Vacation Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: No news that when I see one of these Felix tintypes I go to the extremes to acquire it. Somehow the idea that tintypes and Felix existed at the same time entertains the heck out of me – although, by any measure it was getting late in the game for tintypes. Echo Point at Katoomba in Australia, not the only location for such fabulous photo fun of the day, however the evidence many decades later appears to be that it was one of the prime locations. Recently I have proudly displayed other such acquisitions of this type in posts including Another Aussie Felix and one of unknown origin in Felix Featured on Tin. I own several others I have yet to write about.

These three women and Felix look right at home together – them in their summer garb, complete with hats. Felix relaxing like a member of the family. I especially like the jolly striped awning over them. I am guessing that this is mother and daughters – perhaps even grandmother? Some information is sadly lost in this photo as is often the case with these tintypes which seem to suffer most of all from sloppy, on location workmanship. The older woman’s face is the real victim here and the information just isn’t there if you try to drill down on it.

This photo inspires me to think a bit about vacation today however, and Kim and I have been discussing it too. As most of you know, I started a new job a few months ago so I am limited in vacation time this summer. I usually try to take two weeks in the summer and do a serious recharge of my battery. Kim, who as many of you also know, is a maniacally super charged work-aholic also looks forward to this downtime. This year I am piecing together what leave time I have acquired and am running it into Labor Day to extend it as much as I can.

I have pretty much been shot out of a gun since starting the new job – a racehorse let tearing out of the gate, seeing how much ground I can cover in this first lap. Part of me hates to break that stride, but another part knows that time off is needed too. Photos from my friend Eileen’s vacation spent at their weekend home in Vermont – featuring lovely summer fields of green and a truly enviable swimming hole – have lured me into vacation thoughts too. So I won’t begrudge myself a few halcyon days of summer to let my mind wander, eat strawberry ice cream, corn on the cob – days when I have slept late after staying up reading books. Lazing around with my husband losing track of time. This photo makes me yearn a bit for summer activities. Maybe the Fair Haven, NJ Fireman’s Fair this year? A bit of cotton candy or candy apple and a trip on a small, but thrilling ferris wheel. We’ll see. Part of vacation is all in the dreaming and planning.

 

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A Maybe Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Yep, Happy Birthday to me once again – and get a look at this glorious new toy for the Pictorama collection! This fellow, known as a Yes/No Felix made the trip across the ocean from my friend a toy source (my supplier, shall we say?) named Regine who lives in Belgium. She had this fellow up on eBay a few months back, pre-Christmas. I hesitated on him as he no longer has his Yes/No function – you moved something (tail? arms) and he nodded his head yes or shook it no. This one appears to remain mute. I reached out to a friend and collector to ask his opinion about purchasing a toy that had lost this original functionality. His answer made me laugh – he said that to his knowledge he had perhaps used the yes/no on his Felix immediately upon purchase and to his memory never in all the subsequent years. He did however, ask said Felix if I should purchase the toy and his Felix said Yes! Luckily Regine still had him and so I acquired him, for my birthday – or to be more accurate my very generous husband the ever-wonderful Kim Deitch bought him for me and Regine got him here in record time.

Felix turned out to be larger than I anticipated (always a happy discovery) and a great specimen of Felix toy really. I love his comical tummy bulging shape, googly eyes and his large, goofy ears! More than the other toys (all ranging pretty far from the cartoon design to be honest) he is like Felix’s elder statesman uncle – the one who pulls silver dollars from behind your ear. While he is a completely different design from all the toys by other makers, he is similar to another Felix by the same maker, Schuco. That one that originally wound up and walked and was produced later than the Yes/No. (Mine no longer walks either, perhaps there was something about the mechanisms on these Schuco toys? He is a long story of his own which we may or may not get to one of these days here at Pictorama.)

Below is our man as a Christmas gift in his youth. Regular readers will remember this from just a few months ago posted in A Very Felix Christmas – and to think I had no idea at the time that this Yes/No fellow would be coming to live here!

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Let’s turn back the clock a bit. In the beginning of collecting, shortly after my first toy cat purchases – several splendid stuffed cats from the early part of the 20th century which were unearthed at antique stores in Red Bank, New Jersey – I discovered Felix the Cat toys with my first purchase of one at a flea market in London. I was off and running! Yet it was quite a while before I knew anything about them or who made these Felix toys. For some reason I thought that Germany was a likely maker of the European version of these American cartoon toys – or perhaps France?

It was a number of years before I discovered that the majority of my beloved Felix-es were made in Great Britain. I have examined this in different ways in a number of earlier posts including Felix as Cat and most definitely East London Toy Company, one which I myself refer back to periodically. The British were a hotbed of Felix production, companies such as Dean’s Rag Company and others. They far outstrip Felix’s home turf of the USA where he seems to have been somewhat neglected on that front despite his extraordinary film fame.

Anyway, all this to say that I ultimately learned that outside of Britain the production of Felix toys, particularly stuffed ones, was pretty much limited to a few models of Steiff on the US front and Schuco in Germany, and I have sited the two stuffed Schuco Felix toys above. Schuco was founded in Germany in the year 1912 and seems to be primarily a maker of rather indestructible looking metal cars and trucks. Odd that they should make Felix toys with a tendency toward mechanical breakdown. However, I have a lovely little Schuco bird which still functions – for this one see the post Tweet, Tweet, Tweet.

So thank you Kim! Thank you Mel for your advice (Felix’s too) and thank you Regine! You all, along with Felix, have softened the blow of growing one year older.

Pepper Felix

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Pam Toy Post: In a first of several loot from France posts, behold this very odd item I purchased from the fine fellows at Antics Toys and Dolls in Lyon. I found the shop online before my trip and, since I was there on business not pleasure, I considered it a great stroke of luck that I had a rare few free hours in Lyon which allowed me to race over and check it out. The gentlemen there spoke no English (and I no French) and at first they seemed to have no idea what to do with me as a customer with a strong interest in Felix le chat and perhaps a Mickey. Their prices ran high and I dismissed several items which seemed over-priced, especially after Euro to dollar conversion. However, I purchased a small, lovely jointed bear (future post) and left the store.

I wandered down the street, noting with frustration that several antique shops were closed despite the fact that it was 3:30 on a Thursday which would seem to be a time when things would be open. I found a small shop that was, according to the owner, opening next week – although it seemed, for all intents and purposes, to be open. He sold me a lovely rose gold ring with a tiny diamond chip, which he dated around 1903. I would have added ten years to that date but can’t say I am an expert. Then I walked back in the direction I came from and when I walked past the aforementioned toy store something near the window on a shelf caught my eye – Felix! Back in I went and another owner seemed to have appeared in the meanwhile and he, having lived in Stamford, Connecticut for a year or more, spoke some English. Felix was fetched from the window shelf and, strangely, he turned out to be a pepper shaker – no salt shaker sadly, but even alone, a worthy and unusual item. A bargain was struck (after they showed me photos on their phones of the antique cars they own, I showed them photos of my Felix toys on my phone, and we discussed religion in broken English for some reason) and home to NYC Felix has come.

I have never seen this particular model. I would have maybe even thought he was homemade from other parts except for his rather professional poivre sticker, as shown, on the back. Early in my collecting I assumed that early Felix items might be largely French and German. I was surprised to find out that they are almost predominantly British. This item may indeed be the only French item I am aware of in my collection.

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Meanwhile, next I wandered down the street to find Antiquites Marilyn and my purchase there which I will outline in tomorrow, Sunday’s, post.

Felix as Cat

Felix portrait

 

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Oh Merry Christmas to me! This extraordinary Felix was a gift from Kim this Christmas. In truth, I picked him out on eBay months ago and Kim purchased him and tucked him away. Christmas morning was my first good look at him though – and wowza!

I have only ever seen one or two Felix dolls posed on all fours, but never this model. Felix walking (upright) was part of his whole appeal – and schtick. His humpbacked thinking manner is recreated in two and three dimensions – often with the hump in his back exaggerated, as he walks, pondering something, which his hand/paws behind his back. I have a plate which bears the much used motto Felix Keep on Walking which is a play on this. (See my prior post Living the Felix Life which features this item.) As Mickey Mouse and countless others would ape later, the anthropomorphic charm is all about being upright and therefore more human.

Christmas night Kim and I stumbled home after our annual trip to my folks in NJ and curled up on the couch to take a look at another of my Christmas gifts – the superb DVD Cartoon Roots. (I know, I am a very lucky woman!) This outstandingly curated DVD put together by Tom Stathes deserves a shout out. Instead of the usual entries in the early animation stakes, this disk manages to have the one or two outstanding examples of each that you’re pretty sure you have never seen. I have not yet viewed the whole thing (why rush?) but already have seen a few excellent Terry Aesop Fables, a strange and interesting Krazy Kat (where he seems to be trying to morph into Felix…) and Felix Comes Back, a splendid example from 1922.

I have been known to opine on how Felix started out drawn more squarely (pointier I like to say) and both more feline and a tad bit doggy. According to Kim, Bill Nolan was responsible for this subtle neutering of Felix which Messmer passively allowed. Anyway, I was reminded that back in ’22 Felix spent a good portion of his time on all fours – running away fast from things most frequently – but sportier and a bit wilder.

However, all this to say, Felix spent the majority of his career walking on two legs and virtually all the toys and merchandising reflect this. In all the many hours (days, years) I have spent combing through Felix toy offerings I have, as I said above, only seen him portrayed on all fours a few times so this toy is very unusual. I originally thought of the subject of another post, East London Toy Factory due to the almost hand-made, individual aspect of this and was going to attribute that company as his maker. I lean now instead toward thinking this was made by the folks at Chad Valley. I have not devoted much time writing about the company, they appear to have been the biggest makers of stuffed Felix toys, a company that still makes some toys today. I am, however, open and raring for discussion.

Cookie and Felix

Cookie and Felix Christmas Morning

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For those of you who have an Amazon gift card burning a hole in your pocket post-Christmas, the DVD above can be found at: Cartoon Roots

The eBay seller who sold us Felix did not seem to know much about the origin, but she was lovely. She is Mme Regine Beghin of Belgium and this is a nod to her.