Lucky Bucks

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: Oh for the days when you got a Sunday paper which had such cool things to uncover and collect! I write this as I prepare to head to see my mom on this Sunday morning, in New Jersey, although she no longer resides in the Butler ancestral home, is still resident nearby. I have written about our local newspaper purveyor and the role it played in collecting our Sunday papers in the years before we began having them delivered. (That post about Wiseman’s can be found here.) The feeling induced in childhood about Sunday morning lasts a lifetime, although somehow the (no longer terribly fat) Sunday New York Times seems like a sad substitute when I think about it these days.

Sunday afternoon and evening had a bad rap as a kid – it tended to stretch a bit toward boredom in a way that Saturday somehow did not. Sunday morning though was an excellent breakfast (pancakes! bagels!) and the Sunday comics. (Okay, Sunday afternoons were occasionally occupied by some really wonderful discoveries of old films on television, but let’s face it, you had to get through all that religious programming in the morning which utterly confounded me.) Hard to beat the memory of post-breakfast sitting on Dad’s lap and reading Peanuts and Nancy together.

In my adult life I have become a very real fan of daily comic strips – decidedly preferring them to their longer, flashier Sunday counterparts – their very dailiness telling the tale of their time. However, as a kid I admit that the daily strips seemed like dry runs for the Sunday fiesta. As a child of the 1960’s and early ’70’s I missed the heyday of comics supplements, but we had two (now defunct) local papers that carried a comics supplement. I loved them and can only imagine the enthusiasm that the weekly installation of Lucky Bucks must have been met.

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I gather at the time of Lucky Bucks the Sunday supplement featured all sorts of things a kid could avail themselves of such as mini-film strips, games, and puzzles. There is a book available dedicated to the topic of Lucky Bucks in particular, but the brief lowdown is that Lucky Bucks were promoted in the Sunday Funny primarily in the 1930’s, with ’32-’34 being prime years. (Interesting to imagine a country in the clutch of a worldwide Depression whose children are clipping fake money from the newspaper. At the time, newspapers were a lifeline for jobs and information and people continued to buy them to the extent they could.)

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Felix was one of those heavily featured, but Popeye/Thimble Theater, Mickey Mouse, Barney Google and even the likes of Blondie were among those available and collected. So widely were these collected that despite their undeniably fragile nature as newsprint which has been snipped out and perhaps even exchanged as kid currency, they are still widely available as collectibles today. I show some Popeye and Thimble Theater currency above and below. Popeye had the big bucks! See a fiver below.

 

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I like the bills that have things written on the bottom: Walking the Blues; Felix the Sentinel (he’s still interested in mice here – something I think of more from the early cartoons when he is inventive, but still more feline); and No Rest for the Wicked. I wonder if kids valued some more than others, like trading cards.

I have seen these Lucky Bucks offered on ebay for years and finally decided to add a selection to my collection. Meanwhile, I haven’t read much of Felix in the comics; he lives in cartoons for me. However, as I head off to Jersey this morning I am thinking about Sunday morning breakfast, a trip to Wiseman’s and some Sunday funnies, and it might be time to take a look at some of those Felix comic strips at last too.

Made in Japan

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I should be old enough and smart enough to stop speculating about things I will never do, because some time around your fifth decade you start to realize that those proclamations will just lead to egg on your face – at least they occasionally do in my case. I have long been snobbish (at least in my own mind) about china cats and have more or less thought that I could not be seduced into purchasing them for my kitty collection.

However, the black, white and orange fellow caught my eye on ebay recently, with his rakish sort of Pete the Pup look, and as I purchased him the one with the blue scarf crossed my path and I picked it up too so he’d have a friend. It seems somewhat beyond my ability to find any information about these knick knacks so I cannot tell you if they proliferate in a variety of colors or sizes, only that I do not remember seeing them before.

One is stamped with JAPAN on the bottom and something painted in Japanese as well; the other has nothing. As I photographed them I noticed that the orange and black one is a tad larger and they are made from molds that are ever so slightly different. There is something very cheerful about their expressions and I like them together. They have yet to find their precise home in the apartment, but they will find a safe perch where I will hope they can reside undisturbed by feline frolics or human gaff.

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A couple of years ago I was mesmerized by a truly splendid display of Japanese sleeping cats, Nemuri-neko, which means sleeping or peaceful cat, in the Kutani ceramic tradition in an exhibition devoted to cats at the Japan Society. A dozen or so of the most beautiful examples were lined up like real, lazing pusses napping on a long wooden display dividing the room where you could almost imagine they were sunning themselves. Most if not all were on loan to the exhibit by the sister of the friend who had invited me who said they resided lined up in a similar way in her sister’s San Francisco kitchen.

I immediately fell in love with these and would very much love to own one of these early pieces. These sleeping kits were originally carved in wood and there are versions from about every period from their inception, some time around the late 17th century, to those contemporary ones churned out now. Some undated, older versions below. The white with the gold pattern is the most common, but I have a hankering for a less common black one myself.

The highest quality of these, unsurprisingly, goes for a fair amount of money. Given the generally rough and tumble nature of our tiny space this seems like an unlikely purchase in the foreseeable future. However, you never know and one of these days maybe I will be writing about a line of these fine feline fellows, curled up and sunning themselves by our window as well.

Midnight Concert

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I admit to being on a bit of a Wain binge lately, having just purchased that excellent New Year’s Card I wrote about a few weeks ago. (That card and post can be found here.) In more or less the same wave I purchased this one which has a lot going on, the longer you look at it the more unfolds. Long gone are the days when I was reluctant to indulge in Louis Wain and his pricey postcards!

This one was never sent and has no writing on it, strangely there is a printed notation on the back which states, F. Hartmann’s “Manx Cats Series” N 3069. 2.” and indeed, the kitties in question are all Manx, tails notably absent upon study. Evidently Mr. Wain did an entire series devoted to the Manx, another example below. Apologies for the somewhat dubious quality of this photo snatch of Stormy Passage on the S.S. “Viking”.

 

Perhaps our Louis Wain research will eventually turn up the answer to why and how exactly he signed on for this Manx project, but for now suffice it to say, it was among his entertaining accomplishments in the realm of kitty illustration.

The music held by the cats all relates to the Isle of Man, the origin of the Manx cat. (I have written a little bit about these tail-less felines. That Wain wanna-be postcard post can be found here.) A quick pass at the internet tells me that the Manx is the oldest breed of cat and sometimes they have stubby tails as opposed to none. Manx cats are generally round all over – big eyes and round head and ears. Sort of ideal Wain models in my opinion.

Kim, who is working at his desk as I write this morning, tells me he used to be visited by a Manx when he lived in Berkley, a girl cat he described as “a real fuss budget, but not as much as Cookie.” In response to this Cookie has left the rocking chair she was napping on and joined Kim on a cushion next to his work chair, a generally prized cat spot in this apartment. Clearly she enjoys her fuss budget status in our house.

A careful study of the music sported by the cats on this card shows titles such as Manx WeddingEllan Vannin, Ramsey Town and by far my favorite, The Herring is the King of the Sea. I can easily imagine these bawdy Toms singing:

The herring is the king of the sea
The herring is the fish for me
The herring is the king of the sea
Sing fol the do or die

Oh what’ll we do with the herring’s eyes?
We’ll make them all into puddings and pies
We’ll make them all into puddings and pies
And all sorts of things!
Herring’s eyes, puddings and pies
And all sorts of things!

The herring is the king of the sea …

Oh what’ll we do with the herring’s heads?
We’ll make them all into loaves of bread
We’ll make them all into loaves of bread
And all sorts of things!
Herring’s heads, loaves of bread
Herring’s eyes, puddings and pies
And all sorts of things!

 

Meanwhile Ellan Vannin, sheet music held by the only kitty who is a bit feminine in appearance, is a sort of unofficial anthem of the Isle of Man. The Bee Gees, whose place of origin is the Isle of Man pre-Australia, recorded their own version of Ellan Vannin, with updated lyrics. It was part of a 1997 world tour and released as a single in 1998 with the proceeds going to a charitable organization. (You can listen to it here.) No one can accuse Louis Wain of not doing his research or shirking detail.

This kitty concert racket on this card plays out atop rooftops, in view of some silhouetted men, pipes a’puffin, framed in a nearby window. The cats are in their glory as they sing from a variety of lyrics simultaneously which gives a sense of the cacophony created. Even the moon looks on in annoyed disapproval, but the kitties don’t care. My favorite is the fellow perched on the chimney with smoke billowing out from under him – he’s the one with the Herring King sheet music. One of my favorite Pictorama posts for a late night kitty sing along, perhaps a cat genre unto itself, is the photo I found and featured in Kitty Sextette Singers which can be found here.)

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

If you have ever experience a nocturnal chanteur or chanteuse in feline form you know that it gets your attention and can indeed keep you up. While I believe the lore of the midnight cat song is a love song, there is another variation which I attributed to male cats which is the tendency to roam the house (or in our case, Blackie, very small apartment) howling and muttering to themselves.

I refer to this as Existential Kitty Angst or End of the World Meows. My parents had a cat that drove me nuts with it – long sessions of it nightly. They had learned to sleep through it but he kept me awake whenever I overnighted. Blackie indulges in it occasionally, but I find it usually ends in his taking a swipe at Cookie and then whole thing ends up in a fight, sometimes even a spirited chase through the apartment. This seems to sweep his anxieties out of the way, although sometimes instead we can end it in a non-violent way, encouraging him to find his spot at the foot of the bed. However, on those occasions when I find myself awake and fretting at 3 AM, Kim, Cookie and Blackie sound asleep, I too am tempted to caterwaul and howl!

Of Rats and Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Post: A admit to being a bit stuck on the New Year’s theme this year – I wonder what my subconscious is trying to tell me. However, I scarfed up this card recently as its somewhat three dimensional embossed-ness appealed immediately. I am taking this opportunity, therefore, to consider Chinese New Year and the upcoming celebration of the Year of the Rat.

Starting with considering this splendid card, I will note that this realistic puss has a toothy look that makes me think he would happily eat the rat or any rodent in question. The card was never mailed, but in a penned script on the back it reads, Bro Rob – Wishing you a very Merry Christmas Harry. It is undated. It is deeply embossed, making writing on the back a bit difficult, but contributing to its sense of depth.

I don’t know anything about the Chinese horoscope, but I do feel like I am hearing a lot about the Rat this January. The Rat takes us back to the beginning of the 12 entity cycle which gives me a sense of beginnings and the turning over of new leafs. (Perhaps like me, you have many leaves and are still considering which might be ripe for turning.)

I was walking home from the gym last Sunday, which was an incredibly unseasonably warm day for January, more like spring. As I strolled down 85th Street I noticed a rat in a tree well, dead, but oddly appearing like he was napping. I thought to myself that the Year of the Rat wasn’t working out for him – having missed such a very nice day, not to mention the commencement of his year. We’ll hope he did his time as a rat and was moving onto a better incarnation.

Generally rats terrify me. (Even this dead one made me scream a bit and jump.) I have an irrational fear of them. I am unsure if it was growing up on the water where water rats are enormous and fierce; we were warned about them as children, or just something about me and them. (I go into some detail about this in a post called Ratters and Mousers which can be found here.) Meanwhile, admittedly New York City rats are like large mice by comparison – the mice sometimes so tiny that they look more like spiders.

Everything is bigger outside of the city – the mice, moles and shrews of my childhood rodent catching cats were outsized by comparison. I was amazed when I moved here and worked in a restaurant kitchen with mice so small that sometimes they were just a blur of movement I would catch out of the corner of my eye.

My dead street rat victim notwithstanding, the rat and the year are considered to be lucky ones. I have a personal (and also frankly irrational) preference for even years. This applies equally to the year in question as well as to my age – they are in sync for me. I don’t remember when I developed this preference. A friend recently posted that her shrink says the even years are the ones for catching up.

I am a Dragon – the only imaginary animal in the Chinese Zodiac. I am told we have tenacity, courage and confidence, as well as arrogance and we are aggressive. I guess I can own up to most of that. My sub-set is Wood Dragon though, which is a tad less charming as we are tagged as introverted (I am guessing you all at Pictorama may not entirely agree) and less enthusiastic. However, I read that mine is a lucky career year in particular and I say, May the Year of the Rat begin!

 

 

Tick Tock

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I guess today could be called a pin post which almost make it to a sub-genre of Pictorama consideration. Button and pin collecting is certainly a robust field of its own although I intersect with it only occasionally. (I wrote recently about a cardboard Felix one which can be found here, and another I found in some things of my sister’s which honored violinist Maud Powell which can be found here.)

Today’s acquisition was an item on ebay which snagged my attention. It honors the not-quite-Felix cat clock, officially named Kit-Cat, which has achieved considerable fame and status on its own. Founded in 1932 and entering into its 88th year the company that churns out these clocks has zigged and zagged, but remained in continuous existence. The age of my pin is unknown, I discovered a person on Etsy selling a pile of them, a pin at a time, from a bunch their mother had that date to the 1970’s. As that seller points out, the cat design changed from a two-paw to a four-paw-with-bow-tie one in the 1950’s so therefore this design is post-1950’s.

This listing also noted that on the rim of the pin it states, Cathi & Boy’s Favorite Toys, Seattle, WA and sure enough, I found that almost infinitesimal writing under magnified inspection, on the edge of mine. No idea what it means as the company moved to California in 1962.

The clock was designed by a Portland, Oregon, designer named Earl Arnault who wanted an item that would bring cheer to Depression era items. It originally sold in five and dimes for $3.95 – which to my mind seems high for that time. ($68 in today’s dollars to be exact.) And these fellows and gals will cost you today – in the range of $40 to more than $100 if you insist on rhinestones and such.

Ultimately it wasn’t messing with the design that almost killed this iconic cat, but the loss of manufacturing parts for the motors as clocks in general moved to digital and the move to batteries meant an engineering challenge of not only making the clock run, but controlling the swiveling eyes and ticking tail.

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Interim, still two-paw 1940’s design

 

I grab the story below, which picks up in the 1980’s when the company has been purchased by Woody Young, after having been moved to California and renamed California Clock Company. This excerpt as told in an article on a site called Inc. (The article in full can be found here.)

The problem was that the electric motor in Kit-Cat had operated not just the clock but also the swiveling eyes and swinging tail. The battery ran just the clock. No swivel. No swing. Young tried to get a new battery engineered, but there were too many variables, such as weight, materials, and the location of the fulcrum to maximize limited power.

At an inventors’ conference in Pasadena, where he was speaking on intellectual property, Young went from booth to booth and recruited four individual attendees to attack one piece of the problem each. He combined their solutions and within 30 days had a working prototype. “I’d taken the problem around the world to vendors without success,” says Young. “But those inventors got the job done.”

One of my favorite asides of this article is that during the clocks 1940’s heyday, Lucille Ball used to buy them by the case for birthday and Christmas gifts. Rather grand, yes?

The Kit-Cat Klock site (kit-cat.com) offers not only a myriad variation on the cat clocks (eyelashes and gem encrusted or pearl wearing “girl” cats), but repair parts and a doctor care kit for clocks dating back to the 1970’s. The company slogan is Bringing Time to Life Since 1932. They run the fan club today as well which appears to offer a membership card rather than this pin.

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Pictorama pick for a clock today – sticking close to classic design

 

In addition to the clocks and the repair items, they offer a somewhat notable range of related items. In addition to the requisite t-shirts, a rather nice lapel pin and socks, I recommend the tablecloth and the charm bracelet monthly subscription. Warning, that last one will cost you.

 

As for me, two of these clocks are currently in my possession, both in need of repair. One is a slightly earlier design than the other – a gift from a collecting friend. The contemporary one was a gift from Kim many years ago which I think is missing a small part where the tail hangs. I believe he purchased it for me off of ebay. It graced our kitchen wall for a number of years with roving eyes and wagging tail. (In that time it was brought to my attention that some people are afraid of them – not unlike a fear of clowns I guess?) Of course in researching this I decided that I really like the most simple, impossible to find earliest vintage design. Sigh.

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From Collector’s Weekly magazine, interesting that no one mentions that the early ones were metal!

 

In the process of reading this a discussion ensued about our ability to repair said clocks with the parts proffered or perhaps purchase a new one. We’ll see. That, dear readers, will have to wait to be resolved in a future post.

 

 

Back

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am sitting with a rather delightful pile of toys and postcards at the moment, in part thanks to the fact the on the Saturday after New Year’s my back went out and I spent most of the next ten days on my back in bed or propped up with pillows on our couch. This lead to a lot of television watching – I am very caught up on home renovation shows and TCM’s December programming; reading – finished all the Frances Hodgson Burnett adult novels I currently have access to and have moved onto the more obscure of her children’s fiction; and, lastly, spent a lot of time (and ultimately money) trolling ebay. So Pictorama readers will be in the clover with posts in the coming weeks. However, today instead I focus on the subject of my back.

I come from a long line of troubled backs. My father was 6’5″ and carried the weight of a small child in camera equipment every working day of his life. This combined with driving long distances, also for his job as a cameraman for network news, meant that periodically his back would blow and he would be recuperating for weeks. As noted above, Dad traveled a heck of a lot for his job and so, in some ways, aside from his summer vacation which was usually 3-4 weeks at a stretch, the most we saw of Dad for long periods was when he was recovering from one of these debilitating events.

However, over the duration of this recovery I reflected on poor Dad’s misery with his back. Being such a large man, my mom couldn’t possibly really help him get out of bed or out of a chair. His preferred chair for these spells was a very old Windsor rocker which, if it was summer, we would even move out into the yard for him to sit in, packed with pillows. That was once his back was good enough to walk at all, bent over but somewhat mobile, and sit in any chair. (I happen to be the current owner of this chair, which is suffering from a broken leg. Nevertheless, I also confess that after this recent incident, this choice of chair mystifies me somewhat. It is NOT what I would have chosen to sit in even if it wasn’t broken.)

Because of the ongoing problems, his back seemed to  have a feather trigger and I can remember it going out once when he reached for the salt at dinner. My mom always ribbed him about how it went out just as he began the project of changing the storm windows to screens one spring and she had to complete the onerous task. These were family lore about dad’s back. The worst (and most family famous) episode was during the Bicentennial when he was in Rhode Island for work, hanging from the rigging on a tall ship, camera on his shoulder when (perhaps not surprisingly) his back went out. I cannot imagine how they got him, and the camera, down in one piece but they did. He then had his colleagues pack him in pillows in his car, more or less immobile and he drove himself back him to NJ. As I remember, he was home for weeks on end that summer. In the rocking chair, in the backyard during the day, us kids, cats and dog, satellites of activity buzzing around him.

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A photo my mom recently found and gave to me. Probably taken of Dad at work at about the time I describe, mid-seventies. Apologies for the bad reproduction!

 

My own back woes harken to early adulthood, when cooking professionally, and a fall down a flight of basement stairs on the job (you’ve never really lived until you’ve cooked in a New York City restaurant in an old brownstone-type building and run up and down basement stairs all day) precipitated learning that I had arthritis in my lower back and hips. In my case it ties out as inherited from my maternal grandfather, who I called Poppy. Sadly treatment was limited in Poppy’s day and when he was still quite young his spine fused, and when I knew him he walked permanently bent at a 45 degree angle. Even worse, the years of cortisone treatment combined with a heart condition killed him when he was only in his fifties, about my age now.

Treatment has changed and improved radically since then with the advent of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and even over the course of my adult life with biological drugs on the market now. I amaze that I see commercials for cures for psoriatic arthritis now when for years I did not know anyone else with the disease. Are there more of us or are we just better known?

For all of that I have never before put my back out in the traditional sense before. This siege seems to have been brought on by business travel compounded by more than a week of solid evenings at work, frequently standing for several hours at each. Eventually the Christmas holiday arrived and Kim warned me it was a critical mistake when the day after I decided to (at long last!) turn our closets over, bringing up bins of winter clothes from the basement and sending the sundresses down in their stead. I sensed trouble with my back and tried to stay the tide by having a massage that Friday. (Kim has been very thoughtful by not saying he told me so – he did tell me so, more than once! This is something I love about my spouse.)

Saturday I was enjoying the Vija Celmins exhibit at the Met Breuer. She is an extraordinary artist and so glad I didn’t miss it! Anyway I was loving the exhibit when at some point I sat down – and realized that getting up wasn’t going to be all that easy. Pain!

I got myself home and there I stayed through into the New Year. (I tried a brief trip to the office but couldn’t make a full day.) Suddenly I was in the land of my forefathers and walking bent, unable at times to fully straighten. I thought a lot of about Dad and Poppy!

Ocean 1975 by Vija Celmins born 1938

Ocean 1975 Vija Celmins born 1938 Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery, courtesy of the Judith Rothschild Foundation 1999 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/P78336

 

I tried the usual remedies – Aleve, hot rubs, ice packs. A visit to my trainer who used a massage gun on me which with some stretching helped a little, but the spasms began again almost immediately. The doc was reluctant to use muscle relaxers and told me to keep on with the Aleve. A friend suggested acupuncture and I was surprised I didn’t think of it sooner. I had received acupuncture treatments on and off since the onset of the arthritis although have not been in a few years.

In the early years of pursuing acupuncture, late 1980’s, it wasn’t that easy to find someone and I got a referral to Dr. Ching Y. Ting from a colleague in the Asian Art Department at the Met – she had curvature of the spine which gave her back trouble. I saw Dr. Ting for several years. He spoke little English and smoked constantly. (So much for acupuncture resolving that habit!)

His operation was housed in a two bedroom apartment in an enormous white brick building in the East 30’s. Broken into a labyrinth, it was a rabbit warren of cubbies where numerous treatments were ongoing at the same time – ticking egg timers for each treatment luring us all to nap during treatment. Assistants coming to our rescue when our timer dinged. In addition to the cigarette smoke, there was always steaming tea being consumed and instead of heat lamps the heat in the apartment was turned way up, creating a steamy, smoky, exotic atmosphere which was just short of terrifying to my 23 year old self at first.

Dr. Ting was a very good doctor and I saw him as frequently as I could afford to, but sadly he died suddenly several years after I started to see him. (I heard that he just fell over after a family banquet at a restaurant in what was described to me as a good way to die.) Subsequently, I briefly saw some of his colleagues (treating an arthritic toe) over near Penn Station; followed eventually by a woman in the West Village (extremely capable, during an episode of frozen shoulder) whose location was inconvenient; and finally (during the second frozen shoulder) Eileen Chen who I turned to this time. She, like Dr. Ting, is a doctor fully versed in Chinese medicine. Her uptown location has closed, but she is still operates an office on 57th Street, which as it turns out, is about a block and a half from where I now work.

Eileen was unavailable over the holiday week for my emergency treatment so I saw a young colleague of hers, Hilary Zelner. I was unhappy about changing docs under the circumstances, but ultimately Hilary has done an excellent job, her style patient and chattier than Eileen, and she gets the credit for having gotten me back in shape. Needles have piled high with each of my treatments, more than I ever remember before. She mentioned how they vibrate and grow hot to the touch in my back.

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If you’ve never had acupuncture my experience is that it doesn’t hurt in the way you might think it would. The needles themselves going in are so thin you barely feel it if at all. However, the purpose, in the simplistic way I understand it, is to release energy and clear the path of flow. As nerves are activated there is occasionally a shock – more surprising than actually painful – although the ongoing movement of energy does hurt, as do some needles. You lie down, face down in my case, on a massage table and generally remain very still. The needles, after their placement, stay in for 20-30 minutes in my experience. She used a heat lamp on me during the duration of the time the needles are in.

I spend the 20-30 minutes in the dark, considering how I got my back in such bad shape and how long it will take to repair – and how not to do it again! You can feel energy traveling up and down your body. No sleeping during these treatments! I have thought about Dad and Poppy and wondered why Dad never tried acupuncture. I have thought about work and about what to make for dinner.

In all, the treatments, have been uncomfortable and exhausting, but after two (long) sessions I saw amazing improvement. I completed my third last night, preceded by a session with their massage therapist (new to me and entirely different from any massage I have had before; I haven’t made up my mind what I think yet), and I came home like jelly. Today I tackle a gentle work out at the gym and see how it goes. However, just in case, I also go back to Hilary on Friday!

 

 

 

Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today is a toy post in its full glory – dedicated to the recent acquisition of this absolutely extraordinary Big Bad Wolf toy! This wolf comes to me as a Christmas gift from Kim-as-Santa via a Bertoia auction. Mr. Wolf made a rather slow trip to Manhattan and just arrived the other day, but he was certainly worth waiting for and slow Santa by post is more than forgiven.

I’ll start by saying my yen for a wolf toy dates back to a street fair decades ago. This was a very mom and pop affair, just a single city block with German delicacies and an um-pa band mid-block. I was just passing through and stopped at a table and saw a very nice Big Bad Wolf puppet. Now, I was younger then and I made a mistake that I have tried not to make subsequently, and that is I walked away, to think about it. And yep, by the time I walked back, positive I had to have it, the puppet was long gone. She who hesitates is indeed lost and it lived on in memory. The one below is close enough, although I am unsure the one I saw that day was indeed Steiff. So, in a sense, I have waited all these years to fulfill my errant desire for a Big Bad Wolf.

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Steiff Wolf Puppet, sadly not in my collection

 

Somehow, despite the world wide web and all, it was a mistake I have never rectified. I am, after all, a collector of toy cats first and foremost and generally that is what I end up looking for and at – living in a single room, I try not to follow my nose in too many other directions. However, while taking a very last minute twirl through this December auction, late one night, I saw this little guy and decided that he was sort of grand, toy lust kicking in. After a brief discussion with Kim the following day, we decided that if acquired he would make a fine Christmas gift. Lucky for us, everyone else seemed to have other things on their mind and he was acquired for a relatively modest sum. (You don’t want to know what toy collectors consider modest.)

Bertoia offered no real information on him however and, glorious as he is, he is without makers markings. If I had to go out on a ledge with a guess I would say maybe he was made by the Lenci company in the 30’s or 40’s? Lenci was an Italian toy company from 1919 to 1944 founded by Elena Scavini (her nickname was evidently Lenci) which is better known for regulation dolls. At least one individual has identified him as such on the internet, although I remain somewhat unconvinced. I will continue to research and am open to any suggestions or further discussion.

Dating on either side of my Wolf I found this very nifty Knickerbocker example which is earlier and although more primitive I would have snatched up in a minute as well. This one, shown below from a Hake’s auction back in 2013. I find his bear-like simple look very appealing in a different way.

 

 

Hake’s also had this listing shown below for a later Lars Wolf, probably made after mine, and Three Little Pigs.

 

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Better view of the Lars version.

 

This lead me down a charming rabbit hole of Mel Birnkrant’s website (always a great read) and his great story about acquiring his Lars Mickey, Big Bad Wolf and other toys. It can be found here and I highly recommend it. Mel did a drawing for a really smash up alternative version shown there as well.

Meanwhile, I also include an alternative universe Wolf that appears to be an unlicensed version, but clearly got around as I found several examples. It is shown as listed on Morphy’s auctions below. It might be a slight exaggeration to say these abound, but they seem to get around more than some of the others. I especially like his tuxedo!

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Back on my birthday in 2018 I purchased the Little Pig below and wrote about him here.

Still pic of pig

Getting to the main event, my doll has some really splendid detail such as his felt tongue sticking out. I love his strangely spiky toothies and toy nails. He appears to be made of wool felt with cotton clothing and hands. His pre-tattered clothing has a few repairs and there are some moth holes on the soles of his feet, but otherwise he is in remarkably good shape. Details include some delicate coloring in this cheeks and on his toes and those strange painted eyes and I have to say he made me laugh out loud when I first unpacked him.

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Detail of Big Bad Wolf from Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

He is unexpectedly articulated with a head that turns a bit and arms with full range; he does not stand as his legs are not movable and is permanently in a seated position. He is very jolly though and cheered me up immensely while confined to bed with my bad back this weekend.

Of course this post would be utterly incomplete without a link to the Silly Symphony Three Little Pigs and Big Bad Wolf which can be found here and here. These cartoons elevated our Wolf to ever greater fame, one way or another, inspiring all of the toys mentioned here. And I, at last, have a great Big Bad Wolf of my very own.

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