Touring Car

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I believe I have written a bit about my early days of toy collecting. The origin of my toy joy wasn’t cat related, not mohair or cartoon themed gems. My fascination was entirely fueled by motion and in that, I embraced wind-up mechanical toys and battery operated ones with impunity. The finicky nature of aging battery toys – not to mention keeping batteries on hand, but not stored in them where they corrode – made collecting them somewhat less attractive over time.

Early on though some immediately captured my imagination, and I believe that the first version I saw of this was older. If memory serves that version had Asian occupants. I spied it in an antique toy store, however it exceeded my thin budget at the time. The photo taking tourist, as I think of her, was the selling point for me. She turns and snaps photos, camera lighting up as do tiny headlights on the car. The memory of it lingered and I kept a weather eye out for it.

To my joy, this ultimately turned out to be a fairly common toy. I do not remember how I came to acquire my version except to say that I remember that it was new or at least new-ish when I acquired it, although without a box which seems odd now. There is no evident brand or maker’s name on it, nor country of origin. It’s unmarked state makes it hard to research so I am unable to discover if it had an early predecessor, as memory serves, or not. I acquired it in the pre-eBay days. Now that I think of it, this may have even been a gift, the thoughtful offering of a then paramour.

However, while I had trouble Googling it this morning, I did find one on eBay right away, same model, selling for less than $40. There are a few videos of it working on Youtube, some slight variations on this theme (two men in a car or the woman sporting a kerchief), but the woman’s flash doesn’t work in any of them, nor does it work in the one for sale, so clearly the best part of this toy (for me) is the weak design link.

Despite having spent the last decade or two on a shelf in my bedroom, mine has deteriorated with time. The fragile strings that hold the man’s arms have gone slack, there is corrosion in the battery box. So I am afraid that it’s operational days are behind us. While some toys were built to withstand time, others were ephemeral pleasures and I guess this one falls in that category. Still, there is a collector’s impulse itching to keep an eye out and see if I can’t find another that does indeed work…stay tuned.

Advertisements

A Pip of a Pip

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It’s been quite a stretch without a toy post – mostly because I have not acquired any since my adventures in Shanghai, and that was more about the trip than the toy. I have written on the subject of the (now obscure) British comicstrip which emerged post-WWI, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. My post Pip Squeak and Wilfred Perform, based on a postcard purchase, examines the strip in depth and my more recent Close Quarters which kicks off with my acquisition lust for a piece of furniture based on one of these characters.

Nonetheless, it was a splendid Pip toy that lead me to discover the strip in the first place, although I was unable to purchase him. Subsequently, I have bid on numerous versions of this toy and to my surprise I won this one and for a quite reasonable price. Pip is in such good shape I think buyers might have wondered if he was a re-issue of some sort. (The same seller is in fact selling a knitted version which may very well be newer – much to my shock patterns were sold for such things. I cover this strange DIY opportunity in a post here Homemade Mickey. Kim assures me, after having a sniff, that he does indeed have the smell of nostalgia.) Pip has a vaguely, early Felix-y air here, I believe.

Before we get too far into this post let me outline the comic strip for you a bit. Published in Britain’s Daily Mirror, written by Bertram Lamb (and signed as Uncle Dick) and elegantly drawn by A.B. (Austin Bowen) Payne, it is the ongoing story of Pip the dog dad, Squeak the penguin mom, and Wilfred the bunny boy-child, who form a family and live in a magnificent mansion called The Grange. (Where they are theoretically cared for by the aforementioned Uncle Dick, and a human housekeeper Angeline.) Pip was said to have been purchased for a half-crown from a dog’s home, where he was sent after being “arrested” for begging on the Embankment; Squeak was found in the London Zoological Garden although hatched in South Africa; and Wilfred who was found and adopted by them. (There are other characters and I am especially fond of Auntie penguin who is a bit frowzy with age and who has a penchant for money schemes.) Launched in 1919 one can easily imagine why a fatigued post-war England would embrace these characters and their whacky and low-key ongoing tales. It ran until 1959, although with the death of Lamb in ’38 and the subsequent defection of Payne in ’39 the heyday ends there.

I supply a sample strip from the ’30 annual below.

PSW strip 2

Pams-Pictorama.com collection, from a 1930 Annual

 

For the few (really guys, two or three) people who read the earlier Pip, Squeak and Wilfred post you know that it has been a long held desire to have (at a minimum, let’s be realistic) one each of these stuffed toys. I have achieved two out of three for now with the acquisition of Pip. I have made many attempts at purchasing a Squeak which have yet to bear fruit – stay tuned on that. Meanwhile, I share a photo below my then recently acquired Wilfred rabbit during my recovery from foot surgery a few years ago. (Hence the large, red cast in the background – that’s me.) He is perched on one of my nice annuals – more on those below.

10401372_10203560954537409_1988001766767677101_n

Wilfred rabbit toy, recently arrived. Blackie and toy shelf in background!

 

While I have labored to no effect to work up much interest in this strip they were, in their day in Britain, as big as Mickey Mouse – spawning early merchandise which included not just stuffed toys and various figurines, but postcards, furniture, recreations of The Grange, records of songs, as well as annual competitions and gatherings across Britain. (My previous posts above include some Youtube footage of a parade and a short on the making of the strip.) Here I include a photo of the badge from their fan club, the GUGNUNCs below. WWI medals were also issued in the names of each of the pet family. The club was in existence until fading with Britain’s entrance into WWII.

10532555_10203519812548885_9096964113926382486_n

Pip, Squeak and Wilfred fan club pin, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

I have collected several of the annuals, my 1930 one below. I read them while trapped in bed, doped up with pain meds, after foot surgery a few years back. Still, to know me is to know that I have a tremendous capacity for enjoying juvenile literary fare – take my posts on Honey Bunch and Grace Harlowe, the Automobile Girls and the Moving Picture Girls Novels. It is a great avenue of relaxation for me. Kim began his vacation last week, so I am playing catch up and trying to quickly free my mind from my new job and responsibilities during this week running into Labor Day weekend – the most vacation I could manage with the new gig. Re-reading some of these seems like it might just do the trick and help relax my work-addled brain

For those of you who would like a bit more background on them, you might try Forgotten Comic Charaters; Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, an excellent online article. In addition, many of the strips are available online. I say perfect for these last, lazy days of summer.

annual cover

1930 Annual, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Master Willie Rowell

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Obviously it was the weird cat toy (at least I think it is a cat) on this oddball card that attracted me – strange, mysterious and sewn toy smile on his face, perched on that very worn ball toy. It must have been quite a day at the old photo studio when they decided to do that photo shoot. But he is perky (if a bit maniacal) and this card was beloved enough to make it down the generations to us today. Not surprising, perhaps, it is British and although I just received it in mail fairly recently I don’t remember it coming from there. I believe it was an American dealer.

The card was never mailed, no postage, but it is fully addressed on the back to Master Willie Rowell, Glendon, Castle Road, Torquay. Also written, To wish dear Willie a very happy day of many happy returns with love from Raymond xxxxxx x one from Phyliss. It is a sweet birthday greeting written in a clear, adult hand. Sadly birthday cards are becoming a bit rare in their own right (let alone thank you notes which, if you aren’t professionally inclined to them as I am, belong almost exclusively to the octogenarian set) as our birthday greetings now most frequently zoom across cyber space. This seems like a kindness to the less organized, who don’t have to time the purchase and mailing of a card. (They have no excuse for missing the date now however.) No less sincere, but far less tangible, the detritus of today’s felicitations will not be available for future perusal and subsequent purchase.

At the bottom is a birthday greeting written in verse,
Happiness be thine
Little lad with eyes so true
This greeting comes to-day
To wish the very best for you
On this they natal day

And, at last, I offer this as a sly advance (cyber) birthday wish to my own beloved guy – xxo and many happy returns of the day!

Mickey Souris

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For some reason I always have my eye out for a nice cat or mouse band. Thanks to Kim I am lucky enough to own a spectacular tin mouse band, which I will happily examine in detail with you some time in the future. I do not have a cat band, although I have seen one or two that I was wild about, but have never been able to obtain one. France did not provide me with cats, but instead this rather nice little band of faux Mickeys.

In yesterday’s post (Pepper Felix) I left you as I walked down Rue Auguste Comte, purchases from Antic Toys and Dolls in my shoulder bag, looking for the cross street to take a slightly different route back to the river boat I was staying on. It had gone from a chilly morning to a full on hot afternoon, I was wearing a hat, but even took the time to put some sunscreen on my arms which were burning. So I feel I was a bit of a mess when I was stopped in my tracks by the store window shown below – Antiquities Marilyn!

ls

As you can sort of see from this photo, the window is so crammed with piles of random pieces of silver, toys, and bits and pieces that it was hard to really see anything, but how could I resist going into such a place? Facebook friends have already seen the inside of the store, but for the rest of you, below is a photo. This is pretty much the entire interior of the tiny store.

14462858_10209315567119127_3132937340852517443_n

Marilyn spoke English and we chatted about her establishment a bit. While we were talking a man came in with a chandelier to sell and the three of us, and the chandelier, pretty much took up the remaining floor space. I let my eyes roam over the piles while they negotiated over the chandelier. Sadly, dolls as such and silver do not interest me hugely. My well trained eye wasn’t seeing any cat items. However, I had seen something in the window – a tiny band of Mickeys! I was a bit worried about asking her to actually get something out of the window, but much to my surprise she, being quite agile, had them out and in my hands fairly quickly while I examined a glass Bonzo dog that was missing some essential pieces. While I looked the Mickeys over the conversation about the chandelier ensued in French.

I like this jolly little band of fake French Mickey Mouses. They have a little bit of the ratty look I like in my Mickey. One has a chipped ear which shows that somehow the actual clay they were made with was black, rather than painting them. As my ongoing readers know, I like to keep my cat collection supplied with early mice for their entertainment.

The price she named seemed fair and, after a wander down the street to an ATM machine (the great international friend of the errant toy buyer) I secured them for my own. Chandelier man was very enthused and praised my hat (the French really seemed to like my sun hat – perhaps just the idea of it?) and my overall appearance. After he left Marilyn spoke to me about Dinky cars which evidently make up a large portion of her business. (I know, this would not appear to be the case…) She showed me one of a truck with a cat sitting atop a wedge of cheese (Dinky experts, perhaps you can explain?) which I did like, but felt is somewhere outside of my realm of collecting. Therefore, I bid her adieu and wandered back to my duties onboard the waiting ship, sated with a few hours of excellent shopping and collecting.

 

 

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

****

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.