A new holiday tradition appeared in late 1940s post-war America: the traditional cardboard buildings of the nation's earlier train layouts and under-the-holiday-tree displays were gradually replaced by—you guessed it—plastic.
Now Plasticville is called "a small piece of Americana that has become a traditional favorite of collectors world-wide."
What began in 1947 with a simple fence to be used under the tree soon evolved into a collection of small, detailed edifices designed for use with the popular electric trains of the period.
|Train layout with Lionel train and Plasticville, Harrisburg, PA, circa 1959|
One key to Plasticville's popularity, aside from its cool retro look, was its "no glue" format and the fact that the various structures were assembled with a "snap-together" construction that also meant they could be taken apart and stored more easily and safely (plus, they were a lot of fun to put together).
In 1952 the Philadelphia-based Bachman Industries patented its "snap" format, and the rest is history. Models ranging from ranch houses to super markets, gas stations, and other 1950s essentials quickly followed.
Several websites devoted to P-ville collectors and the company's history are available.
I remember that my father's first holiday train layouts used the quaint cardboard buildings that he must have spent many a late night assembling (though I'm sure he also enjoyed that). None of these fragile items have survived, but Plasticville made the trip from Harrisburg, PA, to Ventura and now appears, on a somewhat less grand scale, under a California holiday tree, bringing with it a lot of fond and sometimes poignant memories.
|Lionel train pile-up in front of the Plasticville service station, Ventura, CA, circa 2008. It's the same train and gas station seen in the previous photo.|
IndieFlix provides free, independent films for Ventura County Library card holders! Your first step is to create an Indieflix account -- start at our eLibrary page and click on Indieflix (under Arts, Communication, Culture, Education, Music and the A to Z database list). Use the links to create a new account or login using Facebook.
The folks at Indieflix are brimming with excitement in anticipation of the holidays, winter's first snow and snuggling by the fire. Indieflix features some hilarious, heartwarming, and hoax-worthy films. For a full list, see their blog.
You can also watch festival films, vote on best picture, or play film trivia. Film Festival in a Box is perfect for any film-buff!
With all of our modern conveniences, like smart phones, the internet, and flat screen TVs, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when none of these things even existed. I can remember growing up with typewriters instead of computers, record players instead of CD players, and rotary phones instead of cell phones, but there was a time even beyond that, when such technology wasn’t even yet a dream.
That is the focus of Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? by Brian Fies. It begins in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair, when people believed the future would consist of talking robots, flying cars, and highways leading to great cities of democracy and peace. Seen through the eyes of a father and his young son, it shows the boy’s excitement of a promising future, while showing a father’s trepidation of a future where he may not fit in.
As the book progresses, it marks the scientific progress being made, all the way to the space program and landing on the moon. It also marks the growing reality that the world is not always what was promised, as the world goes from World War II to Vietnam. Father and son are at odds with the world and each other. While the father still clings to old ideas, he seems excited about man’s journey into space. The son, once excited about the future is disappointed with the actual outcome when it doesn’t live up to its potential. They are on divergent paths.
It’s only when they witness the first link-up of an American and Soviet spacecraft, the Apollo-Soyuz, that the boy’s hope is renewed. In the book, he comments on how those spacecraft are like him and his dad, “often arguing, seeing the world in different ways, but sharing a dream…united by bonds deeper and stronger than we knew.” Their opinions about the world may have been vastly different, but in the end their hopes were the same.
Heather, the Graphic Novel Goddess
Last weekend E.P. Foster Library brought the music to the streets with our first ever Ukulele walk, the purpose was to promote the availability of ukuleles for check-out from the library and to encourage patrons to take a free monthly ukulele lesson provided by the library. Anacapa Ukulele provided the talent for the walk. Brad played bass ukulele, Jason was the lead singer and played the concert ukulele and Cary banged out the drum beats on a wooden box, a dynamite trio indeed, all from Anacapa Ukulele I might add. The trio, aided by a colorfully decorated book cart pushed by yours truly, weaved a serpentine path through Ventura’s historic downtown area. Super Alan from the library assisted with flyer distribution, and I am now cognizant of the fact that Alan is the king of flyer distribution!
Strumming, singing, and showing off the library’s ukuleles were the tasks of the day and I must say we performed these flawlessly. I failed to mention the Wine walk was going on at the same time as the Ukulele walk, making for a wonderful blend of uninhibited fun, in a wholesome sort of way of course. Our path took as far as the old Top Hat burger place and when we returned to the library Venus appeared in the southwestern sky, the air got a bit chilly, then the lovely walk came to a close. Next year...
This time of year we tend to get caught up in holiday parties, programs, shopping, and traffic. Many of the meanings behind certain traditions have been obscured by time, technology, and, in some cases, commercialism. At least one thing, though, seems to have crossed centuries and cultures. Most people celebrate with some form of light. Christmas lights, menorahs, Yule logs, etc., all serve to remind us of how our ancestors viewed the darkest days of the year. Druids used to roll a flaming wheel down a hill during the Winter Solstice to remind the sun to return. Nowadays, we just flip a switch for illumination and keep the dark at bay with electricity.
So, whether you are roasting chestnuts, enjoying a Yule fire, or lighting candles to celebrate the holidays, ponder the possibility that you are carrying on an ancient tradition.
If you would like to learn more, Foster Library has a number of books on various holiday observances. You can even use some of our databases to find more information about holiday symbols and celebrations.
Resident Photographer Aleta Rodriguez
In the prehistoric Chumash Indian village of Mishopshno, life follows the rhythms of nature and cultural tradition. Over the course of a year, members of the community hunt and fish, celebrate, mourn, gamble, woo, tell stories, and undertake a perilous trading trip to the off-shore islands.
In Mishopshno we relive an existence handed down through countless generations, coherent and intact, long before the arrival of Europeans, who changed that world forever.
A book review is a form of writing use to write about books. A book report is a made up form of writing, used only in school that teachers ask kids to write. Book reviews can contain just about any type of information related to the book
Tips for writing a book review:
• Always mention the name of the author and the book title — there's nothing more frustrating than reading a review of a great book but not knowing who wrote it and what the title is!
• Try to get the main theme of the book, a brief summary, across in the beginning of your review. Your reader should know right away what the book is about.
• Write one paragraph about the book, maybe the reviewer’s favorite part. Assuming the book was enjoyable to the reviewer, it’s always fun to talk about one’s favorite part and what makes it special.
• What do you like or dislike about the book. Come right out and say whether you think the book is good or not, or what parts were better than others.
• Make sure your review has a recommendation about the book and why, not just what the book is about. A good review should express the reviewer's opinion and persuade the reader to share it, to read the book, or to avoid reading it.
• Do research about the author and incorporate what you learn into the review. Biographical information can help you form your opinion about the book, and gives your review something extra.
Remember, a book is a product of an author's mind. You can use all or some of these hints in writing a book review.
Read Go Cart Rush review by Pete C. (age 12).
The E.P. Foster library is offering a Hershey’s candy bar to anyone who reviews a book from our “New Books Shelves.” The book must be age appropriate (one that your teacher would accept) and only one book a week will be rewarded. Review sheets can be found in some of the books or at the second floor desk.
See Star Soto or Jane Middleton for more information.
Two big events on Sunday the 8th at Foster Library!
|Sounds of Second Sunday:
The Barrelhouse Wailers from 2-4 p.m.
Sue Fries from 5-6 p.m.
Theodosia Burr Shepherd was born in Keosauqua, Iowa. She was the daughter of Augustus Hall, a lawyer who later became Chief Justice of Nebraska. She married W.E. Shepherd on September 9, 1866, and they moved to California for her health in 1873. In Ventura, Theodosia developed the California flower seed industry, starting in 1874. She began by swapping seeds through a ladies’ magazine. After a few years, she expanded her property and began growing flowers for their seeds. In 1881, she sent a package of seeds to Peter Henderson of New York, one of the nation’s leading nurserymen, who encouraged her to grow seeds and flowers in the Ventura climate.
She built a business, the Theodosia B. Shepherd Company, which annually issued a retail catalogue and two wholesale lists. She received encouragement and accolades from W. Atlee Burpee, founder of the Burpee seed company, as well as other well know horticulturists. At one point she was known throughout the United States as the “Flower Wizard of California”. Theodosia’s hope was that her daughters, and other women, would find an alternative to the drudgery of housework by becoming involved in growing flowers and selling seeds. She wrote and lectured on plant life, her hybridization work, and her success as a pioneering woman in the seed industry. She was a remarkable woman well ahead of her time. She died September 6, 1906 in Ventura, California.
Remnants of her gardens can still be seen on the grounds of the E. P. Foster Library, as well as in the parking lot behind the library. A banana plant and two strawberry trees near the first floor back entrance of the library were once part of Theodosia’s garden. A Norfolk pine grows between the upper and lower parking lot and there are a few palm trees as well.
If you would like to find out more about Ventura’s unique history, Foster Library is a good place to start.
Resident Photographer - Aleta Rodriguez