Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I decided that this summer weekend deserved some cooling down with recent Christmas finds. For many years when I worked at the Metropolitan Museum they had Christmas in July, a preview of the holiday line for the gift and bookshop. It would be set up in our boardroom and senior staff would be invited up to have a look. Anyway, the phrase stuck with me and ignited the holiday feeling with the British Felix card I shared yesterday. (It can be found here). Today’s treasure is a card that I saw a variation of quite awhile ago (same set and different photo? I wish I remembered), but it was priced very high. I snagged this one for considerably less.
Although this was a photo postcard it has traces of photo album paper stuck to the back of it. It does not appear to have been mailed. However, written neatly on it is Erma & Fred from Millard. While I think we can assume that Erma is the little girl perched on this grand beast, who is Fred? Is he dressed up as Santa? (Don’t suppose he could be the reindeer?) If you look carefully Santa is atop a box to make him sufficiently tall for the composition of this photo – and perhaps also to make him a little bit more grand?
If you look carefully there is a small sign, on a little stand, which reads 1237 – December 1937? or a number to track which photo take this was to attach it to a person later? Of much more interest however are the toys scattered below, including a small Felix doll which is one that I neither own nor have seen previously. The dolls are generic from my perspective, but I say that understanding that perhaps to others they are as fascinating as Felix is to me. It is in some ways a sad and dry little set, yet I bet from Erma’s perspective it was pretty great to be there.
My own family wasn’t one for posed, studio holiday photos. We never sat on Santa’s lap for a photo or to tell him what we wanted for Christmas. We celebrated Christmas (and Hanukah), but in a secular way, and additionally we were never taught to believe in Santa Claus. My mother (raised Christian, but agnostic) thought lying to children about such things was an awful practice and told chagrined stories about her brother leaving the front door wide open on Christmas Eve to accommodate Santa better. My dad, as an atheist and ostensibly Jewish, was extremely ambivalent about the holidays and therefore no unnecessary pageantry was added. (Additionally, my younger brother Edward was born on Christmas Eve so we added a birthday party in there as well.) I don’t believe as a kid I felt like I missed much by not having the opportunity to sit on Santa’s lap or to mail lists to the North Pole. We had a tree, there were toys and big family meals – but alas, no toy-filled Santa photos!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Much like my recent post Symmetry this photo surprised me by not being a photo postcard. Instead, it belongs to a genre of photos printed with fancy borders, one of the interesting come ons in the early days of home photography. Instead of an expensive cardboard holder, or being printed on cardboard stock, you had this nice frame for when you placed it in an album, which there is evidence this one was. There isn’t any information on the back of this photo which is too bad, I want to know who this little girl with her pile of toys is.
My first thought was to wonder if these were all toys she just acquired, or ones she was just assembled to show off for the photo opportunity. Then I realized that is a (slightly sad) warm-climate, outdoor Christmas tree, so it must be a sunny west coast Christmas Day. It is quite a haul! There is a total of five baby dolls if you include the ones in the carriage. (Perhaps the carriage is new and the dolls prior occupants? Hard to say, but five dolls in one Christmas does seem extraordinary. Like adopting an entire family at once.) In addition to this nice Felix there is what appears to be a book which (when I blow this up very large I can see) is The Three Bears, although the other titles are lost to me. The interesting scooter to the right, but doesn’t seem to belong to this pile of new toy plunder.
Meanwhile, I like her neat print dress, bobbed hair and those annoying thick white tights that bag at the knees. (Even in the 1960’s my tights bagged at the knees. I feel old saying this, but kids today don’t know how good they have it now that we live in a time with superior elastic and tights and bathing suits that stay up.) She is displaying her toys nicely. This is a tidy yard too with its white fence, outbuilding and brick one just beyond.
I can remember the sort of extreme sense of well-being such a wonderful pile of toys infused me with at this age. Being one of three children, perhaps it was more pronounced on my birthday than Christmas – a day that belonged to me! I remember one birthday in particular when I was probably about ten. I was born in February and for whatever reason it seemed as though my family showered me in books and toys. In particular I remember a silver metal early version of the Flexible Flyer seemed to really put the cherry on it all. (Aptly named, that thing really could fly in the snow.) I really felt like the Queen of Everything. A large Barbie residence and car induced the same feeling one Christmas about that time. That’s what this photo reminds me of.
Pictorama readers well know that I still get a big rush out of toys, and in fact, I share below a photo you may remember from a prior post, a photo of my posing not unlike this little girl!
Me with an Aesop Fable acquisition
Card not in my collection
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Christmas is hard on our heels and how better to roll up our sleeves than these two amazing photos of epic toy hauls under a glittering tinsel-wrapped Christmas tree? (That’s back when tinsel had some heft and you would reuse it each year – and the cat always wanted to eat it, but that is true of tinsel today too.) Unjust as life can be at times, I was beat out for one of these cards on eBay so they have now gone their separate ways after all these years and I am pleased that at least this electronic record keeps them united. Admittedly, I put a slightly higher bid on the one I purchased as Felix plays a larger role, and I thought the composition was marginally better.
At first I thought that these were two different children and even that one might be a boy, but looking at them for a bit I have decided that it is the same little girl in both. The bonanza of toys has been arranged differently and as I mentioned, Felix gets more of a close up portrait shot in mine. The little girl also seems more engaged with her loot in my photo too. Kim speculated that the toys and scene are all props which is sort of heartbreaking if true. How could they possibly plunk a child down among all that and then yank her away? Oh no! Talk about childhood trauma. I prefer to believe that these were taken post gift opening at home.
I believe our man here is a Schuco Yes No Felix and you could move his tail and his arms (and maybe head?) would move. I came close to purchasing one earlier this year, although he no longer has his movement. (A toy-minded friend told me that it was silly not to buy him since he personally hadn’t moved the arms on his Yes No Felix in years and I was unlikely to miss it.) Perhaps I will find him under my tree one day.
The patina of photo tricks notwithstanding, the sense of childhood wonder on Christmas morning is well captured. Although my memories of childhood Christmas tend to blend together a bit, certain bits and pieces of memories do stand out – my first bike one year (pink and white with a basket), a house for Barbie another, the acquisition of Squeaky the stuffed dog. (I cover some of this in my prior posts found at A Girl and Her Toys and Felix on an Outing.) While my parents have always been big on reading (I swear my younger brother was so frustrated by how much reading went on in our house that as a pre-schooler he memorized the books read to him in a form of faux-reading, and then immediately mastered the skill upon entering school; he was reading the New York Times in no time) so books were always a part of Christmas. However, my folks were not overly intellectual about toys and were easily maneuvered into purchasing us all sorts of indulgent toys of the day. I had an Easy Bake oven and my Barbies lead a very upper middle class life with clothes, homes and cars. They dated GI Joe as well as Ken and a strange doctor doll. And of course there were stuffed animals – as recently examined in Toy Cat. We had racing cars and trains – even before Edward was born. My father did not discriminate. All this to say, I am not someone who collects toys because she was deprived as a child.
Here I am with Squeaky, a photo I have shown before. Although I remember my father taking photos every Christmas morning, I do not have any others at hand. A Merry Christmas to all and let the Christmas toys begin! I know I am hoping for a certain Felix toy this Christmas myself…
A very little Pam and Squeaky the Dog on Christmas morning, Pams-Pictorama.com