Grandpa Love Mickey

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: If you are roughly my age, you too may have photos of grandparents from this generation. My father’s parents were older than my mother’s and the few photos we have of them, one or two from this period, are comparatively formal. My father’s parents were immigrants from Russia and I do not believe there is a single photo of them which isn’t formal and posed. This is ironic considering that their son, my father, was a professional news camera man – trained to catch action. I have also seen a short reel of film taken by my dad of them, probably after acquiring the first camera of his trade, and it was equally posed – as if the idea or purpose of moving on film eluded them. The photo shown here, which is not of my relatives, both reminds me of them and is very unlike them.

It is an utterly foreign idea to imagine my grandfather even knowing who Mickey and Minnie Mouse were, let alone owning and scooping up stuffed ones to proudly hold in a photo. To my knowledge, my grandparents never owned a television and the question of whether or not they ever went to the movies is an interesting one, but my guess would be rarely at most. They were hard working people who owned and ran a dry goods store near their home in Mt. Vernon, New York. They were not unsophisticated by any means, but completely uninterested in popular culture from all memory. This did not result in a rebellious embrace of it by my father either, who seems to have been neutral on the subject, although interested in cinema – with a preference for foreign films. Still, when I was little he was good for cartoons with me on a Saturday morning, partial to Roadrunner and would read the Sunday comics to me until I was old enough to read them on my own.

The Mickey the man holds sports a hat and I feel like I almost know which model but I am not sure – maybe there is a railroad conductor? I have looked and could not find such a one online, but I have a memory of it. It is not the cowboy model, the hat is wrong. I like that Minnie seems to be smiling up at him. The men here have a strong family resemblance, but I am less sure about the woman. Is she a relative or spouse? This photo launches a series of stories and questions in my mind. Like so many photos in my collection, how odd that it got saved only because of the toys that were included.

 

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Family Portrait with Pets

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo struck my fancy the other day. It is the sort of photograph which I liked better and better the longer I looked at it. It is, if you will, the sort of bread and butter photograph Pam’s Pictorama is largely made up of – early 20th century photos of people posing with cats. This one, identified on the back as taken in May (with a ? in place of a day) 1936, with nothing else written on the back. It is a photo postcard, but it is printed on a lesser, lighter stock than they usually are and as a result feels and looks more like just a photo – curling a bit with age. It was never mailed and I don’t know how well it would have stood up to those rigors.

I assume this is a portrait of a family, or at least mostly so. There isn’t a strong resemblance amongst them, but enough to convince me when I look closely, especially around those participants in the center. Only a single man and boy show up in this preponderance of women and girls in mostly spring finery. And of course what sold me was that between the dozen people crammed in here, no less than five of the family pets were scooped up for inclusion. While the three cats and the puppy caught my eye initially, it was the little girl holding the rooster that really made it special. I have debated on the possibility of Mr. Rooster actually being stuffed, but I think he is just standing at attention – there’s something about her hand around him that make me think he is alive. The kitten next to him is taking it pretty well if that is the case, but perhaps they know each other well. In general the cats seem to require a certain two fisted clutch in order to be kept a hold of – the puppy is content with being held, as they often seem to be too. I like the idea that when someone said family photo all these critters were scooped up too.

On this spring morning these folks are presented as a neat and well dressed group, boasting Depression era fashion including sporty berets on three of the girls, the toddler among them. Warm enough day that most of them are in short sleeve dresses, although they range from that to coats. I am somewhat undecided about whether that is some old snow stuck on the fence behind rooster-holding girl, although I land of the side of probably when I blow the photo up. I think you could have that on an early day first warm day in May where spring is just beginning to sort itself out.

When I began Pam’s Pictorama it was for the sole purpose of organizing my photos, mostly those of people posing with Felix, so that they could eventually be published in a book and to entertain myself with this project while recovering from foot surgery. Pictorama took on a life of its own expanding almost immediately and, more than 400 posts later, it has covered a lot more territory than that. Still, when I purchase a photo like this, I mentally file it in a future chapter devoted to photos of people and their pets, and oh what a book it will be.

Ferris Wheel

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I went through a period of fascination with these photo paperweights and a corresponding buying jag. I bought up ones made with home photos and also tourist made ones like this one. I wrote about some of these purchases in my early post Photo-weight and I ultimately I gave some of them away. (I was obsessed with getting the best photo of Niagra Falls at one point and I think that ultimately went to my friend Eileen as a birthday gift.) I believed I realized that I did not have the space to continue acquiring them apace and redirected my acquisitive interests.

I remember that my father’s parents had some in their home, photos of my father when he was young and perhaps even one of us grandkids, but sadly those seem to be lost. My memory of the images is scant, but there is something about the weight and tactile nature (so heavy and there was dusty green felt on the bottom) that I remember holding them in my hand and being fascinated by it. I keep one I purchased of a cat on my desk at work where it holds nothing much down, but pleases me greatly. This borrowed cat of the long past occasionally makes me feel like the executive with photos of his non-existent photo-constructed family in his office – although I do of course have my own Cookie and Blackie at home.

There are modern kits for making these, but I wonder about the original process for the production of the non-commercial ones. I assume it was done professionally, but cannot turn up any trace of the process or history of the procedure. Given the number that are available today it was a popular process and must have been widely available and reasonably affordable.

This gem was spewed forth from my collection, somewhat forgotten, to the top of a milling pile of pending photos and small objects in rotation for this blog, located under the computer monitor at the far end of Kim’s desk. I had no idea it was floating around there until somehow it found its way to the top of said pile. I had not seen it for awhile. Now that it is here however, let’s consider how great it is. I remain agape at the Ferris Wheel and how huge it was, how enormous each of the cars were. The experience of the first Ferris Wheel wasn’t about cuddling up with your sweetie in a seat at the fireman’s fair while looking over the tops of trees, these were large viewing platforms way up high where you must have seen for what seemed like forever.

Unfortunately this photo has faded toward the bottom – I can vouch for the fact that at least some of these remain sensitive to light, although in fact not universally. I am not responsible for the fading on this one and I don’t know if it has to do with the original photo or the process of how it is sealed up in glass. Some seem to remain pristine despite being out in the light. When I purchased this I remember being a bit amazed at how easily and inexpensively I obtained this extraordinary little piece of history. At the bottom it reads in tiny print 264 Feet in Diameter The Ferris Wheel * World’s Fair 1893.

Years ago Kim encouraged me to read a great kid’s book he knew of on the making of the Ferris Wheel. I believe it was the young adult chapter book, The Great Wheel, with text and illustration by Robert Lawson. I cannot find my copy, but I remember purchasing it cheaply on Amazon and it is splendid. It’s the story about Ferris’s vision and the trials and tribulations involved in getting this first Ferris Wheel made for the World’s Fair and the construction of it. Those commodious cars were described in loving detail. It was the perfect amount of information and just long enough to fuel my imagination of the journey to that first trip far up, in a car creaking and smelling of recently sawed wood, thinking that the future had arrived and looking further off than you have possibly imagined at the time.

 

Echo Point, Katoomba

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I ask that you put aside your party planning and New Year’s resolution composing and spend a few minutes in the Felix past with me today. I am continuing to report on the holiday haul with this mini El Dorado of tintypes from Echo Point, Katoomba. I have written about tintypes from Katoomba previously (most recently, Vacation Felix and Another Aussie Felix), but I have never purchased more than one from a single sitting.

The story of how I came upon these photos is interesting. While wandering around down South with the Jazz at Lincoln Center band for earlier this month, I was set up in a hotel room in Florida working furiously on some things for the office via my laptop in a rare post-gym and breakfast couple of hours in my hotel room. I had my personal email in the background as I first conducted a job interview with a candidate in Chicago and then tried to sort out some thorny issues around our April gala invitation. Between these I saw an email from this Pam’s Pictorama site, a fairly unusual occurance. When I finally remembered it was there and had a look at it a few hours later, I realized that it was interesting indeed.

Someone named Calvin was writing because he had Felix photos and he wanted to know if I was interested in buying them. (Of course I was!) Initially I thought he had a collection like the ones I posted yesterday (On a Sunday Morning in Swainsthorpe in case you haven’t been following along) and it took an exchange or so to realize that he had tintypes from Echo Point, Katoomba a resort in New South Wales, Australia. Regardless of my geographic location or my lack of sleep, I was certainly interested. He asked me to name a price, and then of course I needed to see them first – my experience with these being all over the place in quality, mostly dark from light exposure, sometimes to the point of illegibility. Over the course of the next twelve hours or so he sent them – as I was waking up the next morning I think – they were very clean and nice looking indeed. There were several of the same little girl and then others with an arrangement and re-arrangement of others. Presumably all of the same family. No identification or dates on any of them.

Calvin had purchased the lot of them from a postcard dealer, at a flea market I think he said. He went online to research them and stumbled onto Pam’s Pictorama and thought to see if I wanted to purchase them. Since it is my feeling that I really need to own ALL the Felix tintypes (and photo postcards, just to be clear) of course I wanted to purchase them. I named a price that multiplied the average price I have paid for such photos in the past. Calvin accepted and these were speeding their way to me and we arrived in New York at almost the same time. It is the first time Pictorama has attracted its own post material. My delight knows no bounds!

Judging by the cloche hats being sported by the female subjects these could loosely date from about 1922 to ten years later. It is hard to say if Australian fashion tracked US fashion exactly in this regard, it my have trailed us by some years. There is no identification, nor dates on the photos as seems to be typical with these souvenir tintypes. Meanwhile, oh to be such a lucky little girl and have so many nice tintypes made of yourself with Felix! I am so jealous! Although I know from making tintypes myself that they are by their very nature one-of-a-kind images, nonetheless it is difficult to find the differences in these three images, they are there if you look carefully however; the images must be just moments apart. It did occur to me to purchase only one of the little girl (he could have easily sold the others on eBay) or that I can ultimately sell two. Still, Pictorama readers know of my obsession with keeping family photos together and certainly for now they will stay as a group.

My favorite photo, the one featured at top, is of the large group. There is an early car behind them and some sort of an awing that reads Echo Point, Katoomba behind that. (If you are trying to read it, remember it is backward as this is a tintype and a mirror image.) The woman in the middle gets to hold this nice big Felix in place! In the subsequent photo of just her and the man with the hat, he holds Felix sort of haphazardly around the neck and doesn’t show him to full advantage. We get a glimpse of the tropical foliage behind them, as we do with the photos of the little girl, who for some reason isn’t included in the group photo. Felix is just her size and they stand together like old buddies. She is more warmly dressed than the others with a nice fur trimmed coat and sports a cloche as well. These clearly sat together some place, out of the light, well preserved.

Finally, I would like to note that we get a good look at the Felix doll here and he is a bit worn. Most interesting to me is his somewhat extra large (and I assume weighted for balance) feet making him slightly out of proportion. It has always been my assumption that all, or at least most, of the giant Felix dolls made for posing had one origin, but now I doubt that as I look at some of the variations on the wall of them across from me where I sit right now and type, those predominantly from Great Britain. What is even more interesting is that out of the five or so from Echo Point, Katoomba (outside of this group) only one seems to be the same doll. I guess there was a lot of wear and tear and many Felix replacements, or even multiple dolls being used at the same time. Here at Pictorama we continue to fervently hope that someday we will indeed find a giant Felix we can purchase for our very own!

 

Margate Holiday

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Continuing on from last Sunday’s British invasion with a photo from the resort of Bognor, our UK holiday larks continue today with this souvenir postcard which appears to hail from Margate. There is no indication of date on the back, and the only writing is in pencil in one corner On 1/2 stilts, but printed at one end is Sunbeam Photo Ltd., 82 Sweyn Road, Margate, For all orders by Post. When searched Google Earth photos shows the back of a brick building facing another road at approximately as 82 Sweyn Road is today – in the other direction one can see the ocean and beach at the end of a block of brick row houses.

If our bubble-headed friend in the striped pants is on half stilts, he must be pretty short to start with. And yet there is something about his legs that makes the stilt argument a logical one – oh, but walking on sand on stilts? Yikes. While he certainly isn’t a jaunty, giant stuffed Felix the Cat doll, he is a jolly fellow and I can see why these ladies are smiling and enjoying their photo op with him.

I guess I could stretch a point and say that his is a cat head, but I think we won’t try to put too fine a point on it. From the clothes of the women I would date this at the early 1940’s. Behind them a dandy looking ice cream shack and a man, set up in a beach chair, who appears to be leaning into the photo act as well.

For those of us in the New York area, summer seems to have come to a quick end into fall. It is often like that here – suddenly there are events everywhere, exhibition openings and concerts. Folks have returned from vacation and it is the adult version of buckle down back-to-school. Still, even the weather took a cool turn quickly this year, and although we are almost assured of an Indian summer we find ourselves eyeing the wool in our closet already. For me, this card grabbed me back for one last look over the shoulder at summer and vacation, cotton print dresses and kicking up our heels with a bubble-headed fellow on this long-ago beach.

Beach Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo turned up recently in a search and seems an appropriate one for the last waning days of this summer. The photo suffers from over exposure, but there was still something about it that grabbed my attention. When it arrived in the mail I was shocked to find that it is a quite small snapshot, about 2×3 inches. The woman in the water seems unusually tall – Kim joked that she looks like a mannequin and he is right. There’s something odd about the perspective that I can’t quite put in its proper place.

I don’t know about your cats, but I can’t imagine a world where mine want to go to the beach – let alone out onto a stone jetty like the one here, with water on three sides. I can only say it would be a formula for being scratched in the most notable way as the cat shot out of my arms like a bullet. However, this nice striped fellow is looking very at home indeed in the arms of his mom.  While swim fashions have changed, these folks are stylish and the woman has her hair done up in a scarf-held style of the day. I am interested in her swim shoes, if that’s what they are – the men in question don’t seem to feel the need to be shod in a similar way, but one does walk on all sorts of things in the water. It takes a moment to realize that there are two people at the end of the jetty, behind the man and woman most visible – just a leg, head and arm can just about be seen.

Where I grew up there were ocean jetties like this, but considerably broader, two to three times wider and long – this looks more like beaches I have seen further north in Connecticut or Massachusetts. In addition to the jetties on the Jersey shore, there are also broad, high seawalls (at least that what we called them) which contained the ocean from the strip of land and busy road during perennial flooding. This seems like a quaint idea now, as during a hurricane like Sandy the ocean managed to not only flood well over the seawalls, but cover them entirely, eventually meeting up with the river on the other side of the peninsula. As a child these walls seemed incredibly high and on the rare occasions that the ocean flooded high enough that you could see it breaking over the tops of the seawall to the child version of me it meant serious flooding indeed.

In the end, all this is to say there were an abundance of stone walls on the beaches, between the jetties and the seawall. My mother used to point out that a lot of stray cats lived amongst all the rocks – I guess there was enough for them to eat, vicious water rats being their likely mainstay. Evidently mom, cat lover extraordinaire, had tried to pet one of these veteran ratters once and was rewarded with some memorable scratches. She told the story to my sister and I as a cautionary tale, as we were both beach goers and cat lovers as tiny tots, likely to make the same mistake. As she pointed out, if they were dining on water rats they had to be a tough lot. I believe in subsequent years volunteers rounded up most of these strays and neutered and released them to reduce the stray population. Given the recent proclivity for extreme flooding in the area I hope this is true. However, I can’t think about them though without imagining a sweet, young, naive Betty Butler trying to pick up a wild cat of a jetty kitten.

High Five Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There are lazy times when I like nothing better than to take a long stroll through ancient press photos on eBay. As Pictorama readers know, I purchase the occasional one, but I also enjoy the trip along the way. Comic and human interest photo filler for newspapers appears to have been more prevalent and somewhat more freewheeling than today – although perhaps I am just reading the wrong papers now. Strangely these photos are generally dated with a month and a day and not a year, so we don’t know exactly where in the early part of the 20th Century this one falls, but we do know that it was set for publication from the Acme Roto Service for release Sunday, May 29 or Saturday, May 28, to papers not having a Sunday edition.

The caption was to read, ‘Big One for Me’ ‘What’ll you have, Fifi?’ asked a visitor at the bar who was buying drinks for the house. ‘Make mine a long, tall, cool one,’ answers Fifi, using his forepaws to show the bartender the size. I raise an eyebrow at Fifi being a he, but will have to let that slide I guess. Fifi, if indeed that is his name, has a great look of intensity and some annoyance in this photo. Clearly he was born decades too early and should have been doing cat videos on the internet during today’s generation of kitties. Most memorable for me are the patti-cake playing cats who do a slo-mo fight to a narration of patti-cake, but a quick search turns up numerous others. Cats are standing up and gesturing with their paws all over the world and we love recording it with gif’s and on youtube. (This of course leads to cat boxing, a subject previously covered in my post Powo! Cat Boxing and Cat Boxing, Round 2.)

Since I never had a cat do this before Cookie and Blackie, I assumed it was perhaps an evolutionary advancement in 21st century cats. However this photo is here to remind me that, once again nothing is new that isn’t also old as well. To my surprise both our cats do this spontaneously, but Cookie much more than Blackie. She especially likes to hop on a small rocking chair and let it rock gently (adds urgency perhaps?) and reach up with a star fish paw for your attention and bam, a little high five along with a chirp. Blackie much more likely to reach the occasional, languid paw up, almost more of a stroke, for your attention. (And that says all anyone needs to know about their personalities and the differences.) When the cats were tiny they would stand on their haunches in unison chattering, paws outstretched, when Kim would exercise with an old paint pole, back and forth over his head.

This barmen cat is a solid citizen so we will assume he was the recipient of many complimentary bits off the blue plate special of patrons at lunch time – or there was a plentiful rodent population at his disposal, my guess is both. This photo pre-dates the high five as we know it, and so our friend the bartender doesn’t quite know what to do in response and gestures unconvincingly. I do like the idea that Fifi is requesting a large, perhaps frothy drink. “No, I want it this high!”

This photo reminds me of a restaurant I used to frequent when I lived in London. It was in Holland Park and was sort of upscale so I didn’t go so very often. However, in the bar area there was always a rather amazing buffet of various foods including a beautiful plate of salmon trout. Same bright orange as salmon, but a much smaller fish that I only ever saw in Britain. (Turns out that it is of the rainbow trout family and is also, less attractively, known as steelhead.) Anyway, the beautiful and well mannered cat of that bar was always parked provocatively under the plate of salmon trout. I inquired and was told that kitty was very well-behaved and never helped him or her self, although was known to have a portion slipped to him now and again. So there he remained, ever hopeful.