Well, this just plain stinks. And it’s good news! Turns out the page I write for on Sunday is so well-regarded they sold a big ad on the bottom. Hoorah! I love ads. It also means my column got whacked by twenty percent, and that is tough business. You might think: hey, less work! But it’s not. Short is harder. It’s like doing jumping-jacks in a phone booth.

And I was in such a good mood before this. I mean, la-de-da / it’s warm, or warmish / January isn’t being January anymore mood. Part of this due to staying off the Internet and Twitter for the morning, because everything is horrible there. The other night a small piece of metal got into the disposal, and it made a sound like Twitter over the last two months. I tweeted out something to that effect, and got responses: really, just the last two? Yes. Everything is awful and everyone is awful and you’re awful if you don’t feel awful about the awful thing I’m feeling awful about.

At first I wondered how the disposal would handle the tiny screw - I think that’s what it was; it was something on the floor that was placed on the counter, a simple tiny screw, belonging to nothing but obviously belonging to something that had, so far, survived its absence. I tried to fish it out, putting my hand in the disposal, convinced as you always are that it’ll turn itself off. The disposal never seems like a servant. A wolf, yes. A beast that can accept your command one second and tear out your throat the next. But I couldn't find it. The screw had gone into the main chamber.

I ran the water for a while then turned the unit on. It made the most horrible sound. An angry battle of equals. But the next day I tried it again, and after a few seconds of nasty clashing racket the disposal seemed to find its focus, and the steady whine of the blades triumphant returned. Crisis over.

Still wonder what that screw used to do. How old it was. Where it came from. We’re surrounded by a million little objects that hold the world together, and give them no thought, until one fails, and suddenly we know it was crucial all along.

They’re all crucial.


It's the week of sorting old family scans.

Here’s a picture that made me pause and wonder what Dad was thinking:

The color was coppery, the counter was boomerang-pattern turquoise Formica, which I’m convinced influenced my whole sense of aesthetics at some atomic level.

The curtains are a mystery; I did not know that I grew up in the Red Lodge.

Judging from the rest of the pictures in the batch, it’s about 1962 or ’63. That’s our kitchen. Why did Dad take a picture of the stove?

I should note that I loved that stove, because it had push-button control and a GE red plastic button that glowed when the heat was on. Years later I took a picture before Dad moved.

Push-button control was the measure of the times! The buttons had were concave to conform to your finger.

Here's another:

This one is a slide, which means it was hell to reconstruct from a scan. My new bike. But when was it taken? I’m no good at identifying my age from pictures, although it’s obviously before 4th grade because I’m not wearing glasses. Any clues?

Why yes. Yes, there are clues. See it? Of course. Computer, enhance.

That might be hard . . . no, it’s not. They’re all online.

Ta da! 1964.

It's great here! It sucks over there! Pretty much true, when you think about it.

More for the next few days; there's a point to all this. I think. It's about memory, and things you can't forget. Like plastic on the lamps because they might be ruined by . . . people running into the front room with sooty hands, maybe. Or . . .

That painting.

It wasn't until I thought about it and searched for a possible match that I realized how much I didn't like it - and how I took my eventual revenge. More on that as the week goes on.

From the popular, famous, and generally forgotten cartoonist Clare Briggs: the feller needing a friend is the baby attacked by grinning monsters.


From a bio derived from some promotional effort that worked the name of the strip into the anecdote:

While attending the University of Nebraska for two years, he studied drawing and stenography. Employment as a stenographer brought him six dollars a week when the work was available. One of his art instructors was an editor with Western Penman, where his first published drawings appeared. His mathematics teacher was Lieutenant John J. Pershing.

"If ever a fellow needed a friend, I did in mathematics," said Briggs. "It happened that Lieutenant Pershing was my instructor, and I believe he will testify that it was easier to conquer Germany than to teach me math. One day he ordered me to the blackboard to demonstrate a theorem, and while I was giving the problem a hard but losing battle, he remarked: 'Briggs, sit down, you don't know anything.' Right then and there, I decided to become a newspaper man."

I can appreciate that.




This week it's 1932. The sophistication of the ads jumped tenfold from a mere five years before - it's really quite remarkable.

They have it in the can. The pranks were true! Of course they had to be, or there wouldn't be any point to the prank.

Lives were not, in fact, saved:

Mmm mmm - a rubber gridful! If you take the ad picture literally, and the cubes are sentient, then the Presto Tray is anything but a life saver. It facilitates the extirpation of life, if it is in cube form.


I wonder what that Magic Finish is. It wasn't Teflon.

Tired of waiting for steel? I know I am:

It's in stock because there's just not a lot of call for it.

Look at that ad's design - compared to the previous decade, it's startling. Simple and severe.

The big disembodied head was a 30s staple. Not sure it works here, but it gets your attention:

Hood history:

In 1920, Hood's tire division, which had started in 1906, was making 35,000 tires a day and the footwear division over 70,000 pairs of shoes daily -- ranked first in New England and third in the United States. During WWII, the Company manufactured bullet-proof fuel cells, de-icers for aircraft, plastic helmet liners and aviation boots.

Goodrich bought Hood in 1929. It closed in '69. There's a town where the old men still remember the smell of the factory. The company started in Watertown, MA; they had a population of 39K in 1969, and taxes from the company once provided 10% of the city's revenues. There are 34,000 souls there today.

It's not quite the Miseries of VD, but it has the same tone:

He was a carrier. Red skin is the mark of the Carrier. You don't want to be a Carrier. You don't want to give girls fungus.

Then again, hell, who'd know.

I have a big book of 30s ad design that talks about the mistakes many artists made when adapting to the new style. How some sacrificed legibility for impact. I think this one got it right. And it's a reminder that it was easier to change the style of ads than the style of the thing they sold. The machine still looks as if it's from the 20s.

The brand is important:

David Sundstrand, in 1911, invented an adding machine that was the very first to use the '3x3 above zero' key arrangement, which became widely adopted and to this day is standard on calculator and computer keypads around the world.

Underwood bought them, and the brand eventually became associated with aerospace.


All of a sudden I want one. Not Honey-Lemon, either. LEMON Lemon.

Fresh! Dainty! Two words you never appliy to Life Savers. They were added to the five-flavor pack in 1935. The flavor had been around since 1925, according to Wikipedia. So I don't know what this ad is talking about.

It's not like Wikipedia could be wrong.


That'll do for today. Don't miss my MONDAY newspaper column! Just click on the big green Startribune Star.


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