Hard to Find the Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tomorrow we will have our annual Deitch Studio Valentine reveal (one of the highlights of the Pictorama and Deitch Studio year – if you are new to Pictorama or just need to see a Kim Deitch Valentine right now, last year’s can be found here), but today we are back to a Felix photos. This 8″x10″ came to me via @missmollysantiques on Instagram (a fascinating source for things Halloween and exotica from our nation’s great Midwest), and although it was a rollicking good Halloween photo, I didn’t see the Felix at first.

This interior from the early decades of the 20th century is homey and nice. The window dressings form their own patterns in the background, and the piano on one side and mantel on the other frame the group nicely. There is no carpet on the floor, it is shining wood beneath the bent knees of one of the young Indians, but perhaps it has been rolled up and put aside for this shindig. It is hard to imagine that this well-appointed room didn’t have a carpet most days.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

These folks have embraced the costume spirit with a fair amount of enthusiasm. If I was the judge for Best Costume I would likely hover around the gypsy fortune teller (second row, second from the left, holding a tambourine, sassy sash at her hips), or perhaps the clown in the back corner behind the piano – but I am a sucker for a period clown costume and her pointed hat has a nice Halloween pumpkin and black cat. (You can find an earlier rather splendid similar Halloween clown in the snow photo post here. It heralds from the same Midwestern source. Those folks really knew how to celebrate Halloween.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

The men have largely, although not entirely uniformly, embraced cross dressing as their fancy dress and I count four of those here. Others seem to have adopted funny suit clothes without a self-evident definition – comical hats and ties largely. One fellow got into the spirit fully and is in a sort of jester costume, although he looks a tad unhappy, sad jester – he holds something in his hands I can’t make out. Maybe being next to the flashy gypsy à la flapper has him put out.

If you look closely at the back row you spot several men and one elderly woman who are not in costume, tucked in among the more colorful celebrants. Dad and Mom as I think of them, are wedged between a straw hatted and bespectacled (not to mention jaunty) fellow striking a pose on the end and a well-dressed younger woman who may or may not be in costume. Dad is clad in vest and tie, mom with her hair up, eyes downcast, but wearing some lovely long beads, dressed up if not in costume.

Two other younger men who don’t appear to be in fancy dress are to the back. One with a loosened tie behind Dad and the other in a plaid flannel shirt is on the other end. Flannel shirt guy is taller than everyone else and good looking. Perhaps he is in costume but my guess is no. Meanwhile, he looks a bit grim at the prospect of this photo.

On the floor we have our small fry representing a sort of jester, the aforementioned Indian (feathers in her headdress vaguely askew), and a third little girl whose costume, if she is wearing one, is indistinct. She may be sporting something on her head that I can’t quite make out. It’s easy to imagine them running around wildly before and after this shot. I can almost, but not quite, assign them as siblings or offspring of the older generations in the photo. (Does our Indian look a bit like Dad? Does the jester look a bit look a little like the heavy set man with the huge, flowing tie in the middle row?)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Meanwhile, if you haven’t found him yet, Felix takes the form of a posable toy, likely of the Schoenhut variety held in the hand of the woman to the far right, perched on the piano. Although she is in party dress, she does not appear to be in costume either and perhaps grabbing Felix was her attempt to be more festive. Perhaps after this photo she sat down at that piano and started to bang out some tunes, apples were bobbed and the party got underway.

The Girls on the Moon

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a cold gray February morning here in NYC as I write. Snow (I think of it as more snow), which just commenced, is expected throughout today. Somehow it seems like a good opportunity to consider these pretty young women in spring dresses taken in July of 1912.

They are wonderful and somehow that shines through the fact that this photo was an unusually ham-handed product. Perhaps it is the sheer number that these photographers took at fairs or seaside resorts, but they are usually of at least adequate execution, if occasionally showing signs of exhausted chemicals (dunked in a nearby bucket a few too many times) or an image not washed of developer properly and fading over time. This photo would be the exception to the rule – the bottom of the image is out of focus and the top physically cropped crudely – although reading it, that seems to have happened later. Maybe it was cut down slightly to fit in a frame – there is no evidence that it was in a photo album. Perhaps the slightly slovenly execution is why this card was actually sent rather than just saved as a memento as is most often the case with these, at least those which are generally seen and collected today.

For all of that these two are charmers. One grasps the nose of the moon – poking him right in the eye! And the two hold hands. They are both enjoying themselves mightily and smile broad, sincere grins from their moon-side perch. One looks at the other and she looks out, at us and into the future.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The notes are charming too though. Written at the bottom it says, This was taken in Muskogee. We had the finest of times there going to the parks & shows & most everywhere. On the back, also in pencil but lighter and very hard to read, it appears to say, Dear Ma, Say have you sent me any money? if you haven’t pls send some to Aunt Pearl’s for me. I’m leaving this afternoon for K.C. I sure had a grand time here especially…[arrow to the part about money] If you have sent it I will get it alright…will forward it for me. Jane. It is addressed to: Mr. Densel Brown, 2255 E Street, Granite City, Ill. (Yes, she has written to her mother but addressed the card to her father. Welcome to 1912 I guess.) In her hand it is dated 7/19/12.It was mailed from somewhere called Gibson and one wonders if these two are cousins.

A play on the typical Moon photo which I purchased years ago.

I have collected a few of these cards. One of my very first posts was devoted to an early acquisition. (It can be found here. A post about the other photo below can be found here.) They are a competitive area of collecting however so I only dabble a bit. They are a special joy when excellent examples are pulled together and framed or shown collectively – more is more – something I have seen well executed a few times. Much like my beloved posing with Felix photo postcards these always seem to be joyful. As if to say, who wouldn’t get a grin on their face when, in the midst of a fine day at a fair or seaside resort, dressed in your spring togs, you got to sit on the moon or mug with a giant Felix?

A happy group enjoying themselves for a pose on and around the moon.

As huge flakes of snow obliterate our view now (cartoon snow is how I think of these giant pieces, chunks really, floating and blowing around) accumulate outside my window, I am grateful to have spent an hour in July, 1912 in Muskogee, Oklahoma with Jane and her pal.

Stormy Weather

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Ah, yes. A return to photos today and this recent acquisition which exceeded my expectations when I purchased it. I have discovered, the hard way, that purchasing photos off of Instagram sales is different than buying them on eBay. One must act very fast and can’t really study and consider a thing the way I like. Therefore, there’s been a fair amount of leaping and some purchases that have left me scratching my head when received. Such is the life of an online photo collector. Nonetheless, it has broadened my horizons and this example is a gem of the non-cat photo variety.

It is a smallish photo, the actual image is three and a half inches, square. It is permanently affixed to the white decorative cardboard mount. I am inclined to say it is a cabinet card, but I defer to some of my readers who are more specifically knowledgeable in this area to offer a correction or fine tune that assumption. On the back it reads, Brown’s house in pencil in one hand, and in pen below in another script, Medef’s Camera, Dec 16, ’01. I purchased it from a seller in the mid-west and I would make a guess that it depicts a scene there, but hard to tell of course. It was sold to me by a woman who runs two accounts, one for antique clothing and jewelry (@spakeasachildvintage) and another I first discovered her under, @_wherethewillowsgrow_, for old photographs. I frequent both.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

What I find somewhat remarkable about this photo is both the subject matter and the ability of an early photograph to capture it so well. I not sure I envy the early photographer, perched on the shore, capturing this roaring and roiling body of water. It is winter, there is snow on the hillside on the other side of the water and if you look carefully you can also see the icy banks across from they stood to take the photo.

The moving water is in sharp focus meaning it was a pretty fast exposure for the day. The Brown’s house is presumably the pleasant looking house across the way, a bit hard to see but visible. Hard to say if their property was threatened by the rising, violent water. There appears to be a whirlpool, or perhaps just a deep cavity formed by the waves, to the right side of the photo. It is quite a maelstrom.

Pictorama readers know I grew up on the Jersey shore, on the Shrewsbury River and only a few minutes from the ocean. River flooding and occasionally violent hurricanes, were not uncommon and dot my childhood memories – mom picking us up early from school before moving the car to higher ground and walking home in advance of a storm; watching the river burst up over the bulkhead and into our yard and around the house; the cold feeling of the water rushing under the house during a flood; geese paddling by and peering in the back door.

Despite that, I don’t remember seeing our river in quite this state – perhaps because the Shrewsbury was not contained by the same sort of deep embankment as is shown here, maybe made yet more active by a nearby falls. (Hurricane Sandy was the first time my parents evacuated during a storm and after a lifetime there they moved not long after, being too elderly now to deal with the extremes of life on the water. Mom lives nearby but definitely inland now.)

The sun playing on the water is always lovely.

As recent readers know, I have taken up running along the East River (attempting to anyway) as part of my pandemic exercise regime. (That post, Running Slowly can be found here.) The moods of the river remind me of my childhood and it is fascinating to watch its many moods each day. In general I am shocked by the current which almost always seems to be very strong and fast. Even without boats (and there are boats in winter, a more or less steady stream of ferries, tugs and cargo ships) small waves, sometimes eddies and whirlpools. On a very windy morning the water can slap the bulkhead and spray as I jog by. The extremely calm day is a rare exception. I find it irresistible to photograph in all its moods and record it ongoing, as seen here, often with the early morning sun playing on it. Being near it now reminds me of my childhood and endless days of watching the water out our windows.

A strangely still day on the East River recently.

Living by the water you are quick to learn that, much like life in general, one day it can be as calm and smooth as glass – and the next it can whip itself into a fury.

Strong currents in the East River in November.

Framed Again

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is my second installment of framed photos that have wandered into the Pictorama collection recently. This little treat was a Christmas gift from Kim’s brother Seth who always sends especially thoughtful holiday gifts.

Gift from Seth Deitch featured in a 2016 post, link above. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Much like yesterday’s post (which you can find here for those not following in real time), this hotsy totsy item is a wonderful object as he has assembled it, frame and decorative paper behind it spot on. It now has a special perch near my desk. While he has numerous talents, Seth has a great eye and came up with an equally special Christmas gift of a photo a few years back and I featured that one in a post you can read here, Merry Christmas from Seth. (Shown above.)

This year’s gift from Seth Deitch. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

These mandolin playing women stand on either side of this Christmas tree, which is done up in holiday decorating charm of an earlier era – the lead based garlands and tinsel which sparkled a bit brighter I think, but must have been banned at some point. (I found someone selling new old stock of it this holiday season and you can see it has more heft as well.) The Butlers were a garland and not a tinsel family probably because of the numerous cats we had, although my mom may have been mess adverse as well.

I remember my cat Otto eating some tinsel the first year I had her and had placed a tiny artificial tree in my apartment. (She gobbled it before I could do anything – hell bent on it – she was a nutty cat.) Luckily it didn’t kill her or make her sick – no tinsel after that. Meanwhile, I do remember that my grandmother had ancient tree garlands that were heavier and brighter than what are sold now. They seemed old-fashioned even back in the 1960’s and early ’70’s, but I remember the hard, crinkly feel of them.

The women and the tree are set up in front of a mural of a pillars, sky and sweeping drapery. They are clad in somewhat sensible low-heeled shoes atop a patterned carpet. The mural and even the carpet makes me tempted to guess that this locale is a ballroom or other commercial venue rather than a home. Both are dressed nicely, albeit somewhat subdued – the woman on the right has a necklace on, the other a pin at the neck of her dress.

I itch to hear them play those mandolins. I admit I had not given much thought to mandolin playing until I started working at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I was introduced to the wonders of the mandolin at several concerts, but Marty Stuart really made me take notice. I notice the guitars at the ready in this photo, and somehow I just get the sense that we could hear these women in a great swing band.

Some of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra members, from left Kenny Rampton, Marcus Printop, Carlos Henriquez and James Chirillo. Taken on tour in 2017, on the porch of Cracker Barrel after a breakfast stop.

Although the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra does not have a guitar player as a persistent member of the band, we are often fortunate to often have James Chirillo join us, and he was on the Big Band Holiday tour I joined on the road back in 2017. (You can read about that trip early in my career at Jazz at Lincoln Center here.) James was recently a guest for a Zoom member evening and it was nice to see him and talk with him again. Like all of us he is chomping at the bit to be back in our hall and playing live music again. (Someday I think people will wonder what the heck this Zoom was that we all talk about during the pandemic. Zoom, which I spend most of my days and some of my evenings on, tends to make me feel like I’m in a sort of bubble where I am almost with people, but alas, are not really. Ironically it is like the television phones of the future we all imaged and thought would be so wonderful. I just read speculation about such things in a 1922 volume of The Radio Girls series. More to come on that.)

This has set me off, thinking about the past and wondering about the future as I consume my second cup of coffee so I will leave it here for now, but with another final tip ‘o the hat to my brother in-law who can pick a mighty fine photo – with thanks!

Framed: Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today is the first of at least three framed photos that have come to me recently, two were gifts, but today’s was purchased. I hope to post about them all.

As someone who collects photos I of course give some thought to frames. Shown below is the utility black postcard frame that virtually all of my photos on display are assigned to. In this way they are fairly uniform and I maximize wall space.

The wall over Kim’s desk is the exception however and those photos are in an array of frames purchased, found or otherwise cobbled together, which creates a nice effect too. (I pledge a future post devoted to the wall, perhaps in sections. It is a major source of entertainment for the Zoom evenings I put myself in front of it. Even Wynton has claimed to spend time parsing it during these endless months.)

Partial view of a Felix and Cat Chair photo wall.

But my wall of Felix photos (which I previously posted about here in a pre-apartment renovation post) has them all housed in their matching black plastic frames which allow the photo to be the visual star. I have a pile of unused frames at the always at the ready and (needless to say) a pile of wall worthy photo postcards awaiting installation.

You would think that pandemic life would induce me to spruce up my surroundings, but beyond the necessary renovations back in the summer, I seem to devote myself largely to work and being drawn into the daily unfolding drama of the national news. My mental health would undoubtedly be better if I spent more time on framing photo postcards. (I have, however, just purchased a new desk chair as my back has continued to remind me that the one I use was never meant to be a 12 or more hour a day perch. The new one at least has arms so let’s see if Mr. Back responds to that.)

Still, sometimes it is the frame or all about the frame. Frankly, I find interesting frames a bit intimidating and I can think of at least two that are sitting in this apartment, languishing until I figure out how best to fill them. I mean, you want to do the frame justice with the right photo, but also the photo needs the right home too. And if it is a spot for several photos it is additionally perplexing. Perhaps there is some sort of life lesson lurking there. Clearly, I overthink.

Photo and handmade frame; Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Today’s framed photo comes via a new indulgence which is an antique store in Dallas, Texas called Curiosities. I have written about a purchase from them before (that post about a unique Felix match holder can be found here) and over time purchasing from them has almost become like a trip to their shop a few times a month. I found them on Instagram (@curiositiesantique or their website, GetCuriosities) and much to my entertainment they turn up a continuous array of somewhat irresistible bits and pieces – toy cats (a future post there indeed), but also just interesting stuff.

I can’t help but feel if I lived closer to the store that I would probably buy twice as much – but of course that would mean I had a house and could fill it, rather than our tiny and increasingly crowded apartment. A phone chat to seal the deal with Sandi or one of her colleagues is always a nice interlude in the day too.

Obviously though things do make it over the transom all the time and the most recent purchase, which is so hot out of the box that Kim will be seeing it now for the first time, was this photo in a handmade frame. Now, while I confess I was hoping to purchase this and replace the photo with one from my collection, it is not possible – this framed photo was constructed specially for this photo and it would be wrong if indeed it were possible, to replace the picture.

The tramp art style wood worked frame is punctuated by stuffed bits of old silk around the sides and corners – now so old and faded that they appear more solid than cushy as I believe was the original intention. We’ll also assume that the colors were more vibrant, if not actually vivid. Still, a certain grandeur remains. The photo is inset into a gold stripe trim self-frame of glass. From the outfits on the girl and boy shown, it dates from the dawn of the 20th century. A careful look reveals that they stand on an elaborately tiled floor and I can almost make out a table and a wall mural behind them, making me wonder if this wasn’t taken in a restaurant – although that seems odd.

Girl and boy are in matching suits of sailor inspired design. These appear to be wealthy offspring, their clothes and shiny shoes stylish and well appointed. The girl wears a tiny necklace and the outfits are trimmed with bright brass buttons. They do not look to be especially robust, either of them, but I wouldn’t go all the way to saying anything more than that. The boy looks squarely at the camera while the girl has a slightly dreamier expression, looking off to the side.

Somehow there’s a lot of history attached to the back of this frame.

The back of the frame is interesting because you can see the construction. A careful look shows it was made from some sort of light wood boxes or crates, bits of advertising cling to it. As side view shows how the layers, which are actually fairly thin, were carved and put together to create the dimensional effect. The maker of this was no slouch!

The side view shows how the carved layers were atop each other.

So I will go in search of a spot in the apartment for this where it will not be ravaged by the sun, but can still be seen (a perpetual challenge in this apartment, although we are grateful for the natural light from the northeast and the view of the East River), perhaps by some aging tintypes in the small hallway between bedroom and bathroom. We shall see. And maybe I can commit to getting a few more of my Felix-y photos framed up and on the wall, to be enjoyed each time I sit at Kim’s computer or go into the kitchen.

The Long and the Short of It

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The folks in these photos are costumed, but it might be a bit of a stretch to say these are Halloween photos, nonetheless I offer them for your pre-Halloween delectation today.

These photos are 9.5″x 3.5″, a size I have never encountered before. They are printed on a heavy stock – it might be fair to say photo postcard paper, but since they were long glued into an album (black paper sticks to the backs) it is a bit hard to tell exactly what their original weight was. Quite simply, these appear to be a miniature version of the foot long or panorama photo. They are slightly solarized, the silver somehow working its way to the surface as they aged.

On the technical side I am unsure exactly what camera would have sported this film, although the desire to make panoramas goes back to daguerreotypes – starting with the fitting together of consecutive shots, something that continues into the wet plate era.

Kodak was evidently making a panorama camera back in 1898, but my guess is that this photo may have been made with a 1911 Kodak model sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. (I am not that smart about these this and some of these tidbits come from a larger article that can be found at A Brief History of Panoramic Photography.)

Generally panoramic photos were larger and made by either the lens moving or the camera and film rotating, but it seems that home panorama camera kits were mass produced, used roll film and the swing lens theory, but did not require a tripod. They made for smaller photos, topping out at around 12 inches. The negatives could be enlarged or contact printed. Given the information in these photos and the size I would guess their were contact printed. The edges of these photographs are a bit over-exposed and diffused which I am guessing either this particular camera or perhaps was prone to or that that process was likely to have.

Some of you might remember that there was a brief fad for disposable panoramic cameras, shortly before digital cameras (ultimately followed by the phone-photo) became the rage. They had a generally unsatisfying picture quality however, the dimensions somewhat shorter and wider than these. I was more a fan in theory than fact. (There was a more rarified 3-D disposable camera which I purchased, but sadly my photos were lost in the development return process so I cannot comment on the quality.) Somehow the panorama quality of my phone camera also disappoints and I use it rarely if at all.

Pams-Pictorama.com
Pams-Pictorama.com

If you look carefully at these pictures you can tell that the leafy surround of the stage is the same in both photos although the elaborate costumes and backdrops make me think these are entirely different productions. Both appear to be of a historical nature, but one has thrown in a number of angels, even two who “float” above the group, a technical triumph I am sure.

These pictures found their way to me from the mid-West (as many photos have recently) and there were a smattering of others, apparently from still other productions, that were sold at the same time. I was fascinated by the size which I had not encountered before.

Meanwhile, I would say that all evidence points to these kids really knowing how to put on a show. If I had to choose I think I would be partial to seeing the one with the angels doing their thing – although perhaps their special effect was only for this picture.

As an aside, a little known Pictorama fact is that I was an active participant in high school dramatics. Plays found me onstage and musicals behind the scenes as an assistant to the director. As such I can still recent lines from Harvey and know most of the lyrics to things like How Are Things in Glocca Morra? I’ve painted my share of scenery and assembled all sorts of costumes so I can appreciate the work that appears to have gone into these productions. (I am not much of a singer so Kim and the cats are blissfully spared my actual vocalizing of show tunes.)

For a number of years I have searched for the right panorama photo to find a home here at Deitch Studio. We have so little wall room that I have long held out for the right one, perhaps a wild west show, although of course something with cats would really be best. I am agnostic on size, although some are really quite huge. Most of what has come my way for purchase has been gala dinners for salesmen so I continue to wait for the right one to come along. I did post about a sort of faux panorama of cats, Kitty Sextette Singers, which can be found here which was assembled through a bit of photo negative magic.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Kim tells a good story about being in a panorama photo as a kid at an animator’s picnic with his folks – that or even one like it would be the real find. He also points out that with the roll film or rolling camera and film, a trickster who thought ahead could race from one end of the photo to the other and appear on both ends – a long forgotten joke of a bygone era.

Wrestling: June 25, 1906

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I needed a giggle and this card provided it for me so I purchased it – and I hope it does as much for you, Pictorama reader. As we can see from the front, this card was sent on June 25, 1906. It appears to be Compliments of RJH. What we know from the back of the card is that it was postmarked from Cleveland, Ohio at 12M and arrived in Brooklyn on June 26. It is neatly addressed, Miss Emma Lampe, 2680 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

While I for one immediately assume that RJH is the fellow with his buddy tossed over his shoulder looking out at us, I guess it could also be the guy held aloft, also looking at us. Of course, it could be the third fellow or anyone for that matter.

I don’t know what we want to make of the fact that the card was purchased from the Midwest, near its place of origin – making me wonder if Emma and RJH eventually got together, she went out there or returned to there, and she brought the card with her. Perhaps that is reading a lot into it however. So now, on the next leg of its journey more than hundred year journey, it has come to rest a borough away from its original Brooklyn destination. Kim has done a good job scanning this card. In person it it actually is a bit hard to see – the surface has silvered and reflects the light.

With all due respect to RJH it is a goofy (albeit perhaps also charming) way to woo Emma Lampe. Meanwhile, their 1906 state of the art gym clothes fascinate me – the layers! Sort of black stockings as the bottom layer, then the white trousers, all topped off by shorts. No wonder they are outside. Like the swimming clothes of the period – how could they maneuver in all of that? Each seems to have a strap across their chest, even the fellow looking on – perhaps better informed readers can tell me what that does for you when wrestling. The ground does not look especially soft so I hope the guy on his shoulder doesn’t get dumped unceremoniously there.

Kim is feeding me tidbits of wrestling lore as I write this – he knows quite a bit about wrestling, which may seem a tad strange, but is true. It is one of those facts about Kim that I have known for quite awhile now, but surprised me upon discovery. He just told me there was a time when someone could have had another person in a headlock for an hour. Oy, that sounds bad for everyone involved. (Kim’s interest in wrestling came and went long before we got together so it is neither a particular interest of mine, nor one I am knowledgeable about by association. I know nothing about it.)

Meanwhile, Kim is commenting that wrestling seems to have evolved into some sort of strange entertainment over time – part athletic feat, part theater. Actually very Deitchian now that I think about it. There are some Deitch drawings about wrestling out in the world (I believe they were made for friend and collector Glenn Bray and can probably be found in the book about his collection), but no Deitch stories about wrestling. Hmm, maybe we’ll have to get him to see about that one of these days.

Flea Market Finds

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: After seeing flea market finds from folks in other parts of the country on Instagram, I got to thinking about the Chelsea Flea Market. It had closed last December, but then I had heard a rumor that it was taken over by someone else so I went online to investigate. Sure enough, although originally scheduled to open in April the re-opening had been delayed due to Covid, but it would be opening in a few weeks, in September. I marked my calendar and last weekend, perhaps week two of its reincarnation, Kim and I wandered over.

Like many New Yorkers, my relationship to this market is as long as my residence here in Manhattan. In the years before I lived here I frequented one on Canal Street which I was very sorry to see disappear, and another small one on Broadway, both on the edges of Soho. (Imagine! Flea markets in Soho – needless to say both gobbled by the rising real estate and gentrification of that area. I wonder if, now that evidently no one wants to live here in a post-pandemic world, we will see flea markets crop up, once again, on lots that would have otherwise gone to over-priced luxury apartments? One can only hope that it will be a byproduct of our unusual time.)

However, it was the Chelsea Flea Market that held the record for ongoing weekend visits over decades. More things purchased at the garage there, which used to boast two floors of vendors, than I can possibly remember – although a few stand out in my mind, like my black cat ash try stand which I happen to be looking at right now. I didn’t really mean to buy it, but the seller made me an offer I couldn’t refuse – and now, many years later, I am so glad!

Old photo of Blackie and the black cat ashtray stand

The Chelsea Flea Market was a constant weekend companion and occupation through several relationships prior to meeting Kim, in fact a sort of an acid test for men I was dating – I mean, there was no long term hope for a relationship that didn’t embrace the flea market, right? With Kim the flea market became a weekend rotation every six weeks or so throughout the spring, summer and fall. The insatiable desire for property to build on nibbled away at the edges and it went from a high I remember of about six scattered locations, to the just the garage (which closed) and the now current (lone) spot on 25th Street, off Sixth Avenue.

In these weeks and months while Manhattan tries to find its footing again, figuring out what the city will look like now on the other side of closing down back in mid-March, we keep our expectations pretty low as things try to start up again. The current incarnation of the market is about two thirds of the lot devoted to sellers, in a vaguely socially distanced way, and the other third given over to a few food trucks and tables. Someone reminds you have your mask up as you enter the lot. (This lightly gated approach reminds me that one of the lots went through a phase which lead to a lot of peering in and seeing if it was worth paying the vigorish to enter or not.)

Sadly, the large indoor market that houses my favorite toy store, The Antique Toy Shop – New York, is closed. His website says he hopes to return at the end of December. I remain hopeful of its return.

At first I thought the sellers were all new merchandise (mask anyone?) of little interest to me, but a slow stroll around revealed tables boasting boxes of photos, vintage clothing, jewelry, and finally even some old books of interest. The table where we purchased this really sort of special photo, glued into its period self-frame of embossed cardboard, also boasted a bookcase of interesting young adult fiction from the early 20th century.

I quickly picked up the volumes below: The Outdoor Girls at Wild Rose Lodge, Larkspur, and Ruth Fielding in Moving Pictures. (Ongoing Pictorama readers are aware of my fondness for juvenalia of the early part of the last century. You can read some of those posts about everything from the adventures of The Automobile Girls, and Grace Harlowe to Honey Bunch can be found here, and here, not to mention Judy Bolton, Girl Detective, which can be found here.) I will be sure to report back if any of these volumes reveals a new vein of reading interest.

While waiting for the seller to finish with some other customers Kim and I found the photo. The embossed frame seems the perfect setting for this timeless photo of a family in front of this extraordinary thatch roofed building. It is a pretty huge building really, with large windows which appear to have shelves behind them. A chimney belies a fireplace within, but while I thought this was a home at first I am unsure as I look more closely. The enormous double doors don’t seem residential somehow – was it a store? There is a neat path leading up to the front door and around the side.

Detail of the cardboard framed photo.

The family looks prosperous, mom in a long black dress which could have been found in parts of this country (and Europe) from 1900 through the 1920’s. Both the man and the boy are in suits – the boy is sporting a shiny bicycle though, which appears to be a full adult size and probably a bit big for him. Something slightly illegible is inked on the back – something and John. Could be Linda and John. Kim and I cannot fully decipher it.

Sadly it is missing a corner and there is a split in the lower right side, but none of that takes away from the overall effect and beauty of it. When I was able to speak to the seller she apologized for the delay. The books were five dollars apiece and much to my surprise and delight, she threw the photo in with the group. I packed it carefully between the books in a bag I keep with me. (Remember when the end of plastic bags in New York was big news at the beginning of March?)

Feeling quite chuffed, Kim and I strolled back to Broadway in the autumnal sun and alighted atop of some highboy tables at a nearby Vietnamese restaurant where we consumed spicy shrimp sandwiches. The sun was out and the Flat Iron Building within view. Thank you New York! Our day was a good one.

Team Sports

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased this 5″x7″ photo of a basketball holding girl awhile back and have been giving her a lot of thought. I like the image – she is solid, muscled, intent. Her uniform is antique, but there is something that remains practical and current about it. Those shoes look uncomfortable to me – almost like playing in your socks really. However, the belted shorts and shirt are trim and they appeal to me. The South where on her shirt is lost to us now, although maybe somewhere a local would know immediately. There is no information on the back of this photograph however. It appears to have been well-preserved, most likely in a frame.

This card was sold to me by a photo dealer in, I believe, Ohio. He actually posted that he was at a flea market the other day and I was very envious. (I am generally always envious of people who are at flea markets when I am not, but in pandemic Manhattan it combines some additional elements I am missing and craving these days. It sounded heavenly.)

Our basketball player is in a professional photo studio with a somewhat formal backdrop for our athlete. I cannot help but wonder if the entire team had their photos taken this way, one at a time, and someday I could perhaps come across some of the others. This sort of thing happens if you do this photo collecting thing long enough. In fact, I just bought a photo postcard taken in the same spot as another that I plan to write about in the next post or so – future post! However, since she in her athlete’s get up is a bit of an exception to my collecting tendencies and searching, so it seems unlikely.

Meanwhile, I find her to be unexpectedly compelling. She has a look of intensity about her, eyes focused on a goal we cannot see. Game on with her I’d say.

Pictorama readers probably know from past posts that I never played sports or worked out as a kid, teen or even young adult. I think if I had I would have been drawn more to individual sports rather than team ones, in part because I like the challenge of improving against myself, and also because although I wasn’t a shy kid, I wasn’t social enough to pursue group activities, especially athletic ones.

Having said that, as an adult there are times when I wish had pursued that experience. I have often thought that team sports probably prepare you well for the sort of teamwork adult work-life demands. When I interviewed with Wynton Marsalis for my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center he used a lot of sports metaphors, football I believe, which frankly left me utterly confused. What I don’t know about football is pretty much everything there is to know. I can’t say that at the time it made me feel like the job would be an especially good fit.

I got over it and now, three years later, I like his stories about the basketball and football games of his high school years. He tells a good story when making a point. Jazz is obviously another frequently used metaphor, but I have grown fond of the sports ones. Mostly these stories boil down things like setting your goals high – beyond what is needed to win; even if you know you are going to take a beating you have to go at it the best you can full on; and even if you are winning you have to stay focused and finish strong. There’s one guy in Wynton’s tales (Kim would say, one of Nature’s noblemen), who lives in my imagination now – bigger and more agile than the rest of them, he did his best to lead their team to the occasional victory, but more often kept them from goofing off or slowing down when the odds were against them.

Clearly our new world order currently requires employing every skill acquired over decades in the workplace and elsewhere: managing a team which is now scattered all over the country and who are wrestling with their own myriad of personal and home problems, most of us working out of tiny New York apartments where we are housed with our families, a few living in basement in their parent’s home, some folks dealing inevitably and terribly with illness and death. It is time to be a good team player and invest in teamwork across the organization, finding ways to support each other. Everyone is fighting similar battles regardless of industry I am sure. I can’t help but think I might be better equipped to manage now if I had been on some of those teams growing up. However, I can borrow Wynton’s lore – after all that’s what the stories are for.

Aim

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For cat lovers I have to apologize that I am continuing my non-cat jag for now. As I am adjusting toys later to redistribute to our new shelves, I am sure I will find some items to take us back to the land of very old toy cats and photos. Today’s post meanders to more memoir than photo as you make your way into it.

This photo came as part of what I now think of as a speed-buy on Instagram. (You are quietly minding your own business drinking coffee, watching an HGTV rerun or writing a blog post when you get a notification – maybe you’d like this photo? And you are off and running for an undisclosed amount of time for a photo sale.)

We have (Kim’s job actually) adjusted the contrast on this photo a bit – I am afraid she is somewhat faded. The photo has long been affixed to this bit of gray cardboard and having been printed on thin paper to begin with, photo and cardboard are definitely merged permanently into one now.

My guess is her shooting riding regalia is her own, however clearly she is mugging for the camera. I like her get-up though – perky little cowboy hat saucily askance, neckerchief, divided skirt for riding. Who wouldn’t enjoy such a get-up? Clearly, she is heavily Annie Oakley influenced. I know absolutely nothing about guns so I cannot venture an educated guess whether she is holding it correctly or just for the camera.

In fact, what I do not know about guns is just about everything about guns. Other than the wooden faux rifle of my drill team days in high school (such a satisfying clank as we thumped them down in unison), I believe I can honestly say I have never held one in my hands. This probably comes down to the fact that there has never been the real need or desire for me to kill anything, and that’s pretty much what guns are around for. I had a nascent interest in shooting a bow and arrow and perhaps might have found target shooting, or even clay pigeon shooting, of interest given the opportunity. it is unlikely, although not impossible, that I will ever find out.

My father kept a few rifles in the house. (These were gifts to my dad from my grandfather. Poppy had hunted and fished his entire life and fed his family during the Depression that way.) Evidently Dad also had a handgun in his dresser drawer, although I have to say I only learned of it as an adult and never saw it, and I have no idea where he acquired it from.

It is only because of these rifles that I have ever even seen ammunition for one, although again, I cannot say for sure that my father ever fired them. He was in the army, during the Korean war, so he knew something about guns. These guns were a sore point between my parents. Despite having come from her own father, my mother has a real hatred of guns (she says she fought with her father since childhood about it), and lobbied for their disposal more or less from the time of acquisition. (Were I to call Mom right now, more than fifty years since the rifles were given to my Dad, and mentioned those guns she’d go off on it for a good five or more minutes.) Dad was a very quiet man and I don’t remember his rebuttals if any, but the guns stayed. They sat behind some things on the mantel of the fireplace.

Now I admit, I inherited stubborn streaks from both my parents. (Meaning that I am a virtual mule of a person when I dig my heels in, my own stubbornness, in evidence since early childhood, is a bit of family lore.) Therefore I can only say the guns were a decades long stalemate between mom and dad. As far as I know those guns were only disposed of when my parents moved about four years ago from my childhood home. I have no idea how, as it isn’t like you can just put them out with the trash.

Mom’s outspoken hatred of guns would probably explain why I, as the granddaughter of a man who hunted and fished his whole life, never so much as fired a gun. The fact that my grandfather died very young, in his fifties and when I was still a small child, contributes to that fact. However, my mother’s dislike of guns extended to toy guns, although I do remember a few coming my way despite her protestations – I had nifty silver toy guns I loved, with holster, that I remember from childhood. They were designed to fire caps, but I was never supplied with those. One or two toy guns may have slipped through to my younger brother, but by then (the early 70’s) it was a bit more acceptable to say you didn’t want your children to have toy guns and as I remember Mom pressed the advantage.

More than being anti-gun my mother is really anti-hunting. As mentioned above, Mom has hated it since childhood and she has dedicated much of the past several decades to actively fighting it. First getting it banned on a nearby island (stray spent ammunition would turn up in our yard which was a bit sobering indeed), but then taking it more broadly, even working on a national level in defense of our waterfowl friends. She has received death threats, by mail and phone, as a result. When I consider my mom, long bent over a walker, being called an eco-terrorist in an editorial in a local paper it kind of blows my mind.

While I have said that I have inherited a double dose of parental stubborn, I am the first to say I have never had my mother’s resolute and singleminded vision of right and wrong. My personality tends to be one of always weighing both sides and trying to see more or less down the middle, or at least acknowledge the value of the other side. I envy her certitude in her beliefs, and am in awe of her continued deep commitment, despite physical and other limitations that plague her as she gets older. Betty wields a mighty computer and telephone I always say. (I have often said that if she was more physically able I would, at best, be bailing her out of jail constantly. Born at a different time she’d be a PETA activist, taking over illegal whaling ships and the like. Without question or hesitation, she likes animals much more than humans.)

Mom can dig her heels in on other things. I can remember when we built the house I grew up in the water company denied us a hook up to the water main, and instructed us to dig a well. Because of our proximity to the river she felt well water would be easily contaminated and she took after the water company with a vengeance, at one point staging my father with his news equipment while she took them to task (the cars had big ABC News stickers on the doors in the day in case anyone was missing the point), making them think the story was of national news interest. We got the water main hook up days later and it immediately became family legend.

Needless to say, I learned early on to pick my battles with my mother, and the potential for tangling with her generally kept us three kids in line, although in all fairness she was generally pretty even tempered with us kids. In fact, I often think about her juggling the three kids, never less than two cats, a large dog, and a home on the river which flooded regularly, mostly on her own while my father traveled around the world constantly for work, and I wonder how Mom managed it with as much sanguine as she did; my own nerves would certainly have frayed I think. She did it with energy to spare – encouraging our friends to constantly traipse in and out of the the house, adopting stray animals and sometimes people too. So watch out world, because Betty’s still on the job.