Studies in Crap Begs Your Help: 1946 School Autograph Book of Charles "Chick" Olsen

Your Crap Archivist brings you the finest in forgotten and bewildering crap culled from basements, thrift stores, estate sales and flea markets. I do this for one reason: Knowledge is power.

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School Autograph Book of Charles "Chick" Olsen
Author: The students of PS 30, Richmond
Date: 1945 - 1946
Discovered at: Thirft store
Representative Quote: "Dear Charles,/ Remember me/ until you see apples on a banana tree./ Your sister grad-u-8/ Doris Guertler."

With its elegant cursive and impersonal rhymes, this mid 40's autograph book offers a peek into the polite days before HAGS, "Keep rocking!" and "Don't you hate it when somebody writes in your crack?" Back then, autograph-givers knew better than to waste their time penning heartfelt expressions of just what the autograph-receiver meant to them.

Instead, they preferred to be remembered decades later for their shopworn doggerel:

  If you see a monkey sitting in a tree
  Pull the tail and think of me.
  "Moe"
  Albert Landgean

That's so potent a rhyme that, fifty pages later, Jane M. wrote it, too.

Other autographs are even less personalized.

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Dull, but check out that penmanship! It looks like something carved into ice by a figure-skating Snoopy!

As far as I can tell, personal expression wasn't invented until the mid 1950s. Still, if you dig into Charles Olsen's autographs, you will find some surprises.

A few autographs dare the personal:

  Charlie--
  Out the window
  Hangs a rope
  Waiting for you
  and Marian to elope.
  -- Conrad

Some include cute testimonials to how long their friendships will endure, like "yours till kitchen sinks" or "yours till a board walks":

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A few are extravagant in their laziness:

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He loves you, Charlie, but The Duck's got better things to do than rhyme -- or write out the word "friends" three times.

Some are troubling.

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January 17, 1945: Warsaw fell to the Russians, the Nazis began the evacuation of Auschwitz, and Burke Engelsen invents the pants rebus.

And one encourages a life of prostitution.

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Help Me, Internet!

Your Crap Archivist has given Google and Classmates.com a good corn-holing, but he hasn't turned up a clear answer to the central mystery of this find: where exactly is PS 30?

Here's all Olsen gives us to go on:

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Vermont, Missouri, and California all have Richmonds, but would any of them have been big enough in 1945 to have a PS 30? Perhaps Olsen attended Staten Island's PS 30 in Richmond County, New York, where Amy Vanderbilt went.

Please, Internet -- could you try, just this once, to make up for all the time I've wasted with you? Where did Chick go to school?

(Update: Mystery semi-solved! See here.)

Highlight: Many students of the 1940s did their damnedest to keep anything interesting, personal, or memorable out of each other's memory books.

Then there's Johnny!

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Internet, this is Johnny.

Johnny, this is the Internet.

It thinks you're an asshole.




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