Stan Lee

Stan Lee in 1988

Once upon a time, comic books were a part of every kid’s existence. They were cheap, available everywhere, and were irresistible. Their themes ranged from war to horror to comedy to romance to their biggest attraction: superheroes.

The list of famous names behind the scenes at comic book publishers is a short one. DC comics, purveyors of Superman, Batman, and the rest of the members of the Justice League of America, was largely a faceless corporate entity. I can’t recall a single name that jumps out at me, despite reading hundreds of editions of their products.

But when you’re talking Marvel comics, two names stand tall. One is Jack Kirby, artist/editor who will likely rate his own column here in the future. The second is Stan Lee, creator of a huge number of superheroes whose names have become as familiar to us as our own.

Stanley Lieber was born on December 28, 1922 in New York City. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Romania. Stanley loved reading as a child, and by his teenaged years had found a talent for writing as well. He made a few bucks writing obituaries for a press service and press releases for the National Tuberculosis Center. He also took on whatever other odd jobs he could find, helping out his family’s Depression-ravaged situation.

In 1939, Stanley garnered a gig working for Timely Comics as an assistant. His duties were mundane, keeping inkwells full, picking up lunch, that sort of thing. But in 1941, he got his first big break. He was allowed to write up text filler for issue #3 of Captain America Comics. He used the pseudonym Stan Lee for the first time. His employers were impressed with his work. He was soon given a storyline of his own with a backup feature, “‘Headline’ Hunter, Foreign Correspondent.” You should remember those backup stories, one- or two-page tales that would fill out the comic.

As Stan stretched his creative wings, he was given more opportunities to use his imagination. He soon came up with new superheroes Jack Frost and Father Time. Late in 1941, he was promoted to interim editor following the departure of Jack Kirby and editor Joe Simon.

Again, Stan showed savvy in his new duties. However, Pearl Harbor caused a major change in his plans and he enlisted in the army. His commission was a literary one, as he stayed stateside and produced manuals, slogans, cartoons, and training films.

X-Men comic from the 60’s

After the war, Lee went back to work for Timely. In 1950, they changed their name to Atlas Comics. Lee wrote stories in every genre that Atlas produced, covering the full scale from romance to cowboy tales. But Stan craved more serious literary work, and considered leaving comics altogether.

In 1961, Atlas changed their name again to Marvel Comics. Lee was charged with coming up with new superheroes that would compete with DC’s recent flood of new faces. He responded by coming up with The Fantastic Four, co-created by Jack Kirby, who had returned to the fold. Issue #1 was released in November of that year.

But he had only begun. Within a couple of years, he created with Kirby Thor, The X-Men, Iron man, The Incredible Hulk, and Spider-Man. He also created Daredevil and Dr. Strange with the collaberation of others.

Lee’s superheroes were some seriously flawed humans. They had issues that DC’s lineup, with the eventual exception of tortured Bruce Wayne, didn’t exhibit. They got ill, squabbled among themselves, had to scramble to get bills paid, and sometimes acted in quite antisocial ways.

Comics were entering their golden age, the 60’s and 70’s, when their popularity would reach heights that were unsurpassed before or after. This was our time. Thus, we all remember well-worn copies of comic books laying around our rooms which were read over and over. And Lee’s genius is responsible for many of the superheroes whose exploits we eagerly followed.

Spiderman takes on drug addiction, 1971

Lee the innovator also took on the Comics Code Authority, which was formed to reign in increasingly violent and sexual themes that were blossoming in the 50’s. In 1971, a three-part storyline of Spider-Man was set to be published in which Peter Parker comes to the aid of a friend who had gotten addicted to pills. The CCA said no, and Lee went ahead and published the stories without the familiar seal at the top of the front page. He ended up forcing them to lighten up their standards, and they henceforth allowed drug use to be portrayed in a negative light.

Lee became the public face behind Marvel in the 70’s. In 2001, he took on a gig at rival DC to create theirJust Imagine series, which rewrote the life stories of familiar DC heroes.

As he has gotten older, Lee has stayed busy and creative. He usually has a cameo role in any Marvel-superhero-based film, and there have been a slew of those lately. He’s been involved in producing direct-to-DVD films about new heroes. And he’s currently hosting a fascinating History Channel series called Stan Lee’s Superhumans, which focuses on people with remarkable physical abilities.

Here’s hoping this creative genius stays active and busy for many more years. Stan Lee is a big part of our collective Boomer memories.

Silent Spring

Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson

About fifteen years ago, I was stunned by the sight of a bald eagle that flew across the road while I was driving. I had never seen the gorgeous creatures outside of zoos. Now, they are a common wintertime sight in northwest Arkansas, and we even have year-round residents that nest at nearby lakes.

We have Rachel Carson to think for the resurgence of bald eagles, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, and countless other bird species whose numbers were rapidly dwindling during the 60’s. In 1962, she shocked the world with Silent Spring, a book that turned an entire generation into environmentally conscious individuals.

Rachel Carson was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania in 1907. She was interested in nature as a child, and pursued a degree in marine biology and zoology, eventually earning a Masters. She also landed a government job during the Depression writing radio scripts and picked up some side income writing articles on natural history for the Baltimore Sun. The writing bug was pretty persistent, so in 1952 she quit her lucrative government gig to pursue the muse full time.

That year saw her publish a book called The Sea Around Us. Three years later she penned The Edge of the Sea. Both tomes were successful, but the best was yet to come.

Rachel was very environmentally conscious, and was uneasy with the greatly increased use of pesticides that followed WWII. This stand climaxed with the 1962 release of Silent Spring. Her primary target in the work was DDT.

Developed in 1939, it was used during World War II to clear South Pacific islands of malaria-causing mosquitoes for U.S. troops, while elsewhere being used as an effective delousing powder. Its inventor, Dr. Paul Muller, was awarded the Nobel Prize.

But DDT was a little too effective. It was persistent. After it killed the nasty skeeters, it continued to do damage to other insects. And it had another ugly side effect: It made the eggs of birds who consumed creatures that had the long-lasting chemical in their systems paper-thin. That meant eggs would be crushed, and baby birds wouldn’t be born. The bald eagle, which ate lots of DDT-contaminated fish, eventually became quite rare in the lower 48.

Rachel Carson

Rachel decided something needed to be done. So she expressed her thoughts in her greatest work. It woke up an entire nation to the hazards of using chemicals to control pests that would also have a deleterious effect on other forms of life. Interestingly, there was also evidence that insects were becoming resistant to it. However, it continued to have its deadly effect on the eggs of raptors.

The chemical industry was not pleased. They praised DDT as one of the reasons we whipped the Japs. They pointed to how many millions of lives had been saved by wiping out malaria-laden mosquitoes since the war was over. An exec at the American Cynamid Company said “If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth.”

However, the public listened to Rachel Carson. DDT was eventually banned in the US ten years later, but the instant effect of her book was that DDT had a nasty reputation, and its use nosedived.

The last reported use of DDT was in 1994.

Among the many eagles that have been depicted on US coins have been actual depictions of Peter. Peter was a bald eagle that hung around the Philadelphia Mint in the early 19th century. By the 1960’s, the idea of seeing an eagle in the area was as far fetched as spotting a unicorn. But on March 17, 2007, it was announced that a bald eagle nest had been discovered within Philadelphia’s city limits.

Rachel Carson, who died of cancer in 1964, would have been very, very proud.

Real Books

The Real Book about Explorers

Sure, I was fortunate to be born in 1959, missing out on that Vietnam mess. But, on the other hand, I also missed out on Howdy Doody. But I did grow up absorbing lots of wonderful knowledge from a series of books written during the Eisenhower era, their printed form assuring that they would last long enough to entertain millions of kids born after that decade.

The books were called Real Books. They were published by the Garden City Publishing Company. There was a Garden City, Kansas located not too far from where I lived, and I always assumed that Real Books came from there. Not true. Here’s Wikipedia’s info on the firm: “Garden City’s books were primarily reprints of books first offered by Doubleday, printed from the original plates but on less expensive paper. It was named for the village on New York’s Long Island in which Doubleday was long headquartered (until 1986).”

I guess that’s why so many homes in the 60’s had Real Books: our thrifty parents knew a good deal when they saw one.

I remember reading the wonderful tomes over and over again. I recall the Real Book about Baseball. The book’s author was one Lyman Hopkins. He wrote in a very humorous manner, reminding me of Joe Garagiola’s Baseball Is a Funny Game. He particularly loved recalling the antics of Babe Herman, a talented but klutzy ballplayer of the thirties.

Real Books

Other Real Books on my shelf included Explorers, Tall Tales, Andrew Jackson, Gold, Camping, The Wild West, and Amazing Scientific Facts. That last one was a particular favorite of mine.

Real Books would often accompany me in my back seat while we traveled up to Iowa or down to Texas every year to visit the two sets of grandparents. They seemed to get better with each reading.

The books were accompanied by some well-done penned illustrations, too. And the large type was friendly to a kid. I could read an entire Real Book in a rainy weekend.

When I came home from kindergarten that day Mrs. Adams taught me to read, I attacked those Real Books like a panther. I had long been enticed by the pictures, but I was dying to know the words.

However, having conquered the Real Book about American Tall Tales the night before, it was difficult to go to class the next day to read “See Spot. See Spot run. Run, Spot, run!” without a derisive six-year-old eyeroll.


Charles Schulz in the 60’s

Charles Monroe Schulz was born on November 26, 1922 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His uncle, possibly in an act of prescience, gave him the nickname “Sparky,” after Barney Google’s Horse Spark Plug.

Charles grew up loving to draw. Once, he drew a picture of his dog Spike, who relished eating nails and tacks, and sent it in to Ripley’s Believe It or Not. They published the prodigy’s cartoon verbatim!

As a teenager, he offered drawings to the high school yearbook staff. They turned him down.

After a stint on the military, Schulz took a job as an art instructor at Art Instruction Schools, headquartered in his home town. Never heard of them? Picture a magazine ad of a cute figure with the exhortation “Draw me!” He also took on a side job doing lettering for a Catholic periodical.

But in 1947, he persuaded The St. Paul Pioneer Press to carry a comic called Lil’ Folks. The strip included a kid named Charlie brown and an unnamed, but quite intelligent, dog. The next year, he sold some single-panel toons to The Saturday Evening Post. In 1950, he approached United Features with his best Lil’ Folks strips. With considerably more savvy than his school’s yearbook staff, they agreed to syndicate them under the name Peanuts. The rest was history.

The Peanuts gang

I seriously doubt that any Boomer is unfamiliar with Peanuts. I suspect that a majority of the world’s population knows who Snoopy is. That’s a pretty impressive statement for a mere comic strip. But Peanuts was much, much more than that.

For instance, how many comic strips became a holiday TV tradition? It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas debuted in 1965, and continues to provide our grandkids with memories of their own. Halloween means it’s time for It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which first appeared the next year.

And how many strips inspired a pair of Broadway shows? Or a #2 hit song? Or video games?

And I wish I had a dime for every t-shirt, lunch box, or any other merchandise that featured any of the familiar members of the gang.

But none of it would have come about without the gentle intellectual mind of genius Schulz.

You knew this strip was aimed at kids, naturally, but only adults would appreciate the irony of Lucy spurning selling lemonade in favor of doling out psychiatric help for five cents. And a beagle who is smarter than his master was groundbreaking stuff, later used to great effect by Mr. Peabody in Bullwinkle.

Indeed, it seems a slight on the part of your humble columnist to confine the enormity of Peanuts to a single entry.

Lucy personified the various obstacles one faces in life. Whether it was yanking the football away from Charlie Brown, or berating her brother Linus, or just being her normal crabby self, she was always in character. Her unrequited love for Beethoven fan Schroeder may have contributed to her perennial bad mood, who knows.

Pig Pen could get filthy walking down the sidewalk. Peppermint Patty had a soft spot in her heart for Charlie Brown, and tried hard to bring him up to speed as to what was happening in the real world. Little sister Sally had her own view of things, and showed more savvy than her older brother.

Charlie Brown, who put the phrase “good grief!” into our vocabularies, just couldn’t catch a break. His baseball team had Lucy in the outfield, who once dropped a fly ball because “The moons of Jupiter got in my eyes.” Any pitch resulted in a line drive that would send him flying, only to land in a disrobed state. He had his own case of unrequited love, this for a mysterious red-headed girl. But every now and then, Schulz would let things pan out well for him.

Peanuts comic strip

Then there was Snoopy.

Perhaps the most famous comic strip character in history, Snoopy was not your average beagle.

Born on the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, he kept family ties with his brother Spike. Snoopy, who never bothered to learn his master’s name, had many alter egos. There was Joe Cool, college student. There was the WWI aviator. There was the Beagle Scout, who led his troop of birds. There was also Snoopy the helicopter, his ears providing lift for the pilot, Woodstock. There were many other personages, too, too many to list here.

We Boomer kids took it for granted that Peanuts would always be around. Schulz himself took but a single five-week vacation in 1997. But sadly, on February 12, 2000, the day after the genius went to sleep in death, the final original Peanuts strip was published.

But the prolific Mr. Schulz generated so much material that its reruns continue to entertain us, as well as new generations, and seem just as timely now as they did when they first appeared. The look of the strip settled on its final form by the late 50’s, so it’s anybody’s guess as to when each day’s offering may have originally appeared. Many strips wither and die when they revert to reruns, but Peanuts continues to fly high in syndication numbers.

That’s good in many ways. For instance, you don’t have to explain Snoopy to your grandkids. They are already quite familiar with him.

Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires

A vintage Smokey Bear sign

“Only you can prevent forest fires!” We must have heard those words a thousand times, as we sat in the floor after school watching Leave It to Beaver on our black-and-white TV’s.

Forest fires were a non-issue for me. We had woods in Oklahoma’s Green Country, but I can’t ever recall a forest fire. Our summers typically were rainy, and the vegetation didn’t dry up and turn to tinder the way it did in the western US, where the dry season ruled half the year.

Smokey Bear taught the Boomer generation about how dangerous forest fires were for everyone, especially cute cartoon animals, who would frequently be imperiled by a careless motorist who would toss his cigarette butt out the window.

Smokey, the real-life bear, was saved from death as a cub in 1950. The story can be found in detail here. Here’s the part that you might remember:

Amongst the smoldering ashes was a tiny black bear cub, burnt and afraid, clinging to a tree. The cub was nicknamed “Hotfoot Teddy.” They searched for the cub’s mother, but could not find her. The cub needed veterinary aid for the burns on his paws and hindquarters, so he was flown to Santa Fe to receive professional treatment. While his wounds were healing, he stayed at the home of Ray Bell, the game warden who flew him to Santa Fe. Ray’s daughter Judy befriended the little bear and helped nurse him back to health.

Renamed Smokey, the bear got a home at Washington, D.C.’s National Zoo. He drew millions of visitors until his death in 1975.

But the Smokey that we remember from all of those posters, TV spots, and magazine ads was actually “born” in 1944.

Uncle Sam had been depicted as a forest ranger in ads from the 1930’s encouraging the public to prevent forest fires. After Pearl Harbor, a leering image of a Japanese soldier was printed on posters telling our parents that “careless matches aid the Axis.” In fact, in 1942, a Japanese submarine shelled an oilfield near Santa Barbara that caused fears of enemy-launched forest conflagrations to swell.

The Japanese even launched balloons loaded with incendiaries, intending prevailing winds to carry them to the Washington and Oregon forests. At least one American died when stumbling upon one of the wind-carried bombs.

The 1942 success of Disney’s Bambi caused the diminutive deer’s image to be used for a year in forest fire awareness advertisements, but after the time period expired, the National Forest Service launched their own spokesman, arguably more famous nowadays than the fawn who also did much to start the anti-hunting movement.

Smokey tells us “Hold til it’s cold!” in 1946.

Smokey’s popularity exploded, and the 1950 discovery of the injured cub only added to the frenzy. Smokey had a musical radio show, he was in comic books, and also appeared in ads that sold commercial products instead of getting the word out about fire danger.

Thus, in 1952, the Smokey Bear Act was passed which gave control of the various incarnations of the bear to the USDA.

Smokey was marketed hard during our childhoods, and he inspired us all to put out campfires, even if dad wasn’t quite done with them! Plus, he continued to be the inspiration for cartoon shows, toys, and other commercial interests, but now under the watchfulness of the feds.

Our kids and grandkids know the bear as well as we do. And they are just as obsessive about putting out campfires.

Well done, Smokey. 🙂

Win a Free Monkey

Win a free monkey! Easier said than done.

The Boomers who can recall the coonskin cap and Howdy Doody years also remember ads in magazines designed to separate kids from their nickels and dimes. One of these scams, excuse me, opportunities, was tempting kids to get monkeys or dogs that are small enough to fit in a teacup for No Cost! Well, there WAS a tiny “at almost” in front of that statement. So they weren’t TECHNICALLY lying.

But seeing how the ads intended audience was prepubescent youth, it was pretty underhanded nonetheless.

There was no doubt about it, having a monkey small enough to fit in a teacup was a pretty stinkin’ cool concept. The problem lay in the actual product. The monkeys were generally marmosets or capuchins captured and imported when regulations against doing so did not yet exist. And they started out small, but got bigger. And meaner.

I remember once going to the house of a friend of my father’s. He had a capuchin monkey that was supposed to be tame and well-behaved. The nasty little bugger crawled up my back and grabbed two handfuls of my blonde hair and started yanking! I let out a yell and jumped, of course, and that sent it into a rage, jumping all over the living room shrieking! I never wanted to get within a hundred feet of a monkey after that disaster.

But, in actuality, there was practically no chance that you would get a monkey or dog anyway.

The scam began with you sending in a black-and-white photo. The photo could be you, a pet, whatever. They would enlarge it to 5×7 and hand-color it. Then, they would send it back to you along with 20 “get-acquainted” coupons. You handed them out to unfortunate friends and relatives while showing them your bonzer little color photo.

THEN, you got the monkey, right?

Wrong. Read the fine print. You have to actually produce twenty paying customers. Eww, that’s nearly impossible.

In the meantime, the company had charged you COD for your hand-colored picture, and you very well might send them a few customers in the process of passing out coupons. So it was win/win for them, but sadly, many a child wished for and never received a teacup monkey or dog.

Sadly, scams are much more profligate today than the innocent 50’s. Nowadays, you can get “free” flat-panel TV’s, $500 or more gift cards, and other tantalizing goodies. All you have to do is “complete offers.” The fine print shows that completing the offers is nearly impossible to do without shelling out your own cash. And if you are shelling out money, why that’s not exactly “free,” is it? Sometimes, you have to refer a friend who also completes offers.

If there are any Boomers from the 50’s out there who have ever tried to earn a free whatever, they may have flashed back to when they were children, passing out coupons in the elusive hope of getting a teacup monkey.

MAD’s TV and Movie Satires

MAD’s Star Blecch

I remember a reader writing a letter to the editor of MAD sometime in the 1970’s. He said, and I quote from distant memory, “I watch a movie because I like it. And then, I read the MAD satire to let me understand it.”

That sums up exactly why the MAD satires were some of the most brilliant examples of journalism during the 60’s and 70’s. They were well thought out, biting satire that nailed the weak points of films and TV shows that needed nailing.

A few of the satires that I fondly recall, along with translations of the more subtle ones, include Star Blecch, Crymore Vs. Crymore, A Crock of (blip) Now, What’s the Connection? (The French Connection), Balmy and Clod, The Zing (The Sting), and, most telling, Up With the Academy.

Up With the Academy was a very brief admission by MAD that it had made a mistake in lending its name to a typical 80’s R-rated trashfest comedy called Up the Academy. MAD admitted publicly that the movie sucked. The “satire” was a single page long, a telling statement in itself.

Now, who can’t respect straightforwardness like that?

I have to admit that I’ve lost recent contact with MAD. Perhaps they are still letting the air out of of grossly overinflated Hollywood egos. But I know that when I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, they shed a new light on movies that the critics and the general public went ga-ga over. I try to maintain the same tradition meself.

Mad’s Fold-In

Mad’s fold-in

In 1964, Playboy Magazine was the talk of the town. Not only did they achieve a measure of journalistic credibility with cutting-edge writers, they did it while showing those . . . PICTURES! The most outrageous of all was the centerfold.

Playboy managed to transform the primary definition of the very word from a feature of a magazine to the most beautiful woman in the world that particular month.

The brains behind MAD decided it was time to cash in. But not with a centerfold. Nah, that had been done.

What they conceived was the idea that the back cover would need to be folded INWARDLY to reveal a hidden gag.

That’s what made MAD the greatest satire publication of all time: thinking like that. For the job, they picked Al Jaffe.

Jaffe, the genius behind Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, was the perfect choice. In fact, he continues to create the fold-in today! That’s 63 years at presstime. I believe it might have been a good choice.

Jaffe was drawing for Marvel Comics before they became Marvel in the 1940’s. He joined MAD in 1955. He has appeared in over 400 issues of the venerable journal.

Fold-ins have covered the gamut of humorous situations, with an emphasis on current events. The pictured one is aimed at anti-American sentiment which is running rampant at the moment. Of course, it makes it funny, as fold-ins should.

MAD is still around, although I must confess I don’t read it anymore. I’m sure it’s still above the rest as far as satire is concerned, but life has gotten too busy for me to spend those leisure hours reading the works of Aragones, Berg, Martin, and, of course, Jaffe. Here’s hoping Al is still at it when I finally get caught up.

Mad’s Don Martin Department

Don Martin cartoon

MAD magazine is too big a Baby Boomer phenomenon to write about in one sitting. Perhaps the greatest of its contributors was the immortal Don Martin.

Don Martin was born in Paterson, New Jersey in 1931. He began his career with MAD in 1956. He soon became its centerpiece artist, with each issue containing two or three cartoons featuring the timeless look of Don’s characters. This included huge chins, bulbous noses, long, skinny legs, and, of course, the familiar hinged feet.

Going along with the look were the familiar sound effects. I remember a football player who was being interviewed by a sports reporter emitting sounds like “oont” and “groot.”

One of my favorite cartoons involved the town moron standing on a street corner with his finger in his ear. A nearsighted man, mistaking him for a telephone, uses him to make a call. You just have to picture it.

Don left MAD in 1988 in a dispute over his works which appeared in paperback compilations of previously published comics. He claimed to have lost over a million dollars. The feud with MAD publisher William Gaines ended up sending Martin to work for competitor Cracked magazine. MAD hasn’t been the same since.

Thanks to Martin, we know what various events sound like. For instance, a sword when it is pulled out of someone’s arm (BLIOMP), a man’s head being crushed by a woman with a large bottom (BPLFLT!), and a cannibal shuffling shrunken heads (SHWIK SHWIKA SHK SHHHSK SHASHWIK SHWIKA SHWIK SHASH SHAK). Oh, and one I particularly recall: Wonder Woman taking off her bra (PLOOBADOOP).

Don died in 2000 of cancer at the age of 68. The world misses him.

The Libraries of Our Childhoods

My own wonderful public library, a mid-century-modern beauty in Miami, Oklahoma

This will be a fun write, almost 100% from memory, no research needed! My favorite type of I Remember JFK article.

Okay, transport yourself back to, say, 1967. You are entering an imposing building: your own local public library. One of the earliest concepts that you learned as a child was that books were freely available to you to borrow for a couple of weeks, at the end of which you either returned them, rechecked them, or (horrors) paid a fine, which may have burdened you with some of your first feelings of guilt.

Walking through those tall doors (everything was tall when your height was less than four feet), you were greeted with a wonderful smell: the aroma of hundreds, maybe thousands of books, many of which were dozens of years old. You also saw row after row of neatly organized bookshelves, with each book in its proper place. All in all, it was a wonder of order.

Behind the desk sat the librarian, with a stern expression on her face, just the thing to remind a rambunctious kid that he was in a temple of silence, and it had better stay that way, or the wrath of that hair bun-wearing matron would be quickly and painfully expressed.

A catalog full of Dewey decimal cards

You might even balk at this point, wondering if you even deserved to be within these hallowed halls. But a reassuring look at your own personalized library card would set you at ease, you were indeed a full-fledged member of this community, with every right to be in this wonderful place.

The pictured library card is missing something: a piece of metal with five or six letters or numbers stamped on it, embedded in the card itself. That card would be presented to the librarian when you wanted to actually check out the books. She would place your card into a mechanical device which would then accept another card from a sleeve found inside the particular book you wanted. The card would slide into a slot in the top, you would hear a “ka-chunka” sound, and a permanent record would be made that you had, indeed, borrowed the book in question. She would then place another pre-stamped card back into the book’s pocket with a date that was two weeks away, added to the queue of previous dates.

Old library card

I tried hard to find a picture of one of those checkout machines, to no avail. The return date cards were produced by a different machine that would take a tiny bite of paper out of the edge of the card, stamping a return date in the process. That card could be used through four cycles, turning it around once the top side was full, and turning it over once an entire side was full of dates.