Sunday, January 09, 2011

The ephemerist

It was time to go through my computer desk drawer. I could hardly get it closed anymore, so I did a general purging. I found some post cards. Most of these I got about 20 years ago. I have so much ephemera in this house it's like a paper museum. I had forgotten about these cards until going through the drawer. I won't be purging these...they went back into the drawer.

My friend Clay sent me this interesting cat illustration. This sort of thing was wildly popular a few decades ago. Pillow-fightin' kitties is in the same kitschy category as poker-playin' dogs.

This card my wife got in a stack of cards she found on eBay years ago. The elements are so confusing I can't believe it was wasn't a total flop as an advertisement for a pet shop. Is that a real kid on that circus wagon, and what's he got there with him? A rooster? Ralph Warren Harding, named after an infamous U.S. president who died in office in the early 1920s, if you're looking tell us what this is all about.

Before the Internet took over this kind of thing, postcards were sold with these sorts of images. This is the kind of anachronistic freaky stuff people like: twin fat guys on little motorbikes! Wow! Uproarious! How do they stay on the bikes? Let's all point and laugh at fat people.

Then there's the "local color" style postcard. In this case a 1906 card sent from South Africa to Toronto, Canada, and featuring a couple of native policeman from Basutoland, bare feet, natty caps and all. They're carrying spears and not guns. I'm sure the South Africans, with their rigorous segregation, didn't want to arm any black men. These guys look pretty proud, though.

I bought the cards reproducing old paperback book covers in Petaluma, California. They're nostalgic for me because I remember my mom taking me to the grocery store and while she shopped I'd sneak a peek at the paperback rack, and all those racy images on the covers. Having read many of these books over the years I know now the covers promised more than the stories delivered.

William Irish was a pen-name of Cornell Woolrich (The Bride Wore Black, "Rear Window," etc.) I've never read Marihuana, but I like the the cover blurb: cheap and evil is what I like in a girl.

Leg Artist is a reminder to me of why I wanted to be an artist. In those days every ad I saw about taking art courses featured a guy drawing a pretty, half-dressed girl.

Movie posters are popular on postcards, and an especially fine, crazy cool, image is this "Invasion of the Saucer-Men." I've never seen the movie, but I'll bet the poster is better than the movie.

I picked up these cards locally. The one for Ken Sanders Rare Books was originally commissioned by Ken for the Cosmic Aeroplane Books in Salt Lake City, Utah. It's done by Neil Passey, who died at a very young age. I had a larger poster of this on the wall of my downstairs studio; my son and his friend Johnny used to sneak downstairs and ogle it.

Back in about 1990 a local entrepeneur put up stands in restaurants and stores featuring free advertising postcards. I remember picking up several of the best illustrated. I could only find these two for now: "Waltz Of the Dog-Faced Boy" is by an artist named Lammle, and "Fiddler on the Roof", done for the Sundance Theater is by James McMullan.

Especially close to home is this antique postcard featuring an old, old picture of the hospital where I was born. This picture was old when I was born in 1947! My mom claimed Holy Cross Hospital is where they gave her baby to another woman, and that woman's baby, i.e., me, to her. It's a long story, and for another day.


Anonymous said...

I was going to say something about the wonderful postcards, but those last two sentences erased it all from my mind

El Postino said...

Hate to leave you dangling like that, Myra, but the story is very complicated. Seeing the card brought back to me how much her delusional belief that I wasn't her child affected our lifelong relationship.