Tricks

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Sometimes when I look at photos like this I wonder if someone is merely recording an event (Sam does this with the cat and the dog everyday at four and I think I’ll take a photo…) or if it is specifically set-up with the photo in mind. Considering how hard it is to catch your pets doing amusing things, even with a handy iPhone camera that can be grabbed quickly, more went into getting a photo like this than we might remember today. (I know. I have been trying to record Cookie giving Kim a ‘high five’ for weeks now – she likes to do this starfish paw in the air when she is over-stimulated and wants something. Kim say Blackie will have to learn the brother handshake to keep up.)

The dog and cat seem to be looking at something – it amuses me up that they are really the same size. If anything, it seems the man’s hand is the indication for the pets to get on their hind legs, but what are they looking at in unison? (As an aside, Cookie and Blackie are the most standing on their hind leg cats I have ever had – I wonder if this is an evolutionary trait in kitties? They like tummy rubbing too.) It is a well-composed shot and I like the late in the day winter sun here with the long shadows cast of the three of them.

The card is unused and undated, although all indications of early 20th Century. Easy to see why it survived – too bad all the names and the places are lost to us. It doubles my resolve to get that photo of Cookie however.

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Blame it on the Blog 2: Bonzo Dog Edition

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: A few weeks back while I was doing some research for my post Going to the Dogs – Bonzo I discovered that the fine British toy makers of Chad Valley made a vast variety of delightful Bonzo dog stuffed toys! And me being me, I had to have one.  I also found out pretty quickly that Bonzo toys are rarefied items and do not go cheap! As I have noticed in some early Felix toys, there seems to be a lot of variation in these toys, many sizes, but their expression as well, so not just any one would entirely do.(For more on my ode to the Chad Valley fine makers of Hygienic Toys, see Felix for a Cause.)  All this has culminated in this wonderful Christmas gift from Kim – welcome to our home Bonzo! Thank you Kim – you’re the very best husband!

As you can see, Bonzo has a bit of sleep sand in his eyes – this seems to be on most of them. Bonzo was, after all, a sleepy fellow. He still has his great little Chad Valley identification button and his Hygienic Toy Made in England Chad Valley Co Ltd tag.  This fellow came from a lovely eBay seller in Belgium who took excellent care to ensure that he reached our shores safely.

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Bonzo is now enjoying a special spot on a shelf with his earlier shown Bonzo brethren. In the interest of further Bonzo education I offer one of the great color full-page spreads snatched from the Google image file and a cartoon below. Ho, ho, ho!

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Flying Dutch Kitties

 

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There are endless examples of early images of kittens dressed up and doing cute human-type things. However, I have never purchased one until this one hit my radar recently. It just cracks me up! As you can see by the writing, it is Dutch. A very rough translation gratis Google tells me that this is a bit of advertising and the back informs the recipient (this one not used) that the vendors hope to see them this week and that they offer high value for their orders – whatever those might be. The front makes reference to “our kitties which will soon be in the air!” (Any readers who speak Dutch please reply below!) What were these kitties selling? I’m buying!

I am always threatening to dress the cats up and take their photo – Kim begs me not to injure their dignity that way and I am brought to my senses. This image strikes me as a perfect marriage of low tech and professional – like those glorious ‘homemade’ cars and machines the Little Rascals used to have. I especially love the balloon!

I gather the key mover behind the cats-dressed-as-people movement was Harry Whittier Frees (1879-1953) – sort of a Louis Wain of early photography. I snatched the quote below from Wikipedia and it come from his own book, Animal Land on the Air, discussing the superiority of kittens as models,

Rabbits are the easiest to photograph in costume, but incapable of taking many ‘human’ parts. Puppies are tractable when rightly understood, but the kitten is the most versatile animal actor, and possesses the greatest variety of appeal. Yay kittens!

The practice spread widely beyond Whittier Frees – as we can assume this card was made by someone else. For a healthy serving of these I suggest this site on littlethings.com. I have stolen a single image from it, shown below by an unidentified photographer.

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A Girl and Her Toys

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Another fine example of an item where Kim and I disagree! He’s never been fond of this triptych of toy photos, but I have always liked it since buying it many years ago on eBay. In recent years I have allowed it to be replaced on the wall by some images that we are more mutually fond of, but I stubbornly continue to champion it. My guess is that the small cat toy – barely visible here and in the lower right corner, is how it came to my attention. It really is all about this enormous, lovely teddy bear however. What a lucky little girl!

The background shifts a bit with each subsequent shot until we end up with that interesting bit of advertising featured behind her in the third shot. I will admit that these are somewhat inept from a technical point of view, going from slightly over exposed to too dark in the third shot. I am in love with the idea of a series like this though.

As the child of a man with a masters in film and a news cameraman (his entire career spanning more than thirty years spent at ABC News) you would think I would have been subjected to projects such as this. He did labor over his photos and I have memories of what seemed like endless adjustments of the light meter at a variety of family landmark moments while we stood impatiently. However, such a formal approach never appealed to him. I offer a Christmas snapshot of me as a tiny sprout with my favorite dog toy, dubbed Squeaky, one Christmas morning, who incidentally I still own. I think we can see early signs of a nascent toy collector in this one!

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Happy Hen

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Wonderful chicken toy can be purchased here!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: (Christmas shopping tip included!) As I have said occasionally in prior posts, sometimes it is hard to explain why a given photo attracts me, but when I see them I have to have ’em if at all possible. This photo postcard of a chicken is one of those. It was never used, no clue as to when it was made or why – or why it was kept pristine all these years. What a perfect looking little hen! Proudly perched on this cage. There’s just something very right about it. Reminds me of stories my mother has told me of people she who keep them as pets – yes, in the house. Evidently they are smarter and more charming as a pet then you might think – and live longer. Regardless of whether or not we want to live with one in our tiny Manhattan abode, there is something undeniably proud and perfect about this chicken. Makes me pleased to know I am a vegetarian.

This put me in mind of several years ago when I first purchased a stunning stuffed beaver toy made by the Hansa toy company. I don’t remember how the beaver originally came to my attention, but it was clearly a very exquisitely made toy. I was deeply interested in beavers and scooped it up. Once I saw how beautiful it was I located the toy company online – a stuffed animal paradise. Following in the tradition of early Steiff, Dean’s, and Chad Valley there is beautiful construction, but also a look of intelligence and life in some of these toys – they have knowing eyes. They tackle animals from the everyday and domestic to the exotic – even extinct.  Each is perfectly executed – need a stuff wombat, flying squirrel or nice executed life-size German Shepard? These are your people. This hen just seemed extraordinary and Kim purchased her for me. She has a prime spot in our living room. (A quick look on the site today left me imagining a young Pam begging for a 40 inch ride-on reindeer, on sale for $591.92, or life-size buffalo for $2,495! Mom, Dad, look! Free shipping!)

So during this holiday season, I leave you with this top notch helpful hint for that hard to buy for person on your list.

The Old George

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Offered as a reproduction on Amazon, The Old George Hotel, in an earlier incarnation.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The Residents shown here are identified as Bonzo, Tou-Tou and Joseph. Silly me, I assumed the dog was Bonzo until I looked up Tou-Tou and realized it is French for doggie. So that leaves us to wonder if the cat is Joseph (my guess) and the turtle Bonzo or otherways around – or, of course, the cat or turtle could be named Tou-Tou and the dog Bonzo. Both the cat and the dog (and the turtle?) seem to be looking upward at where Residents is written – very nifty indeed.

Evidently the original Old George Hotel building dates back to 1314, although very little of it remains today – it’s ground floor knocked out to become the entrance to the Old George Mall shopping precinct. As recently as 1994 there was a restaurant, the Bay Tree, in residence – followed by the Old George Tearooms, which closed in ’09.  I gather that the building is open to the public on special occasions such as Heritage Days, whatever those might be. All this according to a BBC history site which goes on to share a short list of some of the famous guests which include Oliver Cromwell, Samuel Pepys and Buddy Holly – quite a diverse list. Pepys recorded the following in his famous diary:

Lay in a silk bed, and a very good diet…

The next day he wrote:

…paid the reckoning, which was so exorbitant…that I was mad and resolved to trouble the mistress about it and get something for the poor.

Actually, pretty tame for Pepys!  In addition, Shakespeare and his players are believed to have played in the courtyard, which had room for 50 horses. Last, but not least, Dickens mentions it in Martin Chuzzlewit. H.G. Wells has a turn in The Secret Places of the Heart referring to the Old George smoking room and he writes,

 The Old George at Salisbury is really old; it shows it, and Miss Seyffert laced the entire evening with her recognition of the fact. ‘Just look at that old beam!’she would cry suddenly. ‘To think it was exactly where it is before there was a Cabot in America!’

Of course, with the possible exception of H.G. Wells and Buddy Holly, all of this was most likely well before Bonzo, Tou-Tou and Joseph arrived on the scene and had their photo taken in the garden. (Of course, hard to tell with turtles.) No date on this photo postcard, nothing on the back. Photo postcards stopped being marketed by Kodak in 1930 although I am sure, like tintypes, they continued to be used for quite a while beyond – and since this is a promotional postcard for a hotel it could easily be much later.

In the end, I imagine it was a lovely place to stay and can see myself, drink in hand, enjoying the garden with Bonzo, Tou-Tou and Joseph and all those interesting ghosts from its earlier incarnations.

The garden at the Old George Hotel, 1928 in a photo for sale online.

Felix for a Cause

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Let us return once again to Felix, one of my favorite subjects. These two outstandingly unusual and interesting photo postcards capitalized on Felix’s appeal to attract an audience for their respective hospital fundraisers (Something in my role as a professional fundraiser I can really get behind.) One can only imagine they did brilliantly – after all, who could resist Felix?

The top card, and the first I acquired, was postally used, but has lost its stamp and postmark. The following (some writing faded or rubbed away) was written on the back in pencil, addressed to Mrs. J. W. Stoodley, Folly Farm, Crewkerne, Som (which appears to be short for Somerset):

Dear Mother, ….. am glad it is much cooler now but our place is cooler inside than out. The children had their carnival yesterday, but this is the one. Will

One can’t help but wonder if you got to ride with Felix in that nifty sidecar motorcycle if you attended?  I cannot answer that question, but much to my great surprise, I found a few minutes of footage of this very Carnival in June of 1925 to support Coventry Hospital and I offer it here:

 

While it is minus Felix, if you watched you did see that motorcycles seem to play an interesting role. The other pressing question – is that an enormous stuffed Felix (like someday I might find for sale on eBay and mortgage my house to purchase?) or a rather excellent Felix costume? (Which I would, of course, also be willing to go into hock to acquire.)

Then, just when I thought I would never see another postcard that was comparable, the second one showed up on eBay. While it is hard to see, if you look carefully you find out that each Felix is a tiny photo of a stuffed Felix toy, collaged on. I have supplied a photo of one of my beloved Felixes of the same type, an early addition to my collection, below. I adore this particular style of Felix and much to my surprise I came across someone with an entire basket of them at the Atlantic City antique toy show. That person told me that they were prizes at fairs in the twenties and thirties. They seem too well made for that, and I remain curious but have never heard anything more on the subject.

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I cannot find any reference to this event – no idea what the ladder is about or what the 250 (bps) refers to – a prize of some sort.  This one is unused postally and there is nothing to indicate a date. The person I bought it from said he had no idea what it referred to nor had he ever seen anything like it. (He was entertained by the image of the other one I emailed him however.) All this to say, call in Felix when you want to attract a crowd.