“Reg Kray’s Book of Slang”

Reg Kray“Although some of Reg’s relationships with other inmates were sexual, the majority were not. It was trust and loyalty that he sought most. At Parkhurst he found them in a young inmate called Steve Tully. They embarked on a project collecting Cockney, criminal and American slang words to make into a book. During the following months Reg dredged through his memory trying to recall all the common phrases of his childhood; he also wrote to everyone he knew. Between them, and in collaboration with his now-released old friend Patsy Manning, he and Steve Tully produced a manuscript. It was named simply Reg Kray’s Book of Slang. On its completion Reg felt a tremendous sense of achievement…

… By this time Slang had been published but, due to various problems, it met with little success. Distributed through Patsy Manning, major bookshops seemed reluctant to take the title, probably due in equal parts to its infamous author and its publishing origins– and unknown company called Wheel and Deal. In 1985 it was rare for a convicted criminal to write any kind of book. It wasn’t until 1988 when Our Story, compiled in conjunction with Fred Dinenage, was published that the floodgates opened and the public’s fascination with the world of crime revealed an entirely new career option for a number of ex-cons in search of a more comfortable retirement.”

Reg Kray: A Man Apart, Roberta Kray, Sidgwick & Jackson, 2002.

CROWDS OF AMERICANS FILL “BRIGHT AND PRETTY” LONDON

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Jacqueline Bouvier, of The Times-Herald editorial staff, is in London to attend the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. The following story was written by Miss Bouvier and airmailed from London: 

BY JAQUELINE BOUVIER

LONDON (via airmail)–“Oh, to be in England now that the coronation’s here”–Robert Browning would have forgotten all about April were he to land in Britain now.

The whole country is concerned with the coronation, the whole coronation, and nothing but the coronation.

Every home one could see thru the windows of the boat train between Southampton and London bore a picture of Queen Elizabeth–pasted on the outside of the house or in a window.

“Wait till you see the old place, everything’s so bright and pretty,” said the porter, who handled our luggage when we arrived in London’s Waterloo station. “We haven’t had it like this for years”…

After the theater we went dancing at the 400, a tiny private night club in Mayfair. Lined with accordion pleated red velvet, it looked like the inside of a jewel box. Among those attempting to dance on the postage-stamp size dance floor were the Marquess of Milford-Haven.

“Crowds of Americans Fill ‘Bright and Pretty’ London,” Washington Times-Herald, June 2, 1953.

The Harriet Carter Catalog

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The Harriet Carter catalog is a pleasure to read. It has sold Americans “distinctive gifts since 1958” –ingenious inventions like plastic frames to hold baseball caps in shape during wash cycles and uniquely absorbent bath mats. In darker moments, the catalog hints at an empire swollen with decadence and paranoia. 

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SECURITY “CAMERA” STOPS TROUBLE BEFORE IT STARTS!

Authentic-looking “camera” simulates a high tech security system and makes crooks think they’re being watched. Motion-activated device “sweeps” back and forth when anyone passes by, while red LED flashes. Installs with included screws–needs no hard wiring! Uses 2 AA batteries (not incl.)

Security Camera:  $9.98    2 for $18.50    4 for $35.96

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WIRELESS DRIVEWAY ALARM puts an end to surprise visits, unannounced guests, and unwelcome salespeople by transmitting a signal each time anyone approaches your home. Simply position the weather-resistant transmitter outdoors, up to 400 feet from your house. Keep the receiver unit indoors so you can hear the alert tone. Uses one 9V and 1 AA batteries (not incl).

Wireless Driveway Alarm    $29.98 

IMG_2215  TOILET GOLF lets you practice your putting on the potty! If you’re a golfer who can’t get enough practice time, you can now sink putts where not one has sunk them before–the bathroom! Carpet looks like a putting green; it even has a hole so you can tee off while you’re taking care of the other business. Includes putter and two plastic balls. 36″ x 26″

Toilet Golf     Set $ 17.98

2003 Harriet Carter catalog.

Vostok 1 Coffee with Milk

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Lot 233 Sale 8521 Space Exploration, 9 May 2001, Christie’s, New York

Estimate: $3,000 – $4,000
Price realized: $12,925

“Lot Description [VOSTOK 1] Flown. Food tube of the first “Coffee with Milk” taken in space. Flown onboard Vostok 1, April 12, 1961 (the first manned flight). “NO COFFEE OR MILK HAS GONE SO FAST OR TRAVELED SO FAR SINCE MAN’S FIRST USE OF THEM” (Yuri Gagarin 1961). Probably the most universal drink after water, this was the first beverage to be imbibed at Mach 25. These fluids were part of the scientific inquiry as to whether man could eat and drink in space. [With]: Letter of authentication from Ivanovsky.”

Image: A zero-gravity coffee cup floats aboard the International Space Station 2002.

Photo: Marty Sheffer

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“This view of Toronto looking north from one of the small parks on the waterfront shows two of the city’s newer tourist attractions, Commerce Court and the Toronto Dominion Centre–both of which offer a magnificent view of Toronto.”

“Photo: Marty Sheffer” are familiar words to Canadian deltiologists. Postcards of his photographs were sold in convenience stores and souvenir shops from Newfoundland to British Columbia. He shot the Fredericton Playhouse, the Lighthouse at Peggy’s Cove, and a giant five cent coin in Sudbury called The Big Nickel. He photographed Magnetic Hill, and downtown Toronto before its transmogrification into a tinted glass behemoth.

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Photographers were identified on a limited number of postcards, on the back or on a white strip across the bottom of the front. Sheffer shot fishing boats in Cheticamp Harbour for C & G MacLeod in Sydney, and the rock formations at Hopewell Cape for Lewis & Nugent Ltd. in Moncton. Toronto’s Royal Specialty Sales published his pictures on their wonderful Plastichrome prints. Some of the postcards of Sheffer’s work were never mailed; they turn up in boxes at shows or on auction sites, trickier to date than cards with stamps. All appear to have been shot in the mid-1970s.

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Sheffer made unique choices. He shot the Trans Canada Highway across a bed of marigolds and the Magnetic Hill Inn framed by branches of pine trees. He stood farther back than most postcard photographers, and left a lot of room for the sky in the frame. It’s impossible to look at his photographs and not eventually wonder about the man who took them; standing apart from the action, checking the light, and recording the earth around him.

Royal Specialty Sales has sold souvenirs in Canada since 1937. The company is owned and operated by Ken Feldbloom and his son David. I phoned Royal Specialty Sales to inquire about Sheffer and spoke to the kind and helpful Ken Feldbloom. “I believe Marty passed away a few years ago,” he said. He remembered Sheffer’s address, a townhouse in North York. “A very nice fellow,” Feldbloom recalled.

I had imagined a nice fellow. Contemplative, and appreciative of the beauty of ordinary things. Every year his work becomes a little rarer, and more precious. The subjects and ancillary details of his images– clothes, long, wide cars, and Adirondack chairs on the side of a dusty road– are a trail of breadcrumbs forty years into the past.

Postcards by Royal Specialty Sales and Lewis & Nugent Ltd.

The Architect’s Approach to the Design of the Whitney Museum

IMG_2199“In the designing of the project and after establishing its working and its program, we have faced the first and most important problem: what should a museum look like, a museum in Manhattan? Surely it should work, it should fulfill its requirements. But what is its relationship to the New York landscape? What does it express? What is its architectural message?

It is easier to say first what it should not look like. It should not look like a business or office building, nor should it look like a place of light entertainment. Its form and its material should have identity and weight in the neighborhood of 50-story skyscrapers, of mile-long bridges, in the midst of the dynamic jungle of our colorful city. It should be an independent and self-reliant unit, exposed to history, and at the same time it should have a visual connection to the street. It should transform the vitality of the street into the sincerity and profundity of art.

The photograph below shows a sunken sculpture court between the sidewalk and the building, spanned by the entrance bridge; it shows the glass front of the lobby facing Madison Avenue, and the sculpture gallery which provides contact with the street and with the passerby. While the inverted pyramid of the building mass calls attention to the museum and to its special dedication, the mass is surfaced with a most durable, retiring, and serene material: a warm gray granite which is rather dark and has a mild play of reflection of the surroundings…”

Marcel Breuer, The Whitney Review 1965-1966, The Whitney Museum of Art,  1966.

Constructing “The Color Purple”

Screenshot (585)“I don’t always know where the germ of a story comes from, but with The Color Purple I knew right away. I was hiking through the woods with my sister Ruth, talking about a lovers’ triangle of which we both knew. She said: ‘And you know one day The Wife asked The Other Woman for a pair of her drawers.’ Instantly the missing piece of the story I was mentally writing–about two women who felt married to the same man–fell into place.  And for months– through illnesses, divorce, several moves, travel abroad, all kinds of heartaches and revealations–I carried my sister’s comment delicately balanced in the center of the novel’s construction I was building in my head…

…Just as summer was ending, one or more of my characters–Celie, Shug, Albert, Sofia, or Harpo–would come for a visit. We would sit wherever I was sitting, and talk. They were very obliging, engaging, and jolly. They were, of course, at the end of their story but were telling it to me from the beginning. Things that made me sad often made them laugh. Or, we got through that; don’t pull such a long face, they’d say. Or, You think Reagan’s bad, you ought’ve seen some of the rednecks us come up under. The days passed in a glaze of happiness.”

In Search of Our Mother’s Gardens, “Writing the Color Purple,” Alice Walker, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1983.