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.

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.

 

Musical Interlude

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a snowy sleety March day here at Deitch Studio and I have been rummaging around in the flat files, looking for some hidden gems in the line of sheet music, which I had a vague memory of tucking away. I was not disappointed as this splendid item jumped out at me. I know I purchased it on eBay,  but I have no memory of when or the specifics around it. I showed it in one of my first posts, Meow! Kitty Sing-a-long three years ago. Hotsy-totsy kitty illustrated here, doing his dance to a rollicking piano rag! I especially like his big tongue lolling out and the little lines of electric energy around him. That cat is taking off!

Strangely, if you search Youtube you pretty much find a pile of videos about cats on hot bricks. I didn’t watch any, despite the descriptions as hilarious. There were also several options for learning English, odd. Lastly there was just this one rendition of what we will assume this piece actually is and it does not really come across as my idea of rollicking, but you can make up your own mind if you wish here – Cat on Hot Bricks. Give a shout out if you can find a publication date and/or a better rendition!

Not surprisingly, the expression cat on hot bricks is akin to like a cat on a hot tin roof, meaning skittish, restless or anxious. Our friend Mr. Google also reveals an even earlier rendition of the expression, like a cat on a hot bake-stone (nope, doesn’t roll off the tongue, I agree) which evidently dates back to John Ray’s proverbs of 1678. Poor kitties! Cat on a hot tin roof is an expression I use frequently, but not without an unpleasant image coming to mind.

Ezra Read, the person who is credited with penning this ditty, lived from 1862 until 1922. He was born into “humble circumstances” to a master lock maker who had him and his brothers apprenticed to a blacksmith, which evidently was considered a step up. Ezra and his brothers, James, John Colley and Eber, also worked in the lock shop. However, their father found the money for piano lessons for John who in turn taught Ezra to play. John became an organist of note. Ezra married Beatrice Ida Hampton (known as Ida) who played piano and violin, and together they composed over 4000 pieces under a pile of pen names. Their biggest hit seems to be something called Cinderella Waltz (1910). How popular is questionable as I cannot find a recording of it despite the sheet music having sold millions of copies. (Although, in all fairness, this may be due to the popularity of Cinderella theme music in general.) Ezra and Ida led a somewhat itinerant life until Ida’s death in 1912 at age 45. He eventually settled in Derbyshire where he played for silent films at a local theater. At his death it is said that barrow loads of music were taken from his house. (We collectors all have visions that are a variation on this in our future!)

This fine piece is officially getting dusted off and, along with a few other gems, such as this one below featured in Felix – Here He is Again, will be framed up and brought to my new office at Jazz at Lincoln Center!

Felix sheet music

Felix sheet music, my collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

A Maybe Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Yep, Happy Birthday to me once again – and get a look at this glorious new toy for the Pictorama collection! This fellow, known as a Yes/No Felix made the trip across the ocean from my friend a toy source (my supplier, shall we say?) named Regine who lives in Belgium. She had this fellow up on eBay a few months back, pre-Christmas. I hesitated on him as he no longer has his Yes/No function – you moved something (tail? arms) and he nodded his head yes or shook it no. This one appears to remain mute. I reached out to a friend and collector to ask his opinion about purchasing a toy that had lost this original functionality. His answer made me laugh – he said that to his knowledge he had perhaps used the yes/no on his Felix immediately upon purchase and to his memory never in all the subsequent years. He did however, ask said Felix if I should purchase the toy and his Felix said Yes! Luckily Regine still had him and so I acquired him, for my birthday – or to be more accurate my very generous husband the ever-wonderful Kim Deitch bought him for me and Regine got him here in record time.

Felix turned out to be larger than I anticipated (always a happy discovery) and a great specimen of Felix toy really. I love his comical tummy bulging shape, googly eyes and his large, goofy ears! More than the other toys (all ranging pretty far from the cartoon design to be honest) he is like Felix’s elder statesman uncle – the one who pulls silver dollars from behind your ear. While he is a completely different design from all the toys by other makers, he is similar to another Felix by the same maker, Schuco. That one that originally wound up and walked and was produced later than the Yes/No. (Mine no longer walks either, perhaps there was something about the mechanisms on these Schuco toys? He is a long story of his own which we may or may not get to one of these days here at Pictorama.)

Below is our man as a Christmas gift in his youth. Regular readers will remember this from just a few months ago posted in A Very Felix Christmas – and to think I had no idea at the time that this Yes/No fellow would be coming to live here!

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Let’s turn back the clock a bit. In the beginning of collecting, shortly after my first toy cat purchases – several splendid stuffed cats from the early part of the 20th century which were unearthed at antique stores in Red Bank, New Jersey – I discovered Felix the Cat toys with my first purchase of one at a flea market in London. I was off and running! Yet it was quite a while before I knew anything about them or who made these Felix toys. For some reason I thought that Germany was a likely maker of the European version of these American cartoon toys – or perhaps France?

It was a number of years before I discovered that the majority of my beloved Felix-es were made in Great Britain. I have examined this in different ways in a number of earlier posts including Felix as Cat and most definitely East London Toy Company, one which I myself refer back to periodically. The British were a hotbed of Felix production, companies such as Dean’s Rag Company and others. They far outstrip Felix’s home turf of the USA where he seems to have been somewhat neglected on that front despite his extraordinary film fame.

Anyway, all this to say that I ultimately learned that outside of Britain the production of Felix toys, particularly stuffed ones, was pretty much limited to a few models of Steiff on the US front and Schuco in Germany, and I have sited the two stuffed Schuco Felix toys above. Schuco was founded in Germany in the year 1912 and seems to be primarily a maker of rather indestructible looking metal cars and trucks. Odd that they should make Felix toys with a tendency toward mechanical breakdown. However, I have a lovely little Schuco bird which still functions – for this one see the post Tweet, Tweet, Tweet.

So thank you Kim! Thank you Mel for your advice (Felix’s too) and thank you Regine! You all, along with Felix, have softened the blow of growing one year older.

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…

Periquito, the Spanish Felix of Chocolate Cards

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: I considered these quite a find. There were at least another three, but they went high and this was as many as (perhaps more than!) I could afford. It is evident that these were chocolate cards – sort of the Spanish version of Felix meet Bazooka Joe of the 1920’s, and needless to say (all due respect Joe) a heck of a lot better. This Felix doppelganger is pretty charming in his own right, even if he is an knock off. I can only find a passing reference to this series of cards. (Admittedly, I might do better if I read Spanish.) Each one is numbered and the back seems to say there are 25 cards in the series. The one reference I found said there was a total of 48 images. As you can see, I have numbers 9, 13 and 21. I am especially partial to #9 where Faux Felix makes a nice little hammock for himself after seeing the human enjoying one. However, all of them are very charming indeed.

Each card has an explanation of the comic on the back – for those who can’t get the joke on their own I guess. The cat’s name translates to something along the line of Parakeet or Budgie the Mischief Cat. I can’t quite figure out where the bird element comes in, but it may be the limitations of the Google translation. I invite Spanish readers to enlighten me on any of these points.

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Below is a useful thumbnail history from a Spanish site, Tebeosfera, and translated by our friend, Mr. Google:

Series of comic strips featuring the cat “Periquito”, which included translations (probably unlicensed), copies and imitations of the famous character of animation “Felix the Cat” (Felix the Cat) made by several Spanish authors of the Editorial Marco as Regúlez in his own head parakeet (1927) and other publications of the house asRin-tin-tin by authors such as Juan Martinez and Castillo Osete. Subsequently, these cartoons also appear in La Risa in 1950.

In the twenties several collections of character trading cards as dumb cartoons were cartoons, advertising various chocolatiers on the back, as they were also published as Adventures Budgie Cat by Tinez and New Adventures of Periquito Cat by Bofarull.

The name “Jack Budgie” was the most common translation in Spain the popular Felix the cat in the animated short films released in cinemas in the mid-twenties of the twentieth century, which also went on to become the usual nickname followers football club Espanyol (still in force), thanks to the jokes Castanys for satirical football weekly the Xut (1922) and others like the sports Whip (1930), where fans of that team is parodied, calling them ” four cats”. [This piece mystifies me a bit.]

Black Cat editorial also published a similar character named “Jack Periquín” in the Children ‘s Joy (1930).

The site above also has this page of comics which is a much clearer Felix rip off of sorts, sample below. After looking carefully however, it seems that just the logo is the rip-off Felix and the comic is a real one in translation.

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Not in my collection, found at Tebeosfara.com

I have also found this nifty book on Google images which would have held your collection of Periquito cards below.The cards can be found for sale on some Spanish auction sites. I love the fact that he is a bit tubby and he has that extra long tail. He’s like the good living, European cousin of our man.

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Periquito Card Book, not in my collection

I am not sure I understand entirely, but I think the term Gato Periquito is still in use to describe mischievous kitties and therefore if you search on this you will also get a lot of Spanish cat videos and photos of cats getting into all sorts of trouble. As for me, having discovered this kissin’ cousin of my man Felix, you know I will be looking for Gato Periquito toys and other items.

Ho, ho, ho – a Felix Find

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: In my business (if you can call acquiring things and never selling any a business) it is rare to come across an early stuffed Felix that is really different than those I have seen, and in some ways this magnificent Christmas gift from Kim is one of those. Purchased from a British store I stumbled across online called All You Can Bear located some place in Great Britain, I was immediately very enamored of him. After paying a king’s ransom (thank you Santa Kim!) he arrived in a sizable box shortly after Thanksgiving. Christmas Day finally arrived for this Felix fanatic – and there he is in all his glory! This fellow is larger than I fully absorbed from the listing photos and the design of his tail as a sort of third leg makes him take up considerable space. (This will cause some major reshuffling among the stuffed shelves of our apartment!) He is shown here on Christmas morning, atop of a pile of very fine Deitch art work, complete with Christmas lights.

At first I thought he might be related to the Felix below, one that I have always considered the strangest design and of great curiosity, and that I wrote about in the aptly named post Odd Felix. The one below no longer stands, if indeed he was ever designed to, and the face is different, but there is something similar to our new inhabitant about the design of the body and the ears. It is hard to tell from my photo, but as I mention above, the new Felix uses his tail as a sort of third leg. However, looking at them side-by-side I am less inclined to think their origin is the same. The new Felix is an entirely new design for me.

Doggy Felix

Very Unusual Felix in Pictorama Collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

One of the reasons I love to collect these toys is that every single one of them ended up with a different expression and this makes them very human for me. After learning that many of those toys, made in London, were hand assembled by women (a blog post of mine I keep going back to myself, East London Toy Factory, Ltd.) it makes sense. It is what has always charmed me most about these guys and this one beguiled me immediately from his listing page. He looks as if he is about to begin a great oration – hand (paw?) held aloft. Or, from another angle, like he has a crazy secret or really off-color joke which is cracking him up and that he can barely keep to himself. Hmm – Felix, what could that be?