Thursday, June 01, 2017

Let's Get Associated!

Here's something a little different from the usual offerings you will generally find here on GDB; hopefully you will enjoy it!

When I was a youngster visiting my Grandparents in Encino, California, I loved to explore their ranch-style home. There were lots of closets, great big book cases, knick-knacks, an attic, and even a cellar (unusual for California). I was a nosy little kid! Even my Grandma's writing desk had fun stuff it in. Old pins for Ike and Goldwater, a "Liberty" quarter, a very cool cigarette holder (which I now have), and two mysterious booklets. Here's what they looked like:

Inside the books were lots and lots of colorful stamps illustrating various important historical people, places, events, and things, all having to do with "the West". I loved to look at them! After my grandmother died, my mom gave them to me, and I did a bit more research. 

These booklets were given out at "Flying A" gas stations, by the Tide Water Associated Oil Company. The black booklet is from 1938, while the red one is from 1939. Each booklet had spaces for 100 stamps, and while my Grandmother had done a pretty good job, she never acquired all of them.

Here's what one page looked like with the stamps affixed in their places:

And here's what the 1939 booklet looked like (note that all of these stamps relate to the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair). 

There was a plastic bag with lots of extra stamps - maybe my Grandmother lost interest - and I eventually decided to try to get each set of 100 stamps (1938 and 1939) for a total of 200. Thanks to eBay, I not only found them pretty quickly, but they were very cheap too! I bought an entire set of 100 for $15.

Here's an old postcard showing Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills, CA (part of the San Fernando Valley); near the center you can see the red circular sign with the Flying A logo.

I love this sort of ephemera; the whole process of collecting them and placing them in their books is appealing to me. Plus they are beautifully designed, and if you paid attention, you could actually learn something! I decided it might be fun to share just some of my favorites (though I like them all) with you, and I am going to include the official booklet text to accompany them.

#21: Ghost Towns - Much of the glamour of '49 is preserved in the fabled ghost towns that haunt the Mother Lode. Stark and weathered they stand there now, mute symbols of a day when miners, adventurers, men of letters peopled the streets of Whisky Bar, Deadman's Gulch, Slumgullion and a score more of such towns.

#28: Yellowstone - Not only is Yellowstone the largest and oldest of the Nation Parks, but its personality is threefold: it contains more geysers than are found in all the rest of the world; it has canyons sublime and multi-colored; it is the largest and most successful wild-animal preserve on Earth.

#37: Golden Gate Bridge - Officially opened May 27, 1937, this mighty Golden Gate-spanning bridge joins San Francisco with the giant-Redwood country to the north. Its two towers, 746 feet high, are the tallest in the world; its single 4,200-foot span the first ever to be erected over what is virtually open sea.

#43: The Desert - Here is a land strange and beautiful and fascinating, a land whose desert sands and stark-naked hills hold the answer to many a riddle unfathomed by man. Here swift and lurid light effects herald each new dawn, put a brilliant period to each nerve-brittling day under a caustic sun.

#44: Mt. Wilson Observatory - Established in 1904 on Mount Wilson near Pasadena, this famous observatory houses a 100-inch reflecting telescope, the largest in the world and so powerful as to detect a candle-flame 5,000 miles distant. By means of a giant steel framework, this disc is swung around to view all sectors of the sky.

#48: Petrified Forest - Prostrate on a hill-slope like mighty warriors felled in battle lies this strange company of giant redwood trees turned to stone. When discovered in 1871 they were covered in volcanic ash and sandstone and all pointed away from Mount St. Helena, California, known to be an extinct volcano.

#63: Mission San Fernando 1797 - Named in honor of Ferdinand III, King of Spain, and established September 1797, the mission soon grew to prosperity, was celebrated for its vintage and at one time was regarded as the richest of all the missions in Alta California. The mission town of San Fernando is 15 miles distant from Hollywood.

#86: This two-mile-long, crystal clear lake in southern California's San Bernardino county is completely circled by stately pines and firs. Here gorgeous alpine scenery combines with water sports in the summer and skiing, tobogganing and skating in the winter to make this Western beauty spot a year 'round sportsman's playground.

#88: Hollywood Bowl - This huge natural amphitheater, seating 20,000 people, nestles in the heart of the Hollywood hills. Here summer "Symphonies Under the Stars" enthrall the music lover's ear, rejoice his spirit; here all manner of men rub shoulders as they pay homage to the music of the masters played by a famed orchestra.

#100: Hawaii - (This one has a spare stamp stuck right over the description, but there is a preamble that I will include here) - Named the Sandwich Islands by Captain James Cook when he first discovered them in 1778, the Hawaiian Islands, at their own request, were annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a Territory in 1900. Proudly we boast this insular outpost of our Western world, stretch a friendly hand across the sea to embrace a happy, carefree people whose colorful background and abundant life have added a unique final chapter this story of our West down through the years.

#123: Bullion Bend Hold-Up - In the wake of overland wagon trains came the mail carriers of the swifter Pony Express and the stage coach lines. Gambling for high stakes, highwaymen preyed upon the stage routes. Many met sudden death, some few took rich prizes. Marking the site of one such "take" is Bullion Bend Monument, near Placerville, where the hold-up of two stages netted 8 sacks of bullion.

#134: Spokane Falls, Washington - Long before Lewis and Clark arrived in the Pacific Northwest, Indians prized the waters of Spokane Falls as a natural salmon trap. Today, the Falls thunder their eternal refrain of power and energy in the very business center of Spokane, first settled in 1847 and formerly the site of a fur trading post established in 1811 by the famous geographer, David Thompson.

#163: Sherman Tree, Sequoia National Park - Antiquating antiquity, the General Sherman Tree, in Sequoia National Park, is thought to be the oldest and largest living thing in the world. Immense before the time of Romulus and Remus, the age of this "Big Tree" or Sequoia gigantea (once widely distributed, but now found exclusively in California) is quite possibly in excess of 3500 years.

#165: Port Orford Cedar, Oregon Coast - World's largest stand of Port Orford cedar is to be seen in southwestern Oregon, where green-mansioned foothills march down to the sea. Up to 125 feet grows this beautiful cedar that derives its name from the little town of Port Orford, near which is was first discovered and where it was first milled commercially nearby three quarters of a century ago.

174: Morro Rock, San Simeon Highway - Twelve Miles Northeast of San Luis Obispo, on the spectacular Carmel-San Simeon Highway that winds and dips its way high above the blue Pacific, stands Morro Rock, a giant sugar loaf of a rock at the entrance of Morro Bay. Rearing its huge bulk 576 feet above the sea and covering 60 acres, Morro Rock has the constant companionship of hundreds of sea lions.

#175: Lehman Caves, Nevada - Freakish underground fairyland, Nevada's Lehman Caves, near Ely in eastern White Pine Country, contain limestone caves that compare in size with Carlsbad Caverns or Mammoth Cave. In these partly explored caverns are to be seen innumerable delicately tinted pendants and projections of picturesque form; also castle, crags and temples.

#194: Griffith Planetarium, Los Angeles - Fascinating "Theater of the Universe" in Griffith Park Planetarium in Los Angeles. Soft music, intimating the harmony of the spheres, greets you as you find a seat in the lecture hall. Then, gradually, the light fades into dusk, into night, and there, high above your head is projected on the ceiling a star-spangled sky. And a lecturer explains the motions of the stars.

#195: Montezuma National Monument, Arizona - Dotted and honeycombed with the ruins of cliff-type pueblo dwellings are the cliffs around Beaver Creek, in Arizona's Verde Valley. Best preserved is Monument Castle, about 40 feet from top to bottom and containing five stories and 25 rooms, 18 of which are intact. Probably occupied between 1000 and 1300, the "Castle" was a perfect natural fortress.

#197: Casa Grande National Monument, Arizona - Most notable relics of prehistoric valley-type pueblo dwellings in the US. are found at Casa Grande National Monument in Arizona. Discovered by Father Kino, a Jesuit, in 1694, main feature of the ruins is the Casa Grande, or Big House, combined dwelling and fortress. The end of this civilization is thought to coincide with the beginnings of the cliff-type pueblo.

WHEW! That was a lot. Too much? It was a lot of work, let me tell you. Maybe I should have split this into two posts. But what's done is done. Something tells me that my interest in these is a lot greater than it will be for most of you. But it kept you out of the speakeasies and fight clubs for a few minutes, so it was worth it.


Nanook said...


Tide Water Oil Co. Boy, there's a name I haven't thought about in decades-! Pretty swell stuff, however.

Thanks, Major, for sharing these wonderful images.

D-Ticket said...

Those are very nice drawings. Nice, simple graphic images,

Anonymous said...

These are great!
Thanks for sharing them.


Scott Lane said...

Very cool and colorfully written. Thanks for sharing, Major.

Matterhorn1959 said...

Very nice. There are similar Disney war stamps given out by newspapers.

Unknown said...

Great stuff, Major. I hadn't thought of Flying A gas stations in years. Thanks for the past-blast!

Chuck said...

These are amazing, and the length is just fine for a post of this type. Thanks for sharing.

Your description of prowling your grandparents' house brings back fond memories of doing the same thing at my own grandparents' homes. Basements are amazing things when you don't have one, and they and upstairs closets hold all sorts of hidden treasures. I'm glad you were able to keep this one.

Anonymous said...

Major, this is an epic post. Thank you!

Great images, great descriptions and great backstory.

There are a lot of familiar locations depicted here. It's funny, the petrified forest is just a few miles from my home and we lived here 20 years or more before driving up for a visit. My daughter just sent pics of Montezuma's Castle from her trip this week.


Anonymous said...

Oh, and Flying A Gas Stations. There are a few of these left up here in Wine Country.


Steve DeGaetano said...

It may have been a lot of work, but it was worth it! Amazing post, Major! A true step back in time. And that photo of Ventura Blvd...Hoo boy!

zach said...

Great post. Thank you for your efforts! I'm just leaving the fight club now in search of an attic or two.


Nanook said...


I almost didn't notice: "Roads to Romance". It doesn't quite roll-off the tongue as easily as: "Getting there is half the fun", but lacking the 'beauty' of the great ocean liners of the day, I guess it'll have to do.

Again, thanks for this post. Repeated viewings reveal more and more artistic tidbits.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, it kind of blows me away that these stamps are nearly 80 years old.

D-Ticket, they really are awesome little graphics!

Eric, thanks

Scott Lane, glad you liked them.

Matterhorn1959, sadly I don’t have any of the Disney war stamps, though I wish I did of course.

Patrick Devlin, if it wasn’t for these stamps (and a pinback button that I happen to have), I would be unaware of Flying A gas stations.

Chuck, besides my grandparent’s attic, they had what they called the “cedar closet” (actually lined with cedar wood), where they kept all of the most fun stuff. After my grandpa died, I know that they got rid of lots of stuff, and I can’t help wondering if any of it was cool!

JG, very cool that you are familiar with so many of these places. I’ve been to a few, but certainly not all. I am very surprised to hear that there are still some Flying A gas stations around.

Steve DeGaetano, I am sort of considering delving into my boxes and boxes of “junk” (junk that I love!) and sharing more of it on this blog. It’s not Disneyland, but the response to these stamps was encouraging!

David Zacher, I hope that you won all of your fights!

Nanook, just imagine if I had posted all 200 of the stamps....!

walterworld said...


Having been to a few of the places covered it was fun to think about the trips and how much fun they were.

And I always enjoyed exploring the treasures and forgotten spaces at my Grandparents house. Ahhh memories.

Thank you Major for spending the time to do this...