Goodies You Gave | Newberry

Goodies You Gave

It is, as usual, the generosity of the greater book-owning community in Chicago which always surprises and delights us. Book after book, CD after CD, comes cascading into the large box (or “missile”) we have set up just inside our back door with astonishing regularity. (By the way, you don’t HAVE to cascade the books into the box. We are perfectly happy to accept the bags and boxes you used for moving donations. It makes the job marginally more efficient, however much more elegant it may seem to have that big box filled just with books. Even though those plastic bags now cost you seven cents each, and I hate to suggest you could be even MORE generous when you’re giving us all those dusty books from Grandma’s attic, still….)

Anyway, another thing which amazes us are some of the treasures which come in among the copies of The Help, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and The DavInci Code. We still haven’t figured out a few of them, but we treasure them all the same.

Some of these are disguised as innocent books, and it isn’t until we pull them up and look them over that we find we have a set of volumes tracing the genealogy of Arabian horses bred in Poland since 1917. No, no: I’ve asked. The Genealogy Department at the Newberry is NOT going to seize these for the collection. These will be freely available to shoppers comes July. (Well, not “freely” as regards price: we do not relinquish such genealogical trophies easily.)

Over here, we have a program from a 1947 production of Alice in Wonderland. It starred Bambi Linn in the title role, but what catches the eye is the White Rabbit. This key character in the story was portrayed by a young man who would go on to bigger things, a chap named William Windom. That’s modestly interesting (everyone starts somewhere) but the program also lists his understudy, another up-and-comer named Julie Harris. See, if you’re in a rabbit costume, it doesn’t matter a lot if you don’t resemble the person you’re understudying.

Another scrap of paper from the world of entertainment was tucked away inside a 1937 world atlas. It’s a flyer advertising an upcoming wrestling match at the Rainbo Arena, a sports venue and nightclub on Clark Street. The flyer apparently dates from about 1937 itself; the wrestlers involved have their place in the history of pro wrestling, but the Rainbo Arena has huge implications for the history of culture in our nation. It says here that John Dillinger, a month from his final encounter with law enforcement, stopped here for his final birthday party. It was at the Rainbo Arena where the first professional women’s tag team wrestled. And it was at the Rainbo Arena that Larry Fine was performing when Moe Howard asked if he’d like to be one of the Three Stooges. I hope there’s a metal plate in the sidewalk where the Rainbo Arena once stood.

Also on paper is this blessed one dollar bill which came in inside a book safe (a book which has been hollowed out for storing valuables). Someone has written, among a few mystic phrases, that whoever places this dollar bill among other dollar bills will be blessed with a lot of money. If only the donation boxes were still on display in the lobby, that would be the place for it, but maybe we’ll wait and slip it into the till at opening night at the Book Fair.

Someone dropped off a Kalliroscope, a combination desk toy and art object by Paul Matisse, and someone else dropped off a Pocket Buddha. This is a figurine which came in a little case with incense burner and incense. We have the case and the figurine, but the incense has apparently gone up in smoke. We prefer it that way. If you’ve never dealt with donations of incense, souvenir soap, and potpourri, you don’t know how much fun storing collectibles can be. (If I ever DO have a Gutenberg Bible for sale, no doubt scholars will wonder why this copy has a faint aroma of sandalwood.)

We have a paper chest badge from a University of Chicago swim meet, a Haggadah with turquoise studs, a small stack of stereocards of Manchester, New Hampshire, a set of patent drawings for a….

How am I supposed to test whether that blessed dollar works if you’re going to keep dropping off treasures?

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