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: I am aware that we have been having a very Felix-y time at Pictorama lately (aren’t we lucky!) and to some degree that is just a reflection of buying opportunity and inclination, although admittedly we are well-documented Felix fans. I believe I own about 50 or so variations on photos of people posting with an array of Felix, and about two thirds of those are these posed photo postcards.
I have come to realize that my readership does not perhaps (inconceivable to me) value or enjoy these images as much as I do. Quite simply expressed however, it is my feeling that I should own all of them. And I never, ever tire of them nor find one that I do not consider fascinating. As I have previously opined, I envision a book devoted to these photos someday – perhaps just a self-published or a publish on demand, so at least I can admire them all in a handy way. (Although that implies a sense of completion which I am unwilling to consider.) Sadly our wall space falls well short of being able to display them all. So, while I can hear some of you tsk, tsk-ing and saying, “She’s at it again” I plunge ahead with this latest discovery. It is my intention to move on next week. (I have a beaut of a photo for movie fans.)
So, now to our photo. Darned if I can figure out what junior, posing here, has in his hands. I am going to settle on it being a ball. I can’t say that he looks especially charmed by Felix either which is too bad. Little did he know that it might be his only shot at immortality. (I say this with all due respect and as a guesstimate of course, as I have no idea who he is or might have grown into being.) The stairs and strolling folks in the background create a nice dynamic. This jaunty “adult size” sort of Felix is my favorite and the type I would want to pose with. (Yes, I have spent time considering this.) He is pleasantly enormous and a close look reveals some wild whiskers on him. Someone has written 1924 on the back of the card along with a short column of numbers that don’t make sense. Somehow it doesn’t look like it was written at the time though and 1924 seems a tad early to my thinking.
So I leave you to contemplate this one woman’s obsession – and a nod to those of you who might actually share it.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is the first of a weekend two part mini-series featuring family photos as two splendid photo postcards arrived in the mail this week. I think both are quite wonderful in many ways, but as I sit down to write it is the idea of family I am struck by – the jolly family-ness of both of them. I am launching my endeavor with this beauty of a family posing with Felix on this photo postcard, one of two I promised last week. This one’s a gem! Like most of these (Pam) treasured cards, this one was never mailed and there is nothing noted on the back, therefore names and precise location are lost to the sands of time.
Dad, Mom and tot are the family unit today and somehow our itinerant Felix photographer turns out to be a really great one and has gotten it all just right. Felix is in exactly the best position so he is (tail and all) pointing right up at the kid. The child’s face is all screwed up in a sun squint, although he’s sort of smiling too. Mom and Pop are looking on, amused and somewhat child-boastful. Junior is standing on his own two feet, perhaps a newly developed skill set for this fellow. Meanwhile, Felix is a bit like a second, only slightly smaller child and mohair covered member of the family.
I always am struck by how fully dressed folks seem to always be on the beaches in Britain during this early 20th century period. Dad is in a full suit, tie, vest and oxfords. His hat is tilted back on his head in a nice somewhat rogue-ish way. Mom is in full dress regalia with her striped white dress, stockings and shoes. (Somehow all I can think of is the amount of sand they must have had to get out of their shoes and clothes at the end of the day.) There is a towel on the back of dad’s chair and a pail for the youngster, lurking behind Felix’s tail. More suited, hat wearing and layered up adults spot the background. We will assume it wasn’t one of Britain’s warmer beach days.
Somehow our photographer has captured the three of them (four if we count Felix) in the foreground, apart from others on this crowded beach. The pleasant visual din of everyone else blurs slightly while our family is sharply in focus. In a sense, it is enough to say that this is how family’s see themselves, no matter large or small, a part of the world and yet separate and special.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For any Pictorama devotees who are less than enchanted with my collection of photos of people posing with outsized Felix the Cat dolls, the next several weeks may present something of a challenge. So sorry! While today’s post focuses on one that I have pulled off our wall and have owned for years, I have acquired two more that are winging their way toward me even as I type. Yes, pleasantly enough, I have a small wall devoted to these and frankly I have about as many I could hang and have not yet. I could cheerfully fill a room with them.
Frankly my appetite for these photo postcards remains utterly undiminished. Even I am a bit amazed that I remain as enchanted with acquiring each new one as I was by discovering my first. My reaction is the same every time – I love it and I’m amazed and gratified that it even still exists. That’s not to say some of these aren’t better than others – I especially love the one I am sharing today – but in the end each has its own charm for me. Each person, couple or group, frozen in time, the remembrance of lovely day gone by. Everyone with a different version of an over-sized Felix.
For one thing this is a well composed photo and not every wandering picture taker who bought a huge Felix (and still I ponder – where are those dolls?) knew how to put a photo together. This photographer certainly did, although some of it was luck. I love the composition in front of these columns – the striped dress on the one woman is somehow happily repeating that pattern. The bricks provide another pattern, as do the fabrics of their clothes and hats. I like the little slice of action behind the other woman and the long look behind them of other columns giving it great depth. It is my single regret that somehow it is the tiniest bit over-exposed and the one column disappears a bit at the top. We could use the tiniest bit of line there and over the white hat.
These women are dressed in lovely spring-summer costumes for their day out. White shoes and stockings! Pretty dresses and hats! It makes me want to go out and buy a spring dress. (Honesty compels me to confess it is not a hard inclination to create – this time of the year I positively yearn for spring dresses.) They are holding this enormous, slightly tipsy, lop-sided Felix up by the arms. He looks like he’s has a decided list to one side and his arms are very long indeed. Still, he has a great Felix face and large nicely pointy ears. Unlike some of these fellows, he’s in good shape and doesn’t look as if he has been dragged over hill and dale as much as some I have seen recorded. There is a mysterious form – shadow? – in the lower right corner and if you look carefully, bits of developer down at the bottom which has left some white spots. Although this is a very nice photo, those are a reminder that these were done in haste, somewhat sloppily, unlike a studio photo.
Anyway, I offer it to you today, on what is one of Manhattan’s first truly spring-like days. Cats dozing by an open window, winter on the run at long last. A visual reminder of another perfect spring day, somewhere in Great Britain past.
Pictorama Collection, Pams-Pictorama.com
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As of the writing of this post, this third photo postcard of someone posing with a full size two dimensional Felix is the last in my collection. The Felix in this one bears a remarkable resemblance to the second one I wrote about – a variation on the tongue out, lascivious looking Felix. (If you missed the December 10 post it is here Blackpool, Felix Cutout Continued). As I predicted in that post, it makes for a very strange photo with a child. This little girl seems either dumbfounded or, more likely, terrified of him. She is holding the end of his tail in a rather unconvinced fashion – you can just imagine someone telling her to hold onto him, and his tail being the closest and safest seeming piece to hold onto. Scrawled on the back in fairly childish handwriting is the name, Margaret Bettell-Wilkinson.
If you look carefully, an entire amusement park has been painted into the background. There is something which resembles the base of the Eiffel Tower, although maybe they were just aiming for some sort of ride. There is a Ferris wheel and these sort of exhibition hall style buildings – I wonder if this was a specific park they were painting? Perhaps the one the photo studio was in or near. There is that fence with its very forced perspective as well and whatever went on below and above it which is too dark to tell.
The little girl, Margaret we will assume, could be considered a bit woebegone under any circumstances although to some degree as you look at early photos of children, if they are not really dressed up they tend to look tatty by our standards today. I think people in general had fewer clothes and kids wore them hard. This little girl does have a nice beret on and a sporty coat. I think it is her skinny, bare legs and droopy socks, combined with her effort to put some space between her and Felix, that makes her look at bit sad. Fair to say, at least in this context, Margaret is just not a Felix fan!
While one might think that perhaps photos where people are not at their happiest or best do not end up being saved, this just isn’t true. We all know this. Oddly, we hang onto all the photos of our loved ones in the end. A photo of someone, a pet, or something else you care about is hard to throw out even if they look funny or it is a bit blurry. It is even hard to delete these on your phone – where you know all those photos are piling up and you get constant warnings about storage being full. This is a fortunate part of human nature for the photo collector like myself, but the bane of the organized and the squeezed for space. Still, once a photo was made into an object like this wonderful postcard, you could never throw it out – even when your now 35 year old daughter comes home and says you should get rid of that thing. I am so very relieved no one listened.
Posing with Felix at Blackpool, Pams-Pictorama.com
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Devoting ourselves further today to the ever-important work of discovering and discussing Felix the cat photos! This is the second in a three part series of photo postcards taken with a wooden, handmade Felix. When you think about it, despite having to find someone to draw and paint Felix freehand, it was a much smaller investment and less of a commitment than the life-size doll, took up less space in the studio too. Still, a general sense of jolliness prevails.
Here we have a card which is a recent acquisition of mine taken of these two roguish fellows having a holiday in Blackpool, England. (It was never sent and nothing written on the back, therefore I am taking the seller’s word for the fact it was taken in Blackpool.) There are fewer of these photo postcards where Felix is merely a board cut-out to be posed with – or were fewer saved for me to find? While they may not offer the glory of the larger than life-size stuffed Felix at the seaside, someone was still having a mighty fine time posing with him while on holiday. I scooped this one up on eBay, what appeared to be minutes after it having been posted in England as a buy it now. Didn’t even have to wait for an auction. It was waiting for me.
Without any real firsthand knowledge, it appears that Blackpool is a holiday spot which may be a working class, distinctly family oriented holiday locale. A quick look online shows Blackpool on the seashore and sites that rent houses and RV’s and continues as a resort today. Despite their suits, these fellows look less prosperous and less devil may care than last week’s subject in Felix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1, and the painted background is also less evocative and interesting. This Felix offers his arm, just like that one, however these guys aren’t having any of that. Unlike that Felix in his happy dancing pose, this one is a bit lascivious. (What’s with the tongue Felix? Can we really imagine small children posing with him?) In fact, these gentleman stand behind Felix as if they are friends of his, taking him home after a long night at the pub, before he can really get himself in trouble. However, here these gentlemen are, in suit and tie – handkerchief and hat for one – posing for the camera; their holiday visit recorded for us to consider, barreling on toward a century later.
In closing, just for the heck of it, I am including a link to a 1920 Felix cartoon, The Circus to help put you in the high mystic mood. It has lots of mice and one of them even does the Felix dance!
Photo postcard from the Pictorama Collection
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am writing this in anticipation of receiving a similar card I just purchased, another of folks with a Felix cut-out prop. I consider these Felix cut-out cards a sub-genre of the photo postcards posing with the stuffed Felix which I collect- admittedly with some passion! I originally thought them lesser, but I have developed an affection for these, each Felix painted freehand and obviously off-model by whoever they were able to hire for the job – some better, some less skillful – and I decided an examination of them might be fun. I have owned this one for a long time – it sits cheerfully on the wall near the kitchen with many of the other Felix postcards. The stage set in this one has a nice background too. I wonder if it was only used for Felix or if it had multiple uses – Mickey perhaps?
This Felix is in the happy dancing pose (in the very early cartoons he would dance around in a circle when especially pleased with himself) an attempt which was nicely ambitious on the part of the creator. The face could be a bit more Felix-y, and this version looks like he could lose a few pounds in the tummy too. I never thought of Felix a tubby guy. Still, the spirit of the cat is there!
The posing fellow in question is looking fashionably casual in his white ducks and blazer – I think I detect argyle socks – open collar shirt. I suspect that linking his arm through Felix’s wasn’t his own idea, but that of the photographer. The background makes us think he and Felix are on embarking on a sea voyage – I get the feeling that this was likely taken at a seaside resort in Britain or Australia, but is unidentified. We don’t know if it was the fellow in the photo, but someone thought enough of this photo to keep it for almost 100 years.
The link here, Felix Saves the Day, is for an early Felix cartoon, one mixed with a lot of live action. At the very end you can catch his happy dance which inspired this pose.