Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is the first photo post in quite awhile and it is with a nod to Kim who noticed it surfacing on my desk as the last of the kitchen detritus has finally been reinstalled or taken to a new life via Housing Works thrift store. The apartment has not instantly returned to normal (where did these stray boxes of books come from?) but the tide of possessions has gently shifted and the original strata of things is coming back into view, this photo I purchased earlier this fall among them. It was clearly made from a small negative on a roll of film of early vintage and likely contact printed. Visual information is missing and the crowd gathered to watch is largely unreadable. Still, it is a record of a time and a place – and a pretty great cat balloon.
Like the Felix balloon in my earlier post, Felix Floats (which can be found here, photo above) this two-headed cat balloon might have been made by Tony Sarg, famed early balloon maestro of the Thanksgiving Day parade. The balloon in today’s photo appears to be on a dolly of sorts to be moved into place. Sarg was a German American puppeteer by training but is best known for birthing his Seussian-like balloon creations for the early Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Since his assistants ultimately opened their own studios and other competing studios appeared (this eventually forced him into bankruptcy in 1939), and without a date, it is hard to say if this was a Sarg balloon or not. Nor can I say for sure that this was for the Macy’s parade as the photo seems to be taken in a staging location. I have never seen this particular balloon in other photos before. It is certainly in keeping with his style though, and if I was a betting woman (alas, I am not) I would say it is by him.
These gents in clown suits are dragging kitty along by ropes on what appears to be a snow dappled day, attached to the rolling platform he (it?) is perched on. Like this year, I bet it was a cold one. I love the way the sort of cynical head is eyeing the smiling head with a smirk. It must have looked great floating down the streets of New York. The original route of the parade starting at 145th Street and Convent Avenue, down to Macy’s on 34th Street. In those days the parade lead to the unveiling of the holiday windows at the store – it must have all been quite delightful.
This is a particularly good description from the History.com site:
By noontime, the parade finally arrived at its end in front of Macy’s Herald Square store where 10,000 people cheered Santa as he descended from his sleigh. After being crowned “King of the Kiddies,” Kris Kringle scaled a ladder and sat on a gold throne mounted on top of the marquee above the store’s new 34th Street entrance near Seventh Avenue. With a bellow from his trumpet, Santa sounded the signal to unveil “The Fair Frolics of Wondertown,” the Christmastime window display designed by artist and puppeteer Tony Sarg. As soon as the police lowered their crowd-control lines, children rushed to the 75-foot-long window to see the miniature Mother Goose marionette characters on moving belts frolicking in their own parade in front of a castle-like façade.
A gold throne for Santa atop of the 34th Street entrance! Wowza! This kitty, probably in a subsequent year, would have added significantly to the visual fiesta I think.
I have never attended the parade despite living in the greater New York area and always having a yen for it as a child, (my father who was a cameraman for ABC news for his entire career and had covered it, freezing on the streets endlessly early, on had absolutely no stomach for it as an observer), but after moving to Manhattan as an adult I used to like to see the balloons getting blown up the night before over on the westside. I haven’t done it in years now and this year it poured rain which made me sad for those who were looking forward to it. Regardless, I would have been there if they were blowing up this two-headed cat balloon though, I assure you.