June 1, 1999
This is a day for catching up on some miscellaneous material provided by readers. First off, a while back someone brought me an interesting little paperback book entitled "One Thousand and One Things Worth Knowing; A Book Disclosing Invaluable Information, Receipts and Instruction in the Useful and Domestic Arts; Everything of Which Is of Practical Use to Everybody." Obviously, the title alone takes up nearly a page, but that is not what sets this little book apart. It was published in 1855 in New York by Henry Stephens, and that was a long time ago. Hand-written marginal notes in pencil are still visible but hardly legible. Although the pages are worn and fragile, they are still in remarkably good condition for something nearly 150 years old.
Some of the compiler's observations in that book are still valid. All of them are interesting because of what they have to say about the early years of this country. These are some of the topics listed in the contents: How to Get Rich; Warts and Corns, and How to Cure Them; To Make Cheap and Wholesome Drinks for Warm Weather; How to Win a Sweet Heart -- True and Only Method; and finally, Employment for Everybody, Or How to Make Money. I guess that last one is what you'd call a catch-all. It's not just about job-hunting. It includes a section on Hair Restorative and another on Cheap Hair Oil. Here's a recipe for that last one: Take 1 gallon lard oil in a vessel; tie up 1 oz. Alkanet in a straining cloth and suspend it in the oil for a few days until it comes to the right shade of color, then flavor it with 1 oz. essential oil to suit. (According to my dictionary, Alkanet is a European plant of the borage family). The book appeared back in the heyday of the antimacassar, which was a cover used to protect the arms or backs of chairs. You can see why furniture would need protection if lard oil was slathered on the heads of ladies or gentlemen sitting on them. The book contains only 144 pages but each one has its own charm and fascination.
Now on to other subjects. My friend Bess Kime was reminiscing recently about days of yore and she believes that qualfies her for "old-timer" status. She asks: "Do you remember the old Elementary school that stood in the middle of the block with the sidewalk diagonally to the street corner? That's where we played jacks and the boys (and some of the girls) played marbles in the dust. The game of horseshoes also was popular. I also remember playing shinny. Some of those times were 'good old days'." Yes, indeed, I remember that old school and the old playground of dust, gravel and stickers. One of my personal favorite recollections is watching a favorite teacher, Thelma Brown, playing tag with the kids at recess. She was pretty good at the game.
Thanks to these folks and all the others who supply me with interesting material from time to time.