There is a wonderful thrift store in Joshua Tree Village. On Highway 62, just up from the Crossroads Cafe (order a tempeh reuben and a pint of Guinness for strength before a heavy thrifting session). I found the complete set of 1970s Weight Watchers Recipe Cards there, the ones so splendidly examined by Wendy McClure in The Fluffy Makerel Pudding Plan. One of the funniest books ever. Seriously. Try to get to, oh, page seven without dissolving into grossed-out gasping laughter. I can’t. The woman has a way with words.

Anyway. A thrift store that understands the value of those recipe cards has a place in my heart. Treasures!

I got some choice loot my last visit. Two hours of examining every musty item rewarded me with a veritable PILE of printed matter. Like I could hardly carry them all to the check-out counter. Grand total? $2.73. Aw. That price is so cute! I love thrift stores. I love old books. Old print. Visual communication from years gone by. Outdated, innocently prim writing styles. Ad campaigns of the past. These are all societal time capsules: maps and magazines and how-tos and school textbooks, with scribbled notes in the margins. And WHO were the scribblers? Why did Mabel F. McLaughlin feel she had to scrawl her name across the front of a handout from an oil company in 1936? Would someone steal it otherwise? Was it really that precious?

They are precious to me now. I thank all the previous owners of these books and booklets, for taking care of them, for caring enough to write their opinions and experiences and directions in the margins, for giving me a little glimpse into the details of what someone else thinks is important. They are important to me now. And some of them, while never as perfectly hilariously AWFUL as those Weight Watchers Recipe Cards, are still pretty funny. All are fun to look at, though, especially for little design nerds like me. So here’s a few. Let’s start with the earliest one.

Wild Flowers of Northern California, Oregon and Washington: Souvenir Booklet Compliments of Your Richfield Dealer, 1936
“It’s Wild Flower time! Richfield presents this booklet of suggested trips to popular wild flower areas. When you make your plans for these delightful outings, include them in a visit to your neighborhood Richfield station for thorough car servicing – and a tankful of long-mileage Hi-Octane gasoline. It will add pleasure to your trip!”

I can hear him now, the radio announcer, broad staccato nasal American accent, describing the wonders of Richfield Oil. Beautiful little booklet by ‘the Gasoline of Power’. Really lovely print quality, with the different color inks almost floating on top of each other, layered over the black and white photography. The hand-set type is endearingly wonky. It’s just so sweet and… OLD. Fun to think of actually doing one of these trips back then, before so many of the cities and towns cited here became the strip-mall-hells they are today. Who would consider taking a scenic drive to Stockton now? I wonder what the roads were like in the 1930s. I imagine Mabel (for this was hers) keeping Wild Flowers in the glove compartment of her ’36 Olds… just in case.

10 Secrets of Bowling by World’s Champion Don Carter, 1963
I love me some instructional illustrations. This book has some of the best. Complete with dotted lines and directional arrows. If I actually read this book instead of just looking at the pretty pictures, I think I will become a Bowling Champ. Creamy, almost newsprint-y paper and woodcut-style illustrations. Despite the soft paper, the ink sits sharply on top and doesn’t get fuzzy and sink in. Really crisp. I love the generous margins and empty space around the illustrations. Signifies to me that there was just more time and space available – in life AND instructional bowling books. Not like the frenzied media overload crunch of today. The book SMELLS good too, like some old books do. You know that smell, right?

Check out Don’s happy, glistening, wrinkled face on the back cover. He is THIRTY-FIVE in this picture, people. Wife LaVerne looks much better… though not as impressive as her famous husband, OBVIOUSLY.

Hyplar Acrylic Polymer by Grumbacher, 1968
Hello. I am a painter. I am interested in new paint and techniques. What are Hyplar colors?

“They are Grumbacher water colors formulated with acrylic polymer plastic latex emulsion. In more comprehensible, everyday terms, this means that the water which forms the liquid base of the color has suspended in it fine particles of a colorless synthetic resin which forms a crystal clear film when the water evaporates.”

Ah. Makes perfect sense. Now try saying that five times fast.

Acrylic paint is truly a versatile wonder. I greatly enjoy using it. (only Windsor & Newton though. Sorry Grumbacher.) When it’s dry you could seriously run your painting over with a bus (not that you’d want to) and sponge it down afterwards. Acrylic is that tough. Advances in plastics!

Ad booklet with classic late sixties typography introducing, describing and selling the exciting new Acrylic Polymer Plastic Color For Artists and different painting techniques that can be used with this new wonder-paint. Love the old order-form graphics. Love that this booklet was actually FOR SALE (10¢) at the thrift store. It’s obviously a considered placement. A store employee decided it was worth ten whole cents and absolutely necessary to have this useful and informative booklet available to the masses, in case someone needs to send the order form BACK IN TIME to Grumbacher.

Thrift store WIN.

Sweater Bazaar (Book 771) by Columbia-Minerva, 1969
“A glorious array of sweaters await you in our Sweater Bazaar Collection. Choose from a variety of vests, a clutch of cardigans and a pot pourri of pullovers – which will enhance all your waking moments from ski slopes to spectator sports and on to more romantic events.”

I really like the idea that sweaters can ENHANCE ALL MY WAKING MOMENTS. Wow. Sweaters must be my final missing piece to that enhanced life I’ve been searching for. What was I thinking? I guess I should have been thinking about sweaters. And when I think of sweaters, I ALWAYS think immediately of “romantic events”.

Shown on cover: the Radcliffe (perfect to wear with pants, tweeds or leather) and the Bennington (in harmony with pine trees on the slopes, a pullover to delight). Shown at right: the Chapel Hill (Wear proudly as a tuck-in, belted or in the new body shirt fashion) and the Sweet Briar (Suit-able for so many occasions!)

The ladies in this catalog all look a little… menacing. Long clawed fingernails, awkwardly suggestive posturing. Fixing you with a level stare from across the decades, they challenge you to knit these fashion sweaters OR ELSE.

Shown at right: the Tufts (A must for raglan-lovers. The Indian Headband doubles as a belt for variety)

And what’s with pointing to the nethers WITH said clawed fingernail? What was the art director after? What were the models after? What do these sweaters DO to women? Maybe it’s what they do FOR women. Enhancing those waking moments.

Whoever had this book in September 1972 did as demanded by these alarming women – there are handwritten notes on nearly all the instructional pages. The script is frantic. Raglan Sleeve – Long Neck is circled then hurriedly crossed out, with a quick arrow drawn to the word “shortsleeve!” – with an EXCLAMATION MARK. Knit, you shrew, you harpy, KNIT!

That’s all for now. I’m a little tipsy. All this scanning and writing has required a very nice bottle of wine. I’ve still more wonders in vintage print to show and tell. Stay tuned for Western Journeys, Childcraft and Working Wardrobe!