Saturday, December 19, 2015

Some thoughts regarding Lillian Vernon Schoolhouse Frames




    It's been a long time since we've veered into the truly trivial, and this seems a good moment.
    Because really, you can only hammer so long on the inadequacy of the Republican presidential candidates, the angry aggrievement of the cops, the country's thickening miasma of fear, the wrecked circus train of various national woes, before it all gets too frustrating and repetitive. 
    Besides, what can be done? Not much.
    Today's topic, I guarantee, will lead some to bold definitive, decisive action, at least for a certain kind of reader.
    Lillian Vernon died last Monday. and if that name rings a bell, it is for what the New York Times called her "sprawling catalog business that specialized in personalized gifts and ingenious gadgets" in its fond send-off.
    Lillian Vernon, the company, sold Christmas stockings and customized doormats, lawn furniture covers and throw pillows, wicker baskets and yard signs.
     Not the sort of stuff I'd run to purchase, though, like everybody else, I flipped through the catalogues when they arrived. It was like sneaking through the window of a those small box homes  you drive past and wonder about. This is where they get their stuff, their personalized place mats, their beach tote bags.
     If that sounds elitist, I've said it wrong. All of our lives are small and human and poignant and proud in equal measure, whether you get your cluttered crap from Neiman Marcus or Lillian Vernon or Goodwill.
     Besides, the Steinberg household proudly displays one item from the Lillian Vernon catalogue. Something we saw on display at the home of our friends in Naperville, and immediately purchased for ourselves, not once, but twice.
     Which is the purpose of my post today. Not to make a political point, or to share an obscure bit of history. But to alert you to a product that you might want, if you are a  new parent or know one. It makes a great gift—surprise, surprise.
     Every year, every school in America takes pictures of its students. Parents don't demand the photos; they don't have to. They just occur. It's always been done, and nobody complains, beyond a wince at the price of things. Someone is getting rich off school photography. Still, it's a service. Time passes so quickly, why not force the tykes to comb their hair and look presentable once a year?
    But what to do with that baker's dozen of wallet-sized formal portraits, from kindergarten to senior year in high school? They go into billfolds and purses, then drawers, then are lost, flotsam in the sea of time. 
    Unless.
    Enter the Lillian Vernon Schoolhouse Frame. It is not cheap, at $29.95, but it does the job of displaying the history in portrait form of your child's transit through public education. And considering the 13 photos they hold probably cost several hundred dollars, I suppose the additional cost isn't much more to guard and display your investment through the years. Ours have been sitting on our buffet for a decade and I'll imagine they'll be there for the rest of our lives. Then one boy, or another, or both, will hold it at arm's length, draw a sigh, and toss it into a box. Anyway, now you know about them. Please don't be one of those readers who complains if you have to read something that isn't gnawing on the Issue of the Day. Even noble Homer dozed.

15 comments:

  1. What a great idea! Even though an enterprising sort (not me) could do much the same with a piece of cardboard and a sharpie pen.

    john

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  2. I honestly thought that it was just a company name, like Betty Crocker. Those catalogs are fun to flip through, so much stuff you never knew existed. I would get one in the mail, wonder why it's in our box, then wonder who buys stuff like personalized shower curtains. The catalogs definitely got flipped through even though I never ordered anything, you just had to look.

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  3. Walter Drake has a similar catalogue.

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  4. A charming change of pace. Suitable to the day. What, indeed, can be done?

    Although just to prove how annoyingly picky we can be, it is usually said that "nods" is what even Homer does.

    Tom Evans

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    1. Well, I'm sure Neil went back to the original "indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus" from Horace and based on my high school Latin some 55 years ago, I think that "dozes" translates "dormitat" just as well as "nods."

      john

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    2. You, and Neil, are no doubt right. But ever since Dryden, and, more famously Alexander Pope, decided on "nods," that's been the common English usage. To adjudicate, I referred the matter to Mr. Google, who offered up a raft of citations for "nods," none for "dozed."

      It is, of course, a matter interesting to people interested in such things. Possibly only us.

      TE

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    3. Impressive retention of high school knowledge. The only thing I remember from 4 years of high school latin is the phrase "O see Billy, see her go. Forty buses in a row. O no Billy, them is trucks. What is in them? Cows and Ducks."

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    4. I didn't go back and check at all, just remembered it. At the risk of justifying an error, I could argue that "doze" is better than "nod." "Nodding off" has kind a negative, drug connotation, while "doze" might be more apt. Every era needs it's own translation, and the Horace isn't familiar enough to be locked in place.

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  5. I remember it differently StanP. From a sign in a tavern I frequentd."Dare dago toussin busses inarow Nojo dem istrux summit cowzin summit duxx"

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  6. Makes me regret less not doing Latin in high school. I am, though, grateful to Tate for the late-in-life lesson, even though I cling to my antediluvian preference for "nods."

    And, back to the original subject, we own a similar multi-picture frame. Made in England, not by Lillian Vernon.

    TE

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    1. Some had to take Latin at Fenwick HS in Oak Park-not too practical.

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    2. Although I joke about it. I appreciate my HS Latin anytime I'm able to decipher a word's meaning that has a Latin base. Don't know how that happens but a kernel of all those lectures from Fr. Al did stick. I guess translating Caesar's Gallic Wars and the Aeneid does have value. Thanks Fr. Al. As a side note, we learned of JFK's assasination during Latin class. It's one of those moments that I'll never forget.

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  7. You inspired me to check and see if there was also a real Miles Kimball. Yes, though he died in 1949. "The year was 1934, and an ambitious young man named Miles Kimball went into business with a simple idea: to market a custom Christmas card in which the design spelled out the name of the sender. Armed with a Minneapolis phone book and some borrowed cash, Miles printed and mailed a card personalized with “Johnson” to every household with that name in the Twin Cities. The response was overwhelming, providing him with enough seed money to produce his first catalog, which mailed the next year." Confusingly, the only wikipedia entry is for an economics professor by that name at the University of Michigan.

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