Beach Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo turned up recently in a search and seems an appropriate one for the last waning days of this summer. The photo suffers from over exposure, but there was still something about it that grabbed my attention. When it arrived in the mail I was shocked to find that it is a quite small snapshot, about 2×3 inches. The woman in the water seems unusually tall – Kim joked that she looks like a mannequin and he is right. There’s something odd about the perspective that I can’t quite put in its proper place.

I don’t know about your cats, but I can’t imagine a world where mine want to go to the beach – let alone out onto a stone jetty like the one here, with water on three sides. I can only say it would be a formula for being scratched in the most notable way as the cat shot out of my arms like a bullet. However, this nice striped fellow is looking very at home indeed in the arms of his mom.  While swim fashions have changed, these folks are stylish and the woman has her hair done up in a scarf-held style of the day. I am interested in her swim shoes, if that’s what they are – the men in question don’t seem to feel the need to be shod in a similar way, but one does walk on all sorts of things in the water. It takes a moment to realize that there are two people at the end of the jetty, behind the man and woman most visible – just a leg, head and arm can just about be seen.

Where I grew up there were ocean jetties like this, but considerably broader, two to three times wider and long – this looks more like beaches I have seen further north in Connecticut or Massachusetts. In addition to the jetties on the Jersey shore, there are also broad, high seawalls (at least that what we called them) which contained the ocean from the strip of land and busy road during perennial flooding. This seems like a quaint idea now, as during a hurricane like Sandy the ocean managed to not only flood well over the seawalls, but cover them entirely, eventually meeting up with the river on the other side of the peninsula. As a child these walls seemed incredibly high and on the rare occasions that the ocean flooded high enough that you could see it breaking over the tops of the seawall to the child version of me it meant serious flooding indeed.

In the end, all this is to say there were an abundance of stone walls on the beaches, between the jetties and the seawall. My mother used to point out that a lot of stray cats lived amongst all the rocks – I guess there was enough for them to eat, vicious water rats being their likely mainstay. Evidently mom, cat lover extraordinaire, had tried to pet one of these veteran ratters once and was rewarded with some memorable scratches. She told the story to my sister and I as a cautionary tale, as we were both beach goers and cat lovers as tiny tots, likely to make the same mistake. As she pointed out, if they were dining on water rats they had to be a tough lot. I believe in subsequent years volunteers rounded up most of these strays and neutered and released them to reduce the stray population. Given the recent proclivity for extreme flooding in the area I hope this is true. However, I can’t think about them though without imagining a sweet, young, naive Betty Butler trying to pick up a wild cat of a jetty kitten.

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Flying High

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Quite frankly, I saw those plates on the wall with the airplanes and kept being drawn back to this photo which I ultimately purchased, uncontested, on eBay recently. There is no writing on it and I am a fan of the mid-century ruffled border of the photo. While there is no particular reason to believe that the event these women are anticipating has anything to do with the airplane plates, I keep going back to them and wondering – fascinated by the way they are strung precisely across the top part of this room. I love collecting and enjoy seeing documentation of other people’s evidence of it. This is a nice example. I like the idea that someone collected these plates and then decorated this room with them. Splendid.

I did some quick research and I was unable to find these actual plates – the plates in the photo have a distinct horizon line and simplicity which I cannot find in another set. Similar plates were (or are) made by several different, mostly British, companies. UK eBay is full of variations, but the Davenport Wings of Fame plate series is the one that comes up first and most. I share those below, each with a month of the year.

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My favorite is March’s Rescue at Sea. (They evidently have names, perhaps on the back?)

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I like the plates on the wall of this photo better than these, which in all fairness appear to be slightly cheesier. There are seven on the wall in the photo and it does beg the question of if they are an earlier version of this plate of the month series. There would in theory be more or less just enough to go around this room.

This smallish table somehow manages to have eight place settings on it which seems ambitious – although I think I have had six people eat around our flat files so I guess one can do anything if a bit creative. There is a general festive sense about the scene, and it is easy to assume that it is documenting the anticipation of a happy occasion. The Siamese cat, who seems to have a grouch on, is the only exception to an otherwise jolly scene, but we know how cats can be – you can’t judge general ambiance by them. The two women are attractive and seems to be genuinely happy, not just smiling for the camera, and who (besides kitty) can blame the one for scooping up puss for posterity in the photo? From the clothes, make up and general look I would put this photo in the late forties or early fifties. My guess is that it was indeed a lovely day.

 

Mary Charles Ap-purrs on WABC Columbia

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It has been a while since I purchased and shared a press photo, although I do find them a splendid category of their own. (I think the most recent one prior to this can be found at this link, my post for Old Tom, the Washington Post Office Cat, which goes back aways.) I especially like press photos because I generally learn something while they take me down tributaries of history and information. This one proved a bit challenging, but before I go down that road, let’s spend a moment with the photo which I really like regardless of the ultimate success of Mary’s career.

Of course I purchased this photograph because of this splendid white puss being held up to that really great WABC Columbia-branded microphone, adorably set up just for his cat height! He is long-haired without quite appearing Persian to me – but check out those tufts of hair around his toes. Kitty, Nazir is his name, does not look especially happy about the proceedings, I must say, although they did get a shot with him looking right at the mic. Mary has a fairly plain Jane sort of look for a famous personality, but I like that and I also like her happily patterned dress, shoes, couch and odd tapestry on the wall. It feels like this is really her apartment and is homey.

As you have gathered by now, this image is of radio singer and impersonator Mary Charles and her cat Nazir. Pasted on the back there is a scrap of typed paper that reads as follows:

For Release Sat. P.M.’s, Feb. 28 and Sun. A.M.’s Mar. 1st
COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM PHOTO
BEDTIME STORY FOR THE MICE
IT “AP-PURRS” MARY CHARLES, COLUMBIA BROADCASTING SYSTEM SONGSTRESS, IS ENCOUNTERING DIFFICULTIES IN TRAINING HER PRIZE-WINNING PERSIAN CAT, “NAZIR”, IN THE PROPER MICROPHONE TECHNIQUE. MARY AND “NAZIR”SEEM TO HAVE DIFFERENT IDEAS ON WHAT “TALKING ON THE AIR” MEANS.

Mary Charles proved to be an extraordinarily common name which slowed the Google search, before landing on a singer who sang with Al Bowlly on Let’s Put out the Lights and All of Me with Ambrose. I am on the fence, but I have been slowly won over to thinking it is that Mary Charles. However, the evidence built slowly.

First, I was able to find some text from the Brooklyn Beagle in (I think) 1931 which tells her story roughly as follows:

MARY CHARLES Your Ear paraphrased advice of Horace Greeley, “Go West young lady, go West,” Mary turned up in one of the leading roles of the Chicago presentation of “Sweet Adeline.” The star fell ill and the show never went on the boards. Mary was seeing the world, but ill-luck was taking all the fun out of it. To Talkie Short! And Radio Songs Back in New York, Mary went to work in the Cazanova Club with Jack Buchanan, British musical comedy satellite. From supper club work she went to the Paramount studios to make some talkie shorts with Charles Ruggles. Shortly after this Paramount decided to make use of her talents on its Paramount on Parade program. After being on any number of programs as a guest artist, she is at present featured in a weekly Saturday night W A B C broadcast listed quietly, Mary Charles. She is best known for her popular and character songs as well at her impersonations of stage personalities. Was born in Philadelphia in 1907. Her father was Irish and her mother English. Keeps a beautiful white cat in her apartment. Her uncle is Dean Charles of Westminster Abbey. At the age of 17 she was trundled off the Berlin to study voice. Her parents desired her to be a concert singer. And were they mad when some years later she announced her intention of going on the stage? Over 99 percent of the Mary Charles fan mail is from men. Claims that she is not especially partial to men but when she is, it’s Englishmen who have the inside track. Admits that she is inordinately fond of gossip. Once she was the feature of the La Palina hour, and when that program terminated President W. P. Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting Company had an inspiration for a broadcast to be built around her talents. His idea was to dramatize songs. It was a good one. Doesn’t speak a word of French, but is the possessor of a dialect that sounds just like any one of fifty million Frenchmen on his second English lesson. Songs in this flood her with fan mall from Montreal. Most of the time she wears sports clothes tweed. For years she had the idea that she was one redheaded damself who could wear red. Her friends laughed at her and they were right. Is very fond of the theater. Travel ‘Makes Her Appreciate New York’ Thinks that the biggest advantage her years of travel have given her ‘Is that she now knows ‘Just how indispensable New York Is.’ (Chamber of Commerce copy, if you wish.) When she was a kid could execute a buck and wing that was nobody’s business. Gave it up as the lessons were too strenuous. Was she ever In vaudeville? Yes. Mary is one of those vaudevillians who has played the Palace Theater, too. She was somebody’s French maid there for a week. Her pet peeve is those music publishers who try to get her to “plug” their this and thats. Positively refuses to sing songs for friendship. Thinks Morton Downey and Rudy Vallee are two very nice persons. Likes the former’s sense of the funny. Her favorite songs are those deep, deep blues but, darn it all, a soprano can’t sing those. 

I found a few other references to her – appearances and snippets of information, but sadly nothing else about her charming cat. (Which I am very curious about – how does a cat become famous when living with a radio singer?) When she is written about, she is frequently called out for being a red head and another newspaper snippet mentioned her red-headed self as having recently returned from England, another clue which gave me pause. Radio Digest magazine, June 1931, included her in an article round up of how performers had been discovered and they site her as having applied for an audition and winning out over 149 other aspirants trying out at the same time. She is also called out frequently as an impersonator – evidently of other stars although I know not who.

So, if any of you knowledgable types about all things early 20th century music can weigh in I would appreciate it. For now I will include a Youtube link – an Al Bowlly tune where Mary Charles’s American accent is definitely on display, Let’s Put Out the Lights (and go to bed). I believe this is indeed the Mary Charles who was mom to cat Nazir and shown here.

Symmetry

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I found this photo and it immediately put a smile on my face so of course I set about acquiring it for the Pictorama collection and present it here now for your enjoyment. Twin striped kitties, tails up and ready for action, with this (I’m going to guess) little girl in a great knit outfit, a pointed cap to top it off. From a formal perspective I love this photo; the textures are great – scrubby grass, tabby striped kitties and the white wool’s patterns. And then there is the one-two cat divide with the kid in the middle – yay! I even like the way the hat runs off the top of the photo drawing your eye up. Hotsy-totsy photographer. No idea where this was located, but the horizon goes more or less forever and, right or wrong, somehow makes me think of the midwest in the 1940’s.

It surprised me that this is a photo rather than a photo postcard, which I frankly assumed it was when I purchased it online. (Yep, you regular Pictorama readers probably realize that I don’t seem to read listings all that carefully, especially when it comes to size. Gets me into trouble sometimes. See prior post Big Mickey for example!) There is evidence that this photo was in an album, but nothing has been written on the back.

I have written before about the glory of being a small child with cat friends like this. Kitty companionship when you are little is a really wondrous thing and somehow the communication between little beings like this, even cross species, is very straightforward. The luxury of having these two adolescent sibling specimens for your very own! I can remember telling my cat Snoopy endless stories and tidbits of child lore and he was very attentive and seemed utterly interested in it all. These days I try not to burden Blackie and Cookie with too much information, but sometimes there’s nothing like sitting down with your kitty for a heart-to-heart conversation.

 

Seattle, Washington, August 20, 1942

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The post office delivered yesterday and we at Pictorama are back on board writing about these two wonderful photo album pages purchased recently. Kim and I are often opining about how sad it is to see albums being broken up – single photos torn out and sold, or even pages like these taken from an album. Still, I purchased these pages while weighing whether or not to purchase an entire album of photos from someone else. They were asking a sizable amount and without being able to see the full album online it seemed dubious and in the end I did not bid – so perhaps selling them whole is indeed a problem. Still, these beauties beg the question of what the full album looked like – was it all illustrated like this? Sad to think of the pages scattered and the family story never coming back together to be told again.

The dated page has the better photos of the two in my opinion. I love the one of the three women all holding cats. Their Seattle yard is very lush – a leafy paradise really, with the sun pouring in behind them. The cats appear to be wriggling to varying degrees in their photo pose holds here. Big white kitty resembles the platinum blonde holding him or her, but the woman with the hat and gloves is my favorite – so proper yet cat friendly. (That dark outfit was covered in white hair when they were done.) Above that photo is sort of a candid one of a group of romping cats and kittens, also tucked away among more greenery. Same white kitty, but this time holding court among the kits it seems – perhaps the mom cat I now think? Looks like an adorable group kicking capering around and enjoying themselves. In the final photo on this page, white kitty continues to be the focus convincing me she is Mom, this time with just two kits. The white paint illustrations are good – swiped poses perhaps? Great animated tummy pose – Cookie assumes this one frequently.

The second page has Watkins’ Home for Strays on the sign next to this hobo-come-Puss ‘n Boots kitty drawing, complete with bindle tossed over his shoulder, fluffy tailed. There’s something a tad wonky about the direction of one of the booted paw feet, but it is a spirited and ambitious illustration. Sadly, there is a photo missing from the lower left of this page – only the black corner holders remain indicating where the bottom of that photo was held. The prize on this page is white kitty and a black cat atop a bird cage. I believe there is a bird in the cage (bottom left – unfortunate birdie which must have been very stressed indeed) and these two pusses are intensely interested. The photo at the top shows the three matching kittens, one sporting a bow this time. It is a poor photo, but shows off these fine youngster kitties for one more view.

The Watkins documented themselves in a highly decorative fashion as a very cat friendly family. Therefore ultimately, where better for these stray pages to find a home than my cat photo collection?

Flying to the Moon

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I guess I am a sucker for kitten balloon photos. You may remember an earlier, similar card in my post Flying Dutch Kitties, which is in all fairness, a better photograph. It was the moon that grabbed me in this one – I do love a good man in the moon. (I am, after all, married to Kim Deitch. His man in the moon images are, of course, the best and one of the many sterling qualities I married him for.) This one looks full of mischief to me. I can remember being a little kid and looking hard at the moon and being fairly sure I could put together the face of the man there.

This appears to be an American made card, sent from Chicago in 1912, but the specific date is obscured. It was sent to Austria however, and there is a long note, penned in tiny German I have no hope of translating. Landor, the maker of the card, seems to have been partial to cat photo postcards, made at the turn of the century, but I cannot find the history of the company online.

Unlike the masterfully constructed set in Flying Dutch Kitties, this one is deceptively simple. As if you could have easily taken this photo at home with a couple of kittens, string and tissue paper. For me, these are the photo equivalents of how I felt about the Little Rascals when I was a kid. You would look at those various stitched together vehicles, clubhouses and staged shows and the construction seemed like it should only be just within your reach – which of course, wasn’t true at all. Now I frankly marvel at the thoughtful construction and technology of them.

As for me, I have failed to record Cookie and Blackie doing any of their “tricks” for the camera – hind leg standing and boxing; Cookie giving Kim high fives; or her skill in moving a small rocking chair she is partial to. Candid photos of orchid eating or displayed on Kim’s desk is about the best I can do with these two. Too bad – I could be a contender for the Queen of the Cat Video on Youtube if only I was a little bit faster with the camera.

Cookie & Blackie 2015

Cookie & Blackie in an undated photo

 

Painted Puss

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This rather lurid painted photo caught my eye recently – I guess it was something about the saucy looking woman with this cat draped around her shoulders. (My cat Zippy used to occasionally climb up around my neck when he was a youngster – while I was sitting at the drawing table. It seemed very sweet, but was a little tough on the neck and shoulders after a few minutes. I don’t know how he got the idea – I have never had another cat that did this.) Somehow the colored cat’s fur and woman’s hair have more or less merged into one here. The painted cat expression can’t hide a certain annoyance when we look closely – somehow they managed to leave kit’s whiskers white as well as some chin hairs. She, on the other hand and if somewhat garishly painted, has quite the come hither look. You boys better watch out!

This is a German card and the postmark is illegible. It was sent to someone in Holstein and there is a pencil note written in German which I have not attempted to translate, but the sender’s name is Erna Steine.

This photo reminds me that my maternal grandmother had matching high school graduation photo portraits, cap and gown, of my mother and her brother, my Uncle John, hanging in her living room. They were the first hand-painted photos that I ever saw and I was always fascinated by them. My mother’s in particular looked nothing like herself. I wouldn’t say that it had as much impact on me as the somewhat terrifying, dramatically technicolor picture of Jesus in her bedroom (that’s another whole story – Kim and I were just discussing that yesterday) which more or less scarred and colored my views on Christ for years, but it stayed with me and formed and lodged an image of my high school mother in my mind.

My Uncle John looks exactly like a younger version of him in his photo – all red hair and green eyes. As for my mother, perhaps it is the fact that my mother truly never wears make-up. (I wonder sometimes how I can be her daughter since I have delighted in it since my early teens.) The painted photo gives her vivid lipstick and rouge. My mother’s nose was also broken in an accident after that time, and it was set slightly differently – bottom line, she is barely recognizable. Yet of course, in another way she is, especially when I look at the photo with adult eyes. When my grandmother’s house was cleared out and ultimately sold, I believe my mother ended up with both photos. My parents have just moved and almost everything is still in boxes – I must remember to ask where those photos are. I would like to have them someday.