That-a-Ways

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am crazy about this odd little item I purchased recently. He is about five inches high and constructed with a thin sort of wood. I believe he is homemade, but very nicely executed. There is an odd little knot in the wood atop one eye which mars the overall effect a tad, but generally a job well done. He is only painted on one side, his back is all black. (Something was written on the bottom, but it has faded beyond reading. Part of it appears to be some numbers, but they don’t make sense as a date.)

Can anyone else read what’s on the bottom?

I suspect that there was some sort of pattern which may have helped instruct the execution of his charming off-model self. Like many of the most interesting (and creatively conceived of) Felix-es in my collection, this one hails from Great Britain – the 1920’s and ’30’s had to be a fiesta of Felix related items, the stuff of dreams!

I suspect that this fellow was somehow part of something, like a crystal radio set from a kit or pattern. These have always appealed when they become available, but I have never seen one in person and they go for a lot of money. This seems a smidge smaller than I imagine those being, but not by much and I have not seen one like it.

Homemade Felix sign, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

I purchased another wooden Felix not too long ago and was somewhat disappointed by it’s size and girth when it arrived. (Bigger and heavier than anticipated. You can read that post here: Felix and The Ebony Room.) I have previously written about the fact that I don’t always pay enough attention to size when I buy online – or my idea of it is wrong. This seems to be an occupational hazard of my collecting hobby and has resulted in, among other things, a four foot box of Mickey Mouse arriving as a Christmas gift from Kim one year. ((I have written about that acquisition, of our giant Dean’s Rag Mickey in the post here: Big Mickey.)

Dean’s Rag Mickey, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

However, this Felix is exactly how I thought he would be and his pose assumes good Felix-y action.

For those of you who have been following the addition of new shelves to our tiny abode, I will assure you that I am getting close to a big reveal of those and this little fellow is taking a front and center spot. I will say this however, It has created a lot more display space and gives me the delightful prospect of figuring out how I might ultimately fill them up.

Bathing Beauties

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s post focuses on a small bevy of beach beauties all originating from a single album. If I understand correctly, although found in the Midwest, these photos were probably taken in New London, Connecticut. Fastidious Pictorama readers may remember that I graduated from Connecticut College, located in New London (a post about that can be found by clicking here on Train tracking), and therefore these images strike a particular cord of memory of the beaches there.

As college students we did occasionally find our way to the beaches of New London and the surrounding areas. However, given that I returned home to the Jersey shore for the months of June, July and August, I tended to be in New London off season and have no memory of having been swimming there, nor do I think I ever even wore a bathing suit while there. I do have a very fond memory of being at Harkness beach late one night in the snow however. There is a boardwalk sort of arcade. It was very beautiful and I remember regretting that I never had seen it in season.

At the time of these photos New London was still largely an enclave of some wealth and privilege. The college was already there, attracting the more Bohemian young women of a moneyed class. As I have written previously, for a variety of reasons the town has mostly fallen on hard times, a cycle of struggling and failing to achieve urban renewal. However, there is an area near the water where the old mansions still exist and the shoreline is largely beautiful, if somewhat marred now by industry.

Given the singularly female focus of these photos I wonder if they were attending the college which was at that time, a single sex all-women’s school, although for them, like me, this would be out of season. Or perhaps at least they were chums from school there.

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I purchased other photos from this album which I will share in future posts, but I will note, these women liked to be lined up for a photo. (You will see more of this in those later posts.) Looking at what to us today appear to be impossibly ancient swimming attire, they appear quite natural on them and they certainly do not seem encumbered by them as we might think today. The water is crowded with people, wading and lounging in what looks to be fairly shallow water, perhaps on a sandbar of some kind. I look especially at the picture of them submersed in the water, up to their necks, and I envy them! This is what vacations were when I was a kid.

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Meanwhile, I especially like the image of the woman alone on a now deserted beach. Her long white cotton dress and a jaunty scarf. Perhaps early morning or evening, before or after the crowds of the day, both lovely times to be at the beach.

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By comparison Kim and I are more or less wrapping up our sort of a summer vacation this year. At some point we mostly gave up and shifted into working, albeit perhaps a bit less than usual, slowing to a jog instead of the long hard sprint of spring into summer. I have never failed at vacationing so resoundingly, my list of household ambitions largely unsatisfied, truly unable to unplug, let alone visits to the shore or lazy days.

Sidewalk dining at Veselka earlier this week.

Some ambitions were met, new shades were finally installed (this after our window replacement last October, the huge boxes containing them sitting in our one room like furniture since March), the bottom of a closet cleared out as needed for storage. However, other bookcases that required sorting out – in one case a coat of paint needed (I got as far as purchasing the paint), and a new carpet for the living room were among the items not achieved.

Kim and I ate out for the first time since March, Veselka in the East Village, and we tried a Vietnamese restaurant for take out near home. Our old favorite Mexican joint across the street reopened, to our great happiness and surprise as we thought they were clearly victims of the virus economy, closed first for renovation and then through the intervening months since March.

However, I cannot say I really got rested – I suspect Kim would say the same; he returned to several hours of inking daily in week two. Work continued to need my attention and I remained restless. I will take this last week before Labor Day at something less than full throttle and see if I cannot rest up a bit more. Somehow this year, with the whole world standing on end and trying to reinvent itself, letting go of the reins entirely was not possible, not for me. Labor Day weekend is on the horizon, let fall begin.

Flat Felix Prop

Pams-Pictorama.com

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For experienced Pictorama readers it is known that this sort of a Felix photo find represents a good day here at Deitch Studio. Although these are technically one of a kind photos, I admit this one was so similar to another in my possession that I double checked to make sure somehow there wasn’t a second copy or version. But no, remarkably it is the same Felix and background, presumably the very same studio, but a different small child.

In poking around for this post I have found yet another in my possession, of two men this time, which seems to be the same Felix, but a different background. There’s yet another in this genre which seems remarkably similar, but Felix has his arms in a different position and the background is different.

Was sure that this was the same location, but Felix has his arm up here and the background is different. Pams-Pictorama.com

It has to be noted that this studio produced a lousy photograph. Kim has juiced the contrast on this, but as a group they are poorly developed, probably not washed properly, and therefore have faded. It is crooked across the bottom as if the negative was torn somehow before printing. (The other one from this studio also has a crooked bottom – it was clearly an ongoing issue!)

Like most of these, this card was never mailed and there are no notes on the back. Based on my other photos I believe that this was taken at Blackpool. (I admit that this is frequently noted by sellers, but there is no actual evidence that supports the idea that Blackpool was indeed the particular seaside town that this, and the others, originated from.) Unlike most of my photos of folks, young and adult alike, posing with stuffed, oversized versions of Felix these children are less than jolly.

The little girl has slipped her hand into the crux of Felix’s arm, but (much like the other photos of same) she does not look the least bit happy about it; she is almost reluctant. This off-model Felix does look a tad lascivious admittedly though. She is dressed up for the occasion it seems, over-sized bow in her hair, ruffly dress, neat socks and mary-janes clad feet. There is a bit of flotsom on the floor behind Felix, a somewhat tatty studio we can’t help but feel. Still, I can’t help but imagine I would have been grinning from ear to ear, given the chance to have my photo taken, arm and arm with Felix.

If you want to stroll through the whole series of similar Felix photos click on any of the following titles: Flat Felix Photo Finale, Installment 3; Blackpool, Felix Cutout Continued; Economical Felix; Felix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1.

I am inspired now to assemble all of these photos and get them up on the wall this weekend. They have earned a place of their own on the Felix wall of fame here.

Fine Print

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

Detail of Felix-y fabric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team Sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VIM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Wolf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Whale of a Good Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aim

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Jersey Sights

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

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

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

Lucy-USpatent268503_1882.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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