Bookplates and the Art of Procrastination

No Telling


Bookplates should be personal. Which is why the first one I made (with a little assistance from Gustave Dore) features tomatoes. I’m fairly certain Dore wasn’t from the South, but I am. We take tomato-growing seriously down here. If you’re laughing, you’re probably from Minnesota or someplace.

Don’t fret, these are all altered images frittering their artistic lives away in the public domain. I didn’t steal them and no one’s stealing my books with something like this on the inside cover. It’s not an Evil Eye, it’s an Exasperated Eye.

Sadly, the bat story clings to me. Can’t quite shake it, so I might as well make a bookmark. That’s not a rationalization, it’s a personal philosophy. Glass half full and all that.

I give books as presents all the time. Why, I’ve even been known to give them out at Halloween when the trick-or-treater is a little too tall for my liking. I gave out fifty-cent copies of Dracula, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and Frankenstein a few years back and may never live that down. The too-big-for-trick-or-treating crowd has my number now. I’d never put one of these lovely presentation plates in those, though. They don’t deserve it.

This bookplate is strictly for scholarly books on rhetorical theory. Note the poor woman’s general demeanor. Enough said.

Making these was so much fun that now I’ll be grading all day tomorrow to make up for today’s artful procrastination. If you need to lose a few hours, I suggest Wikimedia Commons and Flickr Commons for a wealth of images in the public domain.

Finders Keepers

No Telling

I never visited the Palace Theater in Greenwood, Arkansas. This lobby card was in a pile of others like it underneath a dusty Chatty Cathy doll with a wonky right eye.

The Girls take a trip at the end of the spring semester each year to spend money at the outlet malls in Branson, Missouri. There are only two of us interested in roadside yard sales, rusty flea markets, and the like, so stopping at the little gas-station-turned-junk-shop in Marshall had to be a quick trip. Besides, everyone needed a potty break.

I bought the whole stack of lobby cards from the old theater, finished the trip, put them in a drawer, and forgot.

I don’t know why I started digging around tonight, but there in my Hideous Gift Scarves Drawer was the pile. The woman who sold it to me for five dollars felt guilty because they were so dusty and had packed them neatly in plastic sheeting. She was a sweet woman on the other side of fifty who wore her hair piled high in the back. Miss Clairol ash blonde. When she wasn’t waiting on customers, she worked a baby quilt behind the counter. Sunbonnet Sue, so it must be a girl.

She really doesn’t matter to this story, but I remember writing notes about her when I returned to the van. Can’t find the notes, but I remember her raisin-colored nail polish clearly enough.

In July 1967, the couples who bought tickets to the Palace Theater in Greenwood, Arkansas saw Doris Day, Charlton Heston, John Wayne, and Elvis. Some sat in the balcony and necked while others sat below and pointed upward. There were only about 2,000 people living there then and I know this because eight months later a good portion of them lost their whole world and many loved ones to a drop-down tornado that flattened most of the town.

I don’t know if the Palace Theater survived the carnage. It’s doubtful. What did survive are these fairly pristine lobby cards, stacks of them dating back from 1955 through this one in 1967. Some are a little brown around the edges from exposure, but none look like they were fished out of a tornado.

The storm blew up in the late afternoon and had it hesitated, waited a couple of hours more, the Palace would have been full of young lovers holding popcorn and each other on a Friday night. Maybe somewhere near the back row there would have been young fella with a fresh shave and clean fingernails escorting his ash-blonde sweetheart to her seat.

Maybe.