It’s in the Cards

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Pam’s Pictorama: I purchased these during a long-ago trip to London. They were part of a multi-item bundle purchase which included tobacco tins and cigarette boxes with cats on them (featured in the post Smokin’ Cats) and a series of Felix tobacco cards and enamel pins – future posts! At the time I had never seen them before and did not know that they were part of a popular Black Cat Fortune Telling Game made by Parker Bros. in 1897, three years before they introduced the infinitely popular Ouija board as a mass market game. I just liked the black cat pictures when I saw them. These cards sit on a crowded shelf of black cat goodies in our living room, usually with The Past sitting on top.

I gather that fortune telling games were quite popular at the time and this one functioned somewhat like tarot cards. The cards fell into the general category listed as the header on each of the cards and then relating to the fortune listed on the back, resulting I am told, in each person getting six fortunes per read. I was quickly able to find the game listed in the collections of the New York Historical Society and the V&A in London. Below is a photo of an original game cover grabbed off the internet.

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NY Historical Society image of original box

 

Over time I have seen the pieces sold, the cards here, the box there, on eBay over the years. It is widely reproduced however and the reproduction game can be yours for a very modest amount. The cover of the game box is reproduced widely on everything from cigarette holders and necklaces, to miniature versions for your dollhouse – if I had a dollhouse I would want those. I would have loved this game as a kid, although not sure how I would feel about a gypsy fortune teller whipping them out.

I am very fond of the wise and serious looking fellow sporting his big, red bow, The Past. However, as I study them now Danger with those hissing kitties chasing away the dog is pretty spectacular (one scared fellow has gone up a pole it seems; we can’t all be brave I guess). Love Matters illustrates kitty affection, but also indifference, alas. The Future is both an older cat and some kittens, but curiously a caged bird in back. Whew, not a promising future for that bird clearly. Lastly we have General Advice where our red-bowed kit is teaching the beribboned little ones among what appear to be scattered cat toys. Interesting. As you can see, the backs read with fortune snippets such as, Utmost to interest you in an enterprise and You have been spending your money too or Your desires are too extravagant.

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Image from Catwisdom101.com

 

As a black cat collector (not to mention being the cat mom of our almost entirely black cat, the aptly named Blackie) I have long take the position that they are indeed good luck. A former post devoted to this idea is my post, Lucky Black Cat which highlights pamphlets selling good luck totems, etc. So as we head toward the Halloween witching hour, remember to honor the black cat gods of luck!

South American Mickey?

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This Mickey and Minnie have a strange story of acquisition. Back in  February I had noted them on eBay and I put them up on Facebook by general way of interest – I liked them but the damage was daunting. I was surprised when the seller turned out to be a Facebook friend, responded, and offered me the duo in exchange for a trade of Kim’s work. Kim generously stepped up to the plate and after a flurry of emails the mice were secured!

The seller was very up front about the condition of Mickey and Minnie. The appear to be made from silk or a silk-like fabric which tends to shred and has. As a result, they need to be placed somewhere they can live out their days undisturbed. (Cookie and Blackie, I hope you are reading this.) They are large, about 12 inches. Mickey’s dashing sash and Minnie’s hat and skirt made me dub them South American Mickeys. I have never seen ones like them and I assume, without really knowing, that they are unlicensed. They have that wonderful ratty, buck-toothed look I especially like in my Mickeys that early and non-American made toys tend to have most.

As I originally protested, I sadly am not good at major repairs and have not come up with a course of action on these. I am very open to suggestions. The fabric’s shredding makes it especially difficult. For now, they reside, propped up on my dresser, keeping an eye on the cats.

 

The Story About Ping

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have previously spent some time on some of my favorite books from childhood. There was the chapter book, brilliantly illustrated, The Cricket in Times Square (one of  my most popular posts over time) and another Garth Williams delight, Push Kitty, which is a book for younger children. Push Kitty was a bit harder for me to remember because I did not own a copy and had only taken it out of the library as a child. However, out of all of them, The Story About Ping, was a book that I owned and a constant favorite demanded for bedtime reading.

To digress a moment, I have always adored being read to – it did not leave off as I grew up and could read on my own. I demanded that boyfriends read to me in high school, listened to books read on radio programs when I could find them, and eventually graduated to audio books, first on tape and now on an iPod which I listen to at the gym for a couple of hours most days which makes even the elliptical a joy. I am a voracious reader, but I am simply delighted to listen.

Anyway, The Story About Ping, which in my mind is always just Ping the Duck remained in my mind as an all-time favorite. Ping was written in 1933 by Marjorie Flack and illustrated by Kurt Wiese, so even when I discovered it in about 1968 or ’69 it was an old book. Ping’s story goes roughly like this: a flock of ducks are released by their houseboat owner daily to feed on the river. At the end of the day the last little duck to get on gets swatted for being last. One day in an attempt to not get spanked, Ping swims off. He gets lost, has adventures, almost becomes someone’s dinner, and finally finds his way back. He is, alas, the last one on, but accepts the spanking, glad to be home at last.

Author Marjorie Flack did not have an especially illustrious career despite the extraordinary and long-standing popularity of Ping. She evidently eventually wrote a series of books about her dog that had some popularity, but I am not familiar with them. Ping won numerous awards and was evidently featured on everything from Soupy Sales to Captain Kangaroo, Shari Lewis even did a sock puppet version! I don’t remember any of this, although I watched all those shows – I think I would remember seeing it because of my affection for the book. Kurt Wiese on the other hand, enjoyed more popularity as a children’s book illustrator and illustrated the first edition of Bambi in 1929. Born in Germany he fought in WWI and ended up as a prisoner of war in Australia. After circling back to Germany he ultimately settled on a farm in my home state of New Jersey.

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I know part of the reason I loved this book was the illustrations. Drawn as if inked and then filled in with the most exquisite crayon, I remember being fascinated as a kid. I think the exoticness of the story – taking place in China on house boats and junks on the Yangtze River also appealed wildly. There is a segment where Ping watches these black ducks (Cormorants) being used for fishing which also blew my mind – and still seems strange and cruel now that I look back on it. In fact, in retrospect, I am not entirely sure I endorse the message of the book – after all, some duckling would always be last so why swat him or her? I think I even remember thinking that as a child.

Still, my memory of this book is such that I persist in buying it for my friend’s children. Sadly, you cannot buy a hardcover version new these days, I have only been able to find it in soft cover. I deeply suspect that some people find this version of China and Chinese culture outdated to say the least as well – perhaps all the way to racist by today’s standards. Nonetheless, The Story About Ping remains one of my favorite childhood stories and I figure I couldn’t have been all wrong as a kid.

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Loaded for Bear

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: For those of you who are following my recent trip to France, this little bear was purchased at Antic Toys Dolls, in Lyon – my first toy purchase that day.  I don’t collect teddy bears, but on rare occasion, a bear calls out to me and is purchased. This one is very small, only about five inches, fully jointed. The salesperson, with his very limited English, told me that it was Steiff, but I don’t believe there is any evidence it is, although a very nicely made bear indeed. What I love about Steiff teddy bears, and occasional other bears, is a real human look in the eyes and this bear does have a very sweet and serious face.

If I was very wealthy, there would be select teddy bears I would work to add to my collection. One is this Dean’s Rag Company black bear below. I love not only his expression, but the idea that he has claw footed bear-ish feet!

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Dean’s Black Bear (sadly) not in my collection

 

And I would also own a very early Steiff. This one is a good example and I would scoop him up in a second if I could too.

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Early Steiff Bear, not in my collection

 

I do not remember for sure where I purchased this small white bear below with his somewhat baffled expression. Like my latest purchase, he is fully jointed, but about ten inches. The threads coming off his nose give him a unplanned Chaplin-esque look. I am not positive, but I think I may have brought him back from a flea market in Berlin (where I also purchased an alligator evening bag and a German cat ad cut-out, future post) or a junk store in Dresden on the same trip. Perhaps bears appeal most to me when I am looking for a bit of the comfort way on the other side of the ocean.

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Kim introduced me to the song The Teddy Bears’ picnic when we first got together and I am crazy about it. I offer it for your enjoyment here: The Teddy Bears’ Picnic. Subsequently, we were introduced to this incredible short (a sort of Goldie Locks Teddy Rooselvelt killing cute bears) which has a fascinating interlude where animated Steiff bears romp in the middle, The “Teddy” Bears 1907. This one leaves me shaking my head – but you don’t forget it!

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Sheet music cover, not in my collection

 

 

World Saving

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Pam’s Pictorama: I have owned this globe for a long time. I purchased it before Kim and I were seeing each other and within the next few weeks we will have been together more than 20 years in a few weeks. My memory, which is a bit dim on this subject, is that I bought it at a street fair here in Manhattan, in the early years of street fairs when people selling junk used to still show up and I haunted them many weekends. Sadly it is a bit dented and damaged, but my affection for it has never dimmed nonetheless.

A little light research has turned up a bit of interesting information. The internet dates this premium from the 1940’s. This seems about right since Tibet is an independent country on it – I had forgotten that I used to point that out to people and that it pleased me to have a globe where Tibet was not part of China. If I knew a little bit more about world history and geography maybe I could place it in time a bit more specifically.

Clearly, this was a bank giveaway, a piggy bank. Evidently World Savings was the name of the banks belonging to Golden West Financial. Now, as much as I like the globe idea, I would probably have used the name Golden West – sort of irresistible, yes? Who wouldn’t bank with them. Anyway, it was founded in 1929 (seems like an odd year for a bank to have started, but we’ll stick with Wikipedia on this) and existed in one form or another until the financial meltdown of 2008 when, heavily invested in mortgages, it’s remaining assets were snapped up by Wells Fargo.

Oh for the days when banks, gasoline stations and other businesses wanted our business so badly that they tempted us with toys, calendars, floating pens and lured us over with photo postcards! When did they decide they didn’t need to do this any longer? Nominal examples still existed during my childhood in the late sixties and early seventies, although I clearly missed the heyday.

I am a tad embarrassed to admit that this is the only globe or world map in the house. When Kim draws the world, he pulls it out and uses it for reference – which if you know his work you know happens not infrequently. If we need geographic information that may have been in flux over the last 90’s, we have the internet. So today we pay tribute to our jolly World Savings bank friend.

Lost and Found Photo

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Some strange things happen collecting photos on eBay and there are mysteries that will probably never be solved. I lost the photo at top in a dog fight of an auction back on October 6, 2015. Early this September, just as I was flying out the door for three weeks, more or less, of business travel, these two photos came up and I scored them easily. It is only now, happily re-ensconced in my Manhattan lair, that I have had time to consider the situation. While I knew that the earlier photo was of this particular Mickey eating ice cream ad, I had no idea that one of them was indeed the very same image until I dug it out of our Facebook archive this morning. The surprising part is, speaking at least the photo I now own, it appears to  be an original photo – not a photo postcard or commercial reprint in anyway.

These photos are small snapshots in the way early to mid-20th century black and white were. The images here blown up several times their original size which accounts for the slight breakdown of the image – they are sharp enough in person. Mine have the traditional white border around the edges. There is no date or further information on them – and of course I have two from that scene, not one.

Something similar happened to me years ago when I purchased serial photos, first from one group of auctions but then another months or years later, of the same scene of someone wearing an ancient Felix costume and posing with a cat by a car. It can be found in my post, Mysteries of Felix.

The top image is the better of the two for me and is fairly jaunty. The hand rendered, somewhat off-model (yet well rendered) Mickey is holding his ice cream cone victoriously and these kids are happy to be there. It is sort of classic really. The other photo shows a woman who looks a bit tired, carrying this little girl who evidently doesn’t know that ice cream is in the offing. The woman is attractive in her print dress, has earrings and a bracelet – and yet there is something sort of care worn about her. Late 1930’s or early 40’s?

Below is the one I posted on Facebook back in 2015. No border on that version. I guess we’ll never know, but I am glad to add them to my own Pictorama archive.

 

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Lost on eBay Oct. 6, 2015

Mickey Souris

Sorry! This went out sans photo and edits by accident yesterday. Here it is in final form – technical glitches here at Pictorama…

Pam's Pictorama

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For some reason I always have my eye out for a nice cat or mouse band. Thanks to Kim I am lucky enough to own a spectacular tin mouse band, which I will happily examine in detail with you some time in the future. I do not have a cat band, although I have seen one or two that I was wild about, but have never been able to obtain one. France did not provide me with cats, but instead this rather nice little band of faux Mickeys.

In yesterday’s post (Pepper Felix) I left you as I walked down Rue Auguste Comte, purchases from Antic Toys and Dolls in my shoulder bag, looking for the cross street to take a slightly different route back to the river boat I was staying on. It had gone from a chilly morning to a full on hot…

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