Echo Point, Katoomba

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I ask that you put aside your party planning and New Year’s resolution composing and spend a few minutes in the Felix past with me today. I am continuing to report on the holiday haul with this mini El Dorado of tintypes from Echo Point, Katoomba. I have written about tintypes from Katoomba previously (most recently, Vacation Felix and Another Aussie Felix), but I have never purchased more than one from a single sitting.

The story of how I came upon these photos is interesting. While wandering around down South with the Jazz at Lincoln Center band for earlier this month, I was set up in a hotel room in Florida working furiously on some things for the office via my laptop in a rare post-gym and breakfast couple of hours in my hotel room. I had my personal email in the background as I first conducted a job interview with a candidate in Chicago and then tried to sort out some thorny issues around our April gala invitation. Between these I saw an email from this Pam’s Pictorama site, a fairly unusual occurance. When I finally remembered it was there and had a look at it a few hours later, I realized that it was interesting indeed.

Someone named Calvin was writing because he had Felix photos and he wanted to know if I was interested in buying them. (Of course I was!) Initially I thought he had a collection like the ones I posted yesterday (On a Sunday Morning in Swainsthorpe in case you haven’t been following along) and it took an exchange or so to realize that he had tintypes from Echo Point, Katoomba a resort in New South Wales, Australia. Regardless of my geographic location or my lack of sleep, I was certainly interested. He asked me to name a price, and then of course I needed to see them first – my experience with these being all over the place in quality, mostly dark from light exposure, sometimes to the point of illegibility. Over the course of the next twelve hours or so he sent them – as I was waking up the next morning I think – they were very clean and nice looking indeed. There were several of the same little girl and then others with an arrangement and re-arrangement of others. Presumably all of the same family. No identification or dates on any of them.

Calvin had purchased the lot of them from a postcard dealer, at a flea market I think he said. He went online to research them and stumbled onto Pam’s Pictorama and thought to see if I wanted to purchase them. Since it is my feeling that I really need to own ALL the Felix tintypes (and photo postcards, just to be clear) of course I wanted to purchase them. I named a price that multiplied the average price I have paid for such photos in the past. Calvin accepted and these were speeding their way to me and we arrived in New York at almost the same time. It is the first time Pictorama has attracted its own post material. My delight knows no bounds!

Judging by the cloche hats being sported by the female subjects these could loosely date from about 1922 to ten years later. It is hard to say if Australian fashion tracked US fashion exactly in this regard, it my have trailed us by some years. There is no identification, nor dates on the photos as seems to be typical with these souvenir tintypes. Meanwhile, oh to be such a lucky little girl and have so many nice tintypes made of yourself with Felix! I am so jealous! Although I know from making tintypes myself that they are by their very nature one-of-a-kind images, nonetheless it is difficult to find the differences in these three images, they are there if you look carefully however; the images must be just moments apart. It did occur to me to purchase only one of the little girl (he could have easily sold the others on eBay) or that I can ultimately sell two. Still, Pictorama readers know of my obsession with keeping family photos together and certainly for now they will stay as a group.

My favorite photo, the one featured at top, is of the large group. There is an early car behind them and some sort of an awing that reads Echo Point, Katoomba behind that. (If you are trying to read it, remember it is backward as this is a tintype and a mirror image.) The woman in the middle gets to hold this nice big Felix in place! In the subsequent photo of just her and the man with the hat, he holds Felix sort of haphazardly around the neck and doesn’t show him to full advantage. We get a glimpse of the tropical foliage behind them, as we do with the photos of the little girl, who for some reason isn’t included in the group photo. Felix is just her size and they stand together like old buddies. She is more warmly dressed than the others with a nice fur trimmed coat and sports a cloche as well. These clearly sat together some place, out of the light, well preserved.

Finally, I would like to note that we get a good look at the Felix doll here and he is a bit worn. Most interesting to me is his somewhat extra large (and I assume weighted for balance) feet making him slightly out of proportion. It has always been my assumption that all, or at least most, of the giant Felix dolls made for posing had one origin, but now I doubt that as I look at some of the variations on the wall of them across from me where I sit right now and type, those predominantly from Great Britain. What is even more interesting is that out of the five or so from Echo Point, Katoomba (outside of this group) only one seems to be the same doll. I guess there was a lot of wear and tear and many Felix replacements, or even multiple dolls being used at the same time. Here at Pictorama we continue to fervently hope that someday we will indeed find a giant Felix we can purchase for our very own!

 

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On a Sunday Morning in Swainsthorpe

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Pictorama readers better hold onto their hats because, this holiday season mysteriously revealed the opportunity for some really extraordinary acquisitions! As a Christmas gift Kim’s help fund these and stretched my resources considerably. I am planning to post about them more or less in the order they came to me.

Both groups (the other to be posted tomorrow) were extraordinary opportunities to buy a series of photos of a single family and keep them together. The first photo in this group was brought to my attention by a Facebook friend, Bren Luke. While I was still trying to figure out the origin of the photo I stumbled across the lot of the six of them for sale on eBay. They were being sold separately, by a British seller, which meant high bids had to go on all in order to secure the whole lot. Prices ended up all over the place, but I paid up and purchased all. I am glad they will stay together. They are much more interesting that way.

I was shocked by the size of them when they arrived. They are tiny – only about 2”x3” and I am unsure what sort of film and camera would have been used. (Kim is guessing 120 film via a brownie type camera?) They are undated and cut from where they had resided in a photo album. Written in the same hand as the one titled here, there are dates of  ’24 and ’25 from other photos on the backs, so we might assume these fall loosely into the same period. Sadly this little boy with a horn is not named, only cousins Kathleen & John get identified. Our other tidbit of information is Swainsthorpe on a Sunday morning. The internet reveals Swainsthorpe to be a tiny hamlet in Norfolk, England, population 360 as of the 2011 census. A close look at clothing shows that the whole lot was likely taken on the same day.

My favorite photo is the one featured at the top – the little boy tooting on his horn next to Felix. This was the one sent via Facebook and worth the price of admission on its own. Felix seems to be listening to that horn, smiling up at the kid – perhaps propped up by the wheelbarrow handle.

As the little boy doesn’t actually interact with Felix I wonder a bit if it is indeed his affection for it that has placed it in the photos or some other more general family fondness for Felix? Maybe the person behind the camera. It is a nice big Felix (one that I would be pleased to have I might add) and he comes up to the little fellow’s waist. I especially like the way he is looking at the little boy playing the horn, the tiny wheelbarrow (child-sized) makes a good counterpoint, the beautiful old stone house in the background. A miniature lawn mower appears in a subsequent photo and, although those are somewhat lesser photos, the light is beautiful in them.

My second favorite photo is the one with the little girl with the long hair holding Felix while the boy (her brother perhaps?) toots on that horn. There is a dreamy quality to this one and I even like the overexposed edges for the effect it creates. Is that a tiny keyboard between the girl and boy? It is hard to know exactly, but the toy lawn mower is great too and these toys create a sense that this is most likely a somewhat privileged family. There are a few other photo variations with these toys, and then the two with cousins. Kathleen looks willing enough, but John appears mostly like he is being coerced into staying still long enough to pose with his cousins, let alone put his arm around him in the one photo. Felix is a bit cut off in one, but he makes a splendid appearance as the fifth member of the family, grinning toothily as always, in the other group photo.

 

Some Snow!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Brrrr! This is the kind of snow you somehow imagine when you are a kid, but never really experience – at least most of us won’t anyway, global warming notwithstanding. I think every kid who has built a snow fort has dreamed of something as grand and massive as this. Bigger even than the igloo I always imagined building, but evidently quite secure since our four formidable ladies perch safely atop.

It is indeed unfortunate that there is no indication of where or exactly when this was taken and I can’t help but wonder. It is a photo postcard and there is nothing on the back. The clothes lead us to realize this was probably no later than the teens, a full century ago, the women above in full length dresses, thick warm black stockings on all. There are coats of the heaviest wools with trims and bits of fur. I am not positive, but this image may be populated entirely by women. There’s one figure, on the bottom, second from the right, which may be a young boy, but I cannot see well enough to declare.

I assume that the tunnel through was perhaps of necessity – a path through this extraordinary snow drift – but maybe it was also for fun. I do wonder how someone even managed to make that tunnel though – and where did the excess snow, no small amount, go? Is it just off camera?

As I write this we are commencing the earliest days of winter after a notably mild fall here in the Northeast. (And I for one am heading for Florida for work as I write this – I will be searching the closet for something to wear in 80 degree weather later this week.) The other morning, up very early, I was surprised to see about 20 minutes of hard, fluffy snow – the first of the season, to my knowledge anyway. It didn’t stick. Our extraordinary and notable weather events have been more of the hurricane nature this fall. However, one never knows with winter and weather. Perhaps this will be the year of a big one and we too will make strange burrows and pathways under fifteen and twenty foot drifts here in Central Park.

Buddies

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  One of the things I love about this photo is how someone has set the cat up on the chair, making the cat, dog and little boy all the same height. The dog looks vaguely protective, the cat wise and knowing. The child connects all three by having his hands on the back of the dog and draped over the cat. If it wasn’t for the old fashioned dress of the child this photo could be from any time, but the white night shirt style shirt and some sort of black stockings put it at the earliest part of the last century. It appears it might be early fall. There seem to be leaves on the ground, but it is warm enough for the little boy to be happily outside without a coat. While it appears to have been posed (the covered chair, comfortable for the kitty) I feel like the natural kinship between the three is shown. The card was never sent and there is nothing written on it to tell us who these three might be.

This photo, a photo postcard, illustrates a philosophy of mine that all children should have a cat and dog when they are small, because they can make the very best friends. They listen to and keep all your secrets, generally have more patience than anyone for your small child games and ramblings. I remember telling ours all sorts of things and having great times with them. As the younger of two children, the dog and the cat were generally willing playmates when no one else was interested in me. Their patience wasn’t infinite, but in retrospect it was fairly extensive. Frankly, I cannot imagine our kitties today, Cookie and Blackie, having nearly that much patience, but perhaps the fact that back then all of us started out little together made the difference. The dog was a puppy and the cat a kitten, when I was still a toddler myself so we grew up together. There are photos of little me carrying our cat Snoppy around, vaguely annoyed, like a rag doll. My mother, who was not always a fan of the dog, knew nevertheless, that she could be depended on to protect us and would also submit willingly to our attentions.

In a fit of enthusiasm, I will occasionally whisk Cookie or, more likely Blackie, up into a stronghold of ear rubs and kisses which they barely permit before squirming away, appalled. I haven’t tried telling them any secrets lately either, but Cookie is very devoted to Kim and frankly I suspect she’d spill the beans. Then again, maybe you have to be a small child to trust cats as well as to have them trust you?

 

 

January 23, 1934

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased these in a recent trend toward purchasing groups of photos from albums, or like these, of the same subjects. Unlike some cases recently when multiple photos arrived, I did know that I was buying all three photos – they were sold together. I purchased them from someone in Des Moines, but hard to say if that’s where these hail from or not. Each is neatly stamped on the back, FINISHED WITH CARE JAN 23 1934 THE WHITE HOUSE Radio Photograph Shop. They show no signs of having been in an album.

I suspect that the largest photo might be the three generations of men, grandfather, father and two boys – with their Mickey toys. The men look fairly stern for this sort of light hearted portrait turned toy display. Both are wearing glasses and the older of them is not only in a three piece suit and tie, but actually has a watch chain and fob. Neither smile here. Meanwhile, these Mickey dolls, upon close examination, have telltale Steiff buttons in their ears and they appear to be in fairly pristine condition, despite clearly also being beloved.  In the small, torn photo, the older, brown haired boy points out that their shirts, decorated with tiny anchors, also sports a cheery Mickey on the sailor style tie. Although they do not smile in the photo with the older men, the boys are grinning and quite pleased with themselves and their toys in the other photos.

Being toy sensitive, I suspect that the reason these photos were taken was due to the (probably) new Mickey Mouse toys and matching outfits. It was the motivation to take out the camera and snap the photos. (Oddly, it also means that they have ended up, still together, in my collection today. This is always something that gives me a bit of pause.) Those of us born in the middle of the 20th century have variations on such pictures – us and grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, taken at family picnics and other such occasions. Typically posed and somewhat formal with the older generation. I think of one of me and my sister, probably about ages five and seven respectively, with my grandmother, (my father’s mother) taken in a sunny backyard garden – theirs I assume although I do not really remember their yard and we never played in it. My grandparents were busy people who owned a thriving dry goods business they ran together and I cannot imagine either of them spending a spare moment on a garden, nor were they the kind of people who would have paid someone to care for it. A great aunt also lived with them, so perhaps she was the gardener. I must think to ask.

This morning I received a Thanksgiving family photo from a friend on the west coast. Theirs was a large multi-generational holiday meal and whipping out the iPhone for a photo these days has made it so easy – as was dropping it into an email to me. As for me, my own family has dwindled in size for celebrations and we were only five for Thanksgiving this year. However, while enjoying a glass of champagne along with pre-meal cheese and crackers, I snapped the photo below of my dad, napping with the cats in the sun. While I tend to natter on about how we never print the many photos we take now and therefore they will be lost to future generations, I admit it is nice to be able to sneak a photo memory like this. Therefor today I am grateful for the stealth and ease of my phone camera. While it has meant the end of businesses like the Radio Photograph Shop which made sure photos were finished with care back in 1934, mine is a photo that would not have happened back then.

Dad Thanksgiving.JPG

 

 

Esther and Houtas

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: A recent delving into and wading through old cat photos online has produced some unusual purchases in the form of mostly snap shots. I assumed that was what I was purchasing when I acquired this, but much to my surprise, although it had been pasted into an album, the black photo album paper has torn away on the back to reveal that this was indeed a photo postcard. It was never mailed and written in a neat inked hand on the back is, Esther & Houtas sitting on the wood pile. Ground is covered with snow. I went to the trouble of looking up the name Houtas. I do believe that is her name (it is neatly written) and was able to find some nodding acquaintance to it on the internet. I assume it refers to one of these girls – who I further assume are sisters – as opposed to that nice gray kitty one is holding.

This photo has a timeless quality, and it isn’t until we look closely at those wooly tights and button boots that we realize how old it probably is. Those matching, layered wool dresses and heavy tights look a bit itchy when we consider them seriously, but were probably just the thing for that cold day – no need for overcoats. These girls seem a bit mismatched as sisters, but my own sister and I did not look more alike than this – she of very curly hair and I of very straight.

I have no idea where this card is from or where it was taken, but this spare snowy landscape could stand in for my childhood in New Jersey. This big woodpile is more substantial than the one we generally had out back, although during the course of my childhood we always kept a sizable pile of logs. Much of the cord wood was purchased each fall, although some of it came from limbs that had been trimmed off of our own trees, or as the sad result of a tree that had reached the end of its life and had to be cut down. My mother was always very responsible about the trees and their well being. They were tended to by professionals no less than annually. I personally would have been reluctant to play on the woodpile however, as it was the likely home of mice and even the occasional water rat who wanted a pied-à-terre on dry land. Perhaps for that very reason it was something of a favorite spot for the cats. Although as I remember, some form of wild catnip also grew in the gravel driveway near the woodpile and our enormous cat Pumpkin used to go into rolls of ecstasy over it in the spring. That would have added to the appeal.

The house I grew up in had two enormous fireplaces although we generally only used the one downstairs in what we called the family room. If I ever buy a house a working fireplace will be a must. (I have met New Yorkers lucky enough to have functioning fireplaces in their apartments, but I am not the sort of person who lucks into outdoor space, fireplaces or rent controlled New York apartments. It think it is a skill you are born with, like the ability to hold your breath underwater for a long time or whistle well and on key.) I am endlessly fascinated by fireplaces and will do what I can to migrate to them at restaurants or bars this time of the year. I will settle for gas fires, although there’s nothing like real wood, with the smell, popping of sap, steaming of moisture and the sighing and rolling of disintegrating logs. Oh such bad news for the unsuspecting insects and spiders who took up residence in those logs!

My parents recently moved to a much smaller house, on a cute little patch of property one town over from where I grew up. The house does have a small fireplace, which works at least in theory. These days my mom and dad are too elderly to mess with a fire, even with fake, store bought logs. However, I just promised them the Christmas gift of an electric space heater that looks like a fireplace to ease the drafts in their new house. If I like it maybe I will find room for one here in our tiny New York abode as well.

 

My Donkeys

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  I spotted this photo when I was purchasing yesterday’s delightful cat chair photo and threw it in the purchase. This is the kind of picture that fascinates me, although I understand that it may not have wide appeal. Dark and a bit dour, nonetheless it has a such a feeling of time and space memory for me – a window into a private past. The little girl looks very adult somehow, in her checked dress and hat, holding the reins, a serious look on her face. The background photo of the Eiffel Tower and amusement park, somehow that giant early style Ferris wheel looks almost like a halo over her head. (I think it is a big photo anyway, I cannot imagine that it is a painting.) Funny that this background featuring the Eiffel Tower looks very British to me.

It is postmarked Blackpool, August 2, 1921 PM. It is addressed to Mrs. Lancaster, 16 Bellbrooke Grove, Marchill Lane, Leeds, York, hard to read because it is written in a very light, worn pencil. The message, what I can read of it, says, Dear Mrs. Lancaster, This is me under the hat on one of my donkeys we are having some rain, but are not staying in, but having a good time…for you. Margaret.

I have it in my mind that Mrs. Lancaster was her teacher for some reason, not sure why. Could as easily be a neighbor from home or any number of people. Such a very British holiday and note. I like one of my donkeys – leaving me to wonder what other donkeys she considered hers? The donkey looks kindly, if a bit diffident. Try as I might I cannot quite read what is written on his blanket, Radison perhaps? Not that it matters. I am glad that they were not staying in despite the rain.

I grew up at a seaside resort, but (unfortunately) it wasn’t the sort of town where you could get your photo postcard made for the most part. However, there was a remnant of an amusement pier at a beach a few towns over, complete with a handful of rickety rides, tawdry games, fortune telling. By the time I was in high school it was like catnip to me in the summer, and then into the fall when a haunted house kicked into high gear. We had friends who worked there and they would go into overdrive to scare us when we showed up. I still get the occasional yen for cotton candy or a candy apple this time of the year just thinking about the pier. Family lore is that my great aunt owned a restaurant there when she was a young woman – her parents, my great grandparents, owned a bar and restaurant in the town proper. The site of that still remains. Sadly that remaining bit of amusement pier burned down while I was in college. No donkeys or photos for me, but it does live on in memory.