January 23, 1934

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased these in a recent trend toward purchasing groups of photos from albums, or like these, of the same subjects. Unlike some cases recently when multiple photos arrived, I did know that I was buying all three photos – they were sold together. I purchased them from someone in Des Moines, but hard to say if that’s where these hail from or not. Each is neatly stamped on the back, FINISHED WITH CARE JAN 23 1934 THE WHITE HOUSE Radio Photograph Shop. They show no signs of having been in an album.

I suspect that the largest photo might be the three generations of men, grandfather, father and two boys – with their Mickey toys. The men look fairly stern for this sort of light hearted portrait turned toy display. Both are wearing glasses and the older of them is not only in a three piece suit and tie, but actually has a watch chain and fob. Neither smile here. Meanwhile, these Mickey dolls, upon close examination, have telltale Steiff buttons in their ears and they appear to be in fairly pristine condition, despite clearly also being beloved.  In the small, torn photo, the older, brown haired boy points out that their shirts, decorated with tiny anchors, also sports a cheery Mickey on the sailor style tie. Although they do not smile in the photo with the older men, the boys are grinning and quite pleased with themselves and their toys in the other photos.

Being toy sensitive, I suspect that the reason these photos were taken was due to the (probably) new Mickey Mouse toys and matching outfits. It was the motivation to take out the camera and snap the photos. (Oddly, it also means that they have ended up, still together, in my collection today. This is always something that gives me a bit of pause.) Those of us born in the middle of the 20th century have variations on such pictures – us and grandparents and parents, aunts and uncles, taken at family picnics and other such occasions. Typically posed and somewhat formal with the older generation. I think of one of me and my sister, probably about ages five and seven respectively, with my grandmother, (my father’s mother) taken in a sunny backyard garden – theirs I assume although I do not really remember their yard and we never played in it. My grandparents were busy people who owned a thriving dry goods business they ran together and I cannot imagine either of them spending a spare moment on a garden, nor were they the kind of people who would have paid someone to care for it. A great aunt also lived with them, so perhaps she was the gardener. I must think to ask.

This morning I received a Thanksgiving family photo from a friend on the west coast. Theirs was a large multi-generational holiday meal and whipping out the iPhone for a photo these days has made it so easy – as was dropping it into an email to me. As for me, my own family has dwindled in size for celebrations and we were only five for Thanksgiving this year. However, while enjoying a glass of champagne along with pre-meal cheese and crackers, I snapped the photo below of my dad, napping with the cats in the sun. While I tend to natter on about how we never print the many photos we take now and therefore they will be lost to future generations, I admit it is nice to be able to sneak a photo memory like this. Therefor today I am grateful for the stealth and ease of my phone camera. While it has meant the end of businesses like the Radio Photograph Shop which made sure photos were finished with care back in 1934, mine is a photo that would not have happened back then.

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Mousetown

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Photos of off-model, hand-rendered Mickey and Minnies could make up an entire sub-genre of collecting. I have one other notable acquisition in my collection which I featured awhile back in Lost and Found Photo. While that barn-side painting was the whole show, this grinning Mickey and Minnie are using their come hither (and reasonably accurate) appeal to lend credence and atmosphere to this intriguing mini-mouse circus attraction. No traveling circus this – it appears to be a fairly solid, permanent sideshow feature somewhere.

On the back, written in red pen is, Ken Roden Decorator and Conjurer in Bognor for 50 years. In addition there are some handwritten notes in pencil which seem more contemporary, Bognor R5lE and in a different hand R12154. Bognor was a bit of a mystery at first until I found a seaside resort with a (rather splendid looking) continuously running sideshow several decades old in a town called Bognor Regis in England. It appears to be across and on the mainland from the more famous resort area the Isle of Wight. (The sort of seaside digs that would have featured the opportunity to pose for a photo with Felix? I like to think so!) A place called Butlin’s there claims to have a continuous sideshow that is 80 years old which takes us back to the late thirties and it could even be that sideshow I believe. I purchased this photo postcard from a US dealer, but there is additional evidence below that this is likely from Britain. Frankly I was surprised it turned out to be British – there’s something very American about it in my mind. Sadly, numerous searches for Ken Roden did not turn up a period reference to a person – it appears to be a common name. Decorator and conjurer is a fascinating combination as well. I wonder, he would decorate my house like Mousetown? Not an entirely unpleasant thought, but I may be in the minority on that one.

Having blown the photo way up I can read the signs pretty much in their entirety. The one over the door reads, Bring Daddy In (?) above the, Real Live Mice and below that, Showing All the Time. Behind the really scary clown lurking in the doorway is a sign that says MOUSE TOWN top entertainment…charging for…LITTLE SHOW with BIG APPEAL. Obscured over to the left is part of a sign which seems to read Fun for All and one at the bottom which alludes to something allowed – might I suggest perhaps cats not allowed? The entrance fee for Mousetown is noted as 6D, as per the sign on the upper left and the one below the seated clown, which appears to offer some sort of discount for children I cannot make out. At first I thought this meant $6 (way too expensive!), but then realized it is the British notation for their equivalent of 6 cents.

And finally – the tiny little mouse stage which we can just about see behind the clown! We cannot quite make it out (even blowing the photo up) except there are tiny ladders and some sort of stage/obstacle course for said talented, trained and performing mice. I feel I must confess that I belong to a category of people who perversely and illogically think mice are fine if they are pets, but they generally make me want to scream and execute a cartoon climb onto a chair, calling for Cookie and Blackie, if found in nature – such as our apartment, or an eating establishment as happened recently. I can however, easily imagine paying up and happily having a look at Mousetown’s offerings. Undoubtedly, I would have been treated to a performance of Busby Berkeley-like precision and mouse perfection, racing through their paces and end with a chorus line and perhaps even eking out a squeaky tune?

23 Months

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It occurs to me that my purchasing of early Mickey centric toys, which seemed an exception, has now formed a proper sub-genre in my collection – perhaps earning a whole section of their own in the imaginary book of my photo collection I edit in my mind. Recently I have added the tintype I wrote about in Riding the Big Bear and Say Cheese!, but this photo reminds me a lot more of my recent post found here – She Who Has the Most Toys Wins. That one featuring a Felix instead of a Mickey. Still, the same idea – let’s take a photo of the kid with all her toys in the yard. Heck, if I had a kid and a yard I would probably do it too.

I like my Mickeys early and this one is, and he’s also a fine, large and pristine looking example. This lucky child has not only him, but that lovely bunny, a doll she is clutching, a bike (or more likely trike) lurking to one side behind her, a large lamb-y looking toy in the front corner and even a bit of a toy carriage peering out behind that. The yard is also neat although not hugely prosperous looking, aside from the wealth of toys.

The photo here is about the same size as the original, smallish but not tiny. In addition to 23 mos written here on the front, on the back it says, 23 months She was afraid the wind would blow her hair ribbon off – I am a bit sad that for all of this we do not know her name. Clearly she was a precise child, one who cared so specifically about her hair ribbon not be blown off. I love that about her, she herself looking a bit perfectly doll-like here perched on this small table. (I myself was a messier child and my toys hard loved, I must admit.) Somehow it is easy for me to assume it was a trait of hers that didn’t change as she got older. And if she remained as tidy and careful about her toys, perhaps some of those pristine items are being treasured by the likes of me today.

A Century of Progress

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Poor Pictorama readers, I am proffering yet another murky tintype this week! Sorry! Kim has done his best with Photoshop, but I understand the limitations. Those of you who were devoted enough to come over and see it and what I have to say (and I thank you) may wonder why I persist and why I seem to find these somewhat irresistible.

First, for me there’s just nothing like seeing these giant examples of Felix and Mickey (or in the case of the recent post Riding the Big Bear a oversized Steiff-like bear) and admiring their oversized greatness. It gets me again and again with each one I find. I believe I have seen this Mickey before, but I have checked my files and it does not seem to be a photo I own, so it must have come and gone on eBay or passed by me on the internet. (He’s barely a Mickey – I think even Disney would have trouble with a trademark lawsuit against this guy. Can you see the big bow he is wearing?) However, I also love the idea that tintypes were still being made at fairs and things well into the 20th century. I think I would have been first in line.

I have made tintypes (wet plate photos) and the process, while fairly straightforward once you understand it, is not entirely uncomplicated, especially when executed outside. As far as I know, the makers of these had a pretty down and dirty process to churn them out, all day, everyday, and these have largely faded because the chemicals that fixed them were tired from overuse, and then probably washed in the equivalent of a dirty pail. It is a tiny bit miraculous to me that they can be made this way at all.

This photo has a tiny sticker, which under close examination, turns out to say A Century of Progress leading me to believe it was taken at the 1933-34 Chicago International Exposition or World’s Fair. (As is frequently the case – this is in a great holder which, if they sticker had been placed differently, had a spot where perhaps you could have written a name or a place below.) It is of course a bit ironic that at a World’s Fair representing a hundred years of progress, someone set up with such an old-fashioned souvenir stand for photos. After all, Kodak had made film available to the masses for three decades at that point, and perhaps color photos would have been a more appropriate for that modern age exposition. Still, for me, the tintype is undeniably special and maybe others agreed at the time, as clearly this one was kept safely all these years and has now found its way to me.

Riding the Big Bear

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have a general rule that if I see any early photos of people riding or posing with giant stuffed animals I just have to own them – pretty much regardless of condition and price. I admit to paying up for this one, despite the underexposure and probably some additional fading over time – its origins probably in a wash pail of dirty and over-used developer, decades ago. Kim has already performed the miracle of Photoshop on it and it is about 40% better here than in person.

I have the impression that the person selling it believe Mickey’s presence to be the come hither factor (and I have nothing against that nice, early Mickey next to our girl except that we can barely see him), but for me it was this splendid big Steiff-like bear she has climbed aboard that does it for me! Oh to live in a time when one had a choice of posing for a souvenir tintype photo with oversized Felix or Mickey – or riding an enormous black cat or bear! Gee whiz, those were indeed the days. (And still again I ask, why do none of these giant toys turn up so I can purchase them? Unfair fate!)

This photo is another tiny guy – only about 2″x3″ and tucked into this nice cardboard frame. It would be better shown if I was willing to take it out, but I love the little holder and removing the photo would destroy the now fragile holder. You cannot see it here so well, but it has a cardboard stand on the back so the photo can stand up on those cardboard feet you see. On the back, written in clear script in pen, it says, Esther from Erica Lee. There’s something a bit odd about that – why is Erica sending photos of Esther? Perhaps she is her mom?

Despite the lack of giant toys available to pose on or with, I tend to embrace every opportunity to have a souvenir photo made. I don’t especially like photos of myself, but for some reason photo booths and other like opportunities are different and fire up my imagination and desire. When at all possible, I drag my ever-patient and handsome mate into the picture. In addition to the link for this early blog kick-off post, Pam’s Pictorama Blog Debuts, I supply some long ago photostrip of photos below.

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Lost and Found Photo

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Some strange things happen collecting photos on eBay and there are mysteries that will probably never be solved. I lost the photo at top in a dog fight of an auction back on October 6, 2015. Early this September, just as I was flying out the door for three weeks, more or less, of business travel, these two photos came up and I scored them easily. It is only now, happily re-ensconced in my Manhattan lair, that I have had time to consider the situation. While I knew that the earlier photo was of this particular Mickey eating ice cream ad, I had no idea that one of them was indeed the very same image until I dug it out of our Facebook archive this morning. The surprising part is, speaking at least the photo I now own, it appears to  be an original photo – not a photo postcard or commercial reprint in anyway.

These photos are small snapshots in the way early to mid-20th century black and white were. The images here blown up several times their original size which accounts for the slight breakdown of the image – they are sharp enough in person. Mine have the traditional white border around the edges. There is no date or further information on them – and of course I have two from that scene, not one.

Something similar happened to me years ago when I purchased serial photos, first from one group of auctions but then another months or years later, of the same scene of someone wearing an ancient Felix costume and posing with a cat by a car. It can be found in my post, Mysteries of Felix.

The top image is the better of the two for me and is fairly jaunty. The hand rendered, somewhat off-model (yet well rendered) Mickey is holding his ice cream cone victoriously and these kids are happy to be there. It is sort of classic really. The other photo shows a woman who looks a bit tired, carrying this little girl who evidently doesn’t know that ice cream is in the offing. The woman is attractive in her print dress, has earrings and a bracelet – and yet there is something sort of care worn about her. Late 1930’s or early 40’s?

Below is the one I posted on Facebook back in 2015. No border on that version. I guess we’ll never know, but I am glad to add them to my own Pictorama archive.

 

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Lost on eBay Oct. 6, 2015