Got a box of ebay matchbooks at the office today, which is not unusual. Sometimes it's a thin envelope with a rare find; sometimes a box of random mixed-up stuff from someone who didn't know the value, or didn't care. Today was apparently the latter. Remarkable stuff. But that's not the point. When I opened it up I thought of something my daughter whispered when we were at my dad's house in the lower level: it smells like an old person's house.
We all know that smell, and I can't quite figure out what it is. Could be no more than lots of old paper, slowly disintegrating, releasing aged-pulped-tree molecules into the atmosphere. Or just how things smell when it's been a while since everything got a good dusting and vacuuming. My dad's house is pin-neat, so it's not because he sits among tottering piles of accumulated detritus. But there it is. When it's a library smell, it's comforting; when it's an old house, it's sad. When it's an antique store it's both, mixed with excitement. And I use the term "excitement" in the sense of "oh, I may find a perfect addition to my collection of ceramic clowns today."
Anyway: There was an antique store at the end of Broadway. Daughter wanted to go in, because there was Vintage Stuff inside, and this has a great cachet for her these days. She wasn’t bitten by the junk bug; it’s the interest in things that preceded your tenure. Some people have it. Some people don’t.
Vintage for her, of course, is 80s, as the 50s was for me, the 70s as the 40s. So this item would mean more to me than to her:
Victor Adding Machine Co. was a fledgling company in 1918 when the operator of a successful chain of meat markets gave a Victor salesman $100 for what he thought would buy an adding machine. Instead, he got 10 shares of the company’s stock. In an effort to protect his investment, that man – Carl Buehler – became a director of Victor in September 1918 and was elected president of the company three months later.
That'll learn 'em. The company is still around, and makes the hellish implements of office supplies. Pencil cups and portfolios with built-in calculators and Electronic Pencil Cups with LDC displays to show the time AND temp! My heart sags to think of these things.
And skips with delight when I see this:
My wife was cheered by it too, partly because Shakey's had the same connotation for her: a really special treat. A restaurant that catered to families and kids, had root beer in pitchers, player pianos, and pizza that tasted different from the stuff that passed for 'za in those days.
In the back, a huge number of old records. I stood there asking myself: why don't I have a record player that can play these and pipe the audio to my computer where I can clean it up?
Then again, how would I know someone already hasn't? (searching the internet) (Huh: no)
(googling cheap turntables)
Anyway, there's more:
"Ruby Cheeks" by Nick Lucas: recorded in 1927. Shall we listen to another tune by Nick from the same era? Let us.
A Cup of Coffee, A Sandwich, and You (some skips right at the beginning.)
You look at the boxes and boxes of records, and imagine how many voices, songs, performances, and memories are locked in the mute disks.
Monna Vanna, Colonial Club Orchestra. "Hit Tunes," they say. I don't think the sleeve matches the record.
It didn't occur to me to start collecting these; I don't know what they cost. Looking around ebay: expensive hobby. And you don't know what you get.
Also in the store: A schoolhouse cookie jar, starring Poxy Pixy!
There were also ceramic clowns. I was about to take a picture and then I thought, well, I really don't need to do that. You'd hate to take the picture to illustrate the folly of understanding why some people collect certain things, have it sit on the hard drive and the various backups in the folder FARGO ANTIQUES 051114, get cloned over and over, the same useless bits arranged in different places, part of the Marley's cashboxes I carry along, and then years later have someone wonder why the hell I liked ceramic clowns. I DON'T. THAT'S THE POINT -
- but that would be something you'd have to add in the metadata.
Ultimate final point about all this: the antique store was located in the old Woolworth's store, and not a trace of the old place remains. There's no way you could guess it was the thriving Five and Dime at the end of the street with the smell of coffee and hamburgers downstairs from the grill, and the smell of mothballs upstairs in the second floor. You got up there via escalator, one of the few in Fargo, and I remember the handrails were made of metal, pleated, and substantial. The all-consuming teeth at the end of the walkway were a source of terror and fascination as a child; you could imagine getting a shoelace caught, or losing a foot.
I went to the spot where the escalator would have been. No sign. The suspended ceiling was low and blared cheap light. Everything smelled like the Island of Cast-Off Stuff From Grandma's House, shorn of any connection to its domestic identity. I found three matchbooks to buy.
"Did you know there's a downstairs?" said the clerk, who was not old enough to remember Woolworth's. I said I didn't, and the family went downstairs. Right away, signs of the old store - ceramic bricks by the stairs, no doubt put in during the renovation that turned the site into a new jewel for the Broadway shopping district. At the end of the basement, though, an exposed brick wall, crumbling limestone, and the remnants of the structure as it was built a hundred years ago.
I'd link to pictures of the Fargo site, but I'm redoing it all. It will be one of the three last big things that will make lileks.com all done and complete in 2014, after which I will quit making websites and leave it all alone forever.
Oh, stop laughing.
Elmer seems more dismayed than furious.
You almost hate to know the caption. So just imagine what’s going on here.
And what it might possibly have to do with milk.
From the law firm of Hekman, Keebler, Strietman and Supreme:
It began in 1893 when Edsko Hekman ventured from the Netherlands to Grand Rapids, Michigan hoping to find his life’s work as a furniture maker.
The Panic of 1893 would lead him in a new direction, returning him to his first profession as a baker. Selling cookies door-to-door, Edsko eventually went on to found the Hekman Biscuit Company.
But Edsko’s dream lived on, and the company now makes . . . Furniture.
So. The guy’s out of work, sells cookies from house to house, turns it into an industrial concern with the resources to participate in a national ad buy, but turns back into sofa-maker? How? The sons, apparently, always wanted to continue their father’s dream; they opened up the furniture division in 1922. Which leads to a rather strained piece of PR:
The careful selection of ingredients, the patient hands-on techniques and the exacting presentation... the shared passions of the baker Edsko and his furniture-making sons, remain the hallmarks of the Hekman Furniture Company today.
Okay. Strietmann? A Cincinnati baker. Keebler you know, of course; started by Godfrey Keebler in 1853. But there’s one more detail from Hekman, a part I chopped off:
Selling cookies door-to-door, Edsko eventually went on to found the Hekman Biscuit Company, which was later to become the Keebler Company.
I don’t think so. Bought by Keebler seems more likely. Which means all the other brands were in Keebler fold as well.
It takes some nerve to say your furniture company started out as Keebler.
Having done these guys before, I’m not in the mood to recount the company history, except to note: this is what they looked like in the late 50s. Also: Sausage in a can?
Also, SNACK? It was a Spam Pretender, you can be sure. A rather generic name. Might as well call it FOOD and leave it at that, if you’re not going to go with SNAK or S’NAC. Although the apostrophe was not part of Spam Pretender nomenclature.
I can’t find any history on it. But . . .
. . . reasonably sure there wasn’t a Mr. Royle. Royal-Edge, is my suspicion. There’s something that’s gone out of style: putting happy designs on your shelves, only to see the adhesive come undone after a while. It would stick if you pressed it back into place, but not for long. It would collect crumbs, somehow.
JOHNNY ON THE SPOT
because in this context, it's good news!
Even better - smoke PMs, because that's what they give you on airplanes!
The term “Clothes-rot” will reel in the glamour crowd:
One to three days? What is the stuff, house paint?
Drawing the natural connection between the exotic minaret-studded near East and regular bowel movements:
The minaret isn’t an accident: the Wikipedia page for Saraka points to two topics, one being an old noble family, the other “Saracen,” a European term for Muslims.
The least-likely name for crinkly plastic:
Another wartime ad noted the virtues of the Resinous Vinylite from which these gay, colorful aprons would someday be made. But aprons later. Beat fascism now.
And that's it for today; new Richie Rich addition. Work Blog and Tumbler - just mouse over those buttons below for more fun. See you around.