Knock, Knock

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Let the cat post begin! It has been awhile since a new cat item wandered into Deitch Studio, but this one was worth waiting for. It came to my via one of my favorite Instagram vendors, Mia @ The Ruby Foxes, or you can find her wares at therubyfoxes.com, but then you wouldn’t be treated to her frequent posts which not only have great stuff, but showcase her two cats (Enid and Astrid) and take the viewer on glorious, daily five mile runs through the British countryside. Her account says she resides in Arundel, Sussex and let me tell you, it is stunningly beautiful.

Photo from Carl Schurz Park earlier this week.

This pandemic year has given me a vast, new appreciation for glimpses of other folks lush landscapes as an armchair traveler of sorts – and for what it is worth I try to treat my Instagram followers to my East River views, park foliage and wildlife in my IG stories as a reminder of our urban pleasures. Some of you know that I recently made the acquaintance of a young hawk who insistently swoops in front of me as I entered the park each morning. (Look at me!) Just yesterday he was hunting about a block from the park and I saw him as I headed over, soaring high above me, being chased by wary, angry crows and sparrows. (An interesting example of warring bird factions who wouldn’t typically otherwise unite for a specific cause.)

Immature hawk (red tail?) posing on a lamppost after flying past me repeatedly one morning while warming up for my run.

Mia, on the other hand, has hedgehogs in her garden and she has rigged up a camera to film the pudgy little fellows at night! They are delightful! The other day she gave some instructions for encouraging them back to British gardens as they no longer thrive there the way they once did. We all do love the hedgehog footage.

A glance at the Ruby Foxes IG page. Just out of sight is a rhinestone horsehoe pin I might need if it hasn’t sold. The lower right is a hedgehog night cam video! Enid is the pretty long-hair and Astrid the large ear-ed youngster of the kits shown.

Mia is an accomplished runner and shared views of her muddy track shoes through spring – extra muscle building, those muddy paths I would imagine. She ticks off five miles daily and is very diligent. While I suspect she is younger than yours truly it does inspire and impress me mightily, as my sort of sloppy, very slow and approximately three miles has taken a long time to achieve. Mia sent encouragement early on when I told her I was trying to start running which was also very kind, and she and her five miles in the English countryside are a sort of vision board for me and my nascent, slow and urban, efforts.

However, this is all to say that I found The Ruby Foxes because she sells antique jewelry and other antique bits and pieces on Instagram and I like to see those too. I have written some about my fascination with early 20th century British jewelry and vintage clothing as it is a sort of a parallel universe to the same period in the US. I am enjoying the baubles and bits of their bygone age and as it is slightly different than our own, it has renewed my interest in this sort of thing. (My other posts about this can be found here and here.) I considered it a sign of good mental health when I got interested in jewelry again – proof that some part of my brain was thinking about a future where I would again be out in the world someday. I am developing a fascination with lucky horseshoe pins and insect pins.

Not doing this little beauty justice, but moonstones are like opals in that they are hard to photograph!

Recently I purchased a tiny moonstone ring from her. I have long been a fan of moonstones and have had my eye out for a simple, early ring like this one. It is a tad small, even for my littlest finger, but after some to and fro we decided that it could be made a bit bigger if needed. However, best of all, Mia reminded me that ages ago I said I wanted a cat door knocker which she had subsequently tucked away for me until such time as we added something to the order which I guess didn’t happen. I don’t know how I let this little fellow slip my mind because he is wonderful!

He is quite small, the size of the palm of my hand so what, about five inches? As a door knocker he is small, although solidly made of brass and I would imagine he would emit a suitable knocking on your door. (In size he reminds me more of a mezuzah than a door knocker.) Still, I can’t help but feel he is somewhat apartment sized and really would be ideal for a door like ours here where you are never more than half a room away from the front door.

Living in a large apartment building which has restricted front door access (in our case a rotation of doormen) means that not a lot of knocking goes on here. Oddly though, we have a new, shy porter who has instituted the practice of leaving some of our packages at our front door and he quietly knocks when he does it. It made Cookie hiss the first time, which seemed like an extreme reaction. Still, we were all a bit surprised and of course now when you go to open your door you have to find your mask first and chances are you are on a Zoom call for work at the same time and carrying the ipad or phone around with you. It doesn’t happen often and so it is a bit of a big deal.

Our broken bell, misnamed home and a bit of peeling door paint. I gather these will all be repainted shortly.

Our NYS regulation fire safe metal doors also seem a tad knocker unfriendly. We technically have a doorbell built into the door although it broke within weeks of my moving in here decades ago and I wouldn’t begin to imagine how to have it replaced or repaired. There is also a bit of press tape with the prior owner’s name stuck in (J. Radigan, whoever and wherever you are) where the broken bell is. We have lived here incognito for several decades. (Yes, I have always been a bit casual about some aspects of home maintenance.)

Meanwhile, I don’t foresee putting this great little fellow out in the hall. For one thing, I like to look at him. He has tiny holes for thin nails and I cannot imagine somehow drilling him into our fire-approved metal door. Since we live in one room, doors are in short supply here, so I think he will grace a wall or shelf instead.

Cat Knocker, I would guess by the same maker, for sale on eBay.

I have found some of his feline grinning brethren online – a few identical and a few kissing cousins, likely of the same origin. The general consensus is that he is British and Victorian. The variation that is perhaps more available seems to be just his head, with the bow the actual knocking part, shown above, and identified as the Cheshire Cat. I wouldn’t mind assembling a few more cat knocker variations if the opportunity arises and am a bit tempted by the eBay offer although that one does look like he has been poorly polished at some point.

Yet another variation on the theme available on eBay.

I like my guy best I think, with his full cat body, smile and big bow tie. Hard to see but his grin is a bit toothy and there is an almost worn away whisker or two. The smile is a slightly enigmatic one, his toes tucked together and somehow the knocker gives a sense of a tail which does not exist. He will do a nice job of guarding our house, even if it is from the inside and not out.

The Greatest Comic Song Yet

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers know I haven’t posted new cat sheet music in quite awhile, but this one caught my eye and I thought it should join the Pictorama collection. Perhaps I will bring it to the office as a return to Columbus Circle offering later this year. (I have written about the sheet music which adorns my tiny office. Those posts can be found here, here and here.)

Despite being The Greatest Comic Song Yet I will admit up front that I was unable to find any sign of a recording of this tune, The Cat’s Dead. A few of his more popular tunes such as And Her Golden Hair was Hanging Down Her Back and Comrades have left some creaky musical tracks. (Period recordings of these can be found on the DAHR, Discography of American Historical Recordings site here if you are curious. However, a better rendition if you actually want to hear the lyrics is the Youtube recording from a performance at the Metropolitan Museum in 2016, performed in the American Wing. It can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. Featured in a 2017 sheet music post.

According to Wikipedia, Felix McGlennon was born in Glasgow in 1856, the son of an Irish shoemaker. McGlennon, who specialized in comic dance hall and vaudeville songs, settled in Manchester, England where he published his first penny songbooks. He later emigrated to the United States in the mid-1880’s and this song and his others of note seem to be published in the United States in the 1890’s. He took his success and return to England and set up his own music and postcard publishing company there in 1909. He lived until age 87, dying in 1943.

My favorite part of the brief Wikipedia entry claims that he had no musical training and picked his tunes out on a toy piano. I share two quotes from the site below which I gather more or less summed up his philosophy on his music:

Assume, if you like, that what I write is rubbish. My reply is “It is exactly the sort of rubbish I am encouraged by the public to write”… All my life I have tried to produce an article for which there is a public demand. If I visit a music hall, it is with the single object of instructing myself as to the class of thing that is pleasing the public. Then, I try to write it – and write nothing else.

On another occasion, he said: “I would sacrifice everything – rhyme, reason, sense and sentiment – to catchiness. There is, let me tell you, a very great art in making rubbish acceptable.

The Cat’s Dead is considered an American song, published in 1893 by the Anglo American Musical Agency, but it has an English copyright. It would appear that the song and music is by Mr. McGlennon.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Sadly there is no artist credit for the great cat art on the cover which is of course why I purchased it. There is a tiny company credit which reads, NAT PH. ENG Co NY in the lower right corner so presumably it came from an engraving company library of sorts.

The music cost a rather dear forty cents. Google tells me that is about $15 in today’s money.

Our feline fellow has something of the old Confederate soldier about him – something about his vest. He has lost an eye and uses these odd crutches (I like that you can see his claws on his paws), but of course there’s something about him that makes you think he could still do a jig if he had enough liquor in him. I love his face with that sharp toothy grin, whiskers aplenty and the one smiling eye.

The lyrics are sort of awful and I will spare you those – all about the various ways they went about killing the cat who always repeatedly came back – until the end of the song. Although, as we see from the cover, Don’t you believe it!!

Screwy

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little object came across my path on eBay and I snatched it up. Corkscrews have become a popular collectible and I was afraid I might face some stiff competition. I was lucky that it didn’t appeal to the collectors and I acquired him unchallenged.

There’s something perfectly appealing about this kitty and his corkscrew tail, sticking up in the air. This little fellow (or gal) sports a big bow, an arched back and a slightly wide-eyed expression. He (or she – despite the big bow I’m feeling he I think though), has nice heft and stands well on his own. He is easier to hold and better designed (and to pull on) than you might think, although I find this kind of minimal opener requires a sort of brute strength I don’t have and ultimately leads to bits of cork floating in my wine. Therefore, despite being quite sturdy, this fellow is officially retired from the work of cork removal as far as I am concerned. I am eyeing a cabinet which I think he will be quite at home in.

As someone who both waitressed and cooked professionally I became committed early on to a very specific device to removing corks from wine bottles. One of the most useful life skills (aside from extraordinary patience) that waitressing provided me with was the most fail safe methods of opening wine and champagne.

One summer during college I worked in a high end French restaurant (which despite being called Harry’s Lobster House, had quite a reputation for its French seafood cuisine), and this was where I believe I was introduced to this style opener. (I was also given instruction in the careful opening of champagne table side – slowly and wrapped in a towel – so that it would of course pop! but with no spillage.)

Pretty close to what Harry’s looked like back in the day when I waitressed there, but this appears to have been taken a bit later than that. They added outdoor dining in an ajoining area after my days of waitressing there.

For the most part I was a pretty lousy waitress. Friendliness was the best skill I brought to it (in addition to the aforementioned patience), which bought me a fair amount of forgiveness with the customers. Frankly though this made me better suited for working behind a counter, making sandwiches and serving coffee as I had the summer before,

I can still remember how befuddled I was by the specific names of the liquors when people ordered drinks – this was a high-end restaurant and Sea Bright in summer was a drinking beach town. I wasn’t familiar with top shelf alcohol brands and was decidedly unsophisticated in this regard. (Mom and Dad certainly had liquor in the house, but they were fairly mundane in their imbibing.) I did my best to write the order exactly, phonetically when needed, on my pad and report them faithfully to the bartender who, although nice enough really, in retrospect must have thought I was an idiot. Mom tells stories of working her way through college waitressing and it doesn’t seem to be a gene I inherited. (Incidentally Mom was also a record breaking long jumper in high school and a runner – these days while learning to run I often reflect on not having those genes either.)

To be clear, a superior corkscrew to me is a bit like the better mousetrap – you can try to make one, but the bar is high. It is a perfection of a certain kind of ingenuity and design. One should not tamper lightly with success.

These generally have a small knife, at top, to help peel off the cover on the cork and can also be used effectively for opening beer bottles, using the hook on the end.

Anyway, I have been using the same corkscrew since cooking school, mine came with an assigned kit of knives and implements. It has a red nail polish dot that I assigned to all my stuff so I could easily identify them quickly in a crowded kitchen. If you’ve never used one, you quite simply screw it in and then use the other, short, protrusion for leverage at the lip of the bottle and pull the handle – and voila! Bottle opened. Neat and tidy.

Growing up, the largely preferred bottle opener was the one below. I have a fairly good success rate with these as well, although clearly you can’t carry them around and use them as a waitress or cook. (The other folds nicely and lived in my pocket daily, handy for when needed.) This model has a bit less control than my preferred model (I’ve had more corks fall apart with these than the others), but I think one of these still also rattles around in my kitchen drawer. (Because of my former life as a cook, long ago though now that it is, there are some amazing things in that drawer that are rarely if ever used – things to make melon balls, pie crimpers to name a few. My zester recently came back into favor and my olive/cherry pitter lives there and is a much beloved item.)

Given all of this knowledge, opinion and lore, you would think that I would have successfully imparted this bottle opener knowledge successfully to my family at large. However, for some reason, my father became enamored of every possible variation of bottle opener to be found. He bought them in stores, at garage sales and they represented every conceivable variation on this theme. Some were quite absurd. Many were heavy and complex. Despite my protestations he would deliver them cheerfully to me as well. The fact is they almost never worked as well as my simple device – although in general I will grant you that they were more colorful and interesting, at least in theory.

Dad broke another rule of bottle opening and one evening opened a bottle of champagne which exploded in his hand, top breaking off, and cutting him badly enough that he had to trek to the emergency room for stitches. He did adopt my wrapped bottle technique after that.

Cafe d’Alsace earlier this week for a belated birthday dinner with a friend – they kept us pretty cozy despite the early March outdoor temps.

For all of this, you would think we are popping a whole lot of corks over here at Deitch Studio, but mostly we do not. Kim doesn’t drink and I am currently on a diet. Until earlier this week at a belated birthday dinner (which as my IG followers know was eaten outside under a heater and was actually quite lovely, pulling at the memory strings of what eating out used to be) when I broke down and had a glass of wine; I had not had a drink since December, maybe November. (The alcohol calories don’t make sense for me when I am counting them carefully. I always like to say that being on a diet is not so much fun that I want it to go on any longer than necessary so I try to be extremely focused and swift!)

I do cook with wine (or vermouth – although that’s a screw top) and there’s usually a bottle of something around for that. Pre-diet I enjoyed an occasional glass of wine or Prosecco with dinner – I like an occasional ice cold vodka tonic with lots of lime in summer. However, I am not and will never be knowledgeable about wine beyond what I like and what I don’t. Red wine triggers migraines which eliminates me largely from the erudite pursuit of wine. Nevertheless, when needed I know exactly how I am going to open that bottle.

More Mainzer

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s postcard post is devoted to the heir to the Louis Wain wacky anthropomorphic cat throne, Eugen Hartung. Hartung is sort of the Otto Messmer of cat postcards. Hartung is a Swiss artist (1897-1973) whose career blossomed in the United States after WWII somehow became know by his publisher’s name, Alfred Mainzer. Was it post-war anti-German sentiment? Was it conscious like Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer, or did it happen of it’s own accord? For whatever reason, Mainzer’s name is the one prominent on the back of these cards it is the name I knew them by until I started digging a bit for a blog awhile back. I wrote about one of these cards I purchased back in 2019 and recounted some of this history. (That post can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Much to my surprise, two handfuls of these cards found their way to me back in December. After retrieving a mysterious package that had been left for you in the parlance of our doorman’s communications, I discovered that a friend who lives on the other end of 86th Street (and who I haven’t seen in person given our pandemic times) had dropped off a packet of these cards for me. Evidently she had found them years ago when cleaning out her parent’s house and put them aside for me. In a recent apartment renovation she discovered them again and brought them over. When I emailed my thanks she said that she remembered thinking when she found them that I was the right home for them and she was glad she had finally united them with me.

Oddly enough though within the month, another handful of these cards showed up in a Christmas card for Kim. I want to say it was either Rick Altergott or Evan Dent who sent them along. I apologize for this slip of mind and not remembering better. I was struck by how odd it was that two bunches of these cards should find their way to me at the same time. If you’re reading please raise your hand so I can correct this and thank you properly!

These cards were still widely available when I was a little kid and I always liked them – purchasing them when I could although those particular ones are long disappeared. They have a texture to the paper, that I remember with tactile memory, and the deckle edge lives in memory too, somehow rooted in the 1960’s in my mind. It turns out that, on the other side of the country, a young adult Kim Deitch was purchasing them in Berkeley. All great minds think alike it seems. Little did either of us know that decades later Deitch Studio and Pam’s Pictorama would unite to be the blissful cat laden bower that it is today.

I have long wondered why, although extremely popular, Hartung’s cat cards have never risen to the level of Louis Wain. (I have written several times about the cat artist genius and some of those posts can be found here, here and here just for starters.) I think in part, although plenty chaotic and wacky, they lack the underlying maniacal frenzy of the Wain universe. They are beautifully choreographed compositions and there is a prettiness that Wain’s drawings don’t have. As Louis Wain himself began to descend into mental illness, the drawings had an increasing edge to them – until of course they become almost entirely abstract. At least this is my theory. Even at their most frenzied they are a bit polite and well bred in a way that Wain isn’t.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

I give you a selection of a two of my favorites out of the group, more to come. This Western scene above – a cat cowboy evidently breaking a bucking bronco goat – was a evidently a much beloved one. It has multiple push pin holes in the top edge where someone kept it on view. (None of these cards in either bunch were ever mailed.) A girl cat is using a home movie camera (circa the 1950’s or ’60’s) to film the action and she’s right in the midst of it, tail politely poking out beneath a short skirt. In the top right, one cowboy pushes another off his perch on the rails and a Siamese cat is amongst them for diversity. I once owned an Annie Oakley jacket like the one worn by the fleeing fellow in the lower right – was my favorite jacket for years and I wore it until it fell to pieces.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The next one is this family scene of kitty chaos. I think it is very funny that these cats are dog owners and it is the dogs that are causing today’s troubles. The cats are exceedingly genteel and the cafe scene is decidedly European. The spilled drinks appear to be hot chocolate (the children were drinking it) and the waiter’s spilling tray is full of petit fours. (The one young fellow, strategically under the tray, is preparing to snatch them up as they fall.)

Comically, two birds watch the action from the lower right – none of these well-bred felines pays them any mind. The cats are civilized and all the others are playing their animal roles. This card is heavily faded along the very top edge, but only a persnickety collector would have issue with this. It too has many pin prick holes, top and bottom, from being on view somewhere.

I end today by saying I would expect that at least a few more of these will find their way to the pages of Pictorama so cat card lovers stay tuned.

Mound City Paint & Color Co.

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Followers of Pictorama know that one of my new supplier of interesting stuff resides in St. Louis (as always, a shout out to IG friend @MissMollysantiques), giving my recent acquisitions a decidedly mid-western flair – such as last week’s Krak-R-Jak tin box post. (In case you aren’t keeping up in real time, that one can be found here.) That item is also from St. Louis and honors a hometown company.

As an aside, one branch of my family, my mom’s father, hails from St. Louis. They were among the folks who took a covered wagon west and that was where they put down stakes. A generation or so later, my grandfather was traveling the country with the dog races when he met my grandmother at the Jersey shore. I have written several times about her part of the family, a large brood of then recent Italian immigrants who were making their way with restaurants, deli’s and bars. (One of those posts based on a family photo can be found here.) Poppy (as I called him) didn’t go into the family business, but instead worked for the Bendix company while my grandmother continued to help her family’s bar and restaurant. There was travel back and forth to the mid-west to see his family and I have seen a great snippet of film where he and my grandmother are riding a motorcycle out there on their honeymoon to see, and for her meet, his family.

I am developing a real soft spot for it these days, but I have never been to St. Louis – that branch of the family used to come to us rather than us going out there in my childhood and they have all relocated or died now. There is a family story I always liked however about how my father was there on an assignment for ABC News (probably in the 1970’s) and ran into my greatuncle making a call in a phone booth – yep, a phone booth – in a diner or the like and they had a meal together – a city that is a small town story. If the world hadn’t fallen off course with the pandemic and I had continued my travel schedule with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra I probably would have found myself out there by now, and perhaps still will. St. Louis has a great jazz history and remains a good town for jazz.

Original can of paint for sale on Etsy.

I cannot find tracks on whether the Mound City Paint & Color Company exists in any form today, however their name comes down to us via their advertising efforts which seem to reside in the now living memory of what is collectible today. Their Horse Shoe house brand of paint was promoted with a variety of useful items that would remind you that it was their paint you wanted to use when the time for painting arrived. My 1905 calendar card falls into this category, purchased because I was enticed by this Evelyn Nesbit look alike and this nice looking tuxedo kitty, boasting a huge white bow. (Kim and I discussed the various options of if this was actually ripped off of one of the myriad of Evelyn Nesbit photos that would have been available, or just a model who had gotten herself up in the style of her – which must have also been hugely popular in the day.)

Mound City Paint & Color Co. calendar card; Pams-Pictorama.com collection

It would appear that this was one in a quarterly drop of The Season’s Beauties calendar cards. (You are urged to keep up with the full set on the back of the card – Look out for NUMBER FOUR. No duplicates. Preserve the collection. One lost breaks the set.) This one is referred to as The Pippin and places girl and cat in an apple (presumably a pippin) for good measure. It therefore makes sense that this card covered the months of September, October and November, prime apple producing months. Presumably there a special holiday edition of these cards. Sadly, I could find no trace of the rest of the series however, although this nice watch fob below (sold at a Worthpoint auction) is a somewhat rarefied collectible. The folding yardstick is the most available, but least interesting to see. They must have been produced in huge abundance, and given their ongoing useful nature have remained available.

Sold on the Worthpoint auction site.

The advertising on the back of my card seems to be devoted to their brush on enamel product and you are urged to use it on refrigerator shelves (I was a tad surprised to even see the term refrigerator, rather than icebox, although Google assures me the term was already in use at the end of the 1800’s), closet shelves – further down it gets to sinks and bathtubs. It came in WHITE ONLY and had special directions on every can. It then goes into a litany extolling why you should buy this brand instead of a mystery one – the promise that you knew all and exactly what it contained, no mysterious extenders.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection; back of Mound City calendar card.

I close with a few of their stickers which are available on eBay and a final tip of the hat to the longevity of the advertising for the Mound City Paint and Color Company, St. Louis. Like many companies of the era, their advertising turned out to be their corporate immortality.

Cat Chair Cont.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Returning today, as I ultimately always do to cat related photos, I share this great photo postcard I recently added to the Pictorama collection. I always consider these cards of folks perched on a giant cat especially good finds – perhaps even as beloved as my collection of photo postcards of folks posing with giant Felix the cat dolls, a find in this category to add to my small holdings of these is a reason for celebration here at Pictorama. They are an extremely jolly and jaunty variation and always find a place of pride on our crowded walls.

A careful look at the other versions I have hanging on the wall confirm that this is likely a different giant cat than the others – although the variations are very small, like the size of the eyes or nose. As for location, I have every reason to believe that is different too, although similar as these, like the Felix cards, always seem to be photos taken at the beach resorts, usually in Britain. (Although I have a number of examples taken in Katoomba, Australia, as well and at least one series showing such a Felix in Kuala Lumpur, below, where he appears to be directing traffic. Those posts can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Today’s card was never sent, but J. Easton, Clifton Paths, Margate is printed at the top of the back, along with (Extra copies please quote number.)

Impressively Margate’s history as a seaside destination for health and recreation dates all the way back to the 1750’s. An early photo of the cliffs referred to in Clifton Paths, are very dramatic, high cliffs in dramatic relief to the beach below which I assume are still in situ today. During this early 20th century period the area and its Dreamland amusement pier and beach were likely reaching a zenith of popularity for the sort of seaside retreat the British became known for. Another photo taken at Margate in my collection is below and the post can be read here.

Margate holiday photo, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Meanwhile, this youngster seems remarkably unimpressed with his perch – ungrateful child! I would love to swap places with him for this pic. His expression and body language, hands on hips, say it all and the language of small boys remains legible decades later – come on and take your stupid picture already! One imagines that a small child would have to be lifted atop of this large and wonderful kitty.

This photo below was also taken in Margate and identified as being in Cliftonville which seems to be adjoining or the same resort. This could be the same kitty, just a bit older in this photo. (That post, published on my birthday in 2017, can be read here.) The precise location seems to be different and this one does not have Mr. Easton’s logo so my guess is they were most likely competitors.

Cat Chair Photo, collection Pams-Pictorama.com

These kitties (Are they the same manufacturer? They look like Steiff toys but I can find no tracks to confirm they actually were produced by them) each seems to have the same little tongue sticking out, which always looks like a nose ring to me at first glance – here it looks like white beads or tufts outline the tongue. Most kitty chairs have a bow or a collar similar to this one, and many have white outlines defining the toes. Oh how I would love to see one in person!

Unlike some of the Felix figures, which even when their size approached that of small human probably allowed for the tucking under the arm and moving about, which means they are sometimes tatty compared with the apparent pristine of this fellow which somehow looks like he mostly stayed put – just being tucked away in the evenings or on rainy days. It appears to be an overcast day and the legions of beach chairs lined up behind them are all empty. Apartment buildings line the area, which I am figuring overlooks the water, as far as the eye can see here. There may be some vendors with stalls, likely on a boardwalk there. A sun spot has marked the photo there so it is a bit hard to see. Mr. Easton, photographer, has a tiny brand mark in the lower left corner. I wish I could find out a bit about his business but my research skills seem to be inadequate to do so.

While several of the photos I have of small children posing with an imposing Felix often larger than themselves occasionally look a tad worried or concerned, this cranky fellow is the only kid in my collection who is not enjoying his time on the giant black cat. I share some women who know how to have a good time on a black cat below – this photo lives on my site, but somehow there has never been a post devoted to it which it certainly deserves. They know how to have a good time. Go girls, go!

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Up a Tree

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Luckily for this little fellow, although we find him up a tree, a careful look shows he isn’t too high up off the ground to easily find his way back down. Most of us cat loving folks have at some point in life found ourselves standing under a try calling to a kitty (Here kitty, kitty!) and trying to persuade him or her to negotiate the trip down, which is always much harder than the trip up, gravity being what it is.

Hence, I guess, the metaphor of being up a tree – and in reality we’ve all found ourselves up a tree at one time or another, needing to negotiate our way down without falling flat on our noggin. Without getting too clever about the metaphor, generally a cat goes up a tree for good reason however – think dog for example – and needing to get down from a tree is far better than what chased you up there in the first place. Something to consider indeed.

I especially liked this card because at the top in a careful hand it reads, This is kitty Beall, taken by Mrs. Beall – out in our backyards. E.A.M. The postcard is addressed to Miss Grace Ethel Kingsbury, Braintree, MA 115 River Street. (In that order oddly – the street name and number at the bottom.) The postmark is obscured and the only thing I can make out is Fergus Falls MINN. The date is illegible, but luckily the folks in Braintree also stamped it as received at 9AM on July 14, 1907. (In high school I had a boyfriend who came to New Jersey from Braintree and the exoticism of the name of the locale stuck with me all these years. Stephen O’Shaughnessy. He collected and restored old cars. As a result we were always getting stranded somewhere when the cars would break down or the gas gauge turned out to be broken. The charm of tooling around in an MG from from the 1960’s balanced against this annoying flaw. Although we remained friends, I’m sorry to say I ultimately lost track of him. He was a very nice person)

Kitty is a nice tabby and I wish E.A.M. had shared his or her name. Puss is looking right at the camera and it is a good shot. There seems to be a bit of rope tied to the tree and I would hazard a guess that it is a clothesline. If you look carefully there are some blurry house at some distance behind this yard. For July the yard and tree are looking none too lush so perhaps the photo was snapped at another time and the postcard only used in the summer. It looks more like the sort of November day I see outside my window right now.

Growing up we had indoor/outdoor cats – roaming in and out more or less on demand. This did result in some lost cats and at least one unfortunate incident with a dog which ultimately lead us to keep the kits entirely indoors. The town followed with some ordinances that endorsed this and where mom lives now is very much about keeping your felines inside or in your own yard (yeah, try that some time with a cat), and not letting the cat out when you come and go is a mantra at mom’s house now.

Alas, a life of adventure versus the pleasures of indoor life and leisure is now the choice for kits in Monmouth County. My guess is this little fellow enjoyed a fair share of both in his glory days, back at the dawn of the 20th century.

Specs

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This card is one of my recent purchases. When all is said and done about this time one of things that I think I will remember is how I started purchasing things on Instagram. I had never even thought about it before, let’s say, April or so. I have always loved Instagram – my feed devoted to seeing what a handful of folks I follow are doing and of course, many cats – rolling, playing, posing. I don’t have interest in famous folks and I don’t want to know much about the sad state of the world while I am on Instagram – it is largely escapism for me. I realize that other folks have been buying on it for ages, just never occurred to me that I would find interesting old stuff there.

However, in checking out a new follower of mine, I realized she sells old photos and antiques, from there I realized another follower sells vintage photos, a third sells jewelry and other bits (some clothing, pin trays and the like), from the early years of the 20th century from her home in the British Countryside. (@MissMollyAntiques, @spakeasachildvintage or aka WheretheWillowsGrow, and @Wassail_Antiques respectively.) Over time you chat a bit and now I realize that one is a musician (as is her husband), selling out a space in an antiques mall she used to have, another is photographer of musicians, that work largely gone – a theme here. (I received something from her the other day and it was wrapped so lovely – like a gift!) The new economy evolves.

I’m sure other office supplies will find their way into this box over time.

Anyway, this bit of cat advertising turned up recently and I snatched it, along with a cute little box that was made to sell spools of thread which now houses binder clips on my desk.

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Today we boast this proper Victorian Mrs. Kitty who is both sporting and advertising eye glasses – fine steel specs according to the back of the card. These were available with Blue and Bronzed Colored Frames…Filled and Sterling Silver Filled Noses. Strangely the actual advertising on the back was printed and with only a rough approximation of the cat outline and therefore words are cut off in places. However, we can also make out that you could have beautiful styles of lorgnettes in shell and (probably?) celluloid.

Casually executed advertising copy on the back of the card.

She is wearing a locket in the fashion I opined on in a recent photo post, she models an out-sized hat in the style of the day, and of course she is bespectacled. (The photo locket post was the recent one which can be found here.)

As it happens, I was shopping for eyeglass frames yesterday so I pulled this card out of the pile from the recent haul. During quarantine the rimless frame glass I have worn for several years began to loosen, started sitting crooked on my face, and I began to fear that they would truly come a cropper while the world was closed down. I do have a spare pair, but they are behind one prescription – the lenses for my eyeglasses are very expensive and those frames aging, therefore right now these glasses and a pair of sunglasses are the only current ones I have. (Some of you might remember my sad tale of woe concerning losing these eyeglasses during a trip for work to California. It can be found here. You would think I would have learned my lesson!)

My specs – not so different from Kitty’s. Hard to see the smashed bit here, right side.

One of my very first forays into the post-quarantine world was to the East Village, to have these frames tightened. When they started this delicate manuever the guy on duty warned me about the possibility of the lenses breaking – tighten at your own risk. They managed to do it successfully but, alas, I noticed the other day that they are starting to shatter near where the screws are, so back downtown we went to begin the cycle of purchasing frames and updating prescriptions.

I purchase my eyeglasses from a shop in the East Village, Anthony Aiden Opticians, which came highly recommended by someone, cannot remember who now, on the basis of the execution of the lens measuring and fitting to be especially thoughtfully done. Having once, a long time ago, strayed and purchased a pair of glasses with my graduated prescription elsewhere I learned my lesson and never tried that again. Yes, you pay a premium for quality, but seeing is important and we are talking about something you wear on your face everyday. (Zoom presents its own challenges for the eye glass dependent. I have trouble finding a viewing range where I can both read notes and see participants. I could be wrong but it doesn’t seem worth adjusting my prescription for although I will ask the eye doc when I see him.)

Yesterday I discovered that Anthony Aiden Opticians had made it through the quarantine period by doing individual appointments, something to remember for the future although I think I would have been loathe to take the trip on the subway at the time.

Photo of their establishment pulled off Google.

It is a small store, just east of St. Mark’s Place. When we arrived they were too crowded and asked us to return in a bit. We complied by having lunch, somewhat precariously perched at a table outside of the B&H Dairy (where a stern but friendly woman with an Eastern European accent oversaw the delivery and consumption of our food), and wandered back after.

B&H from the inside, back in the days of indoor dining.

Trying on eyeglass frames with a mask on was interesting of course. Once I had a few finalists for Kim to help choose from, I unmasked. They also measured my eyes without a mask – their request. I believe the gentleman who waited on me was the owner – Mr. Aiden himself? I purchased gray plastic and metal frames. My long buying and prescription history was on file and I was able to order lenses for my sunglasses as well.

I have an appointment with my eye doc in about ten days and now am just babying my glasses along until I can have the prescription called in and lenses ordered. Hopefully I can be back in business, fully eyeglass-ed up within a month, all ready for whatever fall and winter brings.

Reliable

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Ah, pray make no mistake, we are not shy. We’re very wide awake, the Moon and I. So declares Missus Kitty, accessorized with exotic fan, but also claw paws and sharp teeth, albeit casually exposed. I don’t know why, but I think of her as on her way to the opera – but I guess in reality she is getting ready to give a full moon caterwauling performance of her own instead. She is our star performer this evening. Perched on a snowy rooftop chimney, her supporting cast in the form of a parasol-wielding kitty behind her, she is ready to tear into it.

In the newly quiet Manhattan, during these pandemic days, the occasional spring and summer evenings brought the disturbing sounds of cats howling. It did make me reflect on how often I write about these types of images, (for one of my favorites have a look at the sing-a-long portrayed in a post that can be found here), but that I rarely actually hear it. Since I moved to Manhattan a few decades ago now, the number of stray cats has been drastically reduced which is a good thing, and not that many cats have sanctioned outdoor space to meet other cats. I can’t say I like the racket – I’m always concerned that someone is getting hurt or is in trouble. My ears remain attuned until it ceases, contributing to my growing tendency toward periodic insomnia.

Meanwhile, occasionally Blackie will begin his own evening muttering and wailing in the apartment and has to be asked to keep a lid on it. Cats will be cats.

The back of this card is interesting. ADMIT BEARER To any Grocery Store, to examine the beautiful assortment of Imported Ware, such as Bohemian Vases, Decorated Fruit Plates, China Cups and Saucers, and China Cream Pitchers. And TWO of these articles and one pound of “SAFE AND RELIABLE” Baking Powder for only 50 cents. Ask for it. and added at the bottom, Chas. W. Smith.

The somewhat grimy back of the ancient card.

As someone who has recently rediscovered my baking muscle I have a newfound appreciation for the reliability factor of baking powder, although I wonder a bit at the safety part – what does unsafe baking powder do? Early on in my baking efforts I used some very old stuff and we had a very low rise on a loaf of cheesy olive bread – which we consumed regardless of course because all cheesy olive bread is good. (The recipe can be found here. I cannot recommend it highly enough.)

Weirdly baking powder and its kissin’ cousin baking soda have remained a tad hard to find in the store since the big pandemic shutdown. Much like the fact that I can still only buy paper towels and toilet paper in packs of a dozen. (If you live in a studio apartment a dozen rolls of each of these is a bit like adding a coffee table to the apartment.) Yeast seems somewhat unobtainable although I admit I have stopped trying.

My wonderment at these exotic early advertising efforts remains unabated – yes, I am making the argument that there should be more operatic felines advertising baking powder today. (I have posted about another series of cat related advertising from this period and some of those can be found here and here.) I regret I find nothing as entertaining these days. Meanwhile, I am equally charmed by the mental image of this general store where I had the opportunity to buy Bohemian Vases, Decorated Fruit Plates or China Cream Pitchers as well as baking powder. (I also find the somewhat creative use of capital letters of note.)

Despite continued social distancing (places in line marked supposedly six feet apart, mask wearing, etc.) going to the grocery store has become something less of an ordeal here, although we continue to get most of our food delivered from Fresh Direct (as we have for many years – it is the rare thing I was an early adopter of), I head over to Fairway or Whole Foods every other week or so. For the first time the other day it actually felt…crowded, like the Fairway of old. Perhaps it was the upcoming holiday weekend, or that more people are returning to Manhattan with kids in school and a nascent return to offices. There is a nip in the air, the days are getting shorter again and forward we go it seems, into Fall.

At Night All Cats are Gray

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a French postcard post about a card I purchased on eBay from a French seller. Something about the illustration appealed even if the drawings of the cats are a bit too stylized for my taste, it works in this context. The card was offered with two color variations – the other being predominantly pink and is still available as I write this.

The title is a Google translation (I use these handy, if occasionally mechanical, translations throughout this post), but sort of romantic nevertheless. I have frequently tripped over cats at night in our apartment and wondered which one I stepped on often enough, although as Pictorama readers all know, our cats are black to start with so I might argue the point. Not to mention that they meow differently so one is sure to know who you have offended.

This wonderful smiling moon (which is what first attracted me to this card and is very Deitchian) peers out from the parting clouds on this late night feline fiesta, atop a shingled rooftop in France, and shines down on this scene. This card was never mailed and is covered with writing (in French) on the back which I share below, but is beyond my limited means even to get the gist of – please share if you are a French reader and can translate! Meanwhile, I especially like the jolly pink roof.

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In the lower left corner our singing fellow is identified as Music Lover Pussy. (I believe I wrote last week about caterwauling kitties, in my tribute to my dad’s cat Red which can be found here.) He sings a little tune, Mi-mi-la-re-do-si! Blackie has this tendency to vocalize and was just working his howl on me the other morning. He likes to get me out of bed at  a specific time each morning so he can immediately curl up in my spot while it is still warm. I suspect that only I could think that is cute rather than strictly annoying.

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Blackie, annoyed and waiting for the spot, the other morning after howling at me. 

 

The next cat over is a Black Cat (who) loves jazz enormously. Appropriately as the jazz kitty he is the most dynamic of the group and has the traditional black cat, back up pose. Below him N’aime pas le mou! translates roughly to doesn’t like it soft. Meaning, I gather, that he likes his jazz loud!

The truly gray cat in the middle is identified as Gutter Cat (gosh – seems like an unkind moniker) and he is growling and muttering about jumping? Below Angora, elderly cat, labeled cat it says, long and silky coat is the passion of old men. As the senior member he has a nice perch atop of the chimney stack and draws the viewer’s eye to the windmill, on a hill, in the background. Tiny lights from the town below twinkle and I realize that this card is actually a tight little composition.

Lastly we have the only woman in the group – White Cat (who) responds to the sweet name Minette and spends her time on success. I take this to mean she only pays attention to big spender boys? She is aloof in the lower corner. I am not sure any of these fellows is worthy of her attention. So there.

Nocturnal feline visitors on rooftops and fences make up an entire genre of cat sheet music (see my post of some here and here); postcards such as the great Louis Wain version I featured here; and even photographs, as below and posted about here. While I always find the plaintive evening howl of a cat outside distressing (yes, we do hear them even on the 16th floor where Deitch Studio is perched), the nighttime howling of pussy cats is a long-standing kitty archetype. Me-ow!

Skim

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