A Puss Cafe

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Party cats! Let’s face it, this is a favorite sub-topic of mine – dress the cats up in party clothes and have a good time. (See my recent post named in fact, Party Cats.) Clearly, those folks back in 1911 had a similar sentiment. The exact process they used to arrive at the photo above is an interesting question – no Photoshop back then. I assume they made a print of a photo (remember, no enlargers in 1911!) and then painted over it and shot it again? As I was working on this post I very accidentally stumbled across the original photo, a photo postcard from 1909, which I have grabbed off of eBay and offered here for comparison. Fascinating – I don’t think I have run into this process from this early period.

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Photo card not in Pictorama collection

 

The cat has quite a sour look on his face. He looks like he wants to smack the heck out of someone – the strap for the tiny top hat pulling under his chin.  What a puss – as they say! His tail seems to have been fattened up a bit in the touch up, and he has strangely incongruous stripes on his backend if you look carefully. And those two bottles of drink with a single glass on a tiny table – waiting for his girl?

The back of this card, written in pencil, is the first I totally give up on reading; it has faded beyond recognition and seems to have been a bit sloppy to begin with. (Too much drink, like the kitty?) It was mailed to Oscar Lovesturn (?) Stanwood, Washington on October 11, 9 PM 1911 from Decorah, Iowa. Frankly, I was surprised to learn that this card was that old – it looked newer to me, and I purchased it without seeing the back where it is canceled. Reminiscent more of early television than early photo postcards – I felt that way a bit about the equally old (and mysterious) Cat of the Sea post as well. Ironic of course considering both hail from before 1920!

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Cat Chair (episode 2)

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My constant searching for photos of people posing with Felix has also introduced me to what turned out to be a broader world of people posing with a variety of novel things. As readers of Pictorama know, the souvenir photo postcard operation of the 1920’s and beyond could focus around a stuffed Mickey Mouse, Felix, Spark Plug (Barney Google’s horse) and these very large black cats. In one of my earliest posts I featured the first of these cards I purchased – Giant Cat Chair. I own three cat chair photos altogether and would love to acquire more, but they appear quite rarely. One of the most noteworthy things is that the cat is definitely a different one in each so there was a number of places – all of these from Britain – where you could pose with a big cat chair. This one appears to be a smallish-large cat chair – just the right size for this little tyke – and the tongue sticking out is different than any of the others I have. Also, this one has the remarkable feature of his tail sticking straight up in the air. This one looks the most of all like a Steiff toy cat, but very, extra large.

The card itself is smaller than regulation size postcard, closer to a photograph than a photo postcard, but postal ready on the back. The writing on the back (which was never sent) appears to say Alan 18 month Cliftonville 192. (I wonder if they meant to write 1920? If so, it is a bit of a sobering thought to consider that little Alan would have been old enough to fight for England in WWII.) Cliftonville is hard to read, but likely since that appears to be a seaside area in Margate. While having a fast look at images from Cliftonville I found this rather splendid image on Reddit of a beauty contest in Cliftonville in 1936.

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Beauty Contest, Cliftonville, England 1936

 

Despite the glories of the seaside park in general, the general background of this card is a bit tatty. The wooden building behind little Alan is sort of interesting, with a bit of gingerbread design on it, but in the distance we see an iron fence and a large building that appears to be an apartment house. In general, if a seaside resort, the area they have chosen for cat chair photos is a bit down at the heels and sad. The kid, Alan, is well dressed, (I love the little belt on his top) is well turned out and clearly enjoying a holiday or special day at the shore.

Tatty scenery or not, I would have loved to have my photo taken astride this kitty – and it would be a tight fit, but he’d look pretty good in my living room today as well for that matter should he turn up on eBay one of these days.

 

 

Cat of the Sea?

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French card, collection Pams-Pictorama.com

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Some photos are purchased for their sheer value of the bizarre and these fall into that category. These were purchased together on eBay recently from the same seller, but separate listings. It is somewhat noteworthy and interesting that they were addressed to different people, although both were mailed from different places in Canada – one from Ontario on August 3 PM, 1908 and the other from Quebec on July 29, 1909. I have asked Kim to scan the backs as well because they are so hard to decode. Clearly the Ontario one is addressed to someone in the hospital in Syracuse, NY. The message says something about seeing the person soon. The other is very light and appears to just say Adieu but the address has faded to obscurity.

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On the front of both the same message in French which roughly translated seems to say, It is the sea Michel – which I assume is sort of like into the soup Michel? My (very) limited ability to read music gives me a vague idea of the tunefulness of this – upbeat. Allow me to pause and make it clear that I do not approve of even the comical placing of cats in pots – while I do not condone this, you see it often in comical cards. Cats in soup pots seems to have made their way through novelty photo cards of the 20th century and we’ll assume beyond.

What a scary Melies-esque chef he is, popping out of that faux window. I hardly know what to make of the possible origin of these – frame grabs from some early film Segundo de Chomon films? Melies? 1908 and 1909 would be the territory of de Chomon, a bit on the late side for Melies. (Kim has pointed out that Melies was not given to this sort of close-up however and de Chomon was.) There is no credit or identification for the photographer or the maker. The action seems to be close together – will more eventually turn up from later in the film? I hope so! (I was lucky to be the only taker on these.) Given the Canandian stamps, we might assume Canadian rather than French, or so was my initial thought when I saw them. However, again Kim argues for French import to Canada and I can see the sense in that.

To this point, and for your general entertainment, I am including links to a Segundo de Chomon film and a Melies films. Here is de Chomon’s The Haunted House 1909 and the color version of the much loved Melies A Trip to the Moon, a much earlier 1902 but an irresistibly beautiful print. Enjoy!

Postscript: These came in after posting on Facebook! From Philip Smith, the words to the song and a Youtube link. It is as rollicking as I thought it would be – La mere Michel!

Old Ma Michel

Children’s Song

It’s old ma Michel who lost her cat,
Who’s yelling out the window, who will bring it back?
It’s old man Lustucru who answered her:
“Come on, old ma Michel, your cat is not lost.”
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra-day-ree day-ra tra la la.

It’s old ma Michel who asked him:
“My cat’s not lost, you found it then?”
It’s Old man Lustucru who answered her:
“Give a reward, it’ll be returned to you.”
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra-day-ree day-ra tra la la.

Then old ma Michel told him: “It’s settled
If you give my cat back, you’ll get a kiss.”
But old man Lustucru who didn’t want one
Said to her: “Your cat will be sold as a rabbit!”
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra la la la,
To the tune of tra-day-ree day-ra tra la la.

 

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.

 

Feathers, the Fat Cat

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As you can see Feathers is a robust fellow and at 40 pounds an extraordinarily large one. Unlike most fat cats, Feathers seems to wear his weight handsomely and is well proportioned. I have a soft spot (so to speak) for cats with spotty noses and this further endears this guy to me. Interesting, an idle online search on Feathers turned up a fellow blogger (Another Enormous Cat with a Postcard of His Own) who owns this card, but with the added bonus that the writing on the back reveals that the people had actually visited Feathers, then 19 and up to 46 lbs. Go Feathers! Sadly, my card is postally unused without a great tale.

It is impressive that Feathers not only worked his girth up to more than 40 pounds, but also lived to a ripe old age. While my cat Zippy made it to 20 – with diabetes and other issues, and my mother has had several cats live into their 20’s – one would think that the size of the cat would have shortened his lifespan. (I can’t imagine the lecture one would get from a vet today.) Somehow Feathers managed to figure out how to have his cake and eat it too! One wonders if he was already rotund as a kitten as we will assume he was given his moniker of Feathers at a young age.

Longevity among cats seems to be on the rise and it now seems unusual if a cat doesn’t live into its late teens at least. Kim has pointed out that cat life was cheaper when he was young and that it is amazing how much longer they are living in these days of premium cat foods and vet visits. Cookie and Blackie are on what he calls the 20 year plan which includes a rather precise diet as prescribed by our vet who insisted that these kits take a few pounds off. (We are not even allow to speak the words cat treats to these kits.) Cookie in particular curses that day (and the vet) and she is clearly of the opinion that she would rather live well than long, but she does not really get a say in the matter.

I did search, but could not find articles relating to Feathers and his Colorado Springs family, Mr. and Mrs. James George; although clearly, given the evidence of the professional postcard and the family from another state having visited, word about Feathers must have spread via some form of media at the time. However, Feathers is not forgotten and we celebrate his evident long life as well as his place in the pantheon of cats as a very portly puss.

 

Toy Cat

 

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This cat is the sort I imagine I would have very much loved to own as a small child. He is sturdy, neat and bold in his black and whiteness, with round edges and a friendly face. There is a cheerful durability to him, small and convenient for a child to carry. I think I would have been very pleased to wander around with this guy clutched in my arms as a toddler. I feel compelled to report (Mom and Dad please take note) that I never had a toy stuffed cat as a child. Clearly I have been making up for lost time.

It is strange the toys that we do end up fixating on as kids. I have written about a soft black and white dog named Squeaky who went everywhere with me (featured in Felix on an Outing), but I also had a hard kuala bear my father brought back from a news junket to Australia, which I carried around when I was a little bit older. The bear did not have a name, just kuala bear, and he was made of some sort of real fur. That is a bit shocking to me now, however I was only about 6 and only thought that it was very soft. While the fur was soft the bear itself was stuffed with something very hard and he had spiky plastic claw paws. I no longer have him and have no idea what happened to him, but he seemed to belong more or less to the same family as the toys shown below from the Google image file.

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The question of the type of fur these bears sport seems to be open for debate online even now. The obvious guess is kangaroo fur since that country seems to have a surplus of kangaroos and no great love for them. I am sure that these days my mother (animal rights activist Butler) would never have approved it now. However, he was my constant companion for a very long time, eventually losing a claw or so and his ears and some other spots worn to baldness. We were inseparable.

This new toy cat has no maker tag for identification, but he came to me from Great Britain (a fine toy-making nation) and I assume it is his ancestral home. He does bear some resemblance to a small dog toy that came to me via Kim years ago, shown below. Perhaps not the same maker, but kissin’ cousins nevertheless. All of these are toys that have seen many miles and years, and much child love.

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Kitty Sextette Singers

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I concede that I have been completely unable to find a trace of what the heck this item is and any information about Amos of Hollywood, let alone the charming cat sextette represented here. The cat chorale is made up of largely striped cats, but there’s one stand out white kitty and of course my favorite is the all black cat which is represented almost entirely and solely by his glowing eyes. Another black kit is the maestro conductor, perched on his hind legs to add a purpose to his position. The illusion is, of course, to a noisy bunch of backyard felines driving hopes of sleep away, but I would love to find these songsters on my fence.

If you look carefully you will realize that the photo is a composite of numerous photos, six as far as I can tell. (It is easiest to see if you look at the sidewalk.) I cannot entirely identify, but I believe the cats on top of the fence were all stripped in later as well. There is some loss to the photo where you can see bits of white. A nice, tiny moon has been placed in the upper left corner. I am sure that the conductor cat holds his baton only through the magic of the darkroom. The poster for the Hollywood Bowl shows a date of July 7-August 28, but no year appears any place on the card to identify it. And what are the dogs up to? Are they appreciative audience? Chorus as back-up to the cats? Or are they getting ready to chase them?

And finally, does Amos of Hollywood refer to the black conductor cat? I cannot find anything, but Amos and Andy when I attempt to search it. T.K. Hastings has also disappeared as far as I can tell. This card is about 8″x 5″ and I assume it was some sort of lobby display, although a bit small for that. I purchased it off of eBay and admit I was the only taker, but I am delighted. I stumbled on it under an obscure listing. With the damage to the corner I will try to get it framed as soon as possible and up on the wall. In the meanwhile, I offer it to you all for your delectation. May dreams of cat choruses dance in your head tonight.