Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This card came to my attention because of the Felix-y costumed participant more or less in the center of the photo. I purchased it from an Ohio postcard dealer and have no reason to assume it isn’t from that region, but it is alas, without any further identification.
It is a photo postcard and there is evidence of it having been in a photo album, telltale black paper stuck to the back. It had never been mailed and is in fairly pristine condition for having been removed from an album page. The edges on either side are faded, but I think that is more of a chemical failure than one having to do with age or exposure.
I have attempted to provide some detail so you can really see all of the costumes – or at least highlights of them as it is a large assembly. At first I thought this was a recording of a large costume party, but as I looked at it more I realized that there are several repeated costumes which implies more of a production to me now that I look carefully.
It’s a bit hard to imagine the storyline of such a production. I spot some folks in Arab headdresses, numerous clowns, at least one man sporting a powdered wig, one person in black face and of course Felix. It is hard to reverse engineer a possible plot around this. I am deeply jealous however of the kid who is sporting the black cat Felix-esque costume. Clearly I would love to own that little number.
There is a range of ages represented so this was perhaps a community production as, although most appear to be young adults, there are some older folks and some quite young. The hall they are in is fairly luxe by the standards of amateur productions and the enormous mirrors on either side of the stage reveal high ceilings and a sense of space beyond. (I have written about photos of other such productions in much less lavish halls and one of those can be found here.)
I worked on high school plays and have memories of a few at a neighborhood playhouse as well. A good friend was the lead in Dial M for Murder as I remember, the first time I was to see that show. The theater in question was called simply The Barn and it sat on a now prime piece of real estate in the town I grew up in, Rumson, NJ. (Down the street from the high school and across an intersection from a tiny and wonderful one-room local library which for some reason routinely inhabits my dream life as an adult.)
The Barn was, among other things, where I took ballet lessons for a period of time as a tot. I believe on alternate days gymnastics and ballroom dancing also were underway at a given time. It was owned and run by a woman named Lois McDonald and I only have a vague memory of this gravelly voiced elder statesmen owner of the establishment, but it nibbles at the edges of my mind. It was more humble one by far than this one appears to be and I am sorry to realize that it must have slipped out of existence without my ever realizing its demise.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Folks in early cat costumes is a sub-genre of the holdings here at the Pam’s Pictorama photo library. (Wow – I just upgraded my shoe boxes to a library.) I have long felt that there is a vintage Felix costume out there that will really scratch that particular itch of mine and actually owning such an item notwithstanding, I am always pleased to own the image and search for those with some vigor. (A few other Felix/cat costume posts can be found here and here.)
While I have to date resisted purchasing garments such as costumes given the storage restrictions of my abode, I have however come woefully close on the purchase of a few truly wild and wonderfully early Felix masks on occasion, but have sadly come up empty handed. Of course I am still on the prowl and I am also sure for the right costume I would make room here somehow, not to mention a place of pride for some extraordinary probably somewhat decaying and terrifying mask. (Kim, bless him, is ever indulgent and didn’t even flinch with I was considering a large drum with Felix painted on it that would have had to more or less be hung from the ceiling.)
On the back of the photo postcard, which was never sent but was pasted into an album, Bethel School Interior is written in penciled script. The seller had the card listed as, from The Black Cat Society Play in Bethel, PA Berks Co. Berks County is evidently in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which in addition to being the dreamland of chocolate production (the name evokes a childhood vision of a town constructed entirely of Hershey bars that I have never quite fully eliminated from my adult brain), is also said to be a great flea market area as well. Sadly I have never had the chance to explore this place of glory on either level so for now it continues to live in imagination on both counts.
While I might have hoped the photographer would have gotten closer to these kiddies in the kitty costumes, the wider shot gives us a look at those in the audience which gives us something of a sense of period. I have no idea what the Black Cat Society of Bethel was (or is?) as the popularity of black cats in Pennsylvania buries that search in an avalanche of cat adoption offerings. Were there black cat plays every year with cat costume clad kids?
Our six kitties are lined up over a bit of paper facade “brick” indicated below them – like they are on a fence? The set is an interior – lamps, drapes on windows and a striped rug. There is a flowered curtain to one side, which might be more about obscuring a backstage area than a curtain that would draw across – I do not see an indication of a rope. The whole affair seems to be on a wooden stage raised off the floor by sturdy wooden legs below, raising them up and making it more official feeling.
Paw hands of our players are up in a gesture a bit more canine than cat. Each of our kids is in a suit of shiny black with a hood sporting ears and a tail – some tails are perkier than others and some wear their suits sportier and with more éclat. The line up graduates to the tallest participant in the middle and down again. The one second to the end on (our) left seems to embody the role best for me, clearly a future performer there.
Our broad perspective of the room also gives an indication of the covered wall of what appears to be a basketball court behind and the slightest indication of what I think is the bottom portion of an American flag hovering over the peering over the proceedings. The audience is seated in some sort of pew-like connected chairs. The one kid looks back at the camera, jaunty angle to his hat. #4 is written at the bottom and it is too bad if 1-3 are lost now.
I was an enthusiastic participant in junior theatricals as a tot and I would have been in heaven to be on this stage for my turn, suited up in cat garb.