Belle of the Basement

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  Recently an unusual responsibility fell to me at work and I found myself in the basement of a large and beautiful apartment building in Manhattan, and at one point was required to wait patiently in the storage room in the sub-basement while a member of the (copious) staff looked for a storage locker which I was required to check to make sure it was empty. I was standing with my colleagues, and admiring how much nicer the storage area of this building was (as is every other aspect of the building) than my humble abode across Central Park on the other side of the island, when the photo above caught my attention.

The photo is very large, about 3/4 life size and there are small inscriptions all across it which appear to be birthday greetings. The photo is just sort of stuck up there, behind a pipe or two holding it up. I snapped a photo with my phone and was interrupted by our escort before I could get a second, better or closer picture. On the way out of the basement, James, a photographer and an equally curious member of my party, asked the building staffer what he knew about the photo. He told us that the building was constructed where a theater had stood for many years, the woman in the photo was an actress who had frequently acted on that stage. Sadly, he didn’t know anything else about her.

Based on the address, I found photos of the theater, The Century, below. It was built in 1909 and torn down in ’30. Evidently doomed from the first, it was apparent that the acoustics were terribly flawed immediately. That combined with a location that was more than a mile north of what was already dubbed the theater district, it is somewhat amazing it last as long as it did.

I am left to wonder – so, she played at the theater and then what? Rented an apartment in the building? Otherwise, why did her photo turn up there? We will probably never know. Nonetheless, she is not forgotten and enjoyed on a daily basis by the staff of the building and those residents who visit their storage in the basement.


Century Theater Stage


Century Theater Exterior

Army Cats


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I don’t believe that I have ever before been compelled to copy out the eBay listing for an item wholesale, but this one was quite interesting and contains information that is nowhere to be found on this card:

Original RPPC photo of a trooper of I Troop, 4th Cavalry holding two cats at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, circa 1913-1915.

Photo from Corporal Edward W. Lewis, S/N 731612. Lewis was born in 1888 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and worked as a miner there before WWI. From 1913-1915 he was in I Troop, 4th Cavalry in Hawaii. Later he was in the 6th Infantry Regiment, 5th Infantry Division in France from 1918-1919. After WWI he settled in Massillon, Ohio.

From the archives of the World War History & Art Museum (WWHAM) in Alliance, Ohio. WWHAM designs and delivers WWI and WWII exhibits to other rmuseums. Our traveling exhibits include Brushes With War, a world class collection of 325 original paintings and drawings by soldiers of WWI, and Iron Fist, an HO scale model of the German 2nd Panzer Division in 1944 with 4,000 vehicles and 15,000 men.

So it seems to be part of a de-accessioning for the above museum and of course, I love it because it fits so nicely into a Men and Cats theme which runs loosely through my blog! (These include but are not limited to: A Man and His CatMen and Cats, and Men in Hats with Cats.)

Somehow one doesn’t really think about Hawaii in WWI (as opposed to the big role it got in WWII), but of course the war was there too. I wonder what this long-ago Pennsylvania boy thought of Hawaii? Surely the army in Hawaii must have offered some advantages over the mines of Pennsylvania, although home is home and he was very far away. France followed Hawaii for him. I am glad we know he made it through and settled in Ohio – maybe keeping cats there and thinking of his army kits. These are two great scrappy kitties, barely out of kittenhood, but ready to take on the world. A striper and a tuxedo – tops in my book! Give them the enemy, Germans or mice, and let them at ’em!

Bonne Annee 2016

Girl and goose

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The New Year celebration of 2016 continues with this unusual card. This one is a shout out to my mother, Betty, who has devoted considerable effort to the conservation and care of swans. I bought the card for her.

The swan ringing in the New Year with the good luck horse shoe could symbolize any number of things – love, beauty, and transformation to name a few that would work for New Year’s wishes. (Horse shoe is upside down, allowing the luck to run out, but perhaps the French don’t buy that part of the symbolic reading?)

This little girl has a pretty devilish look. She’s got that swan rigged up like a goat cart here, transporting her flowers. She knows stuff about the coming year – not sure we want to know what however. The card was sent, but the stamp and cancellation have been lost. On the back, written in a beautiful script is, Bons Souhaits to tous Marie Coissart (Good Wishes to you) and a lovely little sticker with a pink bow on the address side which says Mes meilleurs voeux (Best wishes).

For a bird that represents such lofty symbolism, the mute swan gets a bad rap in general. Everyone’s first reaction is to say they are mean, and the more scientific critics will mutter things about them not being indigenous. As some of you may have read in past posts, Betty spent years rescuing injured swans, but also fighting against movements to slaughter them in areas where they are not wanted.

My experience of swans is that, if not guarding a nest, they are no more or less nasty than any other wild animal – perhaps because of their beauty we hold them to a higher standard? I can think of many occasions that required my mother to handle them. (Not that I am suggesting that you try this – experienced people do take precautions such as gloves and goggles when helping an injured animal.) Meanwhile, horses aren’t indigenous to this country either and I hear no talk of the value of eradicating them.

If you want to feed a swan, use something like corn – hunks of bread are even worse for them than they are for human waistlines. Frequently my mother gets calls about swans poking around for food – often in garbage areas. Invariably it is a swan whose wings have been pinioned (to keep them from flying away from a manmade pond) but left in ponds without sufficient food to support them. Strange that some folks are killing them and others are trying to keep them in a pond they have made – yes?


Dawn of a New Year

Scan(2) copy 12

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As always, waking up on January 1 is a bit sobering, even to those of us who did not seek year-end oblivion the evening before. The cool gray light of that early January morning is the time when we put the old behind us and embark on resolutions and new leafs.

I bought this fellow several months ago. He looks very unhappy with the operation of photo taking and one can easily imagine him off like a bullet a moment after the shutter snapped. The strange, somewhat amorphous shape drawn around those champagne bottles look a bit like something you might start to see crawling around on the walls after several too many – or perhaps during a fit of the DT’s a la Lost Weekend?

This weird period of photo collage fascinates me – a strange marriage of commercial and homemade. Some of my other posts of this interesting medium include Cat Photo Collage and Mad Jenny. It is a nascent tributary that photography went down, but didn’t fully take hold. Not so much a false start and a dead end – although by contrast elaborate photo albums that were collaged eventually were huge in their time. There was an exhibition about it at the Met which I loved back in 2010, Playing with Pictures: the Art of Victorian Photo Collage(Some images from it can still be seen on the Met’s website indicated above.)

Resolutions in hand, clear-eyed and determined – here’s to the very best to all in the New Year!