Catching the Post

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This postcard was waiting for me when I got back from New Jersey last night. I bought it on Etsy from a dealer in Britain and it took so long to get here that I had forgotten about it! It’s a very British card with that red mailbox, a suggestion of a lamp post, and of course some fog. This black cat who has slipped on his bum has dropped a cigarette in the process. He’s a great pose – all akimbo – tail like a third leg, his pink tongued mouth agape.

Verso of the card. Maybe you can decode this better than I have?

The card was mailed and is postmarked Hastings, January 6, 1922, sent in the evening mail 101 years ago. It was sent to Miss Lulu Crosse, 158 Castle Hill, Reading Berks. To the extent I can read it, it says, I am so sorry not to have acknowledged your pretty calendar dear Lulu but have only just found it in our drawers where all our presents were put so it must have slipped out of the parcel I thought you might like this as it slightly resembles John. Such a lovely dog. With love, L.S. Dog?

As it happens I had the rare (and suburban) opportunity to hand the postman a bill that needed mailing yesterday as I had just finished putting it together when he arrived to drop a parcel and a bunch of flyers in the box affixed to the front of the house there. Could you take this too? I call that service!

Sunrise run at Mom’s this week.

I am learning that some of mom’s bills (taxes and sewer thus far) come with little coupon tabs that need to be included in the payment back. For some reason these local town affiliates have resisted auto withdrawal and in the case of the taxes you have a sheet of these dated tabs you must remember to pull off on a not-quite-quarterly schedule and pay. This is, in my opinion, a bit maddening and fraught with potential disaster as I take over helping mom with these tasks.

The main drag in Red Bank. I think there’s a post office in the other direction that I could check out.

The postman visit was especially good timing as I had recently discovered that the post office closest to mom within walking (running) distance is closed for what appears to be an indefinite time as someone drove through the front of it. Housed in a nondescript little shopping center it’s hard to see why this occurred – weirdly accelerating forward? Misjudging the front of the parking space? On the phone? It was the middle of the day – as it happens a friend was there shortly after.

In addition to the post office, the shopping center houses an A&P, a liquor store, and a really splendid homemade ice cream emporium that I have already made numerous visits to with my friend Suzanne. There is a large Dunkin’ Donuts and although we have nothing against donuts, instead we tsk tsk over the memory that a splendid and much beloved stationary store made its home there for many decades and was pushed out and so we don’t stop there.

Meanwhile, there is a nice looking sort of glorified diner, but I haven’t had reason to eat there yet because in an ajoining parking lot is my favorite lunch place, Tavolo Pronto, the home of the great sandwich, among other things, so I come often to this enclave when in Jersey. If I so inclined I can go to the bank, have a massage or get my nails done there as well. Really many essentials of my local NJ life are housed there or nearby including Mexican, Chinese and Japanese take-out or restaurants – a short run or medium walk from mom’s house.

Sickles the farm market, also sells flowers and I snapped this there the other day.

It would seem I won’t be using that post office for an indefinite period of time – a couple of months have already gone by. I am impatient and just think, Fix it already! How hard can that be? Meanwhile, there is another post office more or less equidistant in the town of Little Silver – oddly mom lives at the nexus of four towns, Rumson, Fair Haven, Red Bank and Little Silver – I can hit all four easily in an average run.

Waitress at Edie’s – a favorite watering hole that is a bit hard to get to or park at.

However that post office requires transversing several obscenely busy roads and I don’t generally don’t run on them. This keeps me from frequent visits to Edie’s Luncheonette (which I wrote about recently here) and our local farmer’s market and gourmet shop, Sickles, on foot. And although the idea of running through the Sickles farm property temps me, dealing with these busy streets does not. Perhaps I should consider the Red Bank post office as I run there periodically as well.

Sometimes, if I know I will be back in Manhattan soon, it is easier to tuck the mail in my purse and bring it home, to a city where mailboxes and post offices within walking distance abound.

Felix and Bonzo Dance the Charleston

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is one of those, Wowzers, I think I have to have it, but I am not really sure what it is purchases. The listing was fairly descriptive (although it referred to Bonzo as Bongo Dog which limited its search results and may have helped me acquire it) and there were photos, but somehow even I did not see the full glory of this item until I held it (albeit carefully) in my hands. Somehow I knew I really wanted it though. Sometimes you just know something is going to be great.

Luckily for me no one else had the vision for this rarity and with alacrity and delight I purchased it unchallenged. I confess that I thought the Felix was likely mislabeled and upon receipt I would decide that it was Ooloo, Bonzo’s more typical cat companion. However, there is no doubt that it is indeed Felix now that I see it.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection is likely the only place to find this great bit of oddness!

This intriguing little item is marked as German with a number, but no other information. It stands about six inches high and was sold to me by a US dealer in Delaware who seems to specialize in vases. This vase seems to me to be of a type that if I knew more about the ceramic output of the period I could guess the maker – it has a general familiarity about it. He did not supply any information however and my knowledge is very limited. As it is we will assume it must be from the pre-war Felix fiesta and Charleston craze of the early 1920’s.

I can only describe this item as raucously joyous! More like a two-step than evoking the Charleston (do couples actually embrace when dancing the Charleston?), but instead just the sheer weird exuberance of Felix and Bonzo locked endlessly in a spinning clinch, mouths agape awaiting posies, elicits a smile from me. I mean, does it get whackier than that in the best possible way? The only thing better would be to stick a bunch of tulips in each side, although it seems too fragile to actually house flowers. (To note, each is technically its own vase – the bases do not connect.)

Locked in a joyous embrace! Pams-Pictorama.com.

To my knowledge Felix and Bonzo each sport vases bearing their likeness and of various sizes and relative practicality. Felix’s image appears on a series of tiny toy vases most notably, while Bonzo seems more likely to be a three dimensional manifestation, debatably more usable and to loosely include small planters. I am not sure I can think of another full incarnation of Felix as a vase, but perhaps it has just eluded me. (Please do share if you know better!)

In general we are a bit terrified of owning fragile items here at Pictorama. The rough and tumble of daily life (with cats) at Deitch Studio can be best suited to soft toys and the otherwise less breakable. I do make exceptions however, but as a result this will need to live toward the back of a relatively high shelf.

And the ever-sleepy Bonzo – even while dancing. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

For a catty place, Bonzo has made several appearances here starting all the way back in 2014 with a post that can be found here after I purchased a great small ceramic figure at a flea market. Subsequently some soft toys have made their way into the Pictorama collection and my affections, other Bonzo posts can be found here and here for starters. His cat friend Ooloo as a soft toy was a notable addition to the collection and a post about him can be found here. Ooloo fans, a small but mighty group, might get a thrill in an upcoming post – stay tuned friends.

Whoever decided to pair these two disparate but ruling king comic characters of the day (I don’t know that I can think of another crossover example of them together let alone clutching each other), certainly had a vision. In executing it, Felix by necessity I suppose, becomes a bit elongated and leggy, with an extra long tail, for ballest perhaps. Bonzo looks more like himself in a more typical state of Bonzo bliss, eyes closed. That dog spent a lot of time sleeping and dozing. (Dancing while dozing though might be a first even for Bonzo.) Felix looks like he was caught in an odd moment of liquid animation, caught in a twirl with his buddy Bonzo, forever presenting posies for Bonzo and Felix fans. Full in delightful I say!

Come Hither Cat Costume

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Sometimes a Pictorama picture post is just that and this postcard today is one of those. I spotted it on eBay and scooped it up. It came to me via a California based dealer, but there is something vaguely European about it in my mind. It is utterly without marking or writing on the back which is unusual – even primitive photo postcards usually have some sort of markings. It has crinkly cut edges which you rarely see on postcard stock and is more common in commercially printed photos I might think were a bit later.

While this was advertised as a Halloween photo I assess it to much more likely be a young woman dressed up for a play. I have spent some time wondering what she is holding in her hand that isn’t showing us her cat tail. (It is a nice tail and I always think that is a hard part on a cat costume. I might prefer the sort that stands out on its own though.) There is a chain with exaggerated links – maybe a costume watch chain? And there’s some sort of grassy bits hanging off her waist as well which just mystify me.

As I studied those I realized that it is more likely that these were props. Her worn flats seem appropriate to stage and perhaps some dancing. She stands in front of a backdrop which is either in a photography studio or perhaps a stage background.

For me its all about those perky cat ears. They fit nicely with her hair and they look perfectly natural there. As someone who owns a few pairs of cat ears (I’m assuming this doesn’t surprise my readers) perched on a hairband I assure you that some do fit better than others.

I will also say that for some reason on the occasions I have sported them that it displeased my cats in a remarkable way. It wasn’t that they were afraid when I put them on (turning me into a huge kitty?), but more like they were deeply disappointed in me. If cats could think that you were making a racist joke I think it is the look those cats gave me. I’ve never felt quite right about the ears ever since.

Oh Wow! It’s a Great Felix!

Pam’s Pictorama Post Toy Post: Christmas has come very late to Pictorama, but well worth waiting for when it showed up this week in the form of this wonderful addition to the Felix farm here at Deitch Studio. (A special thank you shout to Kim in the role of my Santa!) For those of you who read my January fretting post yesterday, the arrival and unveiling of Felix has lightened the mood here considerably – despite efforts to perk coffee on the stupid electric burner this morning!

I found Felix while perusing photos of a toy show in England I deeply regretted not being in attendance at (insert brief fantasy about dropping everything and flying there to attend), when I saw him sitting on a crowded shelf in one shot. The seller is a rather celebrated toy dealer, Daniel Agnew, who I believe deals most deeply in teddy bears – my beloved stuffed Felix toys are something of a subset to teddys. I couldn’t swear I haven’t purchased something from him previously, but perhaps I am just familiar with seeing him and his wares over time. However, I certainly trusted buying from him this way and was able to engage over the toy exhibit page on Facebook.

While I recognized that this Felix fellow was a good addition to my collection, I couldn’t really see what a nice, large jolly fellow he was going to turn out to be; photos just did not do him justice! (Insert image of me hopping up and down!) I was thrilled as I took him out of the box. Dan had sent some photos pointing out some wear, tiny holes and loss and I was a bit concerned about him making the trip overseas. However, Mr. Agnew is an experienced packer extraordinaire as you can see from the unpacking photo below and Felix made it through just fine.

The unpacking process!

Daniel did not identify the maker and I am unsure. In looking at a Felix Christmas post past (which can be found here) from the waning days of 2016, I speculate on one of a somewhat similar design, also very large, which I semi-attribute to the East London toy company. (Our new friends has less articulated hands and feet however.) I am not at all sure I agree with that guesstimate for either of them now. In an exchange with Mr. A. we discussed the possibility that he is by a small unnamed maker which is a likely answer in trying to identify some of these – as per his message license was giving out liberally for those interested in making the toys. I will say that his nose, his most unusual feature, appears to be most like the nose on a giant Dean’s Mickey Mouse in my collection.

Felix in Pictorama collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

In addition to his interesting and noteworthy nose, he is of a sort of specific tripod design with a shorter body and longer legs and tail. He has nice big glass eyes and a friendly, genial expression as opposed to the good time Charley type above. His head and arms are stationary, not articulated. The tip of his tail has worn through and he has stitching patches in his neck and behind an arm where he could use a bit restuffing and stitching. (He has dribbled a bit of excelsior across Kim’s desk for his brief photo shoot. He’s perched on a small tub of white acrylic paint.) However, he is mighty fine at 100 years old – I have no hope of looking nearly as good at his age.

I am eyeing a spot next to the other Christmas Felix above, where he can live quietly, safe from prying kits, towering over the miniature Flat Iron building and watch over us from an imperious perch in bed at night.

More Margate Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am fulfilling yesterday’s promise of more photos to come with another hotsy totsy postcard which also entered into the Pictorama collection this week. My singular passion for this rarified specimen of photo postcards has been well documented and is in fact responsible for this blog which subsequently burgeoned into a much larger pastime. I contend that I may have the largest collection of these photos, but since I rarely meet anyone with even one (unless they are selling it) may claim goes largely uncontested. Most, but not all, have made appearances here on Pictorama.

I know there are other folks who own some Felix cards in the world because I occasionally to my horror (and admittedly not often), lose an auction for one. My fondness for these photos has inspired some purchases of what I think of as subcategories – people posing on enormous black cat “chairs” and then the random posing with or on other cartoon characters including (usually small) Mickeys or in one case atop Barney Google’s horse Spark Plug. (That post can be found here.) Some are tintypes, but most are photo postcards. In general, the thrust of individuals recording their madcap day at seaside or an amusement pier of some sort appeals to me.

Another pint-sized Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This family certainly defies the definition of madcap or even happy go-lucky. They are depicted in somewhat mugwamp fashion, be-hatted, bundled and all except for the little nipper on the end, engaged in industrious forms of leisure if there is such a thing – reading and knitting or sewing as far as I can tell. (Dad has a sheepish grin – perhaps the whole thing was his idea.) Clearly it was not one of Margate’s sunnier and warmer days, the third woman has an umbrella tucked under her feet which is easy to miss. A stray hat (it looks a bit large but probably belongs to the little girl) is in the foreground. The little girl’s shoes are tucked between mom and dad in the sand.

The card is marked just Margate in pencil on the back, but it was never mailed and nothing else is written on it, somehow these folks were talked into a photo with Felix. Margate, a long-standing seaside destination, is the locale of many of my photos. I wrote about its history once here. (And among the other times I have had posts of postcards from there are examples here and here and one from earlier this year with Felix here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As posing Felix-es go, he is a smallish model, only coming up to the waist of the little girl who is standing behind him. Upon close inspection he sports both a small bow on his left shoulder and a large button in his ear which I will hazard a guess says Chad Valley – it is the first time I have seen the button in the ear of one of these posing Felix toys and now I am wondering if I can find it on others. I have a sort of 18 inch model that has one – the first in my collection to still have it.

I must say, as backdrops go the photographer didn’t have much to work with here – the patch of sand and unromantic wall behind them. They could be anywhere. He has centered them however and consciously or not, they make up a good photo, their hats lining up and the little girl on the end just a bit taller than the seated adults. Something about the white stockings and shoes on the third woman adds something to the effect. If their repose was greater they might be the Whistler’s Mothers of Margate, but instead there is that nagging sense of diligence. Their Sunday afternoon in the parlor transported to the beach briefly.

A very similar Felix at an undisclosed location – possibly Margate and the very same Felix? Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix remains jolly in the face of their dour and somewhat gloomy affects. He rolls his eyes a bit maniacally, looking up coincidentally toward the little girl – she is his potential partner in crime, and they are in it together to get this party started and have some fun! One arm (paw?) up, he’s ready to lead the way. Meanwhile, he is at the beginning of a long day of posing, cheerfully, with an array of folks on the beach in Margate, some more fun than others, waving to me a hundred or so years later.

Madeleine – a Meow Bow-wow

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It’s a photo finish weekend here at Pictorama, kicking off with this card that wandered in the door just yesterday from Europe. The card seems to have been and sent in Belgium. It is hard to read the postmark, but it might read 1919 which seems about right.

Card verso.

This card was sent to Madeleine as written in fancy script shown on the back. It was sent to Mademoiselle Simoine (?) in Mons, Belgium. Oh, lucky Madeleine! What a wonderful card.

This cat and dog are perfectly matched in size if not spirit – the dog is sort of stealing this show. It’s a professionally produced photo card, with an early form of hand tinting – the pink cast to the bow and a lush green background play off each other nicely, perhaps happy accident as much as a deft hand and keen eye.

Kitty has a pretty white face and chest, lovely striped coat, but is a bit inanimate. Doggie, a little devilish, has a great collar with tiny bells attached. You will hear this boy coming! He is so very shiny with a nice black coat, although he blends almost entirely into the background at first, eyes glimmering, huge, pointy ears. These bon pals like each other at least enough to sit on this (Belgian) lace tablecloth long enough to be immortalized here.

Stormy, back in her early days when she would submit to petting and even brushing.

Kit here reminds me of the stray Mom adopted about a year ago, Stormy. Some of you followed her early story as she adjusted to indoor life at Mom’s house, amongst the other kitties. (You can find posts about Stormy’s early entry to the Jersey branch of the Butler clan here and here for starters.)

Stormy is an odd cat. She came to the back door as a tiny, starved kitten. She waltzed happily into a carrier when we trapped her – sort of like, what took you guys so long? We tried to find her a home, but like many before her, she had come to stay with the Butlers. The first weeks were spent in a huge dog cage where she and the other cats could interact, but she could recover her strength. Stormy liked to be petted and even brushed, which made us think she had a home, however briefly. Her pointy face does make us think she was born feral however and these two warring factions, plus her period outside, make her a bit of a mystery.

Stormy, cat of mystery.

Over time she emerged from the cage and became part of the cat pack at Mom’s. I call her the ghost cat however as she only seems to emerge late at night. She and one of the other cats tussle and play hard – I sometimes wake to the sound of their tumbles and racing around – but I rarely catch sight of her.

Gus, Stormy’s buddy and partner in crime at night, visiting her former abode which has become another kitty hide out.

Stormy has figured out that Mom is largely immobile in her chair and evidently now has her evening nap in the chair next to her. Watching her with big gold eyes. Evidently, Stormy is the Queen of Cats late at night, having a late meal, chasing her tail and romping around. By day it is as if she does not exist. It isn’t a house with many hiding places so I have no idea where she goes. Occasionally she streaks across my path, but rarely. Updates on her have stalled as photos are minimal as are actual first hand interactions.

My outdoor buddy who I have christened Hobo – Mom’s next project.

Miss Stormy has favorites amongst Mom’s caregivers. Like everyone, she likes Winsome best and will perk up an occasionally make an entrance (briefly) when she hears her in the early evening. Despite Stormy’s early days with us, no one can get near her to pet her now – she melts away. Like all cats who chose us, mysteriously electing us as their people, we’ll never know the full tale behind her early life. However, like many before her, she lives with Mom now and is quietly in command of her nocturnal domain.

Pull My Tail and Watch Me Jump!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For someone who collects black cats a surprisingly small part of my collection is devoted to Halloween material, although certainly some has found its way in. (Former posts have shared Halloween items here, here and here for starters.)

I do love a good paper mache pumpkin or black cat lantern, and I can see a few more finding their way into the house. I remember the first time I saw the pumpkins was at a store in Cold Spring, New York and they had a load of them. The vintage decorations were amazing, but were way more than I could afford at the time and I was just agog. I don’t think I bought my first lantern until a few years ago, on Instagram, this nice cat one below.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I don’t even remember where I purchased this little guy I am sharing today who is one of the few persistent Halloween decorations up in the house. I don’t think it was eBay, although I could be wrong. I think he may have come into my possession before eBay and probably at a flea market.

His tail, now gone, seems to have been a victim of persistent pulling over the years, and his back is marked with the residue of scotch taping. He has a bit of ancient string on his head where he hung from. I think the very first year I moved into this apartment I may have put him on the door, but now he resides comfortably on a shelf, tucked near yesterday’s feature coincidentally, my Oswald Rabbit. There are a few others scattered around him, a good cardboard black cat head or two.

A robustly decorated home near my Mom, taken on a recent run in NJ.

Jumping Kitty is a typical thin cardboard and I would say he might date back to the ’40’s or 50’s, at least in terms of design which may have continued to be produced over time. I have always liked his toothy smile and the slightly evil twinkle in his eyes. He shows us his claw paws and there is even an indication of fluffy fur. There is no factory mark on him, but I would guess he is a domestic product. For me he has a look of just the right period for Halloween decorations.

My childhood ran mostly to a slapdash sort of holiday decorating. We might carve the occasional pumpkin, there was a Christmas tree (artificial – Mom was against the killing of live trees), and there might have been this or that handed down in the family that came out at the holidays, but really Mom had three kids and a husband who traveled constantly for work, and she wasn’t devoting a lot of time or energy to it. We routinely carved pumpkins, dyed Easter eggs and made gingerbread cookies, more as activities to occupy us than any actual interest in the holidays.

Play the short video clip for this enormous moving black cat a block away from Mom in NJ.

I have a bit of an itch to decorate, but NY studio apartment living doesn’t afford many opportunities. I have let go of even putting up a small Christmas tree (mostly for the cats who like to claim it in a variety of ways, sitting under or climbing, eating things off of it, etc.) years ago as just too hard to negotiate in our space. Like my mom I guess I too don’t really have the time or patience.

Another spooky home in Fair Haven.

I thought I would be at my Mom’s house for Halloween this year and was looking forward to it until my schedule morphed. She lives in the sort of ideal suburban neighborhood, within walking distance of three schools, made up of medium-sized, well tended homes. A picture perfect for kids to trick or treat in. I would like to see what the costumes look like these days and would have enjoyed handing out treats.

This house, also on her block, was just the perfectly decorated autumn cottage I thought.

For those of you who follow my running journal on Instagram you know that it is full of cul de sacs and dead end streets where kids play unimpeded. The yards are a treat with seasonal decorations changing on cue. Those will morph briefly to Thanksgiving and of course large displays for Christmas. Maybe this will be the year to put up a tree again here in the apartment. I will let you Pictorama readers know.

Love’s Dream – a Listening Post

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This sheet music wandered into my collection recently via an eBay seller in Tasmania! I believe it is British in origin, but does have a Sydney, Australia copyright within. The photo on the front sports the Porter & Higgenbotham’s Danse Band, all six gents lined up in their rooty tooty suits with their hands in pockets, in order of size, instruments lined up.

Of course it has come to me because these fellows were cool enough to have a nice Felix, fully credited, on the front of their drum. An excellent indication for any orchestra and I would have followed them for that alone back in the day.

This sheet music also included are the little known tunes, All I Want is a Stay-at-Home Girl, The Rose of Flanders and a page of Dream House on the back as an advertisement. For better or worse I cannot easily find samples for your listening pleasure. Tasma Ockenden (?) has written his or her name on the top and it was stamped by Cawthornes Ltd. Music Warehouse.

I went searching for a version of Love’s Dream to share and came up with the one below. Give it a listen and let me know what you think. Hang in there for it to start to swing!

Liebestraume or Love’s Dream on Youtube available at the time of posting.

This recording is sort of in the sweet spot of my musical inclination left to my own devices, although I definitely like a good vocal too. Working for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra has broaden my musical jazz tastes a bit as well of course.

I like to say that when Phil Schaap (music historian, producer and DJ extraordinaire) was alive he helped bring me into the forties, the latter part of the Swing era, as I used to say my musical inclination ended in 1939, although Bebop and its kissin’ cousins still elude me. (I have written about the start of this musical journey in a post about the wonderful Rich Conaty which can be found here.) But of course now I listen to the orchestra’s new compositions, some of them beloved to me, and arrangements and am reminded that indeed, all jazz is alive and modern.

I am partial to Wynton Marsalis’s Swing Symphony, (you can listen and download here) and I run to it frequently. I often think that when I hear it next in a concert hall I won’t be able to stay in my seat so strong the inclination will be to increase speed on what tends to be the last third of my run.

Recently I wrote about our season opening (here), a fall ritual I was viscerally pleased to return to this year for the first time since 2019. Wynton’s Shanghai Suite was on the bill and it sent me back to thinking about my early trip to that city for work, (I wrote about that rocky and wild trip here), but also how different it feels more than five years later. I also considered how being back to a program of listening to live music has returned me to my endeavor of learning to listen more actively. I am privileged to live in a world of rehearsals, concerts and sets at our jazz club. I return to it with ears still responding anew to live performance.

My pandemic music listening, aside from my job and what I listened to online for it, revolved largely around what I programmed for my runs once I started running in the November of ’20. Working in one room with my husband Kim at my side (happy 22nd anniversary Kim!) didn’t allow for a lot of music playing. My chatter on the phone was distracting enough for him poor man! Occasionally I would play some early jazz or dance band music when I needed serious mood enhancing, but mostly I would curl up on the couch and home renovation television, like eating junk food, to relieve stress.

Beethoven String Quartet Op. 135 in F Major, on Youtube at the time of posting.

Oddly, I mostly do not like jazz when I run however. Although I went through a long Billie Holiday phase, I generally listen to a sloppy compendium of classical and rock and roll from my childhood. (Yes, some Bruce Springsteen in there – cannot take the Jersey entirely out of the girl I guess.) This fall it has turned to Beethoven and there is something just right about the symphonies for the yellowing light of an east coast fall, temperatures rising and falling the way they do about now. Yesterday at my request Wynton suggested a Beethoven string quartet, opus 135, for my run which is slated for today. I am looking forward to it and will let you know how that goes.

Love From Aunt Lisa

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This cyanotype postcard caught my eye the other day. I have a special soft spot for cats sporting a mustache and it has given me an excuse for a very all #Caturday sort of Pictorama post today. My cat Otto was my only mustachioed cat and had a perfect little Chaplin (Hitler?) mustache on her tuxedo face. Our Cookie, below, has a sloppy half one which is more like a painted smile on one side. She is not a symmetrical cat.

Cookie in her asymmetrical glory.

The Japanese, a cat loving culture as a whole, seem to have a special yen for white cats with black mustaches, which do look remarkably like early Japanese prints. Instagram is full of them. Some are rescues with one ear clipped while others look quite posh. For some reason they look like the cat equivalent of used car salesmen to me. I cannot seem to find any particular reason why the Japanese are especially fond of the look, but I do love finding them in my cat filled feed. (My Instagram feed is an almost perfect cat, antique and jewelry filled delight. I fight attempts of the algorithm to lead me astray.)

Nemurimushi is a favorite I follow.

In the postcard kitty is perched in a wheel barrel which appears to be homemade from an old half barrel. Although this is a very fluffy feline and I would say there are a few years on this kit too, living an active farm life. For me there is just something wonderful about how this card comes together, sideways writing and all however.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Somewhat annoyingly Aunt Lisa completely ignores the presence of Mr. or Ms. Kitty on this card as she writes a rather mundane note, albeit in a lovely if occasionally illegible hand. To the best of my reading ability it appears to say, Dear Willie, Tell your brother that I had a personal…with a Lundberg today and he assured me that all would be satisfactory concerning the rubber heel. Hoping that…and is interesting and that papa’s cold is better. Love from Aunt Lisa. It was mailed on September 1, 1906 at 2:00 PM from Seattle, Washington to Master Willie Bailey, Port Townsend, Washington, Buf 244. The one cent stamp has gone missing. Alas, we are never to know kit’s name or any info.

Although cyanotypes appeal to me, they do not make up a significant portion of my collection. I have written once or twice about them (posts can be found here and here) and I have never had a chance to experiment with making them, although I gather that as early process photography goes they are pretty simple. (Iron compounds appear to be the active metal.) They were an inexpensive method of photography, invented in 1842 according to the internet, so the method was old hat by the time this one was produced in 1906.

Happy Hooligan from the 2014 post of the same name. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I will close with a non-cat note that there is a gem of a little book I stumbled on years ago called Ipswich Days which is the reproduction of 41 cyanotypes made by Arthur Wesley Dow in 1899 and which I mentioned in one of the earlier posts. It is available inexpensively on Amazon (here at time of posting) and is an amazing reproduction of a slice of life and stroll through a small waterfront town at the time. Enjoy!

The Antique Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I always like to look at old children’s books and juvenile fiction given the opportunity. Pictorama readers know that I enjoy early chapter books that would be called young adult fiction today. (There are the posts devoted to girl detective Judy Bolton, Honey Bunch and of course several devoted to The Camp Fire Girls, Red Cross and Ranch Girls. A smattering of those can be found here, here and here or search the site for books.) And I have written about some of my childhood favorites, including one illustrated by the great Garth Williams called Push Kitty (post here) which reminds me a bit of this volume. Still, it is rare that a true children’s book that I had no prior knowledge of zooms into a place in my heart as this one has. It is great for kids but a winner for the cat lovers too.

The illustrated cover which my copy does not have.

I stumbled across this title while searching for information on another one on Goodreads. The description was appealing and on a whim I purchased a (much) used library copy, sans cover and with a heavily taped spine, (stamped throughout as from the School of the Japanese Martyrs, Leavenworth, Minnesota!) for a nominal amount. With an unexpected trip to my mom in New Jersey and other pressing life matters I didn’t have a chance to read it until last night and it is a gem! I can only say I am sorry I didn’t know it when I was a kid, it would have been a favorite in rotation and my parents would have loved it too.

Solomon in the store window at night entertaining passersby.

The story is a simple one – a skinny stray (all black) cat is taken in by the owner of an antiques shop. It is told from the cat’s point of view and he has some simple adventures – most involve his love of eating fish – and all ends well with him installed as the beloved master and mascot of the establishment. An antique store makes for an interesting setting for cat adventures – while fear of breaking fragile items is mentioned, claw paws and scratching are not. However his nemesis ultimately is an antique doll who receives too much of his mistress’s attention and affection. Fortunately his human loves him above all else and forgives some minor feline transgressions.

Undeniably great cat poses!

The all black protagonist of our story, Solomon (we are not told how he acquired his moniker), looks like my own Blackie and the early drawings of him as a street cat sadly corresponding to our boy recovering (shaved and thin) from his recent stint of illness. (No mention of black cats and bad luck are mentioned and Bradbury gets points for me with this.) Solomon progresses to shining glory although I guess some of his battle scars around the ears and whatnot remain as badges of feline honor.

I easily could have found this book as a child. The copyright in this edition, the first, is 1945. It was published by The John Winston Company of Philadelphia and Toronto and the copyright notes that it was also copyrighted in Great Britain (Dominions and Possessions as well) and in the Philippines. It was written by Bianca Bradbury with drawings credited to Diana Thorne and Connie Moran.

Front papers.

Bradbury was born in New Milford, Connecticut in 1908. A brief online bio outlines that as a young wife she published verse and short pieces in magazines and eventually, after her sons were born her worked morphed into children’s books and ultimately into young adult chapter books. She evidently wrote realistically about the issues of the day for kids in those later books, not balking at difficult subjects. This book and that bio intrigues me enough to look into some of her other books. (One Kitten Too Many may be where I start, but I will look for the longer ones as e-publications perhaps.) She was prolific and wrote 46 books in her 40 year career.

Solomon thinking back on his stray cat compatriots!

Meanwhile, Diana Thorne gets top illustrator billing here and she deserves it. Her cat illustrations are perfect. It seems she is best known for her illustrations of dogs (these seem to be well known and collected), but she certainly lived amongst cats as the poses are spot on for us cat lovers. Her illustrations are pitch perfect and absolutely put the story over. While her illustrations and drawings are widely available on the internet, there is little biographical information about her. It seems, oddly, that she was either born in Odessa, Ukraine, or as she was later to claim, on a ranch in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1895 (d. 1965) – her love and knowledge of animals would argue some time on a ranch I think. Her work is collected in numerous museums in the United States and Great Britain including the Smithsonian.

Something “fishy” about this doll…

The other illustrator credited, Connie Moran, seems to have teamed up with Thorne on a number of similar illustrated children’s books. I can only assume that Thorne was only interested in the animals and left the humans (and in this case some antique furniture) to Moran. She is from Chicago, born in 1898 and dies in 1964 so she and Thorne are contemporaries. Her illustrations are, for me, more commonplace and would be forgettable without the Thorne cats among them.

Solomon loves his dish of fish.

The Antique Cat is much shorter than May Sarton’s The Fur Person, (you can find that post here), but reminds me of it in tone and the way it is told from the cat’s perspective. It is a very worthy entry into cat related literature and certainly deserves a place in the Pam’s Pictorama library.

Blackie this morning. Hopefully on the road to recovery.