Pam’s Pictorama Toy Extravaganza Post: Hold onto your hats, this is a huge post! I started this morning with the photo of Jane Withers holding her wonderful Aesop Fable doll, the Princess, shown in a photo grab off the internet rather than a ham-handed photo of my own also rather pristine example – the first to enter my collection several years ago. Jane evidently had an enormous collection which she sold off in recent times. (See http://collectdolls.about.com/od/auctions/a/janewithers.htm for more info.) One can only imagine what toys a child star had the chance to indulge herself in! I like this photo and it is one of the ones in more or less permanent rotation in our tiny home.
But onto the cartoons – and the toys! I never got to see these cartoons as a child. I have to assume that I would simply be a better person if I had…
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a wet morning as I contemplate my second, splendid cat chair card and my upcoming ferry trip to see my mom in New Jersey. (If I could figure out a universal way of referring to these cat postcards I might be able to locate more, but I tend to go with cat chair photo or giant black catpostcard. However, when I Google those phrases I generally just get my own posts. Thoughts anyone?) Should I decide that I don’t mind risking getting wet I could probably get a run in before leaving, but as it stands now it is not an inspiring view out the window.
Meanwhile, the very first thing I did when I began looking at this card was to compare it to a few others to see if it was the same cat. (That post can be found here.) This one has such jolly white toe lines and a very pointy ears and tail. If you look carefully, this cat sports a collar which is a nice touch. While it is a close match for one of my other cards, shown below, it isn’t the same cat. (Looking at the tail and the shape of the head mostly.) I think it is fair to say, however, that it is almost exactly the same spot as the other photo – the buildings behind them are identical. It is easy now to imagine that there may have been several cats lined up as options to pose on – a delightful thought.
It is a totally different cat than yesterday’s photo and the background looks substantially different, however reviewing my past posts it turns out that these are also likely taken at Margate as well – which places a few others with very similar (same?) cat and background. (Those posts can be found here and here.) Unlike the little boy in the other photo, this little girl looks pretty pleased with herself perched on this kitty. She is dressed up for the occasion with a dress, hat, stripped socks and maryjanes, always a good look. This girl rides the kitty with aplomb.
Looking at yesterday’s feature photo, I realize that it is that Kenneth and Ruth might be riding the same cat as one featured in a photo I have owned for a long time, one of the first cat chair photos I ever purchased. Look at how similar the tails are! I should have noticed this yesterday. (The post can be read here.)
Unlike yesterday’s card, today’s was never sent and has nothing noted on the back so we don’t know a date or this little girl’s identity.
As I look at the spattering of rain and contemplate the prospect of a ferry trip to the shore in a few hours I will keep the stalwart British vacationers in mind. Their notes always express gratitude for when it doesn’t rain, clearly many beach holiday hours are also spent inside contending with the weather.
The ferry is always an interesting trip (IG followers will surely see some photos later) in any weather. I think I can expect the water to be a tad rough today and I will layer up for the chill too. The last time I was in New Jersey was for a concert for work – we froze in the rain then too. It was Memorial Day weekend and I came home and fell running – and broke two fingers – so I have not been back yet this summer. Regardless of weather, I am looking forward to seeing my mother and her collection of cats which has expanded by two over the past year. More on that to come.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I am celebrating a rather rarified subset of my photo postcard collection, people astride giant stuffed black cats. There appear to have been fewer festive felines for posing placed out in the world of the 1920’s and ’30’s than there were large Felix dolls and therefore fewer photos floating around in the world, nearing a century later. (If you are new to Pictorama and have no idea what I am referring to when I refer to Felix photos, some past posts featuring Felix can be found here and here.)
Today’s postcard is unusual in that it has been inscribed on the back and appears to have been sent, but since there is no postal mark I assume it was placed in an envelope instead of mailed as a postcard, as was last week’s post. This seems often to be the case with the photo postcards – they were rarely mailed, but sometimes have messages or notes on the back.
On the back it says (his caps): Ruth 11 e yrs Kenneth 2 yrs 4 mths August 27, 1932 Dear Lizzie, Thought you might like this Photo. We are all feeling much better for the holiday, good old Margate for Building one up. Weather is not so warm this week. Hope you are all well. love Roy
This card is 89 years old almost to the day! Ruth and Kenneth look very happy perched and posed here on a slightly lumpy version of this Margate kitty photo op. Ruth’s legs are long enough to just about touch the ground, but Kenneth looks like he is kitty jockey racing along. They are clad in swim clothes (love the swim shoes of the day – so practical!) although the weather may be a bit overcast – could be the film of the day, unable to record clouds in the sky. Some out of focus, empty beach chairs seem to be set up behind them.
Several of my photo postcards confirm their origin as Margate (this is the Margate of Great Britain, although one of my photo posts does hail from Margate, New Jersey, also a beach community where a giant elephant hotel holds court – that post can be found here), which I read has been a source of seaside respite for over 250 years. (Two other Margate cards can be found here and here.) I suspect that many others originate from there as well and are just not identified as such. If the mercurial British weather held, you could have a rollicking good time there I gather.
As I limp toward my own summer vacation after a very long year, I am so glad that Ruth, Kenneth and Roy are feeling better for the holiday – and I vaguely yearn for a 1930’s Margate of the mind for my vacation; one that will build one up! The relatively carefree days of surf, sun and sand appeals to my worn out state. My guess is that there was a fair amount to get away from in Britain in 1932 – the Depression was raging there as it was here in this country. A seaside holiday was likely a luxury in every sense.
Aside from a slowly growing pile of reading material and a nascent list of films, Kim and I have few if any formal plans for the end of August this year. I have a vague pledge to myself to go through the closets and deal with the mounting moth problem at the best I can – finally rooting through a work wardrobe which has now sat for almost two whole seasons, while I first gained weight and now head down to a weight lower than where I started in March of ’20. I suspect this must means a huge clearing out. For now I am planning to stick to a rotation of a very few sun dresses and attempt to find their equivalent for the fall as I, hopefully, find my way out of Adidas track pants and into something more presentable. But obviously this is task related and not really vacation relaxing.
So, while resolving that issue and hopefully at least putting a dent in the moth colonies in the process, I have not exactly figured out what will relax me. I realize that removing the email app from both phone and computer would be the smartest thing (or just throwing them in the East River) it is sadly not practical for this year.
I will try to limit my involvement in the office however, while increasing my time outdoors, running and walking, visit my mom at the shore, read those books and listen to some music. Kim and I have much catching up to do, despite spending all of our time together, much of that is spent working. Cookie will get many tummy rubs and Blackie can rule the desk chair, although I suspect he will miss fighting me for it and of course his daily Zoom fix – I however, will not!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Although I am presently reveling in a sea of newly acquired Felix photos, I am pausing today to take stock of my nascent (albeit partial) return to our offices this week. Although I have occasionally had reason to go to Columbus Circle throughout the fifteen months (and counting) of the pandemic, this week I asked my (remaining, greatly reduced) staff to join me for a day of clearing out and organizing in advance of a full return in September. We met first in Central Park for breakfast and a farewell to a favorite staffer who is leaving to pursue his PhD in musicology full time.
As an aside, I have set the goal of walking to and/or from work as often as possible. This regime found me walking two six plus miles trips this week. Let’s see how long I can keep that going. We’ll put the pin there for now and return to that in a future post.
Meanwhile, I had seen some of my colleagues when the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra opened Summerstage back in June. (A post about that can be found here.) Others I had made visits to, an outdoor drink or coffee here or there, just to have an in-person meeting with them last summer or as vaccinations had eased restrictions. However, even with that there were two I had not seen in person and it was altogether incredibly lovely to have everyone together in person for a bit. Being together has meaning and does make a difference.
Energized and armed with tummies full of carbs we re-donned our masks and headed over to our building to spend the afternoon tossing out dated paper, old food and reorganizing our work spaces. Despite periodic visits into the office for specific needs throughout this period, I for one still had a desk piled with paper from the middle of March 2020, not to mention a cabinet with bags of nibbles such as dark chocolate and boiled almonds. We’ll assume a mousy fiesta was had as I also cleared some mouse dung off my desk.
I was deeply struck by a few things as I created piles of documents to keep for files, shred and throw out. The first was how very little of all of that paper I ultimately kept. I created two small files – one concerning a trip to South Africa and the other which was research for a project I have picked back up. Piles of paper went out. Everything else I disposed of and after more than a year of working at home, almost all of it without a printer, I have finally broken the paper habit.
More subtly, I realized that I work in an entirely different way overall now. As always, necessity has been the mother of invention and I learned to raise money differently over this period. While I know it, can see and feel it, I am not sure I can put my finger on exactly what it means for going forward.
Looking at some of the lists and paper left time capsule-like on my desk (I have been thinking of it as Miss Havisham’s desk), much of it seems incredibly ineffectual to me now. Gosh, why had I been wasting my time chasing this or worrying about that? Why did I think that would go somewhere? It made me wonder if the evolution was a natural one that might have occurred anyway, but I wouldn’t have had a chance to revisit this way – this snapshot of 15 months prior. Or has the change really been that radical? Probably a bit of both.
As I try to unpack how to bridge what used to be and what will be going forward, at least for now, my brain aches with the effort and I find myself exhausted trying. What was working, is working and might still work? I do believe part of me really was thinking that when we returned that we would pick up doing what we had before and of course that is not possible. While I understood that on some level, I don’t think I saw the divide as clearly and I have finally started to let go of that hope. But what is worth devoting time and resources to? Raising money isn’t like making widgets and cause and effect does not always tick and tie, but of course some analysis will help. Still, I continue to work my brain going over the mental territory over again.
Of course, in addition to this thorny knot, the future remains a great unknown. While that has always literally been true, the last year and change have underscored this reality and we weigh possibilities like angels dancing on the head of a pin – if this, then that, if not, perhaps this? Fundraisers are by nature long-term planners and being thwarted in my attempts to plan is frustrating to all of us.
I credit this period with making me more skilled at my job, but can those newly acquired skills transcend the nature of this ever-shifting tide? While there seems to be a great deal of discussion simply about working remotely or in-person, I wish there was more about how we might take the best from both rather than an either or – back to the old or remain in the nebulous new. It isn’t just about where people work from, but how they work and forge a new way of working. Let’s take the lid off and dig into to it a bit. Perhaps everyone isn’t having these sorts of revelations, but I would be interested to know if they are.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s addition to my suddenly burgeoning Felix collection is an oddity which I admittedly know very little about. It is an ice fishing decoy. These are said to be handmade by Native Americans, or so I have read in more than one description. The carving appears to be executed by hand, but the glass eyes and metal “fins” as well as the overall design seem to have been a pattern. I have seen a couple of these before albeit not many, and I have not run across one for sale until now. I purchased it from a seller who deals in fishing lures and offered little information, his being a fishing lure site, not a Felix one.
An online listing for a previous auction which promised decoys in the likeness of Felix and Mickey Mouse explains that such a decoy would have be jiggled on stick in the water, via hole cut in the ice and this would attract the fish which would then be speared. This answers my question about how a lure with no hook held a fish, not understanding it was more decoy than lure as such. Felix’s tail moves and presumably his size, shape, the shining glass eyes and the moving tail was enough to tempt a fish into making a move in the dark water under the ice.
I found the Mickey on Pinterest, below, and as you can see it is the same general design with additional Mickey-esque details added. Mickey seems to be more or less as rarified as Felix in terms of availability; there are some listings for both for past auctions, but not many images or any currently for sale. One photo of a Felix lure shows some small differences in the carving, making him slightly more Felix-y if you will. Mickey has fingers and a bit more detail seems to have been added to him – although his tail is more nominal. Unlike the vast majority of my Felix items which tend to skew to Great Britain as their place of origin, this is a resoundingly American item and shows how ubiquitous Felix and Mickey items were here as well.
I paid up for this Felix – ask me my age all you want, but do not ask what I have paid for my high priced Felix items! However, I would say at a quick look it is in line with what hand carved ice fishing lures go for – although I suspect that if one was really hunting them you might find one going for sufficiently less, but probably not from a lure specialist. Since this was the first I have ever seen available I jumped in and now will not need to devote future years to thumbing through fish lure auctions. (Unless of course I want that Mickey Mouse.) I purchased him uncontested on eBay, although an odd thing did happen as I was notified that the item had been removed from sale. I was therefore surprised when my bid won him a week later.
While I may not know the details of ice fishing as such, I come from fishing lure making stock. My grandfather (Frank Wheeling, my mom’s dad) had a workshop in his garage where he made lures and repaired outboard motors for extra money. As a small child I was mostly forbidden to enter beyond the doorway (think hot lead for sinkers, metal hooks and who knows what else I could have gotten into) so I do not remember any of the specifics beyond the smell which was a mixture of petrol, paint, wood and innumerable other things I guess. Sadly he died when I was still very young so my memories of him and his shop are very early. (I have written about their house and yard in posts that can be read here and here.)
The beach community I grew up in was at one time famous for ice boating and along with that there were always some ice fishing huts. Although I lived on a river on the ocean side of the peninsula, there is a second river, the Navesink, to the west of us on the Shrewsbury, and it froze solid on occasion. We would go skating there (it was a glorious expanse of ice to skate on) and also watch the wooden ice boats race. These wooden boats go incredibly fast and because they are made of wood they make a certain wonderful sound on the ice.
When skating we would pass small ice fishing huts, but I never was inside one nor do I know precisely what they were catching that was worth sitting out there in the cold. I assume it was the same fish we caught in the summer with less trouble? I have been told that in Minnesota people set up on the ice for the long haul and have very elaborate huts that are brought onto the ice or erected. These were simple and tiny for the most part, just a bit of protection from the wind I guess.
Looking carefully at Felix I would say he has been much used – the metal fins have some use and rust on them. He has wear marks, on his ears in particular. His tummy has these wooden inserts and I would guess this is how he is filled with lead there to give him the heft that was needed for him to sink in the water. He has a small rusted hook behind his ears for attaching him to the stick or pole and as mentioned, his tail moves side to side and his eyes are glass. His come hither fishing days are behind him and he has come to rest here in the Pictorama collection with his less hardworking Felix brethren.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s postcard post begins with the last in a recent buy of postcards, which is only wave one as more are on the way. While I do not collect deeply in this illustrated postcard series produced in Great Britain, once in awhile one appeals and I grab it up if it isn’t too expensive. I have written about them once or twice before and one of those posts can be found here. Meanwhile, although the card I share today was evidently sanctioned and copyrighted, they produced the line below was perhaps rogue.
As far as I can find these cards are referred to as the Milton Series and/or Bamforth cards. Milton series, although part of a handful of auction listings, doesn’t bring much info on Google, but Bamforth was a company started in 1870 by a portrait photographer, James Bamforth, in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. They morphed first into lantern slides and ultimately into early short films with a character named Winky as their best known. However, Bamforth is now best known for an almost endless line of saucy seaside cards in the words of Wikipedia. This card #4924 for those who knows what that means and the only copyright on the card is for Pat Sullivan.
This card was mailed and the Great Yarmouth cancellation is hard to read, but I believe it is for 11 AM on an illegible day in 1928. The inscription in pencil says, Dear Hilda, Having fine time and weather Frank. It was mailed to Miss H. Chiletsworth, c/o Mrs. Harrison, 38 DeLaune Street, Kennington, London.
Felix is looking with sincerity at the viewer as he serenades us with his tune of nine lives. Sadly the title of the songbook is incomplete clutched in his hand, but I like the sort of watercolor wash coloring the fence and especially his toothy grin, pointy ears and whiskers. He is a jolly Felix songster.
While researching the origin of cat’s having nine lives I found this nifty reference to Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet, A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays. Also in Romeo and Juliet, in Act 3 Scene 1, Tybalt asks, What wouldst thou have with me? and Mercutio replies, Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.
The site also suggests that the idea of nine lives goes back to the Egyptians and something about the sun god Ra taking the form of the Great Tom Cat during his visit to the underworld, engendered eight other gods and hence 9 lives in one. (See the Litter-Robot.com blog site for references! Also a plea to my brother Edward to supply any detail of interest here as this is his area of expertise.) They also outline that some cultures have different numbers of lives they suggest – such as seven in Spanish speaking cultures and six in Arabic legend.
Of course nine lives could also refer to reincarnation. I have just turned to Kim to be reminded if there was a cat reincarnation story in his most recent book, Reincarnation Stories. (Ah yes, I am a good wife and I have written about it here and here.) There is not, but I will say, there is one starting to scratch at my brain so hold that thought and see if maybe that is part of a future Kim Deitch project.
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.)
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.
This card sports a Felix-y message, How I am coming in a fortnight’s timeEthel, 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.
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.
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?)
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.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I always like to say it is an especially wonderful day when one of these photo postcards finds its way home to the Pictorama collection! Long time readers know that my nascent collection of these photos inspired this blog as an activity while bed bound after foot surgery many years ago. I added toys from my collection and it grew like topsy from there. Still, nothing makes my pulse race like coming across one of these – by their very nature each is different of course. I am like a kid about these and I believe passionately that I should, quite simply, own all of them. (There are obviously many earlier posts about these. A couple can be seen here and here.) Woe be to the person who tries to get in my way!
That these cards exist at all is a sort of a miracle. On beaches across the United Kingdom and a handful of places in New Zealand and Australia, folks paid to pose with Felix dolls ranging from just large to that of a good size child. Somehow here in the United States, his place of origin, it never caught on and so it is the world of the internet that allowed me to amass my collection. They were however routinely saved as photo souvenirs. Most, like this one, were never mailed and remain more pristine as a result.
This particular card features these two women who are wonderfully fashionable. My internet friends, especially those in Britain who deal in vintage clothing, can probably date this pretty accurately from what they are wearing, but the late twenties or early thirties I would think. (Any thoughts wassailantiques.com?) I love that women would be dressed so nicely for a day of seaside enjoyment and it makes me think of boardwalks, cool drinks and salt air – cotton candy and saltwater taffy – and most of all my beach-y childhood. I always sort of like that in these photos people generally stomp around on the sand without worry for their shoes or clothes – men in suits, women in lovely cotton or linen dresses.
Part of one of those comfy beach chairs can be seen to one side and somehow they are perfectly designed for reading a book and napping. I always used to fall asleep at the beach, stretched out face down on a towel. Must have be the sound of the water and the warm sand. I always brought a book but usually didn’t read much. Can’t say the number of times I woke to find that I had parked myself too close to the water and suddenly the rising tide found its way to me and my possessions which were suddenly floating around me. The beach has always immediately relaxed me and I think my attachment to walking by the East River daily gives me a bit of that these days.
This Felix is among the smaller, but not smallest of those who worked this beat. The women have gotten into the spirit of the photo, throwing their arms around his shoulders like an old friend. Felix has a natty bow and one leg off to the side gives him a sense of animation. He too is enjoying his role center stage.
The bobbed hair of these young women is another indicator of the years this image falls within. They feel very up to the moment for the fashion of the day, visibly pleased with the knowledge that they look good. The photographer has captured them nicely. With their ascending order of heads, they (along with Felix) form a good composition in the middle of the picture – Felix has one errant ear up which adds to his always roguish charm. The people in the background are all blurred, but they also add to the festive sense of the day in their different beach and swim garb. There are folks wading and swimming and it is a busy and glorious day. I think I would dearly love to join them.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: As a devoted collector of Felix related objects I focus largely on the off-model, the unlicensed and often more singular, odd objects. These rarified bits often go for substantial money and as often as not I do not manage to acquire them. Sometimes fate allows one to fall into my hands and I put this one in that category.
Felix was popular with bridge players and I have seen other such interesting items related to the game, bid on and lost them previously. This Felix has a distinctly British look to him although he came to me from a US dealer. The design leads me to think he was made by Pixyland Kew (in the 1920’s they would have been Pixyland and Kew before they merged) as he has that look. As you can see, it appears they plunked this ready-made little fellow onto this base. (I wrote about my Felix Pixyland Kew figures once before and the history of that company. That post can be found here and another can be found here. Lastly, I have also done a post about the Felix Bridge tally card below which can be found here.)
I am not a Bridge player and it is frankly mysterious to me in all its facets. I gather that it was born out of the centuries old game of Whist which of course one reads about in early novels. Wikipedia tells me that the roots of that card game are in Italy and France. Bridge seems to have been a variation started by the British. (I feel like this country’s passion for it must have overtaken Britain’s at some point, but that is speculation.) Even Wikipedia’s simple description of the way it is played makes my head whirl. Kim says that the inmates of the asylum/rest home he worked at attempted to teach it to him. Their efforts did not take root, but Kim has a passing acquaintance with it as a result.
I have never attempted to learn Bridge. I must confess that I am not a good game player in general, nor an especially able one when I am persuaded to try. I know I always had the wrong instincts in Monopoly as a kid and would try different, failing strategies such as purchasing as much of the affordable property as possible, or another time putting all my hopes on one Boardwalk or Park Place. I tried holding onto my cash and other times spending my money. It must be said that I would be surprised if I won a single game against my sister Loren over all those years of childhood. In some ways it amazes me that I have generally succeeded in life given the early indications of my lack of financial prowess playing Monopoly.
Bridge does seem to have some fascinating accessories and Felix is among those. I will always have a soft spot for an enterprise with good stuff. In this way I have always had at least a passing interest in Bridge. In the twenties and thirties Felix was at the height of his popularity and Bridge may have been as well, so it isn’t surprising that these two came together in some interesting items. (A post about popular everyday items sporting Felix can be found here and a glorious Valentine drawing Kim devoted to it can be seen below and the post found here.)
Working with a large number of reasonably affluent Manhattanites of a certain age over many years, I knew at least second hand, about how avidly Bridge is pursued. I heard of different clubs and associations, each with their own identity, and of course occasionally about the skill (or lack thereof) of individuals who were mutually known to us. Sadly I feel like that group has largely passed, leaving me wondering how Bridge is faring these days, even before the pandemic. The Covid shutdown must have meant a long interruption – although I gather it can and is played via Zoom and Facetime so maybe clubs moved online. I am sure the social aspect of it suffered however which seems to be an important factor for players.
Felix is in dubious shape, his head is no longer permanently affixed and his paint is chipped. He has mitten shaped hand-paws and he appears to lean on an orange brick wall of sorts. His Felix emblem is a fancy font and he has a jaunty look in general. There is a hole in his shoulder which indicates something is missing from there. His paper indicator (what these displays mean is very much beyond me) is entirely intact. He is pretty great overall in my estimation however. While I am somewhat concerned about his condition, I remind myself that Felix is retiring to a quiet shelf where his imperfections should not matter much. His message these days might be quasi-political one day and a heart for Valentine’s Day the next. Meanwhile he is the newest denizen of Pams-Pictorama and beloved new resident here at Deitch Studio.