Pictorama!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This morning I sit down to write my 871st post on this blog. For those of you who follow Pam’s Pictorama you know that with little exception, posts have appeared here on Saturday and Sunday morning (some exceptions for time difference during travel, once for illness in the family) pretty much like clockwork since the summer of 2014. While there are exceptions (notes taken in advance, work travel) when they were written in advance, the general “rule” is that I write them each weekend morning before otherwise starting my day. I drink coffee, look at the window, chat with Kim while I do it – pay attention to a needy cat if necessary – while writing.

I launched Pictorama while recovering from foot surgery, bored in bed and needing a project, I thought I would use it to organize my collection of early photos. (I didn’t do that – they are still not really organized as I sit here in 2022 although it has grown like topsy.) At the time the collection was mostly photo postcards of people posing with giant stuffed Felix dolls (some above), but I have always picked up old photos from here or there. I want to publish them as a book and still hope to figure that out.

My avatar, Felix on a scooter, is oddly one I do not own although I write pretty much exclusively about my own collection. It is an Italian version of the toy I continue to chase but fall short of acquiring to date.

Pictorama immediately expanded to include my burgeoning toy collection – again, largely but not entirely devoted to Felix the Cat items from the 20’s and 30’s – my other great love. Cats are an underlying theme for both the photos and the toys. Of course there are real cats and Cookie and Blackie make routine appearances and more recent guest spots have been for mom’s cat’s, particularly Stormy and Hobo Kitty, who were just featured yesterday in a post here. I dig out memories, do light research on the background and history of objects, consider the object. It has evolved into what it is.

Over time other bits of Deitch Studio daily life slip in. Posts have been devoted to the reveal of our holiday card each year and to Kim’s extraordinary series of Valentine’s he draws for me annually. Some of his books have been launched (a two-part series on Reincarnation Stories can be found here and here) as well. Over recent years a series of posts has been devoted to my professional life, fundraising and the challenges, changes and triumphs there. Apartment life (studio apartment living before tiny houses existed) and renovation has demanded my attention and been shared with you.

Kim’s kitty portrait for Valentine’s Day this year! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Tales of my childhood, pets and people I have known, tend to be an underlying theme for many of the posts. I try not to repeat myself – I am sure I fail occasionally. I will just hope that a good story is worth repeating.

Working out and most recently running has become another area I devote space to. At first writing about it helped ensure I would push forward and keep it up; keep me honest. It was not an easy habit to develop and no one is more surprised than me when I started to top out at over six miles recently. Persistence pays off. Meanwhile, a year ago next week (Memorial Day) I fell and broke two fingers while running and you all had a front seat for that as well as the recovery.

A photo from my first few weeks of running.

During the first months of Covid I devoted space to redeveloping my cooking muscles, baking in particular. I probably owe you all a post about the dieting I had to do to lose that pandemic weight subsequently – running alone did not do it. Dieting has inspired fewer recipes, but I will get back to recipes. I continue to cook – soup in particular remains a favorite here.

Cheesy Olive loaf, a pandemic favorite.

This week my readership crossed the 400 mark and so I started thinking about you all. I know from the likes and comments some of you who favor certain posts. I wonder if any of you crossover to other posts now that you are here – did you start by favoring the work related posts and then discover that cats were great too? Or did you find one because of work out posts and then stay for toys? Or do you only read the ones in the areas you follow? I have found that the readers who come for the book reviews seem to have a long read around. Most of those have come via Goodreads. (My review of the children’s book The Story of Ping, found here, remains one of the most read posts, although not the most likes. That may go to a post about a tin Krak-R-Jak box that sits on my desk which can be found here.)

Many of you are in different time zones and I frequently wake in the morning to your likes and comments, or even the occasional late night ping from my phone tells me someone liked something. It is always cheerful and encouraging. Thank you! I like to hear from you.

Me with a beloved Aesop Fable doll and a nice Donald Duck, wearing a Kim Deitch t-shirt, from a past post.

At first readers came almost exclusively from Kim’s extraordinary Facebook page which I felt privileged to guest spot on each weekend. (Others find me when searching for him on the internet as well.) Early on a friend suggested the title sub-header, All Pam All the Time, and I liked it as a nod to alert folks that Pictorama, while resident here at Deitch Studio, was a distinct subset that is from my perspective. Sadly, we’ve been locked out of Kim’s Facebook page for a few months now. My own nascent page recently taking its place with Kim weighing in as he likes instead.

Pictorama led me over to Twitter and then Instagram among other outlets. Instagram became a source for jewelry, photos, toys and interesting stuff as well as numerous online friends who come from across the United States and the world. Instagram Stories is primarily a journal of my runs these days and IG is probably second only to WordPress itself for leading new folks here. (I can be found as @deitchstudio.)

A first edition

While writing of WordPress, please know that I have a love/hate relationship with it. Things morph and get changed which I never figure out, such as where the ability to add accent marks disappeared to one day. Occasionally they get harder and then much easier – such as the posting of video snippets which was quite arduous, then impossible, now easy. Links necessitated a work around, until suddenly they are possible again.

Pam’s Pictorama.com Collection.

In all fairness, WordPress offers the chance to attend online sessions where I could learn more, but life is too hectic it seems. I always mean to, but never have. Meanwhile, while having a look around today I discovered a cache of comments I don’t believe I ever saw – they were direct inquiries rather than ones tied to posts. I spent some of this morning writing to folks to apologize for the oversight. They are tucked away and hard to find however even now that I know they exist. The myriad mysteries of the site.

I hope to see you next week for post number 872. A new Felix photo is winging its way to me even as I write. Thank you again for being such a very nice audience!

Three Little Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a feline photo day today here at Pictorama. As it happens only a month ago I featured another kitten card of three kits (that post can be found here). Today’s card was mailed on August 1, 1911 at 9 AM from Norfolk, Connecticut. It was mailed to Mr Ralph Lanton, 2070 Colby Street, Bradford Mass.

The back reads, Norfolk Conn, July 21, 1911. Dear Ralph, I am sending three more kittens to keep Fluffy Grey company. They were taken from life by the lady where we are staying. We hope to see you…(illegible) Uncle Mill and all are at Bantana. We go home a week from today. With love Grandma B.

I am a bit surprised to find that that this is not a professional studio card, although these three little guys look like three of a kind with a shared origin now that I think about it. Funny to catch them sitting together like this though – posing. Cats like to congregate though and even our two will occasionally be found sitting next to each other this way, on display I always think. At Deitch Studio it is by the apartment’s front door for some reason.

Cookie and Blackie in an uneasy together state on our bed.

Given the nursery rhyme three kittens seems like an obvious number however I am having trouble remembering a time when I lived with three growing up. We somehow seemed to jump from two to more.

Mom and I were whiling away some time going over early family cats recently and I believe there was Snoopy (our first most beloved cat, white with cow spots, who was my very most special friend), then Zipper who my mom took away from some boys at a laundry mat who were tormenting him. He was so tiny and malnourished that he was in danger of slipping between the seat cushions of our old station wagon that day and I was in charge of making sure it didn’t happen on the way home.

A recent photo of Hobo Kitty ambling over for dinner recently.

Zips was a tabby who became quite the king of the hill in our neighborhood later in his life. At some point after, I was given a kitten from a friend’s litter, an orange tabby I christened Pumpkin. I carried him around as a kitten (and later as an enormous cat) and in turn he followed me faithfully like a dog thereafter. (He had a tendency to bite everyone else however.)

That must have been the brief moment we went from three to more and between us, frankly I don’t think my mom ever went down to three again. We were getting there recently, three younger rescues and an elderly cat named Milty, until the arrival of Stormy recently. (Read about Stormy’s arrival at the Butler enclave here and here.)

Mom’s cats lining up by the door to see if Hobo is arriving. They are peevish that an outside fellow is getting some of their food! From left to right, Gus, Beau, Peaches and then Milty looking at the camera.

And these days I have my own New Jersey cat project, a reprobate of a tom, torn ear and lumpy fur, who I have christened Hobo Kitty. I check in on him via mom when I am back in New York to see if he has shown up for his occasional meal of two cans of cat food, inhaled with great gusto. We know that Hobo will remain an outside guy, but I like to make sure he gets a good meal if he stops by. He gives the rat population hell too while he’s there. I keep a sharp eye out for his visit, generally very early morning or evening, and feed him. My mom says he is trap savvy so even getting him trapped and released is unlikely.

An early appearance of Hobo Kitty with his doppleganger sister from another mistah Peaches.

Recently back from a few days in New Jersey I can attest that her cats are very nocturnal and have the habit of racing madly through the small house and up and down the stairs nightly. (Like tiny elephants I say.) I have a feeling that Stormy is leading these nightly rants and raids and she has a habit of meowing distinctly as she runs around.

Most recent photo of Stormy before she has taken to hiding during the day.

For those of you who have been following the Stormy story she has left her safe cage and now hides with unique cunning during the day. Mom says she sees her in the kitchen late at night, snacking and visiting the litter box. I found her sleeping in a drawer I pulled out from under one of the beds recently. She raced off and that is the closest I have come to a true sighting.

Today in closing a special shout out to Kim as it is his birthday! Happy Birthday sweetie! Many happy returns of the day.

On Stage

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Folks in early cat costumes is a sub-genre of the holdings here at the Pam’s Pictorama photo library. (Wow – I just upgraded my shoe boxes to a library.) I have long felt that there is a vintage Felix costume out there that will really scratch that particular itch of mine and actually owning such an item notwithstanding, I am always pleased to own the image and search for those with some vigor. (A few other Felix/cat costume posts can be found here and here.)

While I have to date resisted purchasing garments such as costumes given the storage restrictions of my abode, I have however come woefully close on the purchase of a few truly wild and wonderfully early Felix masks on occasion, but have sadly come up empty handed. Of course I am still on the prowl and I am also sure for the right costume I would make room here somehow, not to mention a place of pride for some extraordinary probably somewhat decaying and terrifying mask. (Kim, bless him, is ever indulgent and didn’t even flinch with I was considering a large drum with Felix painted on it that would have had to more or less be hung from the ceiling.)

Kim in a Felix hat/mask which I, very sadly, do not own! This taken in SF in September, 2015.

On the back of the photo postcard, which was never sent but was pasted into an album, Bethel School Interior is written in penciled script. The seller had the card listed as, from The Black Cat Society Play in Bethel, PA Berks Co. Berks County is evidently in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which in addition to being the dreamland of chocolate production (the name evokes a childhood vision of a town constructed entirely of Hershey bars that I have never quite fully eliminated from my adult brain), is also said to be a great flea market area as well. Sadly I have never had the chance to explore this place of glory on either level so for now it continues to live in imagination on both counts.

While I might have hoped the photographer would have gotten closer to these kiddies in the kitty costumes, the wider shot gives us a look at those in the audience which gives us something of a sense of period. I have no idea what the Black Cat Society of Bethel was (or is?) as the popularity of black cats in Pennsylvania buries that search in an avalanche of cat adoption offerings. Were there black cat plays every year with cat costume clad kids?

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Our six kitties are lined up over a bit of paper facade “brick” indicated below them – like they are on a fence? The set is an interior – lamps, drapes on windows and a striped rug. There is a flowered curtain to one side, which might be more about obscuring a backstage area than a curtain that would draw across – I do not see an indication of a rope. The whole affair seems to be on a wooden stage raised off the floor by sturdy wooden legs below, raising them up and making it more official feeling.

Paw hands of our players are up in a gesture a bit more canine than cat. Each of our kids is in a suit of shiny black with a hood sporting ears and a tail – some tails are perkier than others and some wear their suits sportier and with more éclat. The line up graduates to the tallest participant in the middle and down again. The one second to the end on (our) left seems to embody the role best for me, clearly a future performer there.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Our broad perspective of the room also gives an indication of the covered wall of what appears to be a basketball court behind and the slightest indication of what I think is the bottom portion of an American flag hovering over the peering over the proceedings. The audience is seated in some sort of pew-like connected chairs. The one kid looks back at the camera, jaunty angle to his hat. #4 is written at the bottom and it is too bad if 1-3 are lost now.

I was an enthusiastic participant in junior theatricals as a tot and I would have been in heaven to be on this stage for my turn, suited up in cat garb.

David, Our Favorite

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I devote space to this nice little cat photo postcard. We can see that the name David was etched, carefully, into the negative, complete with quotation marks and a swirl below. The card is a bit dark, but we can see that David is a handsome, spotty puss. He sports a collar and although we don’t see it too clearly I like the spot on his forehead, right between his eyes. He looks like a lively fellow and something has his attention in another direction while having this photo taken. One imagines he was off and chasing after it moments after the shutter clicked.

This penny postcard card was mailed from Lisbon, Ohio on August 8 at 8 AM. It is obscured, but I think the year is 1912. It was sent to a Mrs. Chas Lutes, at 515 N. Park Street, McKeesport, PA. It is inscribed as follows, You may not know who this is but he is my favorate. We did not get a very good position yet it looks like him. Gaskills. Kim and I had some morning discussion around the signature, Gaskills. Last name used as moniker? Not sure really, but we agreed that was what the neat, if faded, script says.

Gus and Beau in their respective boxes at Mom’s the other day. Gus is also a recent rescue and Beau from Newark several years ago.

Our beloved pets! We keep photos of our kits and pups (bunnies and what all), but a bit interesting that this one was kept by the recipient (at least I assume it was she who kept it) carefully as well. Of course which detritus of the world ultimately sticks to any of us is a bit mysterious.

Like children, I guess I have always thought one shouldn’t have favorites among the cats. You do I guess, but it doesn’t seem right to cop to it anyway.

As some Pictorama readers know, I spend part of my time with my mom in New Jersey these days. She recently identified a new stray cat in her backyard and mom had cousin Patti and I feeding it until it trusted us enough for someone to come and trap it yesterday morning. Turns out to be a young female, longish hair with stripes, gray and black – she was mostly a blur to me as she dashed off while I offered food. I hope to have photos soon to share soon.

Peaches, another relatively recent rescue who lives with mom, still won’t let any of us near her although she does follow me upstairs to observe my endless Zoom calls while I am there.

Mom is full up with cats in her own small home, but we are determined to find a permanent loving home for this little girl. She is going by Stormy for now, named in honor of the windy and wet morning she was finally caught on. Stormy is with the rescuer for now, getting some tests and medical attention. As mom and I both said, we both slept better last night knowing that little kit was warm inside with a full tummy for the first time this winter.

This is the little sweetheart mom just rescued! Email for info! We need to find her a home.

Cinderella and the Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am wildly fond of this recent acquisition! I found it for sale on eBay from a Canadian seller and couldn’t buy it fast enough. It is a photo postcard, never mailed. In studying it, I believe the white bits at the bottom left are a bit of paint, not loss of emulsion. Nonetheless, this one zipping into a frame quickly to keep it safe.

It is an image I have never seen before and my efforts to turn up anything relating to it turned up nothing except animation and, oddly, a fair amount of assorted pornography. Cinderella is written at the bottom of this postcard image. There is a vague suggestion of a fireplace scrim on a painted scrim behind them. I assume this is a photo postcard from a vaudeville or roadshow version of the Cinderella story.

Cinderella here, although reasonably adult or at least adolescent, is fairly petit. She holds a strangely very small broom and her feet are clad in nicely strappy shoes which appear flat and potentially allowed for dancing. She is perched on a common bistro style chair which is a bit of an anachronism. This is a Cinderella still in impoverished mode with her lone friend which in this case is a cat. (Correct me if I am wrong, but the traditional story involved mice befriending her, didn’t it?)

Nice Lucifer the Cat toy from the Disney animation. Might need to find myself one of these!

In an effort to research if there was a variation of the Cinderella story that specifically had a feline friend I turned up an Italian animated film from 2017 called Cinderella and the Cat. It seems to be is a dystopian future version of the Cinderella story set on a ship in Naples. Although I don’t remember it, the Disney version (1950) had a cat too, Lucifer, shown as a toy above.

However, let’s not bury the lead, which is this glorious cat costume! He is not only adorned with a shaggy, striped fur suit, but also has amazing full make up and/or bewhiskered mask. The shagginess makes me think maybe mohair. The one hand that is visible is covered in a paw sort of glove; he has round ears and a lank tail curled beside him. The make up or mask on his face gives him wonderful bulging kitty jowls like a big old tom cat and really add to the overall effect.

As shown above, the back of the card only reads, Eina [?] and the Cat in a swooping script. Noted in the upper corner is 15. Cinderella which could be a contemporary note or an original one, making me wonder if it was a series of cards.

This cat costume rivals that of performer Alfred Latell (who I have written about in posts here and here), a gifted animal impersonator who might best be remember for his Bonzo dog complete with moving parts, in a similar time and genre. (He is shown in the Bonzo costume below.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Latell was identifiable and left some if uncertain tracks. Ultimately I was able to follow him all the way to a snippet appearance in a blurry bit of color film. Sadly this performer is unidentified and I was unable to turn up any snippets referring to such an act. I suspect this is a lower rent version than the Latell shows (and potentially Canadian), but the costume and make up are just amazing.

My imagination roils with thoughts of this bygone production and a potentially thrilling rendition of a cat pal to this Cinderella. Sad not to have more information, but I do have this image left to ignite and stoke dreams of cat acts of years past.

An Abundance of Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Readers here know that toys and photos of cats are the mainstays of the Pictorama collection. This pleasant pile of pusses cheered me immensely when it crossed my path. Cow spotty mom and dad kitties (maybe – they look a bit possessive anyway) mill around with three evidently all white fluffy kittens. Playing with them are these no less picturesque women in early 20th century dresses, hair piled high, brooches pinned on lacy bodices. A careful look shows other women in the background, also in summer cottons of the period.

Kittens, even in small doses, are a bit of work to live with and when our adored Cookie and Blackie entered the picture I was reminded. Less needy maybe than puppies (which seem to rank somewhere just newborn children for labor intensiveness in my opinion) kittens will still race around your house (in this case our single room) knocking things over, scratching and have their decidedly stinky and disastrous moments. Nonetheless, there is little as cheerful and charming in my mind than a pile of kitties.

The image cuts across the more than 100 years since this photo was made. Interesting to think that playing with kittens on a spring day in the yard remains the same activity it was then.

Naughty but charming Cookie and Blackie as kits, sitting on Kim’s desk – forbidden of course, but so cute!

I have only lived with a litter of kittens once in my life during what I have described before as an especially cat rich time of my childhood. Our cat Winkie escaped outside and mated before we were able to have her spade and her calico design when combined with a local tabby tom resulted in two all grays, a long thin drink of water orange stripe and a black and white tabby. They were in turn named Ping and Pong, Squash and Tigger. I don’t remember who in the family did the naming honors, but I do remember that Winks chose my parent’s closet to birth her kittens. (This after my parent’s bed had been rejected as the site by said mom and dad.)

Winkie was in turns both a very watchful cat mom and sometimes a neglectful one. She went through a period of dutifully moving the kittens from one hiding place (stuffing them under a low dresser at one point) to another because we insisted on looking at them and playing with them. Or was she actually trying to lose them? She would occasionally forget to move one with the others and said kitten would be found crying and rescued. Winkie was an unusually smart cat – barn born and polydactyl, with big mitt like front paws. She may have had a kitten abandonment plan which we continually thwarted. As soon as they were sufficiently grown she immediately forgot she had had anything to do with their genesis and generally look upon them as interlopers.

So tiny they fit together on our computer chair which remains a favorite perch.

We kept all four kittens which did mean our cat population burgeoned overnight. I believe we were already in possession of at least one other cat, another orange tom named Pumpkin. Since we lived in a house, albeit a large one, that was a lot of felines although that was still at a time when they were free range in the neighborhood, and roamed in and out of the house more or less at will. In my memory at least, a good time was had by all during this period, although our German Shepherd was probably a bit put upon, not to mention my mother who had the daily responsibility for cats and kids. (Dad traveled a lot for work and seemed both unperturbed, but also less engaged with the pet excess of those days.)

This postcard was never mailed and clearly remained evidence of a lovely day in the yard, enjoying cats and kittens.

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.

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.

Sir Guy at Home

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

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

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

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

Red, a great kitty of yore!

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

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

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

Peaches, the lone girl cat here with three brothers.

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

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

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

Felix at the Chelsea Arts Ball

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Recently I have been in the midst of chasing down the remains of a Felix postcard collection, but this one popped up on its own from a different source in the middle of it. Felix on parade could be a real sub-genre of Felix photo collecting. Unlike the photo postcards of folks posing with Felix which hail exclusively from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, the parade photos are as often from the US. While many seem to be variations on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons, the best of them are from small parades elsewhere in the county. (Some of these previous examples can be found in posts here and here. Some of the photos from those posts are pictured below.) However, it has been a long time since one has come up for purchase. Hang onto your hats though folks – I think this is an interesting one.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Today’s comes to Pictorama from Great Britain and celebrates the Chelsea Arts Ball. The card was never sent. The only information printed on the back is Pathe Freres Cinema Ltd. Series Copyright. It turns out to be the 1922 edition of the ball. A bit of further research reveals that the design was overseen that year by artist Fred Leist and the theme (somewhat ironically as I write now in 2021) was Brighter London 100 years Hence. (I am thinking another worldwide pandemic was not on his mind at the time having just lived through the 1918 one.) That year the revelers danced to the Ceadon-West Orchestra, noted as a Big Band, but I cannot find many traces of them online.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea Arts Ball dates back to 1891, as far as I can tell from a brief history on the website of the club, (found here – and note the image of Felix on the side of their building in the photo!) having grown out of a tradition of fancy dress parties in the studios of artists in the 1880’s. It was meant to rival the already established Arts Club of Mayfair. (A side note that women were not admitted for membership in the Chelsea Arts Club until 1968!) The balls typically seemed to take place over New Year’s and/or Mardi Gras and eventually settled in at the Royal Albert Hall as a venue for a decades long run until the 1958 one was so raucous (Wikipedia sites, rowdiness, nudity and public homosexuality – which was illegal at the time – as what caused the ousting) that the ball was banned from the venue for the next 30 years. If I understand correctly, I believe that the party tradition continued until December of 2020 when, for Covid reasons, it was banned. The parties have been held at the site of the club at 143 Church Street in recent years.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The hope had been to rival the French equivalent, the Bal des Quat’s’Arts established in 1892, I gather a similar soiree produced by architecture students there. They achieved their goal and the Chelsea Arts Ball grew to be extravagant affairs with a hundred performers, lavish decor and thousands of participants who partied until dawn when breakfast was served. It was, according the the Chelsea Arts Club website, the centerpiece of London society. I will also credit them with providing the quote, The mere mention of the Chelsea Arts Ball would make the debutante blush and the dowager blench. Lady Muriel Beckwith, 1936. It leaves me with questions about the participants – had the ball left its roots among artists and become a fête only of the wealthy? Or was it an event that embraced both, high and low brow so to speak?

Felix stereocard. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Each ball was punctuated by a parade at midnight – presumably we are seeing some sort of a dry run here with a photo taken during a misty day and used for promotional purposes. There is no real indication, London weather being what it is, if this was a Mardi Gras or New Year’s version. While seemed to me that it is a New Year’s version, no hint of spring in this photo, research shows that this ball was held on February 8 of 1922 – still very cold, and a bit early for Mardi Gras. Very chilly for those short dresses! Somehow the gray mistiness of it adds to the appeal and creates the right atmosphere in this photo.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

And oh what a photo is it is! A giant paper-mâché Felix with a distinctly worried look (hands behind his back in the Felix Thinking Position) hovers over this bevy of women in short white dresses – it is hard to see their masks but I believe they are little birds; I think I see beaks! They are cute little white fluffy skirts however, with ruffles and a bow. As noted, they are not warmly dressed. The dancers are being herded by Felix costume clad men. These gents are also in charge of Felix’s movement and he is balanced (precariously?) on a sort of dolly. Felix appears to have three of these escorts. A few folks are onlookers, as they are largely men and hard to see them clearly.

The real scoop here is that film exists of the pre-ball parade shown on this card. It can be found on the British Pathe website. However a superior and decidedly longer version exists on Youtube and can be found here or below. This one goes on to show the assembled costumed performers and even some of the individual wild costumes that could be found. The Felix men and white dressed women join hands and dance around Felix in a delightful fashion!

An interesting and somewhat moving account of the party given to celebrate the end of WWI, also found on the Chelsea Arts Club site, describes it as the most famous one, held on March 12, 1919. It used the concept of Dazzle, the Navy camouflage process which owed its roots to Cubism and Vorticists. (Okay, I had to look that up – Vorticistism was a brief industrial influenced abstract art movement of the pre-War teens in Britain – one of my facts for the day!) Dazzle is described as a visible expression of jazz syncopation. Here they were in 1922, a few short years later, wondering what the next hundred years would bring.

Another photo related to the ball, from the Royal Albert Hall website.