The Boys and Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have periodically opined on how much fun it would be to have your photo taken with a nice Felix the Cat doll and this one looks like a third child in the photo. Felix is such a handy size I wonder if it is a prop (probably) or actually belongs to these youngsters. I know if it was I as a tiny tot, I’d have been bellowing for him to come home with me; greedy, thankless child that I was. These two kids look quite jolly, the older one downright debonair – perhaps best not to meet him as a gent (or cad) around town later in life. The younger one appears to be trimmed out in fur which seems all odd from today’s standards. Even in our own decadent times – fur trimmed outfit for your toddler?

This photo seems like the sort of studio shot taken for the purpose of eventually ending up on grandma’s table of treasured family photos. My mother’s mom had studio portraits, large ones, of my mother and her brother, both in graduation cap and gowns, as I remember. The one of my mother had hand colored tinting, and it was the first time I ever saw that in a photo. As a kid I was endlessly fascinated by it. I can see it in my mind now, hanging in the dining room (housing a table which occasionally held food, but we absolutely never ate at – that was done in the kitchen with a table and space which both somehow magically expanded to fit an infinite number of family members as required) on a flocked print wallpaper, gray with a green design. The photo did not look like my mother, mostly because her nose was broken and not set properly shortly after high school when the photo was taken. I didn’t know that until I was older and wouldn’t have thought to ask for an explanation for the transformation. My uncle looked exactly the same – his Howdy Dowdy resemblance following him into adulthood and beyond. As the younger brother his photo was true color and his bright red hair and freckles stood out.

When my grandmother moved out of her house and into a nursing facility, much was disposed of and a small number of things were absorbed by my mother and uncle – who by that time was living down south, but collected a number of things. I do not know what happened to the photos, my mother was not overly fond of hers so she clearly did not claim them. I do not know if my uncle did. I must think to ask my mother when I call her later today.

 

Pop Goes Felix

Pam Photo Post: This photo interested me and I went to some trouble to acquire it. It is a bit mysterious. The photo is large, about 10″x12″ and the surface is a photo paper with a slight toothy gloss. On the side of the box the girl is seated on it reads C. Bennett Moore, No. 3. If you look carefully, you can see that the actual box is open and empty and the words have just been dropped in over the shadow from it.

Meanwhile, C. (Charles) Bennett Moore is evidently the name of the photographer. Mr. Bennett (1879-1939, although one online source has him die in 1936) was ultimately known best for hand painted versions of his own photographs of New Orleans. Born in Minnesota, he served in the Spanish American War before showing up in New Orleans and going to work for a photographer named Emil Rivoire, ultimately taking over his studio and renaming it for himself after Rivoire’s death. A contemporary of E.J. Bellocq, but with a sensibility which ran to architecture and portraiture, he did not achieved the same level of fame. (He should also not be confused with the younger civil rights photographer Charles Moore.)

I can’t say I am a fan of the painted photographs. Whatever interest or charm the photos might have had is sufficiently destroyed with what it would only be slightly unfair to refer to as ham-handed painting. There is evidently however some market for them, but we will just agree to disagree on that point. Meanwhile, and more to the point, Kim senses that my photo is a generation lost as well and I see what he means. That could just be a negative increased in size, or maybe it is wholly reproduced. It appears to be on photo paper, but a thick one, so I remain unsure. The size is also so strange. There is also a weird sense of manipulation to it – not just the added words but a soften quality to the image.

The seller of the photo speculated that the girls were actually young women dressed as girls and a close look confirms this. The seller goes on to further consider that they were likely vaudeville performers or even silent film actresses – I am more inclined to agree with the first than the second thought. One sports boyish garb with hat and dandy gingham tie, while the second is very girlish.

Mr. Moore might be advertising himself, albeit subtly, using this prop with his name neatly in script on the side. For me, it was of course this really splendid Felix jack-in-the-box that caught my attention. I love that toy! I was the kind of kid who never tired of my jack-in-the-box, musical as I remember. Hers has a sort of strap for handy transport. It appears the Felix just pops up – my childhood version was wound up by a handle. The stuffed dog on the leash is pretty nice too. That Felix though – a great toy which I have never (not yet anyway) had the opportunity to make my own. This brings me a bit closer.

So, I wonder – was this photo some sort of advertising for C. Bennett Moore? There is nothing written on the back, but a slip of paper included with the photo dates it to 1923 which seems like a reasonable guess-timate for the year, although I see nothing to support it. Was it used somehow in conjunction with these young women and their show? Once again, those details are most likely lost to the sands of time, but I am content since I am in it for the toys.

Change?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Luckily for me someone thought this was Felix and posted it on eBay where I snatched it up immediately. I believe this little change purse (obviously much beloved by one or several children over its lifetime) is Norokuro, the Japanese cat/dog character of early comic fame there. I have written about Norokuro a few times before when speculating on a celluloid toy (in the post found here, Norakuro, the Japanese Felix? and Pam Toy Post) and someday would love to find a stuffed toy one if such a thing exists – I have seen no evidence of that however. While searching for such a thing I did come across this photo of a larger than life one from an exhibition of his creator’s work, Suiho Tagawa, at a museum in Koto City, shown below. That guy reminds me of the giant Dean’s Mickey Mouse we have in our bedroom, but is a bit disappointing somehow. I am hoping for a more cuddly version to turn up.

Meanwhile, this worn little nubbin of a toy change purse is splendid. I am not certain, but I think his eyes moved originally and the zipper is designed so it looks like a large, toothy, grinning mouth. It is quite small – wasn’t holding much change and a bill would have to be folded some, although I confess I know nothing of Japanese currency at the time and maybe it was more adequate than I think. The inside is surprisingly untouched and new looking, the same blue as the back shown below, with a small tag that reads Chase Japan in English. He is well designed in my opinion. And, quite simply put, I would have been nuts about this as a kid, utterly delighted to own him.

change purse back

I have dim memories of owning less remarkable change purses as a child. This one tugs at my memory and vague, tactile but indistinct memories of mid-sixties versions of my own rise up. I know I had a bright blue cloth change purse in the shape of an animal of some sort, but there were plastic ones too, long lost to time and evidently memory as well. Strange, when I think about it, that change purses are so interesting to children considering that money doesn’t yet have real meaning, and not to mention that during my childhood the ownership of them would have largely excluded boys. Somehow though, if you had one of these with a few coins in your pocket you felt like you had the world on a string!

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Hand-some

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: While this blog is aptly named Pam’s Pictorama it is never jollier here at Pictorama than the days I get to post about a new toy. As I have repeatedly reminded my ongoing readership, this apartment is small and to some degree I try to minimize acquisition so we aren’t crushed by actual mountains of objects and books (albeit really cool stuff) like the proverbial Collier Brothers. Having said that, realistically, thrilling three dimensional objects like this puppet, are added judiciously to the Pictorama collection ongoing.

This is the second puppet to join my collection. The first was featured in an early post, Handy Felix. The new puppet is larger and clearly produced by an entirely different maker, the earlier one possibly a product of the East London Toy Factory, Ltd., a post that has garnered much interest. However, like virtually every single toy I own he is without label or marking of any kind.

I have no idea of this fellow hails from Great Britain or the United States (or elsewhere I suppose). There is something about his appearance that makes me think that he was made in the United States, but it has been pointed out that occasionally I apply a certain amount of imagination to my figuring on these issues.

Unlike the other puppet, this one was not an uncontested find, but neither did I pay a really substantial amount for him. (No, really!) He fell strictly into the category of never having seen it before and better snatch it up while and if I can. As it the case with my other puppet, this fellow is well worn and much loved, his insides a bit of an aging mess which makes me reluctant to speculate on his former usability. His days of puppet shows are largely over, and he will live in comfortable retirement on my shelf, a cohort of two for now.

I do not remember having or playing with puppets as a child, nor do I remember Loren or Edward having any. If I am wrong they have not remained in my memory, which is indeed faulty as are most. This does seem strange to me in retrospect – a fellow like this would have made quite a companion for a small Pam child, toy collector to be. Perhaps the puppets of the 1960’s and early ’70’s were just not up to the job.

Tiny Toy Felix Fiesta

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I will blame this purchase on my travel too as I saw these and put a bid in while I was away and won. Pictorama readers know I have a uncomfortable relationship with celluloid – it is so fragile! This has been documented in the past posts, Fear of CelluloidHappy Life Toy and most recently in Ding Dong Kitty. Nonetheless, I bid on these on a whim – a single one was being sold close to these three, I figured why not bid on the three at the same amount as I would one, and here we are. (Total Pam logic on that one.)

They are identical except one still sports his tiny Felix copyright Pat Sullivan tag on the sole of his foot. Unlike yesterday’s Felix-es, these do not stand independently. One has a tiny hole in the bottom of his foot, but otherwise they are in remarkably good shape with no dents. An indication that they were produced in Japan is embossed on each if you look closely. The strange almost non-existent weight of them somehow brings a visceral sense memory of holding such toys as a child.

Felix foot photo

Tag on Felix’s foot, collection Pams-Pictorama.com

 

As mentioned above, I have already opined on the frail nature of these items and my wonderment on how something so breakable, an inexpensive toy a child would have played with, can make it through some many decades (blasting toward the century mark) relatively unscathed. It is amazing – and probably a credit to mass distribution in part. I would get the same feeling when at the Met I looked at the rare piece of Roman glass which somehow made it down through time unscathed – I mean, I can barely keep glasses in our apartment un-chipped or ultimately smashed, especially with the kitties. Those items somehow survived not only household pets and drunken guests, but fires, earthquakes and wars. Fascinating.

I worry sometimes about whether I am the best steward for certain items. I do not collect what I really feel I cannot care for, keeping china to a minimum for example; paper mache gives me pause occasionally. Those who have visited Deitch Studio know that this is far from being a glass cabinet-ed, dust free facility. Toys are actually pretty much stacked around us, tumbling (especially with the help of cats) onto the bed with some regularity. Somehow we co-exist, the collection and us sentient beings, but as this is a single room I do wonder about the ultimate tipping point. However, for now, these Felix toys are tiny even if there are three of them, and they live quietly on a shelf propped up by a mechanical mouse, in front of a clutch of film books Kim requires access to only occasionally.

 

Flummoxed by Felix

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I am taking a detour today from my discourse on my London loot and circling back to these fascinating Felix-es I purchased on eBay shortly before my trip. I have labeled this a toy post, but honestly, I have no idea what purpose these served so they may indeed not have been proper toys. However, when I saw them I had to have them and here we are now, on a bright if chilly St. Patrick’s Day morning in New York City, coffee in hand, contemplating them.

For once I believe I really did understand the tiny scale of these pre-purchase – no bigger than a quarter. Of course they came from Great Britain (they call it Great for a reason said the Felix collector) which is still the El Dorado of early Felix items, despite my recent disappointing foray. They are made of wood and appear to have been commercially produced – this wasn’t a pattern in a magazine or someone’s one-of-a-kind. The tiny Felix arm (paw?) on one has broken off. The scale is a tad wonky with the hands a bit enlarged. The bottoms are even and they stand up easily on their own, edges sharp. If they are pieces to a game, the most likely thought – I want it!  Surely they would be considered a choking hazard for small children today – and really, who could blame a small child for wanting to give these an experimental chew? I am sure Cookie and Blackie would give them a gnaw if I allowed it.

Here we are in paragraph 3 and I sort of assume it goes without saying that I have never seen the likes these before. My best guess is that they were markers for some sort of game played by grown ups – like a Bingo variation of some kind. My imagination races – were there Felix game boards or cards? How many variations on Felix are there and, most of all of course, will I ever find the rest of it? These are the most pleasant sort of mysteries of life – small and fascinating hints dropped in my way, leading me on a jolly, if long and winding, path of toy discovery.

Along these lines, I share a photograph I found online recently – it is the box for the Felix game I wrote about recently in my post Chocolate Felix. Just going to show, pieces of the toy puzzle do continue to turn up.

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L’il Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Another toy today – and celebrating the acquisition of a new and unusual Felix no less. This fellow hails, at least most recently, from the United States. I have never seen this variation previously.  I spotted him on eBay and, although the bidding was robust, I would have been willing to pay more than I did for him. It is unusual for me to find a design I have never seen, given how much time I devote to looking at them I have seen most I think.

Some of the aspects of this Felix that are not immediately evident are a solidly sewn thread at the back of his head, and printing on his little red ribbon. My theory is that this Felix was a carnival prize which hung from that thread, now torn. (See back view below.) I wish I could read his ribbon, but maddeningly I think one half of it has smudged over time. I think it actually reads Made in… He is about seven inches high. If this gentlemen was a carnival prize, unlike his British counterparts which exist in large numbers speaking to broad popularity, he was not one that was widely distributed. His arms move, his legs and tail were meant to stand him up tripod fashion, although he seems to need some help. It is a very simple design, although the moving arms, glass eyes and felt ears speak to some care and expense.

Felix back

However, this benign faced fellow does not seem to belong to the same clan as those somewhat malevolent toothy grinned Brits. The argument could easily be made that he actually isn’t Felix, but a generic toy cat, but in all the looking at Felix I have done I believed immediately that he was someone’s off-model rendition, cheaply churned out for a cheerful Felix obsessed public. This mild mannered fellow has already found his spot on a bookshelf in our living room – a space that is starting to absorb the toy overflow from our cramped bedroom. Needless to say, I would have been very happy indeed to have won him at a fair. I can see a thrilled, small me, gripping him in one hand, perhaps some cotton candy or a candied apple (love those!) in the other. However, given my skills at those kinds of games, maybe I would have spent as much as I did buying him anyway.

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.

She Who Has the Most Toys Wins

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!

Jimmie and His Cat Toy

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These photos were an unusual purchase. Listed on eBay in two separate offerings of four photos each were these photos of this one little fellow with his cat toy. (The cat toy was advertised as Felix, but I beg to disagree. Nonetheless, we love all cat toy photos here at Pam’s Pictorama, generic or otherwise.) One set of photos, those which are less sepia-toned, are all marked At Aunt Ada’s in Lancaster, Jimmie 4 yrs. on the back. Two have a notation on the front, but those are hard to see in these scans. The others, clearly still of Jimmie and not too long before or after the Lancaster photos, are unmarked. By virtue of how I purchased them, we will assume they stayed together all this time, and it is worth noting that these photos were never glued into an album. If they were in one, which I somehow imagine they likely were, they were secured in another way.

The labeled set of photos seem pretty timeless, but the other set show these to be earlier than I might have guessed. The cloche hat probably puts it back as far as at least the 30’s, and looking at her coat, maybe the early part of that decade. Jimmie is a well dressed little guy and that is a pretty hot tricycle he has as well. I especially like the photo where he is letting kitty drive the trike.

It is, of course, Jimmie’s toy that interests me. At first I was quite convinced that it was one I bid on recently, and was very sorry to lose out on. I supply the eBay photo below. There is a more common, generic black cat toy which is very similar, made of the same oil cloth fabric and general design, that does not carry the Felix name as well. I include one of those, snatched off the internet, below.

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Felix toy not in Pam’s Pictorama collection.

Toy cat, not in Pictorama collection

As I looked more closely at the toy he is holding I decided it is actually closer to this Puss ‘n Boots version I stumbled across while looking for the photo above. (The boots are a give-away!)

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Puss ‘n Boots not in Pam’s Pictorama collection

I admire what these photos show to be Jimmie’s rather single-minded affection for this toy. I wouldn’t mind having that nice cat toy for my own either – maybe someday Santa or the eBay gods will deliver him to me one day.