Guns and Roses: Collecting World War II Pillow Tops

What's pink, patriotic, and as into posies as it is punt-guns? No, it's not Paris Hilton's latest image makeover. Or Mattel's new "Bivouac Barbie"....

It's a Sweetheart Pillow from World War II.

These satiny, sentimental souvenirs from our US military ports stand today as quirky and meaningful reminders of our nation's past and the lives of the people who served. "To Mother," "To My Wife," "To Sister" or sometimes just featuring area tourist attractions, the pillows were sent back as sweet and consoling tokens of caring during tough times. Many feature images of heavy military machinery, flags and eagles paired-- rather unexpectedly to modern eyes!-- with delicate roses and gentle poetic verse directed at the recipient.

The pillow covers often support a particular branch of the military. And many feature a specific location, or even have customized messaging. All the ones I've seen to-date have been trimmed in fringe. This one came from the St. Vincent de Paul in Apollo, PA.

Did you know that the colors of the American flag are pink, white and blue? Apparently so! That poor eagle. The other eagles must laugh so.

It reads:

America's Defense
To My Sister:
Nice to chat with
Good to know
Glad to have her
where I go:
Kind in trouble.
Bright in joy.
Suits exactly-
Can't say why:
Sweet and wholesome,
Always true:
That's my sister.
Yes, that's you!

I became enchanted with these decorative bits of history when I spied them in a display the now-deceased Riverfront Antique Mall in Beaver Falls, PA. (Readers who are from my region might hear "Taps" playing lightly in the background over the loss of this enjoyable and once-massive antiquing mecca... I sure can. Sniff... sob...!) At the time, though, at upwards of $20 apiece, I was not inclined to invest.

Yet one day some tell-tale fringe peeking out of the textiles rack in the Goodwill sent my Super-Thrifter Sense tingling. And there were THREE pillow covers from the very same period, but at a much more manageable $2 a piece.

I grabbed them up quickly, and since have tried to fine-tune the ol' brain to seek out these delightful examples of World War II memorabilia when I scan the aisles.

As with any sort of collectible, condition has an important effect on value. Many of these covers look like they've never been unfolded or used, and those are typically worth more.

And some, like this one I recently acquired at the Fleatique in Ligonier, have seen better days-- a little fading... Some fringe issues... But for $1, and with such great sentiment, I thought the price was fine.

The poem here reads:

To My Wife
A darling little wife--
Has made my dreams come true
She blesses all my life,
Her name is only "You"
You are my partner sweet,
You share in all I do,
And make my joy complete
By simply being You!

Now THIS particular pillow cover below lives year-round in my Shabby Chic-styled/cottage guest room.

This US Army pillow sham from Hollywood California is one of my absolute favorites-- It was only a buck or two at the Boulevard Bring N Sell (which also has closed) and this particular poem reads:

Of all the girls
I ever knew
There never was
one like you
You're the nearest,
You're the dearest
Pal I ever knew.

Ah, it's an idealized society where a brother tells his sister she's his "nearest and dearest pal." Now THAT'S homesickness talking. Or possibly shellshock. I love those big beautiful girly pink roses and fringe contrasting with the army tanks and battle scenes. That just makes me smile.

Here are two examples that act basically as tourism postcards. These may be later in date than World War II, I'm not sure. But I thought they were interesting variations on the style. Here we have the Hawaiian Islands, complete with volcanos and hula girl...

And here we have Kentucky. Yes, indeed, the entire state encapsulated in a fringed pillow...

And this one is my only one printed on velvet instead of satin. Again, I'm not sure of the age here-- this might be a slightly later example. This came from the Goodwill in Monroeville, PA.

It reads:

Mother and Dad
To both of you, dear Mother and Dad
This brings a double measure
Of sincere wishes for a life that's filled
With all that gives you pleasure
It also brings the loving thought
That the joys you've always given
Have made the world for those you love
A better place to live in.

Looking for more information on World War II pillow covers? Well, I understand the Wright Museum in Wolfeboro, NH, collects world war II textiles such as these, so you can check that out here:

And I also think you might enjoy this site: It discusses the author's sweetheart pillow cover collection, and gives a nice pictorial overview on the types of pillow shams out there from this time period.

Oh-- and before you go, since you may have missed it, I thought you might enjoy seeing my New Year's post from last year, talking about New Year' postcards from around 1910. This is is on my .Mac site here (apologies that I haven't yet converted it over to Blogger. I'm still chipping away at it)-- click here.

Wishing you all the very best for 2008! And I hope to see you again soon in the new year.

Thrifty Gifty Goodness

Grandma's rock hard fruitcake... holiday sweatshirts weighed down with twenty-pounds of frolicking snowpersons in puff paint, ribbons and lace... ponies that bite...

The Christmas season brings with it the gift of family and friends-- and just a few less desirable elements, as well.

I mean, how many of you ever received something from a friend or relative that you just KNOW was sitting around their house for 20 years?

Since it really IS the thought that counts, then that thought probably shouldn't be, "Hey, this string-and-nail art at the back of the closet isn't doing me any good. If I dust it off, who can I pawn it off on?"...

Just sayin'.

So when I suggest it's possible to find great Christmas gifts for the people on your list at thrift stores, I'm not suggesting you grab the first big-eyed-child painting you see.

Unless you know a person who collects paintings of big-eyed children...

In which case, do they have pics? Because I'd really get a kick out of seeing their stuff.

No, the success of thrifting Christmas gifts, like any gifting, involve giving your recipients-- not what you WANT them to like-- but what they actually DO like or can use.

It's stating the obvious, I know, and I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. But it still needs to be said...

It's the only thing that explains why one of my twenty-something friends received a desk blotter with a calendar dated from the PREVIOUS YEAR, and a copy of Tom Brokaw's biography.

Of course, the great thing about thrift stores is there's a variety of interesting and unique items-- from antique treasures to brand-spanking new-in-the-box stuff-- that make gifting simple, and really cost-effective.

And especially if you can keep a year-round eye out for things the folks on your gift list might enjoy to set aside-- well, you've made Christmas shopping even easier on yourself.

One kind lady, who's like a second mother to me, collects Imperial harvest grape milk glass. Recently at an antique mall she narrowly missed out on getting a milk glass punch bowl set with cups. So I think she'll be fairly tickled with this Imperial grape lidded candy dish, discovered at the Salvation Army. (And PS-- milkglass fans who haven't thrifted, you really might want to consider starting; there are a ton of really great pieces around, and SOMEONE needs to scoop them up and enjoy them.)

The lady I know who appreciates the milk glass also loves porcelain dolls. So a couple of visits to the Army and St. Vincent de Paul revealed these two little ladies, all decked out in their Christmas finery.

I also have a friend into vintage Western prints. She's always picking them up when the price is right at antiques stores. So when I spied this print at the thrift, it seemed like the perfect fit. I think it's from the 20s or 30s, and in its original frame.

And here-- what looks like some vintage framed art is actually a small dresser box.

I understand that around the Depression era, these boxes typically came filled with candy or other goodies, and when the goodies were gone, the box was still a part of the gift. I'm using the box in the same way here, to hold part of another friend's gift.

And this large Transformer, from this year's blockbuster film?..

At Toys R Us, I think this was running around $30. But at the Goodwill, it was just $5! This was a donation of new merchandise which appears to have come from Target. There's not a thing wrong with it, and I can guarantee it's going to go over better than a calendar blotter from a past year.

So how about you folks? Have you uncovered a great gift at a thrift store or garage sale you're excited to share this year? Or have you received the sort of gift that makes last year's blotter look like thoughtful insight?

Here's wishing you all a wonderful holiday and a happy new year, filled with the joy, camaraderie and spirit of the season which you'll always cherish.

Christmas Magic, Mania and Medicine Cabinet Mirrors

I've been a busy bee lately...

Or, for those allergic to them, I have been the highly-productive animal analogy of your choice.

I still have a ton to do, of course-- go grocery shopping, finish the laundry, dust the master bedroom, do some last-minute wrapping, mail my Christmas cards, tidy the kitchen, feed the llama.... whathaveyou. But I am completely in control. I am NOT freaking out.

NOT freaking out. NOT.

Okay, well, maybe a little.

BUT-- I say, as I turn my Optimism Setting back to "On"-- the guest room is prepped and momentarily pretty, so I thought you all might enjoy seeing some photos fresh off the Powershot.

It's been a fairy-merry season this year, as you can see...

My James Christensen fairy figures which inhabit the spare room are a bit confused as it turned from Spring to Winter overnight. (Well, that's Pittsburgh weather for you.) One moment there's flowers entwined everywhere, and the next minute you're up to your bum in icicles and tinsel.

I imagine the next time I go in there, they'll be wearing earmuffs and shawls. :)

The little shabby-chic-looking dresser drawer you see here was a Goodwill find. Normally throughout the year, I have it spilling over with silk wildflowers. But for the winter holidays, a few ornaments do the trick.

And here on the other side of the room, a bit of cheer was spread involving some vintage-look ornaments, a carnival glass bowl, and an old mirror that I think originally was part of a medicine cabinet. Can you believe the bowl, the dresser tray it's sitting on, and the medicine cabinet mirror were thrift store goodies? So was the glass Santa-shaped jar filled with strings of costume jewelry pearls you see on the far left.

And lastly, let's descend for a moment from the guest room to the diningroom. Below is one of the side tables there. It's truly remarkable how a few simple ornaments in a bowl and a bit of ribbon tossed lazily on fake greenery can suddenly make a place look decorated and festive.

So, tell me-- are YOU all freaking out about getting everything done for the holidays? Have any coping techniques you'd like to recommend?-- like starting a therapeutic yoga routine, hitting the cooking sherry, or just bagging it and going to Club Med?

Tea and sympathy provided. Otherwise, I'll see you next week!

Thrifty Christmas for All and Through Bloggers Unite

In conjunction with BlogCatalog’s December 17th “Bloggers Unite: Act of Kindness” day, I'd thought of a somewhat unusual-- and, I think, appropriate-- way to do my part.

While I donate to thrift stores every year in both a monetary “Putting Cash in the Kettle” way, and in a traditional “Giving Bags o’Stuff Away” way, this year I had an opportunity to do something which might just help spread a little kindness to a thrift store charity organization all year long.

I’ve developed a Squidoo page on “Decorating with Thrift Store Finds” where royalties will go to the Salvation Army for any Amazon book purchases made through my recommended book list on that page.

As my regular readers know, The Thrift Shop Romantic doesn’t have things like online ads, paid product endorsements and affiliates. This has less to do with how I feel about advertising as a medium (I’m a marketing writer for my Real Job, after all), and a lot more about my not wanting folks to feel like they’re being sold to when they come here. I figure that since this is my hobby, I can’t expect other people to fund it.

I also intend the site to remain that way. I just think it’s fair and it works.

The Squidoo page, however, seemed to be a nice opportunity to spread the word about finding and enjoying thrift store treasures, while doing the thrift store a potential monetary good turn, as well. I plan to update the page regularly throughout the year with new tips, other resources as I find them, and unique ideas separate from my blog site here. Fresh content for everyone!

So, for anyone who’d like to check out the Squidoo page, click here.

For anyone who’d like to check out what other bloggers are up to for their own "Acts of Kindness," just click here.

And if you'd like to read my second post of today on thrifty Christmas decorating and Indoor Pine Tree Migratory Patterns, click here.

Me, I plan to continue to celebrate the day of kindness by... er... letting drivers making the Pittsburgh Left cut me off without complaint!

And... um... not singing with my headphones on at work!

And, uh... scratching the neighbor cat under the chin as long as she likes (which, if she has her way, can go on FOREVER).

Oh, the joy, the mercy, the kindness! :) Sending well wishes for a holiday season and a new year that is kindly to you all, too.

The Migratory Patterns of Indoor Pine Trees and Other Holiday Hub-bub

We know birds fly south for the winter. And some butterflies, too.

But there is an important migratory trend that scholars have not yet touched upon: the indoor self-relocation patterns of the standard Christmas pine tree. Today, I would like to examine--

Er... what's that?...

You think I've cracked under the strain of holiday preparations?

Well... okay, possibly.

But that also doesn't mean I'm wrong.

See, every year, my tree comes home from the farm...

My housemate helps me to somehow get this tree into the tree stand (crying and uttering oaths being tradition during this process, as we are but Wee Gals and the tree, it is Mighty)...

But eventually, all is secured and the pine looks lovely. And straight. And it's the guest of honor.

Yet gradually, over a period of a day... two days... three days... more... just enough to make me question whether I'm seeing things or not...

...I find this Fine Pine is now leaning far, far left from where it began, peering out the bay window into the neighbor's backyard like some needle-clad Peeping Tom. Or a feeble remake of "Day of the Triffids."

So it gets a talking-to. It gets rearranged and tightened back into its stand and...

In another day, it's doing its impression of the Leaning Tower of Pisa again.

It does this for about two weeks, until it finally resigns itself to its locale. Like a restless kid who eventually falls asleep in the car seat.

But every night, I find myself wondering whether I'm going to be awakened to a crash, as the tree, drunk on tapwater and curious to see what the neighbor's just taken out of the fridge for a midnight snack, hyperextends the bounds of blue spruce/tree stand interrelations. And over it goes.

Christmas at my house is about a certain amount of tree-induced paranoia.

But Christmas is also about manic decorating. So today, in addition to my tale of pine tree migratory habits, I wanted to share with you some of my latest pics.

I got these excellent ShinyBrite vintage Christmas ornaments at the Salvation Army for just $1.99!

I've put a few on my entryway tree, which is covered in fake candies, cookies and the kinds of ornaments I remember from my childhood...

I think of this little vignette under the Sweetie Tree as my Island of Misfit Toys. (All of these little flocked velvet folks thrifted for $0.99!)

Here are a couple of my chandeliers done up for the holidays... This one is in my livingroom, the second one in my diningroom.

And that about wraps it up for this week. If you haven't seen my second post of today, regarding a thrifty approach to the "BloggersUnite: Act of Kindness" you can see that by clicking here.

And otherwise, I hope to see you next week, when we'll talk about gifting by thrifting. I never thought I'd feel happy that half the people whom I gift don't read my blog. But this means I can safely share these nifty, thrifty gift finds with you all, and still keep the surprise intact!

Now I'm off to see if my Christmas tree has once again packed its bags for a more scenic locale in the livingroom. Wish me luck.

Welcome to!

So you clicked the blog article link on the ThriftShopRomantic .Mac site-- just like you usually do and it took you... er, here.

To Blogger.

Um.... you're probably wondering why.

Well-- for one, this platform gives visitors a better ability to share comments and build a sense of community...

It has the nifty power to be sent out as an RSS feed...

And-- unlike what was been happening on my .Mac site -- (and here's the kicker)-- it UPLOADS consistently. So people can, oh, actually READ the posts. And so I don't have to spend TEN HOURS trying to get one post to go live. Like I did this last Sunday.

We are currently at Blogger because of my blood pressure. :-)

So while I continue to evaluate options on the least confusing way to continue to present the ThriftShopRomantic site content to you good folks, I'll be adding new blog posts here.

You'll still find links back to all of the past decorating projects, thrift store treasure-hunting, craft ideas, blog article archives and other goodies on the right hand side of this page-- plus newly-archived posts soon-to-come.

I apologize for any confusion or inconvenience you might have experienced. Now-- let's all enjoy this newfangled speedy load time! Woo-hoo!

I return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

A Pine Old Time Decking the Halls

It’s tradition: the first full weekend in December, one of my best friends and her family and I all troop out into the fields of Western Pennsylvania in quest for the perfect Christmas tree.

This year was no exception.

Me, I have a particular penchant for a blue spruce. And with such choice at the tree farm, it wasn’t long before an excellent specimen was found-- tall, not so wide I won’t be able to walk through my livingroom, and mmmm.... pine scented! (That’s me below posing with the tree and looking a bit snow-blind.)

It was a sloppy, slushy day, so I was really glad I wore my Wellies!..

Here’s my friend’s little brother kindly doing the honors with the saw...

I’d tried my hand at this myself a year or two, but Josh is a whiz with the saw! In just a moment, the tree was cut and headed to the car.

Of course, no journey to this area is complete without a little bit of thrifting and antiquing. So along the way we hit the St. Vincent de Paul in Monroeville....

A brand new antique mall near Murrysville...

A Salvation Army and a second St. Vincents in Apollo, PA, along with the “We Miss Back When” Antique Mall...

And here’s what I found:

Would you believe the World War II souvenir pillow cover and the Victorian print from 1904 were both THRIFT STORE FINDS?

In both cases the prices were far lower than antique stores and plus, this way my money went to charity.

You also see above a couple of cute vintage hankies, two vintage cookbooks, an eccentric 50s pink glass lamp, and one plate in a set of crystal Depression glass-- Anchor Hocking’s “Waterford” or “Waffle” pattern. (I’ll be showing you more of this in a week or so when I set my Christmas table!) Nothing like helping to complete a set!
So, how did the trimmed tree turn out?

Here are just a few pics of what I’ve gotten done so far. Like the living room...

The dining room...

And the entryway...

The cardboard cathedral isn’t old and I bought it new, but the Christmas ornaments were from the thrift store.

Well, that about wraps it up for today. Next week I’ll share with you a little thrift charity project I’ve been working on, as a part of BlogCatalog’s Blogger’s Unite “Act of Kindness. See you then!

The Thrift Shop Romantic's Thanksgiving Vacation

Travel is all about learning. Sometimes it involves becoming immersed in a foreign language or culture...

And sometimes it involves critical life lessons. Like new insights into how, when the breeze is particularly strong, dining outside in a tropical setting can make one unexpectedly vulnerable to...

Well, let's just say it:

Pelican poo.

Pelican poo AND scampi butter blown onto the front of one's shirt.

Travel is about leaving a restaurant trying to be casual with your purse strategically cradled over your torso.

So learning. Travel is about learning.

And I learned a great deal about a great many things on my trip to Florida over Thanksgiving-- only a fraction of it, thankfully, related to wind currents and the digestive habits of local waterfowl.

I learned that when prepping for a trip, you can get some great paperbacks at the thrift store to take along with you. I bought these at my local Goodwill and together they still didn't cost what one of them would have cost new.

Perfect to keep a person occupied in between disrobing for airport security!

I learned a lot about the kinds of vintage items available in the Sunshine State, too. I can see now, for instance, why the Florida members of forum are so crazy about mid-century modern decor-- in Florida, this architecture is all around them.

Here in Pittsburgh, we have old homes. You pretty much can’t swing a Terrible Towel without hitting a house that’s seen the tail end of the Victorian era.

But in Florida, aside from ol’ Ponce deLeon’s early tourism, many of Florida’s communities weren’t built until the 50s. And streamlined design abounds.

This meant that while I was unlikely to uncover much from Queen Vickie’s time, I did find some fun vintage things.

Like this hankie bag. I admit, I’d never seen one of these before, and if it hadn’t been cleverly printed with its function, I wouldn’t have recognized it for what it was.

I got this at the “Antique Mall Y’All” (I never tire of saying that name. Okay, say it with me, folks... “Antique Mall Y’All”... Hahahaha....)


I also scored big in finding some entertaining retro cookbooks.

I hope to share the culinary... er, creativity... of these with you in a future blog post, but at just a buck or two, suffice it to say the humor value makes them well worth their price.

And you know me: if it makes me laugh, it’s likely to come home with me...

I’ll be in real trouble if a stand-up comedian convention ever comes to town. :-)

Anyway, I learned during my travels a few other neat tidbits. Like my aqua vase pictured here also came in pink.

(I didn’t buy the pink ones-- at $30, this cheap chick simply would not lay down the dough!)

I learned that I’m not QUITE so far gone in my glassware addiction that a good deal on jadeite leads me to try to transport an entire dish set in my carry-on bag...

(It was close for a moment or two, but once I overcame the fever and my hands stopped trembling, I rallied.)

I DID, however, snap up this little creamer which matches my thrifted carnival glass set. I’ve never seen a matching creamer in my area, so this was manageable to wrap-up and stow in my luggage.

And lastly I learned-- well, no, it can’t hardly be called LEARNING...

Rather, I was REMINDED that my dad likes to buy things particularly if he has no idea what they are. He showed me this item which he thrifted recently...

Do YOU folks have any idea what this thing is used for? It’s not a paper towel holder... It’s too big to hold rubber stamps... Ideas?? Guesses?? Help?

So that about wraps it up for my Thanksgiving adventures. I need to head off to do some cleaning and Christmas decorating. I apologize this post is a little short this week-- but I must set sail.

See you next week, when we talk Christmas decor! Take care.