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: We’re having a stop the presses moment here at Pictorama to bring you this latest acquisition. I initiated this blog as a way to bring some order to my photo postcard collection of people posing with outsized Felix the Cat dolls, other Felix related photos, and the even more rarified people atop of giant stuffed black cat photos. (For two earlier posts you can have a look at the very early Cat Chair or the more recent Cat Chair (episode 2) ) For those of you who have been on board for a bit you are probably aware that the blog has instead rambled, stretched and rolled in many directions to include toys and all sorts of personal whims. However, we here at Pam’s Pictorama still drop everything for the inauguration of these photos. They rarely come cheap, but after all, that is what we are here for!
Today’s photo has an especially great cat. I adore the agape and almost bejeweled looking kitty mouth, highlighted claw paws, white whiskers and a stitched nose which looks like a great arrow pointing down to that mouth! This cat has pop eyes, outsized bat-like ears and the very most glorious and enormous tail I have ever seen on one of these fellows. He is an extraordinary specimen. Not at all worn-out looking, this one is fresh and handsome. Another appealing aspect of this photo is this little girl. I don’t think even I could enjoy it more than she is. (Although I would love to try of course.) Children do not always embrace these opportunities appropriately, and they often look confused or generally put out by the experience. Not this kid – she’s astride this kitty and she’s got a great grin on her face. Her white strappy Mary Janes and outfit provide an excellent contrast to kitty’s black surface.
Like most souvenir photos of this type, this photo was not mailed. There is no writing on the back and, like all of the cards of this kind I own, this one came from Great Britain. (I have come to assume that giant cat chair photo opportunities were only available in Britain. Please do let me know if you have different information.) Looking at the background, and not being an expert in flora, I guess it is probably a seaside resort or amusement park.
While I am not sure where I would put it in our studio apartment, (get rid of the couch?) I do nevertheless dream that these giant stuffed cats and their Felix counterparts are extant somewhere and that one day I will acquire them. A girl’s gotta dream, right?
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My constant searching for photos of people posing with Felix has also introduced me to what turned out to be a broader world of people posing with a variety of novel things. As readers of Pictorama know, the souvenir photo postcard operation of the 1920’s and beyond could focus around a stuffed Mickey Mouse, Felix, Spark Plug (Barney Google’s horse) and these very large black cats. In one of my earliest posts I featured the first of these cards I purchased – Giant Cat Chair. I own three cat chair photos altogether and would love to acquire more, but they appear quite rarely. One of the most noteworthy things is that the cat is definitely a different one in each so there was a number of places – all of these from Britain – where you could pose with a big cat chair. This one appears to be a smallish-large cat chair – just the right size for this little tyke – and the tongue sticking out is different than any of the others I have. Also, this one has the remarkable feature of his tail sticking straight up in the air. This one looks the most of all like a Steiff toy cat, but very, extra large.
The card itself is smaller than regulation size postcard, closer to a photograph than a photo postcard, but postal ready on the back. The writing on the back (which was never sent) appears to say Alan 18 month Cliftonville 192. (I wonder if they meant to write 1920? If so, it is a bit of a sobering thought to consider that little Alan would have been old enough to fight for England in WWII.) Cliftonville is hard to read, but likely since that appears to be a seaside area in Margate. While having a fast look at images from Cliftonville I found this rather splendid image on Reddit of a beauty contest in Cliftonville in 1936.
Beauty Contest, Cliftonville, England 1936
Despite the glories of the seaside park in general, the general background of this card is a bit tatty. The wooden building behind little Alan is sort of interesting, with a bit of gingerbread design on it, but in the distance we see an iron fence and a large building that appears to be an apartment house. In general, if a seaside resort, the area they have chosen for cat chair photos is a bit down at the heels and sad. The kid, Alan, is well dressed, (I love the little belt on his top) is well turned out and clearly enjoying a holiday or special day at the shore.
Tatty scenery or not, I would have loved to have my photo taken astride this kitty – and it would be a tight fit, but he’d look pretty good in my living room today as well for that matter should he turn up on eBay one of these days.