The Camp Fire Girls at Top ‘o the World

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Another pastime that will remind me of our long Covid year will be discovering and tearing my way through a large swath of Camp Fire Girls novels. While my past reading obsessions included all the adult fiction of Francis Hodgson Burnett (discussed in one of several posts here), the short works and then novels of Edna Ferber (found here), and Judy Bolton Girl Detective (first of two posts here) saw me through the sleepless nights during the early months of the pandemic, it will be The Camp Fire Girls that will bring back memories of recent months.

Illustration from The Camp Fire Girls at Driftwood Heights – none of the illustrations in this series is worthy of note!

I will never think of sitting in the ER at Lenox Hill Hospital waiting for a hand surgeon to work on my broken fingers on Memorial Day without also thinking about The Camp Fire Girls at Driftwood Heights, which I read on my phone throughout that long afternoon.

Reading about these plucky young heroines who are endlessly resourceful while constantly poking at the confines of what a respectable young woman could be at the dawn of the 20th century has provided the right stuff for managing through our own trying times.

I have been tackling this reading project in as organized a way as the acquisition of these aged books allows – most are at or just beyond the centennial of their having been penned, after all. I have been fortunate to find the lion’s share available for free on Project Gutenberg or other free, or virtually free, platforms. (Walmart e-books anyone? Internet Archive.com?) The book I am pulling out today is an exception and in an effort to lay down some tracks for a future reader with the same endeavor in mind I am making some notes here. It had to be purchased in its original form, busted spine, and a bit dear.

This series of books is nothing short of sprawling in scope. There seem to be maybe three main authors (and other lesser entries) over several decades. In an effort to follow story lines I have taken one author, Margaret Vandercook and read all under her name, and then all under her alternate nom de plume, Margaret Love Sanderson. When I have written previously about these novels (oh gosh, here, here and here) it was all the Vandercook novels – which I will label a superior group. I was very sorry to finish reading them and even after two generations of Camp Fire Girls, I could have happily stuck around for a third. They are her earliest efforts and I think she took what she learned about pacing and applied it to the latter series – these teens grow up much more slowly.

The series which I believe she intended to wrap up with one more volume, ends with the primary heroine, Bettina, leaving off the life of Washington debutante to follow settlement house work on Manhattan’s upper east side. These books play constantly with the shifting roles of women and forcefully promotes the interaction between the wealthy and the poor in associations and ways that were clearly still controversial at the time of writing. I would have liked to cap the series with a final book and the last two and my most beloved characters settled with their choice of mate and set on the path of their adult lives, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be. Alas! (Wikipedia sites her as the author of 21 books in the series – /i have found about two thirds – where are the others?)

I actually run (now walk0 past the East Side Settlement House most mornings! This was where Bettina was learning settlement work in the final volume of that series.

Margaret was so prolific I cannot imagine how she had time to eat or sleep between about 1915 and 1921, let alone raise her son alone after her husband died. While pounding out these volumes at an astounding rate, it appears she kept at least three other robust series underway The Red Cross Girls, The Ranch Girls, and contributed to The Girl Scout series as well. I would very much like to get to the roots of her story, but I don’t see anything beyond bare bones in my searches to date. After this frenzy of work in the teens and into the early twenties, she seems to have stopped writing novels, done some magazine work and disappeared, although living until 1958. Re-married? Other pen names?

To further confuse the reader, Margaret had certain character names which she used constantly. Bettys and Mollys (as well as Mollies and Pollys) proliferate. I include lists of the books by story lines I have followed below in the hope that it might prove helpful to someone in the future. I wonder how even she kept it all straight.

The Camp Fire Girls at Top ‘o the World (a great title, right?) is an outlier. Published in 1916 (my volume sweetly inscribed for Christmas of 1918) it introduces a new set of characters (Mollie Wren is our girl and she is of the from a poor, large family model, but with great Camp Fire Girl grit), who are gathered rather randomly from all over the country for a summer at the farm of authoress Julia Allen – not sure it is made clear where, but somewhere called Lakewood, most likely in Wisconsin.

It is a somewhat plot heavy volume – Margaret S. didn’t shy away from plot! A stray Russian girl from a New York factory is thrown into the mix (this isn’t her first Russian immigrant girl character, which makes me think it was part of the culture at the time – my own grandparents showing up on these shores as young adults in those years), a Southern belle and a wealthy New York niece who is a bit older and more sophisticated than the others. Dialect is rendered liberally and sometimes painfully around the Russian girl and Southerner. I won’t give more of the plot than this, but it is an enjoyable ride.

It would appear that this is the only volume produced for these characters and for whatever reason it seems to be an isolated volume. This probably explains its relative scarcity. I would love to find a way to donate this and another hard to find volume (The Camp Fire Girls in Merrie England) somewhere to have them scanned and made available for other completists like myself. Give a shout if you are acquainted with the process.

A sadly insipid frontispiece from The Campfire Girls at Top ‘o the World.

In closing a quick shout out to Jennifer White at whose wonderful eBay guide list to these books can be found at her blog Series Books for Girls and who kindly answered a burning question I had about a missing volume mentioned at the close of The Camp Fire Girls at Drift at Driftwood Heights The Camp Fire Girls at Sweetwater Ranch – which is a ghost volume that, never published. Her blog Series Books for Girls contains some all important lists including one that appears to be the complete list for the Margaret Love Sanderson books above. The list below is from Wikipedia and is for the Margaret Vandercook ones. (Please note that Wikipedia has the order wrong on the last two volumes – it is correct as below.)

‘The Camp Fire Girls Books by Margaret Vandercook

The Camp Fire Girls at Sunrise Hill (1913)
The Camp Fire Girls Amid the Snows (1913)
The Camp Fire Girls in the Outside World (1914)
The Camp Fire Girls Across the Seas (1914)
The Camp Fire Girls’ Careers (1915)
The Camp Fire Girls in After Years (1915)
The Camp Fire Girls on the Edge of the Desert (1917)
The Camp Fire Girls at the End of the Trail (1917)
The Camp Fire Girls Behind the Lines (1918)
The Camp Fire Girls on the Field of Honor (1918)
The Camp Fire Girls in Glorious France (1919)
The Camp Fire Girls in Merrie England (1920)
The Camp Fire Girls at Half Moon Lake (1921)
The Camp Fire Girls by the Blue Lagoon (1921)

Felix in the Photo

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As some Pictorama followers know, I have long favored Instagram as my favored social media poison pick. Kim is devoted to tending the curation of his Facebook page, but I prefer to pleasantly lose myself scrolling through my iteration of the universe which skews heavily into vintage jewelry and clothing, antiques, cat doings (go @sadieanddottie!), the antics of some real world friends, and of course early photos.

Cookie and Clark Gable recently.

The viewing world in return gets a version of me (@Deitchstudio) which includes these blog posts and related photos, the comings and goings of Cookie and Blackie lovingly chronicled, story vignettes of my morning runs along the East River (walks for since my great fall, see my post Busted, here, for that tale of woe), and in the before times my occasional travels with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra as the fund raiser for that organization. I try to avoid any whiff of politics and try to keep the chaos of our tiny abode visually within bounds admittedly. Photos of Kim only with his knowledge and permission. Selfies rarely, usually just with friends.

Running became walking about two minutes after I snapped this photo on Memorial Day.

When I look back on this time I think I will mostly vividly remember scrolling through IG and watching home renovation tv.

You all over here at Pictorama get more insight into the inner life of Deitch Studio, but the folks over on Instagram get a daily visual account of me and mine. Obviously there is crossover and I know many of you follow me there and a few of the folks who I “know” only from IG wander over to Pictorama on occasion. (There are some triple crown folks who are FB friends too!) It is a happy day when these parallel Pictorama worlds collide and today (and likely tomorrow) will highlight some finds attributable to those folks.

Today’s splendid photo find (you were wondering if I would ever get to it I am sure) was purchased on eBay. The listing made no mention of the presence of Felix in their midst (nor cat costume photo) so I wouldn’t have found it without the tip from @the_antique_lens. I only know them by that moniker, no name on the account or bio information. Unlike many of the folks I interact with the_antique_lens is a collector, like me, not a merchant.

Their exquisitely presented account reveals what seems to me to be a remarkably similar visual taste in early photos to my own (Felix notwithstanding) to my own, although less specifically focused than my heavily cat/toy related collection. It is with thanks to them that this little beauty found its way to the Pictorama collection. A thank you to their eagle eye and generosity in the tip.

The photo is oddly mounted on pieces of paper that have resisted the glue applied resulting in ripples. It does not appear to be from a photo album – I think maybe framed at one time, but there are push pin holes in the top corners and one side so it spent some time displayed that way. There is a bit of black tape across the bottom mystifies me which Kim has edited out in this scan. Nothing is written or indicated on the back.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

It is an interesting photograph. At first glance you might think was taken for Halloween, but the Christmas tree makes me think not. Perhaps a school play? Felix is especially curious in this case (hard to think of what that story line might be, but he is front and center), however given that several children wear similar costumes school play gets my vote. The costumes have a consistent quality too, all of the same quality. I am sure I cannot imagine a story that might incorporate the kid dressed as a gift box, an Indian, the little girl with a burlap bag over her head and the imaginatively rendered bear in the lower right. I am especially enamored of the teacher’s fairy costume, and as Felix the Cat costumes go, that is one I want!

The photographer had a good eye for framing this, especially if he or she arranged everyone. However I also feel that the photo maintains the aura of the stage presence of the kids – they do not mug, or even mostly smile much. There is a look of shared purpose and focus to them and they gaze directly at us. I am especially fond of the rifle bearing soldier and bear on all fours holding down the composition on the right, while the white fairy costume draws you back to the left.

A careful examination of the writing on the blackboard (a credit to that instructor’s neat hand which I am attempting to read more or less a hundred years later) appears to list three clubs. Furthest to the left (and easiest to decipher) states, The Right Club, Lois Dickason, President, and a list of names. The center reads, Our Writing Clubs, Gold Highest Honors, Blue Standard, Red Below Standard. (Underlined twice!) I can barely make out what it says on the board behind the teacher, but it appears to be, Gold Star Club, Ellen Montgomery, President, and a list of names too faint to decipher.

The Right Club and the Gold Star Club names listed have one or two stars after each name. (I would like to point out with girl Presidents of each, clearly the girls here were doing an excellent job representing for the fair sex.) The scrawny Christmas tree with its star is a poignant seasonal touch.

This is one of those photos that allows you to time travel and I think wall worthy – a tribute here in the cramped environs of Deitch Studio. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Planting

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My mother has always had a garden. Perhaps it speaks to her largely Italian roots where there was a grape arbor in the backyard, cherry and other fruit trees and a kitchen garden for vegetables. (Posts about my grandmother’s house and that yard can be found here, here and here.) It was fertile soil (Jersey is, after all, the Garden State) and responsive to care and planting.

The Cittadino family yard at the turn of the century.

Mom also majored in zoology and botany in college which was as close as she (she a mere woman at a girl’s college) could come to a pre-med course. Much of that work in botany would come out over time, making up the fascinating accumulation and source of information my mother is. (Although of course I suppose that’s what mother’s are!)

In the first house I have clear memories of residing at, there was an impressive rock garden planted by the previous owners. It climbed up the sloping backyard and in my child’s memory was enormous – probably much smaller than I remember. One of my earliest memories is being about 3 and sitting with my mom as she worked in that garden. I think she was weeding and I picked up a handful of tiny frog as I ‘helped’ her. He jumped, we all jumped and I screamed in terror as my mom tried to explain the nature of the frog to me.

I believe that this more formal sort of garden was not really mom’s taste which was clearly a bit more natural, wild even. However, presented with this beautiful garden she certainly did tend it lovingly.

In the cottage on the river where we lived until I was about 11 the soil was sandy and salty from the water. Betty dug her heels in and really did battle to make anything grow there. Through considerable grit she achieved a smattering of rose bushes and something that served as a lawn, although may have been largely well-trimmed weeds in reality. No matter, lawn was never a passion of hers.

Magnolia tree near mom’s which inspired the purchase of one for her yard.

In summer she coaxed a bay of giant sunflowers in a side yard that was otherwise a fairly no-nonsense vegetable garden. It was there that I learned the joy of bountiful homegrown tomatoes and a surfeit of zucchini, and the occasional eggplant. It was tough going though and I also remember the failure of corn and all the evergreen trees that died too. (She had had a plan to buy live trees for Christmas and plant them. As one after another died she realized that this plan would not work and bought an artificial tree instead. The practice of cutting trees for Christmas really bothers her.)

The yard was all mom’s. Dad traveled constantly for work and his schedule only allowed for occasional involvement where he worked under mom’s direction. His background as a city kid did not allow for much gardening expertise or interest.

We moved several blocks away when I was about 12 and there my parents stayed until a few years ago. Although still on the water it was less likely to flood and the soil, while not that of her youth, was definitely several notches better.

Here she planted numerous trees, which we had the pleasure of seeing mature over those decades. Because the water table was still very high, it was the willows that thrived, although there were nice oaks and maple trees too, a weeping cherry. There were some lovely old trees on the property, one outside my bedroom window housed a screech owl, foxes made a home of a dead one in the backyard. She had her tree failures – a beloved copper beech that never really thrived as I remember.

Irises in mom’s yard, but not the ones she brought from the other house.

She was serious about tree care and people came at least annually to examine, prune and make suggestions. Living in a hurricane zone it was necessary to know that your trees were fit to withstand those high winds. After the devastation of Hurricane Sandy the loss of trees in the yard and the neighborhood left it sad and denuded. These were old friends that were gone now.

In this yard mom combined flowers and vegetables. There was a grapevine and strawberries – the wildlife got far more of these than we ever did however. The tiny delicious strawberries seemed somewhat miraculous to me. Tomatoes still reigned, but herbs were what I remember most. She planted them in the ground, but also in containers. It was lovely to hop outside and snip some fresh herbs for whatever I was making for dinner.

Mom’s house when we first purchased it.

There were glorious rose bushes in a variety of colors and some stunning irises that a friend had made a gift of and which he had brought from his home in New Orleans. There were azaleas and a glorious butterfly bush. In later years, with no family to feed, mom focused her planting on flowers and plants that would attract and feed the birds, insects and wild life of the area. The result was a cacophony of birds, buzzing bees and often a half dozen bunnies in view at any time. Deer found their way there and fox. Hawks and even vultures stopped by looking for prey. The yard was a wild kingdom of sorts in later years.

Mom’s house earlier this spring.

When mom moved into her current house she had a blank slate as the previous owners had only done basic maintenance. Mom is housebound now, but has a trusted gardener known only as Mike to me. Between them they have transformed the small yard, front and back. Mom is entirely focused on flowers which she enjoys from a windowed room at the back of the house. The irises were rescued and transplanted here and she can tell you about other plants and bulbs shared by friends and acquaintances, some rescued from Mike’s other jobs when they no longer suited the owners.

I have contributed some peonies (which have come into their own this year), a hummingbird feeder and a weeping cherry and a magnolia tree are on their way to her presently as belated Mother’s Day gifts. I took a tour of the yard when I was there last weekend and it was nice to see how it has grown in. After this long year spent in our Manhattan studio apartment walking around her little paradise is better than ever.

One of the peonies I gave mom, blooming this month.

This multi-colored honey suckle reminded me of the masses of it we had growing wild in our yard growing up. Dad showed me how to extract a single drop of nectar from each – amazing! When I remarked on it mom told me it is one of her favorites and that she had asked for it. A fact I never knew.

Multi-color honeysuckle.

In order to better survey her kingdom mom has a friend who records mini tours on video. Larry does a great job and I am enjoying these too.

Having lived in a Manhattan apartment my whole adult life I don’t know if I inherited mom’s green thumb or not. Kim, with his green thumb, tends our mass of African violets and single aloe plant. I miss those fresh tomatoes each summer!

Busted

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a Pam post today as I share news of my newly busted left paw. Monday, Memorial Day, I got out of an especially cozy snooze with Blackie curled up on me and a wool blanket to fight off the wet chill that was permeating the apartment. I coaxed myself into running garb after my usual half a nectarine, some green smoothie and some cold coffee.

I always run slowly (I have written about that here and here) and I was extra pokey on Monday, tired from the weekend of travel. I had taken a short break at the top of an incline ramp and started running again when my sneaker caught in a cobblestone-hexpaver and I went down, hard. I tried to regain my balance, staggered and fell on my left side with my hands breaking my fall.

A few feet from where I fell, taken earlier in May.

I sat there for a moment clearing my head and assessing the damage. Knee hurt but not too badly, left hand hurt more and fingers were swelling. A nice man (who ironically was wearing a Hospital for Special Surgery Orthopedic fleece) who had been walking with his wife (I as assume) and a child in a stroller approached me. He had put his N95 mask on. He asked if I was alright (was I?) and kindly offered to help me up.

I put my now damp mask on and gladly accepted a hand up. He made sure I could walk okay before continuing on. The knee seemed functional, but the hand throbbing and well, slightly crooked. I considered calling Kim to come help me home (I was just blocks away), but decided that since my legs were willing it was better to get home quickly and assess the situation from there. So I ran, very slowly, the remainder of the way home.

I knew that I had to head over to the Urgent Care walk-in medical facility on 86th Street as soon as possible so I wiggled out of my sweatshirt and leggings and had the foresight to pull on a tank top (easy on and off) and loose sweats – which have become my uniform now, one arm in a hoodie sleeve. I had no appetite, but ate a piece of toast because I figured it could be a long adventure. I did my best to gently wash my scraped up hands.

Our local urgent care – beloved despite being the MacDonalds of medical care.

This facility on 86th Street has knitted itself into the ongoing fabric of our lives. While I was skeptical of it at first I am something of a convert. As it happens, I was just there weeks ago for a Covid test before visiting my mom. While there on that occasion they introduced me to another Covid-testing patient, Patti Butler, who is the same age as me – a sister from another mister indeed. The fact that we where there at the same time caused the staff some confusion and after straightening it out they made introductions. Patti is a singer and has performed in our hall and we hit it off and have remained in touch.

This facility was where we started our journey when Kim had a problem with his gut which lead to the ER and surgery. (I was in a cast from foot surgery at the time – delightful.) It has seen us through food poisoning (Kim again) and post-op foot issues (me) and it is comforting to know it is there – an option before the ER and easier, with better hours than your doc. Having said that, it is a place utterly devoid of character or warmth. The fast food version of medical care. During the holidays testing lines went around the block.

Lucky for me they saw me quickly on Monday. A young man took my info at a computer in one of the rooms. I complimented on his natty rainbow clogs and black medical gloves (very super hero I told him) and we chatted until a doc came, told me the swelling was sort of crazy in my hand. After an x-ray she told me I had two broken and dislocated fingers and that with the swelling I could not wait, but had to get to the ER and see a surgeon immediately.

Cast one of three, the Urgent Care version.

By now I was cold and sore all over. I went home, brought Kim up to speed, packed a book and a charger for my phone and shuffled into a cab. A temporary splint held everything in place which helped the pain and also assured the cabby that I wasn’t bleeding in his backseat. Post pandemic the ranks of cabs have thinned significantly here. I have not yet returned to Uber however, in part in sympathy with the yellow cabs.

At Lenox Hill hospital they admitted and wrist banded me up quickly and then put me in the smallest imaginable space with a closed door (I assume this is a Covid thing), where I sat and read one of my beloved Camp Fire Girls books (a few of those entries are here and here) for about an hour, which was a good distraction.

A visit with a sporty young hand surgeon, Tansar Mir, lead to to more x-rays and the extremely and memorable relocation of the fingers. I will spare you. I was re-wrapped in this puffy dressing, forbidden to remove it or get it wet and bidden to see him in four days.

When I finally got home and started to clean up I realized I had smacked my chin too (no memory of that) and a large black and blue egg had risen on my chin. The hazards of wearing a mask in the ER – none of us saw it!

Park Avenue waiting room of Dr. Mir. Beats the ER.

Dr. Mir’s card announces that he is a doctor of plastic and reconstructive surgery. I showed up in his rather swell Park Avenue digs yesterday and the folks waiting were definitely more cosmetic than hand injury. (I later saw a fellow hand injured fellow on the way out.) When asked he told me that surgeons can either be cosmetic or orthopedic. Go figure. I will be seeing a fair amount of the good doc and his merry band of PT folks (they are in a storefront on 87th I have walked past hundreds of times) in the coming weeks and months. We never know where life is going to lead us.

Meanwhile, Kim has stepped up as always and is learning how to pull my hair back in a ponytail, tie my sneakers, cook fish fillets and generally open all containers – just for starters. It is not the first time I have had reason to reflect on the blessing of having him as my mate, but I do. I type this with one hand, hunting and pecking at a reasonable clip. (Siri or Alexa or whoever lives in my phone taunts me with offers of help, but can never seem to find what I am looking for or to actually be useful.) I am grateful for other things including, but not limited to, it being my non-dominant hand (I’m a righty), I didn’t break my wrists or my teeth.

The splint, version 3, affixed yesterday. Potential for the use of three more digits.

As for me, I am taking it as a (pointed) reminder from the universe to slow down and off-load some of what I am shouldering. Fifteen months of trying to keep things afloat at work while dealing, like all of us, with the events of the world, has taken a toll. While I thought running was my solution to this, it is clearly taking me down a whole different path now.

Inuit

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As I write this I am back on the ferry, in stormy weather, heading back to NYC. Rough seas this morning and I am reminded that you have to have a good inner ear for ferry travel in this kind of weather.

We are bouncing around a bit. I am reminded of my father telling me that you never know when sea sickness will catch up with you. This before I took a trip through the Patagonia passage where I was bounced out of bed one morning with waves over the bow. I gratefully chewed up the Dramamine he insisted I bring! Yay Dad!

Meanwhile, I am going to challenge my technical expertise and see if I can post this from my phone. (Incidentally, if you were wondering no WiFi on the ferry, but I never lose a signal.) I cannot say it is a beautiful holiday weekend at the Jersey shore! Bear with me if this is a tad sloppy!

Out the ferry window as we prepare to leave Highlands, NJ.

*****

I think most people had some equivalent of the curio case that lives in my memory from childhood, and which housed these beloved objects, first at my grandparent’s house and then our own when I was growing up.

These were nearly given away when a friend rescued them for me (confusion around a great deal of stuff being sold and given away at one point in the multiple moves of my parents) and I almost cried when I saw them again. They now reside in a different bookcase, upstairs at my mom’s house.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This small collection of Inuit objects were collected by my father – I believe he purchased them when in the Arctic with the army in the 1950’s, where he was reluctantly serving during the Korean War. He didn’t talk a lot about this mandatory hitch with Uncle Sam except it was when he discovered his vocation as a cameraman; he was trained to film maneuvers in the Arctic and used the GI Bill later to study film at Boston University after he returned.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

There were two stories he told in connection with his time in the army. One was that he was lowered onto ice flows to film and the only way to return to the ship was to climb up the rigging, heavy camera equipment clinging to his back. The other was that they ran food experiments on them, dying their food all sorts of odds colors to see if they would eat more or less – green bread not so attractive. When he was in the hospital at the end of his life he made some references to it. I think the hospital and being trapped in his body and at the nursing facility at the end reminded him of that time.

As for me, I have longed to touch and examine these objects since I was a small child. Obviously there is much to delight a child about these precious objects which remained in a locked cabinet and of course which we were forbidden to ever enter. I think it is probably safe to say that until I unpacked them most recently I had never actually touched any of these items.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Some were evidently taken a number of years ago, but I cannot remember what those objects were. My father always had a very good eye for art and always purchased interesting things in his worldwide travels later as a cameraman for ABC news.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

These statues are familiar to me, but also new as I pick them up and examine them carefully. I have not had the chance to do more than unpack them and look them over as I put them into a cabinet here where I decided they would be safe.

I apologize for the ad hoc photos. They deserve better and perhaps I will spend some time drilling down on each object in the future. They are beautiful objects, but most beloved because of their history and what they meant to my father. As I bounce along the bay today I am thinking of him and how he would have liked this note as well as my perch on the ferry today, despite inclement weather.

Jersey Girl

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am writing from mom’s house in New Jersey. It is Memorial Day weekend and I am reminded that Memorial Day (much vaunted in this beach community as the start of the summer season) is almost invariably cold and wet. This weekend is a great entry in the annuals of lousy weather on Memorial Day weekend.

In high school there was a small town parade (which has continued with the exception of last year; I don’t know if they are returning to it this almost post-pandemic year or not) which required the services of our high school marching band and drill team. This means I know something about standing around in the wet and chill in a brief uniform, toting a faux weapon. (That alone is probably news to Pictorama readers – yes, drill team. Loved the noise the fake rifles made as we slapped them and hit the ground in unison!)

Most importantly in a summer community like this it means the opening of the beaches and the green light for tourists and after our last (pandemic) summer I am sure they are quite anxious to get back to it here. We’ve had some glorious days recently so even old hands were tricked into a false sense of security, but man, that Jersey weather is having a good laugh at us. We Jersey shore folks remain ever optimistic however.

Ferry landing at 35th Street in Manhattan. Looks nice but was very cold!

Upon arrival in Fair Haven, I paced the backyard while taking the remainder of work calls that needed winding up. Meanwhile I enjoyed my mom’s absolutely gorgeous garden. She is housebound and enjoys it via the windows, and what gets brought in, but Mike who works on the tiny garden and yard does a great job. The peonies below are from plants I gave her in 2019 and they have grown nicely!

I am actually not technically here to celebrate the launch of the season. I arrived yesterday in time to attend a live gig with Wynton Marsalis and the septet for work. I invited three friends and it was a dinner club set-up, much like we did in the fall. (You can find that post here.) The ferry ride was very cold (and the water rough) yesterday morning. I chatted briefly with a young man with a bike who was preparing to ride to some area north of Philadelphia. (Yeah, I don’t think this must have worked out too well for him.)

The concert promoters assured us that the concert would happen rain or shine so we bundled and layered up and off we went. True enough, there was a tent and we were protected from the (hard) rain and wind, at least for the most part. I did see the music start to blow off the stand on stage until secured. It was 51 degrees and despite having spent the past year dressing for outdoor dining in all weather, I was layered but cold in my scarf and down liner. (My friend Suzanne lent me a large waterproof outback hat which helped keep the rain off.)

Wytnon Marsalis and the Septet last night in Eatontown, NJ.

I felt for the guys playing and knew they must be freezing in their suits. (Let’s face it, brass instruments can be cold!) The music was great despite the inclement weather though and it was a real treat to hear them in person again. In particular, our pianist Dan Nimmer was having a memorable night.

I came back to the house, got rid of my soaked clothes (trousers still wet this AM) and had some hot tea. Soon I was happily ensconced in pj’s in bed watching television while the storm raged around the tiny house. Gale force winds and rain were pounding when we heard a loud bang and the entire neighborhood went pitch black. I decided it was my cue to head to sleep and luckily this morning the power has returned, although the storm continues. Sadly no running here today, but a day with mom ahead so enjoy and more tomorrow.

Felix Frolic

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My collection of folks posing with Felix grows at a rate which I have no control over. My search for them is constant, but they turn up at their own pace. Sometimes several appear in a short time, other times it might be a year. I was writing about them just a week or so ago in passing and realized that I had not purchased one in awhile – and as if by request this one turned up. It always pleases me very much when a new one finds its way to me.

Like many of these photo postcards, this one turned up in Great Britain. (The others hail from Australia and New Zealand – seems American born Felix only posed in those countries in the guise of a giant stuffed doll.) The Felix in this one is interesting and looks unlike the critters in the other photos I have.

What I would call a regulation, life-sized Felix doll for picture posing! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Instead he is a bit pint-sized and reminds me more of a specific kind of small stuffed ones in my collection. I have dusted off this little guy below who is on my shelf and bears are fairly interesting resemblance to the Felix in the photo.) While I have some ideas about it I have never definitively labeled which sort of Felix came from where, but they do fall into categories and this sort of tri-pod stance is one of them. He is vaguely off-model (these large dolls are for the most part), has many nice whiskers, and he is the right height to look engagingly right at this little fellow who is largely ignoring the whole process. Felix even appears to be holding an arm (paw?) out to him in greeting.

Similar design of Felix in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

As best as I can figure it out, no one company was churning out these large photo op Felix-es anymore than any single one was making the stuffed ones I collect. The majority fall into a generally similar appearance, and by that I mean the almost human sized ones which even an adult can sling an arm around. However, over time I have seen a number of much smaller models – and of course there were a number of large wooden ones for the photographer who decided to go that route. (I would happily acquire either a “life-sized” large Felix or a wooden one – should any readers come across them. I especially ask you readers in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand to keep an eye out!)

The wooden cut-out variety. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This beach-y area is typical of where you might get such an opportunity to pose with Felix for a postcard. This card came to me from Rowland’s Castle but there is no indication of the original resort town it was taken in. Behind this little fellow is a baby carriage and some other children which makes me think this was a kid’s area of some sort at the water. There are some wooden stands, presumably vendors of one kind or another.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This tyke sports a pretty nifty cap and knitted outfit of his day. He looks remarkably unimpressed with Felix or having his photo taken, but is stopping short of outright rebellion.

Like most of these cards, this one is unmarked and never sent, but was instead a treasured family photo which has found its way to me here at Pictorama.

Without the Net

The other evening our usually dependable Wifi sputtered during a meeting. I was able to get back on it, but yesterday we woke to the realization that we didn’t have Wifi. After two calls to our provider, RCN, our “box” was declared dead (well, dying, it has a few meager lights blinking) and a technician requested for later today. It was also, as it would happen, Kim’s birthday and so thoughtful wishes are piled up, as I write, in the world online, an internet connection away.

Kim, who is immersed in the latter stages of his next book spent yesterday tracing off pages which will then be tightened and eventually inked. (A post with the specifics of Kim’s process can be found here. It is a great favorite!) I still had online access, via my phone (and my ipad which decided it could operate off my phone) which meant I could do some work including attending meetings with my little Italian Felix toy avatar in my stead.

I have my own policy of trying to be on camera for most Zoom meetings, at least at the beginning of each, and I try to stay on for all meetings with staff. I think it is more humanizing even if I am just in from my run and admitting that I only make it to even nominal make-up about once a week these days.

Nonetheless, the lack of Wifi slowed me down mightily – if you are reading this it means either I posted it via my phone (a skill set that may well be beyond me), or the technician has come and restored us to full function. It makes me realize how much I depend on the internet for casually adding things to these posts as well. My fingers twitch to check references and add links and photos.

In case the day needed more complications, I had an appointment to get a new phone. Like many people, I beat the heck out of this thing over the past 18 months. The screen is cracked from dropping it from the elliptical at the gym, years ago now. (There was a time when I didn’t take my phone into the gym, preferring to listen to a tiny and somewhat finicky ipod instead, but when my dad was began his decline and was hospitalized I started bringing it with me to workouts. It bounced off the moving machine hard and it is lucky it didn’t hurt someone.)

It has been giving me warning signs that it is breathing its last (screens turning into strange shadow screens, no longer holds a charge) and so while making another change to my account recently (prophetically changing my date plan), I committed to a new phone. Suffice it to say, given the day that yesterday was, after more than an hour at the Verizon store, I left sans phone transfer complete – alas, I must return later today.

Evermore than even a year and a half ago however, I am tethered to the internet like it is a favorite child!

Simultaneously, this week I was encouraging my office to help inform a return to work plan and being met with recalcitrance, fear and assorted resistance which evinced an insurmountable level of exhaustion in me. Like many managers, the decision about a return to the office is an institutional one and Wynton Marsalis has made his feelings very clear throughout this period – we will not be an organization that operates remotely. We need to be together and to see each other as humans again as soon as is safely and reasonably possible.

My first work-out at the gym. Man, I swear the weights are heavier here than at home!

Like a good manager, I have been trying to gently exercise the muscle of in-person meetings and discussing our return. Our policy is to return to the office in person two days a week over the summer and then moving to full time mid-September. Having to decide on dates was like ripping the band-aide off for many folks though. It is hard to balance their variety of concerns, an institutional mandate while keeping any of my own feelings to myself. I am impatient with my own impatience.

The day finally concluded with Kim and I eating some excellent Vietnamese food which greatly restored me. Then, with the premiere of a concert for our virtual season, our full Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, with the founder and head of the Equal Justice Initiative, Bryan Stevenson. It was a great marriage of spoken language and jazz and spoke very directly to the topics of freedom and inequality and history. (Freedom, Justice and Hope is available on-demand until May 26 and you can purchase tickets to watch it here). It is in my opinion by far the best concert we have produced for online viewing and I am so proud of my colleagues who created it and how far we have come. It left me with the very real hope that we will come out of this period with a new way of continuing to reach audiences far beyond those in our hall and on our tour destinations.

Afterward, I watched the first part of a PBS documentary on the Metropolitan Museum. Long-time Pictorama readers know that I spent most of my career, thirty years, there before leaving for my current gig. (I wrote about my departure in a post called Leaving the Met which can be found here.) I gather that the documentary was originally meant to follow the museum through its 150th Anniversary Year. Instead it is half about that and half about how 2020 played out with the pandemic and the closure of the museum, the ultimate re-opening and then grappling with the new re-emerging world.

It was moving for me to see many former colleagues as well as some objects I know like they had spent years in my own living room, so they too are like old friends. But overwhelmingly for me it was so touching to see the conservators, curators and other colleagues I had worked with for so many years. I was graphically reminded that yes, despite our discomfort, Wynton is right. In the end it comes down to the people. People make organizations like these great and that will suffer if we do not make the effort to come back together again to work with each other in person. When I interview people I always ask them, what will you miss most about where you work now and almost to a one they say it is the people.

Me and Eileen Travell, Met buddies and long-standing friends, having our first post-pandemic in-person meal earlier this week! Sheer bliss to see her again. It helps to do some of the nice aspects of getting back into the world as well.

In her remarks, Carolyn Riccardelli, one of the conservators, kept coming back to the metaphor of the conservation work that had been done on the Tullio Lombardi statue of Adam. Many years ago, it famously fell spontaneously from its base and smashed into an almost infinite number of pieces, fragments, and some reduced to dust. Like a crime scene, the pieces were photographed in situ and logged where they fell to aide reconstruction. That reconstruction took ten painstaking years (it has been documented in a video called After the Fall and can be found on their website here) and is back on display. It looks flawless, but of course as part of the team who restored it, Carolyn must see her years of handiwork beneath the surface every time she looks at it. She talked about how sometimes you just need to move forward, even if you have no idea how you are going to do it, making progress and claiming small victories until finally, you are there.

Shown at top: Tullio Lombardo (Italian, ca. 1455–1532). Adam, ca. 1490–95. Italian, Venice. Marble. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Fletcher Fund, 1936 (36.163)

Gone Gray

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My hair went gray when I was thirty. It started with an interesting streak in front which grew in rapidly over time. My maternal grandfather, Frank Wheeling (aka Poppy), went gray in his twenties so I suspect it is his genes at work – most of the rest of that generation in my family never had more than a few strands even as they reached very advanced ages, my father’s mother not withstanding as I believe she did dye her hair as part of her weekly visits to a salon where she had her 1940’s updo style managed weekly.

I have never dyed my hair. Despite hitting my twenties during the height of the punk era I have never done anything except shave it down to a crewcut periodically and that usually reflecting more function than form – such as anticipating a lack of showering facilities while camping in Tibet. Not only have I never dyed my hair a radical color, I have never highlighted it or dyed it at all. I don’t have anything against it, I just never did it and so when I started to go gray the question of dying it was a bit bigger, dye never having been a go to, nor something I had ever played around with. I always figured that it would be easy enough to try if I changed my mind, but acknowledge it would be a huge pain to grow out and as it became more and more gray the fact that it would be a significant commitment of time and money (not to mention the reality of heavier, more chemical dyes) to maintain became clear.

Me in London at age 21. This was taken by a friend for a photography class. Not shaved short but soon after the very first time I ever cut it short at all.

Also, as I can be about such things, I was curious to see how it would grow in and what it would look like. I always figured that dying was something I could decide to do (although certainly it would have been pretty radical after a point) so there was no compelling reason to rush to do it. So, I just didn’t. My hair guy, David Smith (he opened his own salon pre-pandemic, Smith and Morgan on West 80th Street) always liked my gray and never encouraged me to dye it – despite the fact he would have made a ton of money over time if I had, which always made me love David a little more. I met David just before my wedding, a good friend recommended him when the person I had been seeing shutdown abruptly and until he opened his own place I followed him across a variety of locales on the westside of Manhattan.

David Smith’s current domain, Smith and Morgan at 205 West 80th Street.

To be frank, there is a very real prejudice against being young and having naturally gray hair (yes, some folks are dying their hair gray now which is a bit different) and I am only just getting old enough now where it is less of an issue. People immediately assume you are older than you are and sometimes express outright confusion over a younger face and gray hair. At its worst I have on occasion been met with a certain kind of aggression, as if my deciding not to dye my hair was a statement about other people’s choices. It seems to annoy some people. I am a bit confounded sometimes when people talk about it – after all I think my choice of hair color is a bit personal and I have trouble imagining the same person asking someone why they dye theirs brown or blond for instance. And, I will admit that there was a time when I thought if I were to look for a new job that I might consider dying it. In the end, it has become very much a part of who I am and in my case it would seem false to change it. As Popeye would famously say, I yam what I yam!

My sister Loren hated that I was letting my hair go gray. She would bully and rage about it in the way only she as my older sister could. Frankly I considered dying it when she was in treatment for cancer and bored, sick. I was looking for ways to entertain her – I know, it sounds crazy, but I thought about it. She would tell me that when her hair grew back it was going to be dark brown again (during a pause in treatment it had grown in completely gray) and only she and Lady Clairol would know the truth about the color. If she had lived I don’t know if I could have held out against her indefinitely. (I have written about Loren a few times and two of those posts can be found here and here.)

A high school photo of my sister I took a picture of recently.

By the same token I have enjoyed many random compliments from strangers – literally sometimes getting stopped on the street – about my hair. Love your hair! Great hair! Occasionally it was another woman with naturally gray hair and we would give a sly smile between us and pass a compliment. Other times women would opine that they didn’t think theirs would grow out as nicely and I always admit that if I hadn’t liked the way it grew in I probably would have dyed it. My hair had the good grace to come in with streaks of gray against the dark brown. In addition, the texture changed for the better once it was mostly gray. It had always been thick, but slippery, heavy and difficult to keep up or back. I enjoyed manageable hair for the first time as the gray grew in.

Enter Covid however and suddenly many women have let their dyed hair grow out and are reemerging into the world as gray. It was of course a great time to let your hair grow out – or have a baby I guess. (Newborn down the hall this week! Evelyn Grace Deitch – yep, we have a Deitch down the hall! Pronounced Deetch however.) While some of the gray-goers are friends and colleagues, I see many women making the transition to gray on the elevator or in the street. I get the feeling they are checking out my hair, taking notes as such.

Pandemic Pam recently. As you can see, my hair isn’t getting a lot of attention.

While I have no advice about growing out dyed hair I do have some about living with gray hair. Until Covid I was very careful about trims and keeping my hair tidy figuring that it was such a standout feature that I needed to pay extra attention to it. Early on David showed me how to mix a bit of baking soda in clearing shampoo (for example Bumble & bumble makes what they call a clarifying shampoo, theirs is called Sunday Clarifying Shampoo, which is designed to clear out old product from your hair, Neutrogena makes one too) and leave it in for about twenty minutes before washing out. This is drying so I would do this once or so a month to keep the gray white. (I have started using a sea salt scrub instead which is a bit less trouble. The one I currently use is by Christophe Robin. Although during these Covid days I use very little hair product so it is less of an issue.) Oribe makes Silverati (disclosure – it is crazy expensive) which is in a class of colored shampoos to bring out highlights, specifically of gray in this case and goes alongside a group of purple shampoos which are designed to counterbalance the yellow in gray hair. All of these work to a greater or lesser degree, but in my opinion, nothing like the scrubs to brighten the color.

Kim and I at a wedding a few years ago.

I am also a bit maniacal about products and styling and pre-pandemic I would joke that there wasn’t a styling product that I couldn’t be induced to try and had settled into a routine of potions as part of my hair care. Meanwhile, although gray wasn’t an issue for me I have let my hair grow crazy long during the months at home. I have only had it cut once since the onset of lockdown and that is now getting to be close to a year ago. I wear it up each day and it is easy to forget about although I do feel like an aging Rapunzel when I take it down. I will also confess that in a sheer contradictory way, I thought about dying my hair during the lockdown out of sheer boredom. I thought it would be fun to emerge as a totally different person. Maybe that’s what women growing their gray in is all about. We are all deciding what our post-pandemic reset is going to be and what it will look like.

Featured photo by my good friend photographer @EileenTravell!

Doggett, Bassett & Hills

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is kicking off with this great little advertising card I bought on a whim sometime over the last few months. I like a good cat advertising card and this kitty couple caught my eye. I love that they are holding each other’s paws and their curled tails. They walk on tip toed hind legs – Cookie and Blackie only stand this way in order to box with each other, or perhaps a bit of a stretch when something above interests them. Her expression is sweet and his a bit concerned – concerned being a bit of a go-to expression for kits I find.

She sports the human attributes of a parasol and bow. They are both nicely striped tabbies and the pattern creates some visual interest. Oddly, Doggett, Bassett & Hills Co. was a shoe company and these kitties are decidedly shoeless. Doggett, Bassett & Hills was one of Chicago’s first shoe dealers and manufacturers under the name of Ward & Doggett, founded in 1846. By the early 1870’s they had peaked, but then declined and disappeared in the 1880’s. (All this from an online encyclopedia of the history of Chicago which can be found here.) The website mentions a Lake Street address, but this card is for one at 214 & 216 Madison Street, Chicago.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Despite the fact that I think of Chicago as a city that has done an excellent job of maintaining many of its old buildings, a quick Google image search shows no extant old buildings at this address now. I am always hoping when I search for an old address I find that I will find the building intact even if its former moniker is long gone. I don’t believe I have achieved this to date.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

These pre-printed advertising cards abounded in the period and cats were a favorite subject so they are a bit of a sub-genre here at Pictorama. Merchants must have gone to printers that had endless examples to pick from and chosen a card image to then have their text added at the bottom and sometimes also on the back. I often wonder about how you knew that you weren’t choosing the same one as your competitor just purchased yesterday.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

I have written about some of the others in my collection (above and below) and those posts can be found here, here and here. (All of these examples have their advertising text on the back.) Still, seems a bit odd that the folks at D,B and H would choose these barefoot felines, but who am I to tell them how to sell shoes?

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

There are marks on the back from where this card once resided in an album of some sort, the way and reason many of these have survived. People did seem to hang onto them though – much more so than the boring business cards we generally see today – a few tucked under the plexi cover on my drawing table converted to desk and littering the surface remind me. No one is going to be saving the card from the pest control folks residing there. (Moths!) Cats sell and Madison Avenue has never entirely forgotten that lesson.

Pussy cat postscript: Ah, Caturday at Deitch Studio! Cookie is rolling and stretching at my feet and meowing for attention as I write this. She still chases her tail and was at it earlier, even at seven years old. (I must say, it does have a sort of come hither twitch at the end.) She is by far the chattier of the two kits and wants to converse every morning at some length – we are charged with responding or are subject to her wrath. (Meanwhile, if Blackie ever chased his tail it is a long forgotten practice and he snoozes most mornings after he’s eaten. The difference between boys and girls?) Kim is discussing how awful it would be if he were married to Cookie (I’m pleased I get a higher rating), and it would quickly end in divorce court with a sharky kitty attorney (one a bit smarter than Cookie he added) he says. We’ll have to see if there’s ever a story about Kim and his cat wife – and divorce court kitty!

Cookie also likes to claim my work chair in the morning.
Blackie, snoozing earlier this week and showing some fang!