Isle of Man, 1924

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: When I started collecting photos of people posing with enormous Felix the Cat dolls, taken at resorts across Britain and Australia, it was the sheer boffo wackiness of their existence that enticed me. (If you are a new reader there are many of these posts as I have a fairly substantial collection and you can see a sample in these posts:  Vacation FelixAnother Aussie FelixFelix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1 for starters.) However stranger still in some ways, is the existence of photos like these, where people are posing with a lovely, large but not huge, Felix doll – about the size of one (or two or – okay, several) I own. The Isle of Man is, of course, a resort area and these appear to be vacationing folks. But even as a devotee of stuffed Felix toys (a connoisseur you might even say) exactly how and why a photographer was handing over a large Felix for folks to hold when they were having their photo taken does mystify even me a bit. I am sorry I wasn’t there to enjoy it, and it certainly speaks to Felix’s extraordinary world fame and how beloved he was at the time. Everyone wanted to memorialize that memory of hanging with Felix I guess.

In my post Felix Family Photo it is a similar case and I show the photo featured in it below as well. Another family that scooped up Felix and posed. Just seems to be something people did – not just kids posing with their toys! A family affair.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Our photos, at top, today are quite small, snap shots that barely even seem to have been taken and printed by a professional photographer except for the commercial set in the one. Poorly printed and over-exposed (I somehow imagine that the fellow taking these was tippling a bit) we are once again depending on the magic of Photoshop to improve upon them. Less than perfect though they may be, they were treasured and kept by someone, or numerous someones, for many years before coming to rest here.

It is clearly the same couple and despite the man’s disappearing cap, one assumes the same day and session. I cannot read the jaunty sign behind them on the photo set. (Almost looks like Free Weight?) It took a fair amount of study to realize that, in both photos, Felix is holding a little Felix doll! (Kim managed a detail of it from one of the photos.) Wow! Amazing! On the back of each picture, written neatly in pencil is, taken at Douglas I. of Man and additionally on one 1924. Douglas is the capital of this resort locale. This makes a fine entry into a casual examination of summer vacation photos, as I head toward my own well-earned vacation at the end of August. I can only hope that somehow it too will be Felix filled.

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Vacation Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: No news that when I see one of these Felix tintypes I go to the extremes to acquire it. Somehow the idea that tintypes and Felix existed at the same time entertains the heck out of me – although, by any measure it was getting late in the game for tintypes. Echo Point at Katoomba in Australia, not the only location for such fabulous photo fun of the day, however the evidence many decades later appears to be that it was one of the prime locations. Recently I have proudly displayed other such acquisitions of this type in posts including Another Aussie Felix and one of unknown origin in Felix Featured on Tin. I own several others I have yet to write about.

These three women and Felix look right at home together – them in their summer garb, complete with hats. Felix relaxing like a member of the family. I especially like the jolly striped awning over them. I am guessing that this is mother and daughters – perhaps even grandmother? Some information is sadly lost in this photo as is often the case with these tintypes which seem to suffer most of all from sloppy, on location workmanship. The older woman’s face is the real victim here and the information just isn’t there if you try to drill down on it.

This photo inspires me to think a bit about vacation today however, and Kim and I have been discussing it too. As most of you know, I started a new job a few months ago so I am limited in vacation time this summer. I usually try to take two weeks in the summer and do a serious recharge of my battery. Kim, who as many of you also know, is a maniacally super charged work-aholic also looks forward to this downtime. This year I am piecing together what leave time I have acquired and am running it into Labor Day to extend it as much as I can.

I have pretty much been shot out of a gun since starting the new job – a racehorse let tearing out of the gate, seeing how much ground I can cover in this first lap. Part of me hates to break that stride, but another part knows that time off is needed too. Photos from my friend Eileen’s vacation spent at their weekend home in Vermont – featuring lovely summer fields of green and a truly enviable swimming hole – have lured me into vacation thoughts too. So I won’t begrudge myself a few halcyon days of summer to let my mind wander, eat strawberry ice cream, corn on the cob – days when I have slept late after staying up reading books. Lazing around with my husband losing track of time. This photo makes me yearn a bit for summer activities. Maybe the Fair Haven, NJ Fireman’s Fair this year? A bit of cotton candy or candy apple and a trip on a small, but thrilling ferris wheel. We’ll see. Part of vacation is all in the dreaming and planning.

 

Another Aussie Felix

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am ready to get back to the important work of discussing Felix photographs in order to kick this year off properly. This excellent example enters my small and (I tend to think) rarified collection of tintypes of folks posing with Felix. Some of those were made in Britain, but Australia seems to be the prime locale for them. I own two tintypes from Katoomba (the site of some gorgeous waterfalls located in a park in New South Wales) and two identified as being from the British [Empire] Exposition, one from 1924 and one from 1925, the best of which I memorialized in Little Gem – then several more tintypes which do not declare their place of origin. I have written about one of the Katoomba ones previously in a post which can be found here at Felix Featured on Tin. This one obviously hails from the Royal Agricultural Show Claremont, Western Australia which I gather is still an annual event there.

I wonder when this photo might be from – tintypes lasted in remote parts of this country and for use of souvenir photos like these into the 50’s and potentially even later. I assume at least that is true in Australia and the kids clothes don’t give us much of a clue.

As I have examined previously, people posed not only with Felix, but with Mickey as well. I own two Mickey Mouse tintypes, although only one (Mickey Too) seems to be taken at a fair grounds, pier or amusement park. I have seen real photo postcards of people posing with stuffed Mickeys, like my Felix ones, but was unable to claim possession of them. I also saw (and lost) an amazing image of people posing with a huge Spark Plug, Barney’s Google’s horse as well! I only ever saw the one, on auction via Morphy’s, and was very sad not to win it. (I am determined to find another to add to my collection someday.)

 

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Mickey Photo from a Morphy’s sale, not in my collection

 

While watching a rather excellent and truly gorgeous Australian Western recently (a Kim recommendation) from 1982, The Man from Snowy River, we were discussing the strange cultural parallel universe that Australia and New Zealand seem to exist in. Clearly they were the getting some of our early cultural offerings, as evidenced by these photos with our friend Felix. Meanwhile, they also had their own rich versions of early dance band music, films and literature that run along the lines of American popular culture, but are distinctly their own and those mostly did not make it to us. As for me, I can’t help but fantasize that I am in Australia at a flea market and finding dozens of obscure Felix items…

A Very Felix Christmas

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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…

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A very little Pam and Squeaky the Dog on Christmas morning, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

Let the Toys Begin!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: With Christmas rapidly approaching we at Pictorama are focused, as we so often are, on toys. Today is this splendid pedal car and nice, extra large, jointed Schoenhut Felix which appear to be the property of the toddler labeled Paul Shirley. There is no date and no writing on the photo, except the name near the top.

In some ways this is a timeless photo – or at least considering the toys within a certain period of time, between about 1925 and 1940’s. (Although the type of photo print places this firmly in the latter decade.) It is an extraordinary pedal car owned by Master Shirley. Built solidly like a tank, this toy car looks like it might weigh in at the poundage of a real car today. There is a vague farm vehicle utilitarian design about it. Felix is atop – helping to direct the operation no doubt. Despite the somewhat down at the heels nature of the yard shown, this is a pretty lucky kid toy-wise. One has to imagine that this was an expensive toy car – although I might also consider that it was home constructed. Is that possible? Quite a feat for someone if true, well beyond the average soap derby model.

Was Felix a favorite toy I wonder – or did he end up perched there for other reasons? There is a motometer or hood ornament on this car – sadly it does not appear to be the Felix model – the Felix toy makes me think of it. I have included a very nice example here from a Hake’s sale below in case you are not familiar with this item – I have never had the chance to buy one with nice paint on it like this. I do dream of living in a time when cars were decorated with Felix however – talk about jolly!

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Felix hood ornament, not in my collection

 

As children we all seem addicted to movement and locomotion at an early age. Funny that as tots we immediately want scooters, tricycles, bikes, roller skates, ice skates, sleds and toy cars. Why is that? Nothing like the sight of a bike under the Christmas tree or with a birthday bow to wind you up. We love the movement and speed – a taste of independence perhaps. You started dreaming of the adventures you’d have the moment you saw them. Paul actually seems a bit young and overwhelmed by his toy good fortune – or at least indifferent.

I have a vague memory of a bright red trike early on, but my purple and white two wheeler is the one I really remember. Never owned roller skates, they were not in fashion then I guess. I have very fond memory of sleds, first a wooden one with runners and later a metal one, a sort of flexible flyer, that especially pleased me. Sadly we lived near the ocean where snow did not accumulate and we rarely had very good sledding. We made up for it however with bodies of water that frequently froze for skating – a small pond near our house that froze easily, as well as two rivers that also occasionally froze for our ice skating pleasure. I hope Paul grew to love his toy car over time – not to mention his nice Felix toy – and remembered them both fondly.

Felix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1

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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.

Felix Sells

Pam’s Pictorama: Today I am breaking my own blog rules to bring you a Felix post on a subject I find interesting, but unlike my usual posts, I (sadly) do not own any of the photos or items shown in this post about the brief history of the Winslow B. Felix Chevrolet dealership in Los Angeles.

Living on the other side of the country, I have never had the pleasure of seeing the neon Felix sign in person. As a collector of Felix images I have been aware of it for many years and wouldn’t mind making a pilgrimage one of these days. However, it is the early images of this advertising relationship that really provokes my interest. Shown above, an envelope (currently for sale on eBay as I write this) with an impressive Felix logo. Postmarked November 10, 1938, with two cents metered postage and addressed to the Southern California Telephone Co. (begging the question, why and how did it get saved?) it got me thinking a bit. By coincidence, Kim had just pulled the photo below off of Pinterest to show me and share on Facebook so we had just been discussing the dealership.

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This is quite curious, the woman, holding a package, is posing in front of the post office, with this wonderful Felix who not only has the Chevrolet sign across his tummy, but boasts, Order Yours from FelixI doubt the post office was planning on delivering them, but this three-way advertising bonanza remains a visually pleasing mystery to me as well.

As far as I can gather, it seems the story of the Felix Chevrolet advertising goes something along the lines of this: Winslow B. Felix was a bit of a genius at inventing advertising and selling ploys for his dealership. As the inventor of sales innovations such as the two-day trial for new cars, asking his friend Pat Sullivan for the use of Felix the Cat’s image for advertising – the deal sweetened with the gift of a new car – was a natural. Soon after Felix makes his first appearance on behalf of Chevrolet in 1923 with signs, stationary, statues and who knows what all evolved that is lost to us. Shown below is another one of his advertising tableaus snatched from the Google image file.

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Sadly, a victim of living the high life, Winslow Felix died of head injuries following a polo accident in 1923. He was only 42 years old. Clearly his marketing lives on today. Apologies for the sort of dreadful photo of him below – he deserves better – but it was the only one the internet coughed up for my use.

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