Felix Keeps on Walking

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was thinking this morning that Pictorama is seeming a tad Felix deficient so I will swell the Felix quotient with two “walkers” that are currently in residence here. One I bought earlier this year from my antiques friends down in Texas (@curiositiesantiques) and the other which just wandered into the apartment from a Pictorama reader who contacted me and sold a few items to me recently, others to appear in future posts. So if you are inclined, settle in for a bit of contemplation on Felix and his favored mode of locomotion.

Youtube video of the cartoon, available at the time of publication. Perhaps the origin of the phrase.

Felix and his walk have always been a matter of some interest. His trademark hands behind the back walk as he thinks and dreams up tricks is a significant aspect of his devilish charm. It has been celebrated in song and film (the very funny lyrics to Felix Kept on Walking can be found here, and an early post I wrote on some of my cat sheet music including this one can be found here), but also graces everything from dishes to postcards. It was used for advertising and sometimes took on a more adult meaning – usually involving an enticing girl cat and sometimes batches of kittens.

Felix Keep on Walking plate, Pams-Pictorama.com

I share two recordings of the tune which were available at the time of publication. The Savoy Havana Band does a jolly instrumental illustrated with great photos, below. While a rendition with the lyrics sung by Clarkson Rose can be found on Youtube here.

Meanwhile, I found an interesting essay which discusses the dialogue between Buster Keaton and Felix from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (which can be found here) noting that Keaton’s film Go West could have been inspired by a Felix cartoon a year earlier, Felix Goes West, and Keaton pays that off with a bit of the Felix walk while contemplating his situation.

The walker from Texas is a somewhat more available model and mine is missing the stick with which to animate it. This one is a simple toy and a stick would have affixed to it for a child to push it forward. There are no indications of where the stick attached and no evidence that this fellow ever had arms. His feet are the only bits animated, head and tail do not move. I like his simple stenciled face – and there are two mysterious purposeful sort of holes in his eye which I cannot image what they were for. His silhouette is a bit bottom heavy rotund. He is made of a light balsa type wood.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

A very similar item is for sale on eBay with the stick in place and as far as I can tell there is a space between back of head and tail where it would have gone. The item on eBay has a date of September 8, 1924 scribbled on the back. I would have thought this was a bit later myself. I think these days we might be a tad concerned about toys for small children that are animated with large sticks out of the back, but as I do not have any small children I cannot say if this is a fact.

The more recent acquisition is by far the more substantial of the two toys, made from thick wood and with a hefty roller and even the stick is a more finished item with a handle making it seem like it is less likely to poke an eye out. This Felix animates with arm movement and he seems to have had a moving tail at one time, there is a slot for it. One arm on mine still moves but the other is disengaged – it would be easy enough to reattach with a tiny nail although I don’t think I am that person. Nonetheless, this fellow does indeed keep on walking.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Opening

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As most of our readers know, I work for a well known performing arts organization and you may remember that last year I missed our opening weekend, pushed late into November to avoid inevitably Covid related early fall issues. My mom landed in the hospital and needing to be with her trumped even our long-awaited post pandemic opening. So for me, although I attended concerts later in the season last year, this was my first opening weekend since the fall of 2019. While it lacked the heavy emotion of last year, last night was more than suitably festive and, despite masks still dotting our landscape, came close to feeling like at least the return to a new normal. There was a real joy in the room.

For me it also marked the launching of many colleagues who joined the organization recently and wonderful to see them each fully assume their new roles. (I have written some about the interview process and the overall state of the office here and here.) Like the slow forward movement of a mighty ship, the gears slowly turned and it was something close to full speed ahead by the end of the evening. For my folks the weeks and months of getting to know the organization and about our supporters was like the musicians and their hours or practice and rehearsal.

Birthday cake for mom earlier this week. I started the week working from New Jersey so I could be there for a small, but festive birthday celebration. Being able to work from there periodically is a post-pandemic blessing.

An evening like this is marked with a certain expected stress and mishap as is the nature of our business. Tickets gone missing (and a supply chain issue with ticket stock having made us crazy), introductions needing to be organized and executed, catering issues. (Last night a vegan sandwich made with beets appeared – which oddly looked remarkably like corn beef. They were enormous – and well, made with beets. Ultimately we had them quartered which made them more approachable and in the end they were surprisingly good.)

I was endlessly pleased to see my folks embrace their new roles, talking with guests, moving the reception along seamlessly. Our fundraising work bounces back and forth between the administrative and in person, a delicate dance really between the two. It is a a miracle when it all meshes into a successful evening like last night and fascinating to see the new people embrace their roles, each in a different and singular way. The trained singer who came to us to be back in this milieu taking obvious pleasure in the music and in meeting the musicians, the talented and personable young man who has taken a flyer on working for an arts organization for a totally different experience finding his voice. Our events manager fully in charge and in his glory after a few spring trail runs.

Mixed in of course remains a core group of hard working and great long-standing colleagues who have stayed through it all and helped introduce the new people to their roles while continuing to keep things afloat, as we have for months and really years now. It was a moment to glimpse the future and how a new team will work together and for all the bumpy starts see how the road ahead will shape up. It is just the start of the season, but I return with a new sense of swing to my step.

San Gennaro

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Occasionally I get the odd idea in my head for a mini-adventure and this weekend I decided to revisit my youth and talked Kim into hitting up the San Gennaro festival in Little Italy. This idea first scratched at the back of my brain when Kim and I were in Chinatown and Little Italy a few weeks ago as banners were already going up for it.

Then yesterday morning I was reading the local version of The Patch (does everyone have this ultra local newsletter? I am amazed by some of the things I find out reading it), which cheerfully informed me that the festival had commenced and would end its run this weekend.

I missed the Fireman’s Fair just blocks from my mom’s house this summer by a few days. I have written about that (here) and again, I haven’t been to it in many decades, but thought we might time a visit right and go but no, it didn’t work. So I guess I had a yen for that sort of thing – cotton candy, candied apples and the smell of fried dough against a background of rides and games of skill and chance. Kim was game so off we went.

For those of you who don’t know, the San Gennaro festival is an annual tribute to the aforementioned saint. This tradition in Manhattan’s Little Italy dates back to 1926 when immigrants from Naples congregating on Mulberry Street brought the festival to this country. Neapolitan’s had long looked to the saint for protection from natural disasters including eruptions from Mt. Vesuvius and he is the principal patron saint of that city. (For the record San Gennaro was martyred back in 305 AD and his miracle is the liquefaction of his blood after his death.)

The official statue incarnation of San Gennaro, surrounded by dollar tributes.

We missed the Mayor and former Astronaut Micheal Massimino in the kick off Grand Procession where the statue of the Saint is brought out for a walk around the grounds as well, complete with (unidentified) relic of the saint. Evidently the stands are also each blessed as the festival opens. All that happens on September 19 which is the day San Gennaro was killed and the beginning of the festivities.

Instead, we tucked ourselves into the hoards of people, early enough in the evening so no one had tipped over into overt and inevitable drunkenness from the impossible large and refillable plastic vessels of sugary well booze for sale. These days the air was also thick with the smell of pot mixing with a lot of more traditional cigar smoke. That combined with the smells mentioned above and a lot of roasting meat contributed to a carnival atmosphere.

Looks like it goes on forever from here but the entire festival is about ten blocks.

My expectations, based on the last time I attended which must have been back several decades (maybe as many as three) were kept fairly low. Kim hadn’t been since his days at Pratt, once on the year Connie Francis was celebrated. He didn’t see her, but they played her records (a selection of her international songs he remembers) and after a quick Google search it turns out that she also attended again in 1982 and yet another time in 2012. She’s clearly a fan of the festival. While we heard a band playing the theme from the Godfather at one point, music was not very much in evidence this year, recorded or live.

There was a smattering of rides with long lines of anxious small children.

I will say I was disappointed by the quality of the prize offerings for the games. No goldfish which is a good thing I am sure, but really uninspired stuffed toys. Usually I can pick out a sort of best of or favorite, but these were definitely bottom shelf. Of course I am a more discerning collector of toys now as well. Just as well as I do not think Kim or I had the skill to achieve in this arena. We did see one guy really having at the bottle knockdown stand. It is beer bottles these days and some were getting smashed.

The best selection of prizes I saw.

I did get a candied apple – one of my goals for the evening. They were much less prevalent than I would have thought, but I found a stand. (There turned out to be two places you could acquire them; sadly they are less popular than they once were.) Kim bought it for me and it was a traditional one with coconut pressed into the candied part. Yum! After breaking into it, and always the challenging part of the candied apple and the most hazardous to dental work. This makes me think in all fairness to my teeth I may not have many more candied apples in my future and will focus on cotton candy in the future perhaps. Kim seemed quietly mystified by my passion and took one adventurous nibble.

A blurry view of my half eaten candied apple.

A young man selling frozen ices from a cooler asked where I had gotten it (clearly a fellow candied apple fan) and I pointed him in the right direction, only up half a block from where we were in the slow moving crowd. He told his female partner to watch the ices and he’d be back in half a block’s time which made me laugh. I like a fellow partner in candied apple crime.

Dinner at the first joint we found outside of the festivals boundaries!

We ended the evening by circling back up and around to Kenmare Square where we perched at the edges of their outdoor dining space and ate a real dinner instead of standing in long lines for plates of fried food, meat or pizza at the festival. It was a satisfying end to the evening’s adventure.

From the Tiny Acorn…

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I saw these earrings the other day and my father immediately popped into my mind and I bought them. They come to me via an endlessly elegant purveyor of vintage clothing and jewelry in Great Britain who is known to me as @WillowHilson on Instagram.

It is with some great and ongoing sadness that I accept I am unlikely to ever have the chance to admire her windows in person and walk into her shop in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Actually I should be relieved because if she was a short subway ride away I would spend an absolute fortune on clothing, let alone jewelry and handbags. As it is, even online only the inability to try things on keeps me in check on clothing – that and the fact that she seems to turn up many items that run about a size smaller than I anticipate needing. However, once in awhile I give in and purchase an item or two from her photos. A lovely clutch came in this shipment too.

A recent window view of Willow’s shop. These photos of her window come out weekly along with a video of the process of creating them.

When my dad was young he had a small film company he called Acorn Films. I remember asking (in that way kids have), Acorn Films? In response he said, From the tiny acorn grows the mighty oak! It was the first time I heard that and it stayed with me and I have been known to quote it. The quote seems to be English in origin and go aways back.

The earrings in question.

As I run these days, I have started seeing acorns underfoot, especially where I run in Jersey, although Central Park and Carl Schurz have provided a few too. I think of dad every time I see them as well. I assume the local wildlife is happily consuming the bounty – squirrels nibbling away, storing them for winter. I don’t know what else might eat them, chip monks perhaps? My mom has a large colony of those guys. I see the acorns in the streets and on the sidewalks so I assume those are not ones that oaks will ultimately grow from.

In the city they mostly appear a bit stunted and the ones I picked up today are green. I read that the acorns are falling earlier this year which is why many are green, immature. Evidently the heavy rains we had recently probably caused this, although I gather that it can also happen if a tree happens to grow in an inadequate setting. I figure squirrels here in Manhattan are consuming them, but I have a hard time imagining that the rats or mice bother with them, however who knows what a resourceful rodent might munch?

My father was not a man prone to optimism so in retrospect it was an interestingly hopeful thing to name his nascent company. The acorn is a symbol of unlimited potential, that from a modest beginning something larger might grow. For me it is a sign of renewal, like the pomegranate, and of course autumn.

Small acorns in abundance and various states this morning on my run in Carl Schurz Park.

I don’t know too much about the specifics of his film company. I think he had some space over in the west 40’s, but maybe a tad higher or lower. I have the dimmest of memories of him pointing to a building once and saying it was up there indicating a corner window. I was told he paid for his equipment and to live the rest of the year by filming races at Monmouth Park in the summer for ABC locals news. I don’t know if there were ever any other colleagues or partners.

In his possession when he folded the company was film he had shot for a documentary on drug addiction which he never finished. Family life and a bustling job as a full-time news cameraman for the national and international bureaus of ABC took the place of this more creative work.

There is also a story my mother tells, not my father as I remember, of him interviewing and filming Anias Nin who famously refused to be photographed after a certain age due to an excess of vanity. (This stunned and even fascinated me as a child – I had never conceived of such a thing.)

Their agreement was that Nin would view the footage and if she didn’t like it he would destroy it – which he was ultimately forced to do. I’m not sure how dad met her – or wiled his way enough into her good graces to be given the chance. Meanwhile, evidently, mom was have a great time hanging out with Daisy Alden during those interviews and also occasionally in the kitchen during fancy parties dad was filming. I imagine my mom, much like me, occasionally shaking her head and saying, you need to understand, I’m just a girl from Jersey.

For now, I will sport my acorn earrings this fall always keeping in mind that we are never entirely sure which of the seeds we plant will take root and grow.

An Ode to the Everything

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I don’t know why, maybe because it is fall, but I have everything bagels on my mind. As far as I can tell, among bagel eaters, there are those of us who will always grab the everything first and those who are frankly horrified by their existence. I guess there are folks between, not sure though.

For anyone who somehow does not know, an everything bagel is one that is covered in a baked in layer of salt, poppy and sesame seeds, garlic and onion. Yum.

As I reflect on it, my memory is that my family emerged into bagel awareness slowly. After all, our WASP town in suburban New Jersey wasn’t exactly a bagel producing mecca. I do remember there being a Jewish bakery, Friedman’s, where we would pick up loaves of rye and black bread every weekend, but they were not bagel makers. (Marble cakes like the ones my father’s mother favored they had, my father’s black and white cookies which you can read about here were also procured there as were my sister’s mocha iced birthday cakes.)

Mocha cake, Loren’s favorite. Was never too easy to find.

At some moment, which I can no longer pinpoint, bagels became weekend fare in NJ too. My father, who grew up on bagels here in Manhattan, was however among those who could not abide everything bagels. I must have discovered them when I moved to Manhattan myself after college and transplanted the preference to my NJ visits. Dad, who would generally pick up a dozen bagels when picking me up at the train station in NJ, would have mine put in a separate bag – so as not to infect the other bagels.

Bagel Bob’s – a much loved Yorkville destination.

While I try to limit my bagel intake in order to maintain my waistline, I still manage a consistent diet of them, if in toasted bits over time rather than a whole one gobbled. Here in New York my affection bounces between Bagel Bob’s on York Avenue (who saw us admirably through the pandemic without pause) and Tal on 86th Street. There are other worthy entries in the neighborhood, but those are the closest and best.

In New Jersey, one of my mother’s care givers supplies the house with some that are very credible entires too. Winsome has registered my everything preference and buys extra for me to take back to New York with me after my regular visits to mom. There is a gentle irony in the migration of bagels from New Jersey to Manhattan, but it is a lovely thought and I appreciate the gesture so much.

Trader Joe’s version of Everything Bagel seasoning.

Recently I noticed everything bagel hummus (the above sprinkled in a light layer on top of the container) which gets my seal of approval – but even better, little jars of “everything” which can then be sprinkled on everything from hard boiled eggs to sandwiches. Not surprisingly, I am a fan and at this moment there are no fewer than three jars in various states of consumption.

Fall Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Like most of us, mid-September flips the back-to-school switch in my brain, honed by decades of school shopping (hard new shoes for feet that had grown) and the purchase of lunch boxes, notebooks, pads and Ticonderoga pencils to be sharpened. When very small, clothes came from my grandfather’s store or the Sears catalogue. Later there was a mall where over time I would shop for my clothes on my own, with my sister or friends.

As a tot if shoes were to be acquired they were purchased from a store called Sid’s in the next town over. (There is an excellent Italian market where Sid’s used to be. I stop there occasionally when in Jersey to buy soup for my mom or maybe a prepared dish or two. However, I always remember Sid’s too.) While they may not have sold children’s shoes exclusively (that sort of exclusivity was not as prevalent in 1960’s and ’70’s New Jersey suburbs and there were fewer speciality shops) they seemed to have a lock on the local market for children and sent us away with balloons, coloring books and Buster Brown type trinkets annually.

Kislin’s in the 1980’s but more or less how I remember the facade. This was the annual sidewalk sale in Red Bank I believe.

Sneakers, however, might also come from a store called Kislens one town over in Red Bank. Kislens would not only supply sneakers (of course a much more basic model of Keds and a vastly limited array than we are dazzled by now), but it was also the purveyor of gym clothes, uniforms, boots and any and all athletic related items and necessities. (I wonder, did every town have one of these?)

Kislin’s was close to a century old when it closed around ’05 and one could find items from prior decades peeping out from top shelves and cabinets, layered under and around more contemporary items. My memory is of wooden cabinets, fixtures and shelves that likely went back to the store’s origin. Even in my childhood, the floors creaked heavily when trod on. It felt like you could never truly get to the know all of Kislin’s hidden secrets, but whatever sporting needs, nascent or advanced, camping or scouts, Kislins would magically produce the necessary items when requested – they weren’t much on devoting space to display. When you embarked on an outdoor activity or sport, a trip to Kislin’s may have been on the agenda. All of the Speedo bathing suits of my youth were purchased there in a no fuss, no muss sort of way until well into my teenage years.

A rather excellent bit of chalk drawing recorded on the first part of my run last weekend.

Meanwhile, speaking of sports, last weekend enjoying the first lovely cool morning for running in a number of weeks I was feeling great until I fell just as I was reaching mile 8 on a run that would have been my first approach on 9 miles. A bit bloody, but luckily not badly hurt (nothing broken and a thank you to the runner who helped me up and the gentleman drinking ice coffee on a bench who even gave me ice for my hand), I ran home and still recorded 8.8 miles. However, it has kept me sidelined this week while my knee fully recuperates, as well as my hands, one of which took the brunt of the fall. Therefore, I found myself walking to work on Wednesday, through Central Park when I had my back-to-school moment. The light was pure September and the trees are just starting to consider embarking on their winter waning.

End of my walk to work Wednesday in Central Park. Anyone know what these flowers are? I thought jasmine but they didn’t smell like it.

Unlike my childhood incarnation, instead of sporting a new outfit to celebrate a post-Labor Day turning over of a new leaf, I had pulled on a pair of pre-pandemic pair of trousers getting their first outing in several years. They were fine except the running has moved muscle around and things from the Before Time are pulling in some places with new muscle (calves!) and evaporated from others (thighs!). In the end this may be what ultimately empties my closet of these frozen in time clothes at last.

September light in the Park.

When I got to the office my colleagues all seemed to be in a similar fall frame of mind embracing the new season, but a bit confused. We are all still struggling with the hybrid routine, days in the office together, others at home. Every meeting starts with a technology hiccup as we work the bugs out of new conferences software. (Move the camera please, and Can you hear me? I can hear you.) From home earlier in the week I realized one conference room has a zone where everyone sounds like they are Charlie Brown’s teacher, or vaguely underwater, made worse of course by wearing masks. (Can you all move to the other side of the table please?)

Pictorama readers and IG followers might remember that Kim and I purchased this in Chinatown over vacation, a new lucky waving cat for the office.

Several new folks joined the team in the weeks before Labor Day and they are still learning the ropes including which conference room is which – all are named for Jazz legends which adds a bit of complexity as we thoughtlessly toss out Jellyroll or Lady Day (the one with the sound issue) confidently and they just look at us befuddled. Computers remain a mash up of desktop, personal laptops, iPads and whatnot as new equipment has been delayed in being rolled out. Sometimes whole meetings happen with our colleagues of site represented only by my phone in the middle of the table, eating battery which I will forget until it is dead later in the day.

As for me, I can’t seem to stay on schedule in person and as meetings run long I blow through others or end meetings early because my timing is wrong. I try to make sure that those who are joining on camera are included, as well as being present for those in the office. Breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings take me out of the office, exacerbating the timing issues. It is exhausting. Eventually, I come home, work a bit more and collapse each night. Fall is here.

The Antique Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I always like to look at old children’s books and juvenile fiction given the opportunity. Pictorama readers know that I enjoy early chapter books that would be called young adult fiction today. (There are the posts devoted to girl detective Judy Bolton, Honey Bunch and of course several devoted to The Camp Fire Girls, Red Cross and Ranch Girls. A smattering of those can be found here, here and here or search the site for books.) And I have written about some of my childhood favorites, including one illustrated by the great Garth Williams called Push Kitty (post here) which reminds me a bit of this volume. Still, it is rare that a true children’s book that I had no prior knowledge of zooms into a place in my heart as this one has. It is great for kids but a winner for the cat lovers too.

The illustrated cover which my copy does not have.

I stumbled across this title while searching for information on another one on Goodreads. The description was appealing and on a whim I purchased a (much) used library copy, sans cover and with a heavily taped spine, (stamped throughout as from the School of the Japanese Martyrs, Leavenworth, Minnesota!) for a nominal amount. With an unexpected trip to my mom in New Jersey and other pressing life matters I didn’t have a chance to read it until last night and it is a gem! I can only say I am sorry I didn’t know it when I was a kid, it would have been a favorite in rotation and my parents would have loved it too.

Solomon in the store window at night entertaining passersby.

The story is a simple one – a skinny stray (all black) cat is taken in by the owner of an antiques shop. It is told from the cat’s point of view and he has some simple adventures – most involve his love of eating fish – and all ends well with him installed as the beloved master and mascot of the establishment. An antique store makes for an interesting setting for cat adventures – while fear of breaking fragile items is mentioned, claw paws and scratching are not. However his nemesis ultimately is an antique doll who receives too much of his mistress’s attention and affection. Fortunately his human loves him above all else and forgives some minor feline transgressions.

Undeniably great cat poses!

The all black protagonist of our story, Solomon (we are not told how he acquired his moniker), looks like my own Blackie and the early drawings of him as a street cat sadly corresponding to our boy recovering (shaved and thin) from his recent stint of illness. (No mention of black cats and bad luck are mentioned and Bradbury gets points for me with this.) Solomon progresses to shining glory although I guess some of his battle scars around the ears and whatnot remain as badges of feline honor.

I easily could have found this book as a child. The copyright in this edition, the first, is 1945. It was published by The John Winston Company of Philadelphia and Toronto and the copyright notes that it was also copyrighted in Great Britain (Dominions and Possessions as well) and in the Philippines. It was written by Bianca Bradbury with drawings credited to Diana Thorne and Connie Moran.

Front papers.

Bradbury was born in New Milford, Connecticut in 1908. A brief online bio outlines that as a young wife she published verse and short pieces in magazines and eventually, after her sons were born her worked morphed into children’s books and ultimately into young adult chapter books. She evidently wrote realistically about the issues of the day for kids in those later books, not balking at difficult subjects. This book and that bio intrigues me enough to look into some of her other books. (One Kitten Too Many may be where I start, but I will look for the longer ones as e-publications perhaps.) She was prolific and wrote 46 books in her 40 year career.

Solomon thinking back on his stray cat compatriots!

Meanwhile, Diana Thorne gets top illustrator billing here and she deserves it. Her cat illustrations are perfect. It seems she is best known for her illustrations of dogs (these seem to be well known and collected), but she certainly lived amongst cats as the poses are spot on for us cat lovers. Her illustrations are pitch perfect and absolutely put the story over. While her illustrations and drawings are widely available on the internet, there is little biographical information about her. It seems, oddly, that she was either born in Odessa, Ukraine, or as she was later to claim, on a ranch in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1895 (d. 1965) – her love and knowledge of animals would argue some time on a ranch I think. Her work is collected in numerous museums in the United States and Great Britain including the Smithsonian.

Something “fishy” about this doll…

The other illustrator credited, Connie Moran, seems to have teamed up with Thorne on a number of similar illustrated children’s books. I can only assume that Thorne was only interested in the animals and left the humans (and in this case some antique furniture) to Moran. She is from Chicago, born in 1898 and dies in 1964 so she and Thorne are contemporaries. Her illustrations are, for me, more commonplace and would be forgettable without the Thorne cats among them.

Solomon loves his dish of fish.

The Antique Cat is much shorter than May Sarton’s The Fur Person, (you can find that post here), but reminds me of it in tone and the way it is told from the cat’s perspective. It is a very worthy entry into cat related literature and certainly deserves a place in the Pam’s Pictorama library.

Blackie this morning. Hopefully on the road to recovery.

Has Anybody Seen My Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’ve seen this sheet music come and go and I finally grabbed it up. It occasionally turns up in my cat searches and I finally landed on this copy earlier this week. There’s another version with an equally good cover, but very different cover which I will still snatch up given the opportunity.

Pictured on the front between these two great black cats is, I assume, Emma Carus. Emma was a vaudeville performer who was the face and voice for putting this song over. According to the American Vaudeville Museum site (University of Arizona, here) although she was pleasing looking, she generally opened her act with the line, I’m not pretty but I’m good to my parents. However, her songs were incredibly popular and she sold reams of sheet music. She hit the big time as a performer in 1900 so when this sheet music (copyright 1922, but more about that in a moment) she was a well established star and money maker.

This Black Cat Hosiery Cat of the same period at seems to be a kissin’ cousin of the ones on the sheet music.

Emma gets the top credit, followed by Dan Blanco (of whom I find no real tracks) and then J. Walter Leopold. I am not sure I see real evidence of her actual song writing as I read her bio. J. Walter Leopold has numerous song credits, but was also a performer and he and Carus teamed up in 1918 and worked vaudeville until the end of that particular line. He drifts to radio and then manages some bands. She lived hard starting in her teems, has two failed marriages before she is 25, and dies in failing health at 48.

Emma Carus in all her glory in an undated photo, on Ziegfieldfolliesgirls.com

Sadly I cannot find a recording of her singing this song, nor can I find a recording of her singing at all.

While credit is given as above on the front of this sheet music, the internet reveals that the original song was song was British and was written and composed by TW Connor in 1899 for George Beauchamp – probably as a sequel to an earlier successful song Puss, Puss Puss (1897). A 1901 recording of the song can be found here with the slightly different name of Has Anybody Seen Our Cat, but virtually the same lyrics. There are recorded versions going back to 1897 under this name so I don’t know how to make that jibe with the claim of the 1899 authorship above – was it acquired and reacquired multiple times?

The copyright page tells us that Dan Blanco acquired the rights in 1916 and they were transferred to Emma Carus in 1922. So maybe Dan’s only claim to fame is acquiring these rights and selling them.

Children’s Book which claims to have roots in one of the versions of this song.

The song goes on to inspire a Tex Ritter tune, Has Anyone Seen My Kitty, (listen to it here) and eventually a recent children book, Anybody Seen Our Cat by Kenneth Griffin, illustrated by Brandon Weiner.

Below are the lyrics which bear their British roots and age, but produce a chuckle. Enjoy!

I'm upset now; let me tell you why,
Our old tom cat has been and done a guy (run away)
My old gal declares that it's a sign
Somebody's number's up and two to one it's mine
I've been wondering why I am to blame
For sneaking the bacon and the brawn
And the young man lodger's two-eyed steaks (bloater)
When they're missing on a Sunday morn.

Chorus: Has anybody seen our cat?
Has anybody seen our cat?
He's got a bit of black on the end of his tail
And the skin's all off where he's been fighting
Last Sunday morning we missed him from the mat
Puss! Puss! Puss! Meat! Meat! Meat!
Has anybody seen our cat?

How we loved that cat nobody knows
Put butter on his feet and pepper on his nose
When he caught cold gave myself a job
When the toothache troubled him so bad
And I found little Tommy couldn't eat
I tied up his face, put baccy in his ear
And got another cat to chew his meat.

Chorus:

I never thought he'd leave his happy home
Though after the gals he often used to roam
I've sent tripe hounds out upon his track
I'm doing everything to try and get him back
Got two cods heads stuck up on a pole
And nailed up a kipper on the door
And written underneath it ‘Welcome home'
And a promise not to kick him any more.

Chorus:

My Little Chickadee

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This is a truly oddball purchase for me. Sometimes the unusual just calls to the collector in me and this fellow is one of those times. I was not the least bit disappointed when he showed up in the mail however – he makes me laugh!

I don’t know why, but I have it in my mind that this slightly angry looking celluloid chicken is an umpire. He does have a baseball bat tucked under one arm and I can be convinced that his hat is a baseball cap as well – because really why would he wear a tam ‘o shanter or captain’s cap? And I can imagine him yelling, Strike – you’re out! Meanwhile, let’s discuss that he sports a tie and belted trousers. I like his hands spread across his considerable girth too (as if he just had a nice big meal), and although he has human arms, his legs are chicken legs complete with scaly toes.

Celluloid chicken, Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I found him while scrolling through my Instagram feed one night (@MissMollystlantiques) when I really wasn’t inclined to purchase anything (having just spent a fortune with Blackie in kitty ICU – his recovery continues apace, steady if a bit slower than I would prefer), but how could I say no to an angry celluloid baseball chicken? Man, you don’t want to argue with this chicken. He has some attitude.

The angry celluloid chicken in suit series? Not in Pictorama Collection.

This fellow rattles in a nice loud fashion that I can see being pleasantly distracting for a small child back in the day – I admit to rattling it a bit myself. I will note that this is not a young chicken and if I had to guess I would say his era is the 1940’s or ’50’s, although I share above illustrations from a current Ruby Lane listing and they say the 1920’s making him an elder statesman indeed. (These also evidently bear tiny labels stating, Made in Japan, which is not surprising.) I like the top hat on their rattle, although I prefer the expression on mine. The roly poly looks like he is doing a stump speech with his cigar in hand! Movable bits on him and the rooster on the end. (They are for sale, as is the toy at the bottom of the post, at the time of publication.)

My guy does stand, albeit a bit unwillingly and he is not cracked, but has a few errant child induced marks and smudges. At his senior age he is a tad fragile, although perhaps not quite as much as you might think. (Over time I have become less terrified of the fragility of celluloid which I once wrote about here. In that vein I purchased a celluloid cat rattle awhile back as well and that post is here.)

My chicken (rooster, let’s assume he’s a rooster?) is without a maker’s mark or other identification, although there is a (more recent) $10 penciled in on his bottom, but no company or place of origin on mine. If there was a sticker it is long gone.

Somewhat kinder gentler version for sale on the internet, Pickclick.com.

I located another kissing cousin to him (shown above), a brother in a full suit and jacket, no baseball bat, and a friendlier look, who was identified as an Easter celluloid chicken. When I look back on Easter baskets of my childhood (which were in all fairness prodigious things of chocolate and other candy, as well as a bevy of soft chicks and like toys) I can safely say that nothing like this was ever included. I am glad to have mine, if a bit late in life, now.

A (Felix) Cat Book

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’ve actually been in possession of this slim volume for a few years since purchasing it on eBay. I think it went to the shelf and somehow never made its Pictorama debut. But I was emailing about all things Felix with a fellow Felix-o-file and dug it out to show him. I have not seen it around much, but some digging shows that you can currently acquire a copy if you are willing to pay up. My copy is inscribed twice. The first is in a childish pencil scrawl which, oddly, reads, Elizabeth Butler, 1021 Craggmont. The other, in a neat pen, To Martha, from Mabel Crowe. Neither is dated.

Titlepage, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It is a somewhat odd book. To start with, across the front it announces that it was Published by Harper & Brothers – Established 1817. A quick check and Harper & Brothers, which started life as J. & J. Harper publishing in 1817 (brother Jay and John at the helm) until more brothers from the clan joined and the name changed in 1833 to recognize them. Then it changed again in 1962 and became Harper & Row, before later finding its 21st century moniker, Harper Collins. However, while new printing methods made them a leading publisher of books and textbooks, the influence of the famed Harper’s Magazine could evidently be felt through their publishing empire and its influence is felt in this volume.

Felix himself travels under an American passport and Harpers a US publisher, however the author is British essayist, E. V. Lucas, giving this something of the feel of a British product like one of their comics annuals. While this Felix volume was published in 1927 there is an earlier, 1902, version which has different and more traditional cat illustrations by someone named H. Officer Smith and in fact published in Britain. The illustrations have a whiff of Louis Wain to them.

The earlier version of the book with illustrations by H. Officer Smith. Not in Pictorama collection.

Lucas was a lifelong Punch author whose prodigious output of essays, commentary, verse, plays and was legendary in his day. His biography is sprinkled with references to hobnobbing with friends Barrie, A.A. Milne, Arthur Conan Doyle and the likes of his day, playing cricket and billiards. He has written the copy in simple verse with a sly eye to the beloved tricks, maneuvering and manipulation of cats.

Our volume (ostensibly illustrated by Pat Sullivan who signed each illustration, however we’ll assume it is of course Otto Messmer ready at the dip pen) is a slim one at about 30 pages, writing on each left side and illustration on the right. Felix takes on the role of a sort of every cat persona rather than doing a star turn as his famous film self here – although he seems to have some of the Felix wiliness and trouble-making charm as played out in the pictures.

The drawings show Felix in fine fetter and I can only imagine that for a pro like Messmer it didn’t take him long. However his skill shows in making every line count for maximum entertainment and raises it to the level of a Pictorama worthy Felix investment.

Ed. Note: After this was posted @judd_kid and @tomatitojose sent word that they think it was drawn by Dana Parker who drew many of the Felix theater posters and advertising art! Fact for the day!