Flat Iron Fiesta

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have been itching to share this acquisition since I purchased it this summer on our well worn Friday night path to and from Vietnamese take-out. Folks who follow my Instagram and Facebook page saw it when I first spied it in the window of the nearby junk store over the July 4 weekend.

I opined on its wonderfulness then (said it was too big to buy) and it wasn’t much more than a week later that I hustled Kim over to help me strike the deal and bring it home. Numerous bits and pieces have found their way into the Pictorama collection from this tiny storefront. Most recently I have written about a few piggy banks (two of those posts here and here), but this will remain in my mind as the very best buy I suspect.

A short video I made of the window at the shop when I found the Flat Iron Building among these other model buildings.

It turns out to have been made by a company called Department 56. (Odd name, yes? The man who started the company, Ed Bazinet, had worked for a company called Bachman, a florist and wholesale gift importer. He ultimately convinced Bachman to invest $50k in his new company which would specialize in high-end holiday items, and named it for his former unit, which of course was 56.)

My Flat Iron building is part of a large series devoted to Christmas in New York, reproducing landmarks of the New York skyline. It is (weirdly and surprisingly) made of china. While it is heavy it is nowhere near as heavy as I thought it would be sizing it up as likely being a non-ferrous metal of some sort – like a giant piece from a toy train set.

It was a great window chock full of building models.

While these are specifically made for a holiday set up they are amazingly beautiful reproductions of New York architectural stand-outs and range from the obvious, such as the Empire State building and the Chrysler building, to the somewhat more obscure such as Luchows, the Singer Building and something called the Uptown Chess Club.

The reproduced buildings with pre-20th century architecture seem to revert almost immediately to too cute for my taste. However, the Woolworth building is tantalizing (talk about huge though) and Kim and I are still discussing if there is a spot that can accommodate it. (Stay tuned for a perhaps future post.) It is unclear to me if they continue to produce more New York buildings and it seems they pay tribute to a smattering of other cities – I believe I saw a building from Dayton, Ohio online too.

Empire State building for sale on eBay.

Of course my mind races with what it would be like to have enough space for them all. A tiny, if snowy, NYC right here in the apartment! Imagine that!

My Flat Iron building was brought onto the market in 2006 and “retired” in 2010, although it appears to do a brisk business on the secondary market if you too (understandably) must now own one – they are available. The claims of value on the resale market were considerably higher than what I paid. As you can see from the video the proprietor purchased an entire collection of miniature buildings of various kinds. Mine was the only one made by Department 56. (I was very attracted to a tiny Central Park made of metal. There may be more to come on that – it has stayed with me.)

I want that building in the window! Many reflections interfere a bit, but this was my first sighting.

If you look carefully you will note that the building is gently trimmed with snow. It is meant to have wreaths, bows and garlands added (purchased separately of course) and maybe even a tiny couple getting caught (23 skidoo!) in the wind around the building.

A tiny couple that can be added to my building scenario – for a price of course! Not in my collection.

So after I got it home I of course examined it at length. The company name and the date of copyright is on the bottom. As I examined it I realized that there were holes in the bottom where two small lights should be inserted. Unfortunately it turned out that the replacement lights were on back order and getting a hold of someone to place my order a bit complicated. It took several months, but a few weeks ago the lights showed at last and I was thrilled to be able to light it up which really does add something to it.

I do not for a minute regret the space that has been dedicated to our Flat Iron building on a bookcase over our bed where I get to see it daily. Ours is a year round New York City admiration, but since we are heading into the holiday season it seems fitting that it can do double duty to an extent in this December post. I have considered if I should acquire a tiny decoration or two as a nod to the season, but knowing me it would remain on infinitely. The tiny windblown couple, who appear to be from an amalgamation of the 1940’s, would be less seasonally specific, if forever caught in a very single moment in time.

Even if it remains as our sole iconic New York architectural tribute here at Deitch Studio I don’t think I could have picked a better one. I have long favored the Flat Iron building as one of the greatest buildings in New York and never pass it without a moment of passing admiration. It just barely slips into the 20th century, construction started in 1901 and it opened in ’02, and it has a foot in the old while managing to be a harbinger of the new, melding time and style in a way that so much of New York City does.

Grandma’s Soup

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have devoted a number of posts to the cooking of my maternal grandmother, Anne Wheeling, an Italian American who was one in a long line of great cooks in a family of them. (A few of those posts, some complete with other recipes can be found here, here and here.)

Like today’s post, some of these have been devoted to the recreation of recipes from my childhood. Meanwhile, I have not written nearly as much about my father’s mother, Gertrude Butler, however I did write about her recently when I found a photo of her I didn’t remember having seen. (That post can be found here.) Gertie, aka Tootsie, Butler was a tiny powerhouse of energy.

Tootsie in a later undated photograph recently turned up in some papers. I think my father kept this one in his wallet.

When it came to food hers was more of a utilitarian variety than Grandma Wheeling’s and drew on a more limited menu. Our Sunday meals there were generally based around a soup and a rotating choice of roasted chicken, brisket or the occasional turkey. There was often a noodle kugel which was for some reason anathema to me and never crossed my lips! (I wasn’t a picky eater as a child and rarely in full revolt. I don’t know what it was about noodle kugel which made me defiant, although I can’t say it calls come hither to me even now. I remember the smell of it cooking vividly.)

Young Irving, Elliott and Gertie in an another undated photo discovered when my folks were moving several years ago.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, my grandmother worked hard six days a week in the family dry goods store. In retrospect that she produced a full meal for us on the seventh day and was always perfectly turned out, often in a brocade dress as I remember – I think I get my love of clothes and jewelry from her; she liked some sparkle. Her Sunday meals were nothing short of a miracle of commitment and love. I know now from experience that the soup could (and should for maximum taste and texture) be made well in advance and refrigerated or can easily even be frozen. She clearly made it earlier in the week or at least on Saturday. (The alternative to this soup was a quick matzoh ball one which I hope to perfect an eggless version of as well – stay tuned.)

Dessert was marble loaf cake from the bakery where she also purchased her rye bread, or a simple yellow cake she made herself with thick chocolate icing. (There were black and white cookies, but those we took home. Another favorite of my father’s, I was still buying them for him right up until he passed several years ago and I wrote about that here.) After the rather extravagant Italian indulgences of the other side of my family her fare was more simple. However, this soup was a favorite of my dad’s and Grandma taught mom to make it early on.

Mix of dry beans ready to hit the pot.

It would seem that despite or maybe because of her family cooking pedigree mom somehow made it into marriage with only nascent cooking skills. (There are stories about her cooking her first steak and leaving the label on by mistake – and a chicken cooked with the neck and giblets still inside.) Somehow learning from her mother in-law was less fraught I guess. It was a family business to her mother who was, I think, rather no nonsense about it although she softened with age and I frequently watched her in the kitchen for hours.

Grandma Butler had a bit of a mania about healthy eating and mom recently reminded me that she would lecture at great length about the benefits of the chicken in the soup, the eggs in the yellow cake, etc. Grandma was a firm believer that one should not have beverages while eating, it would dilute the nutrition somehow, but there was alway rye or black bread and butter on the table.

Who knew you could still buy these?

This soup was utterly ubiquitous in my childhood. Once the chill of fall set in rarely a week would go by without a pot of it simmering on the stove, containers of it filling the fridge or freezer. The childhood version of the soup always had chicken (or turkey) as the base, the remainder of a dinner the carcass would be thrown into a pot to start the soup. My father liked to add saltine crackers or preferably La Choy Chow Mein Noodles to a bowl of it. I had not actually thought of that in many years. The mixed dry soup beans used to come in a single long convenient bag where somehow they weren’t mixed but in sections.

Tootsie’s chicken based version was incredibly thick and would always need water to thin it after being in the fridge. If my vegetarian version has a flaw in my mind it is that I cannot make it as thick which may not be seen as an issue to all – everyone may not want it thick enough to stand a spoon in. Depending on how thick you like it, play around a bit with the amount of beans and how much you use the blender on. I like to think she would have approved of this vegetarian version – they were Jewish so it was never made with ham or bacon.

Wowza – found the bean mixes online! The miracle of the internet.

So find yourself a week with frost in the forecast and make this soup a day or so in advance. As with most of my soups, toss in whatever vegetables you have – leftovers included. You’ll have enough for about eight servings. Let me know how you like it!

The Recipe:

Soften onion, carrots, garlic and mushroom (celery if using), allow to cook down and brown some. Meanwhile, rinse the beans, trim the green beans and the potatoes. Add the green beans and the potatoes, after those have softened, add the beans. I stir the dry beans continuously and let them cook a bit.

Deglaze the pan with the vermouth or wine and make sure to use a wooden spoon to scrape the pot. Add the stock and allow to come to a boil. Season to taste with herbs below or your own preference, keeping in mind that this vegetarian version probably requires more salt and seasoning than you might typically use. (I use more herbs than my grandmother would have I am sure. I didn’t have flat parsley in the house or I would have added and I think it would be nice.) I used a marash red pepper, but cayenne will do. Let it stay at a soft boil for at least a half hour, adding water if necessary as the beans absorb the water.

At this point I would let it sit for at least an hour, or even more preferably – this soup is best if it sits overnight in the fridge. For a thicker body to the soup a third or half can be blended using a blender or immersion blender – make sure to remove the bay leaf however! I think this is a more satisfying texture, thicker.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium size rough chopped onion
  • carrots, cut about 1.5 inches, about 2/3-1 cup
  • garlic, to taste
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • halved green beans
  • chopped celery (optional)
  • chopped Italian (broad leaf) parsley (optional)
  • new potatoes, 1.5 inch chunks, about 1.5 cups
  • 1 cup split peas
  • 2/3 cup lentils
  • 2/3 cup barley
  • 64 oz. vegetable stock
  • vermouth or wine, half to two-thirds cups to deglaze the pot
  • dill, oregano, bay leaf, basil, salt, red pepper to taste

Bow-wowzers!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As much selling and buying has migrated online, I have bemoaned the loss of the sheer joy of browsing amongst the world of detritus that makes up a good flea market or junk store. The ability to run across things you never knew existed or thought of before but now must possess. One of the few online equivalents is the suggestions made by the algorithm for items you might like or sellers other items on eBay. Recently someone sent me a link (don’t remember what it was for as I was immediately distracted!) and a photo for a listing for this fellow caught my eye.

Sans identifying tag, Pluto was listed with the Dean’s Rag Company as its possible maker – more to come on that. Something about him caught my attention and when I showed the listing to Kim (we were in bed at the time) he gave a brief but definitive declaration of buy him. That is a bit unusual for Kim and so, with some misgivings about his size (he’s large, about 24 inches), I hit the buy it now button and soon Pluto was winging his way to me from Britain.

This example from the Novelty Toy Company, undated, has tag. Hind legs more defined, different nose and eye design. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Since Pluto does not bear the (rather wonderful) Dean’s Rag Toy imprint on his feet, even before he arrived I asked the seller (@bobbyrocksbazaar) why she thought he was a Dean’s. She responded promptly and it turns out that she is largely a seller of bears and not familiar with Disney character toys and was just making an honest guess. Aside from the tag issue it isn’t a bad one. I have a Dean’s Rag Pluto I wrote about in a 2014 post here.

I reshare a photo of mine below. This is the Pluto that is generally accepted as the Dean’s design and Dean’s was deep into producing Disney and characters with their widely sold Mickey Mouse toys but everything from Oswald Rabbit to Eugene the Jeep. Having come from Britain and given some similarities I can see the case for it being made by Dean’s. I suppose it could have born a paper tag rather than the imprint I am so fond of on their toys.

Dean’s Rag Pluto. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

However, having looked at a lot of Plutos since purchasing him, I am betting on a company called Character Novelty Toys. This company was founded in 1932 by Cesar Mangiapani and Jack Levy in Norwalk, Connecticut. Our friend Pluto was introduced into the Mickey Mouse cartoons in 1930 and won immediate popularity so it is possible he was picked up by the nascent company.

Dean’s Rag imprint on Pluto – plus his charming printed paws! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

However, it should be noted that said company, despite their name, did not appear to have licenses for a lot of character toys. A quick look shows mostly non-character bears, although I guess I saw a late model Mickey Mouse thrown in there. They definitely had a line of Plutos however and I share some of those kissing cousins which still bear tags, although to be clear, none of the toys I found were this precise Pluto and the more I look at the others of the rough period online the less I think he is made by any of these companies. (Gund toys made one very similar to this Novelty Character Toy version.)

This example is much smaller and also said to be Novelty Character toy. Not in Pictoram collection.
Looking a bit later, this is the Gund toy version. Not in my collection.

My new Pluto is a nicely made toy of somewhat complex design. I would say that his very thin neck seems to have been a design flaw in this (and most) Pluto designs and examples often site a tear there, mine has an old repair. Pluto is made of Velveteen and his eyes are the identifying characteristic I can’t quite match on another version of the toy and careful examination shows the placement of the nose and lack of lines on the nose of mine as different. He may have sported a collar at one time. Aside from Dean’s (a very fine toy maker indeed) I think my Pluto is among the most nicely made. I am even more pleased with him in person than when I saw him online.

A Pluto “headshot” with Kim’s help! Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As anticipated, Pluto is fairly large once we set him up properly. I am still deciding where in the apartment he can best live and be displayed – even taking photos has been a challenge. Right now he is living on a bookshelf next to a very outsized oil cloth doll of Uncle Walt (future post) which is equally difficult to display. For all of that and the mystery of his true origin, he was a great purchase and we are pleased he is a rare dog to have joined the Pictorama family.

Happy Feet

Pam’s Pictorama Post: One of the primary tenents of Pictorama is that I pretty much own everything I write about. I have made occasional exceptions (one, a very early Norakuro post of a toy, can be found here), but it is a general rule. However, I deviate today. A friend sent me this really interesting eBay posting from British eBay. The shoes had already sold, but I did love seeing them so I am sharing them with you.

So well used they were worn clear through.

These are so very worn! Not surprisingly they were much beloved – and what child of the ’20’s wouldn’t love them? And of course that they were kept all these years is a further tribute to their special place in someone’s heart. The tiny ankle straps are about worn through but it is easy to imagine a tiny tot kicking up their feet with Felix twirling on their toes.

A pair of Felix socks! These are also not in my collection but saved in my photo archive.

I wander over to British eBay occasionally and poke around, although I have not in quite awhile. Some of those listings make it onto an international listing, but not all. Occasionally there are also sellers who only wish to do business in the United Kingdom, not wanting to mess with different currency and long distance shipping.

Another item that seemed too large to make its home here. Having said that there was a hand decorated uke I actually purchased and the seller then refused to sell. Alas, no photo of that in my archive it seems.

Meanwhile, I have generally stayed away from items of clothing. Between my lack of storage space and the moth farm I have been raising since the pandemic, I see myself as a poor steward of such objects which tend to be fragile. Still, I appreciate them and in a different situation I would devote space and funds to their acquisition.

This was a US find but was just out of price range for me. Kept a photo of it and thought I would share it now. Hand decorated felt beanie.

As Felix fan Pictorama followers know, Britain is the El Dorado of all things Felix and there seems to have been a proliferation of items, presumably mostly unlicensed, some professionally made, semi-professional and also homemade from patterns or the products of creative minds. Back in 2018 I wrote about a handmade item, a child’s pinafore, in an aptly name post called Breaking the Rules which can be found here.

I hope you have enjoyed this new edition of a rule breaking post, peeling back a few layers of acquisitions that might have been.

Here Piggy Piggy!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little piggy showed up at our local haunt which has supplied us with a few other items over the past year or so. Most recently a rather splendid elephant bank I wrote about here. (A glorious reveal of another one pending for a near term future post!)

The other day without really meaning to, Kim and I wandered in on one of our trips to or from on that particular block. This block is on the path of our trips to a Vietnamese take-out place we favor, our pet food store and is the block we stroll up and down while waiting for our Mexican food to be prepared for pick up. I like to stop and look in the window and occasionally I breakdown and purchase something. The fact that they keep odd hours makes it easier not to resist actual purchases as our strolls seem to rarely matchup with their being open.

A fairly recent view of the store window.

However, a week or so ago we were out on a Saturday afternoon and they were open and we wandered from front window to being in the store. We had noticed this little fellow through the window a week or so before. He seemed rather singular and so he has joined the ranks here at Deitch Studio.

This piggy turns out to be very popular and widely available (currently examples are available on Etsy and other sites) and seems to have been produced over a long period of time starting in the teens, by the maker Hubley. (Another item from this shop is a great dog bank that was made by Hubley. You can find that post here. Seems like I am starting a de facto bank collection via these folks!)

On my version the sign he sports is easily read, The wise pig/ Save a penny yesterday another save today tomorrow save another to keep the wolf away. Below that, on his little stand, it proclaims Thrifty. I feel he is both smiling and yet has a concerned expression. Encouraging you to save and concerned for your future well-being. Other versions of the bank feature the pig with a big pink mouth – making me think of the phrase, lipstick on a pig.

The lipstick on a pig version of the bank. Not in Pictorama collection.

He is pleasantly chipped and handled. I alway wonder about these banks how many pennies, nickels and dimes you could realistically have fit in. The effort to loosen and remove the bolt at the back seems beyond a child – perhaps the whole point? Or maybe kids just jiggled the money out of the slot again. I would say none of my banks, for all their decades in existence, show any evidence that they were ever unscrewed and opened. Teaching children thrift indeed.

I wrote a bit about banks I had as a child in a post here. The one below is a reasonably close clone of my memory of the very traditional one that was beloved to me as a child. Mine may have been a model that was slightly older or newer. I don’t remember the one ear down, but it was a long time ago. This piggy had a cork holder in the bottom I believe. I may have kept coins in him (her?), but I think mostly I just liked it.

Perhaps the model of piggy bank I had as a child, for sale on Etsy. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My “real” bank was a small safe someone gave me. Loren and I were each given one and I used mine for many years, tucking away both bills and coins. Later in life I adopted the habit of keeping bills in my dresser drawer – Loren was fond of the sticking it in old purses method of storage. We had proper savings accounts as kids too.

The exact toy safe I had as a kid – down to the red knob. Loren’s had a blue one.

I also remember Christmas Clubs – does anyone else? A small amount would be deducted throughout the calendar year and put into an interest bearing savings account. Those must have been an administrative nightmare for banks, but it got people into the bank and to create savings accounts I guess. A quick search tells me that there are still a few that do it, although of course now it is an automatic deduct from your account, not the charming little passbooks of years ago.

Edie’s and Other Jersey Delights: Part Two

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Yesterday, the first part of this tale was devoted largely to the downtown commercial area near the town I grew up in, Red Bank, New Jersey. Now close enough to mom’s house that I can run there, I toured it a bit the other morning, noting the changes since I lived there and also its nascent resurgence since the pandemic. (That post can be found here.)

Today I pick up my story on Friday morning, having been promised a trip to Edie’s Luncheonette for a breakfast post-run. A friend from high school was visiting from the west coast and staying with a friend. The three of us made a plan to have a late breakfast there.

The exterior of Edie’s in a photo found online.

Edie’s is notable to me because it was one of my father’s regular haunts post-retirement. (I touched on Edie’s in a previous post which can be found here.) For some reason Dad staked out Edie’s as his own and for years would eat there, usually breakfast sometimes lunch, several times a week. Weirdly, I had never set foot inside before this Friday morning. Timing was always wrong when I visited my parents back when Dad was still driving and also it seemed like his own hangout. It is close enough to Mom’s house now that I could run there, but that would mean walking home after eating and as someone who is always looking to maximize my running miles, running to breakfast generally doesn’t work for me. (It would be a short run or a long-ish walk.)

A favorite photo of Dad on Mom’s wall.

However, this little sliver of an establishment which has always piqued my interest is perched on an equally tiny smidge of property, hovering at the edge of a ferociously busy street. The tiny triangle of property it sits on merges with an equally busy street just below. It has three impossibly small parking spots in front which you may not use – there are multiple, dire towing declarations. As a result, cars tuck themselves creatively in all manners of illegal spots all around and can be found there all day most days. We parked in front of someone’s house a block away and made our way across the treacherous street.

Old cemetery in a small churchyard next to Edie’s.

The little one-room cottage restaurant has houses to one side and behind it, but on the other side is a church and a very old cemetery. A brick wall protects it from the traffic pounding around it – the cemetery is the tip of the V where traffic merges. It is all a very strange intersection of many things, which I have considered as I drove by over many decades. It would seem that the Edie’s building, one of the oldest in the town of Little Silver, dates back to 1849, starting life as a housing for a tenant farmer, but it is better known for its stint as a general store and post office starting in 1889. In 1928 it begins to morph into a grocery store and then a sandwich counter, and found its true calling as a restaurant in 1970 when it more or less arrived in its current incarnation. (An interesting detailed history of the building and restaurant can be read on their website here.)

Some original details can be found inside, such as a built in craftsman style sideboard in front of the kitchen which fascinated me. Edie’s has a long menu, mostly many variations on omelets, burgers and sandwiches – you can get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich there, or a cup or bowl of daily soup. The fact that you can order Pop-tarts made me laugh. Nothing fancy folks, just the basics.

Pop-tarts and cold cereal! Edie’s will make up a school lunch for you according to their menu.

Mom reminded me that Dad’s order included two eggs over medium and rye toast. I’m sure it also included bacon and knowing the man I suspect he wasn’t entirely a stranger to the french fries. I settled on the eggs, rye toast and cottage fries in his honor. I left the bacon to my friend Suzanne, despite sentiment I am a vegetarian. She had bacon with a “small” stack of three enormous pancakes that looked righteous indeed. Randy split the fries with me and ordered the same eggs. I will say, the simple order of eggs was done to perfection.

My breakfast!

We jammed ourselves into the small room and made our way to seats at the counter. There are only a few tables that can accommodate more than two people and since it was a holiday weekday the place was at close to full tilt. Our perch was a good one though and I got to view the action behind the counter and there was plenty of hustle. I worked a counter like this back in high school and it was a hard job that I remember fondly.

The full counter on display, tables tucked everywhere.

All too soon, breakfast had come to an end and Edie’s had emptied out until the lunch rush. I snapped a final picture and out the door to we went, to wind our way back across Rumson Road.

Mirrored sideboard way to the back. Edie’s ready for the next shift, lunch.

Edie’s and Other Jersey Delights; Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a Joy of Jersey post. This week I headed down for my regular visit with mom a bit off schedule as we hosted a large dinner at the hall on Friday. We have Election Day off and, as Kim and I had discharged our civic duty over the weekend, I headed down to her on Tuesday afternoon.

Got my fall leaf fix while running in Jersey this week.

It was my last shot at seeing some beautiful changing leaves as I made my daily morning run. I was running shorter distances last year, and I realized I had also missed much of the changing leaves as mom was in the hospital this time last year. (A post about that time can be found here.) That was about the time I changed to a regular schedule of being in Jersey, generally every other week for several days. Anyway, the foliage did not disappoint and I had pretty runs each of the days I was there.

Preparing for our dinner at the hall Monday night.

A good friend, fellow Jersey-ite of my youth, was also going to be visiting while I was there this week. In honor of and in advance of Randy’s visit, I turned my first run to the south to and through the small downtown area nearby called Red Bank. A lovely small commercial area, it was where we kids went to feel grown up. It wasn’t really where we went to get into trouble – there is a beach town in the other direction called Sea Bright which was full of bars which was designated for that (posts about that town can be found here and here), Red Bank, on the other hand, is where you shopped and ate out.

Diner which I frequented, usually in the middle of the night, but occasionally in the morning. It is in a slightly new guise but is otherwise the same.

The bones of Red Bank have remained the same while the denizens have come and gone. Jack’s Record Shop lived on the opposite side of the street in my youth and had a head shop in back – in the days before I knew what that was. It now occupies a spot near where a huge hardware store called Prown’s was. I can still smell the specific dust and fertilizer odor of that store. (They are still in business, but have moved to another location. In fact, they just installed a new backdoor for our garage at Mom’s.) The Woolworth’s is gone as is the Newberry’s, and the Steinbach’s department store, but there is still a coffee shop on the edge of town which is either the most recent incarnation of one of my youth, or a newer version. (It sported wax fruit in the window and my mother used to say, Never eat in a place with wax fruit in the window. It was a good point, but I have frequently eaten in such establishments and lived to tell the tale.)

Another coffee shop – sans wax fruit – where I used to pick up breakfast on my way to see my dad in the hospital nearby.

There was a large photography shop called Dorn’s which lasted into my adulthood, but eventually fell prey to digital photography. I did find this new photo store below which is good news if I eventually start making early process photos again at mom’s. I wrote recently about another family business in time gone-by called Kislan’s – it took care of all of our athletic needs, which were admittedly less diverse in those days. (That post is here if you are interested in the full NJ roundup.) Randy and I spent many hours of our youth, together and separately, in the town of Red Bank. Whether it was pancakes at the diner in the middle of the night, running errands or wandering the small shops on the side streets.

I’d like to have a chance to make friends at this new camera and film shop!

Wednesday and Thursday passed in a blur of work this week, cramming five days of work into three. I staked out time to spend with mom over morning coffee, lunch and tried to end the work day at a reasonable time. Randy showed up in the evening on Thursday and mom got a kick out of seeing him for the first time in decades. Despite sporting a mask for her benefit, mom declared him unchanged.

Along with our friend Suzanne, we had dinner at a restaurant which probably deserves its own post, Tavolo Pronto. This epic establishment is, in my opinion, one of the best things to hit Monmouth County in years. Their sandwiches have carried my through long dark days spent in the hospital and hospice with dad, and now it is my favorite lunch spot during my stints there. Their singular fare will stay linked in my mind with these years of my life, the adult years spent visiting Jersey, and it has comforted me during some bleak times.

Tavolo’s in Fair Haven, NJ.

Friday, Veteran’s Day, was another day off and a plan was cooked up to have breakfast at Edie’s, another local eatery that morning. Suzanne and I are early risers, but Randy hoped to sleep in a bit. This meant I could get a run in, have a coffee with mom and head over for a rare treat. Edie’s was my dad’s territory and favorite breakfast locale. He adopted it late in life and somehow he and I never ate there. The plan was set! Tomorrow, in the second part of this Jersey tribute, I will take you to that surprisingly historic spot which also has great personal significance.

More Margate Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am fulfilling yesterday’s promise of more photos to come with another hotsy totsy postcard which also entered into the Pictorama collection this week. My singular passion for this rarified specimen of photo postcards has been well documented and is in fact responsible for this blog which subsequently burgeoned into a much larger pastime. I contend that I may have the largest collection of these photos, but since I rarely meet anyone with even one (unless they are selling it) may claim goes largely uncontested. Most, but not all, have made appearances here on Pictorama.

I know there are other folks who own some Felix cards in the world because I occasionally to my horror (and admittedly not often), lose an auction for one. My fondness for these photos has inspired some purchases of what I think of as subcategories – people posing on enormous black cat “chairs” and then the random posing with or on other cartoon characters including (usually small) Mickeys or in one case atop Barney Google’s horse Spark Plug. (That post can be found here.) Some are tintypes, but most are photo postcards. In general, the thrust of individuals recording their madcap day at seaside or an amusement pier of some sort appeals to me.

Another pint-sized Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This family certainly defies the definition of madcap or even happy go-lucky. They are depicted in somewhat mugwamp fashion, be-hatted, bundled and all except for the little nipper on the end, engaged in industrious forms of leisure if there is such a thing – reading and knitting or sewing as far as I can tell. (Dad has a sheepish grin – perhaps the whole thing was his idea.) Clearly it was not one of Margate’s sunnier and warmer days, the third woman has an umbrella tucked under her feet which is easy to miss. A stray hat (it looks a bit large but probably belongs to the little girl) is in the foreground. The little girl’s shoes are tucked between mom and dad in the sand.

The card is marked just Margate in pencil on the back, but it was never mailed and nothing else is written on it, somehow these folks were talked into a photo with Felix. Margate, a long-standing seaside destination, is the locale of many of my photos. I wrote about its history once here. (And among the other times I have had posts of postcards from there are examples here and here and one from earlier this year with Felix here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As posing Felix-es go, he is a smallish model, only coming up to the waist of the little girl who is standing behind him. Upon close inspection he sports both a small bow on his left shoulder and a large button in his ear which I will hazard a guess says Chad Valley – it is the first time I have seen the button in the ear of one of these posing Felix toys and now I am wondering if I can find it on others. I have a sort of 18 inch model that has one – the first in my collection to still have it.

I must say, as backdrops go the photographer didn’t have much to work with here – the patch of sand and unromantic wall behind them. They could be anywhere. He has centered them however and consciously or not, they make up a good photo, their hats lining up and the little girl on the end just a bit taller than the seated adults. Something about the white stockings and shoes on the third woman adds something to the effect. If their repose was greater they might be the Whistler’s Mothers of Margate, but instead there is that nagging sense of diligence. Their Sunday afternoon in the parlor transported to the beach briefly.

A very similar Felix at an undisclosed location – possibly Margate and the very same Felix? Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix remains jolly in the face of their dour and somewhat gloomy affects. He rolls his eyes a bit maniacally, looking up coincidentally toward the little girl – she is his potential partner in crime, and they are in it together to get this party started and have some fun! One arm (paw?) up, he’s ready to lead the way. Meanwhile, he is at the beginning of a long day of posing, cheerfully, with an array of folks on the beach in Margate, some more fun than others, waving to me a hundred or so years later.

Madeleine – a Meow Bow-wow

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It’s a photo finish weekend here at Pictorama, kicking off with this card that wandered in the door just yesterday from Europe. The card seems to have been and sent in Belgium. It is hard to read the postmark, but it might read 1919 which seems about right.

Card verso.

This card was sent to Madeleine as written in fancy script shown on the back. It was sent to Mademoiselle Simoine (?) in Mons, Belgium. Oh, lucky Madeleine! What a wonderful card.

This cat and dog are perfectly matched in size if not spirit – the dog is sort of stealing this show. It’s a professionally produced photo card, with an early form of hand tinting – the pink cast to the bow and a lush green background play off each other nicely, perhaps happy accident as much as a deft hand and keen eye.

Kitty has a pretty white face and chest, lovely striped coat, but is a bit inanimate. Doggie, a little devilish, has a great collar with tiny bells attached. You will hear this boy coming! He is so very shiny with a nice black coat, although he blends almost entirely into the background at first, eyes glimmering, huge, pointy ears. These bon pals like each other at least enough to sit on this (Belgian) lace tablecloth long enough to be immortalized here.

Stormy, back in her early days when she would submit to petting and even brushing.

Kit here reminds me of the stray Mom adopted about a year ago, Stormy. Some of you followed her early story as she adjusted to indoor life at Mom’s house, amongst the other kitties. (You can find posts about Stormy’s early entry to the Jersey branch of the Butler clan here and here for starters.)

Stormy is an odd cat. She came to the back door as a tiny, starved kitten. She waltzed happily into a carrier when we trapped her – sort of like, what took you guys so long? We tried to find her a home, but like many before her, she had come to stay with the Butlers. The first weeks were spent in a huge dog cage where she and the other cats could interact, but she could recover her strength. Stormy liked to be petted and even brushed, which made us think she had a home, however briefly. Her pointy face does make us think she was born feral however and these two warring factions, plus her period outside, make her a bit of a mystery.

Stormy, cat of mystery.

Over time she emerged from the cage and became part of the cat pack at Mom’s. I call her the ghost cat however as she only seems to emerge late at night. She and one of the other cats tussle and play hard – I sometimes wake to the sound of their tumbles and racing around – but I rarely catch sight of her.

Gus, Stormy’s buddy and partner in crime at night, visiting her former abode which has become another kitty hide out.

Stormy has figured out that Mom is largely immobile in her chair and evidently now has her evening nap in the chair next to her. Watching her with big gold eyes. Evidently, Stormy is the Queen of Cats late at night, having a late meal, chasing her tail and romping around. By day it is as if she does not exist. It isn’t a house with many hiding places so I have no idea where she goes. Occasionally she streaks across my path, but rarely. Updates on her have stalled as photos are minimal as are actual first hand interactions.

My outdoor buddy who I have christened Hobo – Mom’s next project.

Miss Stormy has favorites amongst Mom’s caregivers. Like everyone, she likes Winsome best and will perk up an occasionally make an entrance (briefly) when she hears her in the early evening. Despite Stormy’s early days with us, no one can get near her to pet her now – she melts away. Like all cats who chose us, mysteriously electing us as their people, we’ll never know the full tale behind her early life. However, like many before her, she lives with Mom now and is quietly in command of her nocturnal domain.

Pull My Tail and Watch Me Jump!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For someone who collects black cats a surprisingly small part of my collection is devoted to Halloween material, although certainly some has found its way in. (Former posts have shared Halloween items here, here and here for starters.)

I do love a good paper mache pumpkin or black cat lantern, and I can see a few more finding their way into the house. I remember the first time I saw the pumpkins was at a store in Cold Spring, New York and they had a load of them. The vintage decorations were amazing, but were way more than I could afford at the time and I was just agog. I don’t think I bought my first lantern until a few years ago, on Instagram, this nice cat one below.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I don’t even remember where I purchased this little guy I am sharing today who is one of the few persistent Halloween decorations up in the house. I don’t think it was eBay, although I could be wrong. I think he may have come into my possession before eBay and probably at a flea market.

His tail, now gone, seems to have been a victim of persistent pulling over the years, and his back is marked with the residue of scotch taping. He has a bit of ancient string on his head where he hung from. I think the very first year I moved into this apartment I may have put him on the door, but now he resides comfortably on a shelf, tucked near yesterday’s feature coincidentally, my Oswald Rabbit. There are a few others scattered around him, a good cardboard black cat head or two.

A robustly decorated home near my Mom, taken on a recent run in NJ.

Jumping Kitty is a typical thin cardboard and I would say he might date back to the ’40’s or 50’s, at least in terms of design which may have continued to be produced over time. I have always liked his toothy smile and the slightly evil twinkle in his eyes. He shows us his claw paws and there is even an indication of fluffy fur. There is no factory mark on him, but I would guess he is a domestic product. For me he has a look of just the right period for Halloween decorations.

My childhood ran mostly to a slapdash sort of holiday decorating. We might carve the occasional pumpkin, there was a Christmas tree (artificial – Mom was against the killing of live trees), and there might have been this or that handed down in the family that came out at the holidays, but really Mom had three kids and a husband who traveled constantly for work, and she wasn’t devoting a lot of time or energy to it. We routinely carved pumpkins, dyed Easter eggs and made gingerbread cookies, more as activities to occupy us than any actual interest in the holidays.

Play the short video clip for this enormous moving black cat a block away from Mom in NJ.

I have a bit of an itch to decorate, but NY studio apartment living doesn’t afford many opportunities. I have let go of even putting up a small Christmas tree (mostly for the cats who like to claim it in a variety of ways, sitting under or climbing, eating things off of it, etc.) years ago as just too hard to negotiate in our space. Like my mom I guess I too don’t really have the time or patience.

Another spooky home in Fair Haven.

I thought I would be at my Mom’s house for Halloween this year and was looking forward to it until my schedule morphed. She lives in the sort of ideal suburban neighborhood, within walking distance of three schools, made up of medium-sized, well tended homes. A picture perfect for kids to trick or treat in. I would like to see what the costumes look like these days and would have enjoyed handing out treats.

This house, also on her block, was just the perfectly decorated autumn cottage I thought.

For those of you who follow my running journal on Instagram you know that it is full of cul de sacs and dead end streets where kids play unimpeded. The yards are a treat with seasonal decorations changing on cue. Those will morph briefly to Thanksgiving and of course large displays for Christmas. Maybe this will be the year to put up a tree again here in the apartment. I will let you Pictorama readers know.