Things You NEED (September Report)

We have had some goodies coming in, thank you all very much. This sort of thing makes coming to work in the morning worthwhile. “What will they bring me today?” I asked myself, as I leap out of bed singing at the crack of dawn. “Besides banana boxes, that is.” Well, here are just a few of the answers I’ve had this past month.

Autographs: What ARE they teaching in the schools these days? Only one or two people shared my excitement over finding Bob Feller’s autograph in his book about pitching. Of course, I drew a blank on Newfoundland Premier Joey Smallwood, whose autograph came in the same donation with Pierre Trudeau’s (hint: not a fashion designer NOR the man who does Doonesbury.) On the other hand, everyone who heard about Oliver North’s autograph identified him immediately.

Music: We’ve had small but interesting donations lately of music books in the area of jazz, and century-old sheet music. [This is another definition for you: sheet music is a separate piece of music containing a small number of songs, usually just one, while a music book contains a dozen or more. Both are intended to be used for performance.] The first collection has a number of books where someone has tried to write down the actual notes played during improvisations by assorted artists. There’s also a collection of ragtime music written in the past fifty years, at a period when (except for the years after “The Sting” was released) ragtime was supposed to be dead.

Another collector dropped off some sheet music of a bygone day when every ethnic group had its own niche in popular song. A sad song was sadder with an accent, while a funny song was even funnier if the grammar was wrong. Therefore, a lackluster song could instantly become a bestseller if you added an ethnic angle. Or so the folks in the music biz assumed. There’s a nice little love song in which the only hint of dialect is the use of “am” instead of “is” in one line. And the lyrics never do mention the cotton bolls on the cover. There’s a song of disappointed love which has no dialect in the lyrics and no reference whatever to the national origin of the disappointed lover. But the ethnic illustration on the cover is outrageous enough to be beautiful. (Where did they come from, these pictorial conventions that amused and offended our immigrant ancestors: Frenchmen with long, thin mustaches and Irishmen with massive lower jaws? Another subject for a dissertation that I will pass along for free.)

For good measure, the collection also includes the most popular anti-war song published prior to the 1960s, the 1915 hit “I Didn’t Raise My Boy To Be a Soldier”.

Shoes: Um, I THINK I have mentioned this before, but if you are packing your car with a bunch of stuff to take to different charities, please make sure books don’t get stacked on top of the wrong bag or box. We had a bag come in this month with about seven pairs of VERY well-worn shoes, with four books on top. We don’t take shoes. We would have liked to sell those teapots, though, but with books on top of the box, the man who delivered them didn’t realize he shouldn’t have thrown them on the dock and then toss other boxes on TOP of them. I hope the picture in the frame that was in with the teapots wasn’t an especially treasured heirloom.

Celebrity estate: I have had a collection come in from the office of one of Chicago’s Very Own. I haven’t asked permission yet to use his name, but he was highly significant in the world of real estate and made a great deal of history during his career. I mention this because it involves a goodly number of well-worn books on real estate in which he has written his name. Real estate books signed by someone who was significant in Chicago real estate: surely somebody needs those for their collection of Chicago history.

But no, I don’t believe I’ll mention his name in any case. If you folks can’t remember Bob Feller, what’s the use? 

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