Friday 29 June 2012

Leslie Howard, Style Icon

Back to reality for the next in my series of stage and screen Style Icons, this time focussing on the great Leslie Howard.

All images courtesy of Doctor Macro.

A consumate theatrical and film actor, producer and director Howard was at home in his typical character of the intellectual, stiff upper-lipped Englishman with more than a hint of absent-mindedness - the latter often little more than an affectation used to deceive (although his friend - and previous Style Icon - David Niven once said of the off-screen Howard, "He was not what he seemed.  He had the kind of distraught air that would make people want to mother him.  Actually, he was about as naïve as General Motors. Busy little brain, always going."  Perhaps that was why he was so good at rôles that required such a performance). 

This is one of the reason why I like Leslie Howard so much - he is not the man of action in the same way as Cary Grant (or even Niven) or many of his other contemporaries; he is a thinker and is great for using brain rather than brawn in many of his parts.  He is proof that the sensitive, scholarly type can be just as effective and as attractive as a tough guy.  Attractive to the ladies both on and off screen - the latter a trifle too much, by all accounts (including Howard himself who once claimed "I didn't chase women but… I couldn't always be bothered to run away").

Like so many of his generation Leslie Howard served in the Army during the First World War but was invalided out in 1916 after suffering from shell shock.  Acting was suggested as a way of recovery.  Despite his success in Hollywood (and on Broadway) and an affinity with the United States Howard remained ever patriotic, always speaking highly of his home country.  When the Second World War began he returned to Britain and became heavily involved in the war effort (an action that would eventually lead to his demise), creating two of his most famous films "Pimpernel" Smith and The First of the Few as well as giving lectures, writing articles and delivering radio broadcasts.  While several of his expatriate co-stars also returned to do their bit, Leslie Howard's brand of loyalty to me always seemed something different, something more - a kind of thoughtful patriotism perhaps best illustrated in this quote:

Britain's destiny ... has been to uphold tolerance in religion, thought, speech, and race--the mainspring of democracy. We have still far to travel on the road to true democracy, but ... Britain, with her great gifts and strange inconsistencies had helped populate five continents and shown that the white man and the coloured man can live in peace together. We have also taken the Roman ideal of just administration, the Greek ideal of democracy and freedom of art, and the French tradition of the family unit, along with the Norse courage and loyalty and the Christian faith. Like all people, we have made some mistakes and have committed some crimes during our history, but we can say that we have built something worthy of our defence. We can look at our record without shame.

To return to Howard's general appearance and demeanour (both on and off camera) - has anyone ever looked better wearing round-rimmed spectacles, stout tweeds or standing on a foggy railway platform wearing an overcoat with turned-up collar and a carelessly-donned trilby?  Even better is that this is a look that can be more easily achieved than any that has come before, as it revels in the fact that fastidiousness and exactitude are not necessarily required.  The slightly wild spearpoint collar doing battle with the v-neck of a sleeveless pullover topped off with a heavy tweed jacket, the aforementioned trilby sitting atop one's head.  If you can cultivate a slightly detached dreaminess (or just be blessed with it) even the smartness of evening wear (or period costume should you want to emulate Howard's Sir Percy Blakeney or Ashley Wilkes!) should not pose a difficulty.  Maybe that is another reason why I admire Leslie Howard - for being a natural Englishman who one can not only look up to but also come close to imitating.  Only close, mind you, for as with all my Style Icons Leslie Howard is ultimately the embodiment of gentlemanliness.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Legacy of brand eponym Mercédès Jellinek in the Daimler archive

The recently-discovered and only known picture of Mercédès Jellinek at the wheel of a Mercedes, 1906
Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives.

Legacy of brand eponym Mercédès Jellinek in the Daimler archive

Girls' names have often been used as appellations for motor cars, with Elise, Giulietta, Clio and Megane just some of the more recent examples.  However this custom can in fact be traced back to the very dawn of the motor car thanks to an associate of the de facto "fathers" of the automobile Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler.

This associate was Austrian businessman Emil Jellinek who, like many wealthy men at the turn of the last century, took an instant liking to the new-fangled motorised carriage.  He became one of the top customers for both Daimler and Benz (at that time still separate companies), eventually becoming a salesman of sorts by recommending the cars of both manufacturers to his equally rich friends.  He also entered his cars in the motor races of the time and was by all accounts a huge influence on Daimler's and Benz's designs and motorsport entries.

If there was one thing Emil Jellinek loved more than his cars, though, it was his daughter Mercédès Adrienne Manuela Ramona Jellinek who was born in Vienna in 1889.  His adoration of her was clearly evident - among other things naming one of his boats after her and unveiling a large picture of her at the 1902 Paris Automobile Exhibition.

It is thanks to this devotion on the part of Emil Jellinek that the car which today sports a three-pointed star on its nose is called a Mercedes, for in 1899 he named his Daimler "Phoenix" 28hp race car just that and later in April 1900 convinced Daimler boss Wilhelm Maybach (Gottlieb Daimler having passed away in March of that year) that the next Daimler model should officially be titled "Mercedes".  When Daimler and Benz finally merged in 1926 it was agreed that, although the company's official name would be Daimler-Benz (and indeed today is Daimler AG) the Mercedes prefix would be kept - giving rise to the now famous Mercedes-Benz.

Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives
Mercedes Jellinek herself was never very interested in cars but was no stranger to scandal.  In 1909 she married the Austrian Baron Karl Schlosser (seen with her in this photo, left, believed to have been taken during their honeymoon in Nice) and had two children but by 1918 they were penniless and forced to beg in the streets.  It was then that Mercédès left the Baron Schlosser and married Baron Rudolf von Weigl, a struggling sculptor.  Little more of her life was known, and she tragically died in Vienna in 1929 at the age of 39 from bone cancer.

The lady with the green eyes

Now the Mercedes-Benz Archives are naturally a-twitter following the donation, from the godchild of her son Hans-Peter Schlosser, of 3 albums-worth of photographs and documents detailing Mercédès Jellinek's life, as well as the formative years of the company we know today.  Although details are thin on the ground it would seem as though papers including her birth certificate, plus other documents detailing previously unknown facts such as her eye- and hair-colour, are included in this discovery.  Perhaps far and away the best part, though, is the 300-odd photographs showing scenes from her life.  This is all the more remarkable considering that until now only one photo of Mercédès Jellinek was thought to exist, showing her as a little girl around the turn of the century.

Mercédès Jellinek (left).  Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Classic Archives.

It seems odd that so little was known about this important period of an international company's history, if not the life of one of its most influential people. Once the Mercedes-Benz Archives have gone through this treasure-trove of material, however, I feel sure we shall be hearing more about Mercédès Jellinek and the early years of the car company to which she gave her name.

A one horsepower Mercédès(!).  Image courtesy of Mercedes-Benz Classic Archive.

Vintage aerial photography of Britain

Aerofilms Ltd. DH60 Moth at Hendon, 1928.  Image courtesy of Britain from Above.

Yet more archival material now available online - aren't we being wonderfully spoilt of late?!

Britain from Above: English Heritage unveils thousands of fascinating aerial images

Last year I blogged about the beginnings of English Heritage's latest project Britain from Above which, as the name suggests, features several thousand images of Britain taken from the air.  Interesting enough, but the clincher is the fact that these photographs were taken between 1919 and 1953.  Now the dedicated website is live and you can see parts of the British Isles from the air in a totally new and different way - in the past!

What Britain used to look like from the air

Just one year after the end of the First World War and only 16 years after the first powered flight, pilots Francis Lewis Wills and Claude Grahame-White founded Aerofilms Ltd. and took to the skies to photograph the United Kingdom from a never-before-seen vantage point - the air.  It is simply fascinating to see locations - areas one can be familiar with today - looking so very different during the 1920s and '30s, in their first appearance from an aerial platform.  Already I've found images of local places, such as my local railway station, that give a glorious insight into the life of the area during the first half of the 20th Century. 

Wickford railway station - from where for 10 years I commuted to London - in 1928.
Image courtesy of Britain from Above.

Early aerial photos of the UK go online

Truly this is a remarkable resource and one I feel sure I shall continue to delve into for a long time to come.  There really is something for every amateur (and, dare I say, professional) historian here - I can almost guarantee that there will be at least one picture of a place near you - and things aren't finished yet as barely 20% of the 95,000 images in the 1919-53 collection have been digitised so far.  Over the course of the next four years English Heritage aim to turn the project into one of the premier sources of early British aerial photography, and I for one can't wait!

Southend seafront, Marine Gardens, pier entrance, Palace Hotel and the High Street, 1920.
Image courtesy of Britain from Above.

Vintage aerial photography of Britain

We can help in the creation of this ultimate collection too by sharing memories and knowledge of locations, many photos of which have little or no information attached to them.  One can sign up for free, join groups, annotate pictures and even download them!  This is one of the most magnificent archives I've come across in recent years, deserves to flourish and is possible thanks to Heritage Lottery and other private donations for which we should be inordinately grateful.  Happy browsing!

Saturday 23 June 2012

...and the winner is...!

OK folks, the Great Eclectic Ephemera One Hundred and Fifty Followers Giveaway competition is now officially closed.  Thank you to everyone who entered by commenting, and indeed thanks to all of my now 158(!) followers (and any others who may be following through other means such as BlogLovin').  It means a great deal to me that so many of you enjoy the things I find interesting and my thoughts on them.

So without further ado (or further adon't!) it is time to announce the lucky winner of all these historical and eclectic goodies that I have gathered together by way of thank you and celebration.

Using every blogger's favourite online random number generator the winner, selected from the 10 comments, is... drum roll please...

(ooh, I can hardly stand the suspense!)

NUMBER 5 - the lovely Brooksie from The World According to Art Deco Girl!  Congratulations!!

Brooksie, please drop me a line with your address to the e-mail on my Profile (or using the button on the right) and I'll get the prizes sent out to you.

Apologies and commiserations to those of you who did not win this time (you're all winners in my book!) but once again my thanks to you all for following and commenting on this blog.  I'm now looking forward to the next milestone, the 200 barrier, but in the meantime I hope you continue to enjoy reading this blog as much as I do writing it.

Have a happy weekend, everyone!

Friday 22 June 2012

That round ball kicking game

As you may or may not know I am not a fan of our country's so-called "national sport" (yes, ladies, men with no interest in association football do exist!) so when every four years the "Euros" (or the World Cup) roll around I am left bemoaning the TV schedules and observing with bemusement the sudden proliferation of little Flags of St George attached to car windows and the shouts of joy/frustration from neighbouring homes/public houses every time one or more of 22 overpaid oafs in their P.E. kit kicks an inflated pig's bladder into a 8ft x 24ft net.

I could go on about my opinions of the game, its modern-day players and its influence on the nation's psyche but to save you all from the rant I shall instead focus on a few amusing footer-based diversions with a vintage twist.

For example I'm told that tonight Greece will be playing Germany.  Oh were it more like this:

At the turn of the last century and for some years afterwards football was an amateur game (that is, the players weren't paid - in fact professional footballers were banned in England and Wales until 1895) with the teams usually being made up of company workers who played in their spare time.  Even when professional footballers became accepted they were subject to a maximum wage(!), among other regulations, some still had other occupations.  Denis Compton, well-known for playing the proper gentleman's sport of cricket for twenty years between 1937 and 1957, also played football for Arsenal between 1936 and 1950.

Football today is not a patch on what it was then.  For example, I'm told that the classic hand rattles are banned from most grounds nowadays due to them making a handy weapon - compare that to stories (even from my own mother, who attended her fair share of matches growing up in the '60s) of opposing supporters standing, yes standing as there were in places no seats, shoulder to shoulder sometimes surrounded by their opposite numbers with absolutely no ill-will or violence forthcoming.  Don't even get me started on the "professionalism" of today's players.  Uh-oh, nearly started ranted again there!

Classic newsreels of 1930s/'40s football matches have been successfully lampooned, perhaps most notably by Harry Enfield's Mr Cholmondley-Warner character in the early '90s.  Most amusing!

Of course if you must insist upon partaking in a bit of football then what better way to do it but in the vintage style, when it truly was "a gentlemen's game".  Luckily there is an online emporium that specialises in vintage football ephemera, including repro kits for some clubs.  The Old-Fashioned Football Shirts Company, pleasingly shortened to TOFFS, has replica jerseys that in places date back to late-19th Century designs!

Newton Heath (later Manchester Utd.) 1892-3 season
From £39.99 @ TOFFS

Woolwich Arsenal 1930
From £39.99 @ TOFFS

Naturally it wouldn't be a proper football match without a traditional leather ball - just don't head it too much!

Retro Leather Football, £40 @ Something Sporting

Even after all this I still find it hard to derive any interest in or enjoyment from football.  The best I can say about it is - while England are playing at any rate - it does at least mean the roads/public transport are quieter (one England match during Euro 2004, I think, I managed to shave several minutes off my commute home from work!).  Mr B's little ditty (technically composed for the World Cup, but works for the Euros too) sums up my attitude completely!

Fred Astaire in pictures: A master of song and dance

All images courtesy of Dr Macro
Fred Astaire in pictures: A master of song and dance

Today sees the 25th anniversary of the passing of the legendary Fred Astaire, who succumbed to pneumonia on this day in 1987 at the grand age of 88.

As my number one Style Icon I need little excuse to feature posts about the great man and this being the quarter-century since he left is reason enough to focus on him again.  The Daily Telegraph has done their own pictorial tribute and I intend to add to that with favourite images and clips of my own.

What can more can I add, though, to what I've said previously and to what others have said down the years?  There aren't enough superlatives in the world to do justice to Fred Astaire's dance skill, fashion and gentlemanliness.  Seeing him on screen is the nearest thing to seeing heaven on earth.  If I'm ever feeling down, or under the weather, I watch a Fred Astaire film and always feel better for it.  No other actor-dancer is such a joy to watch and admire.  He is like an æthereal being, floating from scene to scene, quite literally gliding around the floor and brightening the lives of everyone with whom he comes into contact.

Others may have come and gone, with Cary Grant running him close for "Best Dressed", but I'm in full agreement with those who say there has never been another like Astaire nor will be again.  There are once-in-a-lifetime performers and once-a-generation singers/dancers/actors but Fred Astaire was a true one-off, a perfect distillation of song, dance and action.

Twenty-five years seems almost meaningless for someone who has been immortalised on stage and screen (a happy thought has just occurred to me that, for nearly 4 years, Fred Astaire and I shared the same planet - a fact of time that scarcely seems creditable).  In fact, "immortal" is the very word.  Twenty-five, 250, 2500 - however many years pass I feel sure that the world will not forget the incomparable Fred Astaire and that we shall continue to celebrate him for as long as music and dance exists.

***Don't forget that today is also the last day you can enter my 150 Followers Giveaway.  The winner will be announced tomorrow so hurry, hurry, hurry!***

Tuesday 19 June 2012

East Texas man recreates 1920s-era Gulf station


East Texas man recreates 1920s-era Gulf station

To east Texas, United States, now where a splendid old local character has recently been putting the finishing touches to an obvious labour of love - a replica of his town's first petrol station that opened in the 1920s.

A fine-looking building it is too, very reminiscent of those early gas stations that popped up in rural communities across the land during the pioneer years of the motor car - as well it should be considering the time taken and detail gone into by Mr Rogers.  The world needs people like him and it is lovely to see the community appreciating his interest in its history, not to mention his penchant for collecting fascinating historical objects.  His comment about the perceived difference between a collector and a hoarder is funny, and quite true.  I have no doubt that his home is a treasure trove of antique items with a story to tell and that he will continue to add to his collection for as long as he can - good luck to him.

I am sure Mr Rogers will continue to get many years of enjoyment out of his wonderful Gulf station (although from the sound of things he is already looking ahead to his next project, I shouldn't wonder!), and I would hope that the people of New Harmony, TX will also take the place to heart as an important part of the town - both now and for what it represents of the past.  These small rural American towns have very often hardly changed in generations, as is evidenced here by the fact that some residents grandparents and great-grandparents lived in the neighbourhood and the son of the original station's owner was on hand to cut the opening ribbon.

In these days of bright, impersonal forecourts and splash'n'dash refuelling it is nice to, as Mr Rogers puts it, "step back and forget the traffic" - to step back in time, quite literally, and see how the early petrol stations of America looked, thanks to the dedication of one man.  You may not be able to get petrol at New Harmony Gulf Station No. 2, but I'll bet you can get a good feel for the past.

Sunday 17 June 2012

British World War Two propaganda artworks released on Wikipædia


British World War Two propaganda artworks released on Wikipædia

Some excellent news now for those of us interested in the beautifully-illustrated artwork that was used in Second World War propaganda posters (that would be all of us, I imagine!).  The National Archives, who hold in their collection nearly 2,000 war posters - originally commissioned by the Ministry of Information - have partnered with Wikimedia UK to begin making all of them freely available in the public domain.


More than 350 images of classic wartime propaganda posters have already been put up, with the remainder to be digitised and uploaded in the near future.  This means that nearly 400 evocative (and high-resolution!) pictures from 1939-45 are available to view, download and (with proper attribution, of course) use on your blogs or however you wish!

As well as being a welcome endeavour from the point of view of free use and availability it is also, as with any move to put historical documents online, an important and worthy undertaking that ensures these valuable images are saved and accessible for future generations.  (I seem to say that every time old documents are scanned by an organisation, but I stand by it).  A hearty well done to The National Archives and Wikimedia UK for being willing and able to set this project in motion.  Like this poster says:-


In other related news I feel it is only right to include a link to the recent obituary of Maureen Dunlop de Popp, an Anglo-Argentinian lady who was one of the few woman pilots to join the Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) service in the Second World War.  The passing of such a remarkable person is not happy news but her long and exciting life certainly is and it is only right that it should be remembered.  Maureen Dunlop de Popp's parting leaves one less ATA-girl in the world but reminds us of the great risks and important work undertaken by her and thousands of women like her in the Services during the war.  We will never forget them.

Maureen Dunlop [de Popp] (1920-2012), pictured on the cover of
Picture Post in 1944 when serving as First Officer in the ATA

Thursday 14 June 2012

Three cheers for the Morgan 3-wheeler

Morgan 3 Wheeler Review

Looking through my Stats page during this quiet period I am reminded that some of my most-viewed posts are those detailing the announcement and development of the new Morgan 3-wheeler, a 21st Century reincarnation (see what I did there?) of the classic design that served the historic British sports car company Morgan well for almost the first 50 years of its existence.


Now I am able to return again to news of this car thanks to the full road test recently carried out by my favourite motoring periodical, the Autocar.  The good (nay, great) news is - if you will forgive me for giving away the result - they love it, giving it a full five stars!  As with all true motoring enthusiasts they have understood and appreciated the simplicity and sheer "fun factor" of such a car and their glowing verdict must surely cement its place as a modern classic (in the truest sense of the term).  In a separate 3-car test by the same magazine that included the Caterham, widely regarded as the best lightweight sports car on the market, the Morgan won easily.  There is an accompanying video review here but as much as I am pleased to see a lady testing and enjoying such a motor car nothing can better the pure noise of the car and a driver in full flying leathers piloting it (such an outfit should come as standard with the car, in my opinion!) as can be seen in the leading clip.


Getting back to the car itself here is a vehicle that has stayed completely true to its original design, a design that started off the Morgan Motor Company in 1909 and which it continued to build and refine until 1953 when production of the 3-wheeler stopped.  So similar is this new 3-wheeler to the classic Aero and Supersports models of the 1920s and '30s that, bar the interior and a few other minor trim details, you could be hard-pressed to tell them apart.  It is a testament to that design that it has been reintroduced with so few changes and even more so accepted and championed by the motoring press and enthusiastic drivers alike.


The rave reviews this car has received since its launch confirms to my mind the view that classic, tried-and-tested designs are still relevant - even desirable - in today's fast-paced electronic world (in short, vintage rocks! - but then we know that) and simplicity plus a healthy dose of charm can continue to win through.

No car manufacturer knows this better than Morgan, as their range of classic and modern retro sports cars can attest to.  Like the very vehicles they produce, their business model is a fantastic fusion of old-school practices and modern technology and their continued success is something I, as a Britisher, am immensely proud of.  The new 3-wheeler is the latest embodiment of that ethos and could not have returned at a better time.  It may have taken fifty years but the motoring world is once again a happier place thanks to the Morgan 3-wheeler.  Now, where can I find £30,000?

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Lookin' good but feelin' bad...

With vintage news again thin on the ground (has something happened - not only are my daily page views right down, but some of the vintage fora that I frequent are very quiet too?) my mind is turned once more to some thoughts and opinions related to vintage, which I have come across recently.

Charlotte over at Tuppence Ha'penny has written another excellent post about an attitude we vintage aficionados face every so often and you can read my own views on the debate here.  Suffice to say we continue to agree on the definition of a "vintage lifestyle".

Around the same time two other vintage bloggers, the lovely Veronica Vintage and Old Fashioned Susie, have written two interesting posts about living the vintage life while afflicted with serious health problems and it is this aspect that I intend to focus on today. As some of you may remember I disappeared for 4 months a year ago when a straightforward abdominal surgery went wrong leaving me in hospital between May and August.  My health has not been at its best in recent years, but I am feeling near to as well as I can be at the moment having recovered from that last hiccough.

I haven't for one minute let these problems interfere with my wearing of vintage-inspired clothing.  As a matter of fact I find vintage garments, particularly the high waist/rise and braces (suspenders) of vintage trousers, far more comfortable than modern cuts - a welcome example of sartorial serendipity.  I continue to find that dressing smartly and taking pride in my appearance helps to occupy my mind and makes me feel better about myself on the days when I might not be feeling so hot.

"...and if you ask me you're too well-dressed to be ill."

By and large the compliments I receive are welcome and generally along the lines of "you've recovered well" or the classic "you look a lot better".  Among those positive remarks, though, I've come across a few times now a somewhat negative attitude linked to my vintage appearance.  I am sometimes told "you don't look ill" with the inference clearly being that I somehow dress too well for someone with health issues.  It has even been suggested that by dressing as a chap and a gentleman I am perpetuating a fraud and "fooling people" into thinking that I'm healthier than I might be.

A constant ringing in his ears, but does that stop him
wearing a suit, tie and pocket square...? ;)
I can't help it if the clothes I choose to wear lead people to make assumptions about me and I think such attitudes are downright silly - it's practically suggesting that I should wear jeans, a dirty t-shirt and three days' worth of stubble every time I go to see my doctor.  Part of the problem, of course, is that most people wear such an outfit even when they're not sick - expectations (and standards) have therefore dropped to an all-time low.  Another reason might be linked to a generational paradigm shift.  People who lived through great hardships such as the war (basically people from the eras we are interested in and have an affinity with) made light of their difficulties and "muddled through" without wishing to make a fuss or draw attention to themselves.  Ask my 86-year-old nan (whose ailments are too many to list) how she is and the instant reply is "Oh fine thanks, dear".  My similarly stoic approach to ill-health can no doubt trace its roots to my love of times past.  Nowadays although the "don't trouble the doctor" attitude is still very much in evidence so many people don't bother with their appearance even when they're well that when they're not it readily shows and throws my dapper appearance into even starker relief.  Having said that, and to tie in with Charlotte's (and my earlier) post, let me reiterate that I am eternally grateful to be living in a time when medical advancements mean that I am able to live a normal life and there's absolutely no way I'd want to live in the 1930s (when my condition had only just been discovered!).

It's a shame that such attitudes as I describe exist, but perhaps I should not be so surprised given the various similar opinions that are handed to us when someone sees the way we dress.  Thanks to Veronica and Susie for their thoughts on this aspect of vintage - I'd be interested to hear yours!

Thursday 7 June 2012

Sound the fanfare, it's giveaway time!

I know I promised a giveaway months (if not years!) ago when I reached 100 followers.  I've been a very naughty and remiss blogger not to have got around to it until now but as they say, better late than never!  So with apologies for the delay, I hereby present the One Hundred and Fifty Followers Eclectic Ephemera Giveaway (or the Fifty Followers Later Giveaway, or the One Hundred and Fifty-Five Followers And Counting Giveaway!).  Actually I don't know about you but I felt obliged to wait a little while until I was safely past the 150 followers mark, as I've had the odd incident of losing a follower or two in the past (please, don't leave me - I value you all!!) and I didn't want this to turn into the "Oops, One Hundred and Forty-Eight Followers Giveaway! ;)

Anyway, moving on.  Entry couldn't be simpler.  I don't have a Twitter account, so you don't have to tweet anything.  I don't have a Farcebook account, so you don't have to "Like" or link anything.  All you have to do to be in with a chance of winning is to be a Follower (and remain one after this giveaway is over! ;) ) - either through Google Friend Connect or BlogLovin' - and leave a comment below.  Do this, and you may be the lucky recipient of the following splendid items:

  • Two A1-size reproduction film posters of the 1942 Humphrey Bogart classic Casablanca and Alfred Hitchcock's seminal 1959 movie starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint - North By Northwest.  The reverse of the posters also feature interesting facts and trivia about the productions.  (Please note these came to me folded so do have crease lines.  They should iron out, though, and the posters are otherwise tidy.);
  • A selection of 6 facsimiles of The Daily Mirror newspaper from important dates in history, all contained in a handy plastic case.  Newspapers are from:  16th April 1912 (Sinking of the Titanic), 8th May 1945 (VE Day), 23rd November 1963 (assassination of President Kennedy), 31st July 1966 (England's winning of the World Cup), 21st July 1969 (the Apollo 11 moon landing) and 12th September 2001 (the 9/11 attacks);
  • A copy of Oscar Wilde: A Selection of Stories and Plays.  A nice, thick little tome which includes The Picture of Dorian Gray, Lord Arthur Savile's Crime, The Canterville Ghost, The Sphinx Without a Secret, The Model Millionaire, The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Windermere's Fan, A Woman of No Importance, An Ideal Husband, Salomé, The Duchess of Padua, Vera, or The Nihilists and A Florentine Tragedy;
  • The pièce de résistance - a copy of the 1954 James Stewart-June Allyson film The Glenn Miller Story on DVD!  Featuring all the classic Glenn Miller songs (played by the original Glenn Miller Band) including In The Mood, Chattanooga Choo-Choo, Pennsylvania 6-5000 and A String of Pearls.  Plus, of course, the marvellous Jimmy Stewart and the lovely June Allyson!  (Please note that this is a Region 2 and 4 DVD and will only play on a Region 2 or 4, multi-region or decoded DVD player). 

All this could be yours!

    The giveaway will remain open until - what shall we say? - Friday 22nd June.  There, two weeks ought to be enough, don't you think?  The winner will be announced on the Saturday (23rd).  Good luck everyone, and thanks for following!

      Wednesday 6 June 2012

      I went to London to see... the Jubilee (and the Queen - I wish!)

      "What did you get up to over the Jubilee Weekend?" is the question on everyone's blog at the moment and it's a question I'm happy to answer as I had been thoroughly looking forward to the occasion and the chance to celebrate Her Majesty's remarkable achievement.

      Congratulations, ma'am!

      Being firmly in the Royalist camp, albeit in an understated fashion (no Union Jack waistcoats, giant flags and whatnot here), the bunting had been hung by Tuesday of the previous week and plans were tentatively being made.  As it happens they weren't really followed, but a fun time was had nonetheless.

      On Saturday I went to the local Jubilee party in the nearby park, although it was advertised as simply an "Afternoon Fun Day" to cater for everyone no doubt.  I say "advertised", but a badly-handwritten fabric sheet draped over some railings (such that the top part was folded back over itself rendering the first line invisible) was the only real advertising the thing got (as far as I know) so it was a pleasant surprise to see it garner quite a crowd.

      Considering the poor level of advance notice and the fact that the organisers were the same people whose "Victorian Christmas Fayre" consisted of two opposing Cats' Protection League and RSPCA raffle stands and a dilapidated cup-and-saucer ride all manned by people in jeans and fleeces I wasn't expecting much.  It turned out to be a bigger event (not difficult after the winter's "fayre") but still mainly featured lucky dip stalls with silly prizes such as giant inflatable hammers; also present were a couple of bouncy castles, the CPL offering free neutering(!) and some dance troupes jumping around to modern bass-heavy music.  All right for the children, no doubt, but little to keep me there so I took a turn around the rest of the park instead.


      I had a half-formed plan in mind to head to London on the Sunday to try and catch a glimpse of the royal barge but a wall of grey accompanied by heavy rain as early as 11 o'clock dissuaded me.  I have nothing but admiration for those who braved the weather line the banks of the Thames and feel a bit silly for wimping out, but I resolved to go to Town on the Monday instead and contented myself with watching the proceedings on the television.  It was certainly a drier experience, although I began to believe that I would have seen more of interest had I actually gone to the City.  I'm glad to see that I wasn't alone in deploring the B.B.C's coverage.  I know they're having to cut costs, but honestly it was a bit of a shambles I thought.  What say you, who saw the broadcast?

      So to the Tuesday, and I hopped on a train to the metropolis at 11:30.  I'd decided again to miss the crowds at St Paul's and instead take a leisurely stroll around all my old City haunts and just take in the Jubilee spirit.  My "stroll" ended up taking me from Fenchurch Street all the way to Waterloo Bridge, via Leadenhall Market and the Thames Path and with the odd stop to snap the near-complete Shard and the Tate Modern.

      The Jubilee spirit was still very much in evidence, with lots of tourists, Union flags and families around the South Bank, obviously seeing some sights before waiting for the procession/heading to the Mall.  The giant picture of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Silver Jubilee was still in place on the front of Sea Containers House and mightily impressive it was too.  It was lovely to see all the Union flags hanging from buildings and lamp posts.

      I was pleased to be able to again peruse the second-hand book stalls beneath Waterloo Bridge that formed so integral a part of my lunchtimes at my old job and although I was tempted a few times nothing really called out to me so I headed back towards Fenchurch Street, this time via the Millennium Bridge and Cleary Gardens - one of the City's green spaces, the site of a Roman bath and vineyard, later a bomb-damaged area and now once again a vineyard-inspired terrace.

      But for the sound of passing trains, you'd hardly think this was central London

      "Fred Cleary 1905-1984, Tireless in his work to increase open space in the City"
      The City itself was all but deserted, as it usually is on Sundays and bank holidays, but I did see some church service attendees around St Paul's (the bells of which were still pealing at 2 o'clock) wearing naval uniform, morning dress and tailcoat & frilled shirt, with their partners in their smart dresses and formal hats.

      Speaking of smart dress - a little tip, chaps within striking distance of London.  Around the Cannon Street-Bow Lane-Cheapside triangle there were/are a large number of off-the-peg tailors - independents and chains such as T.M. Lewin - who were having closing down or summer sales with as much as 50% off.  Sadly they were closed, but surely there is a bargain or two to be had.  I may well go back and see, but for now that was the end of my Jubilee weekend.  I'm glad to see so many fellow British vintage bloggers celebrating in style, and look forward to reading yet more descriptions of Jubilee fun.

      Saturday 2 June 2012

      Neon light left on since 1935 racks up $17,000 in electric bills

      Neon light left on since 1935 racks up $17K in electric bills

      This blog often features stories of vintage machinery being unearthed and then restored to working order (witness the recent MG story), but this is one of those unusual occasions when someone has come across something that was still working after having remained undiscovered for over 70 years!

      Tales of long-lived light bulbs are not as rare as one might be given to think, with several even older than 70 years known throughout the UK and USA, but this is the first example in my experience of a newer neon light being found still in working order - and in such remarkable circumstances to boot (not to mention the fact that it has been on continuously for all this time, whereas other "old bulbs" are switched off and on)!

      Clifton's Cafeteria unveils its original facade after almost 50 years

      These remarkable circumstances first began to unfold back in February when Clifton's Cafeteria, a landmark Los Angeles restaurant that dates back to the mid-1930s, began to be restored by its new owner.  Why I didn't do a post about it at the time I can't imagine, but the link to the original story in the L.A. Times is above.  Following the removal of the cafe's later 1960s covering the building's original frontage from when it was first built in 1904 was revealed (and jolly nice it looks too - or will look once it is renovated, I'm sure).


      Work has since begun on the internals, at which point this amazing neon light has been discovered buried behind a wall!  Still on after maybe 77 years, at a potential cost of $17,000 (although I wonder if the Los Angeles electricity board will waive the fee?).  An incredible testament to neon's longevity and also to the original owner of Clifton's who, by all accounts, simply built over or reused old features - who knows what else may be uncovered during the restoration?  Already other artefacts such as a wall map from the building's pre-'35 department store days and vintage floor tiles have been found, among other things.  What a fantastic place!

      Happily the new owner recognises the historical importance of these discoveries and the building in general and plans a sympathetic restoration of the restaurant to its 1930s heyday - with perhaps a few modern concessions - including an area to display these wonderful finds (and even a replica of the original transparent landscape that the neon light - which will stay on - would have sat behind!).

      I wish the new owner the best of luck with Clifton's Cafeteria and can't wait to see what other finds are just waiting to be found in there.  I hope the people of Los Angeles take the place to their hearts (it sounds as though it was already a popular eatery) and if I'm ever in L.A. I know where I'm having lunch!


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