Crown

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This card also from the El Dorado of the postcard show last week. It is a bit more curious than good, although I think it is compelling. I don’t know for sure what it depicts, although my first thought was that it was some sort of traveling show, I have changed my mind. The tents are sizable, but appear more for living and sleeping-in than for come hither attractions. They are somewhat complicated, as I think tents mostly were at that time, set up by a series of ropes and poles. (I am glad I wasn’t charged with figuring that out. I don’t think I would have been good at it.) The one to our right shows an accumulation of grime near the flap from much use. I guess it is a roadside camp, Crown being the name, the brick building perhaps bathrooms and an office? Or a gas station? There is the pile of wood in front of these folks, and a fair amount of trash scattered about. It is weedy and they have set the tents up in the only clear space.

I like this group, family of some kind I assume or family and friends, with their two dogs – one wriggling into a blur here. The one woman and young girl are in neat, but comfortable cotton house dresses, the other woman a bit more dressed up. While this appears to be a somewhat down at the heels locale, they seem chipper enough having their photo taken this way. The card was never mailed and there is nothing written on it so we don’t know anything about them, which I regret.

I do not hail from a camping family and in my life I have only ever done it on a few occasions. As I remember, I was unremarkable at best as a girl scout camper for a single trip at approximately age 12. (I recall a messy experiment with making pancakes in a skillet over a fire – pancakes are actually a tad tricky even at home I find in retrospect. An even more dismal attempt at using a compass and map to find our way back to camp in a test of sorts. I seem to remember finding the road and using it to return.)

Subsequently, many years later and on the other end of the spectrum, I camped while hiking around Mt. Kailash, a sacred mountain in Tibet. I don’t fool myself – the success of this venture was entirely due to some extremely capable sherpas who set up our tents and cooked our food. I only credit myself with having been smart enough to have engaged them. It was July, but we woke up to several inches of snow one morning which was a shock, (it was cold and we slept in layers of clothing, coats and sleeping bags) and another evening heard something skulking, scratching and growling outside our tent which we chose not to investigate. Otherwise, it was in every way preferable to staying in awful, mostly empty and decaying hotels in the small enclaves of Tibet which I had done on a previous trip. All appeared to have been built in 1970 and with an eye to a tourist industry that the Chinese government imagined, but never materialized.

Therefore, for the most part I have decided that for me camping is more of a means to an end than something I do for the sheer enjoyment of doing it. I would happily camp again in Tibet if it meant seeing things I couldn’t see otherwise, but am unlikely to pitch a tent in the wilds of upstate New York any time soon. Meanwhile, these folks may have take a broader view of camping – or they may have been doing it out of necessity as well, to get from here to there – but stopping to have their photo taken along the way.

 

 

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Happy Hollow Special

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today marks the beginning of delving into a nice big pile of photographs I purchased last week at a postcard show here in New York City. Way back in college, I remember an art professor, Maureen McCabe, saying she loved this show because she bought things like vintage paper dolls for her work constructing collages. That was a few decades back and I suspect that the sale has changed over time. It was small, but sincere, and for me a happy hunting ground. This bi-annual sale is provided by the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York (more about them here), which evidently meets monthly largely for the purpose of buying, selling and trading postcards. I noticed a mention of them in the New York Times recently and made a note of this sale a few months ago.

I may have purchased enough postcards to keep me from needing to drop into a meeting before their next show in November, but we will see about that. The process of looking through physical cards is quite different than the sort of internet searching I do and I stumbled across some interesting, non-cat affiliated cards, this being one of them. Kim patiently waded through postcards with me last Saturday afternoon, after traveling to and from midtown in a deluge, so a shout out to him.

I would love to know more about these folks, posing here in front of this striped carnival background. These lucky little girls are riding in high style, drawn by this large goat. Goat carts were popular in this period and below I include a photo I grabbed of a goat cart in Central Park in the 1870’s. I always thought they used smaller goats, but this photo and the others I found show big goats. The Central Park goat cart is quite high-end compared to our friends posed with this more humble affair in Hot Springs.

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I recently read about Goat Yoga online which seems, touchingly, to simultaneously combine yoga and admiring, frolicking goats. I have a general fondness for goats – in Tibet you see these small ones that look like Scotty dogs everywhere and I always wanted to scoop one up – however I resisted the temptation. In addition I spent many years doing yoga and, while I have found that cats can take a real interest in yoga (they generally try to out-yoga you, and they usually can as they are flexible little critters), I admit I never thought about doing it with goats. Clearly, my lack of imagination. Anyway, I see online that there was an attempt to bring said Goat Yoga to Brooklyn, but the Board of Health put an end to it so we here in the five boroughs will never know the pleasures of it I guess.

Getting back to our postcard, I would say that the donkey sticking his head in and the stray arm to the other side of the frame, sort of frame this photo compositionally. I myself wouldn’t have minded seeing more of that donkey fellow with his big furry ears. Mom and Dad and the kids are in their best bib and tucker – Mom sporting a splendid hat and is especially dressed up for the occasion. As carnival photo opportunities go, this one is decidedly lower end than most however – certainly not as luxe as posing with Felix at the beach (see for example my post Felix Mugging), but it has its own charm.

The cart is labeled Happy Hollow Special, Hot Springs and below, somewhat mysteriously, 21, is also painted. If you look very closely, you realize that this “cart” is propped up on a small stand and isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps this guarded against a rogue runaway goat. Goats are known for their independent natures, after all. Although this card was never mailed, written in pencil on the back is Sal & Birdie with their daughters Dorothy & Marion. A quick look online reveals that Happy Hollow, Hot Springs is a vacation destination in Hot Springs, Arkansas and perhaps that is our photo locale, a very long time ago indeed.

All in the Family, cont.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Continuing the family theme from yesterday, I have one of those photos that just got better and better for me the longer I looked at it. This is a very celebratory group and unfortunately they, like yesterday’s family, failed to note anything about the nature of or participants in this photo. It is my thought that this celebratory group is a wedding party, bride’s family to her side – although the little guy peering through could also be of that clan, since I am already making assumptions about family features.

They are posing with a single symbolic celebratory drink for toasting, each sporting a lavish corsage or elaborate boutonniere. Of course, the reason I love this photo is that they have rounded up the family dogs and this nice black cat to be in the picture. The beagle seats himself willingly on the one side while the other fellow is being held in check, collar or short leash stretched ready to tear madly off in some sort of get away. My friend the black cat is somewhere between patient and not as he considers his next move. He appears to be a rare all black kitty, although perhaps there is a patch of white on that tummy some place hidden from the camera, nonetheless I am glad these don’t appear to be superstitious folks and he is beloved enough for a place next to the bride.

We document special occasions with photos of family and pets often make up part of that family. How often do you see a photo of someone, an author photo or just a newspaper photo of someone posed at home, where they have scooped up the family cat or grabbed the pup? While it is said that you choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family, in a sense we do. We marry and join families and we declare that the people closest to us in a variety of ways are family, defining it for ourselves in many ways. Clearly our pets make up part of that family for many of us, and I love to see that it goes back this far, to the early days of photography.

 

 

Comics

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today my mind is on comics – the ones of my childhood. Recently I realized that oddly enough, I have a distinct memory of my father reading me Peanuts, but no other strip – surely he didn’t literally only read that one and let the others go begging, but that is what I remember. I assume it started when I was very small and couldn’t read at all, but I do recall that as my nascent skills evolved, I was able to read along with him. Peanuts was a pretty easy read, although Nancy, as we all know, was the easiest and the first you could puzzle out on your own – often no words at all. (The miracle of story telling solely through pictures – the silent film of comics.)

However, for all of that, it is Peanuts that I associate with my Dad and Sunday morning childhood. (Saturday morning was Roadrunner cartoons, but we will discuss that another time perhaps.) I have chosen a Sunday strip from 1970 below, which would have put me at age six. It is one featuring Snoopy and Lucy and somehow I remember those as the ones he was partial to.

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As a career long cameraman for ABC News, my father traveled constantly and often for long periods, so I know it certainly wasn’t something we did every Sunday and, although I certainly remember my mother and father both reading me bedtime stories, I never remember Mom reading me comics from the paper, nor did I ask her to. Presumably my sister Loren was right in there as well, although I don’t remember that either, and perhaps with a two year age difference between us it mostly really was me alone, sitting on my Dad’s lap and looking at the comics. (Apologies to my brother Edward, but at almost seven years younger he was not yet in the picture.) Dad would read the strips and we would have a good chuckle. Perhaps at my insistence, in homage to the strip our first cat, a cow-spotty black and white one, was christened Snoopy.

Many years later, when I was launched into my first job at the Metropolitan Museum and living a commuting distance away from home, fax machines were suddenly in vogue. My father developed the habit of faxing me the strip Mutts. I had briefly met Patrick McDonnell in the mid-90’s (as well as the cat and dog who appear to have inspired the strip) and he seemed like an extraordinarily nice person. I loved the strip which was in its infancy. It did remind me just a bit of Peanuts and it was easy to see why it appealed to my father too, although I don’t think we ever discussed that aspect of it. I did not get a daily paper with comics and so, out of the blue, my father initiated a comprehensive campaign of faxing them to me, several on a page, a couple of times a week. I bought a few of the compilations and shared those with Dad, but I think he liked the dailiness of finding them in the paper and the self-appointed task of sending them.

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I was reminded of all of this recently when, on my trip to London in February, I found myself warming up and drying off in a comic book store near Leicester Square. After tending to the family business of checking on the Kim Deitch selection (yes, I do that in comic book stores Kim – you probably didn’t know that, but you do now) I found some Mutts and Peanuts compilations and was briefly tempted to buy one for Dad. After coming to my senses and realizing that they were of course more easily bought at home without stuffing them into and already bursting suitcase, I did not. However for a lovely moment I was transported back to those years of sharing comics with Dad.

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Family Portrait with Pets

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo struck my fancy the other day. It is the sort of photograph which I liked better and better the longer I looked at it. It is, if you will, the sort of bread and butter photograph Pam’s Pictorama is largely made up of – early 20th century photos of people posing with cats. This one, identified on the back as taken in May (with a ? in place of a day) 1936, with nothing else written on the back. It is a photo postcard, but it is printed on a lesser, lighter stock than they usually are and as a result feels and looks more like just a photo – curling a bit with age. It was never mailed and I don’t know how well it would have stood up to those rigors.

I assume this is a portrait of a family, or at least mostly so. There isn’t a strong resemblance amongst them, but enough to convince me when I look closely, especially around those participants in the center. Only a single man and boy show up in this preponderance of women and girls in mostly spring finery. And of course what sold me was that between the dozen people crammed in here, no less than five of the family pets were scooped up for inclusion. While the three cats and the puppy caught my eye initially, it was the little girl holding the rooster that really made it special. I have debated on the possibility of Mr. Rooster actually being stuffed, but I think he is just standing at attention – there’s something about her hand around him that make me think he is alive. The kitten next to him is taking it pretty well if that is the case, but perhaps they know each other well. In general the cats seem to require a certain two fisted clutch in order to be kept a hold of – the puppy is content with being held, as they often seem to be too. I like the idea that when someone said family photo all these critters were scooped up too.

On this spring morning these folks are presented as a neat and well dressed group, boasting Depression era fashion including sporty berets on three of the girls, the toddler among them. Warm enough day that most of them are in short sleeve dresses, although they range from that to coats. I am somewhat undecided about whether that is some old snow stuck on the fence behind rooster-holding girl, although I land of the side of probably when I blow the photo up. I think you could have that on an early day first warm day in May where spring is just beginning to sort itself out.

When I began Pam’s Pictorama it was for the sole purpose of organizing my photos, mostly those of people posing with Felix, so that they could eventually be published in a book and to entertain myself with this project while recovering from foot surgery. Pictorama took on a life of its own expanding almost immediately and, more than 400 posts later, it has covered a lot more territory than that. Still, when I purchase a photo like this, I mentally file it in a future chapter devoted to photos of people and their pets, and oh what a book it will be.

Trophies

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Fair warning, you Pictorama readers who have followed these posts for a bit know that occasionally I fall out of my self-designated lane of discussing toys, photos, early Felix and black cat items, and instead head down a tributary which is another which is purely personal. That’s what we have today. I wrote this a few days after Thanksgiving, although I am sending it from Arkansas where I have been on business this week. I am posting it as we start the inevitable countdown to Christmas and New Year holidays. All around, it is a time when family is at the front of mind and this post has been scratching at my brain for awhile.

Some of you who follow me on other social media have been privy to bits about of my parents selling the house I grew up in New Jersey, moving first to a house they rented (briefly) and finally into an adorable, little house in a town adjacent to the area I grew up in. As someone who tends to put emotional currency in objects that exercise was especially difficult at times. Many items were lost or damaged making me crazy – although I guess others were found or discovered too. Ultimately, I focused on just a few items and attempted to ensure those survived the tousle of moving. Among the items were my sister Loren’s (oddly fragile) rugby trophies from her undergraduate years at Princeton. My sister, who died in 2003, had her share of awards – she was a PhD in mathematics and had a pile of academics achievements, some of which are memorialized in plaques and certificates that decorated the walls of my parent’s house. Perhaps some of those were more important to her than these which resided in her old bedroom at my parent’s house, on display on the dresser there but these are what I held onto.

Loren played rugby during her undergraduate years at Princeton. Very athletic all her life, she was full of restless energy and it was often said among us in the family that if she didn’t do at least two different work-outs a day she would drive you nuts – swimming and biking, running and lifting, tennis and so on. My mother says that from the time Loren was old enough to get herself out of bed she would roam the house at night, a reality my mother evidently learned to put up with early on or she never would have slept again herself. An older Loren would practice her violin way into the night each evening and we all became accustomed to being lulled to sleep that way. (I on the other hand was the family sleep champion and evidently slept through the night the first day my mother brought me home from the hospital – prompting her to wake in a panic thinking I must have died, or so the story goes.)

Captain of her cross country team in high school and involved in as many sports and teams as the schedule of each season would allow, rugby was new to Loren when she arrived at Princeton, but she took to it quickly. If I knew how she landed on rugby, I don’t remember now. Her academic schedule was very rigorous though and perhaps the schedule was one that suited her.

I believe that it was during my senior year in high school, her sophomore year, that I visited her and spent the weekend. I went to my first and only rugby game – and loved it! It was fast paced, bloody and muddy as I remember it. Loren was a good size and very muscular, but her co-captains and some of the women from the other team dwarfed her much to my surprise. She held her own on the field though and I cheered her on in scrums. There was robust drinking by both teams after the game, which I believe Princeton won. As for me, I got an advance taste of collegiate life. I was under no illusion that I would or could follow her to Princeton. I was never as academically gifted as she, but nonetheless the visit gave me a taste of anticipation for college life as I applied to schools and mapped my own future.

So a few months ago, out of everything I took out of my parent’s house and secured the safety of, I took these two rugby trophies to a friend’s house for the duration of the move. I have yet to install them in the room now designated for Kim and I when we visit, but when I do it will feel more like a second home to me too I think.