Saturday, June 10, 2023

The River of Time Snags a Chock full o' Nuts Coffee Can

I always like to see what people put their pens and pencils in.
In March 2019, I posted a couple of my pencil pots--here, with a link to Michael's picture of his too on Orange Crate Art.

I took the photo, below, at the art inst. this week--it's part of the installation of a fictional curator's office from 1954.
I was going to use it to illustrate Atticus's desk, but I doubted he in Alabama in 1935 would have pencils in a Chock full O' Nuts coffee can from NYC.

I bet Atticus's desk would've been tidy and he'd have a proper pen pot (though, what would that be?), but anyway, I love this detail from "Curator's Office" by Mark Dion:

I was guessing the can would be anachronistic because where I grew up in the 1960s, Madison, Wisc., Chock full o' Nuts was unheard of, or, if heard of, an exotic East Coast thing, like the Village Voice.

When my parents took us to NYC in 1968––why? my father had a conference? (he's dead! I can't ask! I hate that)––my mother took us to CfoN. Seven-year-old me was mystified by their famous cream cheese on raisin bread sandwich--I remember it being too thick and dry to swallow easily.
Come to think of it now, I didn't drink coffee--that was probably needed to wash it down.

My mother also took us to Horn and Hardart, where she stole two forks embossed with the automat's name. She was larcenous like that, which mortified me--not that she ever got caught.
Photo of the forks from my round-up of "My Mother's Things" in 2018. Marz has them now.

This morning I checked the dates, and, right--Chock full o' Nuts started in 1926 in NYC but didn't start selling coffee in supermarkets till 1953. [via Wikipedia]
(Who supplied coffee to small towns in the rural south, I wonder. Do you know?)

There is an unintentional correspondence between CfoN and To Kill a Mockingbird  though:
"Several years [after 1953] baseball star Jackie Robinson became the company's vice president and director of personnel, after retiring from the game. The chain was already known for regularly hiring Black employees in its lunch counters as both cooks and waitstaff."

There's the thing--To Kill a Mockingbird isn't an isolated story about a girl growing up, it's a historical document--one of a line of them in US history-- telling the story of how we as a people are creating a society by our choices/experiences around race.

I felt the line between Scout and me tug hard, with a giant fish on the end of it, when I read this toward the end of TKM:
After the jury has found Tom Robinson, a Black man, guilty of raping Mayella Ewell, a white woman, on obviously trumped up charges, Atticus says to his children,
"In our courts, when it's a white man's word against a black man's, the white man always wins...
Don't fool yourself––it's all adding up and one of these days we're going to pay the bill for it. I hope it isn't in you children's time."
It was, and it still is.

Here's my pen pot on my desk this morning--I got the pink ceramic vase in Chicago in 1986--it was old then.
Oh, I'd forgotten--it's marked!
Red Wing (that's just down the river from here) 894.
I looked it up--it's a tulip bud vase from the late 1930s.

That's the thing with history and things--they stick around.

I'm going to work now. My icky sticky cough is a lot better this morning.
Last night bink had brought me dinner, and Marz had brought me Oil of Oregano, which the National library of Health reports is a proven antibiotic--for skin infections, anyway.
Huh. Other studies too say it "is one of the most promising natural compounds that can be used to develop safer antibacterial agents".

I'm allergic to the family of penicillin, and so I have to take some worse antibiotics... which I hate to do. Maybe this oil will knock my infection back by Monday, when I have a doctor's appointment.

Also, it was lovely to be cared for and tended to. As a longtime singleton, that doesn't happen automatically when I'm sick, and I appreciate it greatly. Thanks, bink & Marz!

 P.S. Speaking of the river of time and all...
My apartment windows open directly onto the sidewalk, and this morning as I was waking up, I heard a woman walking past my bedroom window say "
murmur murmur murmur ...Donald Trump... murmur murmur".

Heaven help us, he's part of our bill to pay.

(P.P.S. I decided not to go to work after all. I am feeling better but still wearied from coughing and fighting off bugs: I don't feel like subjecting my throat and lungs to the dirty, DUSTY thrift store.)


Michael Leddy said...

Fresca, I think you know that I’m a Chock full o’Nuts fanatic, yes? (I have what might be the only Cfo’N tag in Pinboard.)

There would have been many brands of coffee for Atticus to choose from. Eight O’Clock Coffee (A & P) and Maxwell House were national brands. There must have been smaller local brands too. But no Chock for him.

I like that desk. But the pens are recent Cross pens, not nearly old enough for the scene.

I would imagine Atticus using a Parker Duofold or a Sheaffer Balance. As a lawyer, he would have had a good pen, for sure.

Fresca said...

MICHAEL: oh! I did associate Chock full o’ Nuts with you, yes, but I didn’t realize your interest reached Pinterest-level.
You are a Jedi!

I had almost written “A&P?” when I wondered where Atticus’s coffee came from—maybe some dim memory from childhood promoted that—glad you confirm that.

But I wouldn’t have known to even guess what kind of pen he had—and his pen is mentioned somewhere in the book, I’m pretty sure… but never what kind.
I looked up the ones you mention—boy oh boy are those beautiful. I agree, he would have had such a one—thanks for naming these.

Shame on the artist who created the curator’s office for getting the pens wrong! If a museum visitor recognizes that, it ruins the illiterate. Careless.

Fresca said...

PS Oh, ha—it’s pinboard not Pinterest! That makes more sense.

Fresca said...

Geez “ruins the *illusion* “ not the illiterate! I’m typing on my phone-/too easy to make and miss mistakes (mine and it’s).

Fresca said...


Ms. Moon said...

I'm trying to remember the coffee cans that my grandfather used to keep his nails organized in so carefully. I believe that Maxwell House may have been one of the brands and possibly Eight O' Clock, which the A&P sold. But that was the early sixties. Still, he may have had some of those cans for over a decade.
Our country will never stop paying for the sins of its beginnings. Ever. And yet, it is our duty to try, individually and as a whole.