Eugene the Jeep

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy acquisition is part of the loot from lightening striking multiple times at one online toy sale in Britain this fall. Within a few hours I had redistributed some hard earned cash to three dealers. One was a small purchase, a wonderful postcard though of a girl in hunting garb aiming at a Steiff teddy. (That post can be read here.)

Today’s Jeep came from a dealer whose toys seemed to skew more toward traditional bears and dolls than somewhat obscure comic characters. She was lovely however and I will hope there is a chance to do future business with her.

As it happens, I have always had a soft spot for the Jeep and frankly had no idea that Deans Rag Company produced one, but as soon as I saw this one I snatched it happily up. For those who have not read the original Segar Popeye strip, I say do yourself a favor and settle in with the full run and have a good old read. I originally read the dailies serially via a wonderful edition of hard cover books that our friends at Fantagraphics published years ago. (They have subsequently published the Sundays as well.) The full glory of Popeye in his native medium bears little resemblance to the somewhat limited range of the animated cartoon character of my childhood and it was one of the nicest rabbit holes I ever headed down in comics.

A volume from my beloved edition of Popeye dailies published by Fantagraphics.

Among the discoveries, such as characters Ham Gravy and Castor Oil, was Eugene the Jeep. The Jeep, for those of you who have not encountered his mystical self, is a dog-like animal from Africa who can, (among other things) appear and disappear at will, walk on his hind legs, always tells the truth, and can utter the single word, Jeep! (Wikipedia has a rather cogent explanation of him and his back story which can be found here.) The Jeep represents a sort of the high point of that strip for me – a charming and mystical character which possesses somewhat limited if extraordinary powers.

The first mention of the Jeep appears in March of 1936, although he takes his place in the strip later in 1938. While researching this and the dates associated with it I had a moment of wondering how the first mention might have intersected with the introduction of Punjab into the Little Orphan Annie strip. The equally mystical Punjab was introduced into that strip almost exactly a year before in February of ’35. Makes me wonder if it inspired Segar or if there was something else afoot in the world that inspired both. I am not well versed enough in these things to say, but will perhaps pose the question to one of our better informed friends such as Bill Kartalopoulus, comics historian. Maybe it was just in the air. (The question of whether or not the army vehicle with this moniker has the strip as the origin remains somewhat unclear to me, but is definitely possible.)

Much like Krazy Kat, and even Felix to some extent, the relatively simple shape of this character seems to have inspired somewhat strangely inaccurate three dimensional recreations and I have looked for a splendid soft Jeep toy for a very long time. Kim has spoken of one that passed through his hands in the late 80’s which I have had trouble finding. I think it might be this model below, just spotted on eBay.

Not (yet) in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection. Interesting that the lucky clovers deteriorated into spots here.

While the earnestness of this Dean’s Rag incarnation cannot be denied, down to the lucky four leaf clovers which decorate him, somehow he is a bit off kilter. He is about 7 inches in height. (I have not had a chance to dig really deep to see if he came in a number of sizes, although as a rule Deans character toys did. Having said that he does seem a tad rarified so there isn’t much online. Somewhere I have a CD which has the history of the Dean’s catalogue on it which will enlighten me if I can find it.) My example has a small tear on the neck and toward the tip of the tail. The only other example I can find has a worse tear at the tail with stuffing emerging – at first I thought it was a characteristic of the toy.

He has, as is necessary, the wonderful Dean’s Rag Book Company imprint on the soles of his feet. (For some reason those imprints fill me with great joy – if I were to come back in a future life as a vintage toy I would very much want to be a Deans Rag toy proudly sporting this indicia.)

Lucky Jeep! Deans Rag Toy tag.

As toy collector and seller Peter Woodcock pointed out in an email these small toys soiled and tore easily with handling and did not survive in large numbers. (Peter will emerge further as a subsequent character in the tale of this sale as he parted with something truly delightful which I purchased as well.) A quick look over at Mel Brinkrant’s collection shows a few pristine examples, as well as one or two other examples I must keep my eye out for – I can see the corner of another of the Deans Rag ones and I would say yes, it is larger. (For all things Mel and his beyond extraordinary collection you can go here. Talk about a happy rabbit hole!)

Jeep not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection – but you never know…For me this one is the best design relative to the drawing in the strip.

Researching this wonderful toy has reminded me that within these cramped four walls is a new volume of the pre-Popeye Thimble Theater strips. (It can be found here on Amazon.) I think I need to curl up with that oversized volume in bed for the remainder of the weekend. It is snowing gently outside and I cannot think of a better way to wile away this afternoon and evening.

Felix and the Folks

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo postcard is among the more beat-up in my collection. Although it was never sent (and nothing is inscribed on the back) it suffers from some folds and marks as well as something blue it was exposed to which has lightly colored front and back. Nonetheless, I am pleased it survived and it was jolly enough that I was compelled to add it to the Pictorama library.

This nice group – I cannot say or really guess if family or friends – have posed themselves nicely on this stoop. A careful look at the details of where they are standing makes me realize something is a bit odd; there are bits of trim that look interior (at the top and above the door), but the bottom half looks like a stoop and sidewalk, an iron gate to one side, so I am not sure what I am looking at precisely.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This card cames via Great Britain where it does seem there was a time when it wasn’t unusual for a group to grab a Felix toy – large or small – and add him to the photo. I will always wonder how and why this started although obviously I find it charming indeed. Having Felix in your family photo was a thing and I have written about a few other images in my collection which have this same ad hoc quality of Felix inclusion. A few of many examples in my collection can be found in posts here and here and shown above and below.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

What we choose to grab or do when we are asked to mug for a photo can illustrate something about us, revealing what matters most to us. I always like someone who grabs up their kitty of course (in fact I immediately like them better), but this does assume a certain level of patience on the part of the feline who does not always comply. I have commented on Blackie’s growing fondness for Zoom calls, but he has also been known to show up for a stroll over to Kim if he is on camera. Kim says I read too much into Blackie’s burgeoning public persona, but I think that kitty has a thought about what he is doing although I don’t claim to entirely understand what that is either.

Perhaps posing this tiny Felix was just a way of showing that they were having a good time and a bit of a giggle. The card is a professional photo postcard and it is possible that the photographer brought him along too I guess. Was Felix a beloved totem or a professional addition we will never know, but here he is waving to us probably almost 100 years later and he has won these folks a permanent home here at Pictorama.

Barty Nichols

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This postcard turns out to be a fairly common one, although I had never seen it before purchasing this example. It was never mailed and nothing is written on the back. The image is a bit odd, Barty the puss peering out between the slats of this sort of picket fence effect, perhaps he is on a porch?

A handful of other capable bloggers have already done tribute to Barty and Hal who was a radio pioneer in Long Beach, California. A musician himself (a few ragtime pieces he wrote can be found on Youtube) Nicols channeled it into the early days of radio, starting in high school where he programmed a station which I assume was the school’s station. (I nosed around in the early days of radio, which are fascinating, via a series of books called The Radio Girls and that post can be found here.) Evidently it really was the medium of radio itself that he loved.

Hal Nichols in an undated photo. A photo of Barty appears to be on the wall behind him.

Unfortunately I could not find an example of the radio show to share and no one has really recorded what kinds of music he played on it. Therefore, I will just imagine that Hal played the jazz and dance band tunes of the 20’s and 30’s that I love since that would have been nostalgic in the 40’s and 50’s. (For a tribute to the radio persona who enlightened me on this subject you can find my post about Rich Conaty here.)

Hal purchased the KFOX-AM station (1280 on your dial) with a 20th Century Fox partner in 1924, but the partner bailed early and he became the sole proprietor. According to his obit, he was on air until his death in October of 1953 after a long illness, presumed to be cancer. I am not sure what the broader programming of the station was, but the Memory Room show was nightly at 6:30. (Today it is a Korean language station out of Torrance, California.) In addition to Barty, Hal was survived by his wife Dorothy – who doesn’t seem to get much air time in the discussion of Hal and KFOX.

Article on Barty. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Barty, who weighed in at 18.5 lbs and was described as a tortoiseshell and white cat (fluffier and more long-haired than he appears in my postcard), entered the picture as early as 1946 and I gather his contribution seemed to be purring into the microphone for listeners at home. It is said he could (would?) purr “on command” (request?), but of course exactly who was doing what over the radio waves is a bit hard to verify. Another writer suggested that maybe Barty just purred all the time – seems unlikely to me as a cat owner. One assumes there was the occasional meow, chirp or mutter as well. Regardless, Barty seemed to manage to transcend the shortcomings of this early communication medium as a cat performer and he had quite a following. His fan mail routinely exceeded that of Hal’s, especially over Valentine’s Day and over the holidays.

The Barty pin, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

As one writer pointed out, being a feline radio mascot was probably a pretty good gig – lots of time with Hal, much attention from staff and I am sure lots of food and treats. I’m not sure fame interests cats much, but of course it is hard to say what their views really might be.

Holiday card not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Hal Nichols had something of a nose for promotion and he ran with the ball on Barty. Holiday cards featuring the feline were produced annually and there were buttons which proliferated as well. This postcard is another example. These collectibles are variously available on eBay, Etsy and at auction although I didn’t see any of the cards for sale except this one I purchased. In my research, I readily came across one magazine page devoted to the duo (which can be found here) and I suspect there were others. There is no indication if Barty headed home with Hal nightly or if the station was truly his only domain.

Holiday card not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

If it were not for the proliferation of pandemic Zoom, I would not have known of my own cat Blackie’s desire for fame and interest in being a broadcast personality. His daily involvement in Zoom meetings (he prefers late afternoon, but will make an exception for especially long meetings – think Board or Committees) earlier in the day. He is charmed by my being such a captive audience for an extended period.

Although his command center is generally my lap, he does make on-air appearances and favors turning his hindquarters to the camera and I attempt to spare my colleagues that view. He also has a gift for chin and ear rubbing his farewell appreciation on the jerry-rigged set-up which frequently sends it flying to the ground, making viewers believe that I have experienced either an earthquake or, more appropriately, a mini sort of Godzilla cat intervention. All this to say as a result, I can easily imagine Barty, perched on Hal’s lap or giving the mic a few ear and chin rubs, or an errant tail knocking it over occasionally, while purring his way into the hearts of listeners across California for many years.

For further reading on Barty and Hal you can try these blog posts and sites: http://World Radio History; http://Arcane Radio Trivia and http://Estate Sales Chronicles.

Sir Guy at Home

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I like the fact that Guy has been knighted – Sir Guy! He is a fine looking puss with beautiful well groomed long hair. He is posing, rather dignified, for the camera, paws folded together. He has a white mustache and a thoughtful look on his face.

I am posting this with a less than great photo – I will hope to upgrade when I get home later today!

This card was sent from Putnam, Connecticut on March at 8 PM. It was mailed to Mrs. Lewis Boss, 2150 Cranston Street, Mauchiticut, Rhode Island. There is no message however and the postmark doesn’t have a year, but the copyright on the front indicates 1906. Sadly, we don’t know anything about Sir Guy and I cannot help but wonder if there were other photos, such as Sir Guy at Work and Sir Guy at Play?

Spending the past week at my mom’s house has made me reflect a lot on cat relationships. My mom has four cats, two of the four have known me long enough that they allow me to pet them and do not run from me in terror – two others do.

Red, a great kitty of yore!

Although the older cats are not afraid of me, neither are they especially fond of me. They might allow a pet here or there but gone are the days of my mom’s cat Red who was my father’s constant companion and always acted as my cat concierge during my visits to NJ – sleeping on my bed and bringing me his toys. (I wrote about Red, an especially good cat, here at Red Buttons.)

Three of the four, munching breakfast today. Left to tight, Miltie, Peaches and Gus on the chair.

My mother acquired stray kittens, first Peaches in 2019 – she was found in a basement, howling as she had fallen into a hole and could not get out. It was her lucky day that not only was she rescued but that person somehow got her in to my mother’s hands. The other, Gus, showed up in 2020 and has assumed control over all of Red’s toys. We believe that somehow Red left the sign posts for an incoming kitten in need of a home – sort of like hobo’s who used to mark the way to a home where you could get a meal.

Peaches, the lone girl cat here with three brothers.

Peaches, the only girl cat in a house of boys, will not allow anyone near her or to pet her. However, she is fascinated by me and the fact that I reside in rooms upstairs that are otherwise unattainable. I have spent the last week carrying on a conversation with her and she seems to want to say, “If I was going to allow one of you lousy humans to pet me, it might be you.”

Gus just tears away in horror if I so much as look at him. As a result I can’t even get a decent photo of him.

While I enjoy visiting cats and getting to know them this way I do miss my very own kits. Somehow curling up with your own cat, who purrs, sits or snoozes with you in a particular way, is a is own definition of home. I am heading back to NYC on Saturday and I look forward to being welcomed by Kim and kitties.

New Jersey cont.

Pam’s Pictorama.Post: This is just a bit of a follow-up for those of you who tuned in yesterday. I ended that post with a note saying that I had taken my mom to the ER. She was admitted and, as those things go, we started early, EMT workers milling around my mom’s tiny kitchen as they prepped her to go. She was fully lucid and in fact had gone from absolutely refusing to entertain a discussion of going to the hospital last night to announcing (rather grandly I thought) that she had made the decision the night before that she should go. Why argue with a good result, right?

Two of mom’s kits.

It is strange to be in this house without my mom. Because she is housebound since she moved here, I have never been in this house without her, even briefly. Her cats are equally at loose ends. Her closest cat fried, Beau, is walking around, looking at her chair and staring at us meaningfully. Well? What’s with you people? Where is she?

View from Mom’s room.

I left mom resting comfortably and settled in at the hospital tonight. Her room overlooks the Navesink River, not the river I grew up on (the Shewsbury) on the other side of town. Unlike the houses on the blocks where I grew up, the houses here stare imperiously down to the river, sharp drops with steep staircases switchbacking down to the docks and boat slips at the bottom. Where I grew up we were more or less at the level of the water – more likely to flood, but more a part of the life of the river too. Today, looking at the window I remember somehow finding myself on that side of town once when I was about 12 and getting it into my head to walk along the river, climbing fences and skirting around fences and docks. Eventually I had to give up, unable to get any further.

The groundhog!

Today as I looked out the window I saw a large furry dark brown animal. He occasionally sits up on his haunches, waving at me I think. A groundhog. Given the distance I think he must be a fine size fellow. I report on this to mom who can’t see him from where she is The nurse tells us they see foxes sometimes and baby deer have been romping out there.

The hospital is fairly well known to me. It is not huge, but it seems good and very caring which isn’t really an adjective I readily apply to hospitals. However, I purchased perhaps the single worst cup of coffee of my adult life from the cafeteria. I forgot that there is a perfectly splendid and very comforting Dunkin’ Donuts in the building. Tomorrow. Coffee consumption is an integral part of the long CNN watching days of hospital sitting.

River view from the lounge.

I am reminded of being in the hospital with my dad, years ago now. He had a window where he looked out onto the water. He loved to see the boats there he told me. We talked about how we would rather be out there instead of where we were. I think about that sometimes when I see sailboats when I am running near the East River in the mornings.

I am told that the trip to the hospital was necessary so I am grateful for the stars which aligned to convince her to go and give us a chance to fight again another day.

Fall Further

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am writing from New Jersey today. We are celebrating Thanksgiving early this year as mom worried about the potential exposure over the holiday with crowded travel. As she has a weaken immune system this has to be her call. Either way, a visit is good.

Mom’s cat Peaches is considering making friends.

I headed down on the ferry Friday and the weather is more spring than fall – although today it poured rain on my run early this morning. Still, I am glad to catch the last of the Halloween decorations as well as the less glitzy Thanksgiving ones. It is a lovely small town and the houses are set closely together and are always nicely kept and decorated for holidays. A middle school is one of the stops on my running loop and many of the homes house families with small children. The autumn leaf display is always stunning and I am glad to catch it as well – fall is not fall for me without it.

From my run earlier today.

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons. The nip to the air, the smell of decaying leaves, the light turning to an afternoon yellow I think we only see for a few weeks each year. Kim and I got married in the fall, October, a way to celebrate my favorite season.

I love the lead up to the holidays and Thanksgiving is in many ways the best – all the holiday of Christmas with less fuss and stress..And I am usually content in the face of winter each year – looking forward to what is cozy about it, down comforters, hot drinks, and books read in bed. Like many other folks maybe I thought fall would look different than it does as currently still looks much like last spring and even last winter.

From yesterday’s run.

When I leave here tomorrow I will head back to Manhattan to launch this week with the long awaited season opening of concerts at the House of Swing, the first orchestra concerts by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra on Rose Hall stage in close to two years. As celebratory as it will be, somehow the new world still feels nascent and unformed, less a return to what we knew and more a dipping our toe in the water of something new. It is hard not to yearn to return to what we know, the constant re-imagining is exhausting. Cat-like I have always liked routine.

My staff (and no less I) are exhausted as we embark on another leg on the long marathon that has been the pandemic. We only know that we drive ahead, but no idea of how much longer the distance is. Like managers everywhere I find myself with a staff this is whittled down to a fraction of its former size. It continues to dwindle as colleagues try to re-start their lives in different locales, causes or goals. Everyone remaining has taken on additional work, re-orged again, and their job redefined repeatedly. I myself wear at least three hats. Choices about what priorities will remain and which we will forgo shift daily.

View leaving the house for a run yesterday. Stormy weather.

As fundraisers, we prefer to be able to plan and living in an ever shifting world makes us cranky and short with each other. One of my consultants urges me to read Churchill speeches as a way to inspire me and help me rally my “troops”, but he is not my style and instead of urging people to make war I need to compel them instead to continued kindness with their colleagues and to try to imagine their way to a new way of being. Instead I will pull my running clothes on, put Beethoven on my headphones and head out into another fall morning to work things out.

Postscript: my morning run ended with a trip to the ER with my mom. Looks like the universe has more in store for this week.

Cabinet Card Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: One somewhat sleepless night my phone buzzed a few times and instead of ignoring it I had a look. A dealer I follow was having a late night sale and she was sending me an advanced heads up on a few things she thought I might like. In my bleary state this one jumped out at me and I bought it – and went back to sleep. However, I was quite pleased with myself when it arrived. (Tip of the hat to @missmollystlantiques.) There is a nagging thought about another photo of a young girl with a cat in her lap I didn’t buy, but what can you do?

The composition on this card is kind of great with this natty fellow standing in front of the pole and the shadow of it going at an angle behind him. I could have asked that the darks be more distinct, either in the shooting or the printing, but even with that he forms an interesting triangle in the middle. His hat is tipped over his eyes so they are in shadow, roguish, but kitty is in full light and leaning toward the camera a bit – while safe in his arms of course. Is that a cigarette hanging from his mouth we see the shadow of?

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Kim is thinking it is from the 1890’s. I am not so good on dating men’s attire – any thoughts out there? I agree that the picture really looks like an early Kodak snapshot, despite being printed and mounted this way.

The background is a bit winter bleak with the trees and the ground barren. The sky is a flat cloudless white, it was hard if not impossible to capture clouds on film at the time. It appears to be a sort of residential urban spot, houses to our far left and a storefront peering out to the right, street behind him. It came to me from the midwest and there are no markings on the back so I will assume it may have originated there.

The rowboat pond in Central Park on Thursday this week.

It is a chilly, but sunny November morning here – clocks fell back and Marathon here in NYC today. I was largely sidelined from outside by a bad cold for a week, but made the trip through Central Park twice toward the end of last week for work. Almost overnight the trees have gone to an aching beauty of all too brief color, and the light has what I think of as a golden fall hue which seems particular to the northeast at this time of the year. (The one fall of my life I spent in London I was shocked by its absence. I went to Berlin for a weekend in October and there it was. Go figure.) One cat is snoozing endlessly on the couch while the other is chasing her tail in the bathtub.

This fall respite seems brief and fragile as we go headlong into winter and I know soon the trees will be bare and that light will have turned pale like it is in this photo. I have been adding to my inventory of layers for running and trying to remind myself I ran through it all last year so it is possible. Yes to gloves, no (at least for now) to hand warmers, and yes to a hat. Shall we try fleece lined tights? I feel the cold deeply so it is sheer discipline and these layers that will get me out the door in these coming mornings. (My true inclination and nature would be to curl up in the warm apartment and stay in bed.) I am having one of those years when it seems like wait, winter was just here and where did summer go?

Squirrel posing for a bunch of us at the south end of Central Park. Num, num, num!

The squirrels have been in a frenzy. Perhaps I have just never noticed before, but as I walk through the park I see them congregated in groups and they are stuffing their little faces madly with nuts and burying them at an equally notable rate! Wow! They are so distracted with their nut consumption that they allowed me and my fellow denizens to take photos of them munching away. (Admittedly, me and my fellow New Yorkers are easily attracted by even these nominal displays of nature.) Of course their wild activity is creating a great stir among the many dogs being walked there and a sort of unbridled squirrel chasing ensues. Distracted or not, dogs chase but never catch squirrels in the park. It is like an endless comforting cartoon animation cycle.

This from a week ago in Central Park. Already most of these leaves already gone.

Meanwhile, I am fervently hoping these squirrels don’t know something we should and that they are preparing for an especially cold winter. We are continuing to work largely from home until February for now so my trips will remain a few times a week for outside meetings meetings. (Perhaps even outdoor, we’ll see.) For now I am going to put a few layers on and get over to the East River and get started. Let’s enjoy fall while we can.

Teddy Hunter

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Fall toy sales, luck and a certain sense of indulgence have contributed to a certain abundance here at Pictorama at the moment. This photo postcard hails from that fall haul and is one of the smallest, but not least of purchases. I would say it dates back to the nascent days of the teddy bear, when its relationship to a President Roosevelt was still very much in evidence. As the story goes, Roosevelt (big game hunter as well as President) when given the opportunity to shoot a bear tied to a tree had declared it unsportsmanlike and declined. The editorial pages made hay with it and the stuffed bear toys were created in tribute.

The little girl in the photo looks awfully pleased with herself and she is nattily clad in hunting gators, “ammo” type belt and has her hat at a jaunty angle, as is her rifle – aimed at the heart of this poor teddy bear. She has one foot atop him, victorious over the vanquished toy – I love her attitude. She’s feeling her role. Meanwhile, the bear looks like a Steiff to me, a nice size one and certainly that company was at the forefront of the teddy bear producing craze.

There is a great early animated film using these toy bears from this period, The Teddy Bears from 1907. It tells the Teddy Roosevelt hunting story in a mash up with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, featuring folks in bear suits and ending with a crazy bit of Steiff bear stop-motion animation. It can be seen on Youtube as of the time of writing here. (This was the best print I could access although there is a better one out there I have seen.)

I purchased this card from a British toy vendor via an online sale a few weeks ago and I believe it to be made in Britain, although I cannot make out the tiny makers mark in the lower left corner. The card was never used postally. I have never seen it before, but it does fall slightly outside my area of collecting so I don’t have a sense of how common it might be.

Somewhere in a parallel universe, I believe I collect early teddy bears, especially Steiff. Somehow those bears manage to have very human expressions – each slightly different as well. (They fill shelves and cabinets in a house I live in via that universe, staring sympathetically at me.) Oddly, the single model of black cat produced by that company in the first few decades of the 20th century, while very available is somewhat charmless. To me they all look alike and have little personality – a source of some sadness to me frankly.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

However, hold the presses, while researching this today I discovered these fascinating forerunners of the basic Steiff arched back black cat! Plenty of personality is not an issue with these guys. What’s more, I had the opportunity to purchase one in the same sale referenced above – it only would have required a few thousand dollars I didn’t have another use for.

I was feeling indulgent, but maybe not quite that much! It might have been a good investment however, these are extremely rare and are from the earliest days of Steiff according to the site, My Steiff Life, in a post written back in 2013. (The blog post can be found here.) One of the fellows she posts about actually has a Steiff identifying button in his tail! Evidently these cats were produced in both black and even more rarified white – of those I could not even find a photo. Below I share a photo of the fellow who got away. Alas, I guess we here at Pictorama can’t expect to win them all – but we can try.

Sadly, not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.