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.

Teddy Hunter

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Fall toy sales, luck and a certain sense of indulgence have contributed to a certain abundance here at Pictorama at the moment. This photo postcard hails from that fall haul and is one of the smallest, but not least of purchases. I would say it dates back to the nascent days of the teddy bear, when its relationship to a President Roosevelt was still very much in evidence. As the story goes, Roosevelt (big game hunter as well as President) when given the opportunity to shoot a bear tied to a tree had declared it unsportsmanlike and declined. The editorial pages made hay with it and the stuffed bear toys were created in tribute.

The little girl in the photo looks awfully pleased with herself and she is nattily clad in hunting gators, “ammo” type belt and has her hat at a jaunty angle, as is her rifle – aimed at the heart of this poor teddy bear. She has one foot atop him, victorious over the vanquished toy – I love her attitude. She’s feeling her role. Meanwhile, the bear looks like a Steiff to me, a nice size one and certainly that company was at the forefront of the teddy bear producing craze.

There is a great early animated film using these toy bears from this period, The Teddy Bears from 1907. It tells the Teddy Roosevelt hunting story in a mash up with Goldilocks and the Three Bears, featuring folks in bear suits and ending with a crazy bit of Steiff bear stop-motion animation. It can be seen on Youtube as of the time of writing here. (This was the best print I could access although there is a better one out there I have seen.)

I purchased this card from a British toy vendor via an online sale a few weeks ago and I believe it to be made in Britain, although I cannot make out the tiny makers mark in the lower left corner. The card was never used postally. I have never seen it before, but it does fall slightly outside my area of collecting so I don’t have a sense of how common it might be.

Somewhere in a parallel universe, I believe I collect early teddy bears, especially Steiff. Somehow those bears manage to have very human expressions – each slightly different as well. (They fill shelves and cabinets in a house I live in via that universe, staring sympathetically at me.) Oddly, the single model of black cat produced by that company in the first few decades of the 20th century, while very available is somewhat charmless. To me they all look alike and have little personality – a source of some sadness to me frankly.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

However, hold the presses, while researching this today I discovered these fascinating forerunners of the basic Steiff arched back black cat! Plenty of personality is not an issue with these guys. What’s more, I had the opportunity to purchase one in the same sale referenced above – it only would have required a few thousand dollars I didn’t have another use for.

I was feeling indulgent, but maybe not quite that much! It might have been a good investment however, these are extremely rare and are from the earliest days of Steiff according to the site, My Steiff Life, in a post written back in 2013. (The blog post can be found here.) One of the fellows she posts about actually has a Steiff identifying button in his tail! Evidently these cats were produced in both black and even more rarified white – of those I could not even find a photo. Below I share a photo of the fellow who got away. Alas, I guess we here at Pictorama can’t expect to win them all – but we can try.

Sadly, not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Feeling Felix-y

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo find comes as I happen to have had a rare and thoroughly enjoyable encounter with another Felix collector in Great Britain over an auction purchase yesterday (oh my yes, more to come on that), and since I have Felix on the brain it seems like a good day to share this acquisition. It seems he gave up Felix collecting in favor of having children (imagine!), but has held onto his collection until now – with one of his beloved toys soon to slip into the Pictorama haven for all things early Felix. More to come on Peter and the Dean’s Felix which will make an American debut in future weeks – and with a nod of grateful thanks to Kim who helped finance that purchase.

One interesting (and rather splendid) feature is that Peter and his wife seem to have photos of children with the dolls they are selling. Someone who shares my interest in the photos as well as the toys! A brother from another mother it seems. I show one of their other offerings below, this currently for sale on Facebook and a group holding a sale under the name 200 Years of Childhood which can be found here, or under Leanda Harwood Bears. As it happens, I own this Felix below (or a kissin’ cousin anyway) so he wasn’t in the running for me. You might remember an especially interesting post about how these off-model Felix toys were made in an East London factory as a way of employing indigent women. That post of mine can be found here.

NOT in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection but for sale via the 200 Years of Childhood FB sale or via Leanda Harwood Bears, UK.

Meanwhile onto this hotsy totsy photo postcard winged its way in the door earlier this week and Kim and I especially like Felix’s saucy mugging in the middle of the picture. He provides a good counterbalance to the two angelic looking little boys and a fluffy white cat toy, peering out behind the little boy on the left.

I wonder if that white cat is a stand-in for Kitty, Felix’s ongoing romantic interest. She, at least the early version of Kitty, was more of an actual cat than the anthropomorphic Felix. The feminists need to get a hold of Kitty and rework her a bit, since all she ever seemed to do was flounce away, agree to let Felix take her out or produce prodigious packs of kittens. To my knowledge no period dolls of her exist – there is a sort of awful thing from the 80’s or so we won’t discuss. There is a Daddy Kitty, a male white cat, who occasionally appears with a rifle to move Felix along.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

These little boys are posed on a fluffy carpet and they (and their parents) may think they are the center of attention, but of course we know it is Felix, whose eyes are rolling comically to one side as he leans toward the little boy with the straight hair. It is as if the photographer and Felix are playing a joke on these folks, which comes to us decades later. Felix steals the show, upstaging these albeit cute kids. Of course, having said this, I would have loved to have been a child posing in a photo with Felix and have that relic, but I won’t hold the lapse against Mom and Dad.

Verso for card above.

On the back of this card, written in a loopy script it says, With Love & All Good wishes for a bright & Happy Xmas from Nelly Chas & Raymond. There is no date and this was not mailed. The card, which offers how additional copies could be acquired on the back, appears to be the product of Wakefield’s, 1 High Street & 21 The Mall, Ealing Broadway, W5 with a phone number. A quick search reveals that Wakefield’s was a noted Victorian photo studio and that Ealing seems to have been an area with a number of photography studios at the dawn of the 20th century. (A website devoted to researching this topic (What’s That Picture?) can be found here, but note that this fellow blogger appears to be focusing on earlier photographs, only up to WWI. (A not especially interesting modern building exists at the address now according to Google.) One interesting tidbit was that this, evidently very substantial, studio also had a branch in Brighton – which is, in my mind, definitely Felix photo territory.

A lovely way to send holiday greetings, but for us today a bit of a fall Felix frolic.

How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama is generally and decidedly devoted to things feline – Felix finds, people posing with giant cat chairs, and photos of cats gone-by – but occasionally we wander into the dark side and we have a dog day. (For the canine lovers out there a few other posts can be found here and here.)

Even pre-pandemic, for decades really, Kim and I have had take-out on Friday night. We rarely have it during the week and frankly, although I eat out for work frequently, we rarely eat out at all. I generally cook (you can read more about my adventures in cooking, complete with recipes here and here) and find it healthier and less expensive (this is Manhattan!) to cook at home, and what’s more I like my own food. However, after a long hard week of work, signaling the start of the weekend, we have a date for take-out. There was a long stretch of Mexican take-out from an extended Korean family across the street and I would often meet Kim after my Friday evening work out at the gym.

The pizza guy figure who graces the entrance to Arturo’s Pizza take-out on 85th and York.
View of First Avenue from inside Taco Today, waiting for our Friday night order last year.

During Covid days the Mexican take-out was shut (it had actually closed right before for renovations and did not reopen for eight or more months) and we supported local from dwindling choices in the form of pizza (our beloved Arturos on York and 85th which kept its tiny storefront open and feed the neighborhood throughout the leanest time here) and a somewhat swankier Mexican restaurant on 86th Street. However, at the suggestion of my trainer who is very fond of it, we tried a Vietnamese place, the aptly named Vietnaam, on 88th and Second that had shutdown except for take-out. We fell in love with their soups and dumplings and have become devotees ever since landing there most Fridays. A line streams out their door on weekends.

The pick-up window at Vietnaam, with Kim paying for our take-out a few weeks ago.

In addition to the treat of laksa and canh chua soup it means a lovely walk of several blocks which helps us separate our minds and begin the transition from the distraction of work as we start to reacquaint ourselves with the idea of time off. In the winter it means bundling up, but the promise of hot noodle soup spurs us on and it is a good respite for a week devoted largely to chair sitting at desks.

Recently, over a period of months, someone was decorating a tree just east of the restaurant. I documented the additions periodically on Instagram. Then, just as abruptly, it was all gone without a trace.

Over the past year or so an antique/junk store had the courage to open on First Avenue between 87th and 88th, right near where my favorite bakery used to be. (That Yorkville moment post can be found here.) I saw stuff being moved in and then, there it was lights on a ready for action on summer Friday, back in ’20. Take out in hand we wandered in for a quick inspection and the stock was an eclectic mix, skewing slightly higher end than I might have thought. Some research shows that it is actually called Spellman Gallery, and would probably not be pleased to be put in the category of antique/junk store, although I mean it with the greatest fondness and deep affection for both antiques and junk. They do sell art, some early photographs of interest, but the bits and bobs interest me most.

The paper dresses in the window of the store caught my eye a few months back.

Although I’m unsure if we even went in again, I liked to look in the window. A few months back in February they had vintage newspaper dresses in the window which entertained me. And recently they launched a display of dog banks and door stops which garnered my attention. First one (nice!) cast iron door stop, but rapidly filled in with the others. Banks followed, a barking dog bank which made us curious about what the action might be. Now they had my full attention, wondering each Friday if there would be another addition – or would something have been sold and disappeared?

An earlier incarnation of the doggie window, pre-my pup.
This early entry sold quickly and was replaced with a “talking” dog bank and a dog jumping bank.

Over several weeks I enjoyed looking at this little fellow. Something about his cast iron cushion, the colors and his expression attracted me. I kept hoping he wouldn’t be sold and disappear. I appreciated the entire display and while I hated to be the one to break up the party, Saturday Kim and I looped around and wandered in to inquire about him. The store had grown pleasantly fuller since our initial visit. There was a large display of lovely early cooking bowls – yellow ware she called it when someone came into inquire. I own a few bowls of this type, given to me by a friend clearing out her attic, which I have used almost daily for years. I was shocked at the prices of them, but have no intention of taking mine out of daily rotation.

Our doggie was more dear than I think Kim or I anticipated, but when I started to hesitate Kim offered to substantially defray the cost and out of the shop window and home with us he came.

Our cheerful fellow off his pillow base.

Our pup is a bank and he is not attached to his light blue metal cushion he is perched upon – the stored coins accessible through a screw in the bottom. (Unscrewing this would make him come apart in two halves.) He is very heavy and although his paint is chipped in a few places it does not affect his overall jolly appeal. It took us a few minutes to even find where coins go in at the back of his neck. One jingles alluringly in the bank, but I am not taking him apart to find out what it is!

Coin slot just above his collar.

He is the product of Hubley, the early manufacturer of cast iron bank and doorstop fame, founded in 1909, and his brethren and tracks about them were surprisingly easy to find online. I did fail however to find him precisely. The earliest version of this bank I found was back in 1914, another slight design change is evident in one from the ’30’s. Originally sold under the name Puppo in the teens and s/he was designed by Grace Gebbie Drayton. (On his light blue cushion it is a he for me but interestingly always referred to as she in the online listings and information.)

The later incarnation morphs into Fido on a Pillow; it is unclear if the earliest version sported the pillow or not. (The later version had Fido embossed on the collar, mine doesn’t.) Not surprisingly, the pillow was often lost and I read that it was also sold sans pillow, and a black and white version of the dog alone proliferates online in various states of condition. (I’ll just say, it is all about the pillow for me.) Somehow I place mine roughly in the 1920’s, looking at the arc of designs.

Identified as the earlier, 1914 version, Puppo.
For sale on eBay, another differently painted version, closest to mine.

Having made a purchase from them I suspect I will wander back into the Spellman Gallery to poke around. Moreover however, I hope their window continues to entertain me on Fridays. Welcome to Yorkville Mr. Spellman.

Scooting Along

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix postcard came via the same source as yesterday’s – and I hope there will be more to come from this recent Felix El Dorado. I will report on that aspect when I know a bit more, but for now another interesting card.

This postcard appears to have been blackened by hand and probably traced from a master source. This is clear from looking closely at the brushy and uneven application of the ink and the ghost of a pencil line or two. The precise origin of this series (other than it appears to be British) is also a mystery and I have written about them before and own a few others. (The posts about the earlier drawn cards can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While at first it seemed somewhat improbably that postcards were being produced this way, consider the handmade origin of some of my treasured stuffed Felix toys. I once wrote a post on how many were produced by hand on the East End of London in a project to employ indigent women. (That post can be found here.) It helps to remember that postcards were the email of the early 20th century, mail delivery twice a day, and were used to make dates and for simple greetings and communications.

People here and in Britain must have kept well supplied to drop a note to this friend or that. Many of my cat photo postcards contain simple messages about having arrived safely at a location, missing family or reporting a visit with a friend or family. So while it still seems rather remarkable, this operation of hand production is the explanation I have settled on.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This card sports a Felix-y message, How I am coming in a fortnight’s time Ethel, PS not with a tail, Fred’ll keep that. It is addressed to Z. Honeysett, Woodview, Silverdale Road, Eastbourne. However, it is worth noting that there is no stamp or postmark, so perhaps this was included in a larger missive or package. The card has two pin holes from where it did time tacked up somewhere.

Meanwhile, Felix is zooming on his scooter which could fairly be said was one of his preferred methods of transportation. Here his tail is sort of ballast – that tail which fans of the cartoon know could come off and be used for many purposes. The tail is special indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. My version of the upright kitty toy I use as my avatar for this site.

Here in the pandemic period of the 21st century, I have adopted an image of Felix as my Zoom and social media avatar. He has graced my Instagram and Twitter accounts, although Pictorama has a sporty wind-up cat of less distinction which I did had not acquired when I started the blog. (Pleased to say that I am now happily in possession of this item and featured him above. He was given a post which can be read here.) I do not own the zippy version of Felix on a scooter that I use – it is a rather rarefied Italian (I think) variation that I have only seen for sale a few times and at unattainable prices. I have a somewhat non-functional version that charms me by sitting on the shelf nonetheless.

My somewhat broken down version of the scooter Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It should be noted, however, that the version that my avatar version wears has very zooty polka dot trousers and enjoys a spring for a tail. This does make him very desirable in my opinion and I find his off-model face rather charming as well. (I wonder what it says on his tummy?)

(Sadly) not in my collection.

When Zoom came into our lives abruptly in March of 2020 I replaced the generic “snowman” with Felix figuring I would give everyone a giggle. It did although some folks didn’t seem to know Felix or at least recognize him. Strangely you do become identified with your avatar quickly and it was almost surprising when someone new on a call would ask about him. (Having said that, I actually try to do at least part of my meetings, especially with colleagues, on camera to humanize the activity somewhat.)

After my Memorial Day fall my face was swollen and bruised and I decided to spare everyone and myself the sight of me on camera for a bit. During this time I received a request to change my avatar for a work related event where I had declined to go on camera and I switched to a photo taken a few years ago when I started my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I have yet to change it back again, although it is my plan because looking at this slightly earlier version of myself doesn’t suit my mindset after 15 months of working at home. Perhaps the little upright cat deserves some air time, although somehow the idea of zipping along as Felix has special appeal.

Felix Summer in the City

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo comes from the Midwest (it found its way to me via @missmollystlantiques who discovered her) and hails from the earlier decades of the 20th Century. I tried to date this photo by the Felix toy which is a Yes/No Felix but couldn’t find anything definite. (However, I am pleased to say I have one of these little fellows and I have written about the acquisition of him for a birthday gift back in 2017 and that post can be found here.) I am going to put this photo at the late 1930’s, but I am open to the opinions and interpretations of you all as well.

Yes/No Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The other toy is maddeningly hard to see. I think it is a monkey, a step up from a rag doll, but with very long arms and sporting a little uniform of sorts.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The age of the girl in the photo eludes me as well – dressed a bit childishly, how old or young is she? Of course I myself often pose with my beloved toys so I cast no aspersions if she is a bit older. Her gingham sunsuit and pigtails trimmed with ribbons seem young on her, but that could also just be by today’s fashion. One sandeled foot sporting a striped sock is barely visible. Although it could just be a wall of a building it feels like a rooftop to me, something about it says roof to me. A hot summer day at midday.

There is nothing written on the photo and the back is clean – it was not ripped from an album. I like the border of dots around the edge. That sort of border and the later scalloped edges were nice touches. A photo feels more like a finished product even without a frame with those added bits.

Kim and a reluctant Cookie.

Her toy-pride has earned the photo a place in my collection. The impulse to pose with your toys is almost as strong as scooping up your kitty for a pic.

*************

As an aside, for those Pictorama followers who know I recently broke two fingers, I am pleased to report that I was set free from my (somewhat hateful, hard plastic) splint yesterday by the good Dr. Mir, who also said I don’t need to see him for a month. (The post about my mishap on Memorial Day can be read here.) I am not allowed to run for three more weeks, but I suspect I will start gentle workouts on the other parts of my body this week, under the careful eye of the every vigilant Harris Cowan, my trainer. Physical therapy continues – three times a day at home and twice weekly at the facility on 87th Street.

I am actually typing this post, albeit slowly, with both hands. The word Felix is a tough reach for my ring finger, but I am pleased in general to see the wounded fingers respond to being put through their paces!

The better side of my newly freed hand!

Best Wishes for Health and Happiness for the Year 1936

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased today’s card recently on eBay – the lurid colors, patterns complimented the toys nicely – and what nice toys this little girl is sporting! While it was the black cat tucked under her arm that got my attention, it is really that nice dog that steals the show. He has a nice ruffled collar and reminds me of the paper mache bulldogs (growlers) that I have hankered for over many years. I will hope to be in a Paris flea market and finding him someday in the future. I share a French dog cousin of this one, acquired there in 2015. (The related blog post of a jolly raiding of French flea markets can be found here.)

Dog toy acquired in Paris. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

To be entirely fair to the black cat he is interesting too and one I have not seen before. I suspect he has a nice fluffly tail hiding behind her arm. He has been done in the manner of the Steiff cats, but we can see by his small head and bright white whiskers that he is something else. He would make a nice addition to my collection as well.

This card falls loosely into a category of my collection of French cards, with lucky black cats or real cats, sometimes luridly colored. (The post below can be found here.)

Painted Puss, from Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The photographer for this birthday card had an excellent set though and I am sort of mad for the geometric modern art rug the little girl is standing on. Somehow the many patterns – her dress, the rug and those great striped knee socks – all work together. The contrasting color which would have been applied after wasn’t leaving anything up to chance and somehow the orange bit up at the top brings it all home. The French had something going on with these. It’s a sharp little card.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This card was used as a card, but never mailed. Written on the back in ink, roughly translated a la Google, it reads, Dear friend, Best wishes for happiness and health for the year 1936. Andree and Fernandy (?). That as best I can tell. Of course the front of the card wishes the recipient a Happy Birthday as well. It probably will not surprise Pictorama readers that I would consider it a very nice birthday indeed if I were to receive these toys.

Chick-a-dee

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I bought this little fellow on a whim with a small haul of things from @curiositiesantique on Instagram a few months back. Much like I collect a certain number of dogs to balance my cat collection (and keep the stuffed cats on their toes), I likewise have a smattering of birds and mice (to entertain them) as well. This rooster is made by the high-end toy manufacturer Steiff and he is a tiny fellow as I have indicated in this photo.

He is smaller than the Schuco wind-up bird I featured back in 2016 in my post Tweet, Tweet, Tweet (that post can be found here) and sadly he does not hop around, except maybe in my imagination. He is missing his beady little eye on one side. However, he is nicely constructed and I am especially fond of his wire feet for some reason. He has been living on a shelf right near where I work so I see him out of the corner of my eye there most days. As yesterday was the first day of Spring and Easter is around the corner, I thought we would give him the spotlight today.

Steiff Hen, not in Pam-Pictorama.com Collection.

A quick internet search turns up a matching hen and a lot of conflicting information about what period of Steiff this fellow is from. Most of their chicken line has felt covered legs rather than these nice wire ones, and he can likely be dated from that if I knew a bit more. (One site says the wire leg chickens are the earliest; another says they are from the 1950’s and ’60’s.) He has lost his tag (which would have been annoyingly large and hanging from his tail from what I can see), but he is quickly identifiable as a Steiff product. Roosters seem to have remained in their catalogue for decades and there are some wild variations on the theme, especially in the more contemporary category.

Fancy Steiff Rooster, not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I have never known a chicken personally, hen nor rooster, although I stopped eating them a few decades back. Unlike Kim though I still consume the occasional egg, but in deference to his preference I do not bake with them and generally swap out with buttermilk as a binding agent which works surprisingly well. (One of those recipes can be found in a baking post here.)

I purchased some plant-based egg substitute the other day, called Just Eggs, which ironically would appear to be anything except egg. (Unless they mean just in the sense of sense of justice and are referring to the injustice of eggs?) I think they would be a good substitute for eggs in baking, but I am unable to find a conversion for them. (Readers, please share any information you might have about that. While a raw egg is about three tablespoons somehow this substitute looks like you would need a tad more than that.)

Egg substitute I recently purchased and haven’t quite figured out.

My mother, a lover of pretty much all of our feathered friends, admits that she had a dislike for chickens growing up. I gather from her that if not housed they will roost in trees and go quite wild. They would squawk and cause a ruckus as she walked to and from school and scared her as a kid.

Nevertheless, as an adult and a rescuer of waterfowl (and a vegan) mom has friends and acquaintances who have kept chickens as house pets and evidently they are smart and companionable. Mom once shared a video about a pet chicken (I want to say a hen) who lived in the house with the family, making its home in an enclosed porch at the front of the house. They live to a greater age as pets, almost three times the average span of a barn chicken, but still top out at around ten or twelve years. (Google states flatly that keeping a chicken inside is a bad idea.)

While my ambitions in life occasionally travel in the direction of home ownership and a longing for yard space for at least a small herb and vegetable garden, it has not extended to chickens necessarily. There are some mighty fine fancy chickens out there and admittedly they do tempt me a bit. For now here at Deitch Studio we will stick with a clock radio and cats to wake us up early in the morning.

Driven

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This morning I dug into pile of photos next to my desk and came across this one which I have absolutely no memory of purchasing – none whatsoever. It does happen, although rarely and more frequently with unframed snapshots where I might purchase a lot of several. It must have come from an IG sale as I can’t imagine how I would have stumbled across it on eBay. The photo is framed with the back sealed so no idea if there is information on the back. Strangely, there is no way to hang it on the back, nor a way to prop it up.

Clearly the antique toy car appealed to me and these two kids seem to agree as they look mighty pleased with themselves. Really, what kid, boy or girl, wouldn’t feel like they were at the top of the world with such an item? This car is a bit battle scarred, but that does not diminish how wonderful it must have been to be driving it. These kids are clearly sister and brother; they could even be fraternal twins.

Without seeing much of the yard I suspect that they had plenty of room to take her around in as well. (I saw a kid with an impressive motorized car in a high rise driveway on 86th Street recently and thought that it must be frustrating to have such limited opportunity to drive such a great item. Also, it really is the ability to be independent and to get away from adults – right?)

The paint on this car is faded and streaked, but the steering wheel sits up proudly and there is some sort of a windshield as well. We can only see the back of them but there are headlights on the front, a grill along the side (as sporty cars would have had at the time), these nice wheels and we can see the pedal mechanism underneath. The boy is sitting on the back and looking carefully it appears that there was some sort of area without a seat which might have enabled hauling small loads or perhaps a second rider.

These kids are in what appears to be a backyard, wooden frame house and a bushy bit of garden are behind them. Further back a wooden fence and more bushy grasses behind some cinderblock edging or in planters, hard to tell, but the yard looks like a good one to ride such a car in.

Locomotion is a prized thing for a kid. I was the proud owner of a pink and white two-wheeler with a chipper basket, but was somewhat hampered by living near busy streets my folks didn’t want me on. Our neighbors have a little boy, Eliot, who currently sports a scooter with wheels that light up as it goes. He and his dad were taking it for a spin in the hall on their way to the laundry room the other day and Kim and I paused to share our real admiration of it. Scooters abound in New York City right now – those you push with your foot and a motorized variety that I think was largely nixed for safety, but you still see them. Kids and adults alike use them, sometimes together.

This appears to be pretty close to Eliot’s scooter.

The pandemic more or less coincided with the rise of the motorized bike here in New York City. These are largely employed by food delivery people and I read an article recently that there is a problem with them being stolen. Kim and I agree that they are pretty great and I think we’d both like a try at one, although since our bike years are far behind us and neither of us really drives perhaps better if it doesn’t happen.

As kids though, from tricycles, to two-wheelers, wagons, skateboards, scooters and all the rest we are fascinated with those things that allow us to go, fast or slow, to haul or coast. And if you were lucky enough to have a fine ride such as this you are mighty lucky and you knew it.

Belated

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As is sometimes the case, a birthday post has been nudged forward by the great Deitch Valentine reveal. My birthday comes right before that holiday and has a way of getting mashed up with it. As Pictorama readers know, my idea of a birthday celebration in the before time was for Kim and I to spend the day poking around an antique toy store here in Manhattan, and checking in at a few places I would happily classify as junk stores and then grabbing lunch. (Past birthday posts can be found here and here and always resulted in a pleasant acquisition of stuff.) Covid times do not allow for that and I wonder what merchants of that kind will still be with us when we get to the other side, as well as restaurants.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Kim gave me this rather splendid ancient Halloween toy which I found at auction and is the first of its kind to enter my collection. His head is paper mache and his body is a woolly felt. His red ruff is a bit of silk and he is perched on a wooden handle. He can be moved gently like a puppet and I think he would have been a jolly addition for a child celebrating the holiday and is the right size for that. Unwrapping it in the morning, along with some birthday cards (yes, I still send them via the mail and receive a few in turn) launched the day nicely.

I was born in a snow storm. My mom often tells the story of her decision to go to the hospital as soon as she sensed it might be the day and having a look at the weather forecast. (We Wheeling women are planners!) It was a good decision because the snow piled up rapidly and by the time I was born in the late afternoon, the New Jersey town of her own birth and where they were staying with her parents, was under a deep blanket of snow.

My father brought her a large box of Valentine’s Day chocolates. (Dad always brought us boxes of chocolates for Valentine’s Day – Whitman Samplers and puffy heart shaped boxes of Russell Stover ones.) As the story goes, the long-standing family doc visited her in the evening (he had not delivered me, an obstetrician had) and sat on the edge of her bed and ate his way through the entire box of chocolates! Much to my father’s surprise when he showed up, the empty box remained and he gave his wife a sideways look (it would have been quite an accomplishment after giving birth only hours before) until she realized and let him in on the demise of the candy.

Carl Schurz Park in the snow the day after my birthday.

Having a mid-February birthday has meant a regular routine of canceled or rescheduled plans over the decades. I won’t say there is snow on the ground for everyone of my birthdays, but several major snowstorms stick out in my mind including one where I stubbornly went down to the East Village to meet someone and incredibly found myself in drifts of unshoveled snow waist deep. A few years later, there was a weekend trip with a then boyfriend that sadly had to be canceled, but instead he booked us into a wonderful old-fashioned hotel in midtown where we watched the snow pile up around us.

Snowy February view from our apartment.

To be honest, I find birthdays a bit overwhelming. When I turned 21 I decided to take matters in my own hands; I invited a friend to join me and I concocted a worthy day of celebration. Once I had a job, my sister insisted that I take the day off from work and to reinforce the idea Loren also took the day and we spent it together a few times. The first time we visited the butterfly exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History (it was endearing to me that she went despite the fact that later I found out that they actually freaked her out) and had lunch together. Loren also had the habit of calling me at the crack of dawn on my birthday, stating that she wished to be the first to wish me a Happy Birthday. (A good friend of hers keeps the practice via text and email rather than phone at 5:30 or 6:00 – although the day at Deitch Studio is already well underway by then these days.) I still miss it every birthday.

Many years ago I founded the practice of a series of dinners with friends and colleagues who also had February birthdays throughout the month, a birthday club of sort that embraced people from all aspects of my life. Sadly in recent years it has whittled down to just a few (fellow Aquarians, feel free to speak up!) and of course this year bringing all more or less to a halt. Covid combined with piles of snow! Still, I look forward to catching up with those folks annually and have the space to just relax and check in with each other.

Eileen Travell at a birthday dinner last year.

Somehow even my game of pretending outdoor eating is like being on an Arctic expedition couldn’t meet the challenge of the weather for outdoor dining this year. (My last outdoor meal was at the end of December and there was snow piled on the ground already. We sat under heaters and were offered blankets sealed in bags. My layers and boots combined with the consumption of a hot toddy and hot soup kept it festive for a bit more than an hour before we decided we were done.) My birthday week the restaurants were largely in agreement with me and weren’t even trying as they dug out from what the snow plows dumped in their al fresco dining areas. I think I will bring my own polar fleece blanket if I tried again before spring.

This year I did however take the day off from work and despite being home I really came as close as I have since last March to unplugging. My office was very thoughtful and flowers arrived from one faction and a lovely bag of cheese and treats from another. I purchased a new chair for work as I have been perching on a very worn one sans arms and my back has been in violent protest. (My trainer, Harris Cowan, told me that no arms on the chair was a big no no as he tried to get me to stretch my way out of the lower back pain.) While I had intended to buy it for myself for my birthday my mother stepped in and made it a birthday gift from her. Several days prior to my birthday it arrived and Kim and I put it together which, while challenging, we managed handily.

Cookie in full possession of the new office chair earlier today.

I deeply suspect that buying a desk chair is a bit like buying a new mattress – it can be a very expensive mistake and it is hard on the face of it to judge how spending hours in it is really going to work out. Going to office supply stores to try them out seemed out of the question under the circumstances, nor do I think you can really tell what it will be like to sit in something for hours on end by just sitting down in it. It is a decision you are going to live with and therefore somewhat intimidating to make. I researched them online (there were none without complaints, but I decided on which things I thought I could live with if true), decided on a medium sort of price range (they quickly go from inexpensive to more than a thousand dollars), and picked one. Sadly, I was told about four days later that the chosen one was no longer in stock and I went with my second choice.

Cookie on the former chair favorite, now a lesser perch.

Although I am still adjusting things around it (table height of the drafting table I use as a desk still isn’t right) it was a fine choice. The cats fight me for it daily in fact (they adore it) and as I write this at our “big” computer (I work on a laptop during the week) Cookie is curled up in it. She has been asleep in it since last night and she has one eye half open staring at me wondering if I am going to take it away from her. She and Blackie go to war over it almost daily – war hoops and boxing over the right to claim it. In general I would say Cookie has the edge in the amount of time she spends in it – she is very determined. When shutout Blackie goes back to sleeping on the bed, Cookie often to the chair I am sitting in now – which used to be the chair of cat choice. When Cookie and Blackie allow, I sit in it for upwards of ten hours a day and I am very glad for the arms in particular – especially when work requires I be on camera for long periods of time.

In the spirit of birthday, I also purchased myself the pin below. Last year I had purchased an old school medal which declared, Improvement in this very different year I bought this one with hearts from Great Britain which instead offers Best Wishes. (This purchased from an Instagram seller I am very fond of following, @fiorisfinds. Hey Marco! Thank you!) Nice to give myself encouragement where I can.

I have not resigned myself to the idea that I won’t still figure out a birthday meal of sorts with at least one determined friend, and perhaps at least a call or a Zoom call with another. A few of the elderly ones will have to suffice with cards and emails this year. When the weather warms up even a smidge I will see if Kim and I can’t get out of the apartment for a day in another part of town – everything outside of the immediate environs of Yorkville feels exotic these days. And when we do, I promise to tell you all about it.