Scanning Around With Gene: Things That Are Within Five Feet of My Desk

Every so often I feel the need to show images that don’t fit any particular theme but that I can’t resist hanging on to for a variety of reasons. But even these images, which are too numerous to run in any one installment, need some sort of hook to tie them together and limit what I include.

So today I thought I’d look at images that might be considered geographic in nature — they all reside within five feet of my desk. This includes many random images that I’ve saved, but not the bulk of images in my library, which is further away than five feet. And five feet includes a number of images that are hung on my office wall or included in my rather large jewelry box, also nearby. So all together these images constitute a theme, even if it is defined rather loosely.

First up are three fluorescent-colored letter-sized placards and a placemat I bought at a garage sale in Montana while visiting my nephew a few years ago. The owner of the house where the garage sale took place was the proprietor of a small diner in the local town and these were from days gone by at that establishment. Click on any image for a larger version.

Next up are two favorites: the first from an old carnival poster I have hanging on my wall; the second from the cover of a small booklet on how to set up a home workshop, circa 1942 from Popular Mechanics Press.

And since I’m a sucker for matchbooks, here are three favorites that reside in my jewelry box. The first I picked up as a teenager at the Seattle Space Needle, another I picked up at a garage sale, a third that belonged to my father, an avid golfer, and the fourth from the days when Western airlines was “the only way to fly.”

And speaking of smoking, here’s a rather odd image of a giant cigarette about to drop its ashes on an unsuspecting stadium full of people (it appeared in an ad for Chesterfield cigarettes from the late 1940s).

I have a variety of art on my walls, which look a little like a crazy person’s idea of décor —there are a lot of images plastered around my workspace. First up is a favorite, a rare 1941 ad for the movie “Citizen Kane” from Life magazine, followed by a poster for the Tiki Room at Disneyland, and a copy of one of the famous “dogs playing poker” prints by C.M. Coolidge.

In my jewelry box I have a telegram from 1960 to my father on a promotion at work, a souvenir ticket from the Fox Theatre in San Jose circa 1950, and small clipping of a scared woman from an unknown horror film.

I found two photographs, dates unknown, in a small box of miscellaneous material under my desk. The first is of the then world’s-largest edition of the Bible, and the second, a colorized print of a woman in a hula skirt, which I’ve always loved (and bought at a garage sale).

And finally one of my favorite type-oriented pieces from the paper makers Crane and Company, a photo of an enthusiastic printer complete with newspaper printer’s hat, and the cover shot from a plastics catalog, date unknown.

So that concludes the tour of a five-foot swath around my desk, and gives me the excuse to run another 22 of my favorite images with no regard to theme. Happy Friday the 13th. — I hope it is lucky for you.

Posted on: April 13, 2012

Gene Gable

Gene Gable has spent a lifetime in publishing, editing and the graphic arts and is currently a technology consultant and writer. He has spoken at events around the world and has written extensively on graphic design, intellectual-property rights, and publishing production in books and for magazines such as Print, U&lc, ID, Macworld, Graphic Exchange, AGI, and The Seybold Report. Gene's interest in graphic design history and letterpress printing resulted in his popular columns "Heavy Metal Madness" and "Scanning Around with Gene" here on

6 Comments on Scanning Around With Gene: Things That Are Within Five Feet of My Desk

  1. Excellent collection! Dig the printer and his printer’s hat!

  2. Thanks for the look into the dark corners of your brain. A fine tour!
    (Although I have always hated those ‘dogs playing poker’

  3. That was a great tour, Gene. I love all the images.

    Terri Stone

  4. I sure do remember the styles if not the actual images. Fun looking back to when I started as a graphic designer (then known as a commercial artist) after art school in 1957. RIT had many images such as these (many originals) and comic strips, too. A different world then. Thanks for this. I lived in NY then–love the space needle pic I live very near now. Dona of Mac on the Hill, Seattle

  5. Howdy, I dig your posts. My Uncle was an art director at Ketchum here in the city from the 60’s to the 80’s and your posts bring back alot of what I would see on his draughting table.

  6. I think he almost looks like Pee Wee Herman

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