Further Mysteries of Felix

Minstrel Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: If you’ve been reading my blog over the past year, you realize that Felix worked his way into all sorts of walks of life. The background and reason for some of these are utterly lost to us now. My early post, Felix Mask-o-Rama is one of these and this recent acquisition is another.  Only Felix the Cat written on the back – recently I assume, probably by the seller.

Of course I couldn’t resist it when it turned up on an obscure postcard site for sale, but wowza – what is going on here I wonder?  All but one person in black face, several with white stars on their eye – Grand Pooba, master of ceremony type in the middle – along with Felix and one guy who is not in blackface. Several appear to be children. Let’s face it, this would be odd without the presence of Felix, but he really mystifies me. It makes me speculate – could one consider Felix with his black coat and white muzzle black face? That would, of course, mean that we assume Felix is white to begin with – or is it white face? Hmmm. That’s probably a can of worms I am not going to poke around in, but I certainly can say this, that Felix sure did get around.

Driving with Teddy

Riding Bear

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: How amazing! These people are out for a drive on a lovely day with their small bear tucked into the car with them. Why not? It is a gorgeous day and the sun is just streaming down on them. Everyone wearing hats – except of course of for our friend the bear.

If you look very carefully, you can see another woman, wearing a hat, just behind the bear. The bear also has a leash of some sort hanging from his neck. Notably, he is not wearing a muzzle – as trained bears frequently do – and he looks as placid as you could possibly want, one ear back in vague inquiry, “Can we get moving?” The man next to him has his hand on the bear’s near arm – or is it considered a leg? It took me a while to spot the large crowd of people in the background, visible in the lower right corner. Some sort of fair? Perhaps these folks were itinerant performers, arriving or leaving. Regardless, the bear seems utterly amiable and content in his seat in the car and it is nice to think of them as a family out for a ride on a sunny afternoon.

Wish I could have been there too, but owning this photo is a bit like having a little piece of that long ago day.

Felix, the Sporting Life

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  At first glance I thought these were sisters gathering around their Felix toy, but closer examination shows some strange items at the bottom of the photo – anyone know what the heck those are? Looks like a giant spatula and pail. In a way, another Mysteries of Felix post.

On further consideration, there is also something loosely of a uniform among these, mostly, striped dresses, belted the same. What is that cheeky little armband the woman in the lower left is wearing? She and the other one seated on the floor, both with their bobbed hair, look like they know how to have a good time! This is a smaller, home version of Felix however. Perhaps the mascot of their ‘team’? Like most of these postcards, this one not written on, nor was it sent. However, I do think it looks like a team that might be worth joining.


operculum on platter    Operculum

Pam’s Pictorama: This post is a bit of a summer vacation break in my usual topics. Last weekend I was fortunate to be the guest at a lovely home in East Hampton which, thanks to the glorious weather, included a magnificent walk on the beach. A Jersey girl myself, I grew up on the shore within walking distance of the beach, near the Sandy Hook Bay peninsula. Some of my earliest memories are of playing on the beach and collecting shells, driftwood and sea glass. I do not get to the beach often these days, but on the rare occasion that I do I have noticed our beaches somewhat wiped clean – very few shells or driftwood, and you almost never see sea glass. (I assume this has something to do with recycling.) It happens that my trip to the beach coincided with a a big storm the night before. Our reward was a beach where the rough tides had churned up a vast amount of shellfish and sea flotsam and jet sum. A large flock of sea gulls had stuffed themselves silly and there was shellfish carnage all around

One of the other house guests, Jeff Rosenheim (a colleague and head of the Department of Photographs at the Met), impressed us greatly with his knowledge of sea life zoology. He pointed to a small amber object on the sand and said it was an operculum, or gill cover, in this case for a sea snail. In all my years of beach combing I never remember seeing these and he said they are unusual to find. That day, as you can see above, we collected a few dozen. (The other photo shows some with the sort of sea snail they seem to have come from.) We even found a living little fellow who opened and closed his for us when tickled. We returned the favor by getting him back in the water and away from the gulls – who were quite miffed. As you can see from the one I am holding up to the light, it has the same pattern and texture as the sea shell, but transparent. Strange and beautiful.

Our hostess, Joyce, picked up this handsome crab who also wasn’t familiar to any of us. His meaty claws were snatched away by a hungry bird and he is shown clawless here. This was a very stinky bucket of bits – Wowza! The crab turns out to be a blue spiny spider crab. The other shells, oyster and clam respectively, were just pretty.

blue spiny spider crab   Shells

Lining up for Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I guess this camera man gets slapped on the wrist for cutting the top of the one kid’s head off, but everyone having such a good time, why quibble? Felix looks like he just stopped by the house and had his photo with the family out front, in fact that is what seems to have happened. The number down by his foot makes me think this was an itinerant photographer traveling about with Felix in toe, drumming up business in a wealthy neighborhood. It is undeniably British and everyone is nicely dressed without feeling like they have dressed up for it. I love the way the photographer lined them up, ending with jaunty Felix, a smile on his face. He’s a good size – almost as tall as the little girl.

Perhaps this was one of my past lives – wandering the streets and seaside resorts of Britain, Felix and photo postcard camera in tow!

Pretty as a Picture

Pam’s Pictorama Post Post: The sheer gorgeousness of this image just appealed to me, cat-less though it is. I believe that eBay suggested that I might like it and I do. The whiteness of the clothes in that halo of sun – an idealized afternoon in the country, an attractive group of people posed complete with the handsome and faithful looking family dog. The card originated in a place called Hamilton, Canada (which appears to be in Ontario) and was mailed in 1907. It is postmarked from the place of origin and the destination, but neither postmark has a legible full date.

The back includes a note in a beautiful, neat, female hand which is as follows, Dear Cousin, Rec. your letter O.K. & was glad to hear from you. Am sorry I could not write before but will write in a day or so & explain. I am sending that piece of music by same mail. Bertha It is addressed to: Miss Jessie Brazell, 132 Lake Avenue, Medina, NY. Medina appears to be a small town in the same northern most part of New York State as Niagara and the Canadian border.

It is this kind of slice of life photo from the distant past that first interested me in old photographs. Just a window into a forgotten moment in long past time. Perfect to enjoy on a new summer day, so many years later.

The Boardwalk Smile

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This card has a 1906 copyright credited to W.G. Russell, Atlantic City, NJ. The Boardwalk Smile is written on the left and Take a Smile with Me on the right. Someone has written HERB AT AVALON, in faded pencil at the top. The card is addressed to Mrs. Martha Emorg (?) Devon Rt. Mt. Airy, Philadelphia – at least that is the best I can make out. It was sent on August 31, 1906 from Philadelphia. It is also stamped as received by Mt. Airy, but without a date or time stamp.

According to Kim (a reliable source) take a smile with me means have a drink with me and clearly Atlantic City was already in the prime of its rollicking good times and New Jersey embracing what would become a reputation for notable corruption. Franklin Pierce Stoy was in his second term as Mayor, the first term was 1894-1897. It appears he was re-elected in 1900 and died in office in 1911 during his second term.  He died of neuritis (which sounds truly dreadful and horribly painful) at a sanitarium, Clear View, in nearby Pennsylvania. His political followers, who were being investigated by a Grand Jury at the time, were “stunned by this latest and entirely unexpected development” according to the New York Times, July 23, 1906. The article goes on to say, “the Mayor left the city three weeks ago on the eve of the Elks convention and it was not generally known until a few days later that he was ill.”  It also notes that Stoy was known as the Dandy Mayor. The other notable event in Atlantic City of that year was a great train wreck in October, a train derailed on a bridge over what is described as a creek on Wikipedia and the train fell into the water. While 14 passengers were saved, another 53 lost their lives in the tragedy. It seems to have always been a city of high highs and low lows.

On an entirely different note, the artist of the card, W. G. Russell, seems to have been better known for seascapes much as the one shown here.

Schooner Alberta Atlantic City, NJ

Schooner Alberta Atlantic City, NJ

I am left wondering if it was he who also painted this strange smiling puss or was that addition by someone else? The kitty is a somewhat menacing fellow with his fur up and his toothy and yet toothless grin! The beard and semi-wink of one eye – this fellow sure did know where to go and what to do in order to have fun in AC tonight!