In the November 1927 issue of Good Housekeeping Miss A. Gardyne suggests decorating a Christmas table for children. Most elements of it seem awfully jolly and fun (to use the language of the time), but to a Health and Safety Inspector of 2017 some features would be regarded as positively dangerous.
In London recently buying a small collection of books near Palace Gate I spotted three Bentley Bentaygas parked casually along the neighborhood streets. The one pictured can reach 190 mph and will leave little change from £150K. The ultimate SUV, 4 by 4, ‘Chelsea tractor.’ On showing this photo to a colleague, something of a ‘petrol head’,he informed me that there were certain areas of London that (young) tourists visit just to see rare and expensive supercars in the flesh – Mayfair, Chelsea, Belgravia mainly. He said that the visitors sometimes encourage the owners, often young Middle Eastern guys, to rev them up. In one instance the driver forgot he was in gear and shot forward into another supercar wrecking both. I blame Jeremy Clarkson..
Found – Illustrated Games of Patience a reprint (Frewin, London 1968) of Lady Adelaide Cadogan’s 1870 edition, this with an introduction by the actress Margaret Rutherford (memorable as an early Miss Marple). Her piece has a quirky style and a good glimpse of the older actress Marie Tempest playing Patience back stage:
A young jotwatcher, one Simione, from the Silicon Fen area has sent in this amusing game that can be played using an iPhone or laptop. One player picks 3 people of seemingly equal fame and then all the players have to say (in order) who has the highest google rating i.e. number of hits. It is best when searching to put the full name in inverted commas – e.g. “Kevin Bacon.” Players score 1 point for naming the person with the most hits and an extra 2 points for naming all 3 in correct order. First to ten , at that point you can play again but one session is usually enough. Try Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges and Vladimir Nabokov. The leader is Borges at 7.88 million, Proust at 4.68 and Nabokov at 3.3 million.
In the realm of popular youth culture who is the biggest – Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga? Bieber wins at 168 million, Lady Gaga 137M and Taylor trails with a mere 127 million. Results can change day by day and rather randomly. People currently in the news do well, as do those associated with technology. Best to avoid common name like James Brown or John Taylor.
You can mix cultures to make it more challenging – say Kafka, Ayn Rand and Samuel Beckett— predictably Kafka comes in at number one with 7.74M, objectivist Ayn Rand at 5.7M and Beckett with only 3.97 million hits. [See our illustration which brings Rand and Kafka together.]
Names of rock bands can be fun – try Kraftwerk, Radiohead, Metallica (it’s Metallica by a country mile.)
With Elvis, Bob Dylan and Albert Einstein, the scientist leads, followed by Bob and trailed quite closely by ‘The King”. (Allegedly Dylan once chucked Phil Ochs out of a limo for suggesting he would never be as big as Elvis – turns out Ochs was wrong!) Super heroes throw up some surprises- at 100 million Super Mario has more hits than the Hobbit and Darth Vader combined. Theoretically you could try Oranges, Apples and Lemons or Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle but celebrities are the most fun. The name of the game, according to Simione was suggested by the cocktail in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster*. Simione also suggests it could be a drinking game with the loser having to buy a round or the winner drinking a shot. More sober players could play for money, say a $1000 a point.
He (or she) suggests you try William Shakespeare, J.K. Rowling and John Lennon or Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath and Bjork. Such fun!
*Beeblebrox advised that you should “never drink more than two Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters unless you are a thirty ton mega elephant with bronchial pneumonia.”
1) Order in a lot of fruit that goes bad
2) Order in flowers you have no time to arrange
3) Buy handsome presents and have them put down
4) Give a big Dance when you can only afford a Games Evening
5) Economise on heating, and give everyone ‘flu ( see Doctors’, Nurses’ bills)
6) Economise on lighting ( and let people trip over stairs and break their ankles etc)
7) Give rubbishy presents and make lifelong enemies.
8) Overdo yourself and have to go into a Nursing Home.
Extract from The Perfect Christmas (1933) by Rose Henniker Heaton.
Lots of Young People
The guest with a car
The Enterprising Girl
The Elderly Woman who can tell fortunes
The Elderly Man (if red-faced and jolly).
The Handy-Man (issue invitation early, as he is in great demand).
Anybody good with children.
The Unselfish Friend.
The Greedy and the Selfish.
Mean People (who suffer tortures at Christmas).
People who always feel “out of things.”
Barry Ono (1876 – 1941 ) was both a comic ( in the Music Halls) and a collector of comics. This photo from the Collector’s Miscellany of August 1936 shows him lecturing at the ‘Barry Ono Penny Dreadful Exhibit ‘at Selfridge’s Hobbies Exhibition.
In a short article for the same magazine a trawl by Ono through the ‘ For Sale ‘ and ‘Exchange’ adverts in the Boy’s Standard of the 1880s recalls his own early triumphs as an avid collector of Penny Dreadfuls.
“There was a little shop in the Waterloo Road, London, that had stacks and stacks of the Chas. Fox publications when that firm passed out, 6d a vol. mint in wraps. “Spring Heeled Jack”, “Sweeny Todd” , “Turnpike Dick” and all the lot, plus quarterly divisions in wrappers of the Boy’s Standard, Boy’s Leisure, and Boy’s Champion at 3d each. At another second hand shop, also in the Waterloo Road, a shilling used to be my limit for such items as “The Boy Detective, or The Crimes of London”, “Gentleman Clifford”, etc, etc. Seems incredible now, and all a fantastic dream. Yes, my £20 would have gone quite a long way then, wouldn’t it? And many now completely unknown and unheard of rarities would have been saved. Well, since I acquired belated wisdom, many a tattered only derelict have I rescued from that oblivion it was hastening to, midst unfeeling and heedless vandals, carefully have I doctored it, gorgeous has been the half-calf overcoat in which I have had it arrayed, and now a more careful posterity I am thinking will least honour it on my demise as ‘Curiosa’. I am thinking I have been the ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ of the ‘bloods’, rescuing not from the guillotine, but from the flames and the dust bin. Continue reading
Found in The Ocean as a Health-Resort (A Handbook for Tourist and Invalids) by William S Wilson (London 1880) this guide to shipboard games. The author start by saying that study on board a ship is nigh impossible and recommends light reading. Is Cricket still played on cruise liners? Certainly there will no longer be shooting or climbing the rigging…
Those who expect to be able to study in the sense of reading hard will almost always be disappointed. There is something in a sea life that seems to be antagonistic to work of this kind, and it is generally seen that those who started with high resolves in this respect very soon subside into light literature or idleness. There are of course exceptions, but they are rare. The prevailing inability to study is, however, scarcely to be regretted in the case of invalids, who cannot do better than provide themselves with a supply of light literature, and direct all their energies towards deriving the greatest possible benefit from their voyage.
There are several open-air games which can be played on board ship, and which furnish a capital means of obtaining that exercise, the want of which is one of the drawbacks of being shut up within such narrow limits. Continue reading
Found in a scrapbook of clippings and manuscript material dating from c 1914 – 1930 and entitled ‘Gags ‘ is this written down ditty called ‘Ragtime Postman’. We are informed that the first verse should be sung ‘ by 4 with movement ‘.
Morning, noon & night you’ll always hear
Rat a tat Rat a tat Rat a tat
Then the ragtime Postman will appear
On his back in a sack he’s got letters in a stack
For you and me
And all of us get a move on post man do
Letters with kisses from other fellows’ misses
All of want to see what’s in them
(enter comedy postman & sings chorus) Continue reading
Found – a 1953 Communist Party booklet criticising the amount of money being spent on the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The figure of 20 million pounds is probably about a billion now but it may not be totally accurate. The name Beavermere is a compound of the two major Press Barons of the time- Beaverbrook and Rothermere. The style is that of a contemporary gossip column:
Lord and Lady Beavermere will be staying at Claridge’s during Coronation week. Claridge’s will be more than usually expensive because there are so many people like Lord and Lady Beavermere competing for room. The reason why they are stopping at Claridge’s is because the Beavermeres, like the others, have let their town mansion. Living in Lord Beavermere’s house is the Rajah of Muddlecore who is paying £1000 for the week so as to be on the Coronation route. So, despite the expensiveness of Claridge’s, the Beavermeres can afford to do themselves well. Continue reading
Bought for the price of a cup of tea at eBay – the infinite online flea market, a photo of a jumble sale*, in England and likely to date from the earlier part of the 1960s. It is stamped on the back Salisbury Journal with a phone number ‘Salisbury 6933.’ The women are mostly wearing rain bonnets probably because it was raining outside and possibly because it might rain (a fairly good bet most of the year in England, especially Wiltshire) or it may have been a fashion. The younger woman to the left with a transparent plastic bonnet would indicate recent rain and also dates the photo in the 1960s, the rest of the women could come from the 1950s if not earlier. The goods displayed on the table are fairly meagre– some very basic bookends, a thermos flask without its cup, a lamp without a shade, a glass fruit juicer, some glass and tin jelly moulds, a cut-glass vase and one slim book. Some sort of raffle or tombola was also being offered (‘every card wins a bottle’.) The woman in the middle is obviously a keen and seasoned jumble sale shopper- she has three objects she may be buying from a box (a ruler, a chopping board and a wool hat or tea-cosy) and three bags ready for stuffing with bargains. Possibly she is holding these objects in order to be able to see or deal with things further down in the box. The lady to her left is either a friend or someone waiting to dive in…The woman behind in hornrim specs anxiously waits her turn – it is probably the very beginning of the sale, the first rush. Jumble sales still go on with bargain hunters, also online traders sourcing their wares , and people trying to help out the charity that has organised the event.
- A sale of a mixed collection of things that people no longer want, especially in order to make money for an organisation, usually a charity. UK and Australian usage. In USA and Canada they are known as rummage sales.
Found- some sheet music for the song The Cokey Cokey which later became the song (and dance) the Hokey Cokey. This is what it is all about… There are many theories about its origins – dealt with at Wikipedia and in a Mental Floss piece on its ‘dubious origins.’ Possibly the name came from the magician’s ‘hocus pocus’. This version was written in 1942 by Jimmy Kennedy (1902-1984). Jimmy Kennedy states that his version is based on ‘a traditional action song known long ago in the mining camps and saloons of the Canadian West. The word ‘Cokey’ means a dope fiend but what this has to do with the dance is not at all clear!’ As he says – it then came over in World War 2 with the Canadian troops. He explains on the back of the sheet music exactly how to do the dance:
This is one of the simplest dances ever. You hold your partner in the normal way and while the verse is being played you may fox-trot using any steps you like. When the chorus starts, that is, on the words, ‘Left arm out’, you put your left arm in line with your shoulder, continuing on the words ‘Left arm in’ by bending the left arm in and touching your shoulder, then ‘Left arm out’ as before. You hold your partner with the other arm. ‘Shake it all about’ explains itself —you simply shake your hand and arm with a circular motion. On the next line ‘You do the Cokey Cokey and turn around’ the appropriate action is to place the forefinger of the right hand pointing downward on top of your head and do a complete turnaround. ‘That’s what it’s all about’ ends the actions and you take hold of your partner in the normal way. Then the chorus starts over again with the right arm, then left foot and then the right foot etc., It should not be taken to fast..
This dance, since its introduction here by the Canadian forces, has caught on like wildfire and bids fair to out-rival some of the most sensational dance successes of the past.
Note: Alternatively the dance maybe performed by partners facing each other in line as in the Palais Glide and on the words ‘That’s what it’s all about’ both hands are spread out palm upwards. SEE?
Found- a copy of a rare book: Poems from Turkey (Taylor and Co., London, 1872). The author is anonymous but is known to be William Platt Ball (born 1844). Loosely inserted is a note giving info about him (see below*.) Of interest is the fact that he was in Turkey advising the Sultan about fireworks and while there seems to have put on a few shows. The frontispiece illustration shows a display over water with the fireworks being launched from a raft or jetty. There are poems about fireworks in the book one of which ('Pyro's Pilgrimage') is quoted after his preface:
These poems (except a few pages on Turkish subjects added since my return) were written during a stay of fourteen months in Constantinople. During this period I superintended (under His Excellency Halil Pasha) the Sultan's firework displays, organised a firework factory, and taught the complete art and mystery of firework making to a set of forty Turk soldiers, and English (in the mornings) to a class of four Efendis.Continue reading
From A Winter Evening Entertainments; or, Curious Mathematical and Philosophical Problems, etc. (Jasper Wiseman, Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd 1820.) Most of these puzzles have punning answers that might nowadays elicit groans.. Almost all are present in many other books and magazines of the time, it is doubtful that the author made up any of them. Wise man.
What step must I take to remove the letter A from the alphabet?
By B heading it.
If I buy four oranges for a penny, and give one of them away, why am I like a telescope?
Because I make a far-thing present.
Which of the cardinal virtues will water be when just frozen?
Why is spectator like a bee-hive?
Because he is a be-holder.
Why is an axe like coffee?
Because it must be ground, before it can be used.Continue reading
Here are three photographs out of a possible six from the photo-archive of the famous newspaper El Mundo of Argentina. Interestingly, they are stamped 1st April 1935. Now, I don’t know if the Spanish, or indeed the Argentinians, reserve the 1st of April for tricks, leg-pulls, spoofs, scams or other deceptions, but if Dr Pribil, a Hungarian oculist, was deliberately playing a trick on journalists with his demonstration of ‘Invisibility Rays’, then he certainly went to a lot of trouble to do it.
According to the typewritten labels on the back of each photograph Pribil placed three objects—a teddy bear, a bronze statuette and an opaque china vase -- in his apparatus—basically a wooden box fronted by a picture frame behind which is a sort of slated affair. Out of the back of this box electric cables are connected to a supply. Unfortunately, the two photos showing how the objects gradually fade away are missing, but the last photo does show that all the objects have now disappeared.’ They are in the same place, perfectly tangible ‘, the caption points out, ‘but are completely invisible’.Continue reading
The Great Wheel, which was built for the Empire of India exhibition at Earl’s Court in 1895, and was the ‘London Eye’ of its time, is pretty well documented. Postcards showing various aspects of it can be had quite easily, as can medallions, which were struck periodically throughout its career, right up to 1907, when it was demolished. But what we have here is something quite rare—on a number of levels. Firstly, it is a large photographic image of the wheel—four times the size of a postcard—which was mounted on board and sold –presumably to be framed and hung—by the famous commercial printers of posters, stamps and banknotes, Waterlow and Sons Ltd. And there on the lower right hand corner is the signature of the Wheel’s ‘constructor ‘ Walter B Basset ‘, which may be original, but could equally be a facsimile. Lastly, we can date the photograph because it depicts the Wheel looming above the temporary constructions in painted wood and ironwork—some especially imported from India-- that comprised the Exhibition, which was the brainchild of Imre Kiralfy, a producer of burlesques and spectacles.
Interestingly, in the background can be glimpsed the warehouses that stored the forage for the horses that transported goods of London largest department store, Whiteleys, while in the bottom left hand foreground can be seen a very early example of an elaborate electric floodlighting system for the Exhibition. If the signature is a facsimile then this mounted photograph could well have been a bit of opportunistic merchandising by Basset, who remains a very significant figure in the history of the amusement industry. Born Walter Basset Williams in 1864, the scion of an ancient Devon family, whose seat was Watermouth Castle, he entered the Royal Navy but left in 1882, possibly due to ill health, and instead took up engineering with the well established Maudslay Sons and Field, which specialised in steam-power. Here he did well and by the age of just 27 had become managing director. In 1894, inspired by the pioneering example in Chicago, he begun to build his first steam-powered Ferris Wheel at Earl’s Court, which when completed stood 300 feet high and contained 30 carriages, each of which could carry 30 passengers. It was an immediate success, but its popularity waned over the following years and in 1907 it was dismantled and the metal sold for scrap to the same company which 46 years later was to buy the Skylon at the Festival of Britain and produce cigarette cases from the scrap metal.
While the Wheel was still operating, however, Basset built other Ferris Wheels at Blackpool and Paris, but neither were a financial success, and when Maudslay went bankrupt in 1899, he set up his own business, The Basset Nut and Screw Company, in Belgium. In the end the destruction of his prized project at Earl’s Court may have been the last straw for a man in poor health, for in May 1907 he died, aged just 43, at the family home in Devon. Thankfully, the Vienna Riesenrad survived its creator and is now one of the city’s greatest attractions—it featured in the films ‘The Third Man’ and ‘The Living Daylights’.[R.M.Healey]
Photographs exist of the famous bookstalls in Farringdon Road, dating from the nineteen forties and fifties, and the one by Moholy-Nagy that illustrates the excellent London Street Markets, was taken in the thirties. But as far as I know, the stalls were never the subject of an etching, of whatever date. Here, dated 1934, is an etching by the brilliantly talented Nathaniel Sparks (1880 – 1956), one of the most popular masters of this art, which of course became moribund almost overnight as a result of the Wall Street Crash.
During the American-led collecting craze, which began just before the First World War, Sparks produced a huge number of etchings, many of them of notable London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey and Tower Bridge, and it is surely a sign of its fame in the thirties that Sparks regarded Farringdon Road as a fit subject for an etching. At that time he was doubtless a customer at the stalls himself, and it is known that in his last sad months, when poverty and illness had him holed up as a lodger in Somerton, he comforted himself by collecting old books. It is also likely that in the last half of a largely peripatetic life, which saw him living with gypsies and farmers in Somerset and the New Forest, he was forced to jettison many of the books he had picked up over the years, in favour of his paints and paper.
Naturally shy, physically slight, and all too aware of the severe rhinophyma which disfigured his face, Sparks sometimes cut a pathetic figure. He could not help compare his ill luck with the fame and fortune that attended his much older cousin, Thomas Hardy, and recorded his resentment in an unpublished satire. Things came to a head in 1940 when an enemy bomb smashed his printing press and he was forced to abandon etching entirely and eke out a living producing pellucid watercolours of scenery in his beloved Somerset.
The author is grateful for the excellent Nathaniel Sparks Gallery for allowing him to reproduce the two etchings.
Now have proof positive that the etching is of Exmouth Market! (ed.)
Found -an old booklet A Short Cut to Ventriloquism (London: L. Davenport 1934) by one Maurice Hurling. Apparently ventriloquism has had a slight revival due to reality TV talent shows. The book gives various exercises to improve ventriloquial skills but starts with the basics which we post below. The two major problems are the 'plosives' that cause the lips to move (B M P V) and the awkward W. Also developing a second voice for the dummy/ figure is essential. Hurling recommends starting with a 'Cheeky Chappy' voice, he also notes that the ventriloquial smoker has an advantage because 'a cigarette placed between the lips will help to keep them perfectly still.'Preliminary Exercise
Stand in front of a mirror, not too close, and let your lips be slightly apart.
Now try to say each letter of the alphabet without any movement of the lips. With very little practice you will soon find you can do this quite easily except for the letters B, M, P, V and W.
B is pronounced "ge"
M is pronounced "EMG"
P is pronounced "Key"
V is pronounced "VHEE" (breathe it)
W is pronounced "Duggle-you"
When I read the caption stuck on the back of this press photo of a certain Otto Kemmerich I was a bit taken aback, to say the least. According to the reporter,’ the famous German swimmer, accompanied by his trained lion ”Leo” have swum for more than 36 hours in a tank at the Circus Busch at Hamburg’. It was also reported that Kemmerich was planning to swim 50 hours without a break, also with his ‘pet’ and hoped to swim the Channel with Leo.
A bit of internet investigation revealed that the feat took place in April 1928 and that Leo wasn’t a feline at all, but a sea-lion, which suggests that the incompetent journalist had never heard of a cat’s dislike of water and had obviously never been shown any action shots of Herr K together with his pet. In fairness to ‘SSS’, the idiot in question, something may have been lost in translation from German to English, but surely any decent journalist must read back what he or she has written before releasing it to the world.
If the caption survived the sub-editor’s rigorous scrutiny there must have been red faces all around the press rooms of the papers that carried the story. Personally, that image of a fully grown lion swimming for 1 ½ days in a tank with a very edible human alongside him will remain with me for a long time.
One of the most poignant inscriptions in the celebrity album kept by Swindon landlady Barbara Slocombe is the 'Good Luck to You' which was left by May and Harry Kovar in November 1937. The couple were acclaimed wild animal trainers who specialised in lions and tigers, Harry being acknowledged as one of the greatest big cat trainers in the world. At the time both worked for Chapman’s Circus, but by 1941 they had moved to a more lucrative career in the States.
On 6 July 1944, the Kovars were the act that immediately preceded the discovery of a fire that quickly engulfed the huge tent of Ringling’s Circus in Hartford, Connecticut, where more than 7,000 spectators were watching the show. In the carnage that followed around 169 were killed and over 700 were injured, many being badly burned by the paraffin wax that had been used to waterproof the tent canvas. In 1950 a 21 year old former employee of the circus named Robert Segee confessed to what has been called the worst act of arson in American history, but he was never tried.
While the fire blazed the brave May desperately tried to force her animals back into their cages. She survived, but in 1949 her luck finally ran out. In California, during a training session, she was coaxing a recalcitrant lion, Sultan, from his cage, when the animal suddenly attacked her. Watched by her three horrified children, she was badly mauled and her head ended up in the lion’s mouth. She died instantly when her spine was snapped.
May was just 48 at the time. Her daughter (also called May) forged her own successful career with big cats for a number of years, before retiring to raise children. Today, one of those children is writing a book about her grandmother’s exploits. I wonder if those happier days at Mrs Slocombe’s will get a mention.