Buddies

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  One of the things I love about this photo is how someone has set the cat up on the chair, making the cat, dog and little boy all the same height. The dog looks vaguely protective, the cat wise and knowing. The child connects all three by having his hands on the back of the dog and draped over the cat. If it wasn’t for the old fashioned dress of the child this photo could be from any time, but the white night shirt style shirt and some sort of black stockings put it at the earliest part of the last century. It appears it might be early fall. There seem to be leaves on the ground, but it is warm enough for the little boy to be happily outside without a coat. While it appears to have been posed (the covered chair, comfortable for the kitty) I feel like the natural kinship between the three is shown. The card was never sent and there is nothing written on it to tell us who these three might be.

This photo, a photo postcard, illustrates a philosophy of mine that all children should have a cat and dog when they are small, because they can make the very best friends. They listen to and keep all your secrets, generally have more patience than anyone for your small child games and ramblings. I remember telling ours all sorts of things and having great times with them. As the younger of two children, the dog and the cat were generally willing playmates when no one else was interested in me. Their patience wasn’t infinite, but in retrospect it was fairly extensive. Frankly, I cannot imagine our kitties today, Cookie and Blackie, having nearly that much patience, but perhaps the fact that back then all of us started out little together made the difference. The dog was a puppy and the cat a kitten, when I was still a toddler myself so we grew up together. There are photos of little me carrying our cat Snoppy around, vaguely annoyed, like a rag doll. My mother, who was not always a fan of the dog, knew nevertheless, that she could be depended on to protect us and would also submit willingly to our attentions.

In a fit of enthusiasm, I will occasionally whisk Cookie or, more likely Blackie, up into a stronghold of ear rubs and kisses which they barely permit before squirming away, appalled. I haven’t tried telling them any secrets lately either, but Cookie is very devoted to Kim and frankly I suspect she’d spill the beans. Then again, maybe you have to be a small child to trust cats as well as to have them trust you?

 

 

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January 23, 1934

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased these in a recent trend toward purchasing groups of photos from albums, or like these, of the same subjects. Unlike some cases recently when multiple photos arrived, I did know that I was buying all three photos – they were sold together. I purchased them from someone in Des Moines, but hard to say if that’s where these hail from or not. Each is neatly stamped on the back, FINISHED WITH CARE JAN 23 1934 THE WHITE HOUSE Radio Photograph Shop. They show no signs of having been in an album.

I suspect that the largest photo might be the three generations of men, grandfather, father and two boys – with their Mickey toys. The men look fairly stern for this sort of light hearted portrait turned toy display. Both are wearing glasses and the older of them is not only in a three piece suit and tie, but actually has a watch chain and fob. Neither smile here. Meanwhile, these Mickey dolls, upon close examination, have telltale Steiff buttons in their ears and they appear to be in fairly pristine condition, despite clearly also being beloved.  In the small, torn photo, the older, brown haired boy points out that their shirts, decorated with tiny anchors, also sports a cheery Mickey on the sailor style tie. Although they do not smile in the photo with the older men, the boys are grinning and quite pleased with themselves and their toys in the other photos.

Being toy sensitive, I suspect that the reason these photos were taken was due to the (probably) new Mickey Mouse toys and matching outfits. It was the motivation to take out the camera and snap the photos. (Oddly, it also means that they have ended up, still together, in my collection today. This is always something that gives me a bit of pause.) Those of us born in the middle of the 20th century have variations on such pictures – us and grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, taken at family picnics and other such occasions. Typically posed and somewhat formal with the older generation. I think of one of me and my sister, probably about ages five and seven respectively, with my grandmother, (my father’s mother) taken in a sunny backyard garden – theirs I assume although I do not really remember their yard and we never played in it. My grandparents were busy people who owned a thriving dry goods business they ran together and I cannot imagine either of them spending a spare moment on a garden, nor were they the kind of people who would have paid someone to care for it. A great aunt also lived with them, so perhaps she was the gardener. I must think to ask.

This morning I received a Thanksgiving family photo from a friend on the west coast. Theirs was a large multi-generational holiday meal and whipping out the iPhone for a photo these days has made it so easy – as was dropping it into an email to me. As for me, my own family has dwindled in size for celebrations and we were only five for Thanksgiving this year. However, while enjoying a glass of champagne along with pre-meal cheese and crackers, I snapped the photo below of my dad, napping with the cats in the sun. While I tend to natter on about how we never print the many photos we take now and therefore they will be lost to future generations, I admit it is nice to be able to sneak a photo memory like this. Therefor today I am grateful for the stealth and ease of my phone camera. While it has meant the end of businesses like the Radio Photograph Shop which made sure photos were finished with care back in 1934, mine is a photo that would not have happened back then.

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There’s Gladness in Remembrance

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Kicking off the advanced Christmas season here at Pictorama this week with this recent purchase. This card caught my attention with its sheer oddity. I cannot exactly imagine how someone might have come up with the combination of a smoking cigarette, Christmas and cats on a postcard greeting. It makes me think that the designer was very tired and was desperate for ideas, or perhaps smoking something him or herself. Or maybe it was truly an example of these are some of my favorite things, like the song says.

Several of the cats seem to be escaping out of their surreal smoke rings, although that big, annoyed looking Persian is curled up on his or hers like a pillow. All fluffy Persian variations (or is it Maine Coon?) I can’t quite decide if four of these cats are the same cat or just similar markings. These are some serious looking kitties, especially the one without stripes at the bottom. It is obvious, but I might add, there’s nothing of the celebratory or festive about them – these aren’t some darling kittens – these are some frowning cats.

Meanwhile, then there is the burning cigarette and the matches, artfully falling from their match safe. More than anything about this card, which was never sent and without writing on the back, the match safe dates it for me to the early part of the 20th century. Books of matches were in high fashion by the 1940’s. (I have written about match safes in my collection on two occasions, Safety Match and Match safe – Ya Gotta Make Calls.

For my own part, I have never been a cigarette smoker, not even when I was a teenager. I have smoked maybe three in my life – I never saw the point in it; although I certainly understand that there are people who feel otherwise. Clearly this represents a time when smoking was both comforting and to some degree festive. My ambivalence about it does not extend to how good it looks in early films – it does indeed look sophisticated and cosmopolitan.

The sprig of holly is the sole festive Christmas touch. With Hearty Christmas Greetings…There’s gladness in remembrance it declares. Gladness in remembrance touches on the coming New Year – auld lang syne – out with the old year and in with the new. One can only wonder why this card was tucked away and kept pristinely for all these years except to say Christmas cards seem to be kept, although those are usually ones sent by someone. Perhaps, like me, the photo just entertained someone who found and hung onto it.

I have always been a conscientious writer and saver of cards of all kinds, even before my cat card collecting days commenced. As Pictorama readers and others know, Kim and I have been producing a holiday card together since we first started dating and it is time to start work on the one for this year. I admit to the possibility of some influence from this card as Kim and I begin to contemplate our card design for this year, but we will have to have to wait and see what comes of it. Keep an eye on Pictorama for an eventual preview reveal, but know that we are considering it as we partake of our Thanksgiving dinner later this week.

Brought to you by…

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Sometimes I believe I manage to score certain postcards because they are hard to actually see on eBay. Then I realize, alas, that maybe I am the only person who actually thinks this is incredibly cool! Nonetheless, for that handful of you who share my aesthetic ecstasy over smiling black cat advertising, I present this gem today. I have announced my deep affection for the fine advertisings of Black Cat Hosiery in a prior recent post, Time Out for Our Sponsor, and also Black Cat Town. Pictorama readers know that this company adopted the grinning black kitty as their visual moniker.

In today’s card, they seem to be executing an advertising campaign which was the early 20th century version of stadium advertising – although this would be in some sort of theater. My guess is a vaudeville theater and these folks seem to be peering over a box seat balcony or loge of sorts. Oddly, a sad looking vase of flowers is perched in the lower right. It is a hoot that the words of this sign appear to be made up of actual socks and hose – if you look carefully tags punctuate the letters. They have pasted up a bunch of their great black cat signage of various sizes – it is very homemade, if charming, indeed. Lastly, I do wonder – a theater where they were selling socks and hose somewhere? Were they supplying the can-can dancers with their run resistant stockings in early product placement?

In a neat script on the back a little ditty carefully penned reads as follows: This picture isn’t very good/But “By the By,” perchance I should/In justice to the artist add/The subject to were pretty bad. There’s evidence that it spent time in a photo album, but was never mailed. I am not sure why, but I feel like it was written by the man in the middle of the group. I put on my photographer’s hat for a moment, and also opine that in all fairness the light had to have been quite low, inside a theater, for taking a photo with the equipment of the day. (A tip ‘o the hat to Kim for darkening this before I presented it.) Therefore, this jolly group should probably be pleased with the results they managed to achieve. For my part, I am of course, quite glad that the photographer did not sacrifice any of this splendid sign in his or her attempt to record the night out enjoyed by these folks.

By way of enticement and illustration, I offer a full color photo of my small Black Cat Hosiery advertising, featured in Time Out for Our Sponsor as mentioned above.

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Featured in Pams-Pictorama.com post, Time Out From Our Sponsor.

 

Esther and Houtas

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: A recent delving into and wading through old cat photos online has produced some unusual purchases in the form of mostly snap shots. I assumed that was what I was purchasing when I acquired this, but much to my surprise, although it had been pasted into an album, the black photo album paper has torn away on the back to reveal that this was indeed a photo postcard. It was never mailed and written in a neat inked hand on the back is, Esther & Houtas sitting on the wood pile. Ground is covered with snow. I went to the trouble of looking up the name Houtas. I do believe that is her name (it is neatly written) and was able to find some nodding acquaintance to it on the internet. I assume it refers to one of these girls – who I further assume are sisters – as opposed to that nice gray kitty one is holding.

This photo has a timeless quality, and it isn’t until we look closely at those wooly tights and button boots that we realize how old it probably is. Those matching, layered wool dresses and heavy tights look a bit itchy when we consider them seriously, but were probably just the thing for that cold day – no need for overcoats. These girls seem a bit mismatched as sisters, but my own sister and I did not look more alike than this – she of very curly hair and I of very straight.

I have no idea where this card is from or where it was taken, but this spare snowy landscape could stand in for my childhood in New Jersey. This big woodpile is more substantial than the one we generally had out back, although during the course of my childhood we always kept a sizable pile of logs. Much of the cord wood was purchased each fall, although some of it came from limbs that had been trimmed off of our own trees, or as the sad result of a tree that had reached the end of its life and had to be cut down. My mother was always very responsible about the trees and their well being. They were tended to by professionals no less than annually. I personally would have been reluctant to play on the woodpile however, as it was the likely home of mice and even the occasional water rat who wanted a pied-à-terre on dry land. Perhaps for that very reason it was something of a favorite spot for the cats. Although as I remember, some form of wild catnip also grew in the gravel driveway near the woodpile and our enormous cat Pumpkin used to go into rolls of ecstasy over it in the spring. That would have added to the appeal.

The house I grew up in had two enormous fireplaces although we generally only used the one downstairs in what we called the family room. If I ever buy a house a working fireplace will be a must. (I have met New Yorkers lucky enough to have functioning fireplaces in their apartments, but I am not the sort of person who lucks into outdoor space, fireplaces or rent controlled New York apartments. It think it is a skill you are born with, like the ability to hold your breath underwater for a long time or whistle well and on key.) I am endlessly fascinated by fireplaces and will do what I can to migrate to them at restaurants or bars this time of the year. I will settle for gas fires, although there’s nothing like real wood, with the smell, popping of sap, steaming of moisture and the sighing and rolling of disintegrating logs. Oh such bad news for the unsuspecting insects and spiders who took up residence in those logs!

My parents recently moved to a much smaller house, on a cute little patch of property one town over from where I grew up. The house does have a small fireplace, which works at least in theory. These days my mom and dad are too elderly to mess with a fire, even with fake, store bought logs. However, I just promised them the Christmas gift of an electric space heater that looks like a fireplace to ease the drafts in their new house. If I like it maybe I will find room for one here in our tiny New York abode as well.

 

Altar of the Black Kitty

Pam’s  Pictorama Photo Post:  It was Kim who first said it looked like this little girl was worshiping at the altar of the kitty. I bought it as soon as I spied that lovely black cat and fluffy tail. Lucky girl, quite a birthday gift that would be! Just a few highlights have been touched up with color by hand. There is something of the altar of the Virgin Mary about it, as she looks deeply into the eyes of the toy cat, some religion I could get behind.

This card is British and on the back is, To dear little Joie from Gran with lots of love hoping she will have a happy Birth Day. X ++++, written in a spidery, hard-to-read grandmotherly scrawl. As far as I can tell, it is addressed to Miss Joyce Lucton (?), 2 Glenbroke Place, Upper… Street, Bristol. The postmark is faint, but it appears to be from 5:45 AM, December 1, 1906. The edges of the card are embossed with a fancy flower design that is hard to see in the photo. It probably won’t surprise Pictorama readers that I still enjoy sending and receiving actual cards – although the birthday postcard is something one doesn’t much see these days.

It is well understood that as children we anticipate our birthday all year – not only for the day of cake and toys (although that is very good and I still like that) – but because when you are young of course the idea of being a year older is great too. We want to  be grown up. Somewhere in our twenties the tide seems to turn and a sense of, if not actual dread, ambivalence sets in. My mother would say, beats the alternative (or as an older friend said recently in response to my birthday greetings that her birthday was better than the dirt nap), but we stop being celebratory at a minimum. Suddenly, older is bad.

For me, oddly enough, my twenty-first birthday was the first where I found myself, alone in London on a year abroad, at loose ends and feeling less than celebratory. I decided to rally, went to a high-end hair dresser and cut my hair very short for the first time, followed by a to a vintage clothing store. There I purchased a vintage dress and jacket, a lovely teapot, a strange silver pin of the Sphinx, and an art deco necklace. (I still have the pin and the necklace and somewhere the jacket. The teapot chipped badly in a move a number of years ago, and the dress given to a friend.) A friend rescued me in the evening and took me to a dinner of Greek food. I called my mother when I got home (very late and a bit tipsy) and I remember the operator asking me if I knew what time it was in the United States! Very British. I have called my mother every year on my birthday though, and I am pleased to say she didn’t mind in the least.

A number of years later, in a fit of latter adult birthday ambivalence, I took the matter in hand and declared February my birthday month. I gathered around me a cohort of Aquarian friends, and decided I would celebrate with each of them separately. Like me, they had long-suffered birthdays that were jammed in or around (or in one case on) Valentine’s Day. We had that, and living here on the east coast, snow in common. While over time that group has mostly dwindled (although the unofficial club did take on a new member last year) with out-of-state moves, and in one case sadly with a quite elderly member, death, I have to say it has wrought some of the very nicest memories. Despite increasingly busy schedules time is set aside to spend with each of those people and has resulted in some lovely memories. Sometimes, these days, the date gets pushed to March – sometimes well beyond – but it always happens. More than a decade ago, one friend’s daughter was born, prematurely, on the day we were scheduled for dinner – and that in the midst of a snow storm to boot! February 2018 birthday dinners and lunches are already being considered and scheduled – other Aquarians feel free to raise your hand.

 

 

My Donkeys

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  I spotted this photo when I was purchasing yesterday’s delightful cat chair photo and threw it in the purchase. This is the kind of picture that fascinates me, although I understand that it may not have wide appeal. Dark and a bit dour, nonetheless it has a such a feeling of time and space memory for me – a window into a private past. The little girl looks very adult somehow, in her checked dress and hat, holding the reins, a serious look on her face. The background photo of the Eiffel Tower and amusement park, somehow that giant early style Ferris wheel looks almost like a halo over her head. (I think it is a big photo anyway, I cannot imagine that it is a painting.) Funny that this background featuring the Eiffel Tower looks very British to me.

It is postmarked Blackpool, August 2, 1921 PM. It is addressed to Mrs. Lancaster, 16 Bellbrooke Grove, Marchill Lane, Leeds, York, hard to read because it is written in a very light, worn pencil. The message, what I can read of it, says, Dear Mrs. Lancaster, This is me under the hat on one of my donkeys we are having some rain, but are not staying in, but having a good time…for you. Margaret.

I have it in my mind that Mrs. Lancaster was her teacher for some reason, not sure why. Could as easily be a neighbor from home or any number of people. Such a very British holiday and note. I like one of my donkeys – leaving me to wonder what other donkeys she considered hers? The donkey looks kindly, if a bit diffident. Try as I might I cannot quite read what is written on his blanket, Radison perhaps? Not that it matters. I am glad that they were not staying in despite the rain.

I grew up at a seaside resort, but (unfortunately) it wasn’t the sort of town where you could get your photo postcard made for the most part. However, there was a remnant of an amusement pier at a beach a few towns over, complete with a handful of rickety rides, tawdry games, fortune telling. By the time I was in high school it was like catnip to me in the summer, and then into the fall when a haunted house kicked into high gear. We had friends who worked there and they would go into overdrive to scare us when we showed up. I still get the occasional yen for cotton candy or a candy apple this time of the year just thinking about the pier. Family lore is that my great aunt owned a restaurant there when she was a young woman – her parents, my great grandparents, owned a bar and restaurant in the town proper. The site of that still remains. Sadly that remaining bit of amusement pier burned down while I was in college. No donkeys or photos for me, but it does live on in memory.