Pam’s Pictorama Post: One of the primary tenents of Pictorama is that I pretty much own everything I write about. I have made occasional exceptions (one, a very early Norakuro post of a toy, can be found here), but it is a general rule. However, I deviate today. A friend sent me this really interesting eBay posting from British eBay. The shoes had already sold, but I did love seeing them so I am sharing them with you.
These are so very worn! Not surprisingly they were much beloved – and what child of the ’20’s wouldn’t love them? And of course that they were kept all these years is a further tribute to their special place in someone’s heart. The tiny ankle straps are about worn through but it is easy to imagine a tiny tot kicking up their feet with Felix twirling on their toes.
I wander over to British eBay occasionally and poke around, although I have not in quite awhile. Some of those listings make it onto an international listing, but not all. Occasionally there are also sellers who only wish to do business in the United Kingdom, not wanting to mess with different currency and long distance shipping.
Meanwhile, I have generally stayed away from items of clothing. Between my lack of storage space and the moth farm I have been raising since the pandemic, I see myself as a poor steward of such objects which tend to be fragile. Still, I appreciate them and in a different situation I would devote space and funds to their acquisition.
As Felix fan Pictorama followers know, Britain is the El Dorado of all things Felix and there seems to have been a proliferation of items, presumably mostly unlicensed, some professionally made, semi-professional and also homemade from patterns or the products of creative minds. Back in 2018 I wrote about a handmade item, a child’s pinafore, in an aptly name post called Breaking the Ruleswhich can be found here.
I hope you have enjoyed this new edition of a rule breaking post, peeling back a few layers of acquisitions that might have been.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little piggy showed up at our local haunt which has supplied us with a few other items over the past year or so. Most recently a rather splendid elephant bank I wrote about here. (A glorious reveal of another one pending for a near term future post!)
The other day without really meaning to, Kim and I wandered in on one of our trips to or from on that particular block. This block is on the path of our trips to a Vietnamese take-out place we favor, our pet food store and is the block we stroll up and down while waiting for our Mexican food to be prepared for pick up. I like to stop and look in the window and occasionally I breakdown and purchase something. The fact that they keep odd hours makes it easier not to resist actual purchases as our strolls seem to rarely matchup with their being open.
However, a week or so ago we were out on a Saturday afternoon and they were open and we wandered from front window to being in the store. We had noticed this little fellow through the window a week or so before. He seemed rather singular and so he has joined the ranks here at Deitch Studio.
This piggy turns out to be very popular and widely available (currently examples are available on Etsy and other sites) and seems to have been produced over a long period of time starting in the teens, by the maker Hubley. (Another item from this shop is a great dog bank that was made by Hubley. You can find that post here. Seems like I am starting a de facto bank collection via these folks!)
On my version the sign he sports is easily read, The wise pig/ Save a penny yesterday another save today tomorrow save another to keep the wolf away. Below that, on his little stand, it proclaims Thrifty. I feel he is both smiling and yet has a concerned expression. Encouraging you to save and concerned for your future well-being. Other versions of the bank feature the pig with a big pink mouth – making me think of the phrase, lipstick on a pig.
He is pleasantly chipped and handled. I alway wonder about these banks how many pennies, nickels and dimes you could realistically have fit in. The effort to loosen and remove the bolt at the back seems beyond a child – perhaps the whole point? Or maybe kids just jiggled the money out of the slot again. I would say none of my banks, for all their decades in existence, show any evidence that they were ever unscrewed and opened. Teaching children thrift indeed.
I wrote a bit about banks I had as a child in a post here. The one below is a reasonably close clone of my memory of the very traditional one that was beloved to me as a child. Mine may have been a model that was slightly older or newer. I don’t remember the one ear down, but it was a long time ago. This piggy had a cork holder in the bottom I believe. I may have kept coins in him (her?), but I think mostly I just liked it.
My “real” bank was a small safe someone gave me. Loren and I were each given one and I used mine for many years, tucking away both bills and coins. Later in life I adopted the habit of keeping bills in my dresser drawer – Loren was fond of the sticking it in old purses method of storage. We had proper savings accounts as kids too.
I also remember Christmas Clubs – does anyone else? A small amount would be deducted throughout the calendar year and put into an interest bearing savings account. Those must have been an administrative nightmare for banks, but it got people into the bank and to create savings accounts I guess. A quick search tells me that there are still a few that do it, although of course now it is an automatic deduct from your account, not the charming little passbooks of years ago.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Yesterday, the first part of this tale was devoted largely to the downtown commercial area near the town I grew up in, Red Bank, New Jersey. Now close enough to mom’s house that I can run there, I toured it a bit the other morning, noting the changes since I lived there and also its nascent resurgence since the pandemic. (That post can be found here.)
Today I pick up my story on Friday morning, having been promised a trip to Edie’s Luncheonette for a breakfast post-run. A friend from high school was visiting from the west coast and staying with a friend. The three of us made a plan to have a late breakfast there.
Edie’s is notable to me because it was one of my father’s regular haunts post-retirement. (I touched on Edie’s in a previous post which can be found here.) For some reason Dad staked out Edie’s as his own and for years would eat there, usually breakfast sometimes lunch, several times a week. Weirdly, I had never set foot inside before this Friday morning. Timing was always wrong when I visited my parents back when Dad was still driving and also it seemed like his own hangout. It is close enough to Mom’s house now that I could run there, but that would mean walking home after eating and as someone who is always looking to maximize my running miles, running to breakfast generally doesn’t work for me. (It would be a short run or a long-ish walk.)
However, this little sliver of an establishment which has always piqued my interest is perched on an equally tiny smidge of property, hovering at the edge of a ferociously busy street. The tiny triangle of property it sits on merges with an equally busy street just below. It has three impossibly small parking spots in front which you may not use – there are multiple, dire towing declarations. As a result, cars tuck themselves creatively in all manners of illegal spots all around and can be found there all day most days. We parked in front of someone’s house a block away and made our way across the treacherous street.
The little one-room cottage restaurant has houses to one side and behind it, but on the other side is a church and a very old cemetery. A brick wall protects it from the traffic pounding around it – the cemetery is the tip of the V where traffic merges. It is all a very strange intersection of many things, which I have considered as I drove by over many decades. It would seem that the Edie’s building, one of the oldest in the town of Little Silver, dates back to 1849, starting life as a housing for a tenant farmer, but it is better known for its stint as a general store and post office starting in 1889. In 1928 it begins to morph into a grocery store and then a sandwich counter, and found its true calling as a restaurant in 1970 when it more or less arrived in its current incarnation. (An interesting detailed history of the building and restaurant can be read on their website here.)
Some original details can be found inside, such as a built in craftsman style sideboard in front of the kitchen which fascinated me. Edie’s has a long menu, mostly many variations on omelets, burgers and sandwiches – you can get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich there, or a cup or bowl of daily soup. The fact that you can order Pop-tarts made me laugh. Nothing fancy folks, just the basics.
Mom reminded me that Dad’s order included two eggs over medium and rye toast. I’m sure it also included bacon and knowing the man I suspect he wasn’t entirely a stranger to the french fries. I settled on the eggs, rye toast and cottage fries in his honor. I left the bacon to my friend Suzanne, despite sentiment I am a vegetarian. She had bacon with a “small” stack of three enormous pancakes that looked righteous indeed. Randy split the fries with me and ordered the same eggs. I will say, the simple order of eggs was done to perfection.
We jammed ourselves into the small room and made our way to seats at the counter. There are only a few tables that can accommodate more than two people and since it was a holiday weekday the place was at close to full tilt. Our perch was a good one though and I got to view the action behind the counter and there was plenty of hustle. I worked a counter like this back in high school and it was a hard job that I remember fondly.
All too soon, breakfast had come to an end and Edie’s had emptied out until the lunch rush. I snapped a final picture and out the door to we went, to wind our way back across Rumson Road.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a Joy of Jersey post. This week I headed down for my regular visit with mom a bit off schedule as we hosted a large dinner at the hall on Friday. We have Election Day off and, as Kim and I had discharged our civic duty over the weekend, I headed down to her on Tuesday afternoon.
It was my last shot at seeing some beautiful changing leaves as I made my daily morning run. I was running shorter distances last year, and I realized I had also missed much of the changing leaves as mom was in the hospital this time last year. (A post about that time can be found here.) That was about the time I changed to a regular schedule of being in Jersey, generally every other week for several days. Anyway, the foliage did not disappoint and I had pretty runs each of the days I was there.
A good friend, fellow Jersey-ite of my youth, was also going to be visiting while I was there this week. In honor of and in advance of Randy’s visit, I turned my first run to the south to and through the small downtown area nearby called Red Bank. A lovely small commercial area, it was where we kids went to feel grown up. It wasn’t really where we went to get into trouble – there is a beach town in the other direction called Sea Bright which was full of bars which was designated for that (posts about that town can be found here and here), Red Bank, on the other hand, is where you shopped and ate out.
The bones of Red Bank have remained the same while the denizens have come and gone. Jack’s Record Shop lived on the opposite side of the street in my youth and had a head shop in back – in the days before I knew what that was. It now occupies a spot near where a huge hardware store called Prown’s was. I can still smell the specific dust and fertilizer odor of that store. (They are still in business, but have moved to another location. In fact, they just installed a new backdoor for our garage at Mom’s.) The Woolworth’s is gone as is the Newberry’s, and the Steinbach’s department store, but there is still a coffee shop on the edge of town which is either the most recent incarnation of one of my youth, or a newer version. (It sported wax fruit in the window and my mother used to say, Never eat in a place with wax fruit in the window. It was a good point, but I have frequently eaten in such establishments and lived to tell the tale.)
There was a large photography shop called Dorn’s which lasted into my adulthood, but eventually fell prey to digital photography. I did find this new photo store below which is good news if I eventually start making early process photos again at mom’s. I wrote recently about another family business in time gone-by called Kislan’s – it took care of all of our athletic needs, which were admittedly less diverse in those days. (That post is here if you are interested in the full NJ roundup.) Randy and I spent many hours of our youth, together and separately, in the town of Red Bank. Whether it was pancakes at the diner in the middle of the night, running errands or wandering the small shops on the side streets.
Wednesday and Thursday passed in a blur of work this week, cramming five days of work into three. I staked out time to spend with mom over morning coffee, lunch and tried to end the work day at a reasonable time. Randy showed up in the evening on Thursday and mom got a kick out of seeing him for the first time in decades. Despite sporting a mask for her benefit, mom declared him unchanged.
Along with our friend Suzanne, we had dinner at a restaurant which probably deserves its own post, Tavolo Pronto. This epic establishment is, in my opinion, one of the best things to hit Monmouth County in years. Their sandwiches have carried my through long dark days spent in the hospital and hospice with dad, and now it is my favorite lunch spot during my stints there. Their singular fare will stay linked in my mind with these years of my life, the adult years spent visiting Jersey, and it has comforted me during some bleak times.
Friday, Veteran’s Day, was another day off and a plan was cooked up to have breakfast at Edie’s, another local eatery that morning. Suzanne and I are early risers, but Randy hoped to sleep in a bit. This meant I could get a run in, have a coffee with mom and head over for a rare treat. Edie’s was my dad’s territory and favorite breakfast locale. He adopted it late in life and somehow he and I never ate there. The plan was set! Tomorrow, in the second part of this Jersey tribute, I will take you to that surprisingly historic spot which also has great personal significance.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am fulfilling yesterday’s promise of more photos to come with another hotsy totsy postcard which also entered into the Pictorama collection this week. My singular passion for this rarified specimen of photo postcards has been well documented and is in fact responsible for this blog which subsequently burgeoned into a much larger pastime. I contend that I may have the largest collection of these photos, but since I rarely meet anyone with even one (unless they are selling it) may claim goes largely uncontested. Most, but not all, have made appearances here on Pictorama.
I know there are other folks who own some Felix cards in the world because I occasionally to my horror (and admittedly not often), lose an auction for one. My fondness for these photos has inspired some purchases of what I think of as subcategories – people posing on enormous black cat “chairs” and then the random posing with or on other cartoon characters including (usually small) Mickeys or in one case atop Barney Google’s horse Spark Plug. (That post can be found here.) Some are tintypes, but most are photo postcards. In general, the thrust of individuals recording their madcap day at seaside or an amusement pier of some sort appeals to me.
This family certainly defies the definition of madcap or even happy go-lucky. They are depicted in somewhat mugwamp fashion, be-hatted, bundled and all except for the little nipper on the end, engaged in industrious forms of leisure if there is such a thing – reading and knitting or sewing as far as I can tell. (Dad has a sheepish grin – perhaps the whole thing was his idea.) Clearly it was not one of Margate’s sunnier and warmer days, the third woman has an umbrella tucked under her feet which is easy to miss. A stray hat (it looks a bit large but probably belongs to the little girl) is in the foreground. The little girl’s shoes are tucked between mom and dad in the sand.
The card is marked just Margate in pencil on the back, but it was never mailed and nothing else is written on it, somehow these folks were talked into a photo with Felix. Margate, a long-standing seaside destination, is the locale of many of my photos. I wrote about its history once here. (And among the other times I have had posts of postcards from there are examples here and here and one from earlier this year with Felix here.)
As posing Felix-es go, he is a smallish model, only coming up to the waist of the little girl who is standing behind him. Upon close inspection he sports both a small bow on his left shoulder and a large button in his ear which I will hazard a guess says Chad Valley – it is the first time I have seen the button in the ear of one of these posing Felix toys and now I am wondering if I can find it on others. I have a sort of 18 inch model that has one – the first in my collection to still have it.
I must say, as backdrops go the photographer didn’t have much to work with here – the patch of sand and unromantic wall behind them. They could be anywhere. He has centered them however and consciously or not, they make up a good photo, their hats lining up and the little girl on the end just a bit taller than the seated adults. Something about the white stockings and shoes on the third woman adds something to the effect. If their repose was greater they might be the Whistler’s Mothers of Margate, but instead there is that nagging sense of diligence. Their Sunday afternoon in the parlor transported to the beach briefly.
Felix remains jolly in the face of their dour and somewhat gloomy affects. He rolls his eyes a bit maniacally, looking up coincidentally toward the little girl – she is his potential partner in crime, and they are in it together to get this party started and have some fun! One arm (paw?) up, he’s ready to lead the way. Meanwhile, he is at the beginning of a long day of posing, cheerfully, with an array of folks on the beach in Margate, some more fun than others, waving to me a hundred or so years later.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It’s a photo finish weekend here at Pictorama, kicking off with this card that wandered in the door just yesterday from Europe. The card seems to have been and sent in Belgium. It is hard to read the postmark, but it might read 1919 which seems about right.
This card was sent to Madeleine as written in fancy script shown on the back. It was sent to Mademoiselle Simoine (?) in Mons, Belgium. Oh, lucky Madeleine! What a wonderful card.
This cat and dog are perfectly matched in size if not spirit – the dog is sort of stealing this show. It’s a professionally produced photo card, with an early form of hand tinting – the pink cast to the bow and a lush green background play off each other nicely, perhaps happy accident as much as a deft hand and keen eye.
Kitty has a pretty white face and chest, lovely striped coat, but is a bit inanimate. Doggie, a little devilish, has a great collar with tiny bells attached. You will hear this boy coming! He is so very shiny with a nice black coat, although he blends almost entirely into the background at first, eyes glimmering, huge, pointy ears. These bon pals like each other at least enough to sit on this (Belgian) lace tablecloth long enough to be immortalized here.
Kit here reminds me of the stray Mom adopted about a year ago, Stormy. Some of you followed her early story as she adjusted to indoor life at Mom’s house, amongst the other kitties. (You can find posts about Stormy’s early entry to the Jersey branch of the Butler clan here and here for starters.)
Stormy is an odd cat. She came to the back door as a tiny, starved kitten. She waltzed happily into a carrier when we trapped her – sort of like, what took you guys so long? We tried to find her a home, but like many before her, she had come to stay with the Butlers. The first weeks were spent in a huge dog cage where she and the other cats could interact, but she could recover her strength. Stormy liked to be petted and even brushed, which made us think she had a home, however briefly. Her pointy face does make us think she was born feral however and these two warring factions, plus her period outside, make her a bit of a mystery.
Over time she emerged from the cage and became part of the cat pack at Mom’s. I call her the ghost cat however as she only seems to emerge late at night. She and one of the other cats tussle and play hard – I sometimes wake to the sound of their tumbles and racing around – but I rarely catch sight of her.
Stormy has figured out that Mom is largely immobile in her chair and evidently now has her evening nap in the chair next to her. Watching her with big gold eyes. Evidently, Stormy is the Queen of Cats late at night, having a late meal, chasing her tail and romping around. By day it is as if she does not exist. It isn’t a house with many hiding places so I have no idea where she goes. Occasionally she streaks across my path, but rarely. Updates on her have stalled as photos are minimal as are actual first hand interactions.
Miss Stormy has favorites amongst Mom’s caregivers. Like everyone, she likes Winsome best and will perk up an occasionally make an entrance (briefly) when she hears her in the early evening. Despite Stormy’s early days with us, no one can get near her to pet her now – she melts away. Like all cats who chose us, mysteriously electing us as their people, we’ll never know the full tale behind her early life. However, like many before her, she lives with Mom now and is quietly in command of her nocturnal domain.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: For someone who collects black cats a surprisingly small part of my collection is devoted to Halloween material, although certainly some has found its way in. (Former posts have shared Halloween items here, here and here for starters.)
I do love a good paper mache pumpkin or black cat lantern, and I can see a few more finding their way into the house. I remember the first time I saw the pumpkins was at a store in Cold Spring, New York and they had a load of them. The vintage decorations were amazing, but were way more than I could afford at the time and I was just agog. I don’t think I bought my first lantern until a few years ago, on Instagram, this nice cat one below.
I don’t even remember where I purchased this little guy I am sharing today who is one of the few persistent Halloween decorations up in the house. I don’t think it was eBay, although I could be wrong. I think he may have come into my possession before eBay and probably at a flea market.
His tail, now gone, seems to have been a victim of persistent pulling over the years, and his back is marked with the residue of scotch taping. He has a bit of ancient string on his head where he hung from. I think the very first year I moved into this apartment I may have put him on the door, but now he resides comfortably on a shelf, tucked near yesterday’s feature coincidentally, my Oswald Rabbit. There are a few others scattered around him, a good cardboard black cat head or two.
Jumping Kitty is a typical thin cardboard and I would say he might date back to the ’40’s or 50’s, at least in terms of design which may have continued to be produced over time. I have always liked his toothy smile and the slightly evil twinkle in his eyes. He shows us his claw paws and there is even an indication of fluffy fur. There is no factory mark on him, but I would guess he is a domestic product. For me he has a look of just the right period for Halloween decorations.
My childhood ran mostly to a slapdash sort of holiday decorating. We might carve the occasional pumpkin, there was a Christmas tree (artificial – Mom was against the killing of live trees), and there might have been this or that handed down in the family that came out at the holidays, but really Mom had three kids and a husband who traveled constantly for work, and she wasn’t devoting a lot of time or energy to it. We routinely carved pumpkins, dyed Easter eggs and made gingerbread cookies, more as activities to occupy us than any actual interest in the holidays.
I have a bit of an itch to decorate, but NY studio apartment living doesn’t afford many opportunities. I have let go of even putting up a small Christmas tree (mostly for the cats who like to claim it in a variety of ways, sitting under or climbing, eating things off of it, etc.) years ago as just too hard to negotiate in our space. Like my mom I guess I too don’t really have the time or patience.
I thought I would be at my Mom’s house for Halloween this year and was looking forward to it until my schedule morphed. She lives in the sort of ideal suburban neighborhood, within walking distance of three schools, made up of medium-sized, well tended homes. A picture perfect for kids to trick or treat in. I would like to see what the costumes look like these days and would have enjoyed handing out treats.
For those of you who follow my running journal on Instagram you know that it is full of cul de sacs and dead end streets where kids play unimpeded. The yards are a treat with seasonal decorations changing on cue. Those will morph briefly to Thanksgiving and of course large displays for Christmas. Maybe this will be the year to put up a tree again here in the apartment. I will let you Pictorama readers know.
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: A new friendship with a reader who is a fellow collector has lead to a cheerful volley of toy conversation via email recently which I have quite enjoyed. His collection runs broad and deep and some of the items he has shared photos of fascinate and entice! He recently shared photos of a few groups of rarified early character toys which were amazing. Among them a few examples of our friend Oswald rabbit which are from a different period from mine which turned my attention to cartoon rabbits today.
As you can see, my fellow is in very rough shape indeed. Many years ago I bought him on eBay where he was poorly posted and I acquired him for very little. I don’t generally purchase a lot of toys in a bad state as I don’t think I am the person to best figure out getting them repaired, but occasionally one comes over the transom and I cannot resist. (In the early years of Pictorama I wrote about visiting an elderly man who repaired toys on Lexington Avenue near Bloomingdales. That odd tale can be read here.)
He is my only example of this erstwhile character created by Walt Disney. As the story goes, Disney lost the rights to this his first popular character in a deal with Universal gone wrong. Disney limped off and made history creating Mickey Mouse and Oswald faded into obscurity
About 28 Oswald cartoons were made and over time disappeared from the public and most living memory. Several years ago a disk was issued with a number of the cartoons which are great. An example can be seen below.
My Oswald has his name and Universal Pictures emblazoned on his chest. I found a listing online that says he was made in 1930. He has a key in his back and would have wound up to walk side to side. The key in mine is long frozen in place and the mechanism seized up, but I’m sure he was quite jolly indeed. (Below is a fellow whose photo I found online who is clearly survived the years in better shape.) I love his little shoes complete with laces! If you look carefully you can see this is a slightly different version of Oswald with a larger nose and clothes made of flannel instead of cotton. (There is some writing on either side of his grin that doesn’t exist on mine as well.)
I think the overall shredding and wear on mine is beyond repair although my collector conversations have made me consider repairs on some of my toys, most notable a Kiko the Kangaroo who came to me in poor shape and has continued to lose ground over time. Kiko, a Terrytoons character, never enjoyed the widespread popularity of Oswald. He made his debut in 1936 with good ole Farmer Alfalfa and last only a year. With the help of my new toy correspondent I am in touch with someone in Canada who may be able to make some repairs and stabilize him. I would like to get him in better shape. I promise you a future post on him, the before and after, once complete.
Meanwhile, I promised a photo of Oswald to my new friend and so in taking him out for a turn today I thought I would share him to my Pictorama readers too, beat up although he is. My Oswald sits on a somewhat remote shelf where he is left largely in peace, spending his days with a Dean’s Rag Pluto and Flip the Frog. This volley of emails has me thinking rabbits however and I have long wanted an example of the Dean’s Rag version so stay tuned and see what time might turn up!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It’s a family photo day today. This photo of my father’s mother, Gertrude (Gertie or most frequently Tootsie) Butler, turned up in a folder where I must have tucked it when retrieving things from my mom’s house. This is not a photo that I remember being around the house or in any albums, which we had aplenty and looked at frequently. Both the age of the photo and her appearance makes me think it is fairly early, maybe the 1950’s. Her face is fuller than I remember it being for the brief time I knew her when I was a small child. It is sealed in a plastic cover and not marked. If I had to guess I would say it was a wallet photo carried by my father.
She always wore her hair in this style, done several times a week at a local salon. By the time I knew her it was of course also carefully dyed. I don’t remember any stray bits of gray. (What would she have made of my all gray hair I wonder?) She was small of stature, about five foot, and the hair gave her several inches on that. By the time I knew her she did not wear high heels, although she was always shod in beautiful shoes. I assume however that heels were in her past as she was always very fashionable.
My Grandma Butler was always impeccably dressed, her clothes purchased when she bought for the store I am told. I am unable to imagine her in trousers; it was always a dress, usually of a beautiful brocade fabric. (My mother said she once ventured into red velvet trousers, but my grandfather vetoed them.) The bit of fur on her collar in this photo reminds me that she was no stranger to fur and wore a long mink in winter.
She worked (hard) in the family store six days a week on that, her one day off, she would cook a large meal for us. The menu had very little variation and was somewhat exotic and therefore suspect to my tiny tot taste. It was generally made up of a roasted chicken, her split pea vegetable soup (hers made with chicken stock, I intend to recreate a vegetarian version for a future post) or maybe matzoh ball soup, and often something like a noodle kugel. (I hated even the smell of the noodle kugel which for those of you who don’t know is an eggy, sweet noodle dish. Hers was the only I have ever encountered, but looking at it I don’t think I have changed my mind in subsequent decades.) Bread was either what they would call Jewish rye or a black bread. Dessert was almost always a marble cake, pound cake with a swirl of chocolate.
I cannot imagine she went to the store (Butler Dry Goods in Westchester, NY) less well assembled than she was for those Sunday lunches. She consistently wore bright red lipstick and some sort of eye and brow liner. Tootsie wore earrings, always clips, as her ears were not pierced and, as the person who inherited much of her (almost entirely costume and massive collection of) jewelry she did not favor screwbacks.
According to my mother, Grandma Butler really ran the store and kept the books. Like my grandfather she was a Russian immigrant arriving here even younger than him, right after WWI. She came with her sisters, Jennie and Lily. Jennie was the oldest and my grandmother the youngest – their mother died in childbirth with my grandmother. There were two boys also somewhere in the middle, Moe and Saul. My grandmother had been raised by a wet nurse and did even not know her father when he came to pick her up with a new stepmother, and take her to the United States. Rosensweig was their maiden name. I don’t know what her father did, but that side of the family dealt first in junk and antiques and eventually art.
My mother was very fond of her and I believe the feeling was mutual, despite the fact that my green-eyed and freckled mother, was of an ethnic mix that did not include Eastern Europe or being Jewish, which caused some initial consternation.
It is a bit odd to me that her nickname was Tootsie. In retrospect the idea of calling this formidable woman Toots or Tootsie amazes me. As I child I wasn’t familiar with the nickname and the name had an odd gravitas in my young mind. Meanwhile, my sister and I were Lori and Pammy to her (and no one else) and my father Ellie – mom was already Betty so no change there. I cannot remember what she called my brother who was very young when she died, but I will gamble on Eddie.
I share her love of clothing, jewelry and most of all of antiques. My father often said she would have gotten a kick out of my collecting habits (which have grown exponentially even since he knew it). She haunted the auction houses and their house in Westchester was chock full of oriental rugs (huge ones that were meant for hotel lobbies), silver, tables, cabinets, couches and chairs. Some inherited remnants of the furniture are in my room in the New Jersey house, a tapestry rolled up in the room I work in, along with a black japanned bookcase. One of the immense carpets is also stored in an upstairs bedroom.
Gertie died from an infection as a result of a cataract operation – hard to believe now that it is a procedure done in a doctor’s office which requires a commitment of a few hours, but at the time required a hospital stay. She was relatively young, in her early seventies, and still very vital.
In general I resemble my mother’s side of the family more, but one day in my twenties I caught my father unawares sporting bright red lipstick and I guess for a moment looked just like her. At five feet nine inches and with my hair shorn short at the time I couldn’t see it, but it was a lovely compliment from him I have never forgotten.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’m realizing that one of the signs of being back in the office and our hall more often is my aching back. Immediately preceding lockdown in March of ’20 I was routinely seeing an acupuncturist to relieve the lower back pain which was climbing down my leg and I was attributing to long hours in concert hall seats, airplanes and office chairs.
Over time at home, with a lousy “temporary” office, the back pain grew worse until I finally analyzed my computer set up and chair, added an external keyboard and a lift to the monitor as well as a carefully chosen chair, which I purchased after much reading and consideration. In addition, instead of my weight lifting regime as my only exercise, I began running and that made a dramatic difference too.
My father’s back pain was a part of family life so I am no stranger to the concept. Dad was about 6’4″ and his career as a news cameraman meant he spent hours with heavy equipment on his shoulder (one ending up considerably lower than the other later in life) and straining his back. In addition, he drove for hours on end for domestic stories, and of course airplane travel when they went that route wasn’t much kinder. As a result my father’s mercurial back would go out reaching for a salt shaker at dinner or even sneezing, leaving him in bed or on one dreadful occasion, on the bedroom floor.
There was the summer he was on the rigging of a tall ship in Newport for work (perhaps in 1976 as part of the Bicentennial) when his back went out. It was evidently a painful and prolonged trip getting both him and his equipment down in one piece. His colleagues then packed him in a car with pillows all around to enable him to drive the straight five hours or so back home in New Jersey. He spent the rest of the summer recovering, mostly in an ancient rocker which now sits in my apartment. At the time it seemed like the longest period he had ever been home with us which was probably true.
So I am no stranger to back pain, although I suppose if it came right down to it mine is a bit different than his which seemed to have been linked to discs that were being crushed by weight slowly over time. I have touched on my own psoriatic arthritis and exercise (a post can be found here) and at least some of my back pain is attributable to the inexorable advance of that disease, which expressed itself first in my lower back. And a recent hiccup with my longstanding meds (no one needs to hear an insurance company rant from me) has also exacerbated the problem again.
But one of the culprits is a byproduct of our return to the office (hybrid, three days a week) and sitting in lousy chairs. I realize now that my desk set up there is also a bit jerry-rigged, the chair (even with a back cushion added) is less than desirable and my feet at an odd angle. Add to that conference room chairs which seem to be down a notch from the one in my office and we have the recipe for worsening if not instigating said back pain. A long Board meeting on Zoom from there on Wednesday seems to have pushed me over the edge this week. Ironically now the home office is the better set up.
I have always felt that the weird part of back pain is that there is a subconscious preference for maintaining the postures that in reality make it worse and perhaps helped to cause it. Back pain does not make me want to be at a standing desk for example. It makes me want to sit on my couch or curl up on the bed – neither exactly great for back pain. It makes me want to not move, when exercise and movement is the best thing to alleviate it.
So I will start to fight back today. It is a sunny crisp fall morning and I will be out for a run shortly and perhaps that and stretching before and after will start me on the path to recovery. (The stiffness and pain has dampened my desire to run this week, although I was out on Monday.) Meanwhile, I will see what I can do about improving my work office with some implements to arrange me in a better position. Not much I can do about the conference room or concert hall seats, but I will hope that this combined with a resolution around my meds and that issue, will tip the scales back in my favor. I will let you know.