Anna Belle Knowle’s Baby Vanities

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo came to me via Molly Sims (IG @missmollystlantiques), who in some ways is my square one for my pandemic purchasing on Instagram. Her Halloween items are generally what tempt me, but she also has interesting photos. She is responsible for the Krak-R-Jak Biscuits tin box which sits on my desk and which I recently wrote about as part of my home office gear up and can be read here. (I have a number of great items recently purchased from her, several are Halloween related, which I will be sharing in the coming weeks. As it happens I just got a DM from her about an upcoming sale this afternoon so stay tuned.)

As luck would have it when I sat down this morning and started searching I hit on a group of what must have been promotional photos for sale as a group on Biblio.com. (The lot can be purchased as posted here.) Most fortunate for me, they had a brief description. The seller is in Vancouver, Washington which makes sense as these appear to be for an early 20th century performing arts school in Portland. However, my Miss Molly hails from the Midwest so this copy found its way far afield.

From the Biblio-com sale mentioned below. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

According to the scant information provided it was a Depression era kiddie performing arts school called the Hollywood College of Music, Dancing and Fine Arts. Their information claims that students started at age 6 and reached into the teens and was, as shown, for both boys and girls. Annabelle Gertrude Knowles was the Director of the school. The photo was taken by Joseph Baker of the Baker Studio in Sandy, Oregon. While usually all of this would be enough to turn up further information, the trail went dead with these leads, perhaps because all are of the words and names are too common to conjure this rarefied tidbit of information sought. I assume that some nominal information must have been available with the clutch of photos the seller on Biblio.com has in hand. None of the named performers turn up anything I can find searching either. I did find a single obit which mentions that Betty Ross Abbott was a student at the school, although she went onto a career in real estate.

This version NOT in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My photo, which has Annabelle Knowles Baby Vanities stamped on the front, is in better condition than the version offered in this package – as below, theirs has some paint used to improve the reproduction whereas mine is clean. Mine shows evidence of having been pasted into an album, but otherwise is in excellent shape. The five costumed little girls appear to range in age, roughly, from about eight to about early teens. The girl in the middle appears to be the oldest of them and, although she isn’t looking directly at the camera, distracts somewhat from our young man at center stage. I especially love their sort of shiny, celluloid headgear, a nod toward top hats I guess? Each has a sparkly topped cane and clever ruffles around their wrists and necks, bows on their shows.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Part of me is surprised that the girls are so gussied up in their costumes while the boy is at center in what appears to be a straight ahead suit and fedora. The room in question is very simple with a painting, the image which is unreadable, a drape covered window and a fern in a standing planter. The wood plank floor looks dance ready though and he seems to be perched on a stool rather than a chair. (A slideshow of the additional horizontal photos from the Biblio.com sale is below.)

The other photos offered in the package, which I am only able to supply with image grabs off my phone so apologies for the quality, are sort of wonderful and I love the why their name is applied onto the photo – Barbara Jane Wicks of the Anna Belle Knowle’s “Baby Vanities” in a neat type.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The story brings to mind a somewhat obscure film Kim and I remember called What’s the Matter with Helen from 1971 which is a sort of Baby Jane knock off. It stars Shelley Winters, Debbie Reynolds and Dennis Weaver in a story about two middle-aged women who move to Hollywood (California) after their sons have been convicted of a notorious murder and open a dance school for children eager to tap their way to stardom according to the IMDB database. One wonders if the Anna Belle Knowle’s Baby Vanities and studio in Hollywood, Oregon could have been in living memory and inspired the writer, Henry Farrell, born in 1920 it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.

Working

Pam Pictorama Post: It is a chilly September morning as I sit down to write this. We have a window open as we continue to try to air out the apartment from a persistent mustiness that settled on it as we tried to deal with clothing and a smattering of other items that were in our basement locker during the hit and run of Hurricane Ida. Coffee, the remedy to all things waking up, is perking (yes, perking, I actually still use a percolating pot) on the stove. Yesterday had the same September chill and I was thinking about how those first few chilly days somehow manage still to surprise us each year.

The Appel Room at Jazz at Lincoln Center, set up for the first dinner I held there in 2017.

Every year we think it seems early, but it isn’t really as it is mid-September after all. And while we know that we will still have some very hot days still slated, somehow the spell of summer is really broken. As a kid I remember feeling that somehow that first day of school should have some chill in the air – it seemed wrong to go back to the school routine when it was still hot and you wanted to wear shorts and sandals instead of school clothes and hard shoes.

Rosh Hashanah commenced the Jewish holidays this week and welcomed in a New Year. I have always thought that the Jewish calendar of holidays was spot on – this is the time of the year when I think of starting over (it’s that back-to-school thing again), Yom Kippur shortly after which makes you take a hard look at yourself, and Passover as part of the renewal process of spring.

A box made by Kim which sits on the desk in my office. I wrote about it in a post called Kim’s Elephant Box.

I have written a bit on and off about the potential return to the office – it is still pending and currently set for mid-October, Covid variants pending. (Among those posts are two here and here.) I have spent the summer with a mental punch list of things that I need to do in order to begin to officially return to the world. As a result I have seen a litany of doctors and gotten myself back on their roster of maintenance and taken their neglected battery of tests, ending with the dentist finally this past week. I have had a hair cut, although I think I am already due for another. My weight loss program is nearing its goal which commenced last November and took on the pandemic pounds first and then moved onto what I had needed to lose before it all started. I am hovering within five pounds of my lowest fighting weight, as I like to think of it. I started running last November as well and have largely stuck to it through thick and thin, pausing only for the worst snow over the winter and longer after breaking my fingers on Memorial Day. (The finger tale of woe can be found here and the story of my nascent running is here.) I am a person who finds comfort in developing a list of achievable goals and the ability to check them off as I go.

Felix sheet music from my collection decorates the walls of my office. Sheet music Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My office is still virtually deserted when I make trips there these days. We’ve cleaned and cleared the decks of old paper and tossed out the plants that didn’t make it on a visit as a group earlier this summer. It is in a state of perpetual weekend in my mind. I tend to show up for what I need to do there – checking the mail and the like – and I leave. There is no music wafting through the halls or out of the offices of colleagues. When I look around and try to imagine us all back I am reminded that many folks won’t be back – a staff of 16 which has whittled down to possibly as few as five of us returning to the office in my group and a similar proportion across the organization. The loss of a dear colleague, Jazz giant historian Phil Schaap, to cancer this week will linger over the common spaces we shared and his office. (His obit can be found here.)

Dog walkers back on the job in Manhattan earlier this week.

As I cleaned my closets and purged moth eaten clothing (another of the tasks on my long list) I realized that we are all essentially two years older. I realize this should be self evident, but everything else aside I haven’t sat cheek to jowl with this folks every day for seventeen months and counting. I look at these clothes in wonder and think about whether I have any interest in wearing them again – they are a microcosm of another time. I don’t right now, but keep the ones that moths have not (yet) made visible inroads in and that look like they might fit and figure I will worry about that another day.

The world at large still has mixed feelings about in-person interaction, at least here in Manhattan. I have scheduled numerous visits with patrons I haven’t seen in person over the duration over the coming weeks. Some still only doing outside and others looking forward to live music inside. I have emailed and spoken with others who are not ready at all. Our jazz club, Dizzy’s, is full some nights and deserted on others following a rhythm none of us can quite decode. Showing my vaccination status everywhere I go will become law on Monday, but many restaurants and other public venues have already adopted it.

Katherine Rusell performing at Dizzy’s back in July of ’19. I will hear her again in a few weeks at Dizzy’s.

My work days are long again. I start very early before my run, work through the day and find myself drifting back to my desk after dinner. My intermittent insomnia has already put in an appearance, the mental calculator of millions of dollars to raise this year ticking away in my brain.

This morning I am reminded of when my sister Loren’s apartment was broken into while going to grad school in Chicago – after that she would frequently refer to things as being “before the heist” or “after the heist”. This would usually refer to something she no longer owned, but sometimes it would refer to other things like the acquisition of her large dog Ron – although I believe he was adopted after a subsequent spate of robberies in Berkley. I felt that way after 9/11 and then experienced a personal version after Loren died a few years later. World wide disruptions and personal ones, the great divides that change the path we thought we were on but were never really destined for. We will be talking about the before time and the post-pandemic one for a long time going forward.

Still, my back-to-school spirit remains intact and although I am still layering sweaters over sundresses (and have not committed to ever wearing anything but sneakers again), I am mentally starting to construct what this new world is going to look like for me and to some degree for my team at work. I remain ever interested in what the future will look like and what I will make of it now.

Improvement and Excellence

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is both a jewelry and personal Pam post. Pictorama readers know that I love old jewelry and these months at home have introduced me to many new sellers, primarily on Instagram, several in Britain. (For a few of those past acquisition posts you can read here and here!) However, my fondness for jewelry runs deep, all the way back to childhood, and over time I have acquired a number of pieces that have great personal significance. Not always, but frequently when I acquire a new piece, I have the symbolism tugging at the back of my mind. (My photos do not do any of these objects justice, but the best I can manage on a overcast Sunday morning.)

As it happens, the first of these medals was purchased in honor of my (February) birthday, in ’20, just weeks before the shutdown here in New York City. I was dropping something off at the jeweler and took a bit of time to paw through the trays they keep stacked in their glass counters. The jeweler I have used for years, Cluster, is down in what New Yorkers call the Diamond District, a few blocks of Midtown in the forties around Seventh Avenue. They are housed in a rabbit warren of offices and other establishments on the high floor of an anonymous office building. It is difficult for two people to be together in the tiny space allotted to customers at the front of their workshop which is walled off with glass.

Horse cameo ring, my collection. Made by Muriel Chastanet Jewelers.

Two generations of the family worked there and I most often speak to the daughter, Robyn, although her father likes to come over and inspect what I am wearing or bringing in and comment on it. He is particularly fond of a ring I wear often with antique horse cameo. It is beautifully made by a friend on the west coast (Gizelle Strohkendl, who along with her sister Charley runs the Westwood Village shop, Muriel Chastanet, in Los Angeles which can be found on IG @murielchastanet_finejewelry and I have written about them before in a post here) and her dad likes to take it and study it a bit. If I am wearing my mother and grandmother’s diamond engagement ring and wedding band (they reset the diamonds in the engagement ring years ago) he takes them and cleans them while I wait and talk to Robyn. Right now they have a string of pearls I dropped off to be restrung in March of ’20. My timing at the office has been off to retrieve them and as a result Robyn and I have chatted on the phone a few times.

My collection. Pams-Pictorama.com.

Robyn showed me the little medal which proclaims Improvement. I had never seen one of these and I fell in love with it instantly. These are school medals, 9k I think, and I believe from the first half of the 20th century. I am sure their history is quite straightforward and maybe a reader can inform me, but I have been unable to really find out much about them. And may I just say, who wouldn’t try to improve or excel with promise of such a glittering reward?

The Improvement pin is engraved with B.A.R. Jan. 1910 on the back. It has a makers mark which says, Lambert Bros NY at the bottom. One wonders who B.A.R. was and what area precisely s/he improved in so dramatically? The jeweler, Lambert Brothers, was 100 years in business from 1877-1977. According to the jewelry site, Kaleidoscope Effect:

Quality jewelry lasts, according to one of the oldest jewelry companies, Lambert Bros NYC founded in 1877 by Italians August Lambert and his brother. Later, Henry L. Lambert (1905 – 1983) headed his father and uncle’s business. Noteworthy, before joining the family company, he had studied gem cutting and jewelry design in Amsterdam and Paris.
The company’s store located at Third Ave at the corner of 58th street, sold bracelet watches, medals and a variety of fine jewelry – cigarette cases, pearl strings, rings, bracelets, cufflinks, brooches, earrings, chains and necklaces. Creating their jewelry pieces, the designers of the company used precious metals – gold, platinum, and sterling silver.

Using the name of the company I found one or two similar examples of medals, the sterling one for a firefighter was on the Worthpoint auction site and claims to possibly be haunted. (This long and interesting story can be found on their site here.) However, I did not find any similar school medals.

From the Worthpoint auction site – said to be haunted?

I have been looking for others in a casual way. Some similar items came up on IG, but if I remember correctly they were unengraved which didn’t quite suit. I asked one or two dealers to keep a weather eye for me and to give me a heads up if they found any for sale. However, I ultimately stumbled on my second one, Excellence, on eBay recently. I purchased it from a Canadian seller and vaguely assume it hails from the area originally. Unlike Improvement there is no maker’s mark on the back of this medal, just E.N. 1945. There is a tiny symbol at the bottom like an open book, but I don’t know what it means. This one is a tad more grand (Excellence being a bit more grand than Improvement perhaps?), but I especially like them together and look forward to having them on a lapel some day.

My collection. Pams-Pictorama.com.

Jewelry to me has always been worn to convey a message, either to myself or others. Usually the message is a bit less direct – my horse cameo ring is for good luck, my mother and grandmother’s rings to remind me constantly of the smart, great women in my life, an enormous bee is to celebrate industriousness and ingenuity – although Gizelle assured me that it is indeed a Queen bee! Symbols are important.

Ring from my collection. Made by Gizelle Strohkendl, Muriel Chastanet Jewelry, LA.
Music in sterling showed up on Etsy today while researching this! A further acquisition?

When I bought the first medal I was congratulating myself on my progress at work. My first year there was very difficult, the second year better but still very hard. It was halfway through the third year that I finally was feeling the swing of things and could see the early efforts I put in place paying off. It was my own little award to myself for the hard won changes I had wrought.

It is somewhat ironic that the medal that would show up next would be Excellence. As I look back on the more than 17 months and all accomplished I decided that I deserved Excellence as well.

Falling Back?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As I write today Kim (the cats) and I are speeding toward the end of our summer vacation. Exhausted overall, we stayed in Manhattan and just determined to rest and have some fun here. One of the highlights was the postponed Cartoon Carnival evening which I wrote about in an earlier post (here), delayed initially by one hurricane and almost delayed again by a second one. The delightful Sunday evening had an unusual chill to the air for August and that and rough waters (Ida creeping up the coast?) made me scuttle my plan to take two ferries to arrive there and maybe sneak in a flea market as well. Instead we took the subway out and scored a nice dinner. The backyard of City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was the location and we had the added benefit of seeing their exhibit on candy as well.

Not quite a third of the way into the program (Out to Sea was the theme with lots of jolly swordfish fights and mice using donuts as life preservers), there was a power surge and the projector went off as did all visible lights around us, including in the apartment building looming behind the screen. The power came back quickly and, sadly, burned a frame or two of the print before Tommy could stop it (Tommy Stathes, our curator and host uses 16mm prints with a real projector), admittedly a familiar sight to those of us who have seen a lot of film run however. We quickly got rolling again though and were treated to several cartoons we had not seen before, for me two Felix cartoons and one by Paul Terry for starters. I also purchased a few dvd’s from him so we could continue the party at home. (If you love old cartoons you need to know about Tommy and his site can be found here or find him on IG @tomatitojose.)

The cheerful bar and candy counter at the outdoor backyard at City Reliquary.

When we headed back to the subway around 10:00, we were to discover that the power surge had caused an inexplicably large suspension of subways; 80 trains suspended we heard the next day. We first tried the L and then walked to the J before we realized that underground was not happening between Brooklyn and Manhattan tonight. Eventually we found our way onto a bus designated to essentially get people over the bridge and to the nearest station in Manhattan, Essex Street. There we discovered further outages, but eventually lucked out with a F train which took us to our beloved Q line and home. It was 12:30 before we got back – very relieved we’d fed our kitties before we left.

On the looong trip home. On the F train, the remains of someone’s dinner and, mysteriously, a large pile of lottery cards. We’re hoping he or she won and ran off the subway without the rest!

Monday dawned and I decided it was time to fulfill a long-standing pledge to myself to finally go through my closets which have largely remained utterly undisturbed since March of ’20. Yes, I belong to that group of people who climbed into workout clothes that weekin mid-March of ’20 and never really got out of them again. As some Pictorama readers know, over those first months I rediscovered my early talent for cooking and baking (recipes and cooking memoirs can be found here and here for starters) and of course gained a lot of weight. Last November I took it in hand and I began running and went on a diet. (Posts devoted to my nascent running can be found here and here.)

Two broken fingers later (I fell running) and having now lost more weight than I initially gained (but still looking to lose a bit more), I faced the time capsule that is my closet with many deeply mixed feelings. In addition to just needing to go through the closet moths have been erecting a citadel in both of them which I needed to confront, all those clothes sitting undisturbed was a moth bonanza it seems. So it was with great trepidation that I waded in.

From the great Felix cartoon dvd we purchased from Tommy!

It took three days and for the most part I didn’t bother trying to figure out what might fit or not, mostly only deal with the moths, cleaning, organizing and tossing damaged items. Notable among the victims were black wool tuxedo trousers that Kim has owned for decades, traded for a bunch of homegrown pot on a long ago day in California, long before we met. As the husband of a fundraiser Kim has needed a no less than annual use of said tux, alas, we are sad with this loss.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my overall extreme ambivalence about the idea of office clothes and returning to a world of wearing them. Please understand, I have always liked nice clothes and good shoes. (My love of jewelry which incidentally continues unabated has been documented here recently.) Therefore, my extreme disinterest in resurrecting them remains surprising. (I always liked make-up as well and have lost interest in that too for the most part.) It is somewhat disorienting to realize that I am somehow no longer that person, but am left with a fuzzy picture of who exactly that means I am. Part of me thought, let’s just pitch the lot of it.

Cookie helping with the closet organizing.

Having spent virtually my entire career not only working in an office but fundraising in particular has meant that I have gone to the office dressed to meet and speak with potential donors virtually every single day. When I worked at the Met it wasn’t unusual for people to phone unexpectedly who were visiting the galleries and ask to come and see me. Board members routinely wandered in for meetings. Early in my career there was an actual dress code (you didn’t wear trousers for evening events) and although that faded over time, it was expected that a level of professional dress would be maintained and people who didn’t catch on were flatly told to tow the line.

My current position has me less likely to have those unexpected meetings but between evening events, scheduled meetings and lunches, and a large amount of work travel while the precise nature of what I wore changed, the fact that I was dressed for business everyday was well ingrained. (A board member at my current position complained to someone that I wore too many suits. To this day that comment confounds me. Did she want me to show up in a tank top and flip flops?)

Central Park as the sun was setting, on our way to Dizzy’s Club in Columbus Circle.

The top strata layer of my closet reminded me that I had been traveling to the midwest right before shutdown. A trip to Wisconsin, following by Milwaukee and then a subsequent one to Chicago, had meant a lot of wool (more moth industry and joy) and layers that had been worn. (A blog post devoted to one of those trips and some musing on fundraising can be found here.) Further digging found the clothes I usually keep year round in the closet for seasonal trips to Florida and California. I cast a jaundiced eye at those wondering if my current weight would enable me to get me back in them yet. (A somewhat academic question for now of course, although in a sort of tentative world a trip to the west coast looms for January, maybe Florida in December.)

Another photo heading to Columbus Circle the other evening.

More importantly though, despite the visceral memories the clothes brought back of essentially another time, it crashed directly into my current sensibility of who I actually am now and more importantly, who do I want to be and where am I going with this?

Thursday night Kim and I decided to head over to Dizzy’s. (His idea really, as a treat to cheer me up a bit after three days of moth-y work. Thank you honey!) Dizzy’s is the Jazz at Lincoln Center, my former clubhouse of sorts in the pre-pandemic world, and we went to hear some young musicians I know. I had been to Dizzy’s once already for our re-opening two weeks before and the emotion of being back in that room and hearing live music had been overwhelming, not just for me but for the whole audience of friends and family we had invited for the evening. This night however, I had Kim with me and we were visiting as civilians as such, me not working. (I would be remiss if I didn’t say you can make reservations for upcoming shows at jazz.org.)

Isaiah Thompson on piano, Julien Lee on sax, TJ Reddick drums and Philip Norris on bass, Thursday night at Dizzy’s. Hard to beat the view out these windows, New York skyline and Central Park!

Without the distraction of working and being in charge of an event, I was more focused on the experience of just being there. Seeing these recent Juilliard graduates, some of the best young jazz musicians today, getting a chance to play at the club was wonderful. The leader of the quartet was Isaiah Thompson and one of the things he said in his introduction was that he found it was so much more intense to play in front of people now. I also find this to be true. Sitting down with people and talking to them in person is indeed more intense .

I also thought about the incredibly fragile ecosystem that is jazz and the hard work of Jazz at Lincoln Center to maintain that important link, helping to hold it together and connect the pieces, making evenings like this possible for these extremely talented and just ascending young musicians. I fell to thinking about the phenomenal work that we had all dedicated just to keep it alive over these more than seventeen months. I am proud to be a part of that, but also deeply tired. My ties to it go much deeper now, but my awareness of how delicate and even ephemeral it is remains indelible and front of mind as well. The grim reality is that it isn’t over yet, there is no real return to what we thought of as normal and there is much hard work yet ahead as I look toward returning next week.

A Round Box of Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’m not sure what to say about this rather singular item I picked up a few months ago. I say singular because I have never seen one before – and after all I spend a lot of time looking. It is about five inches in diameter, about 2″ deep. It is strips of a thin wood, maybe balsa, wrapped and stapled into a container form and a lid popped on. Since it is orange and black I wonder if it was meant for Halloween candy – although the jolly theme on the top is less than Halloween scary.

Felix, who does seem to consider himself a musician (most frequently found singing loudly on a back fence) is strumming a banjo on this box. The curling string of the somewhat primitive instrument is a curious touch. Felix has his earlier design where he is much more squared off – blocky feet and arms, pointier face – in the style I prefer. A curious mouse is doing a dance.

This mouse makes occasional appearances on items and his animated cousins appear in some of the early cartoons. He’s sort of an Aesop’s Fable mouse who stumbles into Felix land. See my Felix pocket toy where one of his relatives appears below! (That toy post can be found here.) However, the dog is strange and I don’t know what he’s about or where he came from.

German pocket Felix toy featuring the mouse, tossing in a bit of German in this case. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The scale is pretty odd on the box image – dog smallest with a Felix who is perhaps the size of a small child and mouse the size of a cat!

I purchased it from a US seller although the design is more of a British one as Kim and I were just discussing. Having said that, if it is indeed a Halloween item that places it in this country as well. There are absolutely no markings on it, although there is a place where a sticker might have been on the bottom.

Although it is solid it is very light and therefore somewhat fragile, therefore I am unsure what I will ultimately keep in it – after all boxes are for storing and tucking things away – maybe even hiding things in them. It has spent the first month here sitting on a table next to the couch and near the television while I consider it. It is hard to see on a shelf.

Boxes and containers are always tempting to me. I think I imagine that they will help me organize my life – after all, I have maybe things laying around that could benefit from a permanent home. It never quite seems to work that way, but the attraction remains and a box, a small cabinet or other romantic vintage container is like catnip to me. Small pieces of jewelry might make its way into this perhaps. We’ll see.

Felix as vocalist from a recent post. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Meanwhile, this evening is our rain date for vacation cartoons outside and sadly the weather is cloudy and remains threatening. However, I have purchased our tickets and I think we will make the trek, sans extended ferry ride, via train later today and hope for the best. It has been a rainy vacation I am afraid. (Last week I kicked vacation off with a hurricane warning post which can be found here.) I paused my daily run yesterday for drizzly weather and think I will just take it on today and hope for the best. The damp humidity is making the newly mended breaks in my fingers whine a bit. At the very least the weather has cooled from a very roast-y few days in the 90’s.

I remind myself that like most things, vacation is a state of mind so I will attempt to continue to occupy mine with things other than work as the second week of vacation ticks forward.

Red Cross Girls!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I think I will always look back on this year and a half (heading into two year) period as my plucky young woman literary fiesta. It probably isn’t a coincidence that this, difficult period of time has made these stories of achievement under great duress appealing. Working my way through the work of author Margaret Vandercook in particular has been wonderful and these books have contributed to a longer reading project which builds on the changing role of women during the first part of the 20th century. Nursing on the front lines during the war, even driving ambulances there, was an enormous departure for young American women and according to these books they also lead the way for young European women to do the same.

As long-standing readers know, I started my journey with Margaret Vandercook via her many volumes of Camp Fire Girls books, took on the somewhat more raucous Ranch Girls next and am now investigating and celebrating the ten volumes devoted to the Red Cross Girls. (Some of those prior posts can be found here, here and here.)

I came across an obit for Marjorie Vandercook clipped from an unknown, undated source – very little information seems to survive on her and this is the first obit I stumbled onto. It doesn’t supply much information, but I include it here for anyone else who might find it of interest. Of course they lead with her husband’s accomplishments and barely touch on her own contribution!

My first question was, did young women really do this? I mean did young women volunteer and head out to Europe to work with the Red Cross? Seems a bit crazy and it’s a bit hard to say. Obviously Red Cross nurses served in Europe during WWI, about 300 lost their lives working on the front lines. It isn’t clear what qualifications were expect however and if young women who had “a nursing course” or even less experience actually went over such as our heroines did, is hard to track down. Nurses, it seems for the most part, were from working class or rural backgrounds although some were indeed from affluent families, a mix like we have in volume one. So let’s assume that the role of our heroines is relatively realistic for starters.

Via witness2fashion.com as noted above.

Certainly the war that was being described was more or less torn from the headlines of the day since these books were published starting in 1915. Four women start out from New York City on a ship heading to Europe. Their first adventures and a few plot points that will reach several volumes occur onboard ship before making landing in Britain which is their first stop before nursing wounded British soldiers in France. (Vandercook must have had several of these books outlined to some degree, dropping in opportunities to come back and layer on plot in future volumes.)

I wondered how Vandercook would handle the sheer horror of nursing on the front lines with the sort of story line she generally develops and I report that she does an admirable job of it. Admirably, somehow she neither downplays the dangers and horrors of war, nor does she dwell too much on the gore. Of course the tales of valor are overblown, but after all these are fictional volumes for younger readers.

Dust jacket from volume 3.

Plucky indeed these young women are too. While the Campfire Girls had an interesting creed and much ceremony, the Ranch Girls just had a sense of the wild west where they had their origin. The Red Cross girls fall somewhere in the middle – there is a code for behavior and there are references to their need, like soldiers, to follow orders and fall in with the greater good for the whole. It would seem there is a creed – whether it had a basis in reality or not I cannot really say, but I would imagine that the spirit was there at a minimum although it isn’t as codified, nor as lore filled, as that of The Campfire Girls.

It is interesting to be reminded that the Red Cross nurses and doctors were of course technically neutral by definition. The United States would not enter the war until 1917 and the ethos of the Red Cross was (is) apolitical. However, these were stories going out to an American readership and the clear lines of sympathy for the British and French soldiers and a fear of the Germans is evident.

Illustration also from volume 3.

As of the volume I am currently finishing – The Red Cross Girls with the Italian Army – the fifth and published in May of 1918, there is no mention of the influenza epidemic which would certainly take headlines later that year although I assume will find its way into subsequent volumes. The first four volumes form a story arc and the fifth, harder to obtain as an e-book, seems to mostly to be tying up some loose ends and perhaps planting some new plots for the remaining second half of the series. The United States will be entering the war soon, presumably in the next volume.

September 1915: A group of nurses at Hamworth Hall which is serving as a Red Cross Hospital during WW1. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images) via Time magazine.

I am reminded that we are reading these books with the benefit of historical hindsight. Marjorie Vandercook had no way of knowing that it wouldn’t be be that many years before the world was back at war, barely a generation, and the fictional futures she thought she was securing for her heroines would perhaps be less than untroubled. It is hard not to read them knowing of the tumult of the political upheavals of Russia and that the sons of this generation would be the soldiers of that next enormous war.

The first three volumes of the not quite five I have thus consumed, were the most compelling with The Red Cross Girls in Belgium being my favorite. I found the novel concerning their time in Russia, The Red Cross Girls with the Russian Army, a bit hair raising actually. What on earth were they thinking going to Russia? How did they even get there? Of course you should read it, but I am warning you, it puts you a bit on the edge of your seat.

This may be the only accessible volume from the second half of the series, but you know I will try to ferret them out!

As alluded to above, the first four volumes were easily available on Project Gutenberg as free e-books. After a bit of searching I located the current volume on the Internet Archive site. While they e-books don’t seem to be technically downloadable they are still easily read online and they have bailed me out on obscure volumes before. I think I will have some trouble acquiring the remaining volumes of the series which seem to follow the American army through other parts of Europe and then home. With any luck, I will be able to report on those in subsequent posts.

Felix with the Family at Bournemouth

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Hurricane Henri has scuttled my day two plans for vacation (it was to be cartoons being shown outside in Brooklyn tonight which I had hoped to pair with a visit via ferry to the Brooklyn Flea and of course no running along the now flooding river esplanade), so I am taking comfort in someone else’s long ago vacation photo here today. This photo is one of my favorites from the recent cache I tapped into. (I wrote about the purchases from that collection just last week in a post that can be found here.) Instead we will be huddled cozily inside today, perhaps I can curate my own cartoon fiesta via dvd and Youtube later.

The cartoon show we’d planned to see tonight. Hoping it will be rescheduled!

In the many hurricanes of my childhood and adolescence I never remember them so early in the year as this. We lived on the aptly named Waterman Avenue and it flooded routinely even without the benefit of a hurricane. My memory of hurricanes and tropical storms are always associated with fall however, usually early fall but sometimes into November, however summer vacation was never interrupted in my memory. Hurricanes were always a bit exciting with doors and windows taped up with silver gaffers tape (my father was a cameraman and we always had copious supplies of it) protecting us against wind breakage and busting open. No school obviously and the novelty of neighbors checking on us via small boats during the eye of the storm, geese at the back door, and a day spent playing board games and the like while somehow pets and humans found their way to the living room in the middle of that small house.

The church in Sea Bright shown here has remained throughout. This appears to be a fairly recent photo.

Hurricane Donna of 1960, which precedes me by several years, was the benchmark that was frequently used for reference during my childhood, a storm that was born in August, but hit the Jersey shore in early September and was notable for its destruction. (Adults would always tell me that the ocean and the river met in Sea Bright, a small spit of land and beach town I have written about a few times before. (A favorite post about the variety store frequented in childhood, Wiseman’s, can be found here. A photo of the town of Sea Bright above.) They would always point out that the water from each was a different color and that photos showed a dividing line. I have in my life seen photos and sure enough, the greener blue of the ocean and the darker of the river didn’t just mix, but stayed separate to the eye.

Mineshaft 31 with a zippy Jay Lynch cover. This one also had a bit of Kim Deitch in it.

In later years Kim and I were on a summer vacation (a rare one traveling to visit Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri of Mineshaft magazine fame) when Hurricane Katrina hit the south and hurricanes seem to have caught up with summer vacations.

Back to our jolly Felix card which was mailed (unusual for these surviving cards of this type) on July 23, at 1:30 PM, the year is obscured on the postmark. (Any of our British clothing specialist friends want to weigh in on a possible date?) It was mailed from Bournemouth, a resort town on the southern coast of England grown out of a spa and health resort in an earlier century. There is a short note on the back of the card which (to the best of my deciphering) reads, Dear Mother, Still having a lovely time. The Weather is lovely now. We are quite comfortable. Lorie. It is addressed to, Mrs. Dailey, 71 Tennyson Road, Luton Baths. (This house still stands and appears a pretty brick terraced home according to sales photos online.) Not sure any of my other Felix photo cards are known to be from Bournemouth.

A sunny day in Bournemouth with Felix! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It is a bright, sunny beach day in this photo; they are also quite dressed (albeit beautifully) for a beach photo on a July day, at least by our standards today. The pretty cotton dresses of the period, the hats and the men’s summer suits never fail to appeal to me. There is a woman to the far left who has a very fashionable head scarf which matches the trim on her dress. Most of the women sport pretty straw hats or a cloche type made of another light material. The men’s head gear seems to range from a a single derby, to numerous caps and a bare headed fellow or two. The linen and cotton layers of the dresses and jackets represent many collective hours of ironing I would think. Among the young and adolescent girls in the second row I will guess is the author of our card – the handwriting is not that of a child.

Back of today’s card. Perhaps you can read it better than I can?

We’ll assume this is some sort of family gathering and they have designated one of the littlest girls at the bottom, amongst a coterie of children, to hold and hoist up Felix who has joined their group. He is a somewhat smaller model Felix for this purpose, although I have numerous cards with what I think of as a portable Felix. (Also the sense of the ubiquitousness of Felix in these photos always entertains me! Of course Felix is in your family photo.) After all, while the outsized ones that appear to be the size of a child are favored with me, they were too large to lug around to mobile locations on the beach such as this. The photographer has managed to get a great vantage point above this group which is part of what makes this photo a bit more special.

Fish soup, featured in a post earlier this year.

As for me, the rain has whipped back up and is lashing the windows again. Kim, who is the process of reading several books simultaneously, has put away one and is eating a yogurt before moving onto the next. (This is hard for me to do – I am a linear reader and have difficulty maintaining more than one storyline at a time.) I will perhaps spend the day with some of my more prosaic vacation tasks around the apartment, although I still have the Red Cross Girls stuck in WWI occupied Belgium so maybe I will tend to reading a bit of that too – one has been taken into German custody and I am a bit worried about her. Since it is such a cool day perhaps I will make soup, something I haven’t managed since breaking my fingers. (My fish soup recipe, the one I will probably use as a base today, can be found here.) Good rainy day activities all I think. Time for another cup of coffee and my own deferred breakfast.

Let the Vacation Begin…

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today marks the official beginning of our summer vacation here at Deitch Studio, although Kim has the jump on me having started last week. I have become bad at vacationing I am afraid. Especially since taking my current position, somehow vacation has not really panned out for me.

Toy cafe, Shanghai

My first summer at this job I was very new and I went to Shanghai on business after only a few months in my job. (A post about that extraordinary trip can be found here.) It was fascinating, but I was learning so much about the organization and everything was so new that it was exhausting and as far from relaxing as I can imagine. The subsequent summer my father was sick and then died in August and I was largely preoccupied. Our pre-pandemic summer was spent preparing for the window replacement in our apartment and a September business trip to South Africa. (Posts about these events can be found here, here and here.)

Window installtion, fall of ’19 and immediately after a lengthy trip to South Africa.

Last summer we were in the cautious reawakening of New York City after being truly housebound and were just forming newly found pleasures in re-opened restaurants serving booze on the street and eating outside. My days which were routinely more than 12 hours, cut back a bit but the pace could not really stop. The organization needed money and my job was to keep that ball rolling forward.

Therefore, I can say I am hitting this few weeks pretty exhausted and with low-key expectations. I do not plan to travel further than to see mom on the Jersey shore, although I have some other interesting ideas about ferry exploration which I gather can now take us up to the Bronx, but also to Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Day trips! There is a cartoon show hosted by Tommy Stathes in Brooklyn tomorrow night which, if not interrupted by hurricane, I would like to see. I had planned for us to take the ferry there too, but will likely employ the subway if stormy as predicted. (Details on that show for other locals can be found here.) Kim seems game for all my nascent schemes.

Where I run in the mornings, along the East River and FDR Drive.

In addition, I have pledged to do my best to purge the moths and moth eaten clothes (still largely from the winter of ’20) from the closets and will clear off my desk. I also have numerous sessions of physical therapy for my hand to be completed – hopefully getting it back into shape for the fall!

My other vacation goals are few. I have been reading the Red Cross Girls series by Marjorie Vandercook (a few of my myriad posts about her Camp Fire Girls and Ranch Girls books can be found here and here) and I think you all will be hearing more about those when I finish them. (I am currently in occupied Belgium, volume three.) I would like to get my running back on track now that I am back from a six or eight week lay off for the broken fingers on Memorial Day.

Don’t own this one – and hoping to continue reading them for free online!

Also due largely to the broken fingers, I haven’t been lifting weights in recent months. I would like to start to get that part of my workout back on track although the bad hand is still weak and I have to be careful with free weights. It would be nice if I could get close to my diet goal before going back to work, although vacation should be about good food too.

A few moments of sound from Dizzy’s Club, last Wednesday night at our soft opening.

I have an eye toward thinking about the fall, although our plans at work are uncertain like most people’s right now. We re-opened our jazz club, Dizzy’s, last week. It was a joyous return to live music indoors and wonderful to be back. Herlin Riley and his band could only be described as ebullient and exuberant – exactly what was needed. It was good to exercise the muscles of in-person interaction. Still, it was a night informed by Covid protocols and the reality of the new world never really left us.

Our return to full time in the office has just been deferred by a month, into October, in deference to the rising rate of the variant. Meanwhile, our concert season doesn’t begin until November so perhaps our timing will be good. It is hard for someone like me not to be able to plan, but I am trying to loosen my grip on the need to do so in this environment.

The joys of hand physical therapy will continue for the foreseeable future.

I am in the midst of hiring staff to shore up a team that has dwindled over the past 17 months, and also in the process leading up to asking for a very large contribution, all which must continue forward over the next few weeks so I doubt my vacation time this year will be pristine. Still, my OOO message is on my work account and at a minimum I see some strolls with ice cream along the waterfront, some late nights watching old westerns accumulated by Kim for this purpose, much cat petting and sleeping late in my immediate future.

Collecting Felix Photos

Pam’s Pictorama Post Post: This card is part of the recent windfall of Felix photo postcard purchases I made recently. I am told it was a collection with a nucleus formed in the 1970’s when purchased from another collector, and then more recently purchased by a seller who goes by the moniker Andyroo on eBay and is located in the rather romantic sounding Rowland’s Castle in Britain. (A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that Rowland’s Castle is largely a quiet residential village, with four pubs and a few small shops, including a hardware store and a local convenience store, located in East Hampshire. They also note that the main local attraction appears to be a model railway depicting the village during the war. Sadly no photo.) I have tried to pick Andyroo’s brain a bit about the nature of the collection, but his answers to my inquiries are nominal while not quite all the way to curt. His regular beat seems to be china figurines so the El Dorado of Felix cards is unusual for him.

Next to my own collection, it is the first one with a significant number of these photos that I have encountered although photo postcards do not make up the majority of the collection, and I believe I have largely acquired the smattering of them in it. (I do wonder if they were part of the earlier collection – so interesting to think of these being passed from collector to collector when virtually all of mine have been one offs which seem to come from the families they were made for to a dealer and then me.) While I know there may be my counterpart out there somewhere, on the other hand it is also be possible that there are really not other people who live amongst a vast number of one-of-a-kind photos of people posing with Felix the Cat dolls of varying sizes up to those (the very best) which are the size of a not so small child. What do you think?

Pams-Pictorama.com collection, also purchased from Andyroo.

While of course I would be very jealous of the photos of such collectors (and want them – all) I would of course also be very interested to meet such a person. (If you’re out there – raise your hand!) Among postcard collectors my area is so niche as to be unknown – even at postcard shows people have never seen such cards and have no idea what I am talking about and look at me blankly when I inquire.

Also purchased recently from the Andyroo El Dorado of postcards. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The original owner of this collection did not focus on these cards and the vast part of their collection are the more typical drawn series, of which I own a few. I did buy one of those off of Andyroo, shown above, because it tickled me and that recent post can be found here.

There was an interesting few cards which were photos I own and I believe were not widely printed, but must have been printed in multiple for the people who purchased them from the photographer at the time. They also, like me, purchased the occasional person photographed with Mickey Mouse. Their collection included some of the tea cards and includes some of the earlier versions of the drawn cards. They owned a few of the stencil cards I featured recently as well. (That post can be found here and the card shown above.)

This studio photo postcard of a little girl and Felix has a mate for sale from this collection. This card Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Mostly of interest to me that this person had the two cards of kids posing on the giant black cat as shared in recent weeks here and here. These were identified as Felix cards in the selling which made me happy because I found them more easily that way although I have never thought of those as Felix before.

Drawn with a stencil and colored by hand. Pams-Pictorama.com collection. A very similar one was for sale as part of this collection.

Today’s photo was one of two prints for sale of the same identical photo. It is printed sloppily on the postcard backing which is askew. (Strangely in all the photo postcards I have seen this rarely if ever occurs.) There is nothing to identify it on the back of the card. This jolly little shaver seems pretty happy to pose with this Felix which while nice and big, is still a bit smaller than he is. Our kid is nicely and warmly dressed in a double breasted coat and hat, high socks make up for short trousers. The partial view of the person standing near shows someone in a long coat and gloves.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Felix seems to be offering an arm to the child in a chummy sort of way. He is a bit in shadow so we don’t get a very good look at him and he has something over one shoulder that I can’t quite make out, maybe something on the fence, or not. We can just sort of make out his tail which creates a tripod effect to stand him up. I wish we could see his toothy grin better.

I can’t set a good guess on date – children’s clothing is a bit ambiguous as it didn’t change much for a long time. The pretty wrought iron fence behind them has some broken bits, a few missing finials and another torn looking piece. The pebbly sidewalk makes a nice pattern on the ground and may have been a bit distinct to the place.

Note the number 2705 in the lower left which would have linked this to a sitter. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The fact that today’s card does not have a number on the front (the convention itinerant photographers used to track a photo to a customer) makes me think it was a photo set up by the family, perhaps in front of their home. This makes me wonder if this lucky little fellow actually owned this Felix or did he come as a prop with the photographer?

As for me, even I sometimes wonder at my rather unique fascination with these photos. Was I a child who especially loved my Felix doll in a past life? Had my photo take with him at some seminal moment? Or was I an itinerant photographer who lugged Felix around the resorts of Great Britain, Australia or New Zealand? This blog was original formed with the idea of organizing my photo collection into a book, although it rapidly incorporated my toy collection and then of course me. Lately I have been talking again about a book of the photos. More to come as I move that project forward!

Jersey Jogging

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am pausing in the Pictorama photo post fiesta which will likely resume tomorrow, the reflect a bit on my return to running. I run slower than ever since my fall running on Memorial Day which resulted in two broken fingers. (Posts about my nascent running and the finger crushing fall can be found here and here.) In the heat of summer it is tough going to get back to my former distance. Still, every morning which does not require a breakfast meeting, or it isn’t pouring rain, out I go to give it my best.

I rarely show the westside view of the Esplanade where I run along the FDR, preferring to share the river views which I try to focus on, as below.
Winter view of the Esplanade at about 79th Street.

Running clears my brain better than most things. (Lifting weights can also have this effect, but the hand is definitely still too weak to be trusted much with the free weights in the apartment. I wrote about my studio apartment pandemic workout a few months back and can be read here.) While I used to listen to books while working out at the gym it has developed that it has to be music for running. I have become partial to Beethoven, in particular the 7th Symphony, but I have roamed around a bit too. I love Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach cello concertos and am very fond of the Moonlight Sonata, but neither runs quite as long as I need and I find myself mid-run looking for the next thing to listen to. As I Jersey girl I will admit that I also have Bruce Springsteen as a fallback – always good if I need a kick in the pants to get me going.

I am also a bit strangely partial to Wynton Marsalis’s Blues Symphony. (As a staffer I would be remiss not to point out that the free download can be found here and a variety of other places on the web.) And in fact I was listening to it when I fell – apologies Wynton, but true. That did not dampen my affection for it however and I still like it very much and have it in rotation. My usual run down by the East River is along the FDR Drive and that means that half of it is quite noisy with commuter traffic. I had a day of trying to listen to Russ Columbo (long-standing Pictorama readers know that I am partial to popular music from the 1920’s and 30’s – this post found here is one of several which touches on that part of my life) while running and alas his voice is too soft to hear. You need a bit of boom to be heard over the morning traffic I am afraid.

Last weekend I made the trip to Jersey to visit my mom. I had last seen her earlier in the fateful Memorial Day weekend when I had been in for a wet, cold concert on that Friday evening – perhaps my exhaustion that morning contributing to my fall. (Arg! That tale can be found here.) The rigors of hand in cast, followed by ever so much ongoing physical therapy have occupied me greatly and made travel a tad harder so this was my first chance to get back there.

Ten second or so of ferry ride under the bridge!

Sunday morning had breakout sun and heat for my ferry trip after a night of heavy rain. Unfortunately a quick front moved in just as we pulled out of the Sandy Hook stop on the ferry, a summer stop only for beach goers. Pulling away from the piles of families we just left on the beach in a very sudden, pouring rain, which then lasted the rest of the day. I thought about those poor stranded folks for the rest of the day as there is virtually no shelter there and the next ferry would be a wait.

On Monday morning I woke early with good intentions and determination to head out for a run, despite the gray morning. I threw on my running togs, layered for some Jersey chill, and said a quick hello to mom and went out the door – and into a new torrent of rain. I regrouped and had a nice coffee with mom, ate a really memorable Jersey peach, and was ultimately rewarded for not eating a full breakfast when the rain cleared around 7:30. Out I went. I queued up Beethoven although it would have been a nice day to nod to Bruce as I was virtually down the street from his home.

Mom’s front yard, soaking wet somehow made the colors dramatic and saturated.

These days my mom lives in a town just a few miles from the one I grew up in. I am familiar with it in a general way, but realized early on that I could easily get lost in the roads walking or running around in the area surrounding her new house. I mapped a route earlier in the spring, but wanted more distance today and so I peeled off toward a grammar school with a playing field I figured I could check out. I always had my phone to get me back to her house after all.

Where the turkey vultures come from?

The morning was still heavy with rain water and the trees, flowers and grass were soaking. I resigned myself to sodden sneakers early on and instantly wished I had thought to pack extra socks. (I have a friend/antique jewelry dealer on IG, Mia aka @therubyfoxes who runs in the British countryside and always shows photos of her mud caked sneakers post-run. I was channeling you Mia!)

Observing the etiquette of the suburbs I greeted the few folks I met along the way with a cheery greeting of Morning! (In Manhattan the most you might have is a nod at someone you encounter frequently, but in all fairness, there are a lot more people here in New York.) I took my chances and followed a road beyond the school up, figuring I could make a big loop without getting hopelessly lost.

The roads around my mom’s house are named for schools. She lives on Oxford and I found myself running along and past Dartmouth, then Harvard, Princeton and Rutgers – a nod to the home team I guess. My sister had a high school boyfriend who lived on one of these streets – I think it was Dartmouth. I was trying to remember and see if any of the houses looked familiar, although many are newly built on the sites of older ones. I may have picked it out, but hard to say.

There are a number of cul de sac dead ends where basketball hoops proliferate and kids clearly command the streets. Several homes sported unmask our kids signs which reminded me that it had always been a community that wore its politics on its sleeve with yard signs favoring political candidates, making statements. Maybe all suburbs are – it is the only suburban community I have ever lived in so I am unsure.

Deer not dog!

I continued on, up toward some additional community playing fields boardering on a heavily wooded area which I believe is responsible in part for the diversity of birds my mom enjoys in her tiny yard – including hawks and, surprisingly, turkey vultures. As I approached the field I saw unleashed dogs playing and was hesitant to run through – however as I got closer I realized they were instead young deer romping. I jogged the perimeter of the field and noted a nice community garden with someone just beginning his work there, along one side.

A stray mailbox and flag on the edge of the woods – didn’t see a house though.

Running on turf as opposed to concrete, as I do here in Manhattan, was a bit heavenly and I couldn’t help thinking that a fall here would likely only result in getting muddy as opposed to broken bones. Meanwhile, don’t think heroic thoughts about how much I was running. It was my usual three miles and still required (several) periods of walking and as there were no inclines to challenge me I can only admit I really just don’t have my wind and stamina back yet.

Tree bursting with apples along the route.

There is something downright edenic about being out in the suburbs though, especially after our long months bound to our apartment and our corner of the city, although I always feel fortunate to have grown up in such a pretty place. These days though even being on the ferry and out on the water, some part of my brain releases and relaxes in a way it doesn’t quite ever do here these days – although my time along the esplanade in the mornings comes close.

My route ended with a loop around the original area I had mapped out. Street names that my friend Suzanne had helped me list during a walk one day as I found an initial route. I checked in on Forrest (my grammar school nearby was Forrestdale), Park and Beekman, easy for a Manhattanite to remember for obvious reasons – touched base near her house on Ridge, and turned tail home where mom and a (not New York) bagel with smoked salmon awaited me.