Time Out for Our Sponsor

Pam’s Pictorama Post: We all know it – cats sell! Here are two classic examples. I fell hard for the Black Cat Hosiery cat early on in my collecting days. He’s popular and the large free-standing displays go for big money. This was an early acquisition for my collection and he sits framed on a wall over my desk at home. He has a stand tucked behind him that makes him free-standing as well. Sadly over time the company moved to just a black cat logo – nowhere near as compelling as this fine feline. Our cat Blackie bears an extraordinary resemblance to this fellow, despite have a white spot or two that would show in this pose. Blackie is among the few cats I have known who has a distinct smile. Perhaps because he is so black around his mouth you can see it clearly – when cats smile they show their fangs though. Some people may not think it is the friendliest of looks – but we know he means well.

Hoffmann's ad

I have paired our hosiery friend with this serious German chap advertising, of all things, rice. It seems to translate as Hoffmann’s Rice, Starch with the cat. I gather starchy rice was viewed as a good thing under the circumstances – I wonder if there’s a word pun that translation isn’t sharing with us? As far as I can tell this rice company eventually morphed into one that still exists internationally today, but I am not entirely positive about that link. Meanwhile, this little piece of advertising is especially pleasing – as a result they are fairly ubiquitous it seems. People kept them. You can probably see that he too is meant to be freestanding by moving his feet forward. I bought this particular card at a flea market in Berlin around ’07 – they were inexpensive and plentiful there. He is a classic bit of advertising and it is easy to see why both of these were beloved and survive in large numbers even today.

Try a Skyrocket!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:This was a surprising find – it is a press photo of the Our Gang kids. It is dated July 28, 1925 and says, The Cleveland News, Reference (something I can’t read) Cleveland, Ohio. Also written on the back it says, Don’t Hitch Your Wagon to a Star! Try a Skyrocket! Here are the diminutive Pathy comedians of Roach’s “Our Gang” celebrating the Fourth in their own fashion. Quite the fire crackers, yes? I have always thought that if I was going to have a still from Our Gang that I would want one of the crazy machines or cars in it and this is pretty dandy, even though it isn’t a still, but a photo made expressly for this purpose. I just wish they could have gotten Pete up there too! The photo is a collage montage of images and the “flames” shooting out the back and the lines indicating speed seem to have actually been scratched onto the negative. Very resourceful.

Like many people, I guess, some of my earliest television memories is a wonderful, never-ending unspooling of Our Gang and Little Rascal shorts on weekend afternoons. These films informed our childhoods and convinced us that we should have a neighborhood gang of kids and dogs, and be capable of building glorious fire engine go-carts, our own taxi cabs, other cars, and club houses – and sit around eating huge cream puff donuts the like of which you never see in real life. (Having said that, I actually finally had a cream puff donut of the kind I am describing the other day – it was on special at Le Pain Quotidien and I split it with a friend – absolutely glorious. I now understand why they were always longing for them in the shorts.) It was years before it occurred to me that those wonderful go-carts and club houses were built by talented adults with virtually endless resources – not a superior kind of extinct child from an earlier generation. It was probably good to have the bar set high however.

Although I watched them all with impunity, it was the earliest generation of them that I liked best. (However, I did not catch up with the silent ones until adulthood so I am thinking of the first generation of sound ones.) I loved this image when I saw it and it set me thinking about a short where they do indeed build a rocket and take off around the neighborhood. Surely there was one like that, wasn’t there?

Tom the Bruiser

Tom the Bruiser

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tom is my kinda fella. What a guy! I have long harbored a passion for six-toed (polydactyl?) cats. A commercial card, the copyright information at the bottom reads, No. 5. Copyright 1908, by E. G. Harris, Denver, Colorado. E.G. Harris seems to have had a line of animal novelty cards, but I can’t find much information about them as a company. The back of the card reads, in a child’s handwriting, Dear Cousin Elsie, how are you. we are all well. why don’t you write. answer this card soon. from your loving cousin, Ollie Nitsch. It is addressed to Miss Elsie Pugler, Ellis Kansas. It is dated November 21, 5 PM. You can’t read the 1908, but Ollie dated it as well. Isn’t it interesting that people rarely seem to comment on the photo on the card they send?

Tom clearly spent his sixteen years living hard, and either lost those ears fighting, or was perhaps also a short-ear to begin with. Those six-toed feet look like little boxing gloves on him. Hemingway was famously said to be partial to extra-toed cats, having been given one by a ship’s captain. Evidently polydactyls were prized for ship’s cats and considered good luck to have on board. One imagines that those extra toes might have made for superior mousing ability. When I was a kid I was told all the six-toed cats came from Boston and were descended from a single cat who arrived on board a ship.

One of my very best cat friends was a multi-toed cat – I believe she had seven, not six on each foot, but one was sort of small and hard to see. She had large thumbs and her front toes seemed oddly jointed and made her look like she was standing on tip toes. She was a calico and her name was Winkie. Winks, named by my brother who was very small at the time, was a wickedly smart cat and somehow those giant paws with thumbs made her appear like she was evolving into a new kind of superhuman cat. She had silky soft hair and was endlessly happy to be held and petted. Winkie discovered a stair she could sit on which would allow her to look out a door window and to the driveway when waiting for me to come home from a date; I would be greeted with a meow. She was a chatty cat. There are many stories about Winkie (she taught herself to use the toilet for one), but for now I will mention that she actually replaced an earlier multi-toed kitten who only lived a few days. My father had been filming a story with Roger Caras (famous reporter of all things animal) and brought the little guy home. Sadly he died in his sleep a few days later. When a friend of my mother’s heard that the kitten had died suddenly she sent us Winkie, fresh off a farm in South Jersey.

I have not had a cat with extra toes since Winkie, but remain convinced they are indeed special and I feel an extra sort of kinship with any and all I meet which is why I snatched up this card immediately.

Ann’s Glass

grandmother's glass

Pam’s Pictorama: This post has been on my mind since Easter when I first started thinking about it. The glass shown here is one of a few things I have that belonged to my maternal grandmother, Ann Wheeling. There are some dishes, a ring that served as her engagement ring (what was called a cocktail ring – set with a smattering of tiny diamonds – which I wear frequently on my little finger) and this glass. When my grandmother’s household was broken up as she was moving into a nursing home, my mother asked me what if anything I would like from the house. I immediately requested this glass. It had sat on a sunny windowsill in her kitchen over the sink forever. My mother laughed and said everyone in the family had said the same thing so I didn’t think much more about it. But somehow, to my surprise, it ended up with me.

As a child I was entranced by it. The red glass with the light coming through it, perched on the window sill – I would always stare at it while sitting in her kitchen for delicious meals, table groaning with food, while the grown-ups talked and talked. As a kid I was told that it was something called spatterware and was made with the ends of glass at the close of the day. (This appears to be true.) Growing up at the beach, I collected sea glass. (With recycling I understand that there isn’t much any more, probably for the best – but I did love to gather it as a kid.) The pretty pieces of green glass in a  myriad of different shades were wonderful. However, very rare pieces of blue and the almost non-existent red were highly prized amongst us. This glass always made me think of that. Dark red glass. I’m not sure that I ever held it until it was given to me. It is a bit heavier than expected and the lip of the glass isn’t rounded off – the edges are almost sharp. Unfortunately, I do not have a spot for it where the sun comes through it (think cats!) but it sits on a shelf near a window where I see it most days from our couch.

There is a lot to be said about my grandmother who was a woman with an excellent head for figures (did the books for the family bar from the time she was a teenager; see the post Living the Felix Life for the story of the dinner plates from her family) and perhaps more of it will be covered over time. However, I think of her at Easter because she made the most heavenly bread – always with extra loaves for the family to take, at Easter and Christmas. Easter brunch held for the extended family at her house was, among other things, marked by the bread. Some of the dough would be fried into sumptuous hand-size pizzas. Oh my! My sister Loren learned how to make a fair version of the bread – my own hands developed arthritis early on, making bread kneading impossible, so I did not. Sadly the recipe and skill died with my grandmother and then Loren’s untimely death. Although it has now been many years, Easter will always make me think of that bread as much as the vinegar smell of colored eggs and chocolate ones in cardboard baskets.


With love from Puss

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: God bless the British and their devoted postcard writing at the turn of the century! So many nice cards and notes as here. This card was sent to B. Grey, at 144 Grosvenor Terrace, Camberwell, SE, from Folkestone and is postmarked March 11, 1909, 11 PM. On the back the following is written in fountain pen ink, Dear Bobbie, I know how fond you are of cats so I have sent you on the photo of our cat. I hope to come to see your mother soon. I hope you are all keeping well. Yours lovingly, Ruth.

Puss certainly is a handsome and fluffy specimen of cat, perched on a very romantic looking roof. It would seem the roof was easy access to all given how unconcerned kitty and, we’ll assume photographer, are here.  I am sorry that the chemicals seem to have gone a bit hinky, although Kim does what he can to reduce the moire effect produced by this. I love the soft dark edges though, like a still from a silent film. We will assume Bobby enjoyed it, given the evidence that it is still here with us, over 100 years later.

Scan(2) copy



Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It was not, and is not really, my intention to start collecting early, risqué photo postcard of women and cats – although there seems to be a deep French tradition of these photos and cards to be explored.  This one got me, in part, because it is a sharply composed photo – all the angles are sort of just right. And there is that super, nicely jointed, little teddy bear she is holding and teasing kit with.

But really I bought it because I like how peeved the cat looks. He has no intention of smiling for the camera – he is most interested in attacking that nice little teddy bear, goddamnit! He is moments away from pouncing and I can imagine that a moment after the shutter clicked he attacked the bear – as well as the arm and the hand holding it. There was probably yelling and maybe even hissing. The cat looks like a nice, big, tabby Tom who knows his way around – hunting mice in that photo studio – a denizen who enjoyed the cushy pillows and soft throws when no one is needing them, layering them in cat hair. Not a prissy kitty at all, but a fellow who knew when and how to sing for his supper as photo prop nonetheless.

Got Milk!


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For a professional photo postcard, this one runs a bit dark and has a strange metallic glare on it that some old photos seem to get from poor developing – tired hypo? Kim has lightened it a bit for your viewing pleasure which does reduce this effect and makes it much more viewable. It is postally unused and the bottom reads, Direct to Consumer, Copyright, 1907 by  Louis N. Gishwiller. Almeda, Kansas. Quick research only serves to confirm Louis Gishwiller as a photographer in Almeda and that there seem to be prominent descendants who remained active in the life of Almeda subsequently.

At the same time I purchased this I was bidding on another, more homemade one, which I am guessing came from the same collection. Lost that one sorry to say; it would have been nice to keep them together.

This cow/milk/cat concept has long fascinated me. I guess it starts with someone squirting the cat square in the face with some milk straight from the udder and the cat liking it. Cats probably hang out because of the smell of milk anyway. Still, cats don’t especially like getting their face soaked so I figure they must really like the taste of the milk to stand for it.

We are now told that milk is not so good for cats and I have not put any out for a cat in years. However when I was a kid, I used to put a saucer of milk out for my cat Pumpkin nightly, from the time he was a little fellow. (I have written about this glorious orange tabby most recently here in Ahoy! Cats at Sea.) Pumpkin adored his saucer of milk and he would settle in and polish it off in one go, his enormous striped tail slowing waving back in forth in appreciation as he drank it down. Although Cookie and Blackie will not know the joys of a milk nightcap, it should be said that Pumpkin lived to be north of 18 years old it did not seem to harm him substantially in any way.

Felix on a Leash?

Scan(3) copy

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This seems like an especially odd photographic set-up. It appears this little girl has been told to hold Felix’s leash. I wonder, does he have a tendency to run away? As Kim pointed out, from the look on his face, he would easily be off to the races if left to his own devices. The card is unmarked so no date to report.

She seems to be a very precise little girl. I like her nice girl-spats over her shoes. She is born to pose in that jolly outfit and hat. In contrast to Felix, she appears to be very composed.

The other night, walking home from the gym, I passed a photo studio that specializes in children’s photos. Very Upper Eastside Manhattan. They were advertising an Easter special – your child having their (very arty) photo taken with baby chicks. Now, I am enough my mother’s daughter to first and foremost be somewhat horrified – I can’t imagine the chicks enjoying it much. But, I had to admit, if the photographer moved fast they had the potential for some photos of awestruck children as they realize they are allowed to stroke these wonderfully soft and fluffy bits of baby bird which was probably dashing around.  (No leash for them.) And then what? Surely the children want to keep the chicks – or perhaps they realize that those darling fluffy things bear a distressing connection to the fried chicken bits on their plate? So part of me thinks it is a brilliant scheme for encouraging vegetarianism.

Another part of my brain thinks about this photo studio archetype: we’ll let you have something splendid for a short time while we take your photo and then we will take it away. It is always a bit sad when I think about it looking at photos. And in this case, Felix looks like he is ready to walk off on his own – leash or no leash!