Member Blogs > Pistil BlogEphemera

  • Sun, 01 Jul 2012 10:41:00    Permalink
    This weekend I went to an estate sale with my friend Tim.  We were planning to go garage saleing, but this being Juneuary in Seattle, it was too rainy for outdoor sales.  Sometimes sales advertised as "estate sales" are really just misnamed yard sales with small piles of crap, the sellers not realizing they have to be dead to really qualify for the more esteemed term.  This small modest house in the Queen Anne neighborhood was the real thing.  There's something a little creepy and sad about estate sales:  the literal contents of a person's life-- drawers, closets, shelves laid out for strangers to rummage through and worth only pennies. Since the estate sale was held now, in 2012, you know the person was alive fairly recently, but often their possessions seemed to have stopped changing after a certain date, in this case 1978.  So much bright polyester.   I went straight to the bookshelves, which were pretty much filled with junk, but interesting junk, nevertheless.  For instance, a pamphlet published by Reader's Digest about "Joe's Man Gland."  Lots of beat up religious titles, nonfiction pocket books from the sixties, a cool children's ex-library book from the fifties on America's Heritage from the Ancient World, that I actually bought.  The books' owner was one of those people who leave lots of little scraps inside their books:  coupons, lists, notes, a paper butterfly.

    The best find, though, was the Official Program:  Treasures of Tutankhamun which was exhibited at the Seattle Center in 1978 - and which is once again exhibiting in Seattle (and there's a really cool giant Anubis statue outside the downtown train station).  I remember King Tut mania from around that time period.  My fifth grade classroom had a decorated plywood box the kids were supposed to crawl around inside with a flashlight (like archaeologists!), answering questions the teacher had stuck to the inside walls with thumbtacks.  And who could forget:

    King Tut (King Tut)
    Now when he was a young man,
    He never thought he'd see
    People stand in line to see the boy king.
    (King Tut) How'd you get so funky?
    (Funky Tut) Did you do the monkey?
    Born in Arizona,
    Moved to Babylonia (king Tut)....

    This program was published by The Weekly, a Seattle tabloid that still exists.  Besides the official program information, it's filled with ads for local businesses with Tut-themed graphics and copy.

     This publication is an example of what is known in the bookselling world as "ephemera":  "From the Greek work ephemeron, meaning something that disappears quickly. Examples are: manifestos, broadsides, programs, menus, tickets, playbills, etc." (Abebooks' Glossary)

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