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

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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.


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.


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”:


A few are extravagant in their laziness:


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.


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.


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:


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!


Internet, this is Johnny.


Johnny, this is the Internet.


It thinks you’re an asshole.

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