Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Hard to say what Felix is thinking – him pointing at his head and the ? above it – it is a bit of a mystery. This is a toothy Felix – just the kind I like best! – and the jolly little hairs flying off his head are very entertaining too. Someone did a good job painting this Felix. The man and woman who have stuck their heads through here seem to be especially well suited for this shot. It reminds me a little of the photo in my post, On a Slow Train Thru’ Arkansas – another cheap and fun carnival photo opportunity. I guess Felix could always be added as an inexpensive but jolly photo novelty prop.
This card is unused so there is no sense of date or location. I do not know if it is American or not – but I suspect it is – it feels American. The very square and toothy Felix seems early. The woman’s hat seems to be from the thirties and the photo process doesn’t seem as early as the twenties, but hard to say for sure.
Given an option to go back in time, I might prefer to have my photo taken sitting on the moon, something I have always longed to do. However, I would nonetheless leap at the opportunity to have our photos, Kim and mine, taken with Felix this way. I mean really, who wouldn’t?
Pam’s Pictorama: Ah, yes, Felix in my future indeed! This image falls into the just barely Felix mode. Still, if Felix is going to arrange himself in the remains of your tea cup, what can you expect?
While black cats get a bad rap in this country, in other countries and cultures I am pleased to say the little guys enjoy a reputation for good luck. I picked this English ditty up online:
Black cat, cross my path
Good fortune bring to home and hearth
When I am away from home
Bring me luck wherever I roam
– Old English Charm
Evidently the Japanese have a soft spot for them too. I guess in this way the world will remain populated with the precious black kits like my very own Blackie – named for obvious reasons. Blackie has hedged his bets with a small but clear white star on his chest, just to relieve the anxiety of the superstitious. Obviously, I consider him very good luck indeed.
Blackie Eats the Orchid
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is an odd one. It was identified as Tunisian when sold on eBay, but there isn’t much explanation. The back reads: Bon Boisers Maria/Bon courage and is addressed as far as I can read it as: M’othel Image, Hospital ausciliaire, PO 16 Lens Yonne. Roughly translated the message seems to be something along the lines of Good kisses and good courage Maria which we assume she needs since she is in a hospital. Yonne appears to be south of Versaille although I have no point of reference to know more or less how far.
What a wonderful and whacky parade though! I had a perfectly excellent childhood, but my parents (sensible people who hated crowds) were not in favor of parades, which left me with a nagging hankering for them. My father, a cameraman for ABC news for years, frequently filmed the night-before balloon blow-up for NY’s Thanksgiving Day parade – and sometimes the actual parade! However he could not be cajoled into taking us kids, ever. As a result I visited the balloons pre-Thanksgiving for many years as an adult living in Manhattan. Never the parade however. In the end I inherited my parent’s dislike of crowds. But, for floats like this, I think I would happily make an exception.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This was the second of two recent purchases. It took a long time to get to me, but it was well worth the wait. Felix strikes an especially good pose. It is as if he is saying, “Come on Jack, let’s blow out of here and find some real fun!” The man seems to be fully at ease – this despite the fact that he is wearing a suit at the beach. Looking further into the background we have lots of women in long cotton dresses and hats – it was a beach with a dress code I guess. A lovely looking beach resort, somewhere in Britain, roaring away in 1920’s full cry. Felix seems to have interrupted this man’s newspaper reading, but no mind – perhaps they are discussing the day’s racing results together.
This postcard is unused, undated and with no indication of location. I have found that these Felix photo postcards are rarely postally used, written on or dated. Clearly you had one taken and kept it for your own enjoyment. I saw my first version of these postcards in a book (the definitive book really) about Felix call Felix: The Twisted Tale of the World’s Most Famous Cat, by John Canemaker. That one, and the ones I was to subsequently find and purchase initially, were people posing with more or less human sized Felix-es. Some even made me wonder if there was a small person inside a Felix costume. In recent years I have found more photos of the sort shown here – larger than a large toy, but definitely not a midget in a Felix suit. Easier for an itinerant photographer to wander the beach with his tripod and camera equipment hawking a photo with Felix I suppose. You had to be set up in a stationary place to set up with the really big fellow.
Unsurprisingly, I have long searched for one of these giant Felix doll props. I came close years ago when someone I was conversing with on eBay said he had one in a storage locker – and then he disappeared! Oh the frustration! You know though that I plan to hunt one down one of these days – and if you stick around you’ll all know about it.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: At first glance this photograph was all about the foliage for me. I have a real thing for masses of climbing leafy and flowering foliage in high definition like this photo has. A 19th century garden of Eden. Then I focused on the three woman who are so clearly related – especially the one in the middle and the one on the right. Those two (and the cat) staring right at the camera. A formidable group! It is from Britain and is clearly very early. I have yet to identify the exact photo process, but like some others I have mentioned previously, it has a hard shine on it and a slight moire effect when photographed. (It drove poor Kim crazy getting it right when scanning.) I don’t know if this is a form of deterioration or just the nature of it. The definition of the print shows the large negative off to a real advantage.
This card was not mailed. However, written on the back in black pen is, To My New Brother From your loving sisters Elsie. And below that in pencil Family from Sutton Coldfield. Our friend at Google maps tells me that is the Midlands in the UK. As I mentioned, no doubt that these women are related. So interesting how some families, or even just a few people within a family can end up looking so much alike – others, not so much. At one time my brother and I (sporting similar haircuts) looked so much alike that someone I worked with walked up to him at a club in Manhattan and said, “You must be Pam Butler’s brother.”
Of course this card found its way to me because of that great cat. Very much a voting member of that family he has a place of pride, dead center in the photo and he looks right at New Brother – you can almost see him thinking, Yeah, Buddy, me too. Wanna make something of it?
Pam’s Pictorama: I have been giving these Felix spoons the sideways look on eBay for years now. Suddenly there was this one and no one was bidding on it and the next thing I know…I own it! I am surprised to find that there is very little information available about the maker, or anything much at all about it at all. It is marked nickel silver, but no maker that I can see, and the smiling, dashing Felix is silver and black enamel. Someone selling one on a website claims that these spoons were made by Charles Horner of Halifax who was an Art Deco designer of jewelry. At first glance Mr. Horner seems a bit higher end than our friend Felix appears. Still, he seems to have produced a broad line of products so perhaps it is possible. It is a nicely made spoon. Like I said in my post, Living the Felix Life, when my ship comes in I plan to use Felix china for our everyday dishes and now I will make sure all the spoons are Felix as well!
When I informed Kim I had purchased the Felix spoon and showed it to him, he told me of his memory of owning an Ollie spoon as a child – part of a Kukla Fran and Ollie set of ice cream spoons with distinctly designed squared off shovel-like bowls at the end. Of course I immediately went to eBay and found a Kukla spoon – no Ollie spoon, except for one that had been made into a ring. It did make an attractive, if somewhat bizarre, ring and I briefly considered buying it – but really, where could I wear it?
Spoons are a surprisingly affordable collectible. The excellent design on some was a bit of a revelation – I saw a rather remarkably well designed W.C. Fields spoon for example – and the actual existence of others being the revelation, such as the Charlie McCarthy spoon or the Dionne quintuplets. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there are some future spoon entries heading your way, dear reader, a future edition of Blame It on the Blog.
Pam’s Pictorama: Bonus post. Some of you may know that I am currently on the west coast traveling for business. Frankly, it hasn’t been an especially good trip so far, however I stumbled into a store yesterday and picked up this cheerful cache of cat gems which have helped rally me. The store is called Favor, on Sutter about a block from the Hotel Rex where I am staying. Cat folks take note.
Dinner with friends tonight – next leg Santa Barbara tomorrow!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This parade of multiple off-model Felix fellows advertises the East London Toy Factory at 45, Norman Road, E. 3. It is unused and undated. A quick look around and I found this out about the history of this factory on the site Grace’s Guide:
WWI. Sylvia Pankhurst opened a new toy factory as an answer to the dozens of tiny failing workshops where women were paid a pittance. Toys were no longer being imported from Germany, so Sylvia’s factory employed 59 women to fill the gap. It was a haven for them. First they turned out wooden toys and then dolls: black, white and yellow, followed by stuffed cats, dogs and bears. One day, Sylvia took a taxi full of her wares to Selfridges new store in Oxford Street and cajoled Gordon Selfridge himself to become a stockist.
A further listing says that in 1922 East London Toy Factory was noted for exhibiting Soft Animals with Voice…and Riding Animals on Wheels. By 1947 they were listed with Animals with Electric Eyes. Hotsy totsy I say! An undated ad on another site declares, East London Toy Factory, Ltd, high-class soft toys, artistic rag dolls, mascots, fancy toys and all kinds of novelties. Fancy toys and novelties indeed – let’s talk! I am not absolutely positive, but I think there is a very good chance that my Felix below is a East London Toy Factory fellow. As far as I can find out, they did not place a maker’s mark on them. The company was liquidated in 1952.
Sylvia Pankhurst was a real pip. In addition to opening the East London Toy Factory, which as above, employed women and at a higher wage (not to mention supplying off-model Felix dolls to the masses) Sylvia Pankhurst was a suffragette, born of a family of reformers and left wing activists. She started life as a painter, illustrating the plight of poor women and families and then she became an activist and reformer with a vengeance. In addition to the toy factory, she opened food distribution centers, and a free clinic. Shown below, she is being arrested for protesting WW1.
Subsequently, she moved to the countryside and lived with her Italian anarchist paramour where they opened a cafe and she wrote what one website calls subversive literature. (This seems to mean Communist.) She was against marriage and taking a man’s name and when she gave birth to a son when she was 45 – it is unclear if it was the child of the Italian lover of if she had moved on by then – her refusal to marry resulted in her mother never speaking to her again. (So much for being a liberal parent – I guess there were limits in 1927.) Later in life Pankhurst was a supporter of Ethiopian independence and moves there in 1956. Continuing in the same lifelong vein, she opens the first teaching hospital there and supports anti-imperialist causes. Sylvia Pankhurst dies in Ethiopia, where she is given a state funeral, in 1960 at the age of 78. Clearly I am not able to do her full justice here, but there are robust sites devoted to her that are well worth the read. Fascinating! I am very pleased that Felix took me down this particular road, and I offer it to you today as a slightly unusual Mother’s Day fare.
Pam’s Pictorama: This was very much an impulse buy on eBay a few months back. Perhaps because I had recently seen an exhibition of kimono at the Met with these fabulous fireman’s coats made with heavy woven fabric and this reminded me of them. (One is shown below – they had amazing designs on them. Images from this wonderful exhibition can still be found on the Met’s website at Kimono: A Modern History. Full disclosure for those who may not know – I work at the Met.) The cat image just made me laugh! It is the same image on both sides – the other side a bit faded.
Needless to say I would have loved this when I was a kid. I was trying to remember if I was especially enamored of a particular toy purse in childhood. There are a few vague memories that tug at the edges of my mind, but I don’t remember any special purses. I do remember that for a while I carried around a toy doctor’s bag. It was complete with fake pills (somehow I have trouble imagining that children today get fake pills in their doctor’s bags) and I am quite sure that the idea of being a doctor didn’t especially interest me, but carrying this case around did. I am not entirely sure what this says about me.
I also remember being pleased when it appeared that I had reached an age to carry a purse. Perhaps if you are a boy you have pockets in everything and therefore you don’t need a purse. However, it seemed very necessary to me – having a place to put the things I wanted to carry with me. In my twenties I graduated to very jolly vintage alligator bags that would sit on a table or bar like a proud little work of art. (Kim didn’t like them, felt bad for the alligators; I gave them up. He was right.) Shoulder injuries brought me to a world of lightweight bags recently – and last year’s foot surgery left me with a backpack in order to use a knee wheelie and then crutches – which I will need again in July, so I am hanging onto the backpack for now. Perhaps after I will find something a bit more interesting. Maybe I will just throw my phone and a credit card in this one!
Here is one of the fireman’s jackets from the Met’s exhibition, above:
From the exhibition, “Kimono: A Modern History” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Those of you who are regular readers (or among Kim’s Facebook friends) will know of my ongoing passion for photos of Felix as a prop for beach photos. It is pretty much the cornerstone of my photo collecting, and makes up the bulk of my collection. This is one of two recent acquisitions in this area and I especially like it because the Felix toy does not appear to be a prop just for the photo. Instead this seems to be a much beloved toy, taking a trip to the beach with this little boy who is grasping him firmly in his arms. (Understandable – Felix does have a tendency to run off. See my recent post, Felix on a Leash for more on this. Felix joins another family photo in Felix Family Photo.) Written on the back, Dear All – hope you are all well having a nice time weather glorious – Best love to all Ronie. (Could also be signed Rorrie.) Oddly, there is no stamp or postmark so if it was mailed it was in an envelope. Therefore, no date either. We’ll have to assume that Ronie/Rorrie expected that everyone knew the little nipper on the front of the card and did not comment on him, or Felix, in particular.
It is of some interest to me that our parents seem to mostly take photos of us with beloved toys when the toys are new. You rarely see a photo of a child holding some really ratty old toy that he or she has been dragging around with them forever. Yet, in some ways that torn-up, faded toy with the food stains, is the one that lives on in memory. Although I guess in our mind’s eye we still see them shining and new. I offer a photo here of me with my stuffed dog, Squeaky, when he was freshly new and immediately adored. And, of course, a photo of Squeaky today. He lives a careful life on a bookshelf now, He now longer squeaks, but his long-lashed brown eyes still open and close. Squeaky saw a lot of miles early in life and we are glad that he is enjoying his retirement here in the apartment with us.