Scarfing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I woke to this 12 degree morning, bright as a new penny, here in New York City this January day and had no idea what I wanted to share with you folks today. Coffee in hand, I wandered among my possessions and reached into a pile by my desk of somewhat unsorted photos and odd items that seemed to need a bit of consideration before posting. I pulled out this item which somehow Kim hadn’t even seen come into the house; given the intimate dimensions of Deitch Studio this is indeed unusual.

This scarf struck my fancy when I saw it and I bought it on a whim knowing it wasn’t not my usual side of the street. The pointy Felix-es around the boarder tickled me – I am a sucker for a pointy Felix as some Pictorama followers know – and I like the color combination.

However, when it arrived I was a tad disappointed overall. The fabric is a bit thin and the design is a bit odd – the text which appears to be an interview with Pat Sullivan, an idea I sort of like – is strangely and unevenly cut off by the center image. While I realize that once you wear it as a scarf it wouldn’t much matter it offends my sensibility as an object.

Detail of scarf, Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The scarf has a (rather conspicuous think) note that it is the product of Determined Productions, San Francisco worked into the boarder design and it was produced in 1989 as per (yet) another note on the boarder which give the copyright of Felix the Cat Productions, Inc. which (Google informs me) resides in nearby Hamburg, New Jersey. I guess I give it a B- grade.

There was a time when I wore a lot of scarves and my wardrobe boasted many. It helped that the Metropolitan Museum produced them and I was able to purchase them at a steep discount for myself and my family. (I had learned to tie them, after a fashion at least, during my college year living in London, brighting a small number of outfits with bright scarves of different colors and prints. Nothing fancy but a method or two that work for me anyway.) The offices at the Met were often cold and a scarf made practical sense – many people had the same idea and in winter would find us all wrapped in them and wool shawls from the store there as well.

My current offices (when and if I visit them which is still rarely) are also chilly in winter, but somehow I have fallen largely out of the scarf habit although they still reside in my closet, languishing with a lot of other unused office clothes at the moment, a sort of a time capsule despite a recent clean out. (My efforts in this area and further thoughts on various aspects of the potential return to the office can be found in a post here.) I tended to layer on jackets and sweaters instead. Here, working from my perch at home, I also just ten to add a layer although this apartment and especially that corner of it, tends to be warm.

The spare room at mom’s house on the chilly morning in question.

Recently I was working from my mom’s house in New Jersey and assigned myself an unused upstairs room as my office. That room turns out to be quite chilly and as I had few items of clothing with me I did wrap myself in a big wool scarf I had with me for my afternoon of Zoom calls. Folks asked about it, never having much seen me in one and wondering where the heck I was that I was so cold. (A navy wool cardigan has been sourced as a permanent resident of the New Jersey branch of my operations, as a way of addressing this issue, but a scarf may still be required. I will be testing this out later this week anyway, but will arrive better prepared.)

The question of how daily work attire will emerge from this long hiatus of going to an office is unsure – as is the precise nature of said return. There are days when I think I should just toss everything (potentially piles of nicer trousers, tops and jackets) but the three pairs of nice jeans, two sweaters, two tops, maybe a jacket or two for “dressing up”, that are currently in rotation. They could rattle around in an otherwise empty closet with a lot of running tights and sweats. Meanwhile, a return to scarf wearing in the near term seems unlikely.

The Sidewalks of New York

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This Christmas my cousin Patti handed me this little book which had belonged I believe, to her grandfather, my great grandfather. Although Patti largely stays with my mom these days, she also has an ancestral home nearby which disgorges the occasional family tidbit. (Past Patti posts highlighting our history, some family photos and including a lovely pair of earrings – which incidentally I was wearing Christmas Day – can be found here and here.)

The back of this little missive declares that it was Compliments of Bowman Hotels. A quick search reveals that Bowman Hotels were part of the Biltmore-Bowman chain, Biltmore being a more recognizable name for me.

New York Biltmore Hotel, via an early postcard in the Columbia Library collection.

A Canadian by birth, John McEntee Bowman learned the hotel business working at Holland House in New York and in 1913 purchased his first Biltmore hotel ultimately building it into one of the most recognized hotel chains in the world. (However, it would appear John died in Manhattan, at the age of 56 after an unfortunate gallstone operation.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Biltmore hotels, both a part of this empire and others which have evidently just taken the name, proliferate worldwide even today. I have fond memories of joining folks for drinks at the Biltmore in Santa Barbara, a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean, back in the in pre-pandemic years.

Historic photo of the interior of Biltmore Hotel NYC. For sale on eBay at the time of publication.

Among the Manhattan hotels at the time those would have been the Biltmore, Roosevelt and the Commodore. These all exist today in one form or another – evidently the only original piece of the Biltmore remaining is the clock made famous by J.D. Salinger and William Shawn who would meet there, creating the notion of meet me under the clock at the Biltmore.

Sadly it seems that the Roosevelt has fallen victim to the pandemic economy. For years I went to a monthly fundraising meeting held there, fairly intact in the early 90’s, and was only vaguely aware of its former storied grandeur. It was decidedly tatty then and underwent (at least one) renovation which in turn moved our meetings elsewhere. These hotels all had a choice proximity to Grand Central Station and the wider 42nd Street area making their real estate attractive even in the decades to come.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Twelve hotels existed in 1923, the year of copyright, and are listed at the beginning of the book. These ranged from Los Angeles to Havana and also included the still extant Westchester Biltmore Country Club, where I was also a guest once. The Atlanta outpost was noted as now building.

I don’t know if Mr. Bowman et al produced these complimentary books for all the cities this chain was eventually to reside in – if there are extant copies of The Sidewalks of Chicago for example, I was unable to find them. A few copies of this pocket-sized volume are available online with prices ranging widely from $19-$89. (The most expensive does have a sporty blue leather cover, most appear closer in appearance to mine.) Clearly folks held onto them as useful beyond their stay for their maps and other information.

Meanwhile, the Little Leather Library had a larger life of its own. Cheerful leather volumes of everything from Sherlock Holmes to Browning and Speeches and Addresses can be found in these editions. Special cases for your collection or perhaps sold as sets can be sourced online.

Boxed set of Little Leather Library. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

To be clear, Sidewalks of New York, only portrays the sidewalks of Manhattan; it does not touch on the other four boroughs. The book is designed as a self walking tour of Manhattan, highlighting areas from the Financial District, Greenwich Village, the fashions of Fifth Avenue and the theatre district. It doesn’t go much further north, mixing some historic highlights with contemporary points of pleasure.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

It was written by Bernardine Kielty (1890?-1973) who appears to have been a biographer of artists and historic figures (her biography of Marie Antoinette turns up repeatedly) but perhaps best know for editing a large compendium of short stories in 1947 in a volume that is still praised today. (I may have to read that if I can find a copy although they seem a bit dear.) Her papers were left to Columbia University and are notable for her correspondence with numerous other writers of the day ranging from Somerset Maugham to Isak Dinesen.

About Greenwich Village she writes probably the section of the city most anticipated. It has come to connote Bohemia, New York’s Latin Quarter, with cellars full of wild eating places; attics full of artists; Batik shops and radical book store; long haired men and determined-eyed women.

The map of Greenwich Village, understandably useful, is gently dogeared in my copy as below – although my image of my great grandfather in no way includes frequent trips to the Village and the need to find his way around.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

In fact I am a bit fascinated by the idea of my great-grandfather having reason to stay at any of this luxury line of hotels (let alone have a need to find his way around Greenwich Village) and have to deeply suspect that the little book came to him another way. For a hard working Italian immigrant who owned first a deli at the Jersey shore, which later morphed into a bar and restaurant across the street, a stay at any of these hotels seems somewhat unlikely. (I have written about that side of my family in a post here.)

This book is well worn by some owner however, it’s cover cracked down the center from use, the spine bearing signs of time in a pocket, leather rubbed away. In the introduction Kielty writes, New York, to many people, is a Mecca. They come to the city, expectant and eager, convinced they are going to see life in its most vivid form…They conjure up pictures of theatrical contrast – of the magnificently rich and the piteously poor; and some of them wonder curiously about the quaint spots, those oases in the busy city life, where history peeps through. Despite all of our contemporary drama, still true today.

Felix Finds a New Home

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today we are continuing our New Year’s weekend with a Felix post. This fellow is the last in a big buy I did from an unexpected and wonderful online auction in Great Britain this October. It was one of those affairs which had been moved online because of Covid and it was my lucky, toy collecting day, because I would never have been treated to the likes of it otherwise and some of these dealers are not online sellers. Given the amount I spent I would say they were glad to have run into me as well! (I have written about the other acquisitions, the amazing Deans Eugene the Jeep and a great postcard here and here.) Christmas came in October this year without question.

There is in my collection, a rather huge and very impressive Dean’s Rag Felix, the likes of which I have never seen otherwise, nor have I even met any kissin’ cousins until this fellow crossed my path. The story of that guy I will save for another day as I have not yet memorialized him here in the Pictorama archive of toy tales, but it involves a trip to London, spending more than I ever had on a toy (and I have never, ever told how much that was…) and emptying a suitcase to bring him home safely – who cares about clothes?

Pluto in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I have written about the famed Dean’s toy maker previously – a few times devoted to some beloved Mickeys and also a rather exceptional Pluto. (Those posts for fellow toy fans can be found here, here and here just for starters.) Deans produced Felix in a variety of sizes according some old catalogue information I have seen. I would like to be more educated about them and will share as the information comes to light.

This chap caught my eye immediately as I strolled through piles of photos from a variety of sellers and, as I remember, I started bouncing up and down in my chair with delight! To make it even better (how does it even get better, right?) the seller was including the photo below of a little boy with a very similar Felix! Pictorama readers know that this is truly a wonderful two-ffer for me as the Pictorama archive sports many Felix photo images as well. I could hardly email my desire to purchase them fast enough.

Felix real photo postcard, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The young man posing with this Felix toy seems to be at a photo studio. He is perched on something that looks more like a small table or piano bench perhaps. While Felix appears to be warmly embracing him, he seems a bit awkward with his arms are gingerly around Felix which makes it feel like it probably isn’t his toy but a prop. This is a photograph rather than a photo postcard and there is no information on the back aside from a pencil number (no studio information) and some evidence that this was at one time pasted into a photo album.

Felix stands about 17 inches high. He has rather bat-like ears, a tad over-sized. (Peter, the seller, kindly offered to reinforce Felix’s ears which I agreed to – as it happens they had also been reinforced on my other Dean’s Felix. They must have been made thin and wore out quickly. His head swivels to allow for a saucy pose or two.

As you can see, this Felix is missing his nose – and of course the photo shows us what it would have looked like with nose. I am considering fashioning a nose out of felt and maybe just pinning it on so it would be easily removable. However, you can also see that the shape of the nose is still there. The eyes are an interesting sort of celluloid, at least that is what I think they are. Oddly, both in my photos and the original ones from the sellers, his hands seem a bit clumpy although they are not in person.

Close up of Felix now residing in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Felix has the delightful Deans Rag Book labels on the soles of his feet, shown below.

The soles of Felix’s worn but still legible foot labels.

As it turns out the seller, Peter Woodcock, is a somewhat reformed Felix collector who is just dipping his toe in the water of selling some of his collection although he and his wife Leanda have a robust antique toy business (many lovely bears),although I am not sure I would have found them online if it weren’t for the 200 Years of Childhood toy show moving online for this year. (I assure you that this is among the few silver linings I can attribute to Covid.)

I suspect that my tsunami of Felix enthusiasm is a tad overwhelming for Peter as I pepper him with questions and theories, but I so rarely get to correspond with a fellow Felix toy fan. Yay Peter! I have coaxed a few more Felix-es out of him so stay tuned as I think 2022 is going to be a very Felix year indeed.

Pay-Purr Perfect

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s a rainy dawn of 2022 here in Manhattan today. We’ve been on a gray and wet jag the last few days and it is a weepy sort of a day. It seems unlikely that the sun is going to make an appearance and make a New Year’s Day walk look attractive, even later today. It is, frankly, not the most promising of New Year’s Days. Therefore, let’s grab a hot cup of coffee and bury ourselves in a bit of trivial loveliness in true Pictorama style.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
T-shirt, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My opening salvo for the year is this t-shirt I purchased recently. I had a shirt post not that long ago when I found a few very Waldo-esque ones. (That post can be found here. I model again today.) Those t-shirts both hailed from Japan as, I believe, does today’s interesting acquisition. I don’t buy a lot of t-shirts and am more partial to the variation with sleeves which I find more useful as an item of clothing. The baseball shirts have made an excellent addition to my running wardrobe in particular. I find I am a with sleeves or entirely sleeveless kind of girl as far as fashion goes so t-shirts are a bit out of my daily wearing line. (Kim lives in them of course.) I did make an interesting Felix t-shirt purchase which I wrote about not too long ago and it can be found here so I guess shirts are making an inroad into my collecting.

Felix t-shirt in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I found today’s shirt on eBay and grabbed it up for a fairly nominal sum. It is somewhat worn, but I am glad someone saw the value in putting it up for sale online because it entertains me and I glad to have snagged it. It is also a bit large for me or Kim, so I do think it is more of a collectible for us than a fashion apparel statement.

Checking online I did find that these were oddly enough, at one time, sold by Walmart. (They are out of stock now.) It does not appear that they produced them however, but I allow it is possible. The actual shirt comes from the Dominican Republic, but not clear it was printed there, so the trail goes more or less cold. (For those readers who can translate the Japanese I am curious, although I somehow suspect it won’t tell us much more about the history of this shirt. Is it nonsense? Please share if you can translate it.)

This zooty cat fellow has a natty bowtie, a somewhat toothy grin, and clutches positively bulging money bags – errant dollar bills falling out of them and flying around. We are urged to Claim Your Cash Now, 24/7 and assures us it is Fur Real. We are also urged, in English, to call 555-pay-purr now. I don’t know much about the use of English in Japan, but I am curious why this tips so heavily toward English.

T-shirt, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

At first I wondered if it was sort of a check cashing establishment, but that wouldn’t be claiming cash, would it? Perhaps loans? Claiming seems a bit off for that too, but closer perhaps. Perhaps some sort of lottery or gambling? I like the pun on pay-purr and paper but don’t quite understand it. You will leave these folks with some paper money clearly.

As an aside and talking about Cash, I will mention that Kim and I returned from New Jersey on Christmas Day in style via a car service that goes by Rides with Cash (@rideswithcash on IG and rideswithcash.com). Cash turns out to be an adorable Australian Shepherd who divides his time between the front seat with his Dad and the passengers in back during the ride. He was wearing a jolly Santa suit and spent a fair amount of the ride looking adoring up at Kim with his head in Kim’s lap, enraptured. If it hadn’t been so dark I would have taken photos – but it made the trip go quickly and I hope to cadge a ride with them again soon.

Kim Deitch t-shirt, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

When it comes to t-shirts of course the ones Kim has made are among the most beloved in my collection (I wrote about this one above in a post here) and as noted, these recent additions have a come hither appeal for their vaguely Waldo with a dash of Felix quality.

So, as we gingerly take our first baby steps into this New Year on behalf of Pictorama and Deitch Studio I send you these best wishes for a prosperous and happy New Year.

Curiosity

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is about a little object I have had in my mitts for several months now. It came to me via someone I follow and have purchased from on Instagram, Mia (aka http://@therubyfoxes) and I have written about other purchases from her here and here) lives in Britain and at least at this time the object hails from that part of the world. I share it today as pretty much as an object from my personal cabinet of curiosities and welcome all comers with any information or worthy speculation.

There were two slightly different ones and Mia kept the mate. I chose mine because it had a vaguely feline sensibility which I thought suited the Pictorama collection best, hers is a bit more squat and canine, shown below. (She was nice enough to send a photo this morning – I had snatched him via a story on her account so no way to save the photo.) It is more similar than I remember.

Mia’s sibling version of the object. Many thanks to her for popping this photo over to me this morning!

These appear to be made of bone and the base and ring looks to be silver. A careful look and the grooves where the collar goes around the neck convinces me that these were designed to be in these silver holders with a loop for a chain, ribbon or twine. He sports a tongue which sticks out between his carved teeth. There are deep holes on either side of his mouth and I am not sure where the maker was heading with that. The eyes are perched atop of the head with tiny pointy ears. I thought there was a vague suggestion of a tail, but when I rubbed it I realized it is just the natural coloration of the bone, no carved indentation.

Flip side, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Toothy! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The allover etched designs seem to be the same on both. Whatever their hoodoo it is consistent. I do hope they do not mind being separated, but I believe the US is glad to have one on its shores. I like to think of it having a partner over at Mia’s house in her own cabinet of wonders.

At first I was thinking maybe it was a chess or other game piece, until I realized that the apparatus for hanging and wearing it was integral to the design. Kim had a good suggestion this morning and reminded me of Billiken’s. (He purchased one for me made of mother of pearl which I wrote about here. The creation story is a good one indeed.) The god of things as they ought to be according to Wikipedia (a concept I paused a moment to contemplate), Billikens are good luck and I have christened these likewise. There is something sort of Billiken-esque about them.

Billiken, possibly amber, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Bone Billiken, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

In fact a search of bone Billiken on Google turned up some credible relatives and I am reminded that Sandy over at http://@Curiositiesantique (or http://www.getcuriosities.com) came across a Billiken for sale I remembered as bone, but is amber she thought (see above), although there was a bracelet of small bone ones as well. However, these I found on Goggle are a bit closer to the mark of our mystery charms. (Also above.) Oddly, there are a number of Alaskan and Inuit carved figures that turn up under the search of Billiken bone images – not sure how all things Billiken can be true if there are early Inuit ones. Hmmm. More mysteries.

Lucky Billiken button. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Dreams of Krampus

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Welcome to the Pictorama reveal of the Deitch Studio holiday card memorializing the year that was, 2021. A tip o’ the hat this year to Kim who carried the ball a bit more than usual and this one has a slightly more Deitchian appeal which is always a good thing. (For those of you just joining this year some previous card reveals can be found here and here for starters.)

I only learned about Krampus as an adult, although years ago now. I do find this sort of shadow Santa fascinating and the idea that not only was Santa watching to make sure you were nice and not naughty, but this dark side Santa was going to come after you if you were a very bad kid. It makes sense though that Santa wouldn’t be all sweetness and light – I mean, how interesting is that after all.

The stuff of holiday nightmares.

While the concept of Krampus has its roots in a Norse underworld character the name Krampus is derived from a German name. I gather that there are German and Austrian festivals (which not surprisingly involve some drinking) where the Krampus story is played out via a run through town by Krampus glad participants. The runners carry sticks, like those used to beat said naughty children, and scare onlookers. Can’t say I am sorry to have missed this. The Catholic Church at one time made an effort to ban Krampus which was, given his increasing popularity, clearly unsuccessful.

Cookie and Blackie – photo taken because they so rarely sleep together! Inspiration for the card.

Our Krampus has all of the key characteristics – a hairy beast with great lolling and pointed tongue, goat horns and cloven feet, but we’ve replaced the beating chains and sticks with lightening bolts.

Poor Cookie and Blackie are clearly fretting about and totting up their misdeeds this year – poor kits! – and sharing a mutual dream of this monster. Oh gosh though, who in thinking about 2021 doesn’t feel a bit like this sums it all up? No worries though – Cookie and Blackie will receive toys, catnip and ear rubs Christmas morning just as they always do. And 2022 will dawn in a week and we’ll all turn the page and hope for a truly great New Year!

Felix Portrait – Louis Ollier Faking It

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama we have been known to indulge the off-model, the fraudulent and in the case of Felix, sometimes even the somewhat demonic period renderings of his visage. Unlike the iron hand of Disney, Pat Sullivan (a faker himself who claimed to draw Felix when it was in fact Otto Messmer) didn’t seem to have the bandwidth to control the proliferation of fake Felix-es, especially those being churned merrily out by the British.

These jolly, and some might point out occasionally terrifying, toys form the bedrock of the Pictorama toy box. And yes, they leer happily over us in bed each night from their various shelf perches. (Some posts featuring those free-form Felix, presumably unlicensed, toys can be found here and here, just for starters.) Meanwhile, eBay listings for Felix may cover everything from Krazy Kat (see yesterday’s post about his identity crisis here) to, oddly, Mickey Mouse.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. A seriously off-model Felix toy!

In his two-dimensional incarnation I have some examples of liberties taken as well. In my possession is a set of postcards made from stencils one could purchase for this purpose. The hand traced and colored results can be found occasionally in the sorting through of Felix memorabilia. A post about these cards before I knew about some postcards made from the stencils can be found here.

Felix Porchoir – French stencils for making your own postcards. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection – but I would love to have them!

All this to say, I snatched up this odd card recently on eBay. It is a bit fragile and the postcard stock perhaps a bit lighter than it might be. I liked the hands on hip blocky Felix body – the tail curls up and around for a nice juxtaposition. Things get a bit odder up around the face – the ears are off and the nose too long and bulbous. However it is the filling in of the eyes and mouth that give him his distinctive oddness.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Upon closer inspection, there is a signature (people ripping off Felix rarely did that I thought to myself) of the renderer, Louis Ollier. A quick search mostly turns up work by Ollier and there isn’t much on his biography. I believe that folks have somehow conflated his biography with a famous bone surgeon of the same name who was born in 1830 and died in 1900 – clearly this is not the same person as he couldn’t have drawn Felix before his creation almost 20 years into the new century. This fellow was working mostly in the 1930’s, although I turned up some oil paintings that might be his from earlier decades.

In addition to a number of sketches for sale by Ollier what I was able to figure out is that his gig was he would do sketches of famous people, send them to the person and ask them to sign and return if they were pleased with it; Ollier would sign them as well. As far as I can tell, some of these were then made into prints which also bear Ollier’s name or sold as originals. Evidently there is a substantial body of his work devoted to race car drivers, although those were not among the ones I turned up. My guess without knowing, but based in part on the subjects I could find, is that he was British.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Ollier entered Felix into his pantheon of the famous and thus depicted. Felix seems to have declined to countersign this postcard – perhaps the likeness did not please him? And then question printed below, Puzzle – Why does he keep on laughing? Well, Felix does chuckle a fair amount, but usually only after he does something especially clever.

This postcard was never used and perhaps it is most notable that I never saw one before which means there probably are not a large number in circulation. I found frankly uninspired renderings of Robert Taylor and Edward G. Robinson online, but the drawing of Sydney Horler (a British writer of thrillers) is available on eBay at the time of writing and I share it below. I suspect somehow he was more successful with lesser known subjects – they feel looser and more free.

However, for what it is worth, his drawing of Felix, perhaps unexpectedly, brings Mr. Ollier a smidge more immortality here in the annals of the Pictorama collection today.

Women’s World Cheer-up Club

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama in recent years we’ve developed a particular soft spot for medals. My discovery of school medals lead to recent post (which can be found here) about these emblems of encouragement that seemed to proliferate as awards in schools in the early part of the 20th century. Improvement! Excellence! Who doesn’t want a daily reminder of these qualities cheering them on? Somehow I imagine accumulating numerous ones to wear on a lapel together although this has not yet manifested.

These school award are not the beribboned ones for athletic prowess or competition, but smaller and sweeter in my opinion. I have both a US example and one from Canada. I have to believe that equivalents existed in Europe. Somehow I like to imagine an earlier society where pins like these proliferated. This one is brass and appears a bit more mass produced than my school awards which would have been, I think, produced blank and then etched with cheering motivations subsequently.

Improvement, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I am reminded of those pins by this odd kissing cousin of an item I purchased a few months back from a British jewelry dealer (I have written about purchases from @Wassail_antiques frequently before, a recent post can be found here – hey Rachel!) and while making another purchase I decided that I would acquire this pin from her shop too. I had been eyeing it and in the end I would be disappointed to see it go to someone else. It seems to belong here with me.

Australian. 2 tons of jam made for the troops!

I did think it would be easier to find information about the Women’s Cheer-up Club than it has turned out to be. My limited research skills finally confirmed what I more or less thought I would discover, which is that the Cheer-ups were British societies in WWI. It seems to be an umbrella term for a loosely defined group of organizations which provided comfort and entertainment for troops during the war, raising money for these activities and also to create other resources for soldiers such as physiotherapy and the development of remedial skills. Drives were held for food, clothing and books for the troops as well and I believe some of these ultimately became veterans associations.

Australia. More than 125,000 pairs of socks made and sent to the troops.

I found one other of these pins while doing my research – for sale on Etsy – and it was the exact same one, although it seems there must have been variations on the theme I could find none. The references I ultimately found were largely archival period newspaper articles writing up the activities of a local branch of a Cheer-up Club. The references I found were not specifically to it as a women’s association.

Australian. Instruction book for knitting socks for the troops circa 1915.

Southern Australia had an active equivalent and I was able to find more about those than the British clubs, the establishment of them and the doings of the groups. The Australian Society Cheer-up also seeked to care for their troops abroad as well as at home and there are articles about Cheer-up Huts for Australian soldiers in Britain during the war.

In addition to, of course, urging people to cheer up these pins were a brand of patriotism during that time. I imagine that sporting such a pin might also show a soldier, perhaps on leave in an unfamiliar place, where he might find a hot meal and gathering spot in the area. Of course, it also encouraged people to cheer up during a dark time and now it sits on a shelf near my desk where it does that for me as needed too.

Eugene the Jeep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky Jeep! Deans Rag Toy tag.

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

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

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

Felix and the Folks

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

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

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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

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