Fine Print

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is a Felix photo post only in the most technical sense. If you look carefully at the somewhat riotous print of the child’s outfit, you’ll discover scores of Felix-es marching up and down it, his tail in the ? and walking/thinking positions alt. I had high hopes that the little tin pail would be the Felix toffy one I have (and which I wrote about in a post which can be found here: Score), but sadly it is a non-Felix design. I am not sure about the stick the little boy is holding – my thought is that it is either a sort of carnival cane or a toy fishing pole? This kid was put in his most festive bib and tucker for this photo.

Detail of Felix-y fabric.

Mom and Dad are not exactly in beach attire, despite being perched on folding wooden beach chairs of their day. Dad has a full three piece suit and bow-tie and Mom in a dressy blouse with a scarf and skirt. All three are wearing industrial strength socks/stockings and heavy shoes that seem the antithesis of beach leisure wear, certainly by our standards today. Did they leave the photo studio and head down to the boardwalk? I think it is likely – the British of the period often seem to be in full holiday attire when visiting their beaches at this time.

The backdrop behind them is a fairly riotous beach backdrop of bathers and revelers, a large building I am guessing is a hotel, hovers over all. An arcade and boardwalk is shown, forever frozen in a painting depicting folks sailing and enjoying the beachy shore. This image is a photo postcard, although printed on flimsier stock than usual, nothing is written on it and it was never mailed, although much handled over the years.

The back of the card, which is frankly filthy, has some faded type which (when examined with magnified) appears to state, Oydes Photo Studios 50 Strand WC 20 High Street Southend Great Yarmouth & Branches. Not surprisingly, I guess, this turned up nothing much when I searched, except to see a (very) few photos of the thriving beach resort this once was during this period, with a sort of Atlantic City feel to it.

A period postcard showing the bathing pool at Great Yarmouth is shown below. It is enormous! While I think maybe some of the City pools here in the five boroughs of New York might be this large, I have never been in one or seen one in person this big. I wonder if it was filled with sea water rather than fresh?

Not unlike Atlantic City, this shore town also seems to have ultimately been turned over to casinos, and little of its boardwalk and arcade seem to have survived to the present day, at least from what I can find.

In the many photographs I have purchased and written about I am often struck by strong family resemblances among those posed. This is remarkably not the case here – I wonder if this is perhaps someone else’s child. They are happily posed, regardless of familial status.

As is frequently the case, these beachside photos (others for future posts are awaiting your enjoyment), bring me back to the seaside town where I grew up and long summer afternoons and evenings there, trying to win at pinball, whack-a-mole and other equally sophisticated games. The boardwalk at places like Long Branch and Asbury Park were already in decline by the time I was old enough to enjoy them – the one in Long Branch eventually burning down, maybe when I was in college or shortly after. I am sorry to report that there are no known photos of me at the Pier, perhaps because we usually went at night. (It was also a time which required film and we didn’t constantly take photos with our phones.) I knew I was catching the tail end of some kind of history even then though, and enjoyed every cotton candy filled minute of it.

Team Sports

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased this 5″x7″ photo of a basketball holding girl awhile back and have been giving her a lot of thought. I like the image – she is solid, muscled, intent. Her uniform is antique, but there is something that remains practical and current about it. Those shoes look uncomfortable to me – almost like playing in your socks really. However, the belted shorts and shirt are trim and they appeal to me. The South where on her shirt is lost to us now, although maybe somewhere a local would know immediately. There is no information on the back of this photograph however. It appears to have been well-preserved, most likely in a frame.

This card was sold to me by a photo dealer in, I believe, Ohio. He actually posted that he was at a flea market the other day and I was very envious. (I am generally always envious of people who are at flea markets when I am not, but in pandemic Manhattan it combines some additional elements I am missing and craving these days. It sounded heavenly.)

Our basketball player is in a professional photo studio with a somewhat formal backdrop for our athlete. I cannot help but wonder if the entire team had their photos taken this way, one at a time, and someday I could perhaps come across some of the others. This sort of thing happens if you do this photo collecting thing long enough. In fact, I just bought a photo postcard taken in the same spot as another that I plan to write about in the next post or so – future post! However, since she in her athlete’s get up is a bit of an exception to my collecting tendencies and searching, so it seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, I find her to be unexpectedly compelling. She has a look of intensity about her, eyes focused on a goal we cannot see. Game on with her I’d say.

Pictorama readers probably know from past posts that I never played sports or worked out as a kid, teen or even young adult. I think if I had I would have been drawn more to individual sports rather than team ones, in part because I like the challenge of improving against myself, and also because although I wasn’t a shy kid, I wasn’t social enough to pursue group activities, especially athletic ones.

Having said that, as an adult there are times when I wish had pursued that experience. I have often thought that team sports probably prepare you well for the sort of teamwork adult work-life demands. When I interviewed with Wynton Marsalis for my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center he used a lot of sports metaphors, football I believe, which frankly left me utterly confused. What I don’t know about football is pretty much everything there is to know. I can’t say that at the time it made me feel like the job would be an especially good fit.

I got over it and now, three years later, I like his stories about the basketball and football games of his high school years. He tells a good story when making a point. Jazz is obviously another frequently used metaphor, but I have grown fond of the sports ones. Mostly these stories boil down things like setting your goals high – beyond what is needed to win; even if you know you are going to take a beating you have to go at it the best you can full on; and even if you are winning you have to stay focused and finish strong. There’s one guy in Wynton’s tales (Kim would say, one of Nature’s noblemen), who lives in my imagination now – bigger and more agile than the rest of them, he did his best to lead their team to the occasional victory, but more often kept them from goofing off or slowing down when the odds were against them.

Clearly our new world order currently requires employing every skill acquired over decades in the workplace and elsewhere: managing a team which is now scattered all over the country and who are wrestling with their own myriad of personal and home problems, most of us working out of tiny New York apartments where we are housed with our families, a few living in basement in their parent’s home, some folks dealing inevitably and terribly with illness and death. It is time to be a good team player and invest in teamwork across the organization, finding ways to support each other. Everyone is fighting similar battles regardless of industry I am sure. I can’t help but think I might be better equipped to manage now if I had been on some of those teams growing up. However, I can borrow Wynton’s lore – after all that’s what the stories are for.

VIM

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Something about the composition of this photo, and the women in their wonderful hats, made me grab it. This was purchased, like many recent photographs, during what I think of as the lightening rounds of sales, mostly on Instagram. (I have written about these a bit recently, highlighting purchases from @missmollysantiques in a post here and here.)

Upon reflection I wonder if this is the sort of thrill my paternal grandmother got from her somewhat compulsive visiting of auctions. It is known to have been her hobby to haunt the Manhattan auction houses of her day, buying up gorgeous enormous Turkish carpets that originally were meant for hotels, heavily gold-leafed mirrors and formal furniture from an earlier time. Those items would eventually make their way to the house where I grew up, existing in a strange contrast with our otherwise casual life of kids, cats and beach.

While I don’t have the additional complexity of bidding and deciding the ceiling of what I will pay, there is just a short moment of viewing the image before claiming it. Some sales give advanced warning (I will be keeping an eye out for one by @wherethewillowsgrow later today) and others just appear without warning at odd times.

Today’s image comes from the buy I did from an online sale held by dealers who were missing the economic boost of the enormous, in-person, quarterly Brimfield flea market multi-day fiesta. The buying was (somewhat) less frenzied. This was the seller I purchased my glorious snapshot of Lucy the Elephant Hotel from and which can be found here. There was an additional shot of these ladies which included a truck (presumably a VIM), but it didn’t have as much charm and so I only purchased this one. I regret that a bit as I write that now.

I wonder if these could have been employees of VIM Motor Trucks. (If you look carefully, there’s a man and a boy to the back of the group.) VIM Motor Trucks, under that name, was only in business between 1915 and 1921. Based on the women’s clothing I would lean toward the earlier part of the run. Women were entering the realm of office work at about that time – it is pure speculation but possible.

VIM was a Philadelphia company which made the sort of small delivery trucks that would have been used by farmers, lumberyards and those having like hauling needs. It had a brief meteoric rise and then, with no explanation I could find, it largely dissolved and the company was sold to the Standard Steel Car Company which itself disappeared not many years later. Perhaps it was the very nature of commerce that was changing and the small business was already giving way to larger enterprises. That span of years is a fascinating one in our country’s history – the years leading up to 1918 when war and influenza catch up with a run that seem to have spawned endless creativity and inventiveness.

I share an ad for VIM and a photo of the badge that graced the trucks below. The ad seeks to illustrate the necessary difference between the brutal strength of the VIM truck, making it a better choice for a commercial vehicle – and unlike pleasure cars with their delicate electric starter and other effeminate fittings the sturdy VIM with its abnormal mechanical safety factors…The emblem shows their truck versus a horse drawn cart – the cart only covering a 5 mile radius to the truck’s 20.

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The VIM sign contributed to my decision to purchase this photo, as well as the friendly and nicely attired group in front of it. The women are fashionably, if practically, dressed for a photo on what appears to be a nice, sunny day. The woman closest to us (with the large hat) is looking away from the camera, probably at someone we cannot see. It’s a pretty spring day, VIM Motors is prosperous and the future rolls out ahead of them.

 

The Wolf

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Pictorama readers may know that after months of Covid inflicted waiting, I recently turned our 600 square feet upside down and had a wall of bookcases and cabinets installed. If you live in one smallish room, such a project is pretty much a total renovation of the space and requires packing up about 85% of your possessions and then redistributing them. Once I have completed the unpacking process I will treat you to a bit of a tour of the shelves – toys newly installed. While I had my moments of extreme concern (What have I done?) in the end I am pleased with the results.

One of the byproducts of this kind of adventure is things you had forgotten about turning up. We purchased this photo, now many years ago, as part of a series of buys on eBay as a photo morgue was being sold by piece. We stumbled on the sale a bit of a ways into it or we probably would have bought even more, but this was one of the earlier buys, purchased just for its weird beauty. We framed it up and I think it did a stint on the wall before a reconfiguration moved it to our own photo morgue that (until recently) lived on my desk.

This photo is a lovely still from a 1919 Vitagraph film called The Wolf, based on a play of the Canadian woods by Eugene Walter. (That information is typed on the back of the photo, revealed when I popped it out of its frame.) This play, which appears to have been first produced about 11 years prior to the film, was an early hit in the career of Mr. Walter. I share a few posters for contemporaneous productions which were readily available online.

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Eugene Walter (1874-1941) was a Spanish-American War vet with playwright credits starting in 1901 and ending with screenplay credits stretching to 1936. The sweet spot of his career seems to be seeing his numerous plays turned in early silent films like this one. The brief biography I read makes me think he may have lived fast and died fairly young. He was an athletic sort of man’s man. Left his wife for a New York showgirl he ultimately marries after running off to Mexico.

I think we can assume that my photo shows the stars, Earle Williams and Jane Novak, highlighted by a well directed reflector to get some light on their faces. The speed of the film means the water fall has turned into something more static, like ice, and despite the fact that they are clearly in a real outdoor setting, there is a charming artificiality to this photo which attracts me. It is both a gorgeous natural location and an early film set. I have no idea where it was taken, but it makes me think of spots in upstate New York, or where New Jersey turns to Pennsylvania. The cinematographer on the film was a man named Max Dupont. (His career seems to come on record in the year of this film, 1919, with a heyday of the 1920’s. It ends abruptly in 1932 with the film Mr. Robinson Caruso.)

Kim increased the contrast in this image, bringing out the pails at their feet and showing a bit more information in the darks than you think the photo has from this print. The photo is printed on paper which has become a bit perilously thin over time, corners a bit nibbled. I suspect I framed it upon arrival to help preserve it.

The IMDB film database has a lobby card from this film and below is another, nicer one, from a Wiki database. Other than that I cannot find other stills from the film which appears to be either lost or at a minimum unavailable. You can see it was the same location as my photo.

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Wall space is always at a premium here at Deitch Studio, but I would like to find a spot to get this one back up where we can enjoy it. I think this photo is a bit of a prize item and we are glad to have it see the light of day again.

A Whale of a Good Time

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The fun and jauntiness of this snapshot caught my attention, probably from the teens judging from her dress. The large fish sign she is holding proclaims, Size of the One I Lost at Michigan City. One imagines that it was a photo op you were offered as part of a fishing trip package. I never thought about it, but fishing is a long-standing, major tourist attraction for Michigan, and a quick internet search turns up a thriving charter fishing industry. It makes sense that where there are enormous bodies of water there would be fishing.

Pictorama readers know that I grew up in a fishing family and photographs of family members with particularly enormous fish dot our family albums. I myself have not spent much time fishing – I am a bit too soft-hearted, although I eat fish and I have done my time cleaning them. I take no pleasure in the act of catching them. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, my grandfather repaired outboard motors and he also kept a medium-sized, wooden fishing boat which was call The Imp. In retrospect it was a surprising name for him to have christened his boat with. I must remember to ask my mother where it came from, assuming she knows. Perhaps the way it bobbed around in the water – a bit impishly?

It spent the off-season in a spot next to his workshop garage, up on a wooden frame or trailer, keepin it off the ground and make it easier to work on. (Unlike our sailboat which wintered at a nearby marina.) I remember it seemed huge and high to me as a small child. The Imp was painted gray and I have memories of the seemingly constant scraping of the bottom (barnacles were a concept that fascinated me at a young age) and re-painting, as anyone who has ever owned a wooden boat well knows. Even in the 1960’s wooden fishing boats like her were becoming a bit old fashioned.  I remember she made delightful creaking sounds when you were out on the water with her and there was a smell of the sun-warmed, painted wood which I cannot really describe.

Despite being the daughter of a fisherman, my mother is cursed with a poor inner ear and she can only be on a boat on the calmest days without being seasick. (My mother used to say it could make her seasick to watch our sailboat bob in the backyard during stormy weather and windy days.) Therefore I did not go out fishing with dad and Poppy too often, as I don’t think my mom was entirely comfortable entrusting the small children to them without her own watchful eye. When we did go we wore the bulkiest of life jackets which impeded much actual movement although we certainly would have bobbed like a cork in the water.

Dad was a city boy born and bred, but he was fascinated with fishing and sailing and would go out with my grandfather and others as often as he could. He started a documentary film on it, but for some reason it never got off the ground. (Shooting film in those days was a real expense and editing was a bulky affair.)

As I alluded to yesterday, my grandfather died suddenly and young of a heart attack. The Imp was sold shortly after, with some discussion. I think a boat is a bit like an instrument which is meant to be played – we wouldn’t have gotten her out much, even our sailboat was idle much of the time. Dad continued fishing with other folks, neighbors, on boats or surf casting on the beach. (There was a nearby draw bridge that folks fished from, but I don’t remember my father doing that. I think fishing was more tied up with being on the water or at the beach for him.) Fishing poles were piled around the garage and house, the line getting tangled and caught in everything. Even when he wasn’t fishing his buddies, or my grandfather’s, would bring fresh fish by for us.

Although blue fish does not enjoy much of a good reputation, when grilled with lemon and pepper, fresh off the boat it is a very different affair than that which has been sitting in a fish market where it tends to quickly grow oily and strong. I grew up eating it all summer, along side of Jersey corn – maybe also grilled – and tomatoes from our garden. Blues are big, toothy fish and wrestling them while cleaning them was messy work. Generally in the cleaning was done outside, fish scales sticky and flying everywhere and sticking to me. Our cats in their glory, their noses in a fury of sniffing, as smelly fish guts piled up.

There were other fish too – crabs my sister and I caught in the backyard off our dock which were boiled and tediously cleaned. Scallops in butter and lobster of course, although I think the majority of those were fished a bit north of us. The river inlet I grew up on was known as Oyster Bay because it had at one time been thick with them. Pollution eliminated them, although they re-seeded the bed to some success in later years. Because of pollution my mother steered us away from the practice of eating raw clams, and even steamers, and I didn’t eat mussels until I was an adult.

I cook fish often. As a result of growing up with it I am comfortable working with fish and never really think twice about the nuisance of cleaning a pound of shrimp, and am always surprised by folks who are stymied by it. If we were entertaining guests over this (Covid so we are not) summer my grandmother’s faux bouillabaisse might be in the offing. Well known for being better for sitting overnight, it is a favorite for guests as it then only requires heating. My French food training showed me the difference – hers is more of a thicker Mediterranean-Italian fish stew which I cheerfully favor. I will write about it and lay out the recipe one of these days.

For those of you with access to a grill this summer I urge you to throw some fresh fish and corn on and enjoy it for me. It is one of the pleasure decidedly denied to us city dwellers.

Aim

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For cat lovers I have to apologize that I am continuing my non-cat jag for now. As I am adjusting toys later to redistribute to our new shelves, I am sure I will find some items to take us back to the land of very old toy cats and photos. Today’s post meanders to more memoir than photo as you make your way into it.

This photo came as part of what I now think of as a speed-buy on Instagram. (You are quietly minding your own business drinking coffee, watching an HGTV rerun or writing a blog post when you get a notification – maybe you’d like this photo? And you are off and running for an undisclosed amount of time for a photo sale.)

We have (Kim’s job actually) adjusted the contrast on this photo a bit – I am afraid she is somewhat faded. The photo has long been affixed to this bit of gray cardboard and having been printed on thin paper to begin with, photo and cardboard are definitely merged permanently into one now.

My guess is her shooting riding regalia is her own, however clearly she is mugging for the camera. I like her get-up though – perky little cowboy hat saucily askance, neckerchief, divided skirt for riding. Who wouldn’t enjoy such a get-up? Clearly, she is heavily Annie Oakley influenced. I know absolutely nothing about guns so I cannot venture an educated guess whether she is holding it correctly or just for the camera.

In fact, what I do not know about guns is just about everything about guns. Other than the wooden faux rifle of my drill team days in high school (such a satisfying clank as we thumped them down in unison), I believe I can honestly say I have never held one in my hands. This probably comes down to the fact that there has never been the real need or desire for me to kill anything, and that’s pretty much what guns are around for. I had a nascent interest in shooting a bow and arrow and perhaps might have found target shooting, or even clay pigeon shooting, of interest given the opportunity. it is unlikely, although not impossible, that I will ever find out.

My father kept a few rifles in the house. (These were gifts to my dad from my grandfather. Poppy had hunted and fished his entire life and fed his family during the Depression that way.) Evidently Dad also had a handgun in his dresser drawer, although I have to say I only learned of it as an adult and never saw it, and I have no idea where he acquired it from.

It is only because of these rifles that I have ever even seen ammunition for one, although again, I cannot say for sure that my father ever fired them. He was in the army, during the Korean war, so he knew something about guns. These guns were a sore point between my parents. Despite having come from her own father, my mother has a real hatred of guns (she says she fought with her father since childhood about it), and lobbied for their disposal more or less from the time of acquisition. (Were I to call Mom right now, more than fifty years since the rifles were given to my Dad, and mentioned those guns she’d go off on it for a good five or more minutes.) Dad was a very quiet man and I don’t remember his rebuttals if any, but the guns stayed. They sat behind some things on the mantel of the fireplace.

Now I admit, I inherited stubborn streaks from both my parents. (Meaning that I am a virtual mule of a person when I dig my heels in, my own stubbornness, in evidence since early childhood, is a bit of family lore.) Therefore I can only say the guns were a decades long stalemate between mom and dad. As far as I know those guns were only disposed of when my parents moved about four years ago from my childhood home. I have no idea how, as it isn’t like you can just put them out with the trash.

Mom’s outspoken hatred of guns would probably explain why I, as the granddaughter of a man who hunted and fished his whole life, never so much as fired a gun. The fact that my grandfather died very young, in his fifties and when I was still a small child, contributes to that fact. However, my mother’s dislike of guns extended to toy guns, although I do remember a few coming my way despite her protestations – I had nifty silver toy guns I loved, with holster, that I remember from childhood. They were designed to fire caps, but I was never supplied with those. One or two toy guns may have slipped through to my younger brother, but by then (the early 70’s) it was a bit more acceptable to say you didn’t want your children to have toy guns and as I remember Mom pressed the advantage.

More than being anti-gun my mother is really anti-hunting. As mentioned above, Mom has hated it since childhood and she has dedicated much of the past several decades to actively fighting it. First getting it banned on a nearby island (stray spent ammunition would turn up in our yard which was a bit sobering indeed), but then taking it more broadly, even working on a national level in defense of our waterfowl friends. She has received death threats, by mail and phone, as a result. When I consider my mom, long bent over a walker, being called an eco-terrorist in an editorial in a local paper it kind of blows my mind.

While I have said that I have inherited a double dose of parental stubborn, I am the first to say I have never had my mother’s resolute and singleminded vision of right and wrong. My personality tends to be one of always weighing both sides and trying to see more or less down the middle, or at least acknowledge the value of the other side. I envy her certitude in her beliefs, and am in awe of her continued deep commitment, despite physical and other limitations that plague her as she gets older. Betty wields a mighty computer and telephone I always say. (I have often said that if she was more physically able I would, at best, be bailing her out of jail constantly. Born at a different time she’d be a PETA activist, taking over illegal whaling ships and the like. Without question or hesitation, she likes animals much more than humans.)

Mom can dig her heels in on other things. I can remember when we built the house I grew up in the water company denied us a hook up to the water main, and instructed us to dig a well. Because of our proximity to the river she felt well water would be easily contaminated and she took after the water company with a vengeance, at one point staging my father with his news equipment while she took them to task (the cars had big ABC News stickers on the doors in the day in case anyone was missing the point), making them think the story was of national news interest. We got the water main hook up days later and it immediately became family legend.

Needless to say, I learned early on to pick my battles with my mother, and the potential for tangling with her generally kept us three kids in line, although in all fairness she was generally pretty even tempered with us kids. In fact, I often think about her juggling the three kids, never less than two cats, a large dog, and a home on the river which flooded regularly, mostly on her own while my father traveled around the world constantly for work, and I wonder how Mom managed it with as much sanguine as she did; my own nerves would certainly have frayed I think. She did it with energy to spare – encouraging our friends to constantly traipse in and out of the the house, adopting stray animals and sometimes people too. So watch out world, because Betty’s still on the job.

 

 

Jersey Sights

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo is one I couldn’t resist despite the price. It was one of my purchases on the Brimfield attempt at an online sale. Even with the seller coming down in price it was a bit dear. It is a tiny photo, about 4″x5″ which has the tell tale signs of a life spent in a photo album, indicated when you look at the corners carefully. It is an early photo, on brittle paper, somewhat lacking in detail with a flat cloudless sky. There are no notations on the back, perhaps because everyone knows this is Lucy, the Margate Elephant, residing in the town of that name located near Atlantic City, NJ.

Starting with a brief review of Lucy’s pretty fascinating history; this photo actually shows Lucy in her early incarnation – she was substantially renovated in 1970, a face lift which changed her appearance, and she required further significant repair after being struck by lightening, blackening her tusks, not many years ago. She survived Hurricane Sandy unscathed however which is remarkable considering the damage around her.

Lucy was originally constructed in 1881, by a man named James Lafferty who acquired a patent to make or sell animal shaped buildings for the duration of 17 years according to Wikipedia. Despite having tusks, an indication of a boy elephant, she was nonetheless dubbed Lucy at the dawn of the 20th Century. Sadly Lafferty died broke in 1898, forced to sell Lucy years earlier.

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Lucy was originally constructed as an observation deck for this area south of the then thriving Atlantic City, but later did time serving in turn as restaurant, business office, cottage and tavern. She is 65 feet high and weighs about 90 tons, constructed with wood and iron bars, 22 windows are scattered throughout the structure. Although marketed as a hotel, the building nearby served that purpose, until March of this year when, in spite of her federal landmark status, the old girl became an Airbnb rental by the night.

Sadly the offer seems to have commenced via a listing on the rather fateful dates of March 17, 18 and 19, 2020 (assuming Wikipedia is correct), less than a week before New York’s stay at home order began due to the Corona virus and dampening tourism in both states, needless to say. While I assume that put the kibosh on it, but perhaps some lucky folks have done their shelter in place there.

One can just about make out what must have been the hotel, behind Lucy’s back, left flank in this photo. My guess is this picture was taken off-season, no tourists teeming around her and the wooden skeletal frames of booths of some kind below her have a distinctly out of season look.

I have always wanted to visit Lucy and somehow have never managed it. Despite growing up a Jersey girl, I have only made one or two trips to Atlantic City and few of its environs, over my life. It was a good hour and a half to two hours from where I grew up, probably less as the crow flies, but also with train service that only takes you so close. We lived in a beach community so there was little reason to pursue another. As I may have said before, because my father’s job as a news cameraman required peripatetic worldwide travel, and therefore our summers were spent at home enjoying the very local beach. Family vacations of any kind were almost unheard of and I was spared the sparring and whining so often described by folks my age when reflecting on such family trips.

As we hit mid-summer I am frequently side-swiped by a desire for the endless beach days of my childhood and this year the quarantine and subsequent ambivalence about travel, let alone crowds, have exacerbated it. The traffic and discomfort are long forgotten and a string of fresh mornings with the sun glinting off the water remain, tantalizing. As a non-driver (Kim does not drive either – we are a non-driving couple) it isn’t as easy as jumping in a car and heading there.

Still, a visit to Lucy remains on my eventual to-do list, although I do not dare to dream of something as wildly entertaining as spending the night within. (The idea that she was indeed home to someone at one time fascinates me and I like to imagine that. The incarnation as a tavern appeals as well.) Lucy is an enduring bit of Jersey lore and I will look forward to paying homage to her in person one day.

Temporary Toys

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Lately I have been considering some photos that require looking closely to find Felix. This one I recently purchased on eBay and if we look carefully a lucky little kid has been handed a nice Felix doll to hold. Felix is sporting a huge bow which for me is a bit of a giveaway that he is a prop rather than a beloved object, dragged into the photo. The card is in excellent shape, was never mailed and has nothing written on the back. It came from Great Britain.

While borrowed finery in clothing dates back to early portraits, photos of children have often depended on toys on hand to quiet a child and add something to the proceedings. I have speculated previously that more than once it must have been hard to separate a small child from a prop toy handed over for a photo. (I can assure you I would have put up a fight if they handed me that Felix and then wanted it back – I’ll just say I would!)

Although this youngster clutching Felix looks like s/he is enjoying him or herself I don’t see an argument brewing over its return. (I’m stuck on whether that one is a boy or a girl – I was strongly leaning boy until I looked at the shoes, Mary Janes, and now I am leaning girl. Therefore for the purpose of this post I will say girl.) None of these children look as though they are the type to revolt.

These three are clearly siblings with an unusually strong family resemblance.  Unlike many of the photos I collect, which strongly suggest seaside spur of the moment appeal, this one appears to have been a less fly by night studio than most. It is a photo postcard, but these children appear to be dressed for the occasion, the little girls’ hair curled to perfection and the boy’s also just so. Everything about the set up a tad more upscale and in sort of good taste.

However, the small girl is perched on a splendidly faux rock, as if at the shore, sailboat at her feet – clearly a toy that has been little played with. I don’t know why, but this poor imitation of a boulder appeals to me. The top has been nicely flattened for a seat. The background is a wuzzy, cloudy affair.

Perhaps it was being the daughter of a photographer, but like the cobbler’s children who went without shoes, my family rarely posed for a group photo and other than our requisite school photos and prom pics, never had professional photos taken. Maybe in reality most families don’t – I will let others weigh in on that. Ours was not a sit on Santa’s lap or line up at Sears for a photo family however.

Ultimately, this family did such a nice job with this photo that all these decades later it, with its small Felix doll, has earned a spot in the Pictorama collection.

 

Travel

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: An odd pairing of two recent photo purchases today under the rumination of travel. I am a homebody in many ways, but I have always also had a travel itch. I have been to Tibet (twice) and been lucky to travel all over Europe, to South America, and most recently South Africa for my jobs first at the Metropolitan Museum and then Jazz at Lincoln Center. (Notably the trips to Tibet were on my own, not for work and I have traveled in Europe on my own as well. Meanwhile, I have documented my conflicted feelings about home versus travel in posts that can be found here and the story of one trip gone very wrong here.) The contemplation of certain destinations have always inflamed this itch – Samarkand, Mongolia, Mustang and Vienna (oddly it has eluded me), remain on my to do list.

Dad traveled incessantly for his work as a news cameraman for ABC. He loved it and it is likely that I inherited the itch from him. (I am under the impression that my mother has only been on a plane twice in her life and perhaps her extreme is what counterbalances the desire to hit the road.) My sister Loren had the itch, although less so than me perhaps; she got engaged while traveling to Prague and made numerous trips to the south of Italy in the last few years of her life. I lost count of the number of times she drove across the country though and she exceeded me there. It felt like she would just do it at the drop of a hat. Although my brother has traveled some, he seems to have been largely free of the burning desire. I would say, after Dad, I get the family prize for wanderlust however, especially on an international scale.

Some of the photos I have been looking at and buying lately are a lot more random than my usual ferreting out of cat and toy photos. Many are clearly old photo albums being broken up and sold, the final refuge for such albums once they have outlived their useful family life. Mostly this just makes me a bit sad and although I am very glad if someone wants an old wedding photo or one of a family vacation. Most don’t speak to me but it pleases me if they can find a home. Sifting through the pile of recent purchases these two stood out for different reasons, but got me to thinking about these destinations as I look at them today.

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New Orleans

I love this photo of a couple on holiday in New Orleans. They are radiating a good time holiday here, posed in front of this horse and buggy tour operator, probably preparing to step on or having ended their ride. Happy holiday photos (or day at the seaside or in a photo booth) are a genre I pursue and this one fits nicely.

Just behind the horse is Sally’s Original Creole Pralines. (Sally is still selling those pralines and you can get them online.) The horse and buggy are jolly and perfect, but it is their holiday outfits I love. They are dressed to the nines in their late 40’s garb, especially her in hat, heels and spring weight coat. They are radiating a certain kind of posed for travel joy – having a great time and wanting to remember this being telegraphed into the future, and arriving even now.

Sadly nothing is noted on the back – I would like to have their names. The photo is small, only about 3″x4″ but it has this zippy boarder which declares Elko at each corner. There is a production number printed on the back and I assume that this snap was a requisite add-on as part of the buggy ride package, perhaps taken in the beginning and ready by the time you got back.

I have been to New Orleans, twice, and a very long time ago. I have always wanted to go back and spend more time as both trips were brief and rushed. If I really turned the apartment upside down (it is already upside down really as we are packed up in boxes for the installation of bookcases commencing tomorrow) I could probably locate a not very good photo of a 25 year old me in New Orleans, but I know it isn’t as good as this one. My mouth waters for pralines, beignets, and po’ boys just looking at it.

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Scan 4

The second is a sort of odd photo for me to have acquired. It is small, a snapshot. On the back it is identified as Moutrier, Riviera, 1944. Presumably this is a photo of Allied soldiers during the liberation of France in that year, probably enjoying the Bar and Dancing more than the actual Casino aspect of this establishment. I can’t quite make out the name of the establishment detailed with photos of the performers behind these gentleman.

I bought this one for a few dollars. I like the idea of these guys maybe having a good enough time (given how awful fighting the war must have been, they certainly had it coming) that they wanted to commemorate it – and then keeping this photo for decades. The last of this generation is mostly in their nineties and is going now – sadly the Covid virus having pushed more of them along. I have talked to men for whom being shipped there to fight in WWII was their first trip to Europe, for a few the only trip with no desire to go back, others whose lives would take them there frequently. I know at one who loved Italy so much he and his wife settled there for much of his life after the war, working for the army.

The final trip I took to Europe for the Met, in October of 2016, took me to the South of France and Monte Carlo. While the natural beauty of the coast is undeniable, I found the crowded nature of that city uncomfortable and commercial – every single square inch appears to have been built on. We visited the Casino there, briefly and during the day, but while interesting to see that building, gambling holds very little appeal for me and I don’t appear to have documented that part of that trip. (Photos were prohibited inside the Casino.) I offer instead a photo from the roof of my hotel somewhere on the Riviera – I believe I sent this unremarkable shot below to Kim to show him I was really there, landed and settled for the moment on the first day.

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Much of my travel for Jazz at Lincoln Center has been domestic. I was in both Milwaukee and Chicago just a week or so before March 13 and the stay at home order for New York City. Without that order I would have traveled to Boston, London, possibly Russia, Colorado and San Francisco in the intervening time. It is hard for me to believe thinking about it now. Admittedly it seemed like a daunting summer even then – albeit in an entirely different way than it has indeed been daunting.

Other than talking a little bit with Wynton about it, I have not had a chance to ask the orchestra members about what it is like for them to be grounded for so long. Not just no travel, but even more seriously no gigs at all of course, save those online productions we have managed. For them the rhythm of travel mark the coming and going of their work life each year and this interruption is an epoch. Most, like Wynton, have traveled and had gigs every single week of their working lives, starting quite young.

Even more than after 9/11 it is hard to imagine reformatting our lives back into this kind of travel. Taking off our shoes, stuffing our liquids in a small bag to be presented at the commencement of each trip, all quickly became rote annoyances we took in stride and seem like nothing now. However, in a world where folks are wearing gloves at the supermarket and we look a bit askance at the subway, even hopping on an Amtrak to Boston seems unlikely let alone something we have a craving to do. Having said that I do know people for whom either necessity or itchy feet have already gotten them on planes in recent weeks. For now I am taking it slow, with maybe a trip downtown on the subway planned for our vacation in August.

The Drinkers

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo is part of a run of early photos I have purchased either on Instagram or in an online version of the Brimfield sale. (I have only been to Brimfield a few times and it is one of my life’s ambitions to go again. As a car-less non-driver there is no good path from Manhattan. Fellow junk collectors who would like to make the trip in future less disease inhibited times, please do advise. Happy to fund gas.)

This photo postcard came out of the Instagram haul. Purchasing on Instagram is like being in a real time auction although there is no raising of a bid – just who gets to claim it. Some are fast paced and other items just sit and get marked down. It is interesting to me to see what @MissMolly thinks I would like from what I have already purchased and when she DM’s me about one. She’s low on cat photos though and I have yet to manage to purchase one from her.

The Brimfield sale (those to follow in future weeks) moved at a somewhat slower pace, which works better for me. I do like to have at least a bit of time to ponder and consider. The Instagram sales are definitely you snooze you lose – the Brimfield one largely allowed for some consideration and even negotiation before things started to get snatched up.

This photo postcard is entirely unmarked and was never sent. I suspect that it was the composition that caught my eye. The photographer caught a good moment with the legs of these gentlemen, their shoulders and that flag creating a triangle in the middle – a sort of perfect composition – with those table legs adding to it. All the gents sport ties so they were dressed for the occasion, the one even completes the ensemble with a vest and watch chain. I would hazard a guess that it wasn’t a day that started out with drinking and smoking, but was ending with it.

Each fellow has a liberal shot of what appears to be hard liquor, with a bottle of beer chaser as well. (Or so it appears to me.) The two younger men may be brothers, a thought that only occurs to me when I start looking hard at it. Cigarettes spring from the mouths of the two guys. I think it is fair to say this is serious business, they do not appear jolly. Their attire marks this photo as very early. The room is pretty nondescript although there is an oddly incongruent and cheerful boarder of flowers on the wall near the floor and what I thought was a series of either small holes or something along the middle of the wall, but turns out to be something on the negative or in the printing. It’s hard to see, but there’s a happy flowered carpet on the floor too.

I spent a little time considering the flag at the back and its position. Taking out the possibility that somehow the photo negative and printing process somehow flipped which could be possible, I wondered what the statement might be. As many readers probably know, an upside down flag is a signal of duress. I had not encountered backward.

Our friends over at Google informed me that the military positions the flag this way (blue section, stars up highest) on uniforms, vehicles and whatnot, making the flag look as if it is waving as the person or the vehicle moves forward. I don’t know that I agree that they achieve this effect, but I guess it isn’t for me to weigh in on. Meanwhile, I admit that somehow I have never noticed this. So much for my general powers of observation. I cannot find any other reference to this positioning of the flag. (Someone with better eyes might be able to date this within a range by counting the stars on that faded flag.)

Meanwhile, I believe there is a general sense that our prolonged quarantine has increased people’s drinking (um, why wouldn’t it?) and probably not always in a good way. Zoom cocktails (starting earlier and earlier in the day it seems) being the social version of this – although here in New York you can sit outside with someone and drink if you are comfortable doing it in what turns out to be a not-quite socially distanced way. (I have yet to do it but I did have an in-person work breakfast outside on the corner of York and 86 the other day. It was very hygienic and just fine.)

When it comes to work if someone invites you to Zoom cocktails it to be a way of saying it isn’t really a work meeting, and maybe you will talk a little work, but you’ll also chat about other things. (Strangely though, like the meetings we have all tuned into, they tend to last exactly an hour.) Whether you have a jam jar of white wine in one hand, cold hibiscus tea (my favorite summer drink which makes me look like I am guzzling red wine), or something harder, it’s up to you and anything pretty much goes – after all, you’ll on someone’s laptop or iPad screen. I personally seem to be consuming the large quantity of my calories through baked goods rather than alcohol, but to each their own.

However, the other evening we (meaning we at Jazz at Lincoln Center) hosted a Dizzy’s Club online event and sent out the offer for cocktail and mocktail fixings for the guests. Although I purchased the requisite box (which came with salted peanuts in a nod to Dizzy himself) featuring Negroni fixings, instead I made a vodka tonic the way I like, with a ridiculous amount of fresh lime. (I had spent the day packing the apartment for the installation of bookshelves and needed the pick me up – more on this in a future post.) In this way, I found myself on Zoom with 60 or so jazz lovers. The evening kicked off talking to the great Catherine Russell followed by a clip of her at Dizzy’s. (I don’t have that clip but instead offer another which at the time of writing can be found here.)

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Our apartment packed up for the bookcase installation.

 

However briefly it did seem we were transported to a summer’s evening, wiled away at Dizzy’s, sweating drinks in hand – a serving of spicy mac ‘n cheese within reach and maybe some fried pickles, enjoying some companionable time, listening to the music and watching the view of the sun setting over Central Park. I must say, those were the best Zoom cocktails so far.

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View of Dizzy’s, Central Park and the East side out the windows.