Taken From Life, The Pussy Cat Rag

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Zipping back to the world of cat themed sheet music today. I especially like the bit above the title – Taken From Life. What does that mean? Where are these tuneful cat choruses that I seem to have missed? (See prior post, Kitty Sextette Singers for illustrated speculation on that subject.) Referring clearly to noisy cats in the backyard, it could also refer to the seemingly real cat and dog chorus used – at least in the youtube I have supplied below. The first time I played it Blackie woke from a sound sleep and wandered over to frown at the computer which was cheerfully spewing these cat and dog sounds.

The drawing on this cover is spirited indeed – throwing not only shoes and cans (Prize brand tomato), but a stool at said kitties! Seems a bit extreme. A close look at this also shows the item throwing humans to be racist depictions of people on those fire escapes. I was surprised to find this bit of racism hidden in my new acquisition. I put it up in my office and my assistant, Farzana, said she had never encountered this before. Another colleague, who has an advanced degree in early American music, talked about history and use of such imagery. It led to a discussion of racist sheet music and cartoons. If anything she seemed more distressed when we finished than when we started. I think I will need to swap it out – perhaps for one of the sheets I keep at home which I covered in this early post Me-ow! Kitty Sing-a-long.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that William Gill was born in 1839 to Manx parents – I needed to look that up and it turns out that it is those who are of The Isle of Man.  His bio neglects this ditty and focuses on Manx related music. Although he gets top billing here, Harry Taylor who wrote the words but also has the misfortune of a common name, does not seem to rate a Wikipedia entry. I was unable to locate him online. It is unclear to me what year the music was written, Will Rossiter of Chicago seems to be the publisher here, but no date.

I offer a few versions of this for comparison and there is some debate about the date of the first recording. A remark on Youtube pegs it for 1928 since Polk Miller’s group seemed to do two sets of recordings – 1909 and 1928. The first is here on Youtube:  Polk Miller & His Southern QuartetteA somewhat lesser recording is Ada Jones, 1914, in Ada Jones & The Peerless Quartet in the Pussy Cat Rag – this is the one that had Blackie going although both are sleeping through it as I play it now. How quickly kitties become jaded.

 

 

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

 

Tiger Chase Tired with Play

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tiger Chase is a pretty great name for this striped fellow. A pity this photo postcard is a tad dark, which makes some of the detail, like his nicely dark striped tail, hard to see. There is a bit of string next to him, and I wonder if that is the instrument of play that has so tired him – a really intense game of string chase can do it, and of course he seems to be named for a fondness for chasing. This card came from Australia and with the rustic fence (you can just about see a sign that says Private in the lower right corner), and slightly out of focus stone building behind, it looks like a nice view of Australian countryside – timeless really. It is unused and nothing is written on the back, but it appears to be fairly old and the paper has a slightly brittle quality. Perhaps the Australians used different photo paper stock?

Of course, what we consider cat play is actually our felines sharpening and deploying their hunting and killing skills. Here at Deitch Studio, Blackie in particular seems to really lose it when playing certain games. We have one toy, a lucite rod with a bit of elastic string and an “insect” that looks like something you would fly fish with, that makes him so crazed that I hesitate to take it out. (Incidentally, when purchased the manufacturer insert suggests that the toy be put away where the cat cannot get to it – I thought this was an exaggeration, but no – left to his own devices Blackie would shred and consume it I’m afraid. He even snuck it out of the box when left on my desk one night.) Cookie mostly invents her own games – she picks high perches to jump on and off of, does laps around the apartment at high speed, and occasionally incites Blackie to riot.

When we found ourselves in a rare cat-less position several years ago, adopting Cookie and Blackie from the same litter as tiny kittens, the idea was that they would have each other to play with and keep each other company. I think I had visions of adorable cats, napping with paws around each other. However, I had not anticipated the reality that their primary form of play would be what I like to call kill the guy and that every night before bed I would hear the strangled cries of (usually) Cookie being assaulted by Blackie (after having pushed his buttons) and having to break it up. While I am mostly content to live in my dreamy, anthropomorphic cat world where there are seemingly endless, charming conga lines of kitties dancing and romping, I do realize that in their heart of hearts my little darlings, like Tiger Chase, dream dreams of being elegant killing machines, contentedly and endlessly chasing prey on the veldt or savannah of their imaginations.

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Cookie & Blackie as tiny kits, enjoying a rare moment on Kim’s desk! Pams-Pictorama.com

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Cookie here, ready for action! Pams-Pictorama.com

 

Butch

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: By now readers know that it is hard for me to pass up a photo of a puss with a spotty nose and this guy had the ultimate in spotted-kitty face decoration. Not only does he have a big black nose spot, but that black spot on his chin is very deftly placed and makes him a pretty handsome gentleman.

This dignified fellow is identified as the mascot of the Oregon Humane Society in Portland – Portland is a place I have often mentioned as a El Dorado of superb early photos. (Some Portland posts include, Felix on Parade and most recently, Cat’s Eye on Parade.) This one appears to date a bit later than most of my pics, but has that good Portland photo spirit nonetheless. I have always enjoyed stories about the felines in the work force and those working kits (and their kissin’ cousins the mascots) make up a sub-genre of cat photos and tales. From Old Tom the Post Office Cat to Tom the Fire Boat Cat I have uncovered great stories of kitties in the working world.

Then there are those cats we all know, who reside in shops, vet’s offices and like Butch, make a permanent home of a place that is meant to be a way station for animals. Those employed to catch mice (and, um, larger rodents) in the bodegas and deli’s of New York City, are acquired for self-evident reasons like the more glorified working friends mentioned above. While I have no doubt that they perform this service admirably they do not seem to enjoy an especially notable status. (I have been tempted to ask if I could adopt one or another at times if I felt they were particularly unloved, but that will be another story.) Other workaday cats, however, are clearly beloved – I think of an especially lovely if aloof calico who presided over the Alabaster bookstore in Union Square for many years. Perhaps it won’t surprise readers that a great cat is enough to entice me into repeated visits to an establishment. There is a lovely striped cat who flies below the radar in a health food store I frequent who I often catch snoozing by a space heater behind the counter.

The stories of Butch and those like him who somehow either endear themselves so thoroughly to the staff of an adoption agency, or in some cases are special, but not easily adoptable for some reason, are on my mind today. How strange it must be for them to be the resident kitty in a place where endless cats and other animals come and go, or stay briefly. Years ago my vet had several permanent residents – one I remember was a sweet, fat fellow, who had a respiratory issue that made him sound as if he was constantly saying, “Peep!” Another one I remember coming to sit with me and Otto or Zippy, whoever was screaming bloody murder in the cat carrier at the moment, as if to both investigate and offer a paw in comradeship to the visiting kitty. (Understandably, this didn’t go over so well with my guys.) The current vet has a few residents who all seem to be of sound body, but seem to keep mostly to themselves – although they might demand a chin rub or two while I am paying the bill.  I wonder about each of their stories. For now we’ll salute Butch and his comrades, as well as the fine work of the generations of human folk, who find homes for our footloose feline friends.

Sunnyside Follies

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I may never find out what the Sunnyside Follies of Barrington, New Hampshire was, but I am pleased to have this remnant. Even I have a little trouble imagining what this act might have consisted of – I would love to have seen it though! Four women with stuffed, beribboned toy cats and wearing cute little outfits which appear to sport scottie dogs upon close inspection, seems promising to me. (I admit to possibly being something of a minority audience however.)

This card was never mailed and there is nothing written on it so there is no indication of when this was made. From hair and outfits I am pegging it in the 1930’s. Barrington, New Hampshire appears to be a summer resort town – I am imagining it as the New Hampshire version of Catskill, New York in the same time period. Family camps on lakes – perhaps a WASP version of the upstate New York scene?

I am finishing up a week’s vacation between jobs as I write this – at home in Manhattan, what we might call a stay-cation these days. I have never been much of one for vacation travel, and Kim is even less likely than me to want to travel from home base when we take time off. For me this lack of vacation wayfaring may go back to my childhood. As I have mentioned, I grew up in a shore town in New Jersey within walking distance of the ocean. My father, employed his entire career by ABC News as a cameraman, traveled all over the country and the world for work. When he took his vacation (usually a month in the summer) he was also anxious to enjoy being home so we stayed put. Not a hardship, but I never got into the habit of going some place else to relax. My sister Loren did not have this limitation and was likely to take vacations to ski and even took a cruise or two. She was extremely fond of Italy, and traveled there frequently in the last several years of her life. I am sorry that she and I never figured out a trip there together although we talked about it.

My non-work travel has been to exotic places like Tibet, and I was lucky enough to do a fair amount of interesting domestic and international travel for the Museum as well – getting me to South America and Europe. However, I have never been one to travel to a resort (spa, beach or rent a house) for recreation. Perhaps being a pair of non-drivers has added to this travel inertia. For fun and relaxation we stay right here, denizens of Deitch Studio with each other and the kits. It is our slice of heaven and indeed good enough for us.