Thursday 28 February 2013

Young pilot earns his wings restoring vintage aeroplane

A 1948 Luscombe Silvaire 8E, similar to Koerner's 8C

A story I've been looking forward to featuring ever since it made its way into my Drafts folder, this is a welcome tale of an established family aviation business whose future seems assured - as is evidenced by the splendid restoration of a beautiful 1940s light aircraft by a father and son team.

The history of this particular rara avis is remarkable, and the Koerner's arduous effort to restore it to its former glory even more so.  Like so many restoration projects it sounds like it was more difficult than it first appeared, but well done to the chaps for sticking with it and successfully putting this wonderful aeroplane back in the air.

In particular it is heartening to see a young man take such interest in so vintage a piece of machinery and the history behind it.  He's certainly got a gorgeous aircraft out of it and I'm glad to see he appreciates it so much.

Thanks to the hard work of these enthusiasts another rare aeroplane has been saved and returned to the skies where it belongs, flying (very well, by the sounds of it) for the first time in over six decades.  It is to be hoped that the likes of Koerner Aviation can continue their worthy work restoring and rebuilding vintage aircraft, so preserving them for the enjoyment of future generations.  Future generations who, like the son in this story, could go on to rescue historic machines themselves.  Well done, you fellows!

Saturday 23 February 2013

Phantom comics reissue keeps early masked hero alive

Phantom comics reissue keeps early masked hero alive

Some welcome recognition now for one of the earliest comic-book superheroes, as discussed in this short B.B.C. interview from a few weeks ago.

As explained Lee Falk's The Phantom, along with Walter B. Gibson's The Shadow, was among the first of the masked crime fighters to appear in comics and newspaper strips of the 1930s.  Predating Batman and Superman by several years, The Phantom in particular set the superhero standard in a number of areas.  He was the first to wear a coloured, skin-tight costume and the first to be illustrated with a mask showing only white eyes, for example.  Similar to the Batman character, introduced 3 years later, The Phantom also had no special powers and relied purely on fear and physical strength.  Their back stories also shared some similarities, with the loss of parents being the common motivating factor.


The 1930s was in fact the decade to which the concept of the superhero as we know him today owes its genesis.  In the dark days of the Great Depression - and particularly in America where gang crime was prevalent - the idea of empowered, costumed champions of honesty and bravery easily captured the public's imagination, aided in no small part by the incredible popularity of newspapers, radio and the cinema.  On the outbreak of the Second World War these characters' stories were frequently and unsurprisingly written with an obvious propagandist bent as the likes of Batman, Superman and The Phantom fought Nazis and Japanese villains rather than criminal gangs, if anything further cementing their place in popular culture.

While Batman and Superman have endured in the public consciousness for the last 70 years, the fortunes of trailblazers like The Phantom and The Shadow have waxed and waned in that time.  Although The Phantom comic strip has the remarkable distinction of having been in print continuously since 1936 (with Lee Falk himself still wielding the pencil right up until his death in 1999), the character's transition to other media has been less successful (for a start - and I can scarcely believe this myself - it was never serialised on the radio as The Shadow was!).  Here we take a look at some of the better-known screen adaptations of The Phantom:   

The Phantom first appeared on the big screen a mere seven years after his creation in one of Columbia Pictures' popular 15-part serials.  It proved quite a success and very nearly spawned a sequel in 1955 before copyright issues scuppered any further possibility of another serial.

Perhaps the best-known recent adaptation of The Phantom is the 1996 feature film starring Billy Zane in the lead role.  One of a triumvirate of pulp hero-based films released in the early- to mid-Nineties, along with Rocketeer (1991) and Alec Baldwin's turn as The Shadow in 1994 (all of which grace my DVD collection!), The Phantom - like the others before it - did not perform satisfactorily at the box office and for a while marked the end of major studios' interest in these early pulp characters.  It did, however, help Billy Zane land his role in the following year's blockbuster, Titanic.  And if you liked him in that, ladies, let me remind you than he worked out especially for his role as The Phantom (one that he went on record later as ranking among his favourites) and for much of the film wears the aforementioned skin-tight suit(!).  Even disregarding that fact I highly recommend it as a bit of fun, period escapism.

Like me some of you may also remember from the early 1990s the popular cartoon Phantom 2040, which successfully updated The Phantom character to the 21st century.  In 2008 a 3-hour, two-part live action television series called The Phantom was shown on the Syfy Channel, again bringing the character into the modern era.  Around the same time a new film was announced and is rumoured to still be on track.  The Phantom: Legacy will once again feature a present-day iteration of the character with various updates, so it will not hold as much interest for the likes of you and me as the period-set 1996 version,  but it promises to follow the same template as the recent Batman films which will probably translate into critical and commercial success.

So although The Phantom may not be quite as well-known as Batman or Superman the fact that the comic strip featuring his adventures continues to be published after nearly 80 years, with a number of adaptations to show for it as well, proves that this enduring character still has plenty of pull.  What with that and the news last year that new stories featuring the Rocketeer and The Shadow have been penned, perhaps a renaissance for these other early pulp heroes is simply a matter of time.

Monday 18 February 2013

If you can't knit 'em, blog 'em!

Another week seems to have flown by, again without a single blog post from me!  How terribly remiss of me, to be sure; I can only say that I rather immersed myself in convalescing (fat lot of good it's done me - now I've gone and caught a cold!) to the point where I've almost neglected this poor little blog.  I must apologise to you, dear readers.

Other than the sniffles, however, I think I can safely say things are all back as they should be (or as near as makes no difference).  I've still got the previously-mentioned drafts to finish but once again something unexpected has come along to upset the order of things (albeit in a totally good way).

That something was another Antique and Collectors Fair at Runnymede Hall in Benfleet, Essex.  Literally just around the corner from my parents, I took full advantage of the fact and stopped in for lunch before mater and I went down there for an afternoon's browsing.  I can hardly believe that it has been a whole year since last I went to one of these (they're roughly bi-monthly at Benfleet, with others held at various locations in Essex), although of course I've had my reasons(!).


When I attended the February 2012 event, at which I picked up two 1930s non-U.K. pennies as told here, I mentioned my surprise at the high prices in evidence and speculated (hoped!) that it was the exception rather than the rule on the basis of other antiques emporia I had visited around the same time.  I'm delighted to say, based on my experience yesterday, that that seems to have been the case as prices this time were much more reasonable and there were several things that, were I more flush with cash, I might have considered buying.  I don't think for one minute that the antiques and collectibles market is in any kind of trouble either locally or nationally; I believe this was more a case of dealers coming to their senses, reigning in their ambitions and being keener to sell (there was much more of that on display too - lots of deals, half price tables, "everything must go", "make me an offer" and the rather amusing "buyers wanted, no experience necessary!" signs).  It was a slightly smaller affair than last year - the picture above, taken in April 2012, gives a good idea of the scale this time too - but it was well-attended and there were some interesting items, as I mentioned.

I (or, I should say, we) didn't come away empty-handed this time either and it was thanks in part to mother's eagle eye.  One of the first tables we came to contained heaps of odds and ends, many of them Second World War vintage (ironically it was run by a friendly German stallholder who, like most of the traders there, was keen to chat).  Half hidden beneath some old matchbooks, pin badges and similar knick-knacks were some papers.  Closer inspection revealed them to be - knitting patterns, all it seemed from around the early/mid 1940s!

Having leafed through all ten and with mater on a bit of a knitting kick we agreed to buy, for 50p, the one that looked the best for yours truly - as illustrated by the handsome chap above (I can guarantee I won't look as dapper, I'm afraid!).  We then continued round the rest of the hall, stopping for some tea and cake on the way.  During this break the discussion returned to the remaining 9 patterns and after some deliberation I went back to see if I could take our Teutonic friend up on his offer to "do a deal" on all of them.  As if to underline my earlier point about this particular fair, he was happy to let the rest go for a paltry £3!  So, without further ado, here are the rest!

Might see if I can get Ma to have a crack at the men's slippers, although I think she might be rather dubious about using "rug wool" and making the leather soles(!).

Researching Sirdar Wools I was surprised and pleased to find that they're still in business!

A great advert for Lee's Wools in one of two Woman's Weekly pattern sections, this one from November 1940.  Perhaps Tups will be able to tell us the name of the model? ;-)

On the other side, a double pattern for "Stocksize" and "Outsize" ladies vests.  Unfortunately, the "opposite page" which details the materials needed is missing.  Any suggestions from the knitters out there?


No such problems with this great, brilliantly modelled pattern from a later Woman's Weekly dated the 5th August 1944.

Mum has offered to do these gloves too.  I'll have to supply the binoculars and tin hat myself, though! ;-p

Hang on, this model looks familiar(!).  Could it be Tups' favourite and subject of her latest post, Miss Peggy Chester?!

"They Always Need Socks", is the subtitle on the reverse of this pattern.  Something that still holds true today, I can tell you.  Maybe I should see about dusting off my very basic knitting skills with a pair of these fellows...?

Even mother was getting carried away at this point, but she did say that she might have a try at the bag too.  If she does I'll be sure to try and get some pictures of it.

All in all a splendid day out for all concerned.  I get some vintage knitting patterns to blog about (and reap some woollen rewards from!) and mother gets some more things to knit.

I'm looking forward with renewed anticipation to the next fair in April, as well as some others elsewhere locally that I may blog about in the future. In the meantime I hope you've all enjoyed sharing in my latest acquisitions and I hope to have some new knits to show you soon.

Monday 11 February 2013

Der dritte Liebster!

I must start by apologising for there being a whole week between posts but the truth is I've still been enjoying a restful period following my recent hospitalisation (all's quite well, I'm just taking my time [read: being lazy!] in getting back into the swing of things).   Now though I've taken a moment to think about doing another blog post and, although I've still got a couple of drafts that I'm looking forward to finishing, I received a pleasant surprise this weekend in the form of another Liebster Blog Award so I thought I'd take the opportunity to use that as the basis for a new post - and here it is!

It is Roxie from The Ramblings of Roxie Roulette who I must thank for this particular Liebster and I urge you to check out her excellent vintage/rockabilly blog if you haven't already done so.

Most of you will know by now the rules that come with this award but for those of you who have come in late, briefly - I must thank the blogger who passed it on, answer 11 questions put to me by them, provide eleven random facts about yours truly and then give the award on to 11 of my favourite blogs with another eleven questions of my own.  Without wasting any more time, then, here we go:

11 Questions from Roxie

What is your favourite piece of clothing that you have ever owned?
I've mentioned before the pair of navy cords that are so comfortable I've almost worn them out and my 1940s Kuppenheimer overcoat, which must both vie for the top spot, but there is a special place in my heart for a jumper I had for a few years in my early teens.  To call it "novelty" would be to do it a disservice - it was better than that.  I bought it from a lovely little wool mill during a walking holiday in Yorkshire.  It was made from the softest, warmest pure wool and had as a pattern a beautiful local scene not unlike the one shown in the above picture - although mine featured a windmill, cows and corn sheaves in a field.  I wore it throughout the trip and frequently when I got home - until my stepdad stuck it in the wash and shrunk it so that it would only have fitted a small 4-year old(!).  Despite his claims that "it will stretch out again" it never did.  I've long since forgiven him, of course, although I often tease him about it still - and he has promised over the years to buy me a replacement but no-one's been able to remember the name of the place where we got it nor been back to that part of Yorkshire since, so a new one remains tantalisingly out of reach.

If you could be a fly on the wall for any event in history, what would that be?
This question was tougher than I thought it would be!  "Fly on the wall" indicates to me something that occurred inside a building or other enclosed space, so I would say - in the New York Stock Exchange on the 29th October 1929; in other words "Black Tuesday", the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

Guilty pleasure, food wise?
I've said it before and will say it again - strawberry cheesecake.  I could easily eat a whole one at one sitting!

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
The simplest and most obvious answer would be my parents, or perhaps my grandmother, all of whom of course played no small part in raising me into the man I am today.  Outside of family I would have to pick... James C. Bigglesworth - better known as "Biggles", the [fictional, children's] pilot adventurer.  I read my first Biggles book when I was about 11 - an impressionable age I'm sure you'll agree - and to this day I thank heaven that I did, for I can think of few better role models for a young boy even today.  His attitude, actions and principles have inspired me, thrilled me and helped shape my own behaviour far more than any other character in popular culture.  

"while men are decent to me I try to be decent to them, 
regardless of race, colour, politics, creed or anything else"

Why did you start your blog?
I originally started this blog, as I wrote in my very first post back in November 2009 (seems like half a lifetime ago now!), to post stories that were funny, light-hearted and linked to my wider interests as an antidote to all the doom and gloom that seemed (and still seems) to pervade the media (whoever said "bad news sells" was right, sadly!).  Over time I must have begun to realise that I was perhaps casting my net a little too wide so I started to focus just on the purely vintage-related news.  I'm glad that I did too, otherwise I may never have come to know all the lovely people in the vintage blogosphere!

If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what would that be?
I'd been holding off posting my number one "Desert Island Disc" for some time (no real reason) but now that the question has been fairly asked I can think of no better time to reveal it.  Oddly enough it isn't even "vintage" - unless you count the 1980s as such; which, having been born and grown up in that decade I don't!  I've mentioned this chap once or twice before as my favourite "current" artist but I wouldn't be surprised if you'd never heard of him for he has been criminally under-appreciated for almost his entire 30-year career, despite him winning many Grammy Awards.  His name is Bruce Hornsby and it is this song, his 1986 debut recorded with his then-band The Range (he still tours and records with his latest group, the Noisemakers), which ironically became his biggest hit (reaching No. 1 in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands and number 15 in the U.K.).  Even if you've never heard of him or the song title chances are you've heard it in one form or another as credits on daytime TV, bad muzak (is there any other sort?) or maybe even on rare occasions on the radio in its pure, beautiful form.  I could (and often do) happily sit and listen to this song on repeat - if need be for the rest of my life. 

What was your favourite television show as a child?
It would have to be a toss-up between Inspector Gadget or The Transformers.  Or possibly, ahem, Wacaday.

I say red, you say...?
Traffic light.

Recommend me a blog to follow.
Gosh, there are so many (just see how long my blogroll is on the right)!  One I think Roxie in particular might really like (although I'd recommend it to anyone) is Veronica Vintage.

What is your favourite scent in the whole entire world?
I appreciate how Roxie's kept the questions fairly unisex until now, but I'm afraid my answer for this is going to be rather blokey.  It's high octane petrol.  (N.B. I'm not suggesting girls need to rush out to their nearest petrol station and fill their perfume jars with Super Unleaded - for one thing the really powerful stuff burns like hell, in every sense! - but as I don't really know the names or smells of any ladies' perfumes, nor have much of a nose for flowers, high octane fuel really is my favourite scent in the whole entire world).

Would you rather have lollipops for fingers, or bread sticks for arms?
Lollipops for fingers, definitely.

11 Random Facts

This being at least the third set of facts, the bottom of the barrel may be scraped(!)

I have a real problem with flash photography (one of the reasons there are few pictures of me on this blog, although I am getting better and have found a spot where I can turn the flash off and then use a bit of computer trickery to give photos enough light).  This all stems from when I was diagnosed, at about 10 years old, with a mild form of epilepsy known as "Petit Mal" (now more commonly referred to as Child Absence Epilepsy).  Fortunately it is a type that the child usually outgrows - sometimes with the aid of medication - as it was in my case.  But obviously for a time flashing lights were a great risk and I developed an aversion to them which still hasn't completely left me.  As a result more often than not any photos of me taken with a flash often end up showing me with my eyes shut (many a school class photo was ruined thanks to me!).

My favourite colour is yellow, because it's so bright and happy.  My favourite/lucky number, happily considering this particular award, is the number 11!


The country I'd most like to visit is Canada.  I went there for a day back in 1997 during a road trip to Niagara Falls but being partial to cold climates and beautiful scenery I would love to go back there and do the place justice, perhaps on a transcontinental rail journey or such.

During a visit to the Laurel & Hardy Museum in Ulverston, Cumbria (Stan Laurel's birthplace) many years ago I so hit it off with the curator that I was accorded the rare privilege of being allowed to actually wear one of Stan's bowler hats that he wore in their films.

I'm short-sighted and have been since I was about 12.  One day I'd like to get some proper vintage (or vintage-style) frames; I recently took advantage of optician Roope Vintage's Frame Style Guide to get an idea of what might suit me and I rather like the look of their suggestion - what do you think?


I used to go in for fossil collecting when I was younger and still have my collection of rocks and fossils, some shop-bought and some picked up during holidays to the Jurassic Coast around Lyme Regis and Charmouth.

The first album I ever bought was in 1993 and it was an 11-track CD of dance club remixes of the Laurel & Hardy theme tune, The Dance of The Cuckoos!  Oh the shame (I've still got it too)!

I once found a 1967 half crown, which now graces my coin collection, in the pocket of a pair of costume trousers I was wearing during a performance of HMS Pinafore.

My favourite sports are cricket and snooker (also to play) plus motor racing (non-participant!).  My least favourites are rugby [shudder] and football.

In yet another visit to my personal library a further valued book in my collection is a 1930s copy of Everybody's Pocket Companion, a little reference book of facts and figures given to me by my late grandfather.

I once saw, a few years ago, what could only be described as UFOs.  I don't think they were extra-terrestrial in origin but to this day I couldn't tell you what they were (and I like to think I know a fair bit about aviation); my best theory is some sort of high-altitude military test.  I have always believed in life on other planets but remain ambivalent about the possibility of aliens visiting this planet.

Now to the eleven questions I have to set - which I'll be honest I'm useless at so I've again cribbed a good few from previous award-winners, although I managed to think of one or two of my own too:

Why did you start blogging?
Is your family understanding about your love of vintage and your desire to blog about it?
What country would you most like to visit?
When did you discover vintage?
What's your favourite vintage shop?
Is there a lot of vintage in the city where you live?
Did you discover new hobbies or interests after you discovered vintage?
What famous person from the past or present do you think you look like?
Who is your favourite author?
When you sit down to compose a blog post do you plan/think ahead or just write off the cuff?
If you could be a fly on the wall for any event in history, what would that be?

Then finally to the eleven bloggers to whom I gladly pass on this Liebster Blog Award.  I know these things aren't everyone's cup of tea so you are of course under no obligation to accept, answer any questions or tell us anything about you if you'd rather not!

Lovebirds Vintage
Victory Rolls and Roses
like johnny and june
Betty Bow
Sailing over a Cardboard Sea
The Forties Floozy
Veronica Vintage
Demi Lauren
Cheeky vintage chick
Vintage Lovin' Gal
Vintage Vapours

My thanks to Roxie for passing this award on to me; it's always reassuring to know this little blog is still so appreciated.  I hope you've enjoyed reading this near essay-length post (sorry about that!) and checking out the worthy blogs mentioned above.  I hope to be back later in the week with more classic Eclectic Ephemera fare; until then - pip-pip!

Sunday 3 February 2013

Musical Interlude - Jack Hylton & his Orchestra - If You Want The Rainbow, 1928 / It's A Great Life, 1930


Two songs now - which I picked before I went away to help continue filling the expected gaps, unnecessarily as it turned out - and they're a couple of favourites, especially as the messages they contain have helped me get through some rough patches in the past.

Jack Hylton is one of my favourite British band leaders of the 1930s.  He was also active in the 1920s - when he first started out in 1923 - through to the Second World War, after which he changed careers somewhat and moved into the production management and impresario side of entertainment where he worked with many London theatres, ITV and the likes of Morecambe & Wise, Shirley Bassey, Tony Hancock and Liberace.

It is his bandleader years that are of the greatest enjoyment for me, however.  I would certainly rate him higher than the other Jack - Jack Payne, whose compositions were often more of the "novelty" variety - although there are some standards of his that are very good too.

Returning to Jack Hylton (whose first wife Ennis Parkes was a bandleader in her own right, recording as "Mrs Jack Hylton") these two songs I have selected are among the best of what is often considered Hylton's golden period of the late 1920s and early 1930s.  If You Want The Rainbow was recorded on the 27th November 1928 with long-time Hylton vocalist Pat O'Malley singing the refrain and It's A Great Life was cut on the 21st October 1930 with the great Sam Browne taking the lead (I love how he stops himself from saying a then-rude word part of the way through!).  Although they were made two years apart - and If You Want The Rainbow a year before the 1929 Crash and the start of the Great Depression - they were both obviously written at a time when hardships and difficulties were often encountered on a day-to-day basis.  I  have written before (and so have others) about just how impossible it is to imagine how tough life was at that time for a large section of society; music was obviously one of the few escapes people had and it's no wonder that the tunes were often so jolly and full of positiveness.

Although I continue to consider myself fortunate to live in the 21st century with all its advantages, there are times even today when we all need a little fillip - especially after what I went through recently - and for me these two songs still have that much needed verve to help push through the tough times.

*The entire Jack Hylton (and Mrs Jack Hylton) discography is available to listen to and download at*

Friday 1 February 2013

Vintage MG SA bought for £30 fetches £60,000 at auction


Vintage MG SA bought for £30 fetches £60,000 at auction

Easing me back in to the Eclectic Ephemera routine comes this story, of a type that is the welcome bread-and-butter of this blog but none the worse for that.  In fact this will be my third post to feature a restored MG sports car, following on from a jungle discovery two years ago and an under-shed restoration job back in May of 2012.  Now this latest classic MG to make the news features both echoes of the previous two stories as well as some unique coincidences of its own.

Beginning as a seemingly run-of-the-mill tale of vintage car rediscovery and renovation, the story of this particular MG took an interesting turn when it emerged that a remarkable series of circumstances had led to it returning to the same garage from which it had been bought as a second-hand runabout back in 1966.  It's often not unusual for a classic car to be returned to and resold by the same dealer, even over the course of several decades, but this is a rarer occurrence where the car has been sold on privately and made its way through different owners around the country before finding its way back to the 1960s dealer more by sheer happenstance.  That its return should have been noticed by the brother of the man who bought it in '66, and that that man has been reunited with - albeit briefly before it heads off to its new owner at Silverstone - is simply a splendid example of serendipity.

The car is now thought to be the only one of its type to be recently sold in the UK and one of only 90-odd known to still exist.  It is more this fact plus the excellent restoration that one of its later owners undertook on it that has caused it to sell for £60,000 (and I bet that the old owner is kicking himself for letting it go at £70 in 1970!) but this particular twist of fate certainly adds a noteworthy chapter to this car's history.  As mentioned at the beginning of this post it can sit comfortably with the similar MG discoveries featured on this blog, of which I am sure it will not be the last.


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