Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Ah yes, the bread and butter of a Pictorama Post! Next to someone sidling up to a giant Felix doll, it is the happiest of days when one of these photos joins the Pictorama collection. This particular card had an odd listing and I stumbled across it on eBay, quickly snatching it up. On the back it reads, printed in pencil, Austin Family, East Dulwich, 1920’s? (It seems sad to me that a subsequent generation appears to have marked the card, yet it fell out of the family anyway.) Having lived in London, I was surprised to discover that East Dulwich is considered a district of SE London. I am not familiar with it and did not get to know it’s beach-y enclave shown here. Oddly, it seems to be ringed by these four story apartment buildings – not quite what one thinks of as resort area housing. When I lived in London in the mid-1980’s I believe this was an economically downtrodden area that was just beginning to be seen as an area for potential revitalization, and I believe South London has changed substantially in the following decades. Happy, striped beach chairs are lined up and in distance I believe changing tents, made of canvas, are also set up.
Meanwhile, the Austins are prosperous looking in their 1920’s holiday togs, complete with hats. The woman looks pleased, if somewhat embarrassed, by her cat chair perch and the child looks fairly delighted. This kitty has nice whiskers and is sticking his tongue out in a sort of cheeky way. He has little claws on his paws and a fluffy tail that sticks straight up. A note of interest to me (albeit perhaps less for the majority of you) is that this cat seems to be held up by a metal stand – none of my other giant cats seems to feature that. It also fascinates me that every single one of the photos I have with these “cat chairs” appears to be a different design of big black cat. How is that possible? The Felix-es, while a variety of sizes and somewhat individual in appearance as Felix toys of the day appeared to be, at least looked as if they could have been churned out of one, or maybe two, shops. Every single one of the half dozen or so of these others I own, show substantially different cat design – different eyes, made from a variety of materials, fluffy tail versus not, etc. (See prior posts, The Giant Cat Chair, Riding the Big Kitty and Big Kitty.) So, were individuals just whipping these up on a whim? Hard to say. Clearly this Big Kitty design is a bit tippy – therefore, the metal stand. I assume if I stay in the business of collecting these long enough I will start to get some repeaters.
Printed on the back of this card is J. EASTON, Clifton Baths & Bathing Pool “Snaps” Cliftonville, when re-ordering please quote number. Oddly, I don’t believe I have seen such organized information on the back of one of these cards about the photo company that took and produced these cards. This card has been enhanced by the Photoshop skills of Mr. Deitch. It is a low contrast, sepia original. I wonder if it is too late to write and ask J. Easton for another copy of 476, perhaps printed a bit darker this time?
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo turned up recently in a search and seems an appropriate one for the last waning days of this summer. The photo suffers from over exposure, but there was still something about it that grabbed my attention. When it arrived in the mail I was shocked to find that it is a quite small snapshot, about 2×3 inches. The woman in the water seems unusually tall – Kim joked that she looks like a mannequin and he is right. There’s something odd about the perspective that I can’t quite put in its proper place.
I don’t know about your cats, but I can’t imagine a world where mine want to go to the beach – let alone out onto a stone jetty like the one here, with water on three sides. I can only say it would be a formula for being scratched in the most notable way as the cat shot out of my arms like a bullet. However, this nice striped fellow is looking very at home indeed in the arms of his mom. While swim fashions have changed, these folks are stylish and the woman has her hair done up in a scarf-held style of the day. I am interested in her swim shoes, if that’s what they are – the men in question don’t seem to feel the need to be shod in a similar way, but one does walk on all sorts of things in the water. It takes a moment to realize that there are two people at the end of the jetty, behind the man and woman most visible – just a leg, head and arm can just about be seen.
Where I grew up there were ocean jetties like this, but considerably broader, two to three times wider and long – this looks more like beaches I have seen further north in Connecticut or Massachusetts. In addition to the jetties on the Jersey shore, there are also broad, high seawalls (at least that what we called them) which contained the ocean from the strip of land and busy road during perennial flooding. This seems like a quaint idea now, as during a hurricane like Sandy the ocean managed to not only flood well over the seawalls, but cover them entirely, eventually meeting up with the river on the other side of the peninsula. As a child these walls seemed incredibly high and on the rare occasions that the ocean flooded high enough that you could see it breaking over the tops of the seawall to the child version of me it meant serious flooding indeed.
In the end, all this is to say there were an abundance of stone walls on the beaches, between the jetties and the seawall. My mother used to point out that a lot of stray cats lived amongst all the rocks – I guess there was enough for them to eat, vicious water rats being their likely mainstay. Evidently mom, cat lover extraordinaire, had tried to pet one of these veteran ratters once and was rewarded with some memorable scratches. She told the story to my sister and I as a cautionary tale, as we were both beach goers and cat lovers as tiny tots, likely to make the same mistake. As she pointed out, if they were dining on water rats they had to be a tough lot. I believe in subsequent years volunteers rounded up most of these strays and neutered and released them to reduce the stray population. Given the recent proclivity for extreme flooding in the area I hope this is true. However, I can’t think about them though without imagining a sweet, young, naive Betty Butler trying to pick up a wild cat of a jetty kitten.
Pam’s Pictorama: This post is a bit of a summer vacation break in my usual topics. Last weekend I was fortunate to be the guest at a lovely home in East Hampton which, thanks to the glorious weather, included a magnificent walk on the beach. A Jersey girl myself, I grew up on the shore within walking distance of the beach, near the Sandy Hook Bay peninsula. Some of my earliest memories are of playing on the beach and collecting shells, driftwood and sea glass. I do not get to the beach often these days, but on the rare occasion that I do I have noticed our beaches somewhat wiped clean – very few shells or driftwood, and you almost never see sea glass. (I assume this has something to do with recycling.) It happens that my trip to the beach coincided with a a big storm the night before. Our reward was a beach where the rough tides had churned up a vast amount of shellfish and sea flotsam and jet sum. A large flock of sea gulls had stuffed themselves silly and there was shellfish carnage all around
One of the other house guests, Jeff Rosenheim (a colleague and head of the Department of Photographs at the Met), impressed us greatly with his knowledge of sea life zoology. He pointed to a small amber object on the sand and said it was an operculum, or gill cover, in this case for a sea snail. In all my years of beach combing I never remember seeing these and he said they are unusual to find. That day, as you can see above, we collected a few dozen. (The other photo shows some with the sort of sea snail they seem to have come from.) We even found a living little fellow who opened and closed his for us when tickled. We returned the favor by getting him back in the water and away from the gulls – who were quite miffed. As you can see from the one I am holding up to the light, it has the same pattern and texture as the sea shell, but transparent. Strange and beautiful.
Our hostess, Joyce, picked up this handsome crab who also wasn’t familiar to any of us. His meaty claws were snatched away by a hungry bird and he is shown clawless here. This was a very stinky bucket of bits – Wowza! The crab turns out to be a blue spiny spider crab. The other shells, oyster and clam respectively, were just pretty.