Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Photos of off-model, hand-rendered Mickey and Minnies could make up an entire sub-genre of collecting. I have one other notable acquisition in my collection which I featured awhile back in Lost and Found Photo. While that barn-side painting was the whole show, this grinning Mickey and Minnie are using their come hither (and reasonably accurate) appeal to lend credence and atmosphere to this intriguing mini-mouse circus attraction. No traveling circus this – it appears to be a fairly solid, permanent sideshow feature somewhere.
On the back, written in red pen is, Ken Roden Decorator and Conjurer in Bognor for 50 years. In addition there are some handwritten notes in pencil which seem more contemporary, Bognor R5lE and in a different hand R12154. Bognor was a bit of a mystery at first until I found a seaside resort with a (rather splendid looking) continuously running sideshow several decades old in a town called Bognor Regis in England. It appears to be across and on the mainland from the more famous resort area the Isle of Wight. (The sort of seaside digs that would have featured the opportunity to pose for a photo with Felix? I like to think so!) A place called Butlin’s there claims to have a continuous sideshow that is 80 years old which takes us back to the late thirties and it could even be that sideshow I believe. I purchased this photo postcard from a US dealer, but there is additional evidence below that this is likely from Britain. Frankly I was surprised it turned out to be British – there’s something very American about it in my mind. Sadly, numerous searches for Ken Roden did not turn up a period reference to a person – it appears to be a common name. Decorator and conjurer is a fascinating combination as well. I wonder, he would decorate my house like Mousetown? Not an entirely unpleasant thought, but I may be in the minority on that one.
Having blown the photo way up I can read the signs pretty much in their entirety. The one over the door reads, Bring Daddy In (?) above the, Real Live Mice and below that, Showing All the Time. Behind the really scary clown lurking in the doorway is a sign that says MOUSE TOWN top entertainment…charging for…LITTLE SHOW with BIG APPEAL. Obscured over to the left is part of a sign which seems to read Fun for All and one at the bottom which alludes to something allowed – might I suggest perhaps cats not allowed? The entrance fee for Mousetown is noted as 6D, as per the sign on the upper left and the one below the seated clown, which appears to offer some sort of discount for children I cannot make out. At first I thought this meant $6 (way too expensive!), but then realized it is the British notation for their equivalent of 6 cents.
And finally – the tiny little mouse stage which we can just about see behind the clown! We cannot quite make it out (even blowing the photo up) except there are tiny ladders and some sort of stage/obstacle course for said talented, trained and performing mice. I feel I must confess that I belong to a category of people who perversely and illogically think mice are fine if they are pets, but they generally make me want to scream and execute a cartoon climb onto a chair, calling for Cookie and Blackie, if found in nature – such as our apartment, or an eating establishment as happened recently. I can however, easily imagine paying up and happily having a look at Mousetown’s offerings. Undoubtedly, I would have been treated to a performance of Busby Berkeley-like precision and mouse perfection, racing through their paces and end with a chorus line and perhaps even eking out a squeaky tune?