Collecting Silent Film Stars: Annette Kellerman

Being the fan that I am (both of the collector and silent film), I couldn’t just let Mary Ann Cade go that easily after delivering her recent silent film news — I had to ask her about one of her favorite silent film stars, Annette Kellerman (also billed as Annette Kellermann and called “The Perfect Woman”).

Mary, tell us about Annette Kellerman… How did she catch your collecting fancy?

I got interested in Kellerman when I saw Esther Williams in the fictional biopic Million Dollar Mermaid, which was loosely based on Ms. Kellerman’s life. After viewing it, I started looking around to see if any of her product survived and why she is so forgotten today.

Annette Kellerman on board signed

At one time, during her heyday, she was a force to be reckoned with, kind of like Madonna or Oprah Winfrey. She was writing books, making films, doing publicity stunts, designing swimsuits, performing water ballets at the Hippodrome, performing in vaudeville type shows all over the world, making movies, and she even had her own chain of fitness clubs and a health food store.

vintage health beauty perfect figure course by silent film star annette kellermann

Sadly, she is all but forgotten today and when one looks at her swimming and diving contributions, including her discovery of what is considered synchronized swimming as well as the one piece bathing suit, it is a real shame.

antique trunk that belonged to annette kellerman

When I started the quest on Kellerman, the only known film was Venus of the South Seas, but, along with the news mentioned earlier, I have managed to locate Siren of the Sea.

vintage tobacco cards featuring silent film star annette kellerman

Kellerman is reputed to be in a cameo in the Fatty Arbuckle / Buston Keaton short Coney Island (1917) and a couple of other films that have not been confirmed as of yet. The Australian archives do hold some of her various water ballet footage as well.

Thank you, Mary, for sharing your collecting passion and information with us!

Photo Credits, in order of appearance:

Signed photo of Annette Kellerman and photo of Annette Kellerman’s trunk, from Mary Ann Cade.

Personal Course of Instruction In The Attainment Of Health, Beauty and Perfect Figure, by Annette Kellermann, 1932, via The Land of Pleasant Living;

Annette Kellerman movie photos, on a 1924 set of Henry Clay and Bock Co., Ltd. Cuban tobacco cards, courtesy of Cliff Aliperti.

Adventures In Cute: Child Collectors

After reviewing her book, Hello, Cutie!: Adventures in Cute Culture, I had the chance to interview the collector and author, Pamela Klaffke. In her book, she mentions that her young daughter is also a collector. Since I’m a big fan of children who collect, I wanted to speak with Pamela specifically about her daughter’s collecting.

Hello again, Pamela. Let’s talk a little bit about your daughter and what she collects.

Her name is Emma, she is 11-and-a-half and is in sixth grade. She primarily collects Blythe and Dal dolls, anime figurines, Pokémon plush toys and game cards, plus stuffed animals in general.

When and at what age did she begin collecting?

She’s been collecting since she was a toddler — first with Care Bears, then My Little Pony, and big-eyed Lil Peepers plush toys. Her interest in each collection lasted about 2-3 years and she was really focused. She would usually just buy items for her collections, rather than just a bunch of random toys.

Did you have to encourage her to collect?

It’s not something we really discussed, but being a collector myself I certainly didn’t dissuade her, except maybe when the stuffies started to edge her out of her bed! We had to start keeping them in bins. But collecting has always interested her and come quite naturally.

As a parent and a collector, I feel that the act of collecting is a great thing for children. It helps with practical things such as handling money, negotiating, making decisions, etc. While regular shopping has some of these things, collecting is different and even better than just going to a toy store. Even without the vintage aspect of learning about history, there’s far more involved… It’s not as easy because there’s more to sift through, no catalog pages to circle, etc. A child learns to value imperfect things — while perhaps learning to take better care of the things she collects (because “older” can mean “more fragile”). And I do believe that the role of collector is rather like the role of artist. What things do you think your daughter has learned or gained from collecting?

She’s definitely learned how to save money for an item she wants — she saved for four months earlier this year to pay for a special, limited edition Blythe doll. She’s also learned how to research the best price for items online and can spot a good deal. Many of the things she collects have to be ordered from Asia, so she’s become pretty savvy at ferreting out the bargains. She also combs every nook and cranny of a thrift shop in search of a genuine 1970s vintage Kenner Blythe doll. She’s heard the stories of people finding them in unlikely places and hopes one day it will happen to her!

Here’s hoping Emma finds her big score!

If you or child collect dolls, toys, and other cute things, you’ll love Pamela’s book.

Collecting Frankoma & Some Mysterious Vintage Pottery (Can You Help?)

An interview about collecting Frankoma and other vintage decorative pottery with Molly Ives Brower, aka The Vintage Reader.

Collectible Frankoma Pottery Pieces

How and why did you start collecting Frankoma pottery? Was it, at first, just part of decorating the house?

When I was in high school I started going to the Tulsa Flea Market with my mother every few weeks. By the time I was in college we were going every time I was home on a Saturday morning. Most of the booths seemed to have at least one piece of Frankoma; I think every bride in Oklahoma from the 1950s through the 70s must have gotten Frankoma for her wedding, and much of it, especially the dinnerware, was in colors I didn’t particularly care for–muted greens and browns and golds. It was so common that I never paid much attention to it.

Then one Saturday I was looking for a birthday present for my sister, and found a little round vase in a beautiful clear greenish-blue, with a black base. I was surprised when I turned it over and found out it was Frankoma. The mark was different, for one thing, and the clay was lighter than the dark red that I was used to seeing. The dealer I bought it from didn’t know the significance of that, and neither did I. Then I started looking more carefully at similar pieces and talking to other dealers, who taught me all about the differences in the clay and the marks and the glazes. I even developed a fondness for the older green and gold glazes. (I still don’t like the browns, though.)

The summer after I graduated from college (1988), I started buying more pieces at the flea market, usually from one particular dealer who was extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic about pottery from Oklahoma and Arkansas. He sold me some other pieces from the region–Cherokee and Niloak and Tamac. I don’t think I would have developed such an interest in collecting if the dealers at the Tulsa Flea Market hadn’t been so friendly and willing to share their knowledge with a young collector.

How many pieces of Frankoma do you have?

I really don’t know. Between my own collecting and people giving me stuff, I’ve probably got more than 100 pieces. I’ve sold some through the years, and wish I hadn’t.

What do you focus on when collecting pottery?

Mainly, I just buy things I like to look at. With Frankoma, I like the local and personal aspect. I have one of their salt-and-pepper sets in the shape of the First National Bank building in Tulsa (they gave them away at the opening of the bank in the early 1950s) and several of their “Christmas cards”–each year Frankoma made a small dish that the Frank family gave to their friends, inscribed with the year and a message. I’ve quit actively collecting it for the most part, but every once in a while I’ll find something really neat at a garage sale or estate sale. I don’t collect their dinnerware or large pieces at all–I like the small, unusual stuff.

With other pottery, I look mainly at glazes and shapes. I still like deep greens and blues, and for some reason I also gravitate toward orange pottery, although I don’t usually like orange.

I also like modern artists who are inspired by the past. In Western New York there’s a lot of Arts & Crafts influence (especially around East Aurora, where the Roycroft campus is), and when I lived in Buffalo, I loved looking at the local artists’ work. I couldn’t afford much of it, but I have a couple of nice tiles. 🙂

I have a whole collection of green art pottery that is obviously from the same place, but it’s not marked, and I’ve never been able to figure out what it is. My first piece came from my regular Frankoma dealer–it got chipped in transit to the flea market and he gave it to me, but then I started finding it all over the place. I’ve found this pottery everywhere I’ve lived, and I’ve even seen a piece on the cover of a book, but I still don’t have any idea where it came from or who made it. Maybe some other reader could identify it?!

Let’s give it a go!

This photo is of my mystery pottery–a large urn and three small pitchers. They all look hand-formed, and there are some faint coil marks on the urn. The clay is dark red. I’ve found several pieces of it that sellers have tagged as Frankoma, but it’s not Frankoma–I would love it if someone could help identify it!

Vintage Clay Pottery Pieces That Need Identification

Any pottery collectors or experts out there? Share your info in the comments!

Molly will be back here at Inherited Values soon; meanwhile, she can be followed at Twitter: @VintageReader.

PS The print included in the “mystery pottery” photo is a hand-tinted engraving, Le Lapin, by Allen Ye Printmaker of Oswego, NY.

All photos the property of Molly Ives Brower.

Collecting Antique & Vintage Bookmarks With Lauren Roberts

Vintage Poll Parrot Children's Shoes Bookmark

Lauren Roberts is a bookmark collector I met when we were both presenters at the first Bookmark Collectors Virtual Convention. I’ve admired her bookmark collection — and collecting habits — so much I’ve been waiting for us both to have the time to do a proper interview.

Lauren, besides being a collector and a blogger, what’s your daytime, meat & potatoes, gig?

I work as an administrator at a community college. It satisfies my urge to eat and live without worry, but my passion is with BiblioBuffet, books, cats, reading, and bookmarks.

When did you begin collecting bookmarks and why?

I fell into it purely by accident, which you can read about here, in my first On Marking Books column. About 45 minutes inland and south of Santa Barbara is a quaint town named Ojai (prounced “oh hi”). It is famous for the Ojai Resort, which is quite pricey and attracts a lot of out-of-towners, but it is even more famous as the home of Bart’s Books, which has been there since the mid-1960s.

The store has been modernized now–it even has a blog–but at the time of this discovery, around ten years ago, I’d guess, it was still owned by the old owner and there was no Internet page or even pricing. The store is actually an old home, and both its “yard” and the house are full of the kind of rickety old shelves you’d expect to find. Outdoors is where the cheaper books are even though they are still protected from the weather. You can sit on benches under trees and just read. They also have books they leave outside the gates so if you feel the need to browse at 2:00 am you can; just toss your money in a box.

I was in the former living room when I saw the old olive-colored book on books (which I adore). I sat down in the chair with the book to look it over. When I pulled the cover, it automatically fell open to the chapter titled “Baldness and Intellectuality.” Marking the beginning of that chapter was a bookmark made of hair, golden brown, male by the length of it. I was utterly charmed and remain so.

Bookmark Made Of Hair Found In Book

You can see the book and bookmark in my antique coffee table.

Bookmark Collection In Antique Coffee Table

Being a reader and book lover, the transition to bookmark collector seems rather natural. But readers are usually selective; they won’t just read anything. Is it the same with your bookmark collecting? Do your bookmarks reflect what you read in terms of subject matter? What do you focus on in terms of collecting bookmarks in terms of themes?

It’s true that I am fussy about my library. I love nonfiction and literature that is older than I am, especially classical literature. (I’m not at all interested in modern fiction.) When I began to collect bookmarks I went after vintage ones.

I would browse eBay a couple of times a day looking for pieces that just stood out to me in the same way I browse bookshelves looking for books that appeal. eBay was so great when I started; it has, unfortunately, gone downhill in its attempt to move beyond the collector into retailing. But then sellers would often be selling what they found in attics and such.

Antique Worchester Corset Advertising Metal Bookmark

Bookmarks are much more popular now than five years ago when they were one of the tiniest niche markets around. You really had very little competition. Now, it’s larger though not large by other collections. The unusual ones that I like often go for hundreds now. I can’t afford those. So my buying has tapered off, I am sorry to say. But not my interest.

My bookmarks don’t reflect my reading interests since, as I said, I like and collect vintage and antique ones. I can’t think of any subject I won’t collect a bookmark about, though religion is something I tend to avoid. I also avoid most modern ones since they aren’t particularly attractive. I am not out to build a large collection but one that is meaningful to me. Every piece in it is special.

Antique Figural Cat Bookmark

What are some of the themes?

I didn’t set out to collect in any niches, but from the beginning was attracted to vintage and antique ones. I occasionally found and find a modern one I like but really, it’s the older ones that fascinate me more because the quality of the work that went into them. Even companies that used them as advertising for washing machines or watches or hotels or whatever used die-cut designs, thick paper, elegant graphic design, and attempted to make them beautiful pieces that people would keep and use for a long time instead of today’s cheaply made, “just sell it” ones like those that authors give away. I guess you could say my interest lies in bookmarks up to about the 1950s or early 1960s, about the time I was born.

Vintage Vintage Advertising Bookmark

Some of themes I have are food, books, home, WWI, WWII, political, book festivals, clothing and accessories, places, travel, library, metal, fabric, worlds’ fairs, exhibitions, ivory, wood, pianos, sewing, music, garden, beauty, shoes, education, smoking, and many more.

Sheffield's Dentifrice Antique Advertising Bookmark
Pebeco Vintage Antique Advertising Fabric Bookmark
Vintage Dubble Bubble Bookmark
Vintage Over-Seas League Tobacco Fund Bookmark

Even though bookmarks take up less space than most other collectibles, a person (unfortunately) has to limit, pick and choose, what will become part of their collection. What collecting standards do you have?

I have to love it! That may not seem like a standard but it is. I do not buy it unless I fall in love with it — and, fortunately, I am by nature a minimalist rather than a hoarder. I don’t collect books just to have books. I have done weeding to get rid of books that I had little interest in and by the time I came to bookmarks I had no trouble passing up ones that did not interest me. Plus, now that I have probably around 1,300 of them I can bypass those when I see them, which is rare anyway.

Vintage Sonora Portable Bookmark

When I began collecting I stored them in an open box. When the bookmarks topped the box and threatened to topple over, I got a bigger box. Then another bigger box. After that, I realized I needed to store them.

I looked around online a lot, but eventually settled on these archival boxes with three rings inside for archival page inserts. The bookmarks were sorted into large categories (food), then if necessary into sub-categories (candy, cereals, meats, milk, soft drinks, alcohol, etc.). I tried to put more or less relevant categories together in one binder–like home and food–but found I had too many in those two categories to fit into one binder. At the moment I have seven binders and the coffee table. The latter is where I have all the three-dimensional ones, regardless of their theme, plus some of the more unusual two-dimensional ones.

Antique Coffee Table Display

What things have you learned from collecting bookmarks?

How much history and story can be in one of those little things! That’s the most amazing part of bookmarks to me. When I began collecting and later writing about them I really had no idea how much they could hold. You could build an entire year’s worth of education just on bookmarks. Seriously.

Melivll's Grand Hotel Fabric Bookmark

When I sit down to research a bookmark for an upcoming column I use both the library and the Internet. And I don’t look at just one site. Wikipedia is often where I start since it gives an overview–not always accurate–plus, more importantly, sources and links. I am also fortunate to be an excellent researcher, Googling various words and phrases to find numerous links. I will go far beyond the first page of results–once I even went to page 93!–to find information. Alas, there have been a few times when I have had to abandon a particular bookmark because I couldn’t get enough information to write about it.

Vintage NBC Studio Tour Microphone Die-Cut Bookmark

But several times now, I think, I have been contacted by people who saw my columns and wrote. One was a family member who corrected a bit of misinformation about the Buster Brown shoe line. Another was searching for old family records. The latest was a descendant of a family that did steel engraving; she was enthralled to find the two bookmarks I wrote about–gorgeous pieces–and said that if I ever wanted to sell them she definitely wanted to buy them. But they are not for sale.

Antique Steel Engraving Bookmark

I think sometimes about offering talks at schools or groups about bookmarks. And I am only sort of sorry that museums and important libraries do not yet recognize their importance; their willful ignorance helps me stay in the market.

(I hope this interview and your blogging doesn’t ruin that, Lauren!)

Collecting Movie Star Memorabila With The Drewseum

Ashley Lampton & Anne Olivares: Curators Of The Drewseum

Normally Inherited Values is all about antiques and vintage collectibles, but when I met Anne Olivares & Ashley Lampton, dedicated collectors of all things Drew Barrymore and curators of the The Drewseum, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at relatively modern collecting in comparison to vintage movie star memorabilia.

Hello, ladies, when did you begin collecting all things Drew?

Coincidentally, we each first became fans of Drew around the same time, in 1998. By early 1999, we’d both started collecting magazines featuring her, and our collections quickly branched out to cover all facets of memorabilia.

Did you know each other when you began collecting, or meet because of your collecting?

We met online in 1999 through Drew fansites and quickly formed a friendship. We only lived a few hours from each other at that time, so we met up many times. Later we ended up living even closer to each other, so we were able to hang out frequently and do many Drew-related things together. We started working on our website to showcase what we consider our combined collection in 2005.

Drew Barrymore Boulevard Magazine Cover

How many items are in your Drew Barrymore collection? Across what categories?

It would be near impossible to count the number of items in our combined collections, but we estimate it somewhere in the thousands. Not everything is displayed on The Drewseum quite yet as it’s a constant work in progress.

Drew Barrymore Family Weekly Cover 1984

On the site, we have our collection broken out into 10 main categories, including photos, movie memorabilia, books, magazines, apparel and more. There’s a large section for miscellaneous items as well since over the years we’ve acquired items that don’t fit into a specific category.

Drew Barrymore's Dress In Never Been Kissed

Drew Barrymore is part of a family with a great acting and film history; do you collect memorabilia from anyone else in her family?

We do have a small collection of items relating to the Barrymore family. We don’t actively seek them out, but if we come across something special, we jump on it. We’ve also bought vintage Barrymore pieces as gifts for Drew in the past knowing she’d have a deeper appreciation for them.

Gifts for Drew?! Have you actually sent things to her — has she or her staff ever acknowledged them?

For several years for her birthday, we’ve had a tradition of putting together picture frames with prints of Drew’s family as gifts for her – some reprints, some originals. Usually, we’ve either dropped them off with her staff or mailed them in to her production company. This year we got the chance to hand-deliver it to her personally, which was really exciting for us and she was unbelievably appreciative of the gifts. The whole story can be found on our site.

Anne Olivares, Drew Barrymore, Ashley Lampton

That’s amazing! And truly something that collectors of say, silent film stars can’t even dream of — without a time machine. *wink*

What are your collecting standards?

We consider ourselves somewhat frugal in our collecting. Unless something is truly exceptional, we generally hold off spending too much money and are often rewarded by later coming across it at a more affordable price.

Press Photo Of Drew Barrymore

When we first started collecting, we didn’t take great care of our items and often bought things like bad copies of photos without realizing it. We keep these damaged or poor quality pieces in our collection, but these days shop with a much more discerning eye.

I’m glad you mentioned conditions; what painful lessons have you learned from collecting?

Don’t use sticky photo albums or glue anything down in a way that is permanent.

Don’t try to use undersized page protectors for oversized pages.

Sadly our items have incurred a lot of damage in years past due to these poor practices.

How do you store your Drew Barrymore collectibles and movie memorabilia? What’s one tool, organizer, etc. that you cannot imagine being without as a collector?

We both have slightly different storage ideas, but we’ve also learned a lot from each other over the years. (Anne keeps a lot of her magazines with cover features intact while Ashley usually keeps only the relevant Drew pages.) We store any non-flat movie memorabilia in storage bins, a lot of which can’t be displayed due to lack of space.

The most vital tools for us are binders with appropriately sized page protectors as magazine articles, clippings, photographs, movie ads, etc probably occupy at least 75% of our collections.

Chicago Tribune Authentic Photograph

I can’t bear the idea of cutting up magazines and newspapers, vintage or not — however, I do love finding the clippings and scrapbooks others have made and saved. What are your thoughts on clippings?

We’ve become quite used to cutting apart paper items over the years. In fact, our collection of clippings is so vast that we don’t really know if we’ll ever catch up on properly organizing and displaying the items in binders. We came across a collector who kept magazines together even if they just had 1 small clipping of Drew inside and that’s something we could never see ourselves doing. The space taken up by 1 entire magazine versus 1 clipping page or partial page is too big in the long run. Our main reasoning for making clippings is for easy access and display, at least once they’re in binders.

Those of us who collect vintage movie memorabilia know how hard it is to find certain items; paper and other little things were tossed out over the years. How does that affect how you shape your collections, what items you focus on?

We are definitely more attracted to items that relate to Drew’s early career and teenage years as we know they’re constantly becoming more difficult to come across.

Cindy Williams Carries a Young Drew Barrymore in "Suddenly Love"

We cringe at the thought of our most sought-after items having been printed in mass production at one point and now feel impossible to find.

Venice Magazine Drew Barrymore Cover

On the other hand, we often don’t feel as excited about the newly released pieces until years later for the same reasons. For example, we’re attracted to items such as newspapers that are only on stands for a day, later making them so difficult to find. As with any collection, the rarer the item, the more desirable it becomes.

Note To Radie From A Young Drew

What items do you think collectors of contemporary film stars or celebrities make the mistake of overlooking?

It’s possible that collectors of contemporary stars make a lot of the mistakes we made at first, including attaching collected magazine pages to the walls of our bedrooms as teenagers.

One of the most amazing things we’ve found over the years is that foreign magazines often print outtakes from common photo shoots, usually years after they were taken in the states, so collectors should always be on the lookout for those.

Mad Love Japanese Promo

How has running the Drewseum affected your collection, your collecting habits?

Since we started The Drewseum, we’ve had a quite a few of our fellow fans decide to stop collecting and either donate or sell their collections to us. We’ve had many people tell us that after seeing our site, they felt their Drew items really belonged with us. It’s sort of a strange phenomenon that we constantly joke about, as the pool of major collectors has dwindled quite a bit.

Also because we’re eager to display our items on the site for our visitors to see, we are more encouraged to stay on top of the collecting game and seek out the best items. It’s also interesting to see the difference in credibility we have with the contacts we make because they can go to the site and see how serious our collecting is.

Korean Ad For 50 First Dates

Being that your collaborate on the Drewseum, yet you are still individual collectors, have you ever found yourselves competing for items? If so, do you have any rules — or is it still just a matter of whoever has the deepest pockets wins?

Although there have been situations where one of us may have the money for something that the other doesn’t, we’ve never had a hard time being fair when it comes to splitting up or deciding who will take the offer on amazing deals. People might be surprised as to how easy it is for us to decide who gets what, but it’s based on how well we know each other’s interests. Also, it helps that we always remind each other that the collections are shared and that when one of us has it, both of us do. The concept still makes sense for us despite the fact that 90% of our collections are clones of each other.

Film Screening Card For Scream

What I enjoy most about individual collections is, well, the individuality! In this case, your collecting is relatively contemporary, preserving what will be the history of an icon for future generations — but from the fan point of view, not some “corporate preservation.” What are some of the most prized items in your collection? What makes them so key to the collection as a whole?

Some of the most prized items in our collection are costumes and props from Drew’s films. We have some rare magazine items that we’ve only come across a handful of times on eBay and from other collectors over the years. We have a massive collection of original photos that are very near & dear to our hearts, many of which are extremely rare.

Tony Costa Polaroid of Drew Barrymore

We also treasure our stationary & Christmas cards from Drew’s production company Flower Films.

Flower Films Christmas Card

There is a scarce catalog from Drew’s 1993 campaign with Guess that we both tried to obtain for years and luckily we now each own a copy; we’ve seen it sell for upwards of $800 as it’s somewhat of a “holy grail” for Drew collectors.

1993 Drew Barrymore Guess Ad

What remains the most elusive item that you’ve yet to acquire for the Drewseum?

We’ve been lucky enough to acquire most of the items we’ve sought after, even if it’s taken years of a searching. We are always on the look out for rare photos or items she’s personally used, like movie costumes. There are still a few elusive magazines and ads from her modeling campaigns we’re hoping to track down. Although we already own a handful of autographed items and they aren’t really a priority to us, it would be really special to have something signed that was made out to “The Drewseum”.

I’ve no doubt that day will come!

I’d like to thank both Anne and Ashley for sharing their collection of Drew Barrymore items and movie memorabilia — and I wish them many more fun years of collecting!

Collecting Cookbooks, Magazines & Ephemera While Losing Weight: An Interview With Retro Mimi

When I stumbled upon Mimi and her Retro Weight Watchers Experiment, I couldn’t take my eyes away…

I wanted to; but I couldn’t. *wink*

You know what they say, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” so I decided to join Mimi — in an interview.

When did you begin collecting Weight Watchers publications?

A couple years ago. It’s hard to say–it just sort of “happened.”

Did you set out to purposefully collect Weight Watchers items — or did you sort of realize that you were doing so over time?

It all started with one cookbook: a fellow WW member gave me a copy of The 1972 Weight Watchers Program Cookbook. I became so intrigued with it that I had to know everything about this crazy & wonderful program. Incidentally, my mom lost a great deal of weight on the 1972 WW program after I was born–so this added to my fascination with it. After I got my hands on that first retro cookbook… pretty soon, I started looking for more information, recipes, books, magazines, etc.

It became a hobby (read: obsession), and people started giving me their old WW stuff. The WW magazines are my favorite. They are hard to find, but they really contain some of the best “gems” and really represent the evolution of the WW program over the years.

What’s your criteria for collecting Weight Watchers publications? Are issues limited to a specific time period, condition rules, etc.

I am really only interested in the magazines from 1970-1976. These were the really wild and wacky years. Or as I like to call them: The Knox Gelatin years… The liver-once-a-week years…. The Fluffy Mackerel Pudding years. So the recipes are really horrifying and funny. But there is also something endearing to me about the program during these years. WW was so genuine and sincere about helping its members. It was like a family. Or a secret society or something. Really kitschy and cool.

How many do you think you have?

Maybe 50? But growing every day…

How do you organize them?

Since I reference and use them regularly–they are kept in a jelly cupboard in my kitchen alongside all of my other favorite cookbooks–both retro and otherwise.

How do people react to your collection?

Most people think my retro WW magazines are pretty odd. Most of the recipes are gag-inducing. Some of the recipes literally make you say “what were they thinking??” My husband tries not to look at them anymore. He had a bad experience with an aspic, and that scarred him for life.

You’ve been putting your collection to use; tell us about your blog and the Skinny Jeans Project.

My blog is both a tribute and an adventure. As a Weight Watchers lifetime member who has lost over 40 pounds on the modern day WW program, I wanted to pay tribute to the history of WW and all of the brave women (including my mom) who followed this program in the early days. I also pay tribute to Jean Nidetch–the founder of WW and author of all of the publications I reference on my blog.

But most of all–my blog is a crazy adventure that I decided to embark upon as I turned 40. I figured it was time to do something BIG. I wanted to get back into my “skinny jeans”, so I thought I would incorporate the rules and recipes from the 1970’s WW program into my current weight loss plan and write about it. I re-create some scary retro WW recipes and yes–I even eat them. At times it is horrifying. At times it is delicious. You never know what dietetic disaster will end up on the platter… Maybe a giant Mackerel and Cantaloupe Salad? Maybe a Crown Roast of Frankfurters? Maybe a Chicken Buttermilk Loaf? Stop by and check it out! I dare you…

Because you use the books and magazines as intended, do you consider them collectibles?

I guess so. To me they are both collector’s items and cherished resources. Not all of my Retro WW magazines and cookbooks are in mint condition, but I love them all just the same!

Do you think you will begin collecting other cookbooks, health & diet publications, etc. from that period — or will you remain a Weight Watchers purist?

I admit that I am drawn to any cookbooks or magazines with a good selection of gelatin mold recipes. Better Homes and Gardens Circa 1955-1970 are my current fave. I also cherish my Knox On Camera cookbook from 1962. It’s a bit creepy, but I have a slight obsession with Knox Gelatin and anything that can be gelatinized. There’s something wonderful to me about “gel cookery” and the women who took that much time and effort to prepare something so disgustingly weird.

I also love any cookbooks or magazines focusing on the topic of retro dieting. I recently picked up a cookbook from 1961 called “Glorious Eating for Weight Watchers” for .50 at a flea market. It was published by Wesson Oil, had nothing to do with Weight Watchers and mostly contained pictures of fried food. I found this to be quite strange. I had to have it.

Anything you’d like to add or mention about your collection that I didn’t mention?

Aside from the recipes, which is what I love most about my Retro WW Magazines–each issue features a fashion section, a “success stories” section, and many valuable articles about health and fitness. But the best part of WW Magazine HANDS DOWN is “Ask Jean…” where readers get to write in with their questions, comments and complaints and have them answered by Jean Nidetch–the founder of WW. These letters and responses are never dull, because, well…let’s just say: Jean has chutzpah and tons of charm. To say the least.

So do you, Mimi; so do you.

I’d like to thank Mimi for sharing more information about her collection — even more than she shares at her blog. For quick retro WW bites, follow Mimi on Twitter @RetroMimi — “Sometimes its easier to swallow in small doses!”