Party Cats

Pam’s Pictorama: This card passed the it made me laugh when I saw it test. Dancing kitties in party hats – what more can you ask for? I used to have a theory that the cats had secret soirees as soon as I left them alone in the house. In fact, the first year we were together I made Kim a valentine of he and I walking in on them in full decadent party regalia.

While they may not have been enjoying cocktails with umbrellas and putting on festive lais around their necks, I do remember discovering that my various cats and the apartment had a lives of their own while I was away at work. This started before I met Kim and when I lived alone with my first cat, Otto. The two incidents that stick in my mind occurred on days when I normally would have been at work – odd holidays I think, like Election Day which I happen to get off from work, but most people don’t. The first one doesn’t really involve the cat, but in the middle of one day while quietly reading a book, I heard someone letting themselves into my apartment! Turned out they were routine exterminators who came periodically and sprayed the place and I never knew. Seems that they also liked to look at the progress on whatever painting I was working on at the time which we then discussed for a bit. Another time, another apartment, I was home again on a weekday, Otto sitting on the window sill, and suddenly I heard a woman talking to her! And Otto (who was a girl cat) was answering her – they chirped back and forth for a several minutes. Turned out it was a woman on a higher floor who could see her on her window perch and evidently they chatted frequently.

Others have commented on this phenomena. I had a boyfriend once who, in order to see if his phone was out of order, set his tape recorder, went around the corner and called his apartment. When he played the tape he realized that each time the phone rang in the empty apartment, his cat would chirp in response – but strangely the cat never did it when he was home. Was he answering the ring? Years later, one night I awoke to a light in the other part of the apartment (we live in a studio and we sleep in a corner carved out as a bedroom so a light any place will wake me) and got up to see both cats, Otto and Zippy, sitting in front of the lit computer screen – I’d say looking a bit guilty. I’ll just say keep an eye on your credit cards folks. Such is the private lives of apartments and cats.

Our cats Cookie and Blackie enjoy a lot more human companionship than previous pets since Kim works at home, and therefore Deitch studio is in rollicking full tilt most of the time. In fact the kits seem a bit incensed if he and I go out for any length of time and leave them alone. I believe they feel we are here for their ongoing entertainment. So whatever hijinks they do get up to on their own – gin fueled cards games and smoking hookah pipes, wearing party gear, must occur instead late in the dark of the night while the human denizens of the apartment are sound asleep.



Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Of course this little fellow and his pun just cracked me up! I’m not entirely sure what exactly he is perched on, but he has a very serious expression and has a very nice striped coat. This card, mailed on August 24, 1914 at 8AM from Oliverea, New York has a slightly primitive look. Despite having spent a fair amount of time in the Catskills, the name Oliverea was not immediately familiar to me. It should have been since it is not far from Big Indian, where I spent a considerable amount of time visiting a long ago boyfriend on weekends. He was cooking at a place called Rudy’s Big Indian – which despite its name was a fairly high-end restaurant in the new cuisine mold of the time, the late 1980’s. In this case it was the kind of food that lead eventually to the farm to table trend of today, local produce and such. My memory was that the owner was a really sweet guy who was very good to the utterly insane guy I was seeing. He was a Buddhist who had been helped by people and was paying it back, but the boyfriend, Andrew, drove us all nuts. I think I heard Rudy died unexpectedly, several years after I had severed ties with Andrew after his post-cocaine sobriety morphed into stage 2 alcoholism. Meanwhile, the restaurant was evidently bought and is now under the name Peekamoose.

Prior to my disasterous, long-distance relationship with Andrew (which briefly turned me into a weekend denizen of Amtrak, staying in nearby Shandaken, and ultimately made me realize that living in the shadow of mountains depresses me terribly) I had grown up visiting cousins in Sullivan county and had a more cheerful opinion of it. The cousins, three of them two girls and a boy, just like the three of us – each Butler a year older than their cousin counterpart. We would run wild in what seemed like endless woods at the back of their house and go swimming in a lake instead of the ocean as we did at home which therefore seemed exotic. They had a huge dog, a Great Dane I think, instead of a German Shepard like ours. It was like a parallel-universe Butler clan located in the Catskills instead of the Jersey shore. It was also the house where my dad had gone for summers as a kid, up fro the City, with this same cousin and his sister – and they would tell us stories of all the bad and interesting things they had done. I only vaguely remember the stories about exploring caves, riding horses and getting yelled at by their aunts. I imagine they were a handful.

As you can see from the back of the card below, this was mailed to Master Paul E. Rooffs (? – I’m open to suggestions on the name) at 890 East 34th Street, Brooklyn, New York. (On a whim I googled this address and found a house that I thought very well might have been there in 1914, but further research showed that it was built in 1920.) To the best I can read the card it says, Aug. 23 – Dear Paul I wish you were here to [sic] with us. I have a good time riding in the Ford and also go swing [or swimming misspelled?] with aunt Will. Expect to go home by the end of the week with lots of love I remain lovingly – it is signed with a name I cannot decode (Suzanna?) and also written at the bottom is Vonderveer Park.


Back of Catskill card


It goes without saying that a text message will deliver this communication between friends or family more quickly and efficiently today. It will, alas, sadly never have the evocative charm of finding this kitty and message more than a hundred years later. Pity the card collectors of the next century.

Christmas Greetings From All


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo caught my attention for a certain kind of crystal clear beauty and atmosphere. It is timeless and I was somewhat surprised to realize it was sent on Christmas Day, all the way back in 1909. The message, in a clear beautiful hand, reads, Christmas Greetings from all at “560 Beech.” It is not signed however and it is addressed to Mrs. Harry S. Additon, Dover, New Hampshire. It was sent from Manchester, New Hampshire (I believe, although the state is a bit hard to read where the stamp is canceled) and sent at 12M – midnight? Midday?

It looks like a lovely porch and we are ready to have a look out the telescope and curl up in the chair with a good book. No sign of winter either (there is snow out my New York City window as I write this mid-December) and the evergreens are no indicator as to the time of year. Of course, just because this was mailed on December 25 doesn’t mean it wasn’t taken earlier in the year, and we can’t be sure. Kitty seems very relaxed on his perch for winter in New Hampshire however. (And yes, in 1909 it appears you could mail something on December 25!)

There is nothing like a good porch for sitting on. My grandmother had a splendid one and it is probably the only porch I have had the pleasure of spending any real amount of time on. It was deep and shaded, and the heavy wooden chairs rocked. There was a small table had a red basket made of a thin woody material placed in the middle of it – perhaps with a pumpkin or holding some gourds in the fall. The arms of the chairs were big enough to hold a sweating, heavy glass of ice tea (for the adults) or sweet lemonade (mostly for the kids). There was a bird in the large, old, leafy trees which provided additional shade on a hot summer day, and an old tree stump that held a potted geranium. A whirligig too, but in all fairness I can’t remember if you could see him saw his wood from there or if he was around the other side of the house. That porch was a universe to small kids like me and my sister circa 1970 or so.

My grandmother’s house was on the corner lot of a fairly busy street in a small town, several towns over from where we lived. It was the house my mother grew up in, for the most part anyway, there  having been another when she was very little. (She showed us that house and a candy store had opened in it – fascinating!) My grandmother’s was a neighborhood that still had sidewalks, entirely residential and people did walk by and sometimes they would say hello, mostly not. The back porch was a place where my grandmother could see everything going on in her neighborhood and be seen. There was sometimes a wave from her neighbors, especially her friend Elaine on the opposite corner, across the street. She was a stout woman and she’d say how big we kids were getting. It was the kind of porch that made you more or less the unofficial mayor of your neighborhood, news central.

The porch in this photo is a more private one – shaded like my grandmother’s, but out in the country. This one is for communing with nature and contemplating it, watching birds at their business and spotting the occasional fox or badger, daydreaming. It is a country porch, not a suburban one. Both have their own charms. Funny how it has made me think of long ago summer and fall, but not Christmas and winter. Not yet!



“Will write a letter soon…Mother”


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Sometimes I wonder about photos like this – in person it appears to be a homemade photo postcard, although the image did strike me as potentially professional. The bow on the cat, the reflection below – but then again, it is so poorly printed, over exposed and under-developed (Kim has actually given it a bit of a lift in Photoshop and darkened it some). There is the sense that it was some sort of pre-made card with the image supplied by the individual. What a fine looking fellow (or girl?) this is! Such a nice bow and well-defined stripes – if you look carefully you will note an extra toe on the left paw. I have written before about my polydactyl cat, Winkie, (blog post Tom the Bruiser and Good Doggie) and I have long held the view that they are special indeed. (You may remember I mentioned that Winks actually taught herself to use the toilet – my mother woke me up one night to show me and to make sure she wasn’t imagining it.)

For me it is always surprising when someone uses a photo postcard like this and does not refer to the image. You know, “Here’s Kit and we miss you…” sort of thing. Strange. I guess it went without saying that this was Kitty. Did a pile of these sit on her desk? Was it the only one? Instead she has written (sans punctuation), We are all well will write a letter soon hope you are well and having as good weather as we are Mother. It was mailed from Newport on December 18, 1905 at 9:30 AM and received in Louisville, KY on December 20 at an AM time I cannot read. It was addressed to Mr. J. Herbert Shaw, 2510 First Street, Louisville, Kentucky. (Today Google earth shows that as an extraordinarily anonymous brick building, although on a leafy street. I will spare you the image however.)

This postcard lived in a time of US residential mail delivery twice a day – businesses four times. (In Victorian England mail delivery peaked at 12 times a day! Not a wonder that so many postcards come from Britain.) The second residential mail delivery was dropped in 1950. While email today has taken a huge bite out of mail – certainly postcards are an anachronism let alone letters and occasionally those cards I send do take a week to travel from New York to New Jersey – the chattiness of early letters and postcards has returned with email. The snippets of news that my mom and I pass back and forth with our, mostly evening, emails reminds me a bit of these newsy missives. More immediate and without the middle man delivering – but sometimes even with photos of Cookie and Blackie, the grandkits!

Fat Cat


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is hard to read, but at the bottom of this photo is written Alec – 5 yrs old. 31 lbs. In case you do not know, I am here to tell you that 31 lbs is an enormous kitty! Not surprisingly, it is a man in a chef’s hat that has treat trained this pudgy fellow. Kitty is clearly used to standing on his hind legs for food treats, although his ears are back here. This card was never mailed and there is nothing else written on it – no indication where it is from although it was purchased from someone in the United States.

It isn’t a good photo. A lousy composition with cat and man way too small, it was obviously snapped in a hurry – perhaps kitty was harder to get agree to pose than I state above. However, it is sort of great anyway and I wanted it for my collection. The chef’s hat on the man really adds something and even though we cannot see kitty well, his personality is obvious. Despite his declared girth there is something of the working cat about him. I do not think he achieved 31 lbs on rodents alone, but I can’t help but suspect that numerous ones fell under his claw paws over time and supplemented his diet. He must have been beloved in some way for this inky card to have made it through time before coming to reside in the Butler archive.

Quite a ways back I posted another photo, Sporty, of a cat performing on his hind legs – that time for a toy and not food. As all of us who share a home with cats know, engaging them in feeding time rituals is necessary, but you have to be careful. Cookie and Blackie seem to attempt to move their feeding times (morning and evening) ever earlier each day. Everyday we do our best to remain firm, lest we end up feeding them on command hourly! Kim tells me tales of cats he knew who drove their owners out of bed in the middle of the night for snacks or would begin destroying the apartment. We had our own unfortunate brush with a cat treat obsessed kitty – treats have been banned from the house as a result and these kits do not even know of their existence. (I trust you all to keep the secret.)  Still, Blackie seems to know when smoked salmon for a sandwich is making an appearance in the kitchen, and Cookie will speak in full cat sentences if her dish of dry food reaches below a certain point. We are just glad they are unable to pop the top of a can or open the refrigerator on their own.

Nice Kitty


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This snapshot came out of a album by the look of the back of it, and with the highlighted title Nice Kitty preserved as well. There is no date and it seems timeless other than to say my guess about the printing is the 1940’s or later. This is a pretty fine cat costume and I would have enjoyed owning it myself. I do hope there is a tail somewhere even though it isn’t in view of the camera. And of course, I would have preferred it in black, or black and white. Nonetheless, this little girl is enjoying her role and is nicely crouched for the camera in a kitty pose.

Although the idea of a childhood Pam dressing up as a cat would seem self-evident, I do not believe I ever had the honor. These days you can purchase such nice cat ear hair bands and tails that one can put together a very fine outfit indeed. I do own a pair of cat ears, black fur with orange sequins lining the insides. I bought them more than a decade ago when my cat Otto was still around. I remember the first time I put them on and showed her. Clearly, although cats may not see things in detail they understand outlines, and mine had just turned into a giant cat. Her eyes widened briefly and then she gave me an utterly disgusted look and backed away, almost shaking her head in dismay. Her expression was exactly the same as someone who had just heard a racist joke and was deeply offended.



Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Photos of cat mascots on ships are becoming a sub-genre to my collection. Prior incarnations have included: Tom the Fire Boat CatAhoy! Cats at Sea and Mascot – U.S.S. Custodian. I find them utterly irresistible, the beloved cats of the sea, and this ship clearly had a full menagerie on board! The U.S.S. New York seems to have a current incarnation of very recent vintage, so it is hard to know from what era this version hails – although the style of the photo postcard makes me think the 1920’s. The postcard is unused with no writing.

The simply named Puss, gray tuxedo, has his back to us – or perhaps is giving that adorable fluffy pup, Kaiser Stamps for Short, a look before starting something with him, like a bop on the nose. Lady, like her name is clearly elegant and above the fray, also turned away – and then there is the goat, Buck, who I really love. Whose idea was it to bring a goat on board? Buck and Kaiser are the only ones looking at the camera. Buck, like Lady, appears to wear a collar – a goat with a collar, does that happen often? He would seem to be a smallish goat from what we can see. I can’t help but wonder how hard it was to get them to all pose together.

In theory, I find goats charming. I say in theory because I have never attempted to get too close to one and I understand they can be temperamental. When I was in Tibet years ago I saw tiny, doglike goats, the size of Scotties, all over the place. Of course they were extremely sure footed and would run up and down the mountains, and we often saw small herds of them belonging to farmers. I believe that they make cheese from milking those tiny goats. The goats always seemed to be high spirited and romping around. Cute though they were I wasn’t risking injury by goat while hiking on the Tibetan plateau so I did keep my distance. (It should also be noted that in Tibet I found very few cats and many, happy dogs. The dogs hung out at the monasteries and the monks would feed them tsampa, made of barley flour and yak butter rolled together. Perhaps that diet is why there aren’t many cats.)

The notion of mascots is interesting – animals bringing luck and ships often sport them, hence my growing photo collection. I wonder where that tradition came from originally. I read that inanimate things were the first mascots, such as mastheads on ships. It then morphed into living animals. I happen to be of the general opinion that you need all the luck you can get on a ship. With four mascots the U.S.S. New York was taking no chances.

Tuxedo on the Job


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The slide back over to photographs continues with this recent acquisition. It made me laugh out loud – not sure that was its intended purpose, but it did. It was never sent and there is nothing written on it. Somehow the woman and the dog look like sister and brother. The birdcage appears to be empty – that little fellow has flown the coop one way or another I guess. For me, best of all of course, is that sharp looking tuxedo cat; all a-point, looking like the only one with any sense in the family. This woman looks as if she can use the help.

For regular readers it is not news that I tend to favor tuxedo cats. Although my very first cat was white with black cow-spots, and the one I really considered my furry sister was a calico, it has been tuxedoes that I have been drawn to adopting in my adult life. My first tux was a childhood pet, Mitzy. She was a pretty and precise little black and white girl who lived an extraordinarily long life considering I believe I was a teenager when we acquired her and she lived long enough that Kim met her. I forget now exactly how we ended up with her – I have a vague memory of a neighbor boy coming over with her and announcing that he knew we had cats and did we want this one? The young man in question was not a model citizen and I guess Mom had no real choice, but to take Mitz in.

Mitzy seemed to end up as my brother’s cat to some degree, although I think it would be fair to say that we were what I will call cat wealthy at the time. There were a few dogs too. I think my parents were taking the in for a penny in for a pound approach with animals and kids abounding at that time. Mitzy was a precise cat – as girl cats and especially tuxedoes tend to be. Kept her whites white and her black hair shining. Would always enjoy a few pets and didn’t fight with the other cats or cause much trouble, a model citizen. As I mentioned, she lived into her twenties. A Methuselah of cats. A series of tuxedoes in the family followed: Otto, Milkbone, Zippy, Roscoe and now the mantel is worn by Cookie who is asking for dinner as I write this. If it was Miss Cookie in this photo she probably would have eaten the bird and struck up a fight with the pooch. Not all tuxedoes have the same sense of responsibility.

Cranky Valentine


Pam’s Pictorama: For all of you who still have the sickly smarminess of Valentine’s Day stuck in your craw and eating your teeth, today’s post is a logical antidote to show you that you are not alone. There is evidently a long history of the vinegar Valentine.

I am not sure why, but decided I had to have this card. I generally don’t like to go negative on cards, I really hate pawing through contemporary cards that often just seem mean. This card charmed me nonetheless. The poem does entertain:

Your crabbed actions are enough to vex
The most ardent admirer of your sex,
And you care for nothing that we can see
Except your cat and your cup of tea.

How much more does a girl really need in life? The black Halloween style cat is fun and she is mannishly well drawn. It is a common card, and I have seen others on eBay subsequently. This one wasn’t sent and I do wonder who exactly one would send it to – and also that they were kept all these years by the recipients!

A recent article in the New York Times discussed the history of the so-called vinegar Valentine and its popularity in the late 19th century. On February 14, 1871 the Times wrote the following:

Of all the valentines published those designated ‘comic’ are the most popular. They are the hideous caricatures which are to be seen at this season in almost every stationer’s window, and are made to burlesque every trade and profession. They consist of a few black lines and a daub of color, to which are attached a few doggerel rhymes. They pervert the idea of the valentine; for, instead of being love missives, or tending to afford gratification, they are too often sent out of spite, to carry anger or annoyance to the receiver. Of these there have been sold nearly 12,000,000, and strange to say, they are mostly purchased by women. Why women find more use for them than men would be a difficult question to answer, but such is the case, and the circulars issued by the publishers will bear out the assertion.

I believe our card in question is of a higher quality than implied here, but it is also clearly a later model. The poison pen Valentine clearly continued to thrive into the early part of the 20th century. Oddly, it is the one area I don’t find so many negative cards today – birthdays for example, almost hard to find an acceptable one. But the needling Valentine seems to have seen its day, although I know some folks who would be glad to bring it back.


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Our friends over at Google translate this as Lucky Airplane and certainly they are taking no chances! Bedecked with every lucky symbol, as well as a few I didn’t know, such as the ladybug (I know it is bad luck to kill them) this is a plane promises quite a ride. I admit I’m not sure what the thing that looks like a beehive or the pansy-thing are – I’m open to suggestions – and everything is tied with a bow which is a nice touch. The black cat is obviously lucky (see our recent post Lucky Black Cat if you have any questions), although the fact that he’s peddling this plane into flying seems a tad ambitious and he does appear to be concentrating.

I had to cast around a bit on the subject of those industrious looking white rats as lucky. Logically though, rats are seen to have a sixth sense about danger and death, so I guess if the rats are satisfied all is good and these are all but dancing on the wings.

This card belongs to the same family as the one featured in Speaking of Cats which I show here below. These seem to be WWI genre cards – different companies, Rex 696 and the one below by Idea. 

Speaking of Cats

I have included the back of the card, and perhaps a French reader will be kind enough to send us the gist of it, as it is too densely written for me to begin to translate. Despite the writing, it does not appear to be postally used or properly addressed which also does confuse me. However, for  now I just say, Up, up and away!

back of card