Cat’s Eye on Parade


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Portland, OR is penciled on the back of this card and given the great history of the cat parade float there I would assume it is true! (The seller seemed to be offering a number of Portland Rose Parade related photo postcards so perhaps it was an album of them.) For those of you who have been here since the beginning of this blog know that some of my earliest photo postcard posts hailed from this auspicious location where extraordinary parade floats – sporting Felix and black cats of other kinds – seem to have been the norm at the early part of the 20th century. This card, with its enormous glowing cat eye and cat outline alight in bulbs was not clear to me at first. Once I looked carefully and realized what it was, I was utterly enamored.

This precious card was never mailed and there is no obvious way to date it. If I knew a bit more about the history of printing these cards I might be able to make a more sophisticated guess, but I would say the aughts or the teens looking at the costumes and how the card is made.

This enormous kitty, arched back, has his own bright eye and spiky lit-up whiskers, big bow around his neck, and then there’s that huge single cat eye glowing in the middle of the float. In reality it is amazing that in the dark with just the kitty float for light that they were able to get such a good photo. Written in a neat hand at the bottom it says, The Catseye, 15 ft high, 60  yds black velvet, bows [sic?] up back, lifts its tail opens & closes its mouth. How I would have liked to see it in action! Oh lucky costumed few who got to ride on it. Can’t help but wonder what it all meant. Perhaps a secret society like the Hoo-Hoos as outlined in my post Spirit of the Golden West? Could be that very one. I have never belonged to a secret society, but if I could find one that promoted parade floats like this one I would be very tempted indeed – it would have to be some kind of interesting. I will pull Cookie and Blackie into a huddle later and see if we can come up with a plan. A good project for me and the kits this winter. (We’ll let Kim join too I think.)



Spirit of the Golden West


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Of course I had to have this wonderfully whacky card. The giant cat with the curling tail would be enough, but the folks in the strange wizard outfits are also bringing something to the situation. I am interested in the man in front standing with his arms crossed – he’s almost falling out of the photo frame. The old blanket on the horse and the get up of the rider sets the tone too – and June or not, Portland is still looking a tad chilly and I am not seeing a lot of roses.

In the early days of this blog I opined several times on the evident greatness of early photos of Portland, Oregon as well represented in my collection. Among these Felix on Parade figured prominently, but Tom the Fire Boat Cat is a contender too.

However, it was researching this really splendid new card that I began to find out about the Portland Rose parade and the history of the parade and the roses. Evidently the parade started in 1905 when the mayor, Harry Lane, got the idea for a parade honoring Portland as The Rose City at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition – the first was held in 1907 and the parade, which was always held in June signaled the beginning of summer. Below is an excerpt from a website about the Rosarians which talks about the 1909 parade:

1909-In June, at high Noon, Rex Oregonus again coming up the majestic Willamette River from the greatest sea of them all, stepped ashore at the Stark Street wharf, masked and mantled in mystery, this time without a Queen. Great crowds of happy and enthusiastic people greeted his arrival. An epochal crowd, estimated by the press at 150,000, saw the stately floats glide by, among them the Queen of the Nile, the Palace of Perfume, King of the Artics, Fountain of Youth, Queen of the Flowers, and Father Time. The festival’s floats achieved national fame for beauty and cleverness of design. (See more at: The Royal Rosarians – The Early Years)

Roses aside – what about the use of black cats in the festival? In my post Cats on Parade I feature a card from this parade that is a bit a bit later than this one from 1909. That one seemed to be from about 1915 and in that image the black cats were riding in the car! Today’s card may provide a clue. Written on the back in a very neat hand is the following: Dear Mary – This is a floral representing the Fraternal Order of Hoo-Hoos, whose symbol is a black cat. Yours with best wishes, Tom (It was not mailed.)

This leads, obviously, to the question of who the Hoo-Hoos are and what’s with the black cat? The International Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo (according to Wikipedia) was founded in 1892 as young men’s fraternal organization for those associated (at least broadly) with the lumber industry, or forestry. (Men only – 21 or older originally. Now you can be 18 or older – I am fuzzy on the admission of women.) Their symbol is a black cat with the tail curled into a #9. Sadly, the story behind the cat remains shrouded in the mystery of the Hoo-Hoos. I have, however, supplied a copy of their symbol below – and even better, an early photo of the Seattle lodge with, yes, if you look carefully, a pair of black cats guarding the door!