Sour Cherries, Quince and Tomato Water

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The day before Thanksgiving a bag showed up with my doorman and tucked inside were two delightful little jars of jam and a mason jar of tomato water. These were sent by Liz, a colleague, friend and chef who lives in my neighborhood and has so kindly sent along such care packages periodically during the long, shutdown time. Her bag of goodies not only improved our breakfast repast, but set loose a wonderful torrent of memories shared with my mother, mostly of the yard I knew as my grandmother’s, where my mother spent most of her childhood. Today’s post is devoted to those memories.

The jar of tomato water which I am rapidly consuming.

To start, for those of you who have not experienced it, tomato water is the water you drain out of tomatoes. This is sometimes done before canning or cooking tomatoes down in recipes. The result, assuming you like tomatoes, is drink that is like a wonderful burst of summer in your mouth. Liz introduced me to this delight, made me a fan and always includes a mason jar of it. This one is yellow – and tastes of those different tomatoes. Still very yummy and a real treasured reminder of summer as we head into a darker, gloomier season.

Quince tree at The Cloisters

One jam is quince. It is my introduction to it and I like it very much. The only quince trees I ever made the acquaintance of were up at The Cloister’s garden in Fort Tryon Park. There are lovely ancient looking gnarled examples in that garden and a quick read shows that some types can live, with care, longer than a human life span, and that getting them to produce an agreeable fruit isn’t easy. Back in 2012, the New York Times was inspired to devote an article to quince trees, In Praise of the Misunderstood Quince, specifically launching the discussion around those venerable examples of the trees at The Cloisters.

The other jar was plum and sour cherry jam. This one opened a Pandora’s box of taste memory because I have not had sour cherry jam or preserves since childhood. My grandmother used to make it each year – children and their spouses and the grandchildren were all tasked with a morning of picking the sour cherries off of an enormous tree in her yard. As I was a small child I assume my memory of it as being an enormous tree may be a bit exaggerated, but I do believe it was a mature and large specimen.

The yellow ones are similar to the cherries I remember gathering.

The cherries were yellow with a sort of red blush – more yellow than the ones I found to show here but that is the idea. We collected them in plastic buckets – strangely I remember an aqua colored one in use specifically. My grandmother had an enormous, ancient double sink and she would be in the kitchen cleaning them as we brought them in. I don’t think I was privy to the process of cooking them down, but the end result were jars of cherries that would last us the better part of a year. This ideally to be spread on her own homemade bread which we consumed in enormous slabs.

A subsequent conversation with my mom reveals that growing up, when several generations lived in the house I knew as my grandmother’s, the property next door also belonged to them. (I have written about my grandmother’s house and yard twice before. Those posts can be found here and here.)

My grandmother’s house as it looked in 2017.

Mom tells me that her grandmother taught her that it was planted very intentionally, almost entirely with food producing plants to feed the family. (My mother points to this as being particular to the Italian immigrant side of the family which was her mother’s.) Great grandma did not approve of the decorative plants my mother liked – wasted effort and space. To my mother’s memory, in addition to the cherry tree, there was: an apricot, a walnut, a chestnut, something called a freestone peach (which evidently failed to produce much), and two pear trees. My mom remembers her father always keeping walnuts from the tree in his pocket to share with the occasional inquisitive squirrel who would come and take it from his hands.

An undated photograph of a wedding feast in what I knew as my grandmother’s yard. The grape arbor, in keeping with the food theme, was gone by the time of my childhood.

I remember the chestnuts on the ground there. (Of course I was very small and closer to the ground than the fruit bearing part of a tree after all.) The furry, prickly outside of the chestnuts always fascinated me, as did the surprise of the velvety smooth chestnut inside. I never developed a taste for chestnuts, my father was fond of them though and I believe we did toast them in our fireplace experimentally one winter. My dad would buy them on the street here in Manhattan where you can smell them roasting in winter even now. (Well, at least in the now before now – are there chestnuts roasting without tourists in midtown?) The chestnut tree was an odd survivor of a nationwide blight (not unlike that which destroyed so many American Elms), and mom says people from Rutgers came to study it and photograph it as a survivor.

Chestnuts in their furry wrappers.

I love walnuts so I am surprised I have no memory of those on the ground or of that tree specifically. The parcel of land to one side of the house was sold when I was still very small, although mom says the walnut tree was near the garage so not sold off as was one of the pear trees which sadly was cut down to build the house there.

Mom says she adored the pear trees and that she can remember eating pears right off of them. One tree was on the property that was sold and was cut down for the house to be built. The other of those two trees was destroyed by a lightening strike which split it down the middle, leaving only charred halves. Mom said it was like losing an old friend.

She shared other memories of climbing up into the apricot tree, which had a long, low lying branch, to read her library books in the summer. She and her friend Jackie had competitions to see how many books they could read in a summer – I did the same with my friends as a kid, must have been her idea. It was the beginning of my life-long voracious reading habit.

Despite being housebound these days my mother still enjoys the garden, in her recently acquired home on a small plot of land. Under her instruction, the yard has been planted by a patient and lovely man known only to me as Mike, with many flowering plants – however specifically and thoughtfully designed to feed the birds, bees, butterflies and wildlife she likes to attract and to watch from the windows. A garden that provides, but in a very different way.

Felix’s New Jersey Parade

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is pure coincidence that I just purchased this 8×10 Felix balloon Thanksgiving Day parade photo just a week before the holiday this year, but the timing was right. As someone who constantly sorts through Felix minutia I see many photos and copies of photos of Felix parade balloons. Many are pretty common, but occasionally one jumps out at me as this one did. (I blogged about some interesting Felix parade balloons from Portland, Oregon and that 2014 post can be found here.)

Turns out that this photo is from the Newark, New Jersey Bamberger’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It came from a New Jersey album, and was identified within the album as the Bamberger’s parade in the 1930’s, according to the seller. There is indeed deep lore about the rivalry between the Garden State’s claim on the first Thanksgiving Day parade and the Manhattan counterpart. Those laurels are frequently claimed by Macy’s here in New York City with their parade in 1924 premiere – and there is no evidence to support a Newark parade before 1931. In reality though it was evidently Gimbels in Philadelphia that lays claim to that title zipping in first by launching theirs 1920.

As a Jersey girl born and bred I can tell you that growing up Bamberger’s was a retail pillar in the state. In particular, it was the anchor store for the large mall in our own area – the Eatontown Mall – which continues to limp along today. That mall was the site of many of my teenage adventures after being a fixture of serious shopping, such as back-to-school shopping, of my childhood.

Additionally, cousins of my mom’s worked at Bamberger’s throughout their entire adult lives, and it was an extra treat to go see them at work when I was a kid. I remember a period when Patti worked in the jewelry area and I want to say, strangely, that her mother Grace worked in the book department, at least for awhile. (Department stores had book departments – the world was a different place.)

Patti continued to work there her entire adult life as did Grace, for decades after it was consumed by Macy’s, Bamberger ultimately losing that longstanding battle, long after his own day of course. (During the course of the pandemic, Patti celebrated her 50th year of working there – and was promptly laid off. So much for employee loyalty. Although of course Macy’s is fighting its life as well in this ongoing pandemic retail morass.)

Back in March of last year I wrote about a pair of early Felix balloons from a stereocard which I ascribed to the Macy’s Day parade but looking at this photo now I wonder. That post can be found here and the photos below.

Felix stereocard. Pams-Pictorama.com collection

There is nothing written or printed on the back of this recently purchased photo, but my guess is that even if it had not been identified in the album and by the seller, this street is easily identifiable as Newark of the time. I particular I love the shot of W. T. Grant Co. across the street. This was another childhood favorite and known to us simply as Grants.

Our branch of Grants was in the town of Red Bank and although it was down the street from the Woolworth’s it held a deeper affection for me and we frequented it more often. I still have a smell memory of our Grants on Front Street that I cannot describe, but in general I would say it was redolent of new paper, but spiked with fabric and plastic, the smell of new stuff or as that registered in my childhood.

I suspect part of the appeal of Grants was the inexpensive toys that our child-sized patience could be purchased with and which made shopping more enjoyable for all. (I know Woolworth’s had a luncheon counter, but cannot remember if Grants did. My mother rarely if ever patronized either counter and instead took us to a small lunchroom on the same block. She would always point to the wax fruit in the window and tell us never to eat in places with wax fruit in the window, however this was an exception. It became a long-standing family joke.)

A search on the history of Grants says they opened in Massachusetts in 1906 as the first 25 cent store. And while I believe we also had a Kresge’s nearby I have no real memory of it – and a J. J. Newberry’s nearby as well. The 1960’s was the final hey day for the five and dime stores which largely died in the 1970’s and finally the ’80’s. For whatever reason, we frequented Grants the most and it held a special place in my childhood affections.

This photo also has a nice shot of the National Variety Stores across the street, lucky children in the big second floor window with an excellent view. I am fond of the architecture of that storefront with its faux peaked and homey roof in front.

From where our photographer stands we are immersed in a sea of men’s fedora’s – somehow it feels like all the kids are across the street, but maybe we just can’t see them up in front on this side. I also point out that the folks acting as Felix’s keepers, are also dressed up in Felix suits with enormous masked Felix heads. Onlookers are dressed up against the November chill. Our weather this year promises a rainy high of sixty, but you never know with Thanksgiving in the Northeast – can be balmy or snow.

Bamberger’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

As we all know by now, 2020 will go down in the history books as kicking off our Covid holiday season, just unfolding before us now in real time. It will be, I believe, only the third time in my life I have not been in New Jersey for the holiday, Thanksgiving being my favorite holiday. However, the virus rate is so high there that we are concerned we would bring infection to my mom as part of our mass transit travel.

Meanwhile the Macy’s parade will be without live audience this year – the Jazz at Lincoln Center hall hovering over Columbus Circle, usually a prized viewing spot, will be empty. While we are never in danger of going hungry in this apartment, I admit to a somewhat lackluster culinary response to the two of us eating alone here, although I will try to rally. Some pumpkin ravioli lurk in the freezer to this end.

Like so many others this year, instead we will have a Zoom visit with family – my mom, cousin Patti and our friend Suzanne. We plan to give them a tour of the new bookcases in the apartment and ask the grand-kits (as my mom calls the cats) to join us. Blackie always enjoys a good turn on camera for Zoom (ask my colleagues and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Board – Blackie loves Board and Committee meetings in particular) so we are counting on him. Cookie is more diffident, but I think she’ll come to the party too.

Whatever way you are spending your Thanksgiving this year, every best wish for a happy and safe one from us here at Pictorama and Deitch Studio.

Up a Tree

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Luckily for this little fellow, although we find him up a tree, a careful look shows he isn’t too high up off the ground to easily find his way back down. Most of us cat loving folks have at some point in life found ourselves standing under a try calling to a kitty (Here kitty, kitty!) and trying to persuade him or her to negotiate the trip down, which is always much harder than the trip up, gravity being what it is.

Hence, I guess, the metaphor of being up a tree – and in reality we’ve all found ourselves up a tree at one time or another, needing to negotiate our way down without falling flat on our noggin. Without getting too clever about the metaphor, generally a cat goes up a tree for good reason however – think dog for example – and needing to get down from a tree is far better than what chased you up there in the first place. Something to consider indeed.

I especially liked this card because at the top in a careful hand it reads, This is kitty Beall, taken by Mrs. Beall – out in our backyards. E.A.M. The postcard is addressed to Miss Grace Ethel Kingsbury, Braintree, MA 115 River Street. (In that order oddly – the street name and number at the bottom.) The postmark is obscured and the only thing I can make out is Fergus Falls MINN. The date is illegible, but luckily the folks in Braintree also stamped it as received at 9AM on July 14, 1907. (In high school I had a boyfriend who came to New Jersey from Braintree and the exoticism of the name of the locale stuck with me all these years. Stephen O’Shaughnessy. He collected and restored old cars. As a result we were always getting stranded somewhere when the cars would break down or the gas gauge turned out to be broken. The charm of tooling around in an MG from from the 1960’s balanced against this annoying flaw. Although we remained friends, I’m sorry to say I ultimately lost track of him. He was a very nice person)

Kitty is a nice tabby and I wish E.A.M. had shared his or her name. Puss is looking right at the camera and it is a good shot. There seems to be a bit of rope tied to the tree and I would hazard a guess that it is a clothesline. If you look carefully there are some blurry house at some distance behind this yard. For July the yard and tree are looking none too lush so perhaps the photo was snapped at another time and the postcard only used in the summer. It looks more like the sort of November day I see outside my window right now.

Growing up we had indoor/outdoor cats – roaming in and out more or less on demand. This did result in some lost cats and at least one unfortunate incident with a dog which ultimately lead us to keep the kits entirely indoors. The town followed with some ordinances that endorsed this and where mom lives now is very much about keeping your felines inside or in your own yard (yeah, try that some time with a cat), and not letting the cat out when you come and go is a mantra at mom’s house now.

Alas, a life of adventure versus the pleasures of indoor life and leisure is now the choice for kits in Monmouth County. My guess is this little fellow enjoyed a fair share of both in his glory days, back at the dawn of the 20th century.

On Bake Sales, Lining up and Casting Away

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I thought I would be writing about the adventures of Miss Pat and the joys of juvenile fiction, however today turns out to be a brief segue. For obvious reasons, over the past week I have had a lot of time to reflect on my particular, long-standing affection for voting. Please know I write this post in the most non-partisan sense and ruminating on the concept, act and how it takes place in our Yorkville community here. Spoiler alert – this is mostly a hometown post, a stroll through our town, New York City.

When I consider voting, there is the metaphorical aspect of it – participating in the process and fulfilling the mandate of being a citizen in a democracy. Women voting is a recent enough development – in the big picture – that I personally cannot imagine taking it for granted.

And I am enough of a nerd about all of this to have reveled, to some degree anyway, in the nitty gritty examination and descriptions of vote classifications recently, as the news media while searching for new speaking points over a long haul of many days of vote counting, dug into the strata of what votes are counted when and how, rules that vary by state. I am deeply satisfied at the extraordinary voter turnout in the recent election. Voter apathy always greatly saddens and troubles me. You don’t have to agree with how I vote, but quite simply in my opinion you should exercise the right to vote.

However, I also actually like the very act of voting. I deeply miss the voting machines New York clung to for a very long time. These antique metal boxes, with their pull-string privacy curtains, had lovely little colored levers you would push, ticka-ticka-ticka, you would pull the big metal handle into place your vote was counted. It was somehow very tactile and satisfying – you really knew you had done something when you pulled that lever.

Not an actual New York City machine, but these were the style we used for many years here.

Having been away at college for my initial voting years, my first in-person voting location, back when I lived on 85th Street here, was a small German Church a few blocks away on 84th, between First and Second Avenues – some services still delivered in German for the elderly residents of Yorkville, or at least this was the case, I have not checked in recent years and that population may have dwindled away. Voting took place as it does, in a sort of multi-purpose room as shown below, with the small stage at the front where I always somehow imagine Christmas pageants taking place.

Kim and I have frequently wandered into jumble sales held there over many years of living here. Often there is one associated with a small block street fair to celebrate Oktoberfest or the Steuben Day parade, oompah band playing outside while beer, bratwurst and hot dogs are happily consumed. In the before days – no block parties or street gatherings during the course of our pandemic fall.

Interior of Zion St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Yorkville

After moving to our current home on 86th Street, Kim and I voted in a school nearby on 88th Street for many years. There was usually a PTA bake sale going on (ignoring some arcane law which may prohibit such things) and I always loved the feel of it. You would see neighbors, out of their usual context of your halls and elevators, sans their usual dog on a leash, looking for the same line as you to wait in. It was set up in a high school gym so you had that sense memory too.

While I enjoyed the sight of the bake sales I usually eschewed them in favor of stopping by a great bakery that used to be on First Avenue, Glaser’s. They were in the same spot on First Avenue and 88th Street since 1904 and given the photos they displayed, it looked exactly the same. Three women, one younger and two elderly, all sporting degrees of Irish accents, waited on customers, tying white cardboard boxes of pastry with the red and white string I remembered from my childhood baked goods, as produced by my non-baking paternal grandmother on Sundays. They only transacted with cash and were pleased if you produced exact change which was deposited in an enormous old metal register like the ones you see on American Pickers, after they dutifully added your purchase up on a separate machine or by hand. You were issued a yellow handwritten carbon copy of a receipt from a pad.

Interior of Glaser’s Bakery

Glaser’s was a bakery that still produced mocha layer cakes – my sister’s unusual favorite choice of birthday cake since childhood and a dying breed of cake – an excellent black and white cookie, and a really superior apple turnover. I met my neighbors down the hall there for the first time, waiting in a long line for Thanksgiving pie pick-up. Judy had her dog Pica and I offered to keep an eye on the sedate canine while Judy had her turn inside. A few days later we realized we both lived on the 16th floor of our building.

Election Day however was more likely inveigh me to invest calories in one of their trademark homemade sugar doughnut – these always seemed perfectly right for an early November morning. I used to buy boxes of these cake-y treats for my staff at the Met after long nights working events at the Museum. No matter how late we had been there the night before the expectation was expected that you would be your desk at 9:00 the next morning – homemade doughnuts made that seem a bit less awful and was a thank you for their hard work.

I went to Glaser’s often enough to be known there, but not so often that I was a regular. Their Christmas cookies melted buttery in your mouth and I would order boxes in advance to bring to holiday gatherings and to drop off as a holiday thank you to various people. Sadly Glaser’s closed a few years ago now, lines circled the block in the last days to have one more go at their treats.

When I worked for the Met Museum Election Day was a holiday (it was made so at JALC for the first time this year) and I would usually vote in the late morning after the before work rush and before the lunchtime one. As someone who enjoys the whole process I vote in every election – even those with no major issues or candidates. I vote in all primaries and was among the few who showed up for them this year – pandemic and Biden’s candidacy meant folks did not bother.

I remember that I had in fact voted in a special election the morning of 9/11, among a small smattering of people, which meant I got to work extra early that morning, those result ultimately canceled as a result of the attacks.

Our voting place was moved to a church a block away a couple of years ago. It has a lovely yard with a garden I have always admired and I suspect that the actual church is one of the most beautiful in the area, although I have only glimpsed the interior. I used to make daguerreotypes in the garden, hauling my tripod from my darkroom on Second Avenue. No bake sales associated with voting there sadly. I admit that I like it a bit less, but still find it charming in its own way.

Holy Trinity Church on East 88th Street

Kim generally accompanies me to vote in the more substantial elections – Mayor and President. He and I voted early this year – a well publicized first for New York. (Initially I got the date wrong and we made what turned out to be a trial trip to 75th Street.) It held little if any of the charm of my usual voting experience, but a four hour wait on a chilly November morning, slowly moving around a block (and around again) had its own frisson of interest and was certainly memorable. Kim read one of my Judy Bolton novels and I listened to a historic novel about Britain the 1920’s on my iPhone. In the chill I began to fantasize about making a seafood pot pie which I made the next Sunday. (Instagram followers will recognize these photos as I tracked it all in real time posting.)

Within the first hour of our wait, when we thought it was moving quickly! I took this photo over Kim’s shoulder as he reads The Half Cat Mystery.
Initial and somewhat messy attempt at seafood pot pie made the next weekend.

As it turns out it was unnecessary, so many people voting in advance that we could easily have voted on Election Day. A conversation with a Jazz at Lincoln Center Board member who lives in my neighborhood confirmed that there was virtually no line – he still votes at the school on 88th Street. When I told him I missed voting there he bought me chocolate chip cookies from the bake sale and left them with my doorman.

Due to the pandemic the folks working at the voting location were younger than usual and that was sort of nice to see. We were hand sanitized and six feet apart – separated to the point of my almost losing track of Kim at one point, but his cowboy hat enabled me to locate him. Ballots are now fed into scanners, no ticking of metal switches, alas.

Seeing the entrance at last after almost four hours.

Partisanship notwithstanding, to see New York, and in fact the country, so actively invested in an election that there was literally dancing in the streets here when results were announced; the extraordinary election turn out despite the pandemic; and watching the process unfold in a determinedly ordinary way, despite sudden national examination and spotlight, deeply pleased and moved me.

I have long imagined that should I eventually make my way to an active retirement period of life that I will work at my voting place, becoming one of the no nonsense, bespectacled, cardigan wearing elderly women who authoritatively tells you where your line is or how to fill out your ballot, some chocolate chip cookies dotted with M&M’s, tucked in my purse for later.

Boo!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: A happy Halloween to all! I am wrapping up my series of seasonal posts with a final nod to Halloween today. These tiny jack-o-lantern style candy cups are paper mache and may have sported handles and paper inserts – one still contains an insert. I assume they would have been filled with candy corn and the like, although frankly I am a bit unsure precisely what small candies would have been offered when these might have been new.

Pam’s Pictorama.com collection

These candy containers are miniatures of the larger ones kids carried to collect candy in. Like my cat version below, they would have paper inserts for eyes. (A post about that acquisition can be found here.) Until recently I thought these were meant solely for decoration, but recently I have seen period photos of kids carrying them for candy filling purposes.

Pam’s Pictorama.com collection

I have long desired possession of some of these Halloween wonders for my own and I have not yet gotten my hands on a large pumpkin to complete my collection. I would happily accept another cat if it had the right expression – twist my arm, you know?

My introduction to these paper mache decorations was a shop in Cold Spring, New York. A couple of hours from Manhattan on a Metro-North train will deliver you to the heart of this lovely little town on the Hudson. I used to make the pilgrimage each fall to look at the changing leaves along the river on the train north and then spend the day wandering around antique shops. One store had an amazing collection of these early Halloween decorations, all being sold for much more money than I could hope to amass at the time. It whetted my desire for them however and it is only getting sated now – this opportunity provided by my new provider in the middle of the country and due to a certain amount of internet trolling I did not previously indulge in.

Meanwhile, when I consider candy from this period I am going to guess that a fair amount of it was probably still homemade when these pumpkins were new, perhaps in the 1920’s. I just finished reading a book from 1915, Miss Pat and Her Sisters, where the author Pemberton Ginther indulges in a lengthy description of homemade candy preparation. Although I understand that somehow it was brightly colored and lots of sugar was involved I really know no more than I did when I started and don’t see it in my mind’s eye at all. Did it look like homemade Necco Wafers?

While I have certain bone fides in the kitchen and can hold my own in the world of soups, pastas, stews and even baking to some degree, candy has long failed me. (Some of my cooking related posts, cheesy olive bread and a one-bowl chocolate cake can be found here and here.) My childhood reading of early juvenile novels (which Pictorama readers know continues today) inspired me with fantasies about homemade candy making, at least pulling taffy or making fudge. However, it was a miserable failure each and every time we attempted it.

Cheesy Olive Loaf is a favorite here at Deitch Studio.

My sister Loren was usually a part of these culinary explorations which is notable because after a certain age we didn’t indulge in a lot of mutual activities. Loren ultimately became a good cook in her own right – leaning towards success with breads, another area I have not achieved too highly in – but she could get a bit experimental and was known to throw random ingredients in if you didn’t keep an eye on her – but it wasn’t her fault we failed. Our fudge, regardless of recipe, never hardened and our taffy was a sticky monstrous disaster. (May I add, candy thermometers have always seemed extremely exotic – coated in sticky, hot sugar on the stove. Why doesn’t the heat make them explode? I have always wanted to own one but I suspect it would be disappointing.)

In retrospect, I assume there are some tricks to pulling taffy we just didn’t have in our repertoire, but I will never understand where we consistently went wrong with fudge. It is my understanding that fudge should be easy – children should be able to make fudge. After multiple attempts over a long period of time we gave up on it. To this day I cannot eat fudge without duly noting our failure, tugging at a corner of my mind though.

Like many American children of the mid-twentieth century, my imagination was kindled by the concept of Turkish Delight in the C.S. Lewis book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Perhaps this candy was well-known by the British children of a previous generation, but I have to admit this kid from New Jersey was well into adulthood before coming across Turkish Delight in person. It turns out that I like it, although admittedly it was never good enough that I imagined being inspired by it to sell my siblings into witch-dominated servitude. (However, it goes without saying that sometimes just living with siblings would have you ship them off without so much as a Mary Jane in exchange.)

I believe I was actually in London the first time I had Turkish Delight, although I think that was just by chance as I have subsequently had it here on many occasions. A plate of it came with bitter black coffee at the end of an excellent meal in a Greek restaurant. I also remember that my friend Don turned my cup over when I was done, sludgy grounds sliding onto the saucer, and then proceeded to read my future from the designs made by the grounds on the inside the cup. That was a first too – maybe the only time I have had my coffee grounds read. Anyway, Turkish Delight was the rare candy event that successfully survived the leap from the literary world to the real one.

Meanwhile, a quick search reminds me that licorice was popular at the beginning of the 20th century. (Mom and Loren were fans, I never was and would eat the red version only, if pressed. If Dad and Edward had a preference I cannot recall it. Ed?) In the day when these pumpkin containers would have been stuffed, candy corn was indeed already around, as were Tootsie Rolls and Hershey’s chocolate.

On the more homemade side there were sugarplums (also called cream filberts and later, yikes, were known as mothballs – um, talk about a fall from grace), potato candy (a homemade Depression era treat made with potatoes and peanut butter – really?), and my favorite, toffee. (I opine a bit on the delights of toffee when celebrating the purchase of this Felix toffee container below. Read that post here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Strangely it turns out that candy cigarettes have been around since the late 1800’s. I was fascinated by them as a kid and only ever saw them if they turned up in my Halloween haul. As I remember them, in addition to chocolate ones, there were ones made with white sugar and those came in lovely red and blue plastic “cases” – the candy cigs had little bright pink ends like you were smoking with lipstick on – who can make things like that up?

Pumpkin Head

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Picking our very Halloween run of posts back up today, I share with you all a candy container which just turned up here at Pictorama. (May I just add that the very phrase vintage candy container thrills me?) He is an odd duck and a bit more fragile than I thought he would be. I have not yet found the best final spot for him in the new bookcase, among the black cat toys. I had planned for him to live with some of his Halloween brethren, but in addition to being fragile he rolls dangerously. Right now he is resting against one of my extremely off-model Felix toys, nestled safely into his side safely on a lower shelf.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Mr. Pumpkin has a few dents which can be forgiven considering his advanced age. He is marked simply on the bottom, German, and nothing else. (I don’t know how much they actually celebrate Halloween in Germany but there was a time when they were making some of the greatest Halloween items being sold in this country. Strange, right?)

Pumpkin Head appears to be paper mache, or a close relative, lined with cardboard. I can only imagine what a glorious thing it would be to show up for a Halloween party and find an army of these fellows, stuffed with candy on a decorated table! Or perhaps he was dropped into the candy packed pillowcase of some lucky child – who loved him so much he has survived the long march of time this far.

Side view, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

He is pretty friendly looking with just a touch of madness. I confess to a bit of intimidation by some pumpkin-headed figures. Even as an adult, I admit that they fill me with some unease – my idea of a horror film, being chased by mad pumpkin-headed figures, legs and arms seem to make all the difference to my psyche.

In addition to the well-documented ongoing black cat addiction, I went through a period of purchasing Halloween decorating books of the aughts and teens, originals and reproductions. As a result a brief examination of the Dennison’s decoration empire can be found in a 2015 post here. Founded as a maker of jewelry boxes in the 1840’s, Dennison’s was the first maker of crepe paper. They were the reigning king of holiday decorating for over 100 years, starting in 1897. Their Bogie Books fulfilled every curiosity I harbored about the details of early 20th century Halloween celebrations.

Original Bogie Book, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Even as a kid I was somewhat fascinated by Halloween of yore. I remember insisting on bobbing for apples at some Halloween party and I can only say it is perhaps a skill that one develops over time. (And clearly not one to revive in this Covid year of contagion.) Perhaps this was a regional thing and some of you readers were routinely bobbing away. My Halloweens were ones of unromantic plastic pumpkins and pillowcases for candy, uncomfortable masks of hard plastic that were purchases out of boxes and were hard to breathe in and even harder to see out of, especially in the dark – they always seemed to poke you in the eye a bit.

I am not sure if a renewed interest in Halloween items is speaking to me this year because of unexpected availability or perhaps fulfilling a different yen during this oddest of years. Maybe it is a desire to mark the changing season in a year of remarkably similar days. (My new mid-West supplier Miss Molly seems to be the reigning Queen of Halloween and has turned up a surfeit of items – she occasionally even sends me things to look at while she is in the parking lot of a flea market, somewhere in the environs of St. Louis. Seems like a glorious way to spend your weekends actually. I enjoy vicarious pleasure in her ventures.)

When I was a young adult I continued to carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns much as I had since I was a child, wielding the knife now however – and cleaning up the huge mess. The last time I did it was the first Halloween after Kim and I got together. What I remember best is that my cat Otto loved the smell of the pumpkin guts, rolled around in them and insisted on eating it. (Incidentally, canned pumpkin can help at cat clear hairballs out of their system. Just a kitty tip in passing.) Sadly, I did not have the foresight to document the Deitchien influenced creation.

Trick or treating in Manhattan is an odd ritual with the kids of our high rise building going door-to-door to apartments who have indicated that they are welcome. Local businesses also get into the spirit and hand out candy to the kiddies. This year, a sort of ham handed CDC recommended fashion, the building will forego and instead offer pre-filled bags to the offspring of the building. Regardless, we are on the countdown to Halloween ’20 however, and I have at least one more small Halloween treat up my sleeve to share next week.

Postzegeltaal: Stamp Language

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While I purchased this because I was in a Halloween mood, it is an interesting way to have promoted a long ago and evidently foreign postal service. Perhaps ours in the US today could use such a boosting campaign? A witch and a toy black cat can do a lot for business, at least in my opinion.

This card, never mailed, is Dutch. The stamps featured on the card entice and call out to the viewer to: think of me, call me, give a shout, stay true to me, visit soon, shout soon, as well as I love you, I’m waiting for you, 1000 kisses. Oh the things you can say with a postcard – the possibilities are endless. (A reader tells me that the stamps indicate that the card is from 1957 or later.)

Why there was a need to promote postal service, as well as why they might have used a Halloween motif is somewhat beyond me, perhaps that information is just lost to the sands of time. However, she is a fine looking witch and the black cat toy she is shushing or sharing a secret with appears to be a very nice and fluffy looking one. His or her kitty head is appropriately cocked for listening to the witch.

I would say this nice toy is based on Steiff, but fluffier in the tail and overall design than Steiff, more appealing for my money. (For me there has always been something a bit lifeless about the series of Steiff black cats. Unlike their teddys which all seem to have a knowing gleam in their eye, the cats seem remarkably without character.) One bright cat eye gleams out at us. A great toy overall – I would snatch him up in a flash.

A quick Google search shows that not surprisingly Halloween is a relatively new Western influence for the Dutch. (The reader who wrote in agreed that Halloween has only started to gain traction in Holland in the last decade or so and therefore it is a bit hard to explain why the image.)

Perhaps as we consider an upcoming winter largely to be spent at home again, we might all think about who we might surprise and cheer up with a handwritten missive. I have perpetuated a long held affection for the handwritten word as a special way to remember someone or cheer them up. I send my mom cards for every holiday I can and have for many years and she looks forward to them in the mail. When I was younger and traveling I was an excellent correspondent and would at a minimum send postcards from almost any new locale.

On the receiving end, I can tell you that the mail became far more interesting once Kim became resident – Deitch Studio mail was quite different and far more interesting and exotic than my own. A prodigious letter writer himself, Kim received many – also interesting packages with books, videos (and later dvd’s) might show up unbidden. He continues a written correspondence with a clutch of people, although like me some handwritten relationships supplanted by email. My own correspondence has slowed mostly to the aforementioned cards to a small group of people – otherwise largely gone to email. However, it is a cheerful thing to find in the mailbox among the ads and bills. (Yes, I still largely pay bills by mail.)

However, it is no mystery that here at Pictorama we enjoy a great many lovely parcels coming in the door as I am constantly adding photos and items to the collections here. It is always a cause for joy when one shows in the mail, especially during these quiet days.

Nicely some of the folks I buy from frequently these days, largely my new Instagram sellers, pack their photos with extra care, enclosed in waxy envelopes with a note or a sticker, frequently adding a few random old photos they have around or a note. Miss Molly tends to use whatever is at hand for her homemade packing and sometimes I laugh at what old boxes and papers she has employed to ensure a solid package.

I have purchased two items from a woman who sells jewelry and clothing, predominantly from the teens and twenties. She’s British and lives in the countryside there and is largely known to me as Wassail Antiques although I gather she is also Rachel.

Wassail Antiques, aka Rachel, takes stunning photos of her items and seeds equally beautiful ones of the British countryside surroundings of her home as a backdrop to them. Looking at them always cheers me and takes me out of myself and the four close walls of Deitch Studio at least for a moment. She is evidently a professional photographer – taking pictures of musicians in the time before the shutdown. Her packages arrive wrapped in layers like splendid little gifts, an old photo and a note thrown in. They are an event to open, beyond the appealing items within.

A partially opened package from @WassailAntiques

At some point I may take more time to share those items – oddly both are silver rings. This is somewhat notable to me. In the before time I liked to wear rings and wore gold ones on a variety of fingers daily – my lucky horse cameo, a huge bee ring made for me by a jeweler friend on the west coast for a recent birthday. However, for a variety of reasons (finger swelling and apathy among them) I have generally not been wearing rings during our time of captivity and have actually rarely put on any jewelry.

The ring from within!

These rings remind me a bit of ones I might have purchased when I was younger – appealing colored stones set in sliver with Deco designs. They cheer and please me in a quiet way. I have worn them out for my limited forays into the world and even just around the apartment to cheer a dull day.

This week I gather myself and put on an inexpensive flowered fall dress, purchased for upcoming Zoom events such as panels or teaching gigs in the coming weeks. I was headed to get my hair cut for the first time since February (I was not one of the folks who had the foresight to do it before the shutdown) and I thought my hair dresser of 20 years, David Smith, would appreciate seeing me in something other than sweatpants and I wondered if I still knew how to get properly dressed.

I pulled my now shoulder length hair into a braid (I haven’t been able to wear it that way since I was about 25), pulled on an ancient leather jacket and my old straw hat. I put on the rings and even applied a bit of make up before heading over to the west side. As I went to enter the basement staircase to Smith and Morgan, a young man paused and with a grin looked at me and told me he loved my dress. I thanked him profusely for the compliment, we exchanged a few more words of mutual appreciation and then we beamed at each other for a moment before continuing on our way, basking in a brief moment of connection and the sheer enjoyment of being outside on a gorgeous fall day here in New York City.

Abroad

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a short personal post – a report from my mother’s house in New Jersey. As I write this, for the first time since early March, I am spending the night somewhere other than our studio apartment in Manhattan. As Pictorama readers know, and like so many of us, I have spent the last seven months exclusively in our apartment.

This morning I went to a basement office of a medical center on East 65th Street and took a rapid Covid test. I felt I should in advance of seeing my mother; it was negative and made me sneeze. After returning home for a quick lunch and to pick up my bags I went to 35th Street where I caught a ferry and arrived for a visit with my mom, the first since February.

It was also my inaugural trip on this ferry – I tried taking it once a decade ago and it didn’t show up which sort of soured me on it. It is about twice as expensive as the train, but much faster. However, as the train seemed to have more germ potential than sitting outside on the water on this glorious October today I made my way to the FDR and the 35th Street.

As with everything these days, the capacity of ferries is lower and done on a first come, first serve basis so I arrived early. There was a huge line, but it turned out to be for the popular route that runs up and down the east side, to Queens and Brooklyn.

Chateau Woof, a dog friendly pub and coffee shop in Astoria near the ferry landing.
Heading home on the ferry near the 90th Street dock in September.

I had made my first trip on this route earlier this fall when visiting one of my staff in Queens. I made the offer that I would travel to see each of my direct reports at a location of their choice – outside, socially distanced, but near them. Two accepted the offer and the first thoughtfully planned drinks at a pub near the ferry in Astoria, just a few minutes from the 90th Street stop at the north end of Carl Schurz Park, near my apartment. It was a quick and lovely ride and inspired me to consider the longer ride to Highlands yesterday.

Folks lining up to get on the Astoria line ferry.

Suffice it to say that signage is very poor at the ferry terminal at 35th Street and no staff who were forthcoming with information. After wandering around and asking many people waiting in numerous lines, I found the one that was headed for New Jersey and parked myself in it. (As someone who has literally travel from Tibet to Patagonia you would think a ferry trip to New Jersey wouldn’t have required much thought on my part, but it actually did, at least this first time and not to mention being out of practice!)

Although the water had looked calm, it was very choppy getting onto the ferry – in retrospect this must have been the water traffic with the high speed boats coming and going because once we pulled it it was the most lovely day to be on the water you could imagine.

It made me realize how little I have actually been outside since we went into the initial lock down in March. I mean of course I am out, shopping or even just taking a walk, but living in New York City you usually spend a large portion of your life on the street – commuting to work, going out to meet people at offices, restaurants or for drinks. We are on trains, running errands, picking up lunch around the corner. Now there are weeks I only go out a few times if very busy with work. It was exhilarating to be not just outside but on the river, speeding by the landmarks of southern Manhattan. I couldn’t resist taking photos.

Quickly enough though, the landmarks became familiar on the other side – a small lighthouse, the buildings on the north end of Sandy Hook and eventually the beach at Highlands, remembered as seen from the shore growing up here – and even trips that were made by boat there many years ago now. Live music was playing just beyond where I could also see it. Kids were playing in the water and people were out, sprawled in the sun. It was like traveling back in time. Just seeing the beach and the water satisfied a craving I hadn’t really recognized.

Landing in Highlands, NJ

In addition to seeing my mom, I am here for an outdoor event with the septet made up of Wynton Marsalis and other members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. They are playing at the restaurant at Monmouth Park racetrack, The Blu Grotto. This is part of an outdoor mini-tour up the east coast, a drive-in located in Pennsylvania, then up to Yarmouth, Vermont and New Hampshire, ending in a week in Chautauqua, New York. This in a effort to be able to play together and fulfill the urge of our audiences to hear live jazz during this long hiatus while our hall and others remain dark indefinitely. They will be tested, masked and distanced during this time. It is onerous, but they are glad to be able to play again.

Morning at Mom’s.

I am looking forward to seeing them and hearing them in person later today. I travel home, on the ferry, tomorrow. Perhaps doubling up on the ferry and taking a second one to 90th Street to get home. Meanwhile, I am going to grab another cup of coffee and visit with my mom, cousin and cats here in Fair Haven.

More Change

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a quick post – I am on my way to New Jersey soon – seeing my mother for the first time since February and the virus outbreak. Maybe I will post tomorrow about this weekend and what it is like to travel beyond the subway for the first time. I am heading off for a rapid test in a little bit, some extra insurance before going to see her as she is in a vulnerable category for the virus.

I am experimenting with taking a ferry instead of the train. Luckily the weather has turned and today is a sunny and beautiful looking fall day. I will put extra layers on and see if I still have good sea legs – the East River, which I can see from my window as I write, is looking quite calm today. Some Pictorama readers know that I grew up by the seashore, near the ocean but on a river that flowed directly into it a short distance from our house. More recently I have been on small cruise ships and river boats on trips for members of the Metropolitan Museum when I worked there. It is always a small shock to my system though, to be on the water and the sense one gets from being in any boat.

Leaving from East 35th Street, it will take about the same time as the train, over an hour, and leave me in Highlands, approximately the same distance from my mom’s house as the train station. Highlands, and its kissin’ cousin neighbor, Atlantic Highlands, were the stomping grounds of my high school and early college summers – a dollar movie theater for second run films, lobster rolls and clam sandwiches at outdoor stands at the water’s edge. It lives large in my memory of that time.

However before I head off to the adventures of the day, I will offer this small item, purchased recently – a change purse, advertised as Felix, but in my opinion (sample size of one as a colleague of mine says), Norakuro, the Japanese Felix – my name for him. His black and red, patent leather face, winking at us, would be a prize under any circumstances, but as it happens I have an alternative version (googlie rolling eyes instead of winking ones, more worn) which I offered up in a post back in June of 2018. (That post can be found here and other posts about Norakuro can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com, two treasured coin purses.

For me the winking-blinking eyes give him a roguish charm and the idea of putting a few hoarded precious coins in him (it could only hold a very few really), further tucking him into a tiny purse or pocket brings me zooming back to being a very little girl. I would have really thought myself hot stuff! Seeing them together delights my collector’s sensibility and somehow adds to their appeal. And yes, given the opportunity, I would indeed purchase further variations – bring ’em on!

Enjoy Norakuro and wish me luck on my travel adventures. More to come from the road.

Specs

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This card is one of my recent purchases. When all is said and done about this time one of things that I think I will remember is how I started purchasing things on Instagram. I had never even thought about it before, let’s say, April or so. I have always loved Instagram – my feed devoted to seeing what a handful of folks I follow are doing and of course, many cats – rolling, playing, posing. I don’t have interest in famous folks and I don’t want to know much about the sad state of the world while I am on Instagram – it is largely escapism for me. I realize that other folks have been buying on it for ages, just never occurred to me that I would find interesting old stuff there.

However, in checking out a new follower of mine, I realized she sells old photos and antiques, from there I realized another follower sells vintage photos, a third sells jewelry and other bits (some clothing, pin trays and the like), from the early years of the 20th century from her home in the British Countryside. (@MissMollyAntiques, @spakeasachildvintage or aka WheretheWillowsGrow, and @Wassail_Antiques respectively.) Over time you chat a bit and now I realize that one is a musician (as is her husband), selling out a space in an antiques mall she used to have, another is photographer of musicians, that work largely gone – a theme here. (I received something from her the other day and it was wrapped so lovely – like a gift!) The new economy evolves.

I’m sure other office supplies will find their way into this box over time.

Anyway, this bit of cat advertising turned up recently and I snatched it, along with a cute little box that was made to sell spools of thread which now houses binder clips on my desk.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Today we boast this proper Victorian Mrs. Kitty who is both sporting and advertising eye glasses – fine steel specs according to the back of the card. These were available with Blue and Bronzed Colored Frames…Filled and Sterling Silver Filled Noses. Strangely the actual advertising on the back was printed and with only a rough approximation of the cat outline and therefore words are cut off in places. However, we can also make out that you could have beautiful styles of lorgnettes in shell and (probably?) celluloid.

Casually executed advertising copy on the back of the card.

She is wearing a locket in the fashion I opined on in a recent photo post, she models an out-sized hat in the style of the day, and of course she is bespectacled. (The photo locket post was the recent one which can be found here.)

As it happens, I was shopping for eyeglass frames yesterday so I pulled this card out of the pile from the recent haul. During quarantine the rimless frame glass I have worn for several years began to loosen, started sitting crooked on my face, and I began to fear that they would truly come a cropper while the world was closed down. I do have a spare pair, but they are behind one prescription – the lenses for my eyeglasses are very expensive and those frames aging, therefore right now these glasses and a pair of sunglasses are the only current ones I have. (Some of you might remember my sad tale of woe concerning losing these eyeglasses during a trip for work to California. It can be found here. You would think I would have learned my lesson!)

My specs – not so different from Kitty’s. Hard to see the smashed bit here, right side.

One of my very first forays into the post-quarantine world was to the East Village, to have these frames tightened. When they started this delicate manuever the guy on duty warned me about the possibility of the lenses breaking – tighten at your own risk. They managed to do it successfully but, alas, I noticed the other day that they are starting to shatter near where the screws are, so back downtown we went to begin the cycle of purchasing frames and updating prescriptions.

I purchase my eyeglasses from a shop in the East Village, Anthony Aiden Opticians, which came highly recommended by someone, cannot remember who now, on the basis of the execution of the lens measuring and fitting to be especially thoughtfully done. Having once, a long time ago, strayed and purchased a pair of glasses with my graduated prescription elsewhere I learned my lesson and never tried that again. Yes, you pay a premium for quality, but seeing is important and we are talking about something you wear on your face everyday. (Zoom presents its own challenges for the eye glass dependent. I have trouble finding a viewing range where I can both read notes and see participants. I could be wrong but it doesn’t seem worth adjusting my prescription for although I will ask the eye doc when I see him.)

Yesterday I discovered that Anthony Aiden Opticians had made it through the quarantine period by doing individual appointments, something to remember for the future although I think I would have been loathe to take the trip on the subway at the time.

Photo of their establishment pulled off Google.

It is a small store, just east of St. Mark’s Place. When we arrived they were too crowded and asked us to return in a bit. We complied by having lunch, somewhat precariously perched at a table outside of the B&H Dairy (where a stern but friendly woman with an Eastern European accent oversaw the delivery and consumption of our food), and wandered back after.

B&H from the inside, back in the days of indoor dining.

Trying on eyeglass frames with a mask on was interesting of course. Once I had a few finalists for Kim to help choose from, I unmasked. They also measured my eyes without a mask – their request. I believe the gentleman who waited on me was the owner – Mr. Aiden himself? I purchased gray plastic and metal frames. My long buying and prescription history was on file and I was able to order lenses for my sunglasses as well.

I have an appointment with my eye doc in about ten days and now am just babying my glasses along until I can have the prescription called in and lenses ordered. Hopefully I can be back in business, fully eyeglass-ed up within a month, all ready for whatever fall and winter brings.