  Alone.  Alone without any work (that needed to be done indoors or could be done in weather colder than 43 degrees Fahrenheit.) 

What's a Type A girl to do?  I had already caught up on all of my episodes of Glee.

I pulled one of the boxes out from under the guest room bed and set it up next to the scanner.  The amount of ephemera still in this house is kind of overwhelming and I've been at a loss for what to do with most of it.  I've begun to scan it.  As much as I can.  We can't keep it all.  But I can't bring myself to just throw it away.

So, I'm formulating a plan.  A plan that may or may not work.  I'm noodling on it.  I'll clue you in shortly. 

In the meantime, if someone could find John Adams Refsinger for me?  I'd greatly appreciate it.  I found his birth announcement from 1942.  His birthday is coming up on February 1st and  I probably need to give it back.

Vintage Baby Announcement 1942

Cross-posted at LifeinProgress

January 2, 2010

I LOVE a Good Mystery, Especially When It Gets SOLVED

Category: What on Earth!?

It was exciting to open up my email this morning and get a note from Beth in Chicago (researcher par excellence, obvs) who has tracked down the identity of our vintage baby announcement family.  And the story, as it unfolds, is pretty cool.  I've omitted some of the more personal information she found.

The surname is spelled with an old style 's', so the name is actually Ressinger. Paul, the father was an executive with the American Typographical Society, which explains the fancy print. I believe that I found John A. Ressinger listed as an alum of Northwestern University. According to their records, he was from the Class of 1964. So, apparently he is still alive.

After receiving Beth's note, I did a little digging around regarding Paul M. Ressinger.  Here's what I found:

Are you following this?  Bauhaus bowl + Hungarian artist's ceramics + fonts & typography + baby announcement = Society of Typographic Arts + the Institute of Design.

Or something like that.

Paul M. Ressinger passed away in 1955 at the age of 64 (much too young).  His widow, Berenice "Bunny" Ressinger, passed away at the age of 94.  They had two sons, Paul Martin Jr. and...John Adams.  A fellow Northwestern alum.

Whose birth announcement this is.

Vintage Baby Announcement 1942

Which I would very much like to give back to him if he would like to have it.

I'll work on that next.

January 2, 2010

Ephemera Project

Category: Daily Diary

Earlier this week, I began a scanning project for the ephemera left behind in the house. I would love to post the results both here and on the LifeInProgress blog, but can't. The software for the LifeInProgress blog is better suited to entries with multiple photos and is more efficient. So, if you are interested in that project, you might want to keep checking in over there or on our Flickr feed. Thanks all!

May 3, 2010

What do these things have in common?

Category: Daily Diary

A set of lovely painted scrolls from Balinese painter, Ida Bagus Rai?


A Megillah Esther?


A tourist's pennant from Rio?


...And an ancient plastic Dominick's bag?

What they have in common is our closet at the HouseinProgress. Of course.

a neighborhood of home improvement blogs

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