Dad’s Day

Pam’s Pictorama Post: So, I have been arguing with myself about this post and whether or not I was going to write it. This is fair warning to anyone out there who doesn’t want to read a somewhat downbeat Father’s Day post, this one probably isn’t for you. It is the only thing on my mind though as the marketers (everyone from my drugstore to where I buy my running shoes) remind me to think of my father today – and he remains very much on my mind. It’s a small story but seems to be the one for today.

As those of you who have followed this blog (or my and Kim’s real lives) know, my Dad died last August, just shy of a final birthday and after several painful months in hospice. As you lose people in your life, especially to illness, it gets hard as the year spins closer to the anniversary and there are landmark dates or, for me, seasons that remind you of where you were in the previous year. I wrote about bringing my father ice cream on Father’s Day last year (in a story that remains a bit amazing even to me that can be found here) so I know exactly where I was this time last year, although the early summer weather had been telling me for weeks.

I remember that these were the last few relatively good days he had. And I have a clear memory of sitting next to his bed, eating ice cream and him suddenly asking me if this job that I had taken at Jazz at Lincoln Center was going to work out. He always enjoyed hearing about the ins and outs of my work life – the travel I did and the people I met. It tickled him that, like his career as a cameraman, I enjoyed my work and it took me all over. He was proud and marveled that he had a daughter in business as he would say.

I was just over a year in my job responsible for fundraising at Jazz after thirty years at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and it was a fair question. In fact the challenge was at times overwhelming me, a real tiger by the tail, and I did wonder what on earth I had done in taking it on. However Dad spent those last months of his life worrying about me and my brother and asking for reassurance about the future. I would tell him that I would make sure my brother and mother were okay and would take care of everything.

So I was tempted to lie and gloss over it, but in the end, I told him the truth – it was very hard and the jury was still out on whether or not I would pull it off. A challenge is just that and you might fail. Sometimes hard work and sincerity weren’t enough and I just didn’t know yet. He was never much of a conversationalist, which was made worse by the labored breathing of his illness, so he nodded his head, listened and thought about what I was saying.

A year later a lot has happened and as these things do, the job got harder and more difficult before there were any signs of it getting better and that only very recently. Somehow though, through a dint of unstinting hard work and some good luck in these last weeks, we are starting to see some traction. It is possible that after two years of unrelenting effort there is some real daylight as I look around. With the help and hard work of some many people, a sense of order is starting to prevail. I have learned a lot and Dad would be pleased I think – I can see a nod of approval. Meanwhile, I will be eating ice cream later today in his honor.

Nestle’s

Pam’s Pictorama Postcard Post: A bit of splendid advertising where cats meet cards today. When I think Nestlé I think of a chocolate bar which, to the highly discerning taste of my childhood palate, always seemed naggingly inferior and pallid to my preferred Hershey. As memory serves though, they were an early leader in chocolate milk mixes and chocolate being chocolate, was of course ultimately always a welcome event – preferences a technicality really. As a kid you largely take what you can get.

In my childhood estimation Nestlé’s powdered Quik was superior to Hershey’s syrup for cold milk as it mixed better and more easily. It came in yellow and brown tins and I still have the sense memory of using a spoon to pop open the lid. Hot chocolate was happily made with either, but I think my Hershey’s affection won out there as well. (Both were challenged by Swiss Miss later because it had marshmallows ready embedded which was very handy as mom couldn’t be relied on to remember to buy them.)

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In young adulthood I worked here in Manhattan as a chef for a Swiss Hotel, the Drake, and Nestlé nibbles abounded as the house chocolate of choice. I don’t think I had really focused on Nestlé’s Swiss origins before then. In my childhood the bars came wrapped in blue, red and white paper and it was Nestlé’s Crunch, more or less as shown below via Pinterest. For all of my memories of Nestlé chocolates I must say I never really focused on the accent on the é until now, funny. It is consistently used throughout.

 

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Meanwhile, these splendid cards were purchased on eBay recently; I bargained them down but still paid up for them and don’t regret it in the least. Their postmarks bear evidence of having been mailed in Great Britain in 1903, August and September respectively, but these were purchased from a US seller. In tiny letters at the top it reads H.M. & Co.’s Famous Posters in Miniature which makes me wonder if these were originally huge posters as still seen in the London underground for example.

These postcards were mailed to and from different folks in different parts of England. 1903 predates Nestlé’s purchase of a rival chocolate company (in 1904) which put them in the chocolate line of business, and was only just making its way to the US shortly after in about 1905. Therefore these cards were likely British and advertising Nestlé’s earlier incarnation as a condensed milk and baby formula company. Richest in cream these both declare!

Of course for me, it was these comical kitties that called to me. I love them together as a two-part comic strip – the skinny brown fellow drinking his creamy way to rotund plumpness from card one to two! Wise white kitty is the purveyor of the fattening feline dairy diet. In the second image, the dark clouds over the night sky have cleared and this backyard nocturnal perk is discreetly jollier in general. Orange/brown cat offers his gratitude in rhyme, Thanks for your feed of NESTLÉ’S MILK. It did me good – my coat’s like silk; And now I’m sound in limb and brain. I’ll never drink skim milk again!

 

 

 

Mornin’

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This entertained me with its little bit of photo collage that makes it possible. The noisy boy kittens (I think they are wearing shirt collars like they just came from a late night party) are “singing” to these proper girl cats, who sport enormous bows, presumably it is their human neighbors who are also being serenaded, much to their chagrin. I am especially enamored of the little house the girl cats are in. This card was mailed on October 22, 1907 at 5:30 PM from Lyons, Kansas to Miss Dorothy Curtis, Villisca, Iowa. (Villisca remains a very small town, only 1200 people as of the 2010 census so even today maybe a street address isn’t needed. The town is evidently best known for an unsolved axe murder in the summer of 1912.)

Cats preventing sleep – night and morning – is a big topic, bless their little nocturnal hearts. I have written some about the morning routine here at Deitch Studio. You’ve heard about how I take my place at the computer eating breakfast while Kim commences working at his end of the desk. During the week I read the newspaper and maybe cheat in a little work email and on the weekend I sit, as I do now, writing this blog. What I have not described is Cookie and Blackie’s routine which starts much earlier.

Ever since his first night in the apartment as tiny kitten, Blackie has been the most likely to sleep on the bed with us. (Despite having been terrified of us and hiding under the bed all of his first day here, I woke in the middle of the night to find him curled up between us snoring away.) He starts his evening between us, usually while we are reading, but after lights out he moves to a spot near my feet. He is sometimes joined by Cookie, who has a pillow of her own down there.

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Blackie, crammed between us during nighttime reading in bed.

 

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Cookie on her pillow perch at the foot of the bed.

 

Come 4:00 am (that’s not a mistake, 4 o’clock!) Blackie begins a frontal assault, primarily on Kim as I do not get up at that hour. This largely takes the form of head butting and jumping on a bookcase full of toy cats, and then plummeting down onto the bed. Cookie watches to make sure he executes properly. If for some reason he does not, she will start racing around on the bed – sometimes they have a chase over us for good measure. Kim is an early riser and more susceptible than me and generally he gets up and feeds them and starts his day.

For those of you who follow us here at Pictorama ongoing, you know that my job at Jazz for Lincoln Center keeps me out quite late on some evenings. In addition, anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to sleep so the early routine of the house is a bit trying for me at times. I have always loved to sleep. My mother tells the story that she brought me home from the hospital and I slept through the night (as did she) and she panicked thinking something had happened to me. I am fond of picking the right pajamas and night gowns, always cotton like our sheets. (I discuss my fondness for my pj’s in a former post which can be found here.) At this very moment I am wearing a pair of pajama bottoms with a toile elephant print which I purchased in homage to the elephant drawings Kim is working on. I adore them.

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My pj’s are still available online from a company with the great moniker, The Cat’s Pajamas.

 

But I love my kitties more even than sleep. And, as I alluded to above, they have figured out that I am not the most likely suspect to get out of bed and often, now tummy full of delicious cat food, Blackie will wander back for a second snooze, curled up with me when I finally hear the clock radio an hour or so later.

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Blackie coming back to share the bed early one morning recently.

 

And of course, once we are both out of the bed it becomes a kitty haven. I close with a rare shot of the two of them sharing it.

 

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Crinkle Cat – For Kiddies, not Kitties!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I have been hunting this fellow, Crinkle Cat, for a long time. Despite essentially being easily acquired item, I have been holding out for one that had been sewn well and was in good shape which took longer to find. Introduced in 1935 the characters Crinkle Cat, Dinky Dog, Dandy Duck, Freckles the Frog (and later Johnny Bear and perhaps others), were established and offered as Kellogg’s cereal premiums (two box tops please) which arrived as below, to be cut out, sewn and stuffed by the recipient. Considering that these were hand sewn, oil cloth dolls, these have an excellent survival rate. Crinkle Cat seems to lead the pack here but although you will work a bit harder if you want a Freckles the Frog, for example, these also appear to be obtainable.

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Beyond the survival rate which is notable, the frequently worn remains of these toys is evidence that they were played with and much beloved, perhaps a tribute to their Depression era timing. It was an inexpensive toy when finding toys for your kids wasn’t easy and just feeding them was a priority – this enabled you to do both. Many of the unexecuted oil cloth sheets are also in existence. (I could have bought one of those and made my own if my skills were up to it; they are not.) So back then, as is always the case, people acquired them and never managed to execute the sewing of the toy – but saved them for posterity.

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I like Crinkle’s slightly worried, pie-eyed expression and I am a fan of his sort of country gentleman tie and vest – sporting buttons on the back and a small patch on his bottom. Kellogg’s is also emblazoned on his back and I will volunteer that he is indeed a cat I would trust with my cereal needs.

Despite their survival rate as toys well into the 21st century these characters didn’t seem to gain much traction. Information on them is scant and I don’t see much evidence that they had a life beyond these premiums. Before 1940 they were supplanted a few years later by Snap, Crackle and Pop and eventually Tony the Tiger. I would say it is possible that Vernon Grant, the designer and creator Snap, Crackle and Pop may have designed these characters, but I cannot confirm so I defer to those of you out there who may be more knowledgable on the subject to please chime in. I was interested to see that a somewhat rare toy of Tony the Tiger of surprisingly similar design exists from a much later era. The example I found was dated 1973.

I cannot do justice to the fulsome and whacky history of Kellogg’s here but will give enough of an encapsulation to intrigue those of you who wish to go further down that rabbit hole on your own. Essentially the Kellogg brothers, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith Kellogg, invented it in 1896 (patented and into production in 1906) as part the answer to a need by the Seventh-day Adventists for vegetarian fare at the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan where John was superintendent. As it unfolds into a commercial venture the company at Will’s urging (this caused a rift between the two) he not only makes the recipe a bit more palatable for the consumer by adding sugar to the mix, but is an early advocate of advertising and premiums. He kicks this campaign off with this rather splendid Funny Jungleland moving picture book for children in 1906. (I’m already working on acquiring one of these – so perhaps a future post there!)

Years later Crinkle’s little-known tagline was, For kiddies, not kitties! and perhaps for a company that went on to make pet food as well, this was a point worth making? Meanwhile, Crinkle has at last come to join the kitties (not kiddies) here at Pictorama.

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Clown-Boby

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This little find caught my eye recently and I decided I really needed to own it. These early vaudeville-type animal acts seem to be a fascinating sub-genre and I can’t resist them. Quite awhile back I found and wrote about another French card I believe is from the same period with small dogs and a cat piled on a larger dog (shown below – it translates as Dog Scholars and the post about the card can be found here), and earlier than that another somewhat primitive but favorite card for an animal act called Mad Betty (find it here) which was in the United States, on the west coast. Finally even a bit more frowzy, Dashington’s (here), also American. Alfred Latell and my posts about him (here and here) and his vaudeville act must be counted as well.

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The Clown-Boby card was never sent, nothing inscribed on the back, and therefore my thoughts on dating it are approximate, however Chien Savants is postmarked 1905 and I think it is fair to assume that this is from the same general period. Clown-Boby’s card declares that he is a Membre de la Société protectrice des animaux and we are glad he wanted to acknowledge that he took good care of his animals. Despite his very scary white clown face, he does have a sort of kindly look – although I must say if I was going to be afraid of clowns Boby is where I might start. The quality of the postcard printing is a bit low and primitive – cut poorly along the bottom with a white strip and overall a low resolution job.

The cats shown are a varied group mixing spots, stripes and between, although each wears a bow – with one in a sort of royal ruff and I wonder if he was the lead kitty. As cats will, some look engaged and others annoyed. Lead cat is slightly blurred because of course getting them still is another matter entirely. And I like the variety – ending with a smart looking tabby. I do wonder what the act was like, my imagination probably beyond the capacity of Clown-Boby.

Sadly I could find no history of or reference to Clown-Boby and his act online. I did however, find the image below showing him with a rooster act declaring Clown Boby and Miss Mosa Original Dressuract. (Can anyone out there translate dressuract to English?) He appears a bit younger here with Miss Mosa if you ask me, and it is in reality a bit whackier and charming photo altogether. (I will admit that Google Images did not want to share this photo and I apologize for the digital thievery.)

I cannot help but wonder if and how the kitties shown in my card got along with Miss Mosa and company – or perhaps more likely that they were a sufficiently subsequent generation of the evolving act.

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Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

 

Everybody into the Pool!

Pam’s Pictorama Postcard Post: Kicking off this 1st of June post with a kitty fantasy worthy of my Jersey shore childhood, although this seems to be more of a mountain lake scene than the Atlantic ocean of my youth. These swimming felines sport an interesting array of swimming costumes that cross clothing periods – while one bikini is prominent, some “men” wear old-fashioned one pieces from earlier in the 20th century, as does a female kitty climbing up a diving ladder further back. A few wear swim caps – keeping their kitty coiffures intact?

Referred to sometimes as Mainzer Cats, this card is part of a large series of postcards produced by the Alfred Mainzer company of Long Island City, New York. (A local business with Long Island City being just across the East River from where I sit right this moment.) The company was in business from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, however the artist responsible for these cards was a Swiss artist, Eugen Hartung (or Hurtong) (1897-1973), who executed the series. So the moniker Mainzer Cats seems a bit unfair in retrospect – these are actually Hartung kitties.

Clearly the artistic and spiritual descendent of Louis Wain, (who I have written about on many occasions including here  and here for starters), Hartung picked up the whacky feline artistic baton of depicting anthropomorphic cats; his felines generally clad in human togs and portrayed in a variety of settings and situations – sometimes when minor disaster is about to strike, although this one doesn’t seem to show anything more serious than a raft tipping over. He is a bit less boffo than Wain and I gather he employed other animals in images as well – dogs, mice and even hedgehogs.

Kim claims to have had a number of these cards pinned up on the wall of his 1970’s Bay area abode and thinks some may linger in the depths of his files. (Um, are you holding out on your wife Mr. Deitch?) This card is the first to enter the Pictorama collection although I have a tugging memory that maybe I also owned a few as a child.

As for cats and water – I have known some more fond of it than others, but none that were interested in full body immersion, swimsuit notwithstanding. I have however known one or two to sit under a dripping faucet now and again – sometimes to drink from, but occasionally just for the bit of drip, drip, drip on their head. My cat Otto was prone to getting a bit too curious about a full tub of water which sometimes ended badly when she took an unintentional dunking now and again. I have had several cats who were committed to being in the bathroom when I showered – scratching at the door insistently if excluded – and more than one that discovered the space between the shower curtain and liner as an exciting cat shower experience perch, I guess not unlike the excitement going through the car wash as a child.