Vacation Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: No news that when I see one of these Felix tintypes I go to the extremes to acquire it. Somehow the idea that tintypes and Felix existed at the same time entertains the heck out of me – although, by any measure it was getting late in the game for tintypes. Echo Point at Katoomba in Australia, not the only location for such fabulous photo fun of the day, however the evidence many decades later appears to be that it was one of the prime locations. Recently I have proudly displayed other such acquisitions of this type in posts including Another Aussie Felix and one of unknown origin in Felix Featured on Tin. I own several others I have yet to write about.

These three women and Felix look right at home together – them in their summer garb, complete with hats. Felix relaxing like a member of the family. I especially like the jolly striped awning over them. I am guessing that this is mother and daughters – perhaps even grandmother? Some information is sadly lost in this photo as is often the case with these tintypes which seem to suffer most of all from sloppy, on location workmanship. The older woman’s face is the real victim here and the information just isn’t there if you try to drill down on it.

This photo inspires me to think a bit about vacation today however, and Kim and I have been discussing it too. As most of you know, I started a new job a few months ago so I am limited in vacation time this summer. I usually try to take two weeks in the summer and do a serious recharge of my battery. Kim, who as many of you also know, is a maniacally super charged work-aholic also looks forward to this downtime. This year I am piecing together what leave time I have acquired and am running it into Labor Day to extend it as much as I can.

I have pretty much been shot out of a gun since starting the new job – a racehorse let tearing out of the gate, seeing how much ground I can cover in this first lap. Part of me hates to break that stride, but another part knows that time off is needed too. Photos from my friend Eileen’s vacation spent at their weekend home in Vermont – featuring lovely summer fields of green and a truly enviable swimming hole – have lured me into vacation thoughts too. So I won’t begrudge myself a few halcyon days of summer to let my mind wander, eat strawberry ice cream, corn on the cob – days when I have slept late after staying up reading books. Lazing around with my husband losing track of time. This photo makes me yearn a bit for summer activities. Maybe the Fair Haven, NJ Fireman’s Fair this year? A bit of cotton candy or candy apple and a trip on a small, but thrilling ferris wheel. We’ll see. Part of vacation is all in the dreaming and planning.

 

Pile On

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photograph shows the kitten as the tiny cherry on the top of this amazing pyramid pile of canines. Google translates Chiens Savants from the French as Dog Scholars. The title cracks me up – talented they are, scholars might be pushing it a tad bit. This card was produced in France and originally mailed there. Written in neat hand at the top near the title is bons baisers, good kisses? I have provided the back of the card below and those of you who are more capable in the reading of French might be able to tell me what the handwritten notations say in addition to the address and the sender. I am unfamiliar with reading French postmarks, but I believe this was sent in 1908 to a Mademoiselle Suzanne Mériot. However I purchased this from someone in Croatia, so it had wandered a bit in its time before coming to our U.S. shores.

20170729-00003.jpg

Kim darkened this photo after scanning and it is much improved with increased contrast as you see it here. We spent some time this morning dunning the person who did the original printing – tired hypo, sloppy printing. As this was some sort of assembly line production perhaps it was more complicated than that. I am not sure I entirely understand how that early production work was executed for such things.

Meanwhile, in this great image the long suffering Pitbull or Pitbull mix has been taught to carry this pile of poodle, topped off by (I think) a chihuahua and that tiny kitten! (Kim initially put in an oar saying he thought that was a baby bear rather than a chihuahua – I can see where he was going with that, another circus animal, but doesn’t look fluffy enough for me.) I like the beagle who is just parked under the larger dog – good fellow! Everyone is wearing a more or less stalwart expression with the exception of the poodle who, frankly, looks anxious. I don’t blame him, in some ways I think he has the most delicate of the balancing act presented. Fair to say the kitten looks mildly irritated in a general annoyed cat way. I believe I have confessed in Pictorama posts more than once (see Dashington’s and Mad Jenny posts) that as a small child I would play circus animal games with my cat, Snoopy, and dog, Duchess (a German Shepard) and could convince them to stay still for about a single second in such a pose! I wonder what it is about human nature that makes us want to pile animals on one another? I think I have outgrown it, but then again, I do not have a nice big dog to try Cookie and Blackie with.

 

Can You, Canoe?

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Truth in advertising, this photo looks much better here than it does in person thanks to Kim’s Photoshop enabling. However, in all fairness to me, this is closer to what it looked like when advertised on eBay. I assumed that this was a photo postcard and was shocked when it arrived to find that it is about three times as large, poorly and sloppily printed. It almost looks like an early, primitive (and ham handed) reprint process.

Judging from the clothes it is from the teens – those early swimsuits, stockings and shoes were what attracted me to this image to begin with. Instead of seeming onerous, as those outfits sometimes do when associated with sand and water, these togs seem sort of fitting for a day on the water canoeing. I like the bits of decoration on them – the bow on one, the white piping on the other. The dark haired girl has such a sweet face! The one who scooped up the kitten looks a bit accusatory, glaring at the camera. It is a pretty, tiny kit, just about to enter the gawky adolescent stage of cat. She or he looks all white but that might be an illusion of the sepia toned film. The state of the grass and the scattered leaves makes me wonder if it is perhaps early fall instead of summer as I originally assumed.

There is a gracious looking porch behind them and even though everything is out of focus beyond the canoe, it is an inviting yard – some place I wouldn’t mind spending part of the summer I think. A family camp perhaps, way upstate New York or in Maine. The canoe is a dandy too and I especially like the caned seat we can catch a glimpse of. For all my having grown up on the water I have actually never been in a canoe – only rowboats with flat bottoms. The river where I grew up was too tidal for canoes, although I did kayak in it once. My father had a kayak he would take out occasionally and he let Loren and I try it. I loved it! I have a vague memory that it freaked my other out and that is why I probably didn’t do it more. Like kayaks I imagine that canoes roll over and dump you out fairly easily.

While rowing seems somewhat self-evident, you only need to watch a bunch of inexperienced rowers in Central Park to realize that there are a few tricks to it. For one thing I can’t tell you how many people attempt to row backward, pointing the square back of the boat forward and making it quite hard for themselves. There is also the matter of pulling the oars either together or in coordinated even strokes, or you will go in circles – which leads us to turning. Lots of those park rowboats are constantly sideswiping each other – occasionally plowing right into one another because they have not considered steering. I like rowing and given the opportunity I think I would do it often. (I have tried it at the gym, but generally find it static and less enjoyable.)

Our rowboat was kept tied to a floating dock and was really there for the primary purpose of getting out to our sailboat which was moored a few hundred feet out, where the it was close to the channel and the water was usually deep enough for it. Once in a blue moon Loren and I would just take the rowboat out – I suspect (but don’t remember specifically) against my mother’s objections. One of our chores was to bail out the rowboat after it rained. This was a messy, mosquito-ridden task which was executed with 2/3 of a plastic milk jug if I remember correctly. We hated it and would always fight over doing it, although my memory is that, perhaps as a result, we usually ended up doing it together.

There was one of those days when I guess we had been fighting over it – although maybe not especially because sometimes Loren could just be unexpectedly devilish too. While I was in the boat bailing and she was still on the dock, she untied it. Off I quickly drifted – without any oars! Loren, being a very strong swimmer and realizing there was no choice, ultimately jumped in and swam back with me in tow before the tide took me too far out. Nonetheless, it lived on in family lore and I would trot it out as proof of her older sisterly abuse, as one’s younger sibling will.

Taken From Life, The Pussy Cat Rag

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Zipping back to the world of cat themed sheet music today. I especially like the bit above the title – Taken From Life. What does that mean? Where are these tuneful cat choruses that I seem to have missed? (See prior post, Kitty Sextette Singers for illustrated speculation on that subject.) Referring clearly to noisy cats in the backyard, it could also refer to the seemingly real cat and dog chorus used – at least in the youtube I have supplied below. The first time I played it Blackie woke from a sound sleep and wandered over to frown at the computer which was cheerfully spewing these cat and dog sounds.

The drawing on this cover is spirited indeed – throwing not only shoes and cans (Prize brand tomato), but a stool at said kitties! Seems a bit extreme. A close look at this also shows the item throwing humans to be racist depictions of people on those fire escapes. I was surprised to find this bit of racism hidden in my new acquisition. I put it up in my office and my assistant, Farzana, said she had never encountered this before. Another colleague, who has an advanced degree in early American music, talked about history and use of such imagery. It led to a discussion of racist sheet music and cartoons. If anything she seemed more distressed when we finished than when we started. I think I will need to swap it out – perhaps for one of the sheets I keep at home which I covered in this early post Me-ow! Kitty Sing-a-long.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that William Gill was born in 1839 to Manx parents – I needed to look that up and it turns out that it is those who are of The Isle of Man.  His bio neglects this ditty and focuses on Manx related music. Although he gets top billing here, Harry Taylor who wrote the words but also has the misfortune of a common name, does not seem to rate a Wikipedia entry. I was unable to locate him online. It is unclear to me what year the music was written, Will Rossiter of Chicago seems to be the publisher here, but no date.

I offer a few versions of this for comparison and there is some debate about the date of the first recording. A remark on Youtube pegs it for 1928 since Polk Miller’s group seemed to do two sets of recordings – 1909 and 1928. The first is here on Youtube:  Polk Miller & His Southern QuartetteA somewhat lesser recording is Ada Jones, 1914, in Ada Jones & The Peerless Quartet in the Pussy Cat Rag – this is the one that had Blackie going although both are sleeping through it as I play it now. How quickly kitties become jaded.

 

 

Flying High

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Quite frankly, I saw those plates on the wall with the airplanes and kept being drawn back to this photo which I ultimately purchased, uncontested, on eBay recently. There is no writing on it and I am a fan of the mid-century ruffled border of the photo. While there is no particular reason to believe that the event these women are anticipating has anything to do with the airplane plates, I keep going back to them and wondering – fascinated by the way they are strung precisely across the top part of this room. I love collecting and enjoy seeing documentation of other people’s evidence of it. This is a nice example. I like the idea that someone collected these plates and then decorated this room with them. Splendid.

I did some quick research and I was unable to find these actual plates – the plates in the photo have a distinct horizon line and simplicity which I cannot find in another set. Similar plates were (or are) made by several different, mostly British, companies. UK eBay is full of variations, but the Davenport Wings of Fame plate series is the one that comes up first and most. I share those below, each with a month of the year.

s-l1600-7.jpg

My favorite is March’s Rescue at Sea. (They evidently have names, perhaps on the back?)

shopping.jpg

I like the plates on the wall of this photo better than these, which in all fairness appear to be slightly cheesier. There are seven on the wall in the photo and it does beg the question of if they are an earlier version of this plate of the month series. There would in theory be more or less just enough to go around this room.

This smallish table somehow manages to have eight place settings on it which seems ambitious – although I think I have had six people eat around our flat files so I guess one can do anything if a bit creative. There is a general festive sense about the scene, and it is easy to assume that it is documenting the anticipation of a happy occasion. The Siamese cat, who seems to have a grouch on, is the only exception to an otherwise jolly scene, but we know how cats can be – you can’t judge general ambiance by them. The two women are attractive and seems to be genuinely happy, not just smiling for the camera, and who (besides kitty) can blame the one for scooping up puss for posterity in the photo? From the clothes, make up and general look I would put this photo in the late forties or early fifties. My guess is that it was indeed a lovely day.

 

She Who Has the Most Toys Wins

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Much like my recent post Symmetry this photo surprised me by not being a photo postcard. Instead, it belongs to a genre of photos printed with fancy borders, one of the interesting come ons in the early days of home photography. Instead of an expensive cardboard holder, or being printed on cardboard stock, you had this nice frame for when you placed it in an album, which there is evidence this one was. There isn’t any information on the back of this photo which is too bad, I want to know who this little girl with her pile of toys is.

My first thought was to wonder if these were all toys she just acquired, or ones she was just assembled to show off for the photo opportunity. Then I realized that is a (slightly sad) warm-climate, outdoor Christmas tree, so it must be a sunny west coast Christmas Day. It is quite a haul! There is a total of five baby dolls if you include the ones in the carriage. (Perhaps the carriage is new and the dolls prior occupants? Hard to say, but five dolls in one Christmas does seem extraordinary. Like adopting an entire family at once.) In addition to this nice Felix there is what appears to be a book which (when I blow this up very large I can see) is The Three Bears, although the other titles are lost to me. The interesting scooter to the right, but doesn’t seem to belong to this pile of new toy plunder.

Meanwhile, I like her neat print dress, bobbed hair and those annoying thick white tights that bag at the knees. (Even in the 1960’s my tights bagged at the knees. I feel old saying this, but kids today don’t know how good they have it now that we live in a time with superior elastic and tights and bathing suits that stay up.) She is displaying her toys nicely. This is a tidy yard too with its white fence, outbuilding and brick one just beyond.

I can remember the sort of extreme sense of well-being such a wonderful pile of toys infused me with at this age. Being one of three children, perhaps it was more pronounced on my birthday than Christmas – a day that belonged to me! I remember one birthday in particular when I was probably about ten. I was born in February and for whatever reason it seemed as though my family showered me in books and toys. In particular I remember a silver metal early version of the Flexible Flyer seemed to really put the cherry on it all. (Aptly named, that thing really could fly in the snow.) I really felt like the Queen of Everything. A large Barbie residence and car induced the same feeling one Christmas about that time. That’s what this photo reminds me of.

Pictorama readers well know that I still get a big rush out of toys, and in fact, I share below a photo you may remember from a prior post, a photo of my posing not unlike this little girl!

Shanghai Pam and the Toy Store Adventure

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Travel Post: With apologies to Pictorama readers for the lack of a Saturday post yesterday while I made my way back from China, today’s post while it does cover toys, is a bit of a rambling travelogue. Fair warning to those who are looking for shorter fare.

Travel has been an increasingly frequent part of my work life and promises to be more so in the new gig at Jazz at Lincoln Center. A mere two months into the job and I find myself in the Shanghai Podung airport with a company laptop and a tummy full of mediocre pizza drafting this post. This after a fast and furious four plus days in Shanghai with Wynton Marsalis and the 15 member Jazz at Lincoln Center band and assorted other colleagues who keep things running on the road. Everyone has been unfailingly lovely to me since my arrival at JALC, more than ever while in China this week, but there’s no two ways around the learning curve of being about 11 weeks into a new and in many ways very different job. I was smacked with that reality repeatedly on this trip, and frankly I missed Kim and the kitties.

So when I realized that I had a rare afternoon off between rehearsal and evening concert on Wednesday, instead of sensibly finding a tailor and having a new winter coat made like my colleagues, I decided to take off in search of a store that sells antique toys in another part of town. Before leaving NY I had (of course) Googled antique toy store Shanghai and an article from a few years ago appeared. (I did something similar last fall when visiting Lyon for the Met, as told in my earlier post found here called Pepper Felix and Mickey Souris.) Out of the three described, one shop appeared to be my style. I mapped it online and while it wasn’t around the corner, it didn’t really appear to be substantially further than anywhere else I had gone in this sprawling city, although albeit in a different direction and distance can be tricky on Google maps in a foreign city. Although it seemed difficult, somehow seeing antique toys seemed like the shot in the arm I needed to bring me around to myself so off I went.

Meanwhile, please know that for me at least Shanghai rapidly dissolved into never-ending challenges of transportation, communication and culture. The Shanghai cab is where these elements combined into a triple threat. Whether it is a disinclination to deal with tourists and our self-evident communication issues, or if perhaps they are equally abusive to their own folks I am unsure, but since it didn’t take me long to figure out that the many cabs with their green lights happily lit could be (should be) picking me up. Meanwhile, if one had a Chinese-speaking companion with a phone app who could call a car you might find that your destination was too short to be desirable and they would also refuse you. It was frustrating to say the least.

After such a phone rejection, a colleague from Asia suggested an assertive approach which I adopted – essentially chasing cabs down and hopping in. Now here I do feel I need to apologize because I may have done real damage to the reputation of Americans in Asia single-handedly on this trip putting this into action. Ugly American to the extreme.

Before I continue with my story please allow me to supply two other key elements of my visit to Shanghai, everyday it was well into the 90’s and so sultry I could barely stand to wash my hair knowing that despite blow drying it would remain a damp frizz for the remainder of the day. (Natives repeatedly remarked on how the weather really wasn’t bad for this time of the year – a warning to self for scheduling future travel.) Next, please understand that traffic in this city can compete with some of the worst traffic I have ever seen – on a par with Los Angeles and London, and even topping midtown NYC during the worst of the Trump protesting and closures. Because of this the population, which is considerable as this is after all China, has turned to a fascinating array of two wheeled vehicles, pedaled and motored. (There is a subway, but no one seemed to encourage tourists to take it. Hmmm.)

On the streets, the variation on the Vespa and moped were topped in numbers only by the bright yellow free bicycles which are merely picked up, used and left as needed. (While I love this idea, I did wonder what happens if you ride somewhere and come out to find the bike taken by another needy citizen and no one else has left one?) And in this age of cell phones it was not at all unusual to find someone riding one of the above, on the sidewalk, while looking at their phone. Some even did all of this AND had headphones on – so they couldn’t be bothered by the screeching of pedestrians or fellow riders I assume. This means that, in addition to essentially running into the street in an attempt to force my way into a cab, I had to avoid being mowed down by a two-wheeled vehicle at the same time.

bikes

Bike rack in Shanghai

 

As I am a resourceful, and admittedly somewhat competitive, New York woman traveling on business which required my presence in numerous parts of this sprawling city, I developed the following method. After scoping out a location carefully for a) reasonable egress for me into the street b) no obvious impediments for legally picking me up (such as a yellow curb or metal fencing and c) in the best of all worlds no bike lane which could mean the end of me or the cyclist as I dashed into traffic. The last one was the hardest and not an option I could always hold out for. I would also try to find a street that was very busy, but not verging on highway-ness.

Once an acceptable location was selected I would watch for a lit cab. I would stand, in fine NY style, just below the curb in the street and try to make eye contact with the oncoming cabs with their jolly green lights as I would at home. When this failed, as it virtually always seemed to, I would begin to eye cabs I could just take on. Obviously the easiest prey were those cabs where someone was getting out, but I was almost never that lucky. Instead I would find one forced to slow or stop by traffic and jump in before the driver knew what to do. Sure enough, getting rid of me was more work than most were willing to commit. I would produce a slip of paper with the address printed out in Chinese characters. This was usually met with some form of muttering and/or cursing but generally they got down to business after that.

The day in question was the first I was applying this methodology. After spending a good twenty minutes trying to get a cab the regular way I literally took off running after one at a light and threw myself in. Success! That morning I had asked the concierge to translate the address of the toy store onto one of the hotel’s cards in case the opportunity arose. I now handed the card to the cab driver and off we went.

My destination turned out to be a somewhat anonymous looking block with an assortment of generic looking stores. The description of the store lead me to believe that it wasn’t going to be all that obvious so I wasn’t surprised. I paid the man and hopped out into the hot, humid day. It was broiling, and my straw hat and sunglasses provided scant coverage, as did the sunscreen I had applied earlier. I walked an alleyway to a mews with some private homes. A woman was picking up a pile of trash by her house, a man in an undershirt looked at me inquiringly. Then this pretty little kitty came out to welcome me. He didn’t come all the way over for pets, but we enjoyed a few words and I felt like he was a good sign.

Chinese cat

Shanghai kitty

 

I left the mews and followed the street down aways. The store was said to be across from a popular coffee house according to the article and I saw a coffee shop ahead, about a block away. I headed over, but no toy store and the numbers were wrong. At this point I remembered that the map had indicated that the design and fashion school was located here. I was on what was evidently the urban campus for this school, scattered among design buildings and studios. Then I also remembered that there had been an indication of a building K in the address. I traced the numbers and typed where is building K into my iphone and asked google to translate for a guard. He enjoyed my ingenuity, but just waved in a general direction, useless.

This time I crossed the street and went down and along an old building with a number of early advertising signs on the side; this seemed promising. I entered a covered entry and found myself in a cool dark café, decorated with antique toys! It was lovely, and cool and dark. I quietly took these photos and was shown to a table. At this point I had neither time nor desire for food but I ordered a (warm) beer and happily drank it down. I typed into Google translator – are the toys for sale? Even though I knew the answer, no. I drank and paid for my beer and wandered back out. Frustrated and knowing that with the time it would take to both get a cab and get back to my hotel in traffic I would have to head back shortly.

cafe 1

Toy cafe

 

cafe 3

Display room behind glass at toy cafe

 

cafe2

Second room of toy display at cafe – and nope, toys are not for sale!

 

As I left the building I got a bit more daring. This had been the coffee shop mentioned in the article I was quite sure, not the newer one across the street which I had spied originally. So the toy store was either gone, or I was just missing it. Then I walked into a dark, fairly modern looking building and yes! To my right there was a doorway into a massive space. I had found the toy store at last!

An elderly man sat, drinking tea and talking to some comrades in the middle of the store. He got up to see what I was about. I gestured around me and fluttered my hand on my heart – I am in love with your store! He smiled broadly and gestured to me to have at it and chattered at me. We were sorry not to be able to converse – I can tell he had stories he was itching to tell!

store 1

Toy store at last!

 

toy store 2

Mysterious automaton at toy store.

 

As is the case with such places, much of what he was selling I either owned, was too large to contemplate acquiring or was not necessarily of interest to me, but most of all it felt wonderful to be among all these wonderful old toys! I found a case which contained a wind-up mouse band like mine, and its cousin the Dog Patch wind up band. This was my mother’s favorite toy growing up and I have long been in the market for one for her. This one was actually a fair price, but more than I had in cash at that moment and the idea of either obtaining more cash or trying to negotiate a sale otherwise was beyond me. (Most Chinese establishments are prohibited from taking either American credit cards and it is hard, if not actually illegal, for regular citizens to change American dollars into Chinese RMB.) Therefore, I settled instead on this nice Steiff penguin puppet which caught my eye early on. A pleasant negotiation which took place on dueling cell phones took place. There was a break in the middle so he could show me a giant music machine in action!

The puppet was lovingly photographed by him as a record of the sale and then wrapped up for me. I felt good about having found my way and the nice café, the cat and the store had restored me in some essentially way. Now, I girded myself for my trip back to my hotel.

penguin puppet

Penguin puppet mugshot!

 

I went back to the place where the cab had left me earlier. It was by a Holiday Inn, but not one where cabs seemed to congregate or stop. I employed my earlier technique and found myself in a cab a mere few minutes later. However, this cabby was not pleased. He was even less pleased when I handed him the hotel card and asked me to take him there. Now, in all fairness, it may have been confusion about what I was asking him to do, or maybe he really didn’t want to go there. All I can say is he and I more less started a shouting match in our own languages. Clearly he wanted me out of the cab and so I left.

I found the doorman to the hotel and he spoke English. I explained I had been in a cab and he wouldn’t take me when I showed the address. Meanwhile, much to my surprise the cabby was there. A three-way conversation ensued and the cabby and I returned to the car, however I never understood the source of his displeasure.

Off we went, cabby continued to curse and shout. Soon we were in a rush hour traffic jam to end all traffic jams. We drove and drove and I began to worry about making it back to the hotel in time. Then I began to worry about whether or not I was going to the right Marriott hotel (there are several in the this sprawling city) – and then, more or less on cue, it began to rain in a deluge. You-can’t-see-out-the-window rain of biblical proportions. The cabby’s cursing and yelling is now like something out of a cartoon just as the area is finally starting to look familiar. He can’t find the street though and there’s no way I am getting out and walking in this rain! I gesture around the block as if I know what I am talking about. Finally, at long last, my hotel. I paid him with exact change and ran from the car while he yelled at the doorman who wanted him to take another fare!

And that, Pictorama readers, was my toy adventure in Shanghai!