Season's Greetings (no gifts required) | Newberry

Season's Greetings (no gifts required)

I don’t know: what do you think? Shouldn’t we all get together and celebrate August 26? It comes but once a year. We wouldn’t have to do anything elaborate. It’s too late, really, to send your friends and family those traditional August 26 cards. I checked at my local stores and they seem to be completely out of August 26 wrapping paper. We could, however, wherever we happen to be, raise a cup of cheer (pumpkin spice latte, if you go to one of those places that’s pushing Autumn early) and say, “Well, here’s to August 26!”

Because August 26 is the day I’m going to do my annual blog to remind you this joint is CLOSED for three days this coming weekend.

Yes, believe it or else, Labor Day weekend is upon us! Time for all those annual end-of-summer get-togethers, cookouts, and runs to the store for those last school supplies. Holidays call for traditional activities, everything from burning marshmallows over a campfire to not dropping off books at the Newberry.

I know, I know: most of you are thinking “What? Why would anybody be dropping off books when Uncle Blogsy told us over and over that they don’t want donations until AFTER Labor Day?” The rest of you were thinking, “I have to get away from my family for a few hours: I’m going to go to the attic and get out those National Geographics for the Book Fair.”

Well, guess what we’ve been doing in the month of August, S’more Spaghetti. We’ve been going through the books people donated quite legitimately at the end of June, as well as the ones people slipped in past the force field after the Fourth of July. Twenty contraband boxes here, sixteen bags there: it adds up. We are not—honest!—sitting around twiddling our toes and sighing, “Gee, I wish people would bring us a couple books so we could have fun again.”

And some of this stuff is doing its best to lure us away from the lucrative pastime of pricing old Field Museum calendars and copies of The Help. These ashtrays are drawing a lot of interest (from people who want to look at them, not buy them), and this pocket journal from the 1850s, where the owner has written down his pledge to give up tobacco and then writes down everything he buys, from a cowhide to innumerable plugs of tobacco is a veritable fount of interesting speculation. (He bought himself a cafalagogue at one point. It must have been a good one, because he paid enough for it, but even so, the price seems high for one cafalagogue. Perhaps the country was experiencing a shortage.)

And who would have thought there’d be so much to pull one away from one’s work in a single issue of the Merchandise Mart News?

This issue dates to May, 1932, and I KNOW what you’re going to say. “That’ll be a real buy for a Chicago collector!” Well, yes: it IS a Chicago collectible, and, as well, a World’s fair collectible, because although the Century of Progress fair was still a year away, the businessmen involved with the Merchandise Mart were already planning their sales campaigns. The logo of the Fair is in evidence throughout.

But it’s so much more than that. Here’s an article declaring that the lowest price EVER on rayon panties can be found at Sears Roebuck, which is selling two pairs of non-run rayon underdrawers (panty or bloomer) for a dollar. Here’s a photograph of a patio where very few people in 1932 could have afforded to lounge. I never thought of it, but of COURSE there was such a thing as Art Deco patio furniture. Here’s an tribute to the elevator operators at the Mart, with a picture of them in their uniforms, and here we have article after article in which big businessmen are busy lying to themselves and each other. “There’s no Depression,” the proclaim, “It’s just a Challenge!”

And here is an ad with logic that takes my breath away. A hotel is offering special rates for people at the Merchandise Mart. And what do you call people who work at the Mart? Well, Martians. What else?

This is why I’d rather not come to work next Tuesday, the day after Labor Day, and find I need to spend my time hauling mountains of bestsellers in off the dock. I’ve got reading to do.

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