Rascally, Mysterious Film Still

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As has occasionally been the case in previous posts, I found this while digging through our flat files looking for something else. I barely remember purchasing it on eBay so it must have been quite awhile ago. For whatever reason it has been sitting and waiting to be rediscovered and shared with you all on Pictorama today.

In part, I may have put this aside because I have no idea exactly what film this still is from. At first glance I assumed it was one of the Little Rascals shorts, but on further reflection I am not so sure. I would love anyone with thoughts or knowledge to weigh in on this. Meanwhile, while dogs and pups ruled on those shorts, cats very rarely played a role outside of being chased by the aforementioned dogs – surely the cat was in part what made me buy this however. And not to say that this black and whiter didn’t play a key role in this film – nary a dog to be seen at the moment. Nice looking kitty though, I must say. I believe I bought this around the same time I purchased the photo in the post Flying to the Moon.

I wonder about cats in films like this. Just wandering through it seems – occasionally cued to chase or be chased, or are toted around like arm decoration. They don’t seem to distinguish themselves for the most part. Rarely does it seem you see the same one twice. I have this feeling sometimes that there were just cats running about the place and when it came time to need one for a scene they scooped a handy generic one up. I have wondered about cats in some of the early photos with models, such as the one in the post Painted Puss. As I think about it though, one could argue that the life of a photo studio cat was better than that of a film lot cat. After all they had to be pretty for their pictures to be taken. A life of greater leisure and care I imagine. Still, I think it depends though – those films lot cats probably had quite a raucous and interesting time, complete with mice, dogs, kids and kitty crew. More fun if you were the right kind of cat.

 

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Painted Puss, from Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

 

 

 

Can You, Canoe?

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Truth in advertising, this photo looks much better here than it does in person thanks to Kim’s Photoshop enabling. However, in all fairness to me, this is closer to what it looked like when advertised on eBay. I assumed that this was a photo postcard and was shocked when it arrived to find that it is about three times as large, poorly and sloppily printed. It almost looks like an early, primitive (and ham handed) reprint process.

Judging from the clothes it is from the teens – those early swimsuits, stockings and shoes were what attracted me to this image to begin with. Instead of seeming onerous, as those outfits sometimes do when associated with sand and water, these togs seem sort of fitting for a day on the water canoeing. I like the bits of decoration on them – the bow on one, the white piping on the other. The dark haired girl has such a sweet face! The one who scooped up the kitten looks a bit accusatory, glaring at the camera. It is a pretty, tiny kit, just about to enter the gawky adolescent stage of cat. She or he looks all white but that might be an illusion of the sepia toned film. The state of the grass and the scattered leaves makes me wonder if it is perhaps early fall instead of summer as I originally assumed.

There is a gracious looking porch behind them and even though everything is out of focus beyond the canoe, it is an inviting yard – some place I wouldn’t mind spending part of the summer I think. A family camp perhaps, way upstate New York or in Maine. The canoe is a dandy too and I especially like the caned seat we can catch a glimpse of. For all my having grown up on the water I have actually never been in a canoe – only rowboats with flat bottoms. The river where I grew up was too tidal for canoes, although I did kayak in it once. My father had a kayak he would take out occasionally and he let Loren and I try it. I loved it! I have a vague memory that it freaked my other out and that is why I probably didn’t do it more. Like kayaks I imagine that canoes roll over and dump you out fairly easily.

While rowing seems somewhat self-evident, you only need to watch a bunch of inexperienced rowers in Central Park to realize that there are a few tricks to it. For one thing I can’t tell you how many people attempt to row backward, pointing the square back of the boat forward and making it quite hard for themselves. There is also the matter of pulling the oars either together or in coordinated even strokes, or you will go in circles – which leads us to turning. Lots of those park rowboats are constantly sideswiping each other – occasionally plowing right into one another because they have not considered steering. I like rowing and given the opportunity I think I would do it often. (I have tried it at the gym, but generally find it static and less enjoyable.)

Our rowboat was kept tied to a floating dock and was really there for the primary purpose of getting out to our sailboat which was moored a few hundred feet out, where the it was close to the channel and the water was usually deep enough for it. Once in a blue moon Loren and I would just take the rowboat out – I suspect (but don’t remember specifically) against my mother’s objections. One of our chores was to bail out the rowboat after it rained. This was a messy, mosquito-ridden task which was executed with 2/3 of a plastic milk jug if I remember correctly. We hated it and would always fight over doing it, although my memory is that, perhaps as a result, we usually ended up doing it together.

There was one of those days when I guess we had been fighting over it – although maybe not especially because sometimes Loren could just be unexpectedly devilish too. While I was in the boat bailing and she was still on the dock, she untied it. Off I quickly drifted – without any oars! Loren, being a very strong swimmer and realizing there was no choice, ultimately jumped in and swam back with me in tow before the tide took me too far out. Nonetheless, it lived on in family lore and I would trot it out as proof of her older sisterly abuse, as one’s younger sibling will.

Flying High

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Quite frankly, I saw those plates on the wall with the airplanes and kept being drawn back to this photo which I ultimately purchased, uncontested, on eBay recently. There is no writing on it and I am a fan of the mid-century ruffled border of the photo. While there is no particular reason to believe that the event these women are anticipating has anything to do with the airplane plates, I keep going back to them and wondering – fascinated by the way they are strung precisely across the top part of this room. I love collecting and enjoy seeing documentation of other people’s evidence of it. This is a nice example. I like the idea that someone collected these plates and then decorated this room with them. Splendid.

I did some quick research and I was unable to find these actual plates – the plates in the photo have a distinct horizon line and simplicity which I cannot find in another set. Similar plates were (or are) made by several different, mostly British, companies. UK eBay is full of variations, but the Davenport Wings of Fame plate series is the one that comes up first and most. I share those below, each with a month of the year.

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My favorite is March’s Rescue at Sea. (They evidently have names, perhaps on the back?)

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I like the plates on the wall of this photo better than these, which in all fairness appear to be slightly cheesier. There are seven on the wall in the photo and it does beg the question of if they are an earlier version of this plate of the month series. There would in theory be more or less just enough to go around this room.

This smallish table somehow manages to have eight place settings on it which seems ambitious – although I think I have had six people eat around our flat files so I guess one can do anything if a bit creative. There is a general festive sense about the scene, and it is easy to assume that it is documenting the anticipation of a happy occasion. The Siamese cat, who seems to have a grouch on, is the only exception to an otherwise jolly scene, but we know how cats can be – you can’t judge general ambiance by them. The two women are attractive and seems to be genuinely happy, not just smiling for the camera, and who (besides kitty) can blame the one for scooping up puss for posterity in the photo? From the clothes, make up and general look I would put this photo in the late forties or early fifties. My guess is that it was indeed a lovely day.

 

She Who Has the Most Toys Wins

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Much like my recent post Symmetry this photo surprised me by not being a photo postcard. Instead, it belongs to a genre of photos printed with fancy borders, one of the interesting come ons in the early days of home photography. Instead of an expensive cardboard holder, or being printed on cardboard stock, you had this nice frame for when you placed it in an album, which there is evidence this one was. There isn’t any information on the back of this photo which is too bad, I want to know who this little girl with her pile of toys is.

My first thought was to wonder if these were all toys she just acquired, or ones she was just assembled to show off for the photo opportunity. Then I realized that is a (slightly sad) warm-climate, outdoor Christmas tree, so it must be a sunny west coast Christmas Day. It is quite a haul! There is a total of five baby dolls if you include the ones in the carriage. (Perhaps the carriage is new and the dolls prior occupants? Hard to say, but five dolls in one Christmas does seem extraordinary. Like adopting an entire family at once.) In addition to this nice Felix there is what appears to be a book which (when I blow this up very large I can see) is The Three Bears, although the other titles are lost to me. The interesting scooter to the right, but doesn’t seem to belong to this pile of new toy plunder.

Meanwhile, I like her neat print dress, bobbed hair and those annoying thick white tights that bag at the knees. (Even in the 1960’s my tights bagged at the knees. I feel old saying this, but kids today don’t know how good they have it now that we live in a time with superior elastic and tights and bathing suits that stay up.) She is displaying her toys nicely. This is a tidy yard too with its white fence, outbuilding and brick one just beyond.

I can remember the sort of extreme sense of well-being such a wonderful pile of toys infused me with at this age. Being one of three children, perhaps it was more pronounced on my birthday than Christmas – a day that belonged to me! I remember one birthday in particular when I was probably about ten. I was born in February and for whatever reason it seemed as though my family showered me in books and toys. In particular I remember a silver metal early version of the Flexible Flyer seemed to really put the cherry on it all. (Aptly named, that thing really could fly in the snow.) I really felt like the Queen of Everything. A large Barbie residence and car induced the same feeling one Christmas about that time. That’s what this photo reminds me of.

Pictorama readers well know that I still get a big rush out of toys, and in fact, I share below a photo you may remember from a prior post, a photo of my posing not unlike this little girl!

Dress Up

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: To my surprise this photo is tiny! I was shocked to find it is only about 2″x 3″ when it arrived in the mail. However, it is full of information and has blown up nicely. It was, of course, the cat costume that first drew me, although Little Red Riding Hood, or whoever she might be, is mighty fine as well! The photo came from Britain which means that, although this could be Guy Fawkes, it is not Halloween. Upon reflection the garden, which is lovely, and the houses beyond, are very suburban British in nature. Nothing was written on the back and in its own way it is an old but timeless image. I have it in my mind that the Brits do costumes and dress up well, but I am having trouble pin pointing what makes me think that.

I always loved costumes and dressing up, although what kid doesn’t? In my memory though, surprisingly I don’t remember dressing up as a cat. Not that I have many specific memories of what I did dress up as. Early on were store bought costumes – the late 1960’s and early ’70’s. This meant those awful hard plastic masks that were hard to breathe and see through – and yet, it was exciting to put them on. My parents weren’t the crafty types and making my own costumes had to wait until I was old enough to do it myself. I did continue to dress up for Halloween through high school and at least once that I remember in college. (I remember there being a number of times I dressed up as something out of a work of art – like a Toulouse-Lautrec can-can girl. Or, more abstractly, a Georgia O’Keeffe skull painting. What can I say? I was an art student.)

A number of years ago I did stumble across a furry hairband with shiny sequin cat ears around Halloween which I purchased. When I put it on and showed it to the cats, Otto and Zippy at the time, they had the funniest reaction – they backed away from me very slowly, never taking their eyes off me. Finally they just turned and walked away, as if they were shaking their heads, appalled. I thought later, it was as if I had told a racist joke or put on the cat equivalent of black face, and they were embarrassed for me!

Wading In – Happy Summer

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have owned this photo for a very long time. I cannot remember if I purchased it on eBay or if I bought it at a flea market. It is in bad shape  – faded and dirty, but it always makes me happy when I look at it. It is tiny, only a few inches across and mounted on a hard gray card. Kim has photoshopped more contrast into it than survives in the actual photo.

Despite her voluminous skirts she has managed to hike up to her knees; this attractive woman is wading deeply in the water, and she appears to be having a blissful time! It is a beautiful spot – the photo has no indication of where it was taken or who it is. While I imagine Maine for some reason, it could be any number of watery hot weather vacation destinations. It is easy to see why this photo was kept all these years. In our apartment it sits on a bookshelf at eye level, where it catches my eye once in a while and I consider the pleasure of it, caught on film so long ago.

Wading is a wonderful thing – I think it has virtually all the pleasure of swimming without any of the exertion or, ideally the mess. (Assuming of course you don’t get too enthused and fall in or misjudge the trajectory of an income wave.) Since you remain dressed and are in danger of getting your clothes soaked, these is a tiny frisson of excitement as well. A sense of maybe you shouldn’t be doing this, but what the hell. And the pleasure for someone who was wearing layers of cotton dress, petticoats and corset seems extraordinary. But she isn’t thinking about that – she is in that lovely cool water, her hair pinned up on the top of her head and she is smiling over her shoulder all the way to us in the future, with come hither, summer happiness.

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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