Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 1913! er...2013

One of the things I enjoy most finding at garage and estate sales is ephemera. If you aren't familar with the term, it refers to any transitory printed matter which wasn't intended to be kept.  Postcards, tickets, matchbooks etc. fall into this category. They generally aren't worth a lot of money, but I find them very interesting, particularly when they've been written upon by the previous owner.

While doing some inventory and clearance recently, I came across a small notebook/calendar I picked up somewhere, some time ago, to be less than specific. It spans the 1913/1914 year from July to June (I'm not sure why the odd range) and was sponsored by Bromo-Seltzer, an antacid that dates back to 1888.

The first pages were left blank and intended to be used as a notepad. Someone took advantage of that and wrote their Christmas list. The note is old, but I don't think it is comtemporary to the calendar's issuance based on the items requested.

 The best part of the book is the list of measures to take when an accident occurs.  I'm not sure what's worse: actually drowning or it's proposed remedy.

It also lists popular antidotes for poisons.  The cure for Opium overdose sounds a lot like the cure for a hangover.

 Apparently, you could order sheet music from the Bromo-Seltzer Pharmacy as well for the cost of postage.  Aside from "The Star Spangled Banner", "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Nearer My God to Thee", allegedly sung as the Titanic sunk only a year earlier.  "Flee as a Bird" is not to be confused with the John Lennon/Beatles release of the 1990's.

 The back of the cover features the Bromo-Seltzer clock tower in Baltimore, Maryland.

It still stands.

The hours are marked by the letters in Bromo-Seltzer:

Take it easy tonight, and if you do overindulge, remember Bromo-Seltzer.

Happy 2013!

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Christmas Light

With the downswing in smoking over the past couple decades, I've noticed there's also been a downswing in advertising matches given away by businesses.  These days, you're lucky if you see a bar giving them away.  Time was, it was the perfect advertising medium; your customer was reminded of you everytime he lit up a smoke. 

I found these Christmas-themed matchbooks among several lots I've picked up over the past year.  Most came from banks.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Red, Gold and Green...and Blue

A while back I wrote about going to an estate sale with a specific item in mind where I ended up with a lot more than what brought me there.  I didn't finish the story, but now the season is right, so I will.  I saw a vintage aluminum Christmas tree color wheel in the pictures for the sale.  Mind you I already had one for my tree, but can you have too many?  Plus, the one I have can be stubborn at times and is a little noisy.
Despite being 2nd in line and a friend being first, I couldn't find the color wheel.  Normally, something like that would be placed up front as these are typically high demand items.  I came across many other items which distracted me momentarily and having swept the house and garage twice was about to give up when my friend motioned me to the rear of the basement.  He had found a tiny walk-in closet and inside was the color wheel.  Priced at $22, it wasn't a steal, but I decided to get it.

It had the original box, but it was a bit moldy so I had to toss it.  The rest of it cleaned up nicely and it works great.  Here it is in all of its colorful variations:

Scroll up and down to simulate actual color wheel action.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Keeping the Faux Fires Burning

The home I grew up in had a wood burning fireplace and we took advantage of it on many Winter nights, adding glow and warmth to the holiday season and the long cold months that follow in St. Louis.  It also provided a place to hang our stockings in hopes that St. Nicholas would soon be there.  I always wondered what kids without fireplaces or chimneys did about Santa.  While looking through some of my wife's childhood photos, I found how some people resolved that dilemma.

My wife never had a fireplace and for Christmas, her family would assemble a cardboard replica.  It can be seen in the background in this picture from approximately 1972.  She's in the middle between her older brother and their dog.  Her younger sister is on the left.

Monday, December 10, 2012

What Kind of Putz Are You?

I went to an estate sale in Affton a while back that boasted a large vintage train collection.  I figured the trains would be priced out of my budget, but I figured it was worth a look.  I met a friend there who came with the goal of buying a turntable.  We were both met by lots of train enthusiasts, further dimming my hope of getting any trains.  We weren't too far back in line, so we made it in the house with the first wave.  We were told the trains were in the basement and the mass of people moved in that direction.  The group, mostly older men, swarmed the trains like piranha devouring a fallen cow.  The group was complely ignoring what had caught my eye -- cardboard houses used as decoration for the train set. 

As far back as I can remember (and I'm sure a long time before that), my grandparents displayed little pasteboard houses under their Christmas tree.  Over the years I've collected a few of them myself.  These houses are commonly known as "glitter houses" or my favorite term "Putz" houses.  In this case, "putz" isn't meant to imply a stupid person, but rather the German-American vernacular for "puttering around".  The assignment of this term to these houses comes from playing with and rearranging or "putzing around" with the houses under your Christmas tree or with your Nativity display.  The earliest examples dating from the 1910's were German-made while Japan entered the market some time in the 1920's or 30's.  A good example of a typical putz house is this church I found at the same sale:

But the other houses I found at the sale were different. They were plainer and the only metal in them were the staples holding the corners together. Even the trees were made of cardboard as opposed to the green pipe cleaners used in the earlier putz houses.  My guess is these may date from WWII when we were at war with both traditional suppliers of these houses and metal was in shortage.  They were reasonably priced at $2 to $3 each.

I believe the dog, wildly out of scale with the house, is a later addition, but I like him.  The house is marked 25¢ in pencil on the bottom.

Another house.  The trees on the left were additions my wife made for display purposes.  Seen in the background is another traditional putz house.

Again, the trees were added to this house (not permanently, just set on the cardboard lawn).

This next one isn't of the same style, but the lithography is pretty nice.  I believe this drugstore may have been made for a train set during war time.  Lionel famously produced an entire assemble it yourself cardboard train during the war years.  This may have been an accessory for that set.

And finally, this well was an earlier find, but a common decoration seen with putz houses.  My grandparents had a similar well (my mother still has it).  The crank works and pulls up a little bucket out of the well.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Merry Kitschmas

I found this load of Christmas kitsch in the same bag at the same estate sale where I bought the Motorola television.  In fact they're assembed on that same television in my living room now.  I find comfort in supposing they're being displayed on the same piece of furniture they originally were.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Santanator

I found this Ho Ho Hobo laying on the basement floor of the estate sale where I bought the box of arrowheads I blogged about last Spring.  People were stepping over him, but I could see he was an early Japanese battery-operated toy.  I looked beyond his filth and brought him home for $1.

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