Friday, February 12, 2010


While sorting through the box of recipes I mentioned in the post about the electric organ and the creepy house, I found this packet of samples from KVP. The lady of the house requested samples and order forms from the Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment company, makers of shelf liners, pie crust papers, fancy wax papers to wrap sandwiches in...all kinds of goodies, really. Here is a letter from them, with the woman's name and address blanked out:

How nice of them, how considerate! Plus, note the date: 1944. Which would explain this added card (right). When you use Dusting Paper, you're using Dusting Paper with Hitler.

These shelf liners come in nine shades! All bright and clean looking. I think it's weird how today's contact paper, for the most part, is so dull (the one's left to me in my kitchen cabinets are this weird, faux woodgrain, which is funny, seeing as the cabinets themselves are wood, and it's easy to see how "faux" the woodgrain really is).

Now for my favorite part, the wax paper. Wax paper for your kid's lunch pail! For tray liners at a birthday party! I've always thought of wax paper as being tin foils boring older brother, but no more!

I keep thinking what a great anything pattern these things would make. Curtains. Wallpaper. A dress. Or best of all, a combination of the three, wherein you would blend in with your surroundings. A vintage chameleon. Isn't the fish one the best?

Wikipedia says:

"The Kalamazoo Vegetable Parchment Company was founded in 1909. The founder, Jacob Kindleberger set up shop along the Kalamazoo River. The company then started selling pieces of land, located around the mill, to the mill workers. By 1930, the population had grown to 511 and Parchment officially became a village. Parchment became a city in 1939, and has become known as "The Paper City". Over the years KVP was bought out by or merged with other companies including, Sutherland Paper Company, Brown Company, James River, and finally Crown-Vantage. 2000 marked the end of the paper making era in Parchment and the city has struggled to keep itself afloat. Now the great debate in the city is what to do with the old paper mill land."

How neat to live in a town named "Parchment".

This site has a little more on the company history, plus a tiny photo of a what looks like a whole roll of the zoo/cowboy wax paper, gimme gimme gimme.

Flickr set on KVP factory, a now-abandoned building.

Friday, February 5, 2010

"Home is Fun"

I found this book in the basement of an estate sale-- the room was relatively clean, but the book itself looked like it might have come out of the cave in The Hills Have Eyes. EVERY PAGE is ripped-- every one! How does a kid (or kids) even do that? I was always taught to treat books like a carton of eggs.

Formerly a holding of the Dickson (Tenn) Public Library, this book was published in 1939 and is kind of a Home Training Manual for primary school students (it's labeled "social studies", but again, is more "cultural indoctrination"). I didn't think about it until after I'd read the whole thing, but in Depression years, these kind of books, the movies, and the Sears and Roebuck catalog might be the only places a lot of people would see what a "normal" family and household looks like. Let's take a look at the illustrations I scanned (the ones that weren't exed out in lead pencil by some errant schoolchild seventy years ago). Handtinted photographs of REAL PEOPLE. Does it get neater than that?

"These are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood...." Note the color of the awnings.

Marbley backsplash, red venetian curtains, red step stool. Roddy, the boy on the left, has the gaudiest socks in every picture, I love them. As to Ann, the girl on the right-- why were little girl's dresses so short back then? Seems wrong.

Look at that beautiful avacado green tile! I love how some of these still photos look like art prints. The composition of the second one is nice.

I'm pretty sure those curtains are yellow clipper ships on a forest green background. Want. This is the room for all three kids. ["This room looks like a garden in summer," said Ann.]

Mother and Father's room. ["Mother will powder her face here," said Ann. "Father will brush his hair in front of the looking glass," said Roddy.] Note the way the curtains are hung, and the fact that each room has chenille rugs with matching bedspreads, on hardwood floor. From old movies I just assumed all houses were carpeted. News to me.

The Living Room. ["Why is this room so big?" said Ann. Because we will use it the most, " said Mother.] Blue carpet, chocolate brown furniture. I realize that due to a black and white education, I also have little to no idea what colors things were in people's houses in the late 30's.

Bring that chair to my house! BRING IT TO MY HOUSE!

The company room ["Now it is time to do the company room," said Mother. "We want our friends to visit us. We need a nice room for them."] I thought it was nutty that the house had three bedrooms and shook down like this: one room for Mother and Father, one room for all THREE kids, and one room for "company".

["How clean the clothes look!" said Ann. "See them dance in the wind!" "They dance because they are glad to be clean," said Mother. The clothes danced and jumped on the line.] Isn't that just beautiful?

And last, but not least, PINTO, the real star of the book:

["It's your turn now, Pinto," said Roddy. He put Pinto on the swing. "But Pinto jumped off. "No thank you," he barked. "I like the ground better"]

I'm ready to move in, how about you? Home IS fun.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Wappie's Surprise Cake"

I picked up a copy of Volume 4 of the Childcraft books set today at Goodwill, entitled "Animal Friends and Adventures". This copy is from 1954, which is about ten years older than the set sitting on my grandmother's bookshelves right now. Wracked with the guilt of one who frequently buys things that have no future use, I thought I would share my thoughts on a little guy named Wappie. But first, preamble.

It seems strange to me that the Childscraft people, who I know are like high quality purveyors of children's reference books, would choose such terrible illustrators for this edition, but most of the animals look bizarre. Examine:

That lion looks insane. It's like a teddy bear with hell eyes. I kept flipping through the book seeing illustrations of owls in women's wear, and children getting into mischief, until I came across this:

Ladies and gentlemen, Wappie, of "Wappie's Surprise Cake", by Harriet Bunn. This story was originally published in a periodical called Child Life, but that's about as far as I could get as to the provenance. Mostly concerning the most endearing little bab of a monkey of all time, and a misadventure surrounding a coconut cake and the destruction of said coconut cake. Some of the writing was just sparkling, though-- by far the best in the book.

Choice quotes/synopsis:

1) Wappy: re: being inside because of the snow and being ignored because of Christmas: "The week before Christmas he was so lonesome that if he'd known how he would have cried." --->?!?

2)Wappy: re: coconut baking scent pervading household: "'Coconut' and the tall palms with their rustling leaves seemed to rustle close to his ear...such pictures it brought him! He could see his brothers rolling the [coconuts] along the ground and knocking them together. When they cracked [them]apart, they flung back their heads to drain the sweet milk." ---> reminds me of that "The 'Teddy' Bears" short film from the Library of Congress dvd set, which melds the Teddy Roosevelt story with the "Three Little Bears" fairy tale for a decidedly macabre ending ("Oh, great President, thank you for responding to our home invasion by murdering both my parents and taking me into captivity.") This one's kind of like "Gee, guys, thanks for baking me a coconut cake. It reminds me of my home in Africa. WHERE I WAS HAPPY. WITH MY FAMILY. RIGHT. I FORGOT."

3)On being confused by the smell of the cake: "Could he, Wappie, who had smelled lions and snakes miles away, be mistaken about such a well known smell as that?" ---> the pride of this little monkey, his superior sense of smell. Cute. My boyfriend repeated it to me in a Clifton Webb voice and it was even funnier (Mr. Belvedere in this clip).

4)On being caught actually sitting on the cake, an event for which he is WHOLLY CULPABLE: "Wappie lost his temper as fast as he did everything else...if she [the cook, who is reasonably upset by this little demon] wanted that cake she could have it, and right in the eye, too. Wappie stood up and aimed the hunk in his fist. He spit the bite in his mouth onto the floor. He dug his long toes into the frosting and scuffed it out behind him..." Give 'em hell, Wappie. Little man, I suggest Clint Eastwood for your biopic.

5)He swings on the lamp back and forth and launches himself to safety via the open kitchen door. See remark #5.

6) He gets really cold outside in a snow covered tree up which he has clambered and is lured back in by his owner and a banana. None of us are without faults. "The warmth of the coat soothed him. Wappie snuggled close to Peggy's neck and laid a tired head against her shoulder." My little heart.

7)Wappie sees a Christmas tree for the first time, and thinks about how good the fruit on it must be (ie ornaments). He sees the star at the top, and we get this passage. " 'A star!' He had tried to reach stars through the green palms of the jungle, but they were always too high for him. Tonight he was satisfied. His stomach was full of cake, but the very next chance he got he was going to taste that star." He keeps thinking in his very active dream life of home. And touching stars. I am misting like the Niagara Falls.

8) Just to bring the point home, as Peggy reflects on how much Wappie likes the tree, and what a good monkey he is, he internally reiterates his plans for that tree: " 'Tomorrow,' thought Wappie. 'While they take their naps, I'll wriggle through the door and climb up and taste that star!' "


I love how irrepressible the monkey is throughout the story. He really is a strong little character, and without trying to read too much into him (he's not exactly Jay Gatsby), there's plenty for the kid or the parent reading it to them to attach themselves to Wappie, he has moxie. The sweetheart sweetieness of the how cheeky he is just wins me over completely.

What I love about the Childcraft books are how they were written _for_ children-- the writers don't write down to children (instead assuming they or the people who read to them to be of average intelligence, not lobotomy patients), and the writers don't write up to their parents (as it seems every smarmy CGI animated thing that comes out nowadays is, riddled with body humor gags sandwiched in between classic tv references).

Couldn't find ANYTHING to link me to more Wappie-age, but here are some links to the Child Craft set. I wouldn't pay twenty bones a volume for them, but if you see them peeking out of somebody's attic, or a yard sale box, don't pass 'em up, they're treasureful.

Childcraft 1949-1961

A really kind of interesting blog
that reviews children's texts from a current perspective. Why do I never think of anything first?


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