Black Cat Clown Car

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As I recently explained in my post Borrowed Photo (which can be found here) bunker days have lead to the loosening of a primary posting rule – that I own all that I post about. It was a rule rarely bent in the past, but in these days of both reduced circumstances and getting out rarely, the powers that be at Pictorama are loosening the rules a bit. So today we are considering this postcard which was for sale on eBay which quickly ran up alarmingly high and well beyond my purse. Leaving me to think that someone actually did want it more than me which was saying a lot, but true nevertheless. Sigh.

Black cats and Felix were irresistible decorations for early parade floats and these could form a sub-genre of my photography cards. Examples of the Felix floats can be found here and here, but black cats can also be found here  and here. Another one, Spirit of the Golden West is shown below.

parade

This postcard depicts a Lansing, Michigan parade – that hint from a truck boasting, Ingham County Commission behind our car. It is undated and evidently was unused. Judging from the cars in the background, parked roadside under some nice old store awning I would put this in the 1920’s, although it could be a bit earlier. Someone smarter about cars feel free to chime in.

The clowns occupying this car frankly terrify me and I am sort of glad we cannot see them more clearly. All white faces, their wizard peaked caps, and eyes blacked out. Yikes. I bet some kids went away with nightmares after an eye full of these guys.

 

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Most wonderfully though, this garlanded clown car is largely decorated largely with the black cats of Black Cat Hosiery advertising fame. (So was it their float or did they just borrow the image?) A small cardboard version of this advertising graces the wall near where I am currently camped out for work, my drawing table acting as a desk, is shown above. I wrote about it back in April of 2015, in Time Out for Our Sponsor (it can be found here (and again, here) and that grinning black advertising cat has long been a favorite of mine. These commercial kits are interspersed with black cat witches on brooms, Halloween kitties, some sort of winged critters and a black cat and jack-o-lantern garland wrapped all around it. The huge tiger (if you look at him right royal is spelled out in his stripes) gives the whole production some teeth. However, lastly and best is that big white kitty is smiling at the front of the car, leading the way.

 

Somewhere in Dixie Land

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Long time readers know that I am a bit of a sucker for photos of men and cats. While affection for felines was certainly been a requirement of Pictorama paramours predating Mr. Deitch, it still especially pleases me, and even surprises me a bit, when the male of the species scoops up a kitty for a photo like this. (Other photos in this Pictorama sub-genre can be found here, here and here.)

This photo, which is dark and a bit grimy by any standards, hails from a seller in Columbus, Ohio. There is no address or postmark which means it was likely stuck in an envelope. In a strangely light blue ink and carefully neat hand it says, Your Ever Loving & Affectionate Son Fred. XX and below that, Somewhere in Dixie Land. (It was also marked for previous sale at $20 which means someone took a loss as I paid a lot less.)

Of course the recipients, Mom and Dad, knew Fred in the photo but sadly we do not know which of these strapping young fellows he is. I would like to imagine he is the one who grabbed kitty in the middle, unruly hair somehow escaping the camp barber. In some ways it is the patterns of those cans, the tiles and even the door that give this photo a visual interest. (Given our current bunker existence I will admit to eyeing those pyramids of canned goods in a way that pantry envy may not have tapped me previously.)

Our quartet of guys are in casual army issue garb. Somehow it manages to look hot and muggy without specific evidence other than donning shorts and the rolled up sleeves of their shirts. Not sure this was actually KP duty or an adjunct of working in the pantry. Kit, who is hard to see, but I would gamble a guess is a tuxedo, probably lived a pretty high life between treats from the humans and a pleasantly steady high protein diet of mice.

I imagine there is a chance that these fellows left the relative comfort of the humid American South for the more dangerous and decidedly uncomfortable existence of a WWI soldier elsewhere in the world, probably a century ago now, and at a time much more challenging even than our own.

 

Pretty as a Picture Pair

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This pair of Felix-y photos just rolled into Deitch Studio yesterday in time for a post today. (I loosened the strangle hold of the bunker days money diet for a few photo purchases this week. Enough to entertain, but not enough to put us in the Poor House – we hope.)

These pictures are the exact proportions of photo postcards and I thought they would be. I can’t help but feel that in some way they were influenced by that look, but these are printed on regular photo paper and had been placed in a photo album. Nothing is written on them aside from the notation of age 21 on the one.

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I cannot give many kudos to the person behind the camera on these. The composition, especially on age 21 is lousy and cock-eyed, the exposure in the other all burned out at the top. In some ways these are photos only I can love, further evidence is that I was the sole bidder. Originally I was only going to purchase the better of the two, but ultimately decided that these should enter the Pictorama collection together.

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Both young women sport large bows in their carefully curled and waved hair which makes them appear younger – although the doll clutched in the hands of the one I peg as the older of the two contributes. (The large hair bows make me date thee as taken in the late 1920’s or early ’30’s.) I think I would have put her at more like 16 or 18.

From what I can sort out they stand on a bridge of sorts which connects to a pavilion running perpendicular. Therefore, I am guessing that this is some sort of resort and perhaps my friend Felix and the baby doll were prizes of some kind. Poor Felix! No one seems to be paying much attention to him and of course that is a bit unfair, almost a hundred years later it is he who rescues these photos from obscurity.

 

 

 

Bonzo Family Photo

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is another photo that was churned up and to the top of a pile during the hasty construction of my current “office” – a spot directly behind Kim, just large enough for my work issued laptop, an iPad and a waving good luck kitty. (My affection for these lucky cats was documented in a post that can be found here called Come Hither Kitty.) My desk, such as it is, consists of this area cleared off on an old drawing table of mine which has previously been dedicated to housing the archival holdings of Pictorama. Blackie immediately attempted to claim this “new” space and he and I compete for it daily. Much like nature, cats seem to abhor a vacuum. He is particularly enamored of the chair which rolls between the computer installed on Kim’s table and my new digs.

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The ever persistent Blackie.

 

This photo was discovered and purchased because of the nice sized Bonzo dog perched to one side – although the teddy bear on the other side is shown to much better advantage. I believe this card came from somewhere in Europe, although I know even with postage I didn’t pay much for it. The juxtaposition of this fairly staid trio of elders posing with these toys interested me. Given their attire I would guess that it was taken in the 1930’s. Bonzo would have ascended to his height of popularity at that point – although it is still hard to explain his and Teddy’s appearance here. Coincidence? Beloved toys? Family mascots?

The photo came out of an album, glue and paper are attached to the back, but nothing is noted on the back. I assume they are family – the man and the woman closest to the teddy bear look very much alike but the three could be siblings and sit, solid citizens that they are, in descending order of height, left to right. Other family photos hang on the wall behind them. Not to be unkind but they are somewhat humorless; for all the world they do not look like people who would pose for a photo with Bonzo and Teddy. However, all these years later, we do like them for it.

Felix and The Ebony Room

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little item is about twelve inches high, homemade out of a thick piece of wood, at least two inches fat. It has just enough accumulated grime to make me think it sat on a wall somewhere, undisturbed for a long time. The whites are somewhat yellowed, although if you look closely you can still see the ancient pencil lines used for the lettering. I have no idea how old it is. The eBay seller hails from Indiana which may indicate this sign’s place of origin – or not. A quick search of Indiana clubs with The Ebony Room in their name turns up a Facebook page for an Ebony and Ivory Dance Club there, although meanwhile for all I know this sign sat proudly in a home bar or rec room or other bar.

Felix’s tail is a bit fluffy and his nose is a bit off kilter. The overall design used makes me think of a late 1940’s or 50’s Felix. Having said that, the execution is neatly done and I want to say there must have been some sort of a semi-professional template used. A glossy paint finished him up and there is a long toothy wall hook on the back for secure hanging. I love the red lettering, so neatly and painstakingly done in a sort of faux Gothic style.

I admit I am unsure what made me purchase this. (I’m not sure, but I think Kim sort of looked at me sideways when I unpacked it.) Granted it didn’t cost much, but anything larger than a photo tends to get some consideration in our cramped quarters. I am unsure of the impulsive exception made. There is something about these homemade items that I like though, slightly off-model and askew they show the hand of the maker and remind us that copyright or not, Felix was a cartoon cat of the people. It is a one-of-a-kind, homey piece of popular culture. It just makes me think about sitting in a dimly lit, but cheerful spot with a draft beer in hand.

As bookshelf building is still hopefully in our (post-bunker life) future I have not considered where and if we will sport this item on display here at Deitch Studio. Still, it has found its niche here, among the ever-growing collection of Felix items beloved.

June 1927

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Frankly I don’t remember exactly when this Felix family photo wandered into Deitch Studio, but when I was clearing a work space for myself it turned up. It is a small photo, sort of 3″x5″, and June 1927 is all that is written, in ink, on the back.

There is great contrast in this photo between the family sporting their best summer bib and tucker and the pleasantly rundown and overgrown yard they pose in. Why they have grabbed up these two good size composition Felix-es is of course also utterly mysterious. Each is held by one of the be-suited men. The third man has one of the women perched on his knee and the second woman is tucked between them, all posed on these inviting broad steps – just meant for sitting on.

The porch is inviting, or at least it is to me from the limited environs of Deitch studio at the moment. There is a deep wooden rocking chair almost out of sight and a less comfortable chair where a newspaper was hastily abandoned in a heap atop of it – the reader perhaps hopping up to pose for the photo. The early summer is unfurling into lush, green overgrowth around them. I think of upstate New York, but it could be many places. (I tried to check but I cannot find a purchase history to see where it even shipped from.)

The phenomena of having your photo taken with Felix is of course the original premise of this blog. However, even as someone who has collected many photos of people posing with Felix (usually the human-sized stuffed ones of seaside resorts and fairs – an example can be found here if you are new to Pictorama) these sorts of family snap shots with Felix remain a bit cryptic to me. Had they just won them at a fair perhaps?

I remain somewhat baffled by family photos where folks just snatch up a Felix statue or toy for the family photo – was the message that Felix was an important part of the family? Or just such a part of the times – they probably didn’t realize that it would eventually mark their family photo as somewhat iconic of the period.

Meanwhile, I cannot imagine the equivalent for my family growing up. (Despite having been the daughter of a photographer we didn’t do a lot of family photos and they were sort of starchy compared to these folks and their Felix dolls. There are no photos of me and Barbie – there is only one of me with a toy that I can think of and I wrote about it a long time ago here and I once again share me and the much loved Squeaky below.) I have a clutch of other photos from the late 1920’s and early ’30’s with Felix joining the family for a photo. Off the top of my head though, I want to say those photos are all from Britain and it is usually a stuffed Felix that gets the place of honor. (One of those posts can be found here.)

Pam w: Squeaky

Me with my beloved toy dog Squeaky, probably around 1968

 

Whatever the early 20th century motivation for posing with Felix toys, I am glad to see these treasure turn up today – sometimes finding new ones in my own apartment. Let’s see what else turns up here at Pictorama, shopping in our own closet as it were, for items of interest while enduring and also enjoying bunker days here.

Borrowed Photo

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: A general rule of thumb at Pictorama is that I only post about items I actually own. However, I have lifted the ban today in favor of an item I missed on ebay recently and in light of fewer items finding their way to Deitch Studio due to our current bunker lifestyle and a strict money diet. So with apologies to whoever was lucky enough to purchase this card I offer it to you today.

I was willing to make an exception to the money diet in favor of this item, but I just didn’t act fast enough on it being a bit distracted from my usual endeavors. This photo hails from Great Britain and the location on the back is identified as Easterton Wilts in penciled print. (This is a photo postcard and it was never mailed, nor is anything else written on the back.) The location appears to refer to Easterton, Wiltshire, a small town not terribly far from places like Bath and Bristol it seems, at least according to my reading of Google maps.

While I located this photo because of the rather splendid Felix costume clad individual, I am especially enamored of the two person horse (donkey?) get up, with those fellows sporting such serious oxfords, as is the gent in the gorilla mask. Felix could be man or woman, feet are hidden and hands in gloves. (Since all shown appear to be men I will assume Felix is as well.) I will just say, I would REALLY like to own that Felix head mask! (Yes, I would find room for it despite space being at a premium here at Deitch Studio these days.)

The splendid horse costume has a semi-professional look, as do the other costumes, although the gorilla suit (mask notwithstanding) seems a bit thin on detail. It puts me in mind of one my favorite posts (and items) about a book of fairly ambitious circus costumes you could make yourself – provided you are smarter than I am and much handier in general. The book and the post are called How to Put on a Circus and it can be found here.

The countryside stretches out behind them as far as the (camera) eye can see – just some thatched cottage and a small grove of trees in the distance. A nice little marching band is tuning up behind our group, you can almost hear them. Last, there is the blurred image of a man moving too fast behind the “woman”. I don’t know if this was a little parade or some sort of a fair or festival. Perhaps a bit overcast (much like it is here today as I write this, looking out over the East River) but a very jolly day I am sure.