Whimsy: July 2009 Archives

A Groucho-Marxist, at any rate: Groucho is reputed to have said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."

As a young man, considering his matrimonial prospects, Abraham Lincoln wrote:

I have now come to the conclusion never again to think of marrying, and for this reason; I can never be satisfied with any one who would be block-head enough to have me.

That's from a letter Lincoln wrote after his proposal of marriage was rejected by a woman to whom he wasn't attracted. (He proposed out of a sense of obligation from a frivolous promise he made to the friend of his potential fiancee.) His description of his first impressions of the woman in question is vivid:

In a few days we had an interview, and although I had seen her before, she did not look as my immagination had pictured her. I knew she was over-size, but she now appeared a fair match for Falstaff; I knew she was called an "old maid," and I felt no doubt of the truth of at least half of the appelation; but now, when I beheld her, I could not for my life avoid thinking of my mother; and this, not from withered features, for her skin was too full of fat to permit of its contracting in to wrinkles; but from her want of teeth, weather-beaten appearance in general, and from a kind of notion that ran in my head, that nothing could have commenced at the size of infancy, and reached her present bulk in less than thirty-five or forty years; and, in short, I was not all pleased with her.

It seems that if you wait long enough, you can get an answer to any question on the internet.

Each week, James Lileks posts photos of a vintage matchbook advertising a business. He usually is able to provide some information on the subsequent history of the business or what is now at that address. Quite some time ago, Lileks posted a matchbook for Harris Lunch, a cafe that seemed to have left no trace on the World Wide Web and mentioned mysterious menu items. He made a guess (which turned out to be pretty accurate), but concluded, "Who knows? These are the details we lose every day."

Because the place had a Ponca City, Okla., location, I posted a link to see if a BatesLine reader had any information. Last night, Al Harris, the son of founder U. P. Harris, found my entry via a search engine and left a comment with the history of Harris Lunch, $400 waffles, and preacher-style fried chicken. I tweeted it @Lileks, and he was kind enough to link to the find in today's Bleat.

This rediscovery of nearly-lost culinary history was made possible by a matchbook collector willing to share his finds on the Internet (in the most entertaining way possible), a blog with a local emphasis and searchable archives, and someone looking for traces of family history on the World-Wide Web.

Oh, and it turns out Lileks had another Harris matchbook, which he used for an episode of "Joe Ohio," which built the life story of a matchbook salesman, in serial form, out of an anonymous man's matchbook collection. This matchbook is for Harris' Fine Foods, mentions Preacher Style Chicken and $400 waffles, and locations in Logan, Utah, Grand Junction, Colo., as well as Kingman, Kans. (I remember reading it now, but it didn't mention any location in Oklahoma, so it didn't make the impression that the other matchbook did.)

UPDATED 2016/05/30 with new locations of matchbooks on Lileks.com

About this Archive

This page is a archive of entries in the Whimsy category from July 2009.

Whimsy: May 2009 is the previous archive.

Whimsy: September 2009 is the next archive.

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