Monday, July 31, 2017

Over the Top -- Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches, Part Three -- July 31, 2017

Arthur Guy Empey was a member of the US Cavalry who resigned to volunteer for the British Army during World War One. He was wounded during the Battle of the Somme. When the US entered the war, he tried to rejoin the US Army, but was rejected because of his wounds and possibly because of some disparaging comments about American draftees. He wrote a book, Over the Top, about his experiences during the war.

"Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches"  is a glossary of terms used by British soldiers.  I am presenting it in three parts.  

CHAPTER I -- From Mufti to Khaki
CHAPTER II -- Blighty to Rest Billets
CHAPTER III -- I Go to Church
CHAPTER IV -- Into the Trench
CHAPTER V -- Mud, Rats and Shells
CHAPTER VI -- "Back of the Line"
CHAPTER VII -- Rations
CHAPTER VIII -- The Little Wooden Cross

CHAPTER IX -- Suicide Annex  

CHAPTER X -- "The Day's Work" 
CHAPTER XI -- Over the Top CHAPTER XII -- Bombing  
CHAPTER XIII -- My First Official Bath    
CHAPTER XIV -- Picks and Shovels
CHAPTER XV -- Listening Post
CHAPTER XVI -- Battery D 238
CHAPTER XVII -- Out in Front  
CHAPTER XVIII - Staged Under Fire
CHAPTER XX -   Chats With Fritz
CHAPTER XXI -  "About Turn"
CHAPTER XXII -  Punishments and Machine-Gun Stunts
CHAPTER XXIII -  Gas Attacks and Spies
CHAPTER XXIV - The Firing Squad
CHAPTER XXV - Preparing For the Big Push 

CHAPTER XXVI - All Quiet (?) on the Western Front

Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches, Part One  
Tommy's Dictionary of the Trenches, Part Two


In this so-called dictionary I have tried to list most of the pet terms and slangy definitions, which Tommy Atkins uses a thousand times a day as he is serving in France. I have gathered them as I lived with him in the trenches and rest billets, and later in the hospitals in England where I met men from all parts of the line.

The definitions are not official, of course. Tommy is not a sentimental sort of animal so some of his definitions are not exactly complimentary, but he is not cynical and does not mean to offend anyone higher up. It is just a sort of "ragging" or "kidding," as the American would say, that helps him pass the time away.


S. A. A. Small Arms Ammunition. Small steel pellets which have a bad habit of drilling holes in the anatomy of Tommy and Fritz.

Salvo. Battery firing four guns simultaneously.

Sandbag. A jute bag which is constantly being filled with earth. Its main uses are to provide Tommy with material for a comfortable kip and to strengthen parapets.

Sap. A small ditch, or trench, dug from the front line and leading out into "No Man's Land" in the direction of the German trenches.

Sapper. A man who saps or digs mines. He thinks he is thirty-three degrees above an ordinary soldier, while in fact he is generally beneath him.

Sausage Balloon. See observation balloon.

S. B. Stretcher Bearer. The motive power of a stretcher. He is generally looking the other way when a fourteen-stone Tommy gets hit.

Scaling ladder. Small wooden ladders used by Tommy for climbing out of the front trench when he goes "over the top." When Tommy sees these ladders being brought into the trench, he sits down and writes his will in his little paybook.

Sentry Go. Time on guard. It means "sentry come."

Sergeant's Mess. Where the sergeants eat. Nearly all of the rum has a habit of disappearing into the Sergeant's Mess.

Seventy-fives. A very efficient field-gun of the French, which can fire thirty shells per minute. The gun needs no relaying due to the recoil which throws the gun back to its original position. The gun that knocked out "Jack Johnson," therefore called "Jess Willard."

"Sewed in a blanket." Term for a soldier who has been buried. His remains are generally sewn in a blanket and the piece of blanket is generally deducted from his pay that is due.

Shag. Cigarette tobacco which an American can never learn to use. Even the mules object to the smell of it.

Shell. A device of the artillery which sometimes makes Tommy wish he had been born in a neutral country.

Shell Hole. A hole in the ground caused by the explosion of a shell. Tommy's favorite resting-place while under fire.

Shovel. A tool closely related to the pick family. In France the "shovel" is mightier than the sword.

Shrapnel. A shell which bursts in the air and scatters small pieces of metal over a large area. It is used to test the resisting power of steel helmets.

"Sicker." Nickname for the sick report book. It is Tommy's ambition to get on this "sicker" without feeling sick.

Sick Parade. A formation at which the doctor informs sick, or would-be sick Tommies that they are not sick.

Sixty-pounder. One of our shells which weighs sixty pounds (officially). When Tommy handles them, their unofficial weight is three hundred weight.

Slacker. An insect in England who is afraid to join the Army. There are three things in this world that Tommy hates: a slacker, a German, and a trench-rat; it's hard to tell which he hates worst.

"Slag Heap." A pile of rubbish, tin cans, etc.

Smoke Bomb. A shell which, in exploding, emits a dense white smoke, hiding the operations of troops. When Tommy, in attacking a trench, gets into this smoke, he imagines himself a magnet and thinks all the machine guns and rifles are firing at him alone.

Smoke Helmet. See respirator.

Sniper. A good shot whose main occupation is picking off unwary individuals of the enemy. In the long run a sniper usually gets "sniped."

Snipe Hole. A hole in a steel plate through which snipers "snipe." It is not fair for the enemy to shoot at these holes, but they do, and often hit them, or at least the man behind them.

"Soldiers' Friend." Metal polish costing three ha' pence which Tommy uses to polish his buttons. Tommy wonders why it is called "Soldiers' Friend."

"Somewhere in France." A certain spot in France where Tommy has to live in mud, hunt for "cooties," and duck shells and bullets. Tommy's official address.

Souvenir. A begging word used by the French kiddies. When it is addressed to Tommy it generally means, a penny, biscuits, bully beef, or a tin of jam.

Spy. A suspicious person whom no one suspects until he is caught. Then all say they knew he was a spy but had no chance to report it to the proper authorities.

"Spud." Tommy's name for the solitary potato which gets into the stew. It's a great mystery how that lonely little spud got into such bad company.

Stand To. Order to mount the fire step. Given just as it begins to grow dark.

Stand Down. Order given in the trenches at break of dawn to let the men know their night watch is ended. It has a pleasant sound in Tommy's ears.

Star Shell. See Flare.

Steel Helmet. A round hat made out of steel which is supposed to be shrapnel proof. It is until a piece of shell goes through it, then Tommy loses interest as to whether it is shrapnel proof or not. He calls it a "tin hat."

Stew. A concoction of the cook's which contains bully beef, Maconochie rations, water, a few lumps of fresh meat, and a potato. Occasionally a little salt falls into it by mistake. Tommy is supposed to eat this mess—he does—worse luck!

"Strafeing." Tommy's chief sport—shelling the Germans. Taken from Fritz's own dictionary.

Stretcher. A contrivance on which dead and wounded are carried. The only time Tommy gets a free ride in the trenches is while on a stretcher. As a rule he does not appreciate this means of transportation.

"Suicide Club." Nickname for bombers and machine gunners. (No misnomer.)

Supper. Tommy's fourth meal, generally eaten just before "lights out." It is composed of the remains of the day's rations. There are a lot of Tommies who never eat supper. There is a reason.

S. W. Shell wound. What the doctor marks on your hospital chart when a shell has removed your leg.

Swamping. Putting on airs; showing off. Generally accredited to Yankees.

"Swinging the lead." Throwing the bull.

"Sweating on leave." Impatiently waiting for your name to appear in orders for leave. If Tommy sweats very long he generally catches cold and when leave comes he is too sick to go.


"Taking over." Going into a trench. Tommy "takes over," is " taken out," and sometimes is " put under."

Taube. A type of German aeroplane whose special ambition is beating the altitude record. It occasionally loses its way and flies over the British lines and then stops flying.

Tea. A dark brown drug, which Tommy has to have at certain periods of the day. Battles have been known to have been stopped to enable Tommy to get his tea, or "char" as it is commonly called.

"Tear Shell." Trench name for the German lachrymose chemical shell which makes the eyes smart. The only time Tommy is outwardly sentimental.

Telephone. A little instrument with a wire attached to it. An artillery observer whispers something into this instrument and immediately one of your batteries behind the line opens up and drops a few shells into your front trench. This keeps up until the observer whispers, "Your range is too short." Then the shells drop nearer the German lines.

"Terrier." Tommy's nickname for a Territorial or "Saturday-night soldier." A regular despises a Territorial while a Territorial looks down on "Kitchener's Mob." Kitchener's Mob has the utmost contempt for both of them.

Territorial. A peace-time soldier with the same status as the American militiaman. Before the war they were called "Saturday-Night Soldiers," but they soon proved themselves "every-night soldiers."

"The Old Man." Captain of a company. He is called "the old man," because generally his age is about twenty-eight.

"The Best o' Luck." The Jonah phrase of the trenches. Every time Tommy goes over the top or on a trench raid his mates wish him the best o' luck. It means that if you are lucky enough to come back, you generally have an arm or leg missing.

"Thumbs up." Tommy's expression which means "everything is fine with me." Very seldom used during an intense bombardment.

"Time ex." Expiration of term of enlistment. The only time Tommy is a civilian in the trenches; but about ten minutes after he is a soldier for duration of war.

"Tin Hat." Tommy's name for his steel helmet which is made out of a metal about as hard as mush. The only advantage is that it is heavy and greatly adds to the weight of Tommy's equipment. Its most popular use is for carrying eggs.

T. N. T. A high explosive which the Army Ordnance Corps prescribes for Fritz. Fritz prefers a No. 9 pill.

"Tommy Atkins." The name England gives to an English soldier, even if his name is Willie Jones.

Tommy's Cooker. A spirit stove widely advertised as "A suitable gift to the men in the trenches." Many are sent out to Tommy and most of them are thrown away.

Tonite. The explosive contained in a rifle grenade. It looks like a harmless reel of cotton before it explodes,—after it explodes the spectator is missing.

"Toots Sweet." Tommy's French for "hurry up," "look smart." Generally used in a French estaminet when Tommy only has a couple of minutes in which to drink his beer.

"Top Hats at Home." Tommy's name for Parliament when his application for leave has been turned down or when no strawberry jam arrives with the rations.

Town Major. An officer stationed in a French town or village who is supposed to look after billets, upkeep of roads, and act as interpreter.

Transport. An aggregation of mules, limbers, and rough riders, whose duty is to keep the men in the trenches supplied with rations and supplies. Sometimes a shell drops within two miles of them and Tommy doesn't get his rations, etc.

Traverse. Sandbags piled in a trench so that the trench cannot be traversed by Tommy. Sometimes it prevents enfilading fire by the enemy.

Trench. A ditch full of water, rats, and soldiers. During his visit to France, Tommy uses these ditches as residences. Now and again he sticks his head "over the top" to take a look at the surrounding scenery. If he is lucky he lives to tell his mates what he saw.

Trench Feet. A disease of the feet contracted in the trenches from exposure to extreme cold and wet. Tommy's greatest ambition is to contract this disease because it means "Blighty" for him.

Trench Fever. A malady contracted in the trenches; the symptoms are high temperature, bodily pains, and homesickness. Mostly homesickness. A bad case lands Tommy in "Blighty," a slight case lands him back in the trenches, where he tries to get it worse than ever.

"Trenchitis." A combination of "fedupness" and homesickness, experienced by Tommy in the trenches, especially when he receives a letter from a friend in Blighty who is making a fortune working in a munition plant.

Trench Mortar. A gun like a stove pipe which throws shells at the German trenches. Tommy detests these mortars because when they take positions near to him in the trenches, he knows that it is only a matter of minutes before a German shell with his name and number on it will be knocking at his door.

Trench Pudding. A delectable mess of broken biscuits, condensed milk, jam, and mud, slightly flavored with smoke. Tommy prepares, cooks, and eats this. Next day he has "trench fever."

Trench Raid. Several men detailed to go over the top at night and shake hands with the Germans, and, if possible, persuade some of them to be prisoners. At times the raiders would themselves get raided because Fritz refused to shake and adopted nasty methods.

Turpenite. A deadly chemical shell invented by an enthusiastic war correspondent suffering from brain storm. Companies and batteries were supposed to die standing up from its effects, but they refused to do this.

"Twelve in one." Means that twelve men are to share one loaf of bread. When the slicing takes place the war in the dugout makes the European argument look like thirty cents.


"Up against the wall." Tommy's term for a man who is to be shot by a firing squad.

"Up the line." Term generally used in rest billets when Tommy talks about the fire trench or fighting line. When orders are issued to go "up the line" Tommy immediately goes "up in the air."


V. C. Victoria Cross, or "Very careless" as Tommy calls it. It is a bronze medal won by Tommy for being very careless with his life.

Very-Lights. A star shell invented by Mr. Very. See Flare.

Vickers Gun. A machine gun improved on by a fellow named Vickers. His intentions were good but his improvements, according to Tommy, were "rotten."

Vin Blanc. French white wine made from vinegar. They forgot the red ink.

Vin Rouge. French red wine made from vinegar and red ink. Tommy pays good money for it.


Waders. Rubber hip boots, used when the water in the trenches is up to Tommy's neck.

Waiting Man.  The cleanest man at guard mounting.  He does not have to walk post; is supposed to wait on the guard. 

Washout.  Tommy's idea of something that is worth nothing. 

Water Bottle.  A metal bottle for carrying water (when not used for rum, beer or wine). 

Waterproof.  A rubber sheet issued to Tommy to keep him dry.  It does when the sun is out. 

Wave.  A line of troops which goes "over the top" in a charge.  The waves are numbered according to their turn in going over, viz., "First Wave," "Second Wave," etc.  Tommy would sooner go over with the "Tenth Wave." 

Wet Canteen.  A military saloon or pub where Tommy can get a "wet."  Most campaigns and battles are planned and fought in these places. 

"Whizz Bang."  A small German shell which whizzes through the air and explodes with a "bang."  Their bark is worse than their bite. 

"Wind Up."  Term generally applied to the Germans when they send up several star shells at once because they are nervous and expect an attack or night raid on their trenches. 

"Windy."  Tommy's name for a nervous soldier, coward. 

"Wipers."  Tommy's name for Ypres, sometimes he calls it "Yeeps"  A place up the line which Tommy likes to duck. It is even "hot" in the winter time at "Wipers." 

Wire.  See barbed wire, but don't go "over the top" to look at it.  It isn't safe. 

Wire Cutters.  An instrument for cutting barbed wire, but mostly used for driving nails. 

Wiring Party.  Another social affair for which Tommy receives invitations.  It consists of going "over the top"  at night and stretching barbed wire between stakes.  A German machine gun generally takes the place of an orchestra. 

Woodbine.  A cigarette made of paper and old hay.  Tommy swears by a Woodbine. 

Wooden Cross.  Two pieces of wood in the form of a cross placed at the head of a Tommy's grave  Inscribed on it are his rank, name, number, and regiment.  Also date of death and last but not least, the letters R.I.P. 

Working Party.  A sort of compulsory invitation affair for which Tommy is often honored with an invitation.  It consists of digging, filling sandbags, and ducking shells and bullets. 


Zeppelin.  A bag full of gas invented by a count full of gas.  It is a dirigible airship used by the Germans for killing babies and dropping bombs in open fields.  You never see them over the trenches, it is safer to bombard civilians in cities.  They use Iron Crosses for ballast. 

This is the end of Over the Top by Arthur Guy Empey.  Thank you to those who have been reading it.  I believe the book is in the public domain. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Huge Reflector Taken Up Mountain To Photograph New Wonders of Sky! -- July 29, 2017

Fairmont West Virginian, 19-July-1917
The Hooker Telescope at the Mount Wilson Observatory in Southern California was the largest in the world until 1949. The truck in the photograph is a Mack. Among other things, the telescope helped to find evidence for the existence of dark matter. 

Taking the famous Hooker reflector up Mt Wilson, where it will be Installed in the Carnegie Observatory for use in new scientific research.

Anonymous letters had been received by observatory officials, threatening the destruction of the huge mirror. Three armed guards watched the reflector on the circulated (sic - JT) trip up the mountain, and 100 spectators and a regiment of photographers followed the ascent.

The reflector, a gift of E. L. Hooker of Los Angeles, cost $60,000 and is the largest in the world, being 100 inches in diameter and 13 inches thick. It weighs four and a half tons. The rough cast was made in 8t, Bobain, France, in 1905. The glass was brought to Pasadena in 1909. Grinding the mirror began in 1911.

Scientists hope to reveal new celestial wonders when the new mirror is installed. According to Dr. W. S. Adams, in charge of the observatory in the absence of Dr. George Ellery Hale, now in Washington, the reflector will be in commission by September.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Sickly Boy In Two Years Becomes World's Most Valuable Soldier -- July 27, 2017

Fairmont West Virginian, 19-July-1917
Georges Guynemer was France's greatest fighter ace.  He was from an aristocratic family.  He was not allowed to enlist in the war because of tuberculosis.  He was finally accepted as a mechanic and then became a pilot.  100 years ago today, on 27-July-1917, he scored his fiftieth victory.  This article from the 19-July-1917 Fairmont West Virginian talks about his exploits.

Adolphe Pégoud was a great flier who was shot down and killed in 1915.  



WASHINGTON, D. C., July 18.~The most valuable soldier In the world today is a youth of 22, who when he enlisted was a sickly-looking boy in the first stages of consumption.

Today, France would rather part with two whole army divisions than lose George Guynemer!

He is the uncrowned "king of the air," who has brought down 45 German airplanes.

As one aviator is worth 1,000 ordinary troops, Guynemer has strategically wiped out 45,000 Germans. No one soldier ever before approached this pale Frenchman's military value.

Capt. Amaury de La Grange, head of the French aviation commission now in the United States, today told me all about Guynemer, and explained the tactics that have won him undisputed supremacy as a fighter in the air. Said de La Grange:

"George Guynemer, now only twenty-two years old, began training in February, 1915, on the eve of his examinations for the Polytechnical school.

"He was tall, slim, delicate, so one feared he might have lung trouble. He had never gone in for sports, and was almost the last man to be picked as promising material for a pilot.

"He finished training in three and a half months, not remarkable when compared with Lieut. Tetu's six weeks. Less than a month after his arrival at the front, armed only with an army rifle, he brought down his first enemy.

"His plan of campaign against an enemy machine is simple.

"Now remarkably skillful, Guynemer always tries to place himself in a following position so he will not be seen. With wonderful courage he approaches as near at possible without firing, keeping below and behind hie adversary.

"When he comes almost up to him (90 to 150 feet) he makes his plane rear up like a spirited charger and opens fire.

"He la an excellent shot and usually disables his opponent In the first round, but in case he dose not he tries to break the fight by some acrobatic maneuver (a half-loop, spins, or several sharp turns).

"Guynemer is almost alone in the use of these tactics, as most of the other "Aces" (pilots who have brought down five machines) prefer to open fire at greater distances. Guynemer's tactios were also employed by Pegoud, the greatest flyer at the beginning of the war."

The story of Guynemer ought to be an Inspiration to every young American flyer.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Boy Scout Disgrace -- July 26, 2017

I have avoided mentioning our so-called president in this blog, but he has managed to disgrace himself and the Boy Scouts of America.  I did not go far in Scouting, but I enjoyed it.  I was a second generation Scout.  Monday evening our so-called president addressed the kids at the National Boy Scout Jamboree. Our so-called president delivered a disjointed rant about politics, and got the kids to boo former President Barack Obama and popular vote winner Hillary Clinton.  President Obama was a Boy Scout.  Our so-called president was not.  Our so-called president used improper language and finished with a smutty story.  I hope the BSA will apologize for this nightmare.  #BSAChief


Update 28-August-2017: 

Boy Scouts of America Chief Executive Michael Surbaugh issued a statement:

July 27, 2017
Scouting Family,

In the last two weeks, we have celebrated the best of Scouting at our 20th National Jamboree with nearly 40,000 participants, volunteers, staff and visitors. The 2017 National Jamboree has showcased and furthered the Scouting mission by combining adventure and leadership development to give youth life-changing experiences. Scouts from Alaska met Scouts from Alabama; Scouts from New Mexico met those from New York, and American youth met youth from 59 other countries.

Over the course of ten days, Scouts have taken part in adventures, learned new skills, made new and lasting friendships and completed over 200 community service projects that offered 100,000 hours of service to the community by young men and women eager to do the right thing for the right reasons.

These character-building experiences have not diminished in recent days at the jamboree –  Scouts have continued to trade patches, climb rock walls, and share stories about the day’s adventures. But for our Scouting family at home not able to see these real moments of Scouting, we know the past few days have been overshadowed by the remarks offered by the President of the United States.

I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. President to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program.

While we live in a challenging time in a country divided along political lines, the focus of Scouting remains the same today as every day.

Trustworthiness, loyalty, kindness and bravery are just a few of the admirable traits Scouts aspire to develop – in fact, they make up the Scout Oath and Scout Law.

As part of our program’s duty to country, we teach youth to become active citizens, to participate in their government, respect the variety of perspectives and to stand up for individual rights.

Few will argue the importance of teaching values and responsibility to our youth — not only right from wrong, but specific positive values such as fairness, courage, honor and respect for others.
For all of the adventure we provide youth such as hiking, camping and zip-lining, those activities actually serve as proven pathways and opportunities to develop leadership skills and become people of character.

In a time when differences seem to separate our country, we hope the true spirit of Scouting will empower our next generation of leaders to bring people together to do good in the world.

Yours in Scouting,



Sunday, July 23, 2017

Summer of Love 50 -- Zeitgeist, Hell's Angels -- June 23, 2017

The San Francisco Arts Commission ( has set up a series of posters by artist Deborah Aschheim.  "The Zeitgeist" is part of a larger series for the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.  The posters in The Zeitgeist represent people involved in the Spring Mobilization against the War in Vietnam on 15-April-1967.  Among the members of the counterculture who attended the Human Be-In at the Polo Fields in Golden Gate Park was the member of the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

1897 Boston Beaneaters -- July 21, 2017

1897 Spalding Baseball Guide
The Boston Beaneaters were part of the National League when it was founded in 1876.  The 1897 Beaneaters finished first in the National League with a record of 93-39.  Manager Frank Selee is forgotten today, but he was one of the best managers of the 1890s.  Captain Hugh Duffy was an outfielder who later became a great manager.  He is in the Hall of Fame.  Fred Tenney caught and played first base.  Bobby Lowe played second. 

The Beaneaters became the Braves in 1912 and were called the Bees for a while in the 1930s.  The Braves moved to Milwaukee in 1953 and to Atlanta in 1966. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Chariots and Charioteers -- July 19, 2017

I'm still in shock about the conclusion of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus last month.  One of its major components was the Ringling Brothers circus. My parents had a reprint of this poster on the basement wall.  It was in a program from the circus that celebrated some anniversary. 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Russian Imperial Family Murdered -- July 17, 2017
100 years ago, on 17-July-2017, Bolshevik revolutionaries murdered the Russian imperial family, who were imprisoned in Yekaterinburg.  The Soviets did not admit the whole family was dead for another eight years, and many people were convinced that the youngest daughter, Anastasia, had escaped.  She didn't.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for the Romanovs, but no one deserves to die that way.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Belgian Steam Motor -- July 15, 2017

Street Railway Review, 15-Jan-1901
In January, 1892 the North Chicago Street Railroad tested a steam dummy from Belgium.  It must have been very hot when the windows were closed and during the winter, the windows probably steamed up. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Swashathon 2 -- A Blogathon of Swashbuckling Adventure -- July 14, 2017

Motion Picture News, 15-January-1921
This post is part of  Swashathon 2 -- A Blogathon of Swashbuckling Adventure, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently.  I agree with Fritzi that the first Swashathon may have been my favorite blogathon yet.  For the first Swashathon, I wrote about the Robin Hood of the West, the Cisco Kid:
Cisco Kid Was a Friend of Mine 

This time, I am writing about Johnston McCulley's Zorro.  I'm going to concentrate on English-language movies and other media.

Like the Cisco Kid, Zorro was unusual because he was a Hispanic hero in American movies, on American television and in American pulp magazines and comic books.  Don Diego de la Vega was a Californio aristocrat.  Californios were people of Spanish or mixed Spanish-native descent in  California during the period after Mexican independence in 1821 and before the US took over in 1846.  Diego takes the secret identity of Zorro (The Fox) to fight against corrupt officials and other villains who oppress the common people.  Zorro made his mark, a letter "Z" formed with three slashes of his sword, as a warning to evildoers and a sign of hope to the oppressed...

Read the rest on my other blog: 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

2017 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest -- July 13, 2017

Congratulations to Byron Cobb for winning the 2017 Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest. This is his seventh win.  I was very happy that my wife was able to come with me.  It was her first contest. 

1936 Auburn Model 852 Cabriolet -- July 13, 2017

We visited the Blackhawk Museum in June, 2013 to drool over their collection of classic autos. This 1936 Auburn Model 852 supercharged Cabriolet has a body by Parisian coachbuilder Jean Henri Labourdette.  Maurice Chevalier owned it at one time. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Captain Marvel -- July 11, 2017

Captain Marvel, the Big Red Cheese, made his debut in Whiz Comics #2, published by Fawcett.  Fawcett had earlier published the humor magazine Captain Billy's Whiz Bang.  The Captain was Billy Batson, a boy who worked for radio station WHIZ.  An ancient wizard gave him the ability to become adult Captain Marvel by saying the word "SHAZAM."  Captain Marvel, often drawn by CC Beck, was Superman's greatest competitor until National Periodicals (DC) won a lawsuit alleging that Captain Marvel infringed on Superman's copyright.  At the same time, most superhero titles were dead or declining.  DC revived Captain Marvel in the 1970s.

Here he leads Marine ashore during the island hopping campaign against Japan.  Spy Smasher, another Fawcett hero, also appears on the cover.

Captain Marvel appeared in a 1941 Republic serial:

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Spicy Adventure -- July 9, 2017
The Spicy pulps from Culture Publications, Spicy Adventure, Spicy Detective, Spicy Mystery and Spicy Western, were too intellectual for some people, but they remained popular for several years. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Famous Fast Yankee Clipper Ship America -- July 7, 2017

San Francisco Call, 07-May-1895
The drawing is from the 07-May-1895 San Francisco Call. William A Coulter did many maritime drawings for the newspaper. 

The Old Massachusetts Ship America, the Fastest on the Seas.
A Voyage of Eighty-eight Days Between San Francisco and Liverpool.

The clipper ship America, Captain Harding, came in from Nanaimo last Friday with 4157 tons of coal, making her usual quick passage.

For twenty years the famous vessel has been slipping her graceful self over the ocean with greater ease and more speed than any other vessel on the seas. She was built in Quincy, Mass., in 1874 and is
of 2054.93 gross tons register, though she will carry twice that number. She is 232:8 feet long, 43:1 feet beam and 19:3 in depth.

Notwithstanding her ample beam amidships, she is very sharp forward, which accounts for her ability to sail in any breeze. Some fifteen years ago she made her remarkable trip from this port to Liverpool in eighty-eight days, beating the usual fast sailing time just twenty-two days.

Nor did she stop her speedy work at that, for she has since sailed it in ninety three days. She is one of the strangely lucky ships, and the winds always blow fair for her. Her hull is one of the most graceful ever shaped. She formerly carried skysails, but her masts were afterward shortened down to royals. When launched she was fitted with "built" lower masts, as all the larger-sparred Eastern vessels are, there being no sticks big enough on the Atlantic seaboard. But the fore and mizzen being old and weak, were replaced on this coast with whole timbers.

After a score of years' service, the America is as sound as when she slid from her New England ways, and twenty more years will probably see her speeding over the seas, a solid Yankee clipper, one of the school of craft that has made the merchant marine of the great Republic famous the world around.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Elie Wiesel, RIP -- July 5, 2017


Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel has died.  He taught a lot of people about the Shoah. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day 2017 -- July 4, 2017
Happy Fourth of July to all.  241 years ago, we declared our independence.  I find it hard to believe it has been 41 years since the bicentennial. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

Aeroplanes over the Captitol -- July 3, 2017
The cover of the 03-July-1918 Literary Digest features three US Army airplanes over the Capitol dome. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Canada 150 -- July 1, 2017

Happy Canada Day to all my friends in Canada.  150 years ago today, three British colonies confederated into one dominion.