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Spooky how-to title included in Texas library auction

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Written by JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS, Tyler Morning Telegraph   
Monday, 24 October 2011 10:19

An assortment of early 20th-century embalming fluid bottles. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

TYLER, Texas (AP) – Just in time for Halloween a creepy book only a librarian could appreciate.

In the case of this particular book, however, no one at the Tyler Public Library seems to be feeling the love.

The 1933 first edition, illustrated copy of Champion Textbook of Embalming by A. O. Spriggs needs a new home, officials said.

It's up for sale in the library's third book auction, paired with a 1944 Tales of Edgar Allen Poe, for those who want something a tad unusual for their collection.

The books – as well as a host of others – are up auction until Oct. 31.

“Oh no, no, no, it's not something we could ever put on the shelves,” Evelyn McLane, programming associate, said. “I think the embalming book came in about a year ago, as a donation.”

Library officials said donated books that can't find a home on circulation shelves sometimes become undiscovered treasures for others.

In the case of the embalming book, it was immediately clear it needed to go someplace else, far away from unsuspecting library patrons.

“We put the embalming book in the last one (sale), but it didn't sell,” McLane said. “We paired it with Poe to see if someone would buy it.”

On a 1-to-10 scale of unusual donations, officials peg the book at about a 9.9.

Items recalled as closer to a “10” surfaced in the 1980s: two books with bullet holes.

“Everyone's a critic, but that was a little extreme,” Librarian Chris Albertson said of the bullet-riddled literature. “We did track them down” to pay for the damages.

The facility once received a collection of astrology books with detailed instructions on fortune-telling, but that topic seems to pale when compared to Spriggs' embalming book.

The clinical textbook gives instructions on handling cases centered on death by gunshot, poison and freezing, to name a few.

“We have a lot of technical books here,” Albertson said, citing topics such as law, medicine and mechanics. “We're in the business of trying to put good reading in people's hands.”

The embalming book doesn't quite fit into that business model, it seems.

People interested in bidding on the item can see it at the library, 201 S. College Ave.

It's under lock and key, entitled the “Spooky Lot.”

There are 25 auction lots in all, touching on a variety of interests, including history, classic literature and classic comic characters including Little Lulu and Donald Duck.

Other items include a collection of old Oklahoma newspapers, featuring front pages of historic events in the United States – the end of World War II, the first man on the moon and dropping of the first atomic bomb.

Some newspapers feature sports teams of the 1950s.

A complete “Five-Foot Shelf” collection of Harvard Classics is also up for bid, a name given in references to the size of the grouping.

“You could probably get the equivalent of a Harvard education if you sit down and read them,” Albertson said. “To have a complete set pass through here is kind of unusual.”

There's also the Official Fonzie Scrapbook, based on Henry Winkler's character from the 1970s television sitcom, Happy Days, and other stars of by-gone eras.

The library's “Beautiful Places” lot features a book filled with what appears to be hand-tinted scenes from Yellowstone National Park, suitable for framing.

Books in the lots have been selected based on rarity, nostalgic value and special interest topics.

Special care is taken to advise donors that materials not added to the library's collection may be auctioned or sold, officials said.

Bid sheets are located next to the display cases and people must have a library card to compete.

Winners will be contacted at the conclusion of the sale, and all proceeds benefit the library's book fund to help buy new books.


Information from: Tyler Morning Telegraph,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-20-11 1822GMT


Last Updated on Monday, 24 October 2011 10:41

Firefighters put finishing touches on 1924 truck

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Written by JOE JOHNSON, Athens Banner-Herald   
Friday, 21 October 2011 08:44

Knox Automobile of Springfield, Mass., manufactured the first modern fire engine in 1905. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

ATHENS, Ga. (AP) – History finally is coming to life at Athens-Clarke Fire Station No. 2.

There, firefighters are nearing the end of a project that began more than a decade ago – restoring an 87-year-old fire truck.

Countless hands have been laid on the 1924 Foamite-Childs Fire Apparatus Truck since a citizen donated it to the department in 1999.

The truck was first stored at Station 6, where firefighters stripped it to the frame, sand-blasted wood floors and running boards, and rechromed the steering column, rails and other parts.

They tinkered when time permitted over the next few years, but then the project ground to a halt. Personnel transferred to other stations, were promoted to other duties and even retired.

After the roof of Station 6 collapsed during a heavy snowfall in 2009, the vintage truck was moved to Station 5, where it continued to sit.

Then, about six months ago, Lt. David Barber told a bunch of co-workers it was time to revive the restoration project, and the Foamite-Childs truck was moved to Station No. 2 at Atlanta Highway and Mitchell Bridge Road.

“Everybody was on board with that,” said fire Sgt. Randy Patman, who was part of the group that first began working on the truck 12 years ago.

“I hate to see things that are good go to waste, and I hate to see history thrown away,” he said. “Restoring this truck took a lot of work, but in the end it's worth it, because it's an asset to the fire department.”

The Foamite-Childs fire truck was one of only two ever built by the company in Utica, N.Y.

It seats just two, a driver and a passenger, but back in the day, as many as 10 firefighters might have clung to railings as they stood on the running boards racing to a fire.

Athens resident Patty Curtis was going through the classified section of the newspaper one day in the early 1970s, looking for antiques that she and husband Jack loved to collect.

She came across an ad for the 1924 fire truck, which a University of Georgia student was selling, so she bought it as a present for her husband, who owned The Stone Store.

“I said, ‘Jack, you need some fire protection for the farm’” that the couple own in Greene County, she said.

But before the couple got the truck to the farm, they were driving it on Milledge Circle when they nearly lost control around a corner because the brakes were bad.

“It was our one and only drive,” Patty Curtis said.

The Curtises knew the truck would need a major overhaul to be safe, but they never had the time or money to fix it up.

And so the Foamite-Childs truck sat in their barn for more than 25 years.

Then, in 1999, they read a story in the newspaper that some firefighters had restored the oldest fire truck in the Athens-Clarke inventory, a 1962 pumper.

“Since we didn't have the time to restore it, we thought we'd give it to the firemen because we knew they'd enjoy it,” Patty Curtis said.

She was right.

“When I walked into Station 6 and saw that antique truck parked behind the 1962 truck, I said, ‘What in the world is this?’” Patman recalled. “It was a real nice surprise.”

Patman and fellow firefighters David Smith, Eric Frye, Blake Doster and Mike McDaniel came together to fix it up just as they had the 1962 pumper.

Each man had experience in various types of restoration. One tinkered on old cars, another rebuilt jukeboxes, and another antiques. Others had professional experience refurbishing metal pieces and in auto paint-and-body repair.

The new restoration project was much more of a challenge. Unlike the 1962 pumper, the Foamite-Childs truck's engine didn't run because it had seized.

As the antique was dismantled, each piece was photographed and inventoried.

As the paint was sandblasted from the body, they discovered the truck hadn't come from the Goshen Volunteer Fire Co., as the faded lettering had said.

And no one knew which Goshen, as there are several towns with that name on the East Coast.

The original paint job underneath stated the truck had belonged to the Independent Steam Fire Co. in Charles Town, W.Va.

While passing through on a trip up North, Smith stopped by the fire department in Charles Town.

“I told this guy we had an old fire truck from his town back in Athens, Ga., and as we were talking, I saw some photographs hanging on the wall, and I told him, ‘As a matter of fact, that's the truck right there,’” Smith said.

When the Foamite-Childs truck is fully restored, at least 95 percent of it will be original parts, according Barber.

Smith found hose nozzles, extinguishers and other odds and ends at a fire exposition in Boston, and Patman ordered other parts he found online.

But putting back each little part was a challenge, because over time, the writing on tags explaining where the parts belonged had faded.

“It's like trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle upside down, without a picture to go by,” Patman said.

Firefighters turned over the engine for the first time last week, but it remains to be seen if it will be road-worthy.

The idea is to drive it in local parades and use it for fire education, according to Battalion Chief Mark Freeman.

Firefighters expect the Foamite-Childs truck should be fully restored by early spring, and Jack Curtis hopefully will be able to fulfill the only wish he had when donating it to the fire department – to ride on it in a parade.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-19-11 1755GMT




Last Updated on Friday, 21 October 2011 09:08

Pawnshops see resurgence in rough economy

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Written by DANIELLE HATCH, (Peoria) Journal Star   
Thursday, 20 October 2011 10:34

The traditional pawnbroker sign consisting of three suspended gold globes. Image courtesy of and Showtime Auction Services.

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) – A Kodiak bear-skin rug. A 1958 Barbie doll, still in the box. Hand-carved wooden squirrel calls.

Local pawnshops are a mecca of the odd and unexpected. Once thought of as seedy hangouts for the down-and-out, pawnshops have enjoyed a resurgence lately, thanks in part to the stagnant economy and reality TV.

Bob Cramer, owner of Adams Street Exchange Pawn and Swap, 416 SW Adams St., said shows like Pawn Stars and Hardcore Pawn aren't exactly realistic portrayals of day-to-day pawnshop life, however.

“Those are made-for-TV shows,” Cramer said. “They want you to believe that every five minutes this cannon, there's only one in existence, and it's going to come into your shop. You really have to take a lot of that with a grain of salt. We get some rare things, but you don't get them every day. This is Peoria.”

Still, among the trays of cast-off engagement rings, shelves of secondhand musical instruments, knickknacks and aging video game consoles, there are some gems. Some things are so unique that Cramer is reluctant to part with them, such as a small Piper Cub model plane with a Weed Eater motor that hangs from the ceiling. Or the bearskin rug, which is for sale, but only at the right price.

“We could've made good money on the bear, but we held out,” Cramer said. “You have to have some things in the store that look cool.”

Pawnshops aren't just for shoppers, however. Many of their customers are living on a fixed income and just need some cash to make it through the week. So they bring in their valuables, show ID and fill out paperwork. They walk out with cash and a receipt. The pawnshop holds merchandise for a certain number of days and, if the customer doesn't come back for the goods, they end up on the sale floor. Sometimes they come back for the goods, sometimes they don't.

Pawnshops are governed by the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and are insured just like a bank, since they hold items that don't belong to them. Adams Street Exchange has a database of more than 18,000 customers, including Peoria resident Patricia Arias.

Arias, who is on a fixed income, said she comes to Adams Street Exchange every month. She brings in rings and necklaces for extra cash.

“Sometimes you're a little short for the month,” she said. “The economy doesn't make a difference.”

Robert Hayes, who has run Derby Pawn, 814 Derby St. in Pekin since 1993, says there have been more customers coming in lately with merchandise to pawn than there are people interested in buying.

“Our shelves are so full of merchandise that I'm probably sitting on 50 guitars. I've never had that many guitars,” Hayes said. “My loans have gone up probably 30 percent from last year, and who knows what 2012 is going to bring.”

Hayes sees all kinds of items. The strangest thing he's ever taken in? A male bondage leather outfit.

“I said, dude, I don't want to buy that. But he only wanted $20 for it. So I put it on eBay and, lo and behold, someone from California was interested. He bought it for $100.”

Hayes said the best part of running a pawnshop is getting to know his regular customers.

“We're helping them through times when their paycheck doesn't make it through until the end of the week,” he said. “I enjoy that. It's kind of like a family around here. We all know that pawnshops thrive and flourish during bad economies – especially while the cost of precious metals are up. So if the economy doesn't get fixed, there's going to be a need for us for quite some time.''

John Balaco, owner of R&J's Northside Pawnshop, 1215 NE Jefferson Ave., says many of his customers bring in items “just to keep up with the price of gas.”

Balaco says construction workers often bring in tools during the off season, then buy them back when the work starts up again. He also has electronics, guns, the occasional piece of art. Unique items include two sets of early 1800s dueling pistols. There's a pony skin on one wall, a hand-carved jade rosary from Africa, small replica shrimp boats about the size of a child's bicycle.

Balaco, who owned Mulligan's bar for 20 years and now runs EastPort Marina Cantina May through October, learned the pawn business from his father, who ran a shop in Alton, Ill. He was taught things like how to tell the value of items, and how to identify counterfeit gold from the real stuff.

He says the pawnshop television shows have brought in customers that may never have stopped in.

“We get so many people who have never been to a shop and wanted to see one,” he said. “The TV shows have done a really good job getting people interested.”

But, he says, the shows aren't exactly realistic.

“A piece of moon rock – who has that stuff?'' he said. “And if you do, you'll take it to Christie's (auction house), not a neighborhood pawnshop.”


Information from: Journal Star,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-19-11 1120GMT



Last Updated on Thursday, 20 October 2011 13:14

Restored carousel turning heads by Brooklyn Bridge

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Written by MEGHAN BARR, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 09:37

Another famous carousel made by Philadelphia Toboggan Co. is the 1906 Kit Carson County Carousel in Burlington, Colo. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

NEW YORK (AP) – In the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, strains of old-fashioned music from an organ float over the East River, mingling with the sound of children's laughter. It is coming from one of the happiest little spots in New York City: Jane's Carousel, a twinkling antique jewel that spins in a see-through pavilion on the river's bank.

One afternoon in early autumn, just about everybody seemed enthralled by the rise and fall of the 48 hand-carved wooden horses as they rode in circles over and over in Brooklyn Bridge Park. It was mostly young children emerging from nap time with their mothers, but even some hipsters in skinny jeans and Ray-Ban Wayfarers decided to stop and take a ride, hanging their heads back and grinning as they went.

“I think the lights, the music, the horses, it just brings out joy in everybody,” says Jane Walentas, the artist who spent years restoring the carousel to its original splendor.

Jane's Carousel is the latest attraction to hit DUMBO, an offbeat waterfront neighborhood that is slowly evolving from a deserted manufacturing zone to an upscale hipster hangout with art galleries, boutiques and million-dollar condos. DUMBO stands for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, and the carousel is located right between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, which span the river and connect the two New York City boroughs. The carousel is housed in a clear acrylic pavilion, designed by the architect Jean Nouvel, and it offers stunning, and weatherproof, views of the bridges, the water and Manhattan across the way.

Jane's Carousel is no native New Yorker. It was built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co. in 1922, and for much of the 20th century, it stood in Idora Park, a popular spot in Youngstown, Ohio, then a prosperous city of steel mills. In 1975, it became the first carousel ever listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Youngstown fell on hard times with the decline of the steel industry in the 1970s, and after Idora Park was wrecked in a fire, the carousel went up for auction in 1984.

At the time, Jane Walentas' husband, real estate developer, David Walentas, had been commissioned to develop the land that eventually became Brooklyn Bridge Park. He had asked his wife to help him find a carousel to install there. The Idora Park carousel was on the verge of being sold off piecemeal when the couple placed a $385,000 bid to buy the whole thing.

“We didn't think we had a chance at it, because there was a very well-known developer in Youngstown who we assumed was going to buy it and save it for them,” Jane Walentas recalled. “That didn't happen.”

Lynn Kirkwood, 60, who grew up in Youngstown, still remembers the cheering when locals learned that the carousel would survive intact. She is among the countless people from Ohio who have thanked Jane – in letters, phone calls, emails – for saving the carousel from destruction.

“A lot has changed in Youngstown. It's never gonna be the town that I grew up in anymore,” Kirkwood says. “But to have that carousel somewhere and still in existence? It's just like a dream come true.”

Walentas gets choked up when she talks about the people from Youngstown who have come by the busload just to see the restored carousel since it opened in September.

“It really shaped their lives,” she says. “You know they had their birthday parties on the carousel; they got engaged on the carousel; their first date.”

Walentas spent nearly 25 years working on the carousel, scraping off layers of paint with a knife to reveal the original paint and beautiful carvings. Along with a team of six people, Walentas rewired the carousel with 1,200 lights, cut new mirrors for the horses' bridles and replaced the jewels embedded throughout it.

“The paint was so fragile and broken,” she said. “And there were a lot of carpentry repairs that needed to be made.”

The carousel then sat unused for another four years in a DUMBO gallery, visible through a window from the street, while Brooklyn Bridge Park was completed, the agreement to install the carousel was completed as well, and the carousel pavilion was designed and built.

In the month since it opened, the carousel already has become a welcome addition to the neighborhood's draws for tourists, which include Jacques Torres' chocolate shop at 66 Water St. and a stone marker on the pier where George Washington and his troops fled by boat to Manhattan after the disastrous Battle of Brooklyn in 1776. At night, the carousel runs a light show every hour, projecting the dancing shadows of horses onto the walls and ceiling of the pavilion. The lights can be seen from across the river.

Craig Whitney, 68, was admiring the carousel with his wife as they basked in the sun on a nearby bench, taking in the tranquil scene.

“It's been so perfectly restored. And in this setting, it's just magnificent,” he said. “It's got sort of a hurdy-gurdy organ in it. That's something that was made a hundred years ago, and people still like to hear the sound. I think there's a romantic appeal to things like this from the past that make you feel good.”


If You Go...

JANE'S CAROUSEL: . Located in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn, N.Y., in Brooklyn Bridge Park on the East River, between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The carousel is easily accessed from park entrances at Dock Street or Main Street. The nearest subway station is the F train to York Street. Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; closed on Tuesdays. (Winter hours: Nov. 6-April 5, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.) Tickets, $2. Children ages 3 and younger and those under 42 inches tall may ride free with a paying adult. Package of 12 tickets, $20. Group rates are available.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-17-11 1826GMT




Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 09:48

Great Lakes steamship returning home to Canada

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Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 18 October 2011 12:53

The S.S. Keewatin, an Edwardian-era passenger ship, had the capacity to carry 288 passengers around the Great Lakes in complete luxury. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

SAUGATUCK, Mich. (AP) – The S.S. Keewatin Great Lakes passenger steamship will be moved from Michigan to Ontario, Canada.

The Grand Rapids Press reports that final tours of the 350-foot steamship are this weekend on Lake Kalamazoo in Douglas.

Skyline International Development Co. bought the Keewatin and plans to move it from Lake Kalamazoo to Port McNicoll on the south end of Georgian Bay next spring where it will become a permanent maritime museum.

The Canadian vessel had been a tourist attraction in the Saugatuck and Douglas areas in southwest Michigan for four decades. Port McNicoll is the Keewatin's original port.

“We are thrilled to return the world’s last Edwardian passenger steamship to the people of Tay Township and Canada,” said Gil Blutrich, Skyline chairman and president.

The ship was built in 1907 in Scotland as a smaller design to the RMS Titanic. It was used for almost 60 years as part of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s rail-to-water transportation system of deluxe travel.


Information from: The Grand Rapids Press,

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

AP-WF-10-16-11 0803GMT


Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 13:11
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