Crown

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This card also from the El Dorado of the postcard show last week. It is a bit more curious than good, although I think it is compelling. I don’t know for sure what it depicts, although my first thought was that it was some sort of traveling show, I have changed my mind. The tents are sizable, but appear more for living and sleeping-in than for come hither attractions. They are somewhat complicated, as I think tents mostly were at that time, set up by a series of ropes and poles. (I am glad I wasn’t charged with figuring that out. I don’t think I would have been good at it.) The one to our right shows an accumulation of grime near the flap from much use. I guess it is a roadside camp, Crown being the name, the brick building perhaps bathrooms and an office? Or a gas station? There is the pile of wood in front of these folks, and a fair amount of trash scattered about. It is weedy and they have set the tents up in the only clear space.

I like this group, family of some kind I assume or family and friends, with their two dogs – one wriggling into a blur here. The one woman and young girl are in neat, but comfortable cotton house dresses, the other woman a bit more dressed up. While this appears to be a somewhat down at the heels locale, they seem chipper enough having their photo taken this way. The card was never mailed and there is nothing written on it so we don’t know anything about them, which I regret.

I do not hail from a camping family and in my life I have only ever done it on a few occasions. As I remember, I was unremarkable at best as a girl scout camper for a single trip at approximately age 12. (I recall a messy experiment with making pancakes in a skillet over a fire – pancakes are actually a tad tricky even at home I find in retrospect. An even more dismal attempt at using a compass and map to find our way back to camp in a test of sorts. I seem to remember finding the road and using it to return.)

Subsequently, many years later and on the other end of the spectrum, I camped while hiking around Mt. Kailash, a sacred mountain in Tibet. I don’t fool myself – the success of this venture was entirely due to some extremely capable sherpas who set up our tents and cooked our food. I only credit myself with having been smart enough to have engaged them. It was July, but we woke up to several inches of snow one morning which was a shock, (it was cold and we slept in layers of clothing, coats and sleeping bags) and another evening heard something skulking, scratching and growling outside our tent which we chose not to investigate. Otherwise, it was in every way preferable to staying in awful, mostly empty and decaying hotels in the small enclaves of Tibet which I had done on a previous trip. All appeared to have been built in 1970 and with an eye to a tourist industry that the Chinese government imagined, but never materialized.

Therefore, for the most part I have decided that for me camping is more of a means to an end than something I do for the sheer enjoyment of doing it. I would happily camp again in Tibet if it meant seeing things I couldn’t see otherwise, but am unlikely to pitch a tent in the wilds of upstate New York any time soon. Meanwhile, these folks may have take a broader view of camping – or they may have been doing it out of necessity as well, to get from here to there – but stopping to have their photo taken along the way.

 

 

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Happy Hollow Special

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today marks the beginning of delving into a nice big pile of photographs I purchased last week at a postcard show here in New York City. Way back in college, I remember an art professor, Maureen McCabe, saying she loved this show because she bought things like vintage paper dolls for her work constructing collages. That was a few decades back and I suspect that the sale has changed over time. It was small, but sincere, and for me a happy hunting ground. This bi-annual sale is provided by the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York (more about them here), which evidently meets monthly largely for the purpose of buying, selling and trading postcards. I noticed a mention of them in the New York Times recently and made a note of this sale a few months ago.

I may have purchased enough postcards to keep me from needing to drop into a meeting before their next show in November, but we will see about that. The process of looking through physical cards is quite different than the sort of internet searching I do and I stumbled across some interesting, non-cat affiliated cards, this being one of them. Kim patiently waded through postcards with me last Saturday afternoon, after traveling to and from midtown in a deluge, so a shout out to him.

I would love to know more about these folks, posing here in front of this striped carnival background. These lucky little girls are riding in high style, drawn by this large goat. Goat carts were popular in this period and below I include a photo I grabbed of a goat cart in Central Park in the 1870’s. I always thought they used smaller goats, but this photo and the others I found show big goats. The Central Park goat cart is quite high-end compared to our friends posed with this more humble affair in Hot Springs.

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I recently read about Goat Yoga online which seems, touchingly, to simultaneously combine yoga and admiring, frolicking goats. I have a general fondness for goats – in Tibet you see these small ones that look like Scotty dogs everywhere and I always wanted to scoop one up – however I resisted the temptation. In addition I spent many years doing yoga and, while I have found that cats can take a real interest in yoga (they generally try to out-yoga you, and they usually can as they are flexible little critters), I admit I never thought about doing it with goats. Clearly, my lack of imagination. Anyway, I see online that there was an attempt to bring said Goat Yoga to Brooklyn, but the Board of Health put an end to it so we here in the five boroughs will never know the pleasures of it I guess.

Getting back to our postcard, I would say that the donkey sticking his head in and the stray arm to the other side of the frame, sort of frame this photo compositionally. I myself wouldn’t have minded seeing more of that donkey fellow with his big furry ears. Mom and Dad and the kids are in their best bib and tucker – Mom sporting a splendid hat and is especially dressed up for the occasion. As carnival photo opportunities go, this one is decidedly lower end than most however – certainly not as luxe as posing with Felix at the beach (see for example my post Felix Mugging), but it has its own charm.

The cart is labeled Happy Hollow Special, Hot Springs and below, somewhat mysteriously, 21, is also painted. If you look very closely, you realize that this “cart” is propped up on a small stand and isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps this guarded against a rogue runaway goat. Goats are known for their independent natures, after all. Although this card was never mailed, written in pencil on the back is Sal & Birdie with their daughters Dorothy & Marion. A quick look online reveals that Happy Hollow, Hot Springs is a vacation destination in Hot Springs, Arkansas and perhaps that is our photo locale, a very long time ago indeed.

Breaking the Rules

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am breaking a fundamental rule of Pictorama, I am posting entirely about an object I do not (and sadly it seems, never will) own. I ran across this pinafore the other day on eBay and was fascinated by it. Kim thought I had lost my mind, and in a sense he was right. Although I have collected vintage clothing to wear, I have resisted purchasing items that I cannot wear – costumes and the like – for the simple reason that I really do not have the space to store things of this kind properly. Of all things, old textiles require some care and a bit of room for storing. I briefly considered putting it on one of the stuffed toys (I have both Felix-es and a Mickey that are more or less the size of a toddler) but Kim, rightfully, gave me a skeptical look at that suggestion. So, in the while I bid on this beauty, in the end I did not really pursue it recognizing that I am not the best steward of this item. Nonetheless, I find it so amazing that it is my desire to record and ruminate on it a bit.

It goes without saying that it was in my opinion, a profoundly lucky mite who got to sport this pinafore. Oh to boast this over my pretty dress to keep it tidy while I played! What a fashion statement for a toddler in the 1920’s in Great Britain. It is hard to tell, but Felix is embroidered. I love the red ribbon on his neck and I have no idea why he is carrying a doctor’s bag, but he is. (This was decades before a later Felix had a bag of tricks.) The scalloped bottom is particularly agreeable I think. The only thing I might have asked for is a toothy grin on Felix which I always enjoy. I assume that, like so many items from this time in Britain, that this was unlicensed, but they did an excellent job rendering it. As a matter of practicality, I believe it would have been slipped over the child’s head and tied on each side for easy access. It has a lovely little pocket to hide something special in. A clever item all around.

Having grown up in the era of indestructible Danskin clothes (I swear the tops and short sets I had in 1968 are faded, but still essentially intact somewhere in a landfill – there is one of aqua blue stripe that I remember in particular), I cannot imagine living in a time of ironed pinafores. Messy playing and painting occasionally required one of my father’s old oxford cloth shirts frayed at the collar and almost dress length when I was little. Wearing those were a habit I subsequently maintained through college and beyond for messy work. (I am wearing one in my high school yearbook photo, taken on a pottery wheel.) I’m sure tiny me would have likely balked at such an archaic addition as a pinafore in my rough and tumble life, but perhaps my someday self would have known it was mighty special.

NY Band Instrument Co.

Pam’s Pictorama Advertising Post: It is perhaps obvious to Pictorama readers, but I will start by stating that I like stuff. While I think of myself as a toy and photo collector (and those predominantly of cats, of course) I am also fascinated by what I guess you might call collectibles. These often fall in the category of advertising – give aways (pins, calendars, cards, rulers and the like) that would keep you in mind of a product or establishment. The disappearance of the flea market as this sort of collecting occurs more frequently online makes the finding and acquisition of such tidbits harder I believe, however I accept the challenge.

These items fall soundly in the category of you didn’t know you wanted it (or that it existed) until you saw it. I believe my favorite are the cat pin trays I discuss in my past post Corbin Canadian Cats. This was the sort of stuff I stumbled on and went nuts over as a kid and young adult, and I miss having as many opportunities to paw through piles of stuff and find such things. Nonetheless, necessity is the mother of invention and I have managed to find some interesting oddities online as well and here I present one today.

Of course it is this rather dignified looking kitty on this pin that attracted me and brought this item into my sphere. It is so interesting to me that cats have always been used to sell pretty much any and everything and this tom had been employed to hawk the N.Y. Band Instrument Co. While kitty is great I can’t help but point out that it is far superior and, for me, made irresistible by the little stitched holder he resides in. Tucked into this sleeve it is this way (and this way only) that we know that he was created to ply the wares of the N.Y. Band Instrument Co. Everything Musical, 111 East 14th Street, NEW YORK and 1225 Broadway, Brooklyn. I do wonder what it is that you would have been required to purchase at said establishment to earn you this little gem – a trumpet perhaps? Or just a pile of sheet music? Did folks immediately take it out of its holder (which they then lost) and poke it into their lapel? I know I would have. I was tempted to do it as soon as it arrived in the mail.

The internet does lend an interesting spin to this research and it was a matter of only seconds after inquiring before I was able to learn that the N.Y. Band Instrument Co. was once the largest music store in New York. The genesis of the company, originally known as the N.Y. Musical Instrument Company in its first incarnation, seems to have been a small import and maker of instruments which was born down the street from the address near Union Square, at 12 Cooper Square back in 1913.

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Undated photo of the store front, Horn-u-copia.net

 

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Steinway Hall at this address in 1875, this image from the Museum of the City of NY

 

The founders are noted to have been (Max) William Renz (a piano maker) and the Swiss born, Louis Ortlieb. The store on 14th Street appears to have been established by 1925 (I guess Steinway moved on) and the building included studios on the top floor which were rented to music teachers. It is a bit uncertain, but it would appear that they were in business in one form or another until 1950. The site of the building appears to have morphed into NYU dorms and is now apartments, according to the Zillow real estate site. (For these historical details I give a nod to the book, Spann’s Guide to Gibson 1902-1942, available online, and the site Horn-u-copia.) I was unable to find any information about the Brooklyn location, only that an African market currently claims the address.

This thriving establishment advertised frequently in the New York papers of the day, however it is a bit of patter from Jacob’s Band Monthly, in April of 1921, next to an ad for Toneking brass instruments placed by our friends at the New York Band Instrument Company , that best captures the spirit of music selling of the day and more,

SUMMING up the successful men of the past and present we find them all to be men of POWER It was power that won the world war. The most powerful engine the best success of an automobile and confidence are inspired by the of power. How can the beginner [of] the study of music gain this power? That is of the first questions with which the student is confronted. In trombone, power is attained in proportion to degree of control of the embouchure in words the better lip the more power will be to the tone and the less fatigue there be experienced. Power also comes from ability to concentrate regarding which I written previously I would now further every student to bear this subject in mind for when he has developed power of concentration his power to advance will be increased amazingly…

 

Wisemen’s

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This fails to be a proper Mother’s Day post, but Mom figures large in my memory of this childhood haunt, so it is with that nod to her that I proceed. Memories of Wiseman’s store have bubbled up a couple of times recently and it nibbled at my mind until I decided to record and share a few thoughts and memories of this iconic establishment of my childhood.

I think most of us born prior to 1970 or so have a Wiseman’s in their past. For me and my family it was a dusty miracle of a store in the neighboring town of Sea Bright. That town is a tiny landspit of a peninsula, with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Shrewsbury River to the west, within walking distance over a draw bridge, from the house I grew up in. This narrow beach community can be traversed at its widest point in a brisk 15 minute walk. From any elevated point, such as the second story of a building, you can see the river and the ocean at the same time. It exists in a sort of infamy for its well publicized tendency to flood, and most recently Hurricane Sandy almost wiped it off the map. (Although in my childhood it was a Hurricane Donna that everyone referred back to as a literal high water mark, when the ocean and the river met on the main drag, Ocean Avenue. Strangely, photos show the water from each different colors.)

However, as it has evidently done repeatedly over the decades, it has slowly rebuilt and re-emerged. The specifics of the town are different from my childhood – a huge pizza establishment and bar where my mom had a store and the Post Office once were for example – but the bones and general outline remain the same. A full service restaurant where there was once a (superb) pizza place where I worked one summer – polyester uniform and all. The hardware store, church and laundromat have persisted. The Foodtown has become something called Andy K’s. 

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The church here has remained throughout. This appears to be a fairly recent photo.

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The Foodtown during it’s morph into what is now Andy K’s.

 

Still, it is another layer that I need to pull back to place Wiseman’s. It was on the same block as the belated pizza place as I remember. It was down from a store called Sy & Art’s which carried everything you needed for the beach, from high end bathing suits to towels and basics. Sy & Art’s lives in a sort of miasma of late 1960’s/early 1970’s psychedelic color and prints in my mind’s eye and although we might stop in occasionally, it was more for tourists who forgot their beach towels or tanning lotion than locals. (Wiseman’s would have been about three buildings down the block from the photo at the very top – that corner most prominent was where Sy & Art’s headquartered. Try as I have I cannot find a photo of it or the building, still standing, that Wiseman’s was located in.)

Wiseman’s was a old fashion soda fountain, stationary and newspaper establishment. I do not remember consuming any food at the counter, although mom when asked seems to remember that the occasional ice cream cone was had there, this despite a rather memorable amount of dust, dirt and grime we both seem to remember. (They must have had take-out coffee as well, but this was before the ubiquitousness of coffee to go. I won’t say I never saw my parents drink take-out coffee, but it wasn’t the daily thing it is now. It was more something you did while traveling.)

Mom vaguely recalls that Wiseman’s was owned by two elderly brothers and agrees that I have spelled it the right way, having once herself been corrected by one of the brothers on the subject. My parents religiously purchased their weekend papers at Wiseman’s in the days before we had home delivery of those. It was my go to for a variety of items which included, but were not limited to, comic books, candy and even an inexpensive sort of toy which could occasionally be wheedled out of the paper purchasing parent in question. Most often it was comic books – my parents exhibiting a bit of rare squeamish about the more exotic candy offerings such as wax lips and odd tubes of colored sugar in numerous forms.

Wiseman’s was a strange and exotic territory for me, full of promise, and I never missed an opportunity to tag along on a trip there. It seemed surprising when we made the rare, unscheduled weekday stop, perhaps for a stationary item which they also carried, because it was a weekend destination in my mind. It would be quieter on those weekdays, without the bustle of a Saturday or Sunday when it was the center of the universe for a certain kind of local activity. It was a somewhat cramped dusty space, despite a very high, old tin ceiling, but narrow. There were ancient cheap toys, Halloween costumes, packages of outdated invitations and the like on the higher shelves, while the items that turned over frequently such as candy, magazines, comics and newspapers, were at an easy grab to the door. I remember looking up and being fascinated by the possibility of what you might find there. That promise remained unfulfilled alas; it was a realm I was never allowed to explore.

As I got older my purchases morphed from Archie comics into Tiger Beat, followed by Teen and eventually Seventeen. I could be wrong, but I believe Wiseman’s may have disappeared before I got to Cosmo, but perhaps not because I do not know where else I would have purchased it. (This was before magazines would have been sold in the always crisp smelling Sea Bright Drugstore, or the Foodtown which took care of almost all of our other ongoing needs and supplies as well as the daily papers.) I seem to remember Wiseman’s closing while I was in high school. Alas, it was not there when I waitressed at the pizza establishment, nor when I was employed by the French cuisine restaurant further down the street, both during college.

Someone mentioned it to me the other day and perhaps that’s why it came to mind last week when I was writing about the toy cowboys and horses I used to get by the bag as a small child. That was the nature of the toy you would get there. In my mind the weekend mornings merge together, the smell of the newsprint and dust, the anticipation of comic books, candy and all sorts of unexplored possibilities. I can imagine the sun slanting through the door and dust motes playing, as if knowing that it was a memory being minted even then.

Jean Arthur and Her Lucky Black Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photograph was one of those mercurial finds online. I stumbled on it and snatched it up immediately. When it arrived and I was stunned to find that it is in almost pristine condition. Written in pencil (twice) on the back is Jean Arthur, the Culver Photo Research Service logo (a snappy one with their address and phone is a part of it phone VAnderbilt 3-337251 E 42nd St NYC). In addition it is stamped, Reproduction of this PHOTOGRAPH must carry our credit line. This picture is loaned for one reproduction only and must not be sold, loaned or syndicated. Must not be used for advertising without written permission. It also bears the inscription, Permission is hereby granted for use of this photograph in Magazines and News papers. Credit to PARAMOUNT PICTURES will be appreciated. Photograph by Gene Robert Richee.

Kim has calculated this photo for about 1924-25. In a book he has a photo of Jean in ’25 with her hair bobbed however so this is presumably earlier than that photo. We cannot actually find her linked to a Paramount film in that timeframe so if you all have information let us know. Of course for me this splendid black cat on her lap is what makes the photo. A charming Jean is instructing stuffed kitty in the ways of the radio microphone. He seems like a sprightly fellow with this nice big bow. Although there was a popular Stieff model of this sort at the time, I don’t believe that is his pedigree.

Eugene Robert (E.R.) Richee (1896-1972) was a Paramount portrait photographer although online references disagree on the years he was there. (One states he worked there from 1925-1935 which would date this photo better, but another states that he started there in the late teens.) He is best known and most closely associated with well recognized photos of Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks, among others. He moved to Warner Brothers and worked there and for MGM later. Jean is listed among the stars he photographed at Warner Brothers as well. Some stars demanded him for their photos and one site quoted that Miriam Hopkins was being difficult from the moment she arrived, because Richee was not there. His style seems to morph from this sort of studio shot to silvered exquisiteness that epitomize a certain kind of early 20th century retouched perfection in photographs. I prefer the slightly kooky and offbeat charm of these earlier efforts.

As mentioned, Jean’s kitty appears to be of what I think of as a generic good luck black cat type, as opposed let’s say to a nice Felix, or even an Aesop Fable doll (see my post of Jane Withers in Van Bueren’s Aesop Fables – the Toys! ) which I am always on the prowl for. These black cats proliferated in the early 20th century, as did other “lucky” black cat items. (A whole lot of those are on display in my post Lucky Black Cat among others.) This toy is strikingly similar to the one held by the little girl in my post Altar of the Black Kitty and as a toy collector, of course I must add that I wouldn’t mind having such a nice fellow in the Pictorama collection, fluffy tail and all, sometime soon. I share a photo of an early favorite from my collection from another post, which I believe hails from the same general family, yet a bit different.

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Pam’s Felix Frolic Continues

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am aware that we have been having a very Felix-y time at Pictorama lately (aren’t we lucky!) and to some degree that is just a reflection of buying opportunity and inclination, although admittedly we are well-documented Felix fans. I believe I own about 50 or so variations on photos of people posting with an array of Felix, and about two thirds of those are these posed photo postcards.

I have come to realize that my readership does not perhaps (inconceivable to me) value or enjoy these images as much as I do. Quite simply expressed however, it is my feeling that I should own all of them. And I never, ever tire of them nor find one that I do not consider fascinating. As I have previously opined, I envision a book devoted to these photos someday – perhaps just a self-published or a publish on demand, so at least I can admire them all in a handy way. (Although that implies a sense of completion which I am unwilling to consider.) Sadly our wall space falls well short of being able to display them all. So, while I can hear some of you tsk, tsk-ing and saying, “She’s at it again” I plunge ahead with this latest discovery. It is my intention to move on next week. (I have a beaut of a photo for movie fans.)

So, now to our photo. Darned if I can figure out what junior, posing here, has in his hands. I am going to settle on it being a ball. I can’t say that he looks especially charmed by Felix either which is too bad. Little did he know that it might be his only shot at immortality. (I say this with all due respect and as a guesstimate of course, as I have no idea who he is or might have grown into being.) The stairs and strolling folks in the background create a nice dynamic. This jaunty “adult size” sort of Felix is my favorite and the type I would want to pose with. (Yes, I have spent time considering this.) He is pleasantly enormous and a close look reveals some wild whiskers on him. Someone has written 1924 on the back of the card along with a short column of numbers that don’t make sense. Somehow it doesn’t look like it was written at the time though and 1924 seems a tad early to my thinking.

So I leave you to contemplate this one woman’s obsession – and a nod to those of you who might actually share it.