Thursday, September 21, 2006

Winter 2005 Volume 1 Number 4

Editor: Melinda Pillsbury-Foster


online store:

In this issue:

Inside Story Post Cards

The Tour of Old Village

Insight from scans sent! Thanks to Marilynn Guske

Inside Story Post Cards: Revisiting an old friend with new life.

Postcards for the 21st Century

From the outside an Inside Story Post Card looks much like one of those post cards produced in huge numbers by the Pillsbury Picture Company, Inc. through most of the first part of the Twentieth Century. There is a photo on the front and the back includes the time honored graphic of the Wawona Tree. Now you can see the small car coming through the tree – and if you eyes were truly great you might be able to see the smile on the face of the driver, who is Arthur F. Pillsbury, the youngest son of AC.

But something new has been added to this generation of post cards.

The Inside Story ties the image to the stories the image can't tell you about itself. The Post Card opens up to reveal a place that allows you to write a brief message, though less brief that the space provided by the previous cards. But when you flip up that page you find the short stories that provides you with the inside story on the front photo along with other photos, where we could fit one in.

The idea for the Inside Story Post Card was born when I was visiting Patrick Horsbrugh, the originator of Environics, and an early environmentalist who lives in South Bend, Indiana. I offered Patrick a copy of one of the many Pillsbury images the Pillsbury Picture Company is reissuing but instead Patrick wanted something smaller but deeper. He had enjoyed hearing about the picture and he wanted to remember the stories I had told him.

Patrick is now in the process of donating much of his extensive collection of art and books to institutions and so he did not want another print to take up space on his walls, he wanted the stories I had told him about one image he had lingered over after breakfast one morning. I offered him a book, Tour of Old Yosemite, that has most of those stories written down.. Too much to store, he said, looking at me in the expectation I would find a solution, and just the right solution.

The image Patrick had enjoyed so much was the close up of a Snow Plant taken in 1910 in Yosemite and tinted for use as a specimen card. The stories told that morning linked the image to the death of President Warren G. Harding, marketing, my father, and AC's continuing attempts at preservation. Patrick wanted to be able to share the stories with his friends just as I had relayed them to him. So I left South Bend thinking about how to accomplish that while not adding to the burden of things Patrick was giving away.

The idea came to me while inventorying postcards for the AC Pillsbury Archives. I started playing with two pieces of paper and winnowed it down to one, using every possible surface. The card as I designed it also gave me a way to solve some other problems that had been exercising my mind.

Everyone of us has had the sad and exasperating experience of peering at old photos, including post cards, and wishing we knew the stories behind the photos. A picture is worth a thousands words but it will not tell you the name of the people smiling into the camera or what happened to the little girl with the sad look on her face. That is where Inside Story Post Cards come in. In this way we can include many more stories and so deepen our understanding of history.

History, properly understood, is countless threads of story that weave together into complex and interesting patterns. But in real life most of those threads are ignored; the only ones visible to us are those that most of us already know. So we all know about George Washington crossing the Delaware but few know that the young man who was left holding his horse died of exposure and the statues of a young black man that once stood in front of houses were originally a memorial to him that marked safe houses on the Underground Railroad. Later generations took these statues to be a racist slur, the former associations lost in time.

George Washington was, to say the least, a well known public figure. Stories can tie us together in unexpected ways. They can explain things we did not even know we cared about.

And history is all of the stories, not just a few. The proliferation of historical societies across the country have worked at making local history live for new generations and Inside Story Post Cards are a handy way to extend that work, making it more accessible to all of us.

A book is a costly project but a card with short stories and a photo on the front to beckon the eye and introduce the topic is easy and can be kept in print for ever; it is inexpensive to produce and is easily stored.

It solves problems and has many uses.

Right now we are designing Inside Story Post Cards that on just one or two pieces of paper can take you though the whole life span of the Yosemite Chapel, showing its different faces through the years. Stories that are too short for a book can easily be fitted into an Inside Story Post Card. Components of one longer story can be fitted into cards that are then grouped as a set.

For instance, the story of a young woman named Virginia at the beginning of World War II who went to work in a factory in Los Angeles that produced air planes. The factory was in West Los Angeles and concealed by netting that made it look like a park. Her particular job was to fit needed pattern pieces onto scrap metal so that these pieces could be cut, recycled into smaller parts for the planes that were stored as they were completed in the field next to the factory that was disguised by the netting. Her training was in teaching so she had never imagined that she would be doing this kind of work. But her country was at war and she was determined to do what ever needed doing so that the war wound be won. Her younger brother went into the Navy; Virgina went to work in a factory.

When the field was full planes filled with pilots would start arriving one morning. More and more would come in throughout the day, staying at the factory. The people who worked there would be invited up to talk to them as the young men ate doughnuts and waited for night to come. Then, one by one hundreds of planes would take off into the night. The next morning, when Virginia came to work, the field would be bare. Sometimes when planes went down and the reports said what kind, the people working there would know it was one of theirs.

The war ended and life went on.

Miss Virginia went on to teach school for over fifty years. Nearly every child in her small town over that 50 years had her as a teacher. Every Halloween people from elderly to teenagers come by to see her and sit around and remember.

Today she runs th historical society in that same small town and through her work there has met some of the hundreds of people who were brought together to build those planes that, at the time, she never knew. Now she does.

Virginia is not someone about whom history books are written, but she made history, none the less.

There are several Inside Story Post Cards that Miss Virginia's stories can fill. Her stories and others demonstrate much more about who we are as Americans than you will learn from most history books.

The study of history should teach us about ourselves.

Inside Story Post Cards can be kept in plastic sleeves in a loose leaf notebook, both sides visible as you leaf through the book. It is like a book that has no covers; it is a book that can grow.

This is history outside the usual limits that can link us up in unexpected ways.

The cards about Yosemite that are now finished are titled:

The Snow Plant and the President's

The Curry Wedding, June 17, 1920

The First Aeroplane into Yosemite – May 27, 1919

The Four Graces of Yosemite – 1909

The Sentinel Hotel – 1907; the Grand Old Lady of Yosemite

Girls in Pants! 1916

Indian Mary takes a ride

The Trials of Winkey

Making the Primroses Blush under Half Dome

George Sterling - The Poet from Sag Harbor

Coming soon!

Teddy Roosevelt and the Grizzly Giant

Two Kids who loved Yosemite, Galen Clark and George Fiske

Indian Field Days and the Potato Race – 1916

What Foley told you about Yosemite

And a set:

A Tour of Old Village in five parts

If you want to order cards send an check to:

Pillsbury Picture Company, Inc.

27 W. Anapamu No. 255

Santa Barbara, CA 93101

Regular cards are $3.00 each, including postage.

If you would like First Issue Inside Story Post Cards they come with a certificate and short comment on how the cards came into being. They are enclosed in a clear envelope with hand numbered certificate and sell for $5.00 each. There are 200 of each and only 200 will be issued. When they are gone, they are gone.

If you would like Inside Story Post Cards for your own historical society or museum contact us at:

e-mail to:

The Tour of Old Village

The Tour of Old Village took place as scheduled on October 21 Around 30 people gathered inside the Chapel before we began the walk through the sites where the original Village of Yosemite stood until the late 1920s when it moved to its present location.

People came from Orange County, Santa Barbara, and elsewhere for the event.

Tom Bopp was along and took photos, capturing the stories shared by some of the old timers who joined us for the occasion. (I think Tom Bopp is Inside Story material.)

The Tour began at The Ship Stone, which is a large rock that at some time in the distant past fell from the heights above to embed itself in the meadow near the Wall of the Valley. The original road into the Valley ran just to the Wall side of the Ship Stone, which got its name from the Children of Arthur C. Pillsbury, who pretended it into a galleon and a ship of war and other exciting vehicles. My father, Arthur F. Pillsbury, lost his fear of heights on the Ship Stone when he was eight years old before beginning to climb the Valley walls themselves.

Our Tour rambled up along the road past each building the visitor to Yosemite would have seen in the year 1913. We closed our eyes and imagined what we would have been wearing in those years that were not so far removed from Queen Victoria. Women were reminded that they would have been in skirts and probably heavily strapped in with a corset.

As we walked along,entering what were in 1913, the busy streets of a small but vibrant village, we walked the place where the warehouse that became a Masonic Hall had been and heard from a former member of that Lodge. We looked at the original location for the blacksmith shop that now resides in Pioneer Village at Wawona.

A little further along we paused to see if we could capture the scent of bread, newly taken from the oven, in front of the Degnan Bakery and Restaurant; we imagined cinnamon rolls and looked across the street to the Post Office, which was busy because the mail was the usual way most people communicated with their friends and family in 1913. We peeked into the Grocery Store to see the variety of supplies carried both for those who lived and worked in the Village and for the visitors they served.

The next steps, north towards Sentinel Bridge took us past Artist's Row, and the studios of Best. Boysen, and the the home place of the Foley Guide, that Bible for the visitor to Yosemite also used to advertise in by concessionaires.

We in turn visited each building, adding the memories of old timers to those those of myself as guide. Old Timers paced out locations, remembering and laughing at what they had forgotten.

We ended up several hours later back in the parking lot of the Yosemite Chapel, our sponsors for the day, and enjoyed lunch together, continuing to talk about the place that no longer is – except in our memories.

We ate lunch on the site of the Studio of the Three Arrows, the Old Village home of the Pillsbury Family. We gathered and looked at pictures that illustrated how the Studio looked when the first nature film was run there for visitors on the porch in the evening after night had fallen. I personally looked for the footprint of the Studio itself, imagining the corner shelf where those first lapse-time movies of plants were taken. Dad's tent, where he spent every summer from the time he was seven until he went away to college, was just behind the Chapel; a location covered now by the new office occupied by Brent and Faith Moore.

Next time, and there will be a next time, we intend to do more to bring the Old Village to life. Perhaps a miniature replica; perhaps temporary buildings occupying the old footprints of the buildings. Or maybe next time we will come in costume. Now that would be interesting.

If the year were 1913, who would you be? We have time – think about it!

Thanks to Ray Duarte, the Arthur C. Pillsbury Foundation archivist, who came and brought with him the two tallish stacks of images blown up to help us imagine our way back in time and to Connie, Ray's wife, who always helps with these endeavors and to all of the Old Timers, some of them not so old, who came and contributed their wonderful memories of past joys, friendships, and insights. And to everyone else – thanks for being there. You made the day for me.

Innovations in Advertising

I really love it when people send me scans of old post cards. And sometimes what is best is not the formal production photos; all of the Yosemite photographers produced those, but the unusual things that give me insights that help me make connections that had puzzled me.

Marilynn Guske contacted me about a card she has in her collection. In the course of the exchange she sent it on to me and when I opened the file it made me laugh.

As you can see, the card is from 1910, the same year that AC took the first ship to ship photos at the San Dominguez Air Show in Los Angeles. The card is a cheerful advertisement for the motion pictures of nature that AC was using to increase his market share as a concessionaire in Yosemite. Competition for the few thousand tourists who came through the Valley was fierce in those early days and AC was always the first to see how innovations could help him improve his position.

The card is laid out with text saying, “Dear________________

Am just eating dinner now after a delightful trip. This evening we visit the Pillsbury Studio, who also have the Three Arrows Studio in Yosemite, and later will enjoy an open air Stereopticon Show.

The Motion Picture Show by Pillsbury in Yosemite is a wonderful treat. Will write more tomorrow.” (and the sender, relieved of the need to think of anything else to say, then signed it.)

In the Spring issue I will quote from some of the letters written to the Park Service complaining about the innovations AC employed from other concessionaires demanding he be stopped!

The card was a give away, provided to the visitors at the Del Portal who were on their way into the Valley. They could read it and get the message and then send it on to a friend or family member, letting them know they had arrived safely. The front of the card is a standard production post card of the Del Portal, probably familiar to all of you.

Marilynn actually sent two scans from advertising cards and the second one also told a story that, if I had known it at the time, I might have included in the Inside Story Post Card for the First Aeroplane into Yosemite.

The other side of this card is the interesting image of a girl dressed like an American Indian holding an American Flag and standing out on Overhanging Rock. I have seen the post card without this advertising and note on many occasions and it looks like my Aunt Grace. The card was originally made in a flood of patriotic fervor at the beginning of WWI while AC was attempting with his usual energy to join the corp of much younger men who were floating in balloons over enemy lines in France taking photos of enemy placements. The life expectancy was very short, sort of like being a forward observer in Vietnam.

The war was over too soon for AC to finish using up all of the cards that he printed so in the usual thrifty New England fashion he continued to use them until they were gone. This one, with hand written invitation to a motion picture showing of, “Birds, flowers and trees.” on September 22, 1921.

AC's attempts to become dead in France are chronicled on the Inside Story Post Card.

That is all for the Winter. See you next year and have a wonderful and completely Pillsbury Christmas.

No comments: