Small-print edition!


From our friends at Shorpy.com comes this fascinating image of a young woman working in the big city in 1956. Notice the book under her manuscript and the hand-held magnifier next to it.

NYC Career Girl, 1956I suspect the book in the photo above is a variant of the Compact Oxford English dictionary. The one I have is from the 1970s and the pages are set up a little differently. The magnifier that came with my COED is the same as in the Shorpy.com photo.

Because the full OED is 20 volumes, the compact editions are composed of multiple pages reduced so that several pages fit onto a single page, if you follow me. That makes the looking glass essential to reading the entries. Even with the pages crammed in so tiny, my COED is still a bulky two volumes.


Here’s a photo from the Web showing a modern-day COED. The looking glass or magnifier provided with the books nowadays seems to be a nifty round one with no handle.

Compact OED

An amazing resource for us word nerds.

My favorite dictionary for just reading—and you know you’ve got it bad when you collect and, yes, read old dictionaries—is my hardback facsimile of Noah Webster’s first American dictionary, as published in 1828. It’s fun to see how our language has changed since Webster’s day.

American Dictionary of the English Language


Well, Shakespeare, He’s in the Alley . . .


At least that’s what Dylan said back in 1966:

Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells,
Speaking to some French girl,
Who says she knows me well.
And I would send a message
To find out if she’s talked,
But the post office has been stolen
And the mailbox is locked.
Oh, Mama, can this really be the end?
To be stuck inside of Mobile
With the Memphis blues again.

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while; it’s been a busy month or so!

Here’s a little background and then some history, with photos! One of the main reasons Patty and I moved up here in 1987 was the fascinating history in the Washington, DC, area. We love exploring all the old places and learning what happened in those places in years past.

From mid-December until the beginning of March, I was a print-production contractor at the Society of Neuroscience in downtown DC. Great place and wonderful staff. In late February, I got an offer to return to a prestigious organization where I had contracted a couple of times last year, and decided to make the switch; they also have a wonderful staff and a great marketing department. But I’ll miss SfN and its amazing collection of people!

Anywho, in the alley behind SfN’s modern offices just south of Thomas Circle, at 14th Street NW and Vermont Avenue, is an alleyway. Just down the alleyway is this fantastic old carriage house, which now houses a bar called the Green Lantern. Here’s an iPhone photo I took of the 1860s building last month, on a cold and rainy afternoon while I smoked a cigarette in the overhang of a garage doorway:


Now, thanks to the wonderful folks at Shorpy.com, here’s the same alley in 1919 or so:


Note that the building on the far right– you only see the corner– is the same carriage house that now is the Green Lantern. What nails the location is the dome shown in the photo’s background; it’s the Portland Flats, which is often called Washington’s first luxury apartment building. An online DC history website says that this Green Lantern bar carriage house building housed a brothel in the 1980s. In the 1919 photo, the horse-drawn grocery wagon has the name of P. Chaconas

And, thanks once more to Shorpy.com, here’s the Chaconas grocery store in 1915 or so:

Shorpy 00048a

The Shorpy caption reads:

“P.K. Chaconas Co. Market.” Pictured: Proprietor George Chaconas, whose grocery (“fancy fruits and vegetables”) was at 924 Louisiana Avenue N.W.”

Pretty cool, huh?

In the first old photo, the Society for Neuroscience office building– 11 stories high and as nice an office as I’ve ever worked in– is at the end of the alley where the ramshackle two- and three-story brick buildings were in the old days.

Just shows what you can discover while wandering around town.

War Trophies


I just submitted this photo to Shorpy.com, my favorite web site, and figured I’d post it here, too.

My dad served with the 82nd Airborne in WWII, and sent home an enormous batch of trophies, as seen in this photo taken on the front porch of our family farm after the war. Many of these guns, flags and uniforms were loaned to a museum in Fernandina Beach, Florida, and went astray. We were able to recover a few of them in the early 1970s and the automatic-weapon stamps from the ATF cost us a fortune; I believe it was $500 per gun. You should have seen it when the Naples police chief, my mom, two of my friends and I carried this stash of weapons into the Bank of Naples to store in their safe-deposit vault!

They were all sold or given away long ago, except for a 7.65mm Walther PPK I’ve kept. Dad picked that pistol up in the bunker in Berlin where Adolph Hitler had committed suicide with a pistol of the same make and caliber. Now, that model pistol is much more famous for being the pistol that James Bond keeps under that well-tailored suit jacket of his. [Edit: just learned that the bunker may have been the one under Hitler’s home, not the one in Berlin. No way of knowing for sure.]

My dad even brought back that dog in the photo; her name was Beulah.

Here’s a photo of Dad showing the campaign ribbons and such that he had earned in that war. I guess he was about 21 years old in this photo taken after the war.

My grandmother had an 8″ x 10″ glossy of the following Associated Press photo on the wall in her den. It shows my dad in WWII; she also had the yellowed newspaper clipping which identified him in the photo. Its headline, I remember, was Local Trooper Advances Under Enemy Fire.

On the 82nd Airborne site, it has this caption:

An infantryman from the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division goes out on a one-man sortie while covered by a comrade in the background, near Bra, Belgium, on December 24, 1944″

The three-week battle, of which the above photo illustrates one brief moment, was later called the Battle of the Bulge or the Ardennes Offensive; one of the last desperate efforts of Nazi Germany to survive. I think that’s a Thompson submachine gun in one of my dad’s hands; those might be wire cutters in the other.

Pretty grim situation for a kid just out of his teens. No helmet, either. No one likes to wear a helmet on Christmas Eve.