Mona + Boots

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is the kind that makes up one strata of my cat photo collection. Happy people posing with their cats, and I have written about it at some length in previous posts. (Found here including A Girl and Her Cat, a title I seem to have used again – A Girl and Her Cat, and for the boys, Men and Cats.)

There is no date, but I am guessing that Mona and Boots are shown here in the 1940’s – based on her hair and clothes. Boots is exactly the kind of lovely fat (I will guess boy) cat that I like best – have a good look at that mug on this guy. People always seem at their best in a photo with a cat – it relaxes them and makes them less self-conscious. I am also a fan of photos with these snaggle-tooth edges that I remember from my early childhood.

It used to make me sad to see family photos scattered to the four winds, sitting in a box in a flea market. After all, I can’t rescue them all. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned that we live in a studio apartment which we have crammed all this – and more – into.) However, over time it is interesting to me that these photos have somehow transcended their original record of these folks (and cats) that had emotional meaning for someone.

Now these are images of interest in their own right, a representation of a specific time and place, seventy or more years ago now, Mona with her pleated skirt, ankle socks and carefully curled hair, standing in her lovely Anywhere USA neighborhood, and holding Boots who looks exactly like any number of friendly pudgy tuxedo cats today. While I will continue to bemoan what the loss of the family photo album means to our visual cultural history of record, at least my future self will not be sad to see boxes of unloved photos at the flea markets of the future. The images of today and tomorrow will largely float along some place in the electronic world of the internet, along with this post.

Jenny Reed

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo postcard of this nicely turned out little girl with her cat attracted me in part because of the extreme patience on the part of that kitty. Clearly he is used to being held this way by his pint-sized mistress. The image is timeless, but her black button boots and fluffy dress take us back to the earliest part of the 20th century.  There is no date, however written on the back is the following: Jenny Reed and below in smaller writing but the same pen and hand, Lillie Peckwine Grand Daughter and at the bottom, same hand, but different pen, bernie (sic) Reed.

Somewhere my parents have a photo of me, wearing an old Snoopy sweatshirt age more or less 8, holding our cat – also named Snoopy – in approximately the same pose. I have mentioned Snoopy before – a boy-cat, white with black cow-spots – who was my introduction to cats. He was ever patient, both with me and the German Shepard, Duchess, and they were my constant companions who figured largely in my daily play world.

To Kim’s ongoing amusement I will occasionally pick Blackie up and carry him around this way and kiss the top of his head. He gets a slightly panicked look, but has learned to adjust to it and even purrs. Cookie, on the other hand, can be held for about 30 seconds in any position before a full fledged fear and flight set in. I shouldn’t do it to Blackie, but I guess I’m still a little girl at heart.

Three of a Kind

Three of a Kind

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As a self-professed lover of the tuxedo cat genre this photo called my name. There’s nothing on the back, but I imagine this as three generations of one family of cats. The rather sour-pussed mom to the back, an adolescent kitten, and one from the latest batch. My idea of heaven – a pile of black and whiters tumbling around together in the backyard or house. It is the youngest kit in this group whose markings I like best – that white mustache is a hoot! If I were to hazard a guess I would say that the younger of the two is a female and the one up front, a guy. He probably grew into a lovely friendly boy, who got a little hefty and liked lots of pets. Boy cats are that way – the girls are wily and smart, and you pet them as they run by you on their way to complete their urgent cat business.

While I understand that the markings on a cat creates a strictly anthropomorphic response in me, I cannot help myself. My cat Otto had a perfect black mustache on a white mouth – Charlie Chaplin or Hitler, depending on your predilection. When selecting Cookie and Blackie most recently, it was Cookie’s comical, symmetrical yet somewhat off kilter markings that caught my eye. In the end, Blackie has certainly emerged as the most handsome kitty, but I will always be attracted to white paws, bib and a good mustache! Cookie sold the pair of them to me initially. Many of you Facebook followers have seen the recent photo of Cookie and Blackie I offer below.

Cookie & Blackie 2015

The Cricket in Times Square

Pam’s Pictorama: I’m on a bit of a tangent today. In a previous post, Push Kitty, I mentioned my affection for the illustrator Garth Williams. For me The Cricket in Times Square, illustrated by Williams and written George Selden is a nearly perfect children’s early reader chapter book. As a committed New Yorker, I love the view of a somewhat period yet timeless New York, as seen from the ground up, in Grand Central station. Much like Charlotte’s Web it is a story that pairs unusual animal friends. There is the glorious, fluffy fat cat, Harry – he exudes purrs and tummy rubbing – and of course his wily friend Tucker the rat. (E.B. White did something entirely different with his story of a pig and a spider who become friends – and take on the subject of mortality of all things – whereas this story is about being far from home, and how even a cricket can make his way in the big city with a bit of talent, pluck and good friends.)

Williams Cat and Rat

Garth Williams, (b. 1912-d. 1996) illustrated piles of children’s books – many of which became classics including Stuart Little and the Little House books. He wrote several as well, but it is the clutch that I have mentioned here that form an archetype in my mind. His illustrations are so synonymous with these books that, at least for me, his style is just what I think of when I think of children’s books and my earliest book experiences. (On his wikipedia page you can read about a book he wrote and illustrated, The Rabbits Wedding, which sparked controversy in the South because one of the rabbits in question was black…)

For those of you who don’t know the story of The Cricket in Times Square quite simply the Cricket, Chester, has found himself in Grand Central station, quite out of his element and country origins. He is adopted by the rat and cat duo, and a small boy whose father owns a newsstand, and who takes him as a pet – even supplying him with a cricket cage home acquired in Chinatown! Chester repays the kindness by providing cricket concerts in the train station, which makes all activity cease briefly and ultimately makes the newsstand wildly popular. Of course, eventually Chester, homesick, has to find his way back to the country, where I guess crickets belong.

Williams Cricket

I don’t remember my first reading of this. I believe I read it myself, rather than having it read to me, as was Charlotte’s Web. by my third grade teacher. But the story and the illustrations – ones that made not only a kitty, but a rat and a cricket lovable, stayed with me forever. The book is still in print, but sadly only in paperback – luckily I believe that version does contain all the illustrations. (I was able to acquire a hardcover copy in excellent condition a few years ago on Amazon or eBay.) It is my favorite book to buy for the children of my friends – for those who have left the New York area I consider it my subversive move to convince their children that New York City is the only place to live – a world of wonders! Maybe you will consider it for a juicy little reading project as we head into fall this year. Let me know how you like it!

Felix the Poser

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This Schoenhut Felix is very common, but I like the size and heft of mine. He is about eight inches high, and he came to me in an unusual way. I received a call from an acquaintance of Kim’s who was traveling, in Florida I believe, who said he saw an old Felix in a store and asked if he should buy it for me. I have never taken a chance on such a blind acquisition before, but on that day I rolled the dice and I got this guy for a great price.

Even all these years after his heyday, this Felix toy is virtually ubiquitous as old toys go. They frequently appear in photos with children, often with babies. I do not have any in my collection, because I prefer the more idiosyncratic stuffed toys. The wooden ones are widely available, although not especially inexpensive, in a variety of sizes and some variation. Felix is posable, although this one has started to grow fragile and like so many you see, the twine that holds him together is threatening to break. I believe that somewhere, for a large sum of money, you can have them restrung. I imagine new they were relatively indestructible however.

The extreme popularity of this toy is somewhat mystifying for me. He is a hard wooden toy, not cuddly. While he is nicely posable, it is hard to imagine that explaining his fascination for kids. Frankly, this fellow mostly looks good on a shelf like mine – among his kind and ken – dozens of different variations. In fact, Felix’s vast allure over many decades is hard to explain – even for devoted fans like myself. However, the ongoing appeal of Felix cannot be denied. Below is a photo of a small toy of more recent vintage (I believe I acquired him in the 1980’s, long, long before my collection was even a twinkle in my eye) which is also very popular. A small variation on the Schoenhut theme which I give for your consideration.

modern Felix

Pip Squeak and Wilfred Perform

Pam’s Pictoram Photo Post: For those of you who follow on Kim’s Facebook page, you know I have a deep affection for the once hugely popular British comic strip Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. Admittedly, my fascination with the strip mystifies even Kim a bit, although he acknowledges the merit of the drawings. While best experienced today in the wonderful, robust Annuals, it was a daily strip that ran in Britain’s Daily Mirror from 1919-1956. It was the brain child of Bertram Lamb who took the persona of Uncle Dick and illustrated by A.B. Payne. It follows a family of (interspecies) animals – mom, Squeak, a penguin; dad, Pip, a dog; and Wilfred, their child, a rabbit.

The Annuals were issued from 1923-1939. In addition, Wilfred had his own, aimed at the younger set, for many years as well. Much to my extreme pleasure, the Annuals are chocked full of strips and are light on filler, puzzles and the like. They have limited color and a few full color illustrations in each.  I own a short run of them. They are a bit pricey but can be found for somewhat less if one shops around and is patient. I am sure the Annuals will be a future post of their own some day.

I am still filling in the story of the doings of the Mirror however. There is evidence that models of the family home was created and photographed for postcards, which can be easily found. In addition, there seem to be performances, as photographed here. These appear to have been wildly popular. There are two very short films, live action, on Youtube that I have included here. I believe I have seen at least one more. Both of these show the family home, Mirror Grange, but the second has the live animals as well:

 

The merchandising was wonderful and sells very high today. (Hopefully a future post will show me owning all three stuffed animals!) The popularity cannot be underestimated – even war medals were named after the characters and the strip. Wilfred had a popular fan club of his own – the Mirror would send birthday cards to you on behalf of the animals.

While the strip’s stories are very simple, they are quirky and the characters drawn expressively. I include a sample page below – hopefully to beguile you with!

Pip Squeak Annual Page