My Donkeys

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  I spotted this photo when I was purchasing yesterday’s delightful cat chair photo and threw it in the purchase. This is the kind of picture that fascinates me, although I understand that it may not have wide appeal. Dark and a bit dour, nonetheless it has a such a feeling of time and space memory for me – a window into a private past. The little girl looks very adult somehow, in her checked dress and hat, holding the reins, a serious look on her face. The background photo of the Eiffel Tower and amusement park, somehow that giant early style Ferris wheel looks almost like a halo over her head. (I think it is a big photo anyway, I cannot imagine that it is a painting.) Funny that this background featuring the Eiffel Tower looks very British to me.

It is postmarked Blackpool, August 2, 1921 PM. It is addressed to Mrs. Lancaster, 16 Bellbrooke Grove, Marchill Lane, Leeds, York, hard to read because it is written in a very light, worn pencil. The message, what I can read of it, says, Dear Mrs. Lancaster, This is me under the hat on one of my donkeys we are having some rain, but are not staying in, but having a good time…for you. Margaret.

I have it in my mind that Mrs. Lancaster was her teacher for some reason, not sure why. Could as easily be a neighbor from home or any number of people. Such a very British holiday and note. I like one of my donkeys – leaving me to wonder what other donkeys she considered hers? The donkey looks kindly, if a bit diffident. Try as I might I cannot quite read what is written on his blanket, Radison perhaps? Not that it matters. I am glad that they were not staying in despite the rain.

I grew up at a seaside resort, but (unfortunately) it wasn’t the sort of town where you could get your photo postcard made for the most part. However, there was a remnant of an amusement pier at a beach a few towns over, complete with a handful of rickety rides, tawdry games, fortune telling. By the time I was in high school it was like catnip to me in the summer, and then into the fall when a haunted house kicked into high gear. We had friends who worked there and they would go into overdrive to scare us when we showed up. I still get the occasional yen for cotton candy or a candy apple this time of the year just thinking about the pier. Family lore is that my great aunt owned a restaurant there when she was a young woman – her parents, my great grandparents, owned a bar and restaurant in the town proper. The site of that still remains. Sadly that remaining bit of amusement pier burned down while I was in college. No donkeys or photos for me, but it does live on in memory.

The Swimsuit Issue


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I stumbled over this souvenir photo postcard while searching for something else on eBay as occasionally (blissfully) happens. I love the frothy waves in the charmingly artificial background. Rough seas for Mr. Sailboat! Even that grimy box she is atop is sort of interesting to me. Our gal is both shy and bathing suit proud at the same time – maybe a tad of defiance thrown in? While certainly not risqué by contemporary standards, I get the feeling that posing in this bathing attire was a bit racy. The card is unsent, but written on the back is To Miss Sara Huffnagle and at the bottom Beulah Huffnagle. 

This swimming costume looks fairly new to me – although I guess no reason to think it was brand new. I like the little black shoes! In some ways they seem quite practical really – hot sand not mention the stones and hard shells in the water we have all stepped on would be avoided. I have written about my childhood and adolescence growing up at the beach on the Jersey shore, so for Pictorama readers it isn’t surprising that for three or so months of every year I lived in bathing suits.

As a more or less average woman with a fairly healthy body image, I have over my life thus far, gone the full gambit on my feelings about wearing a bathing suit. I remember being very young and a cousin giving me a very psychedelic bikini I adored. There was another two piece in a broad orange and white stripe I was very fond of before deciding in a subsequent year that I didn’t like two piece bathing suits. (I didn’t wear another until a few years ago when I bought one – a tankini which looks like a tank suit but has the freedom of two pieces. A grand invention.) There were, of course, reams of Speedo racing suits, unremarkable in design and fading with chlorine and sun over time, made for more serious swimming.

Please understand, I was never a serious swimmer. Unlike my sister who swam laps and joined racing teams, I swam for fun only – in the ocean riding waves, messing around a pool. I never looked at it as a form of exercise or discipline. Therefore, the swimsuits that live in memory were, while essentially practical, entirely about how they looked. I happen to have a photo of another favorite. I may have even had this one in more than one color combination.


Fast forward to New York City post-college (a place profoundly devoid of bathing suit wearing opportunities) and what followed was literally decades of not wearing or even owning a bathing suit. Later, as business travel became more part of my routine, pools at hotels became available. For the first time I was confronted with an older body and the question of whether or not I wanted co-workers to see me in a bathing suit. The answer was, largely, no and I rarely if ever threw a suit in my bag. (I will save opining on the horror of shopping for a bathing suit in florescent lit dressing rooms of department stores, which tend to turn your New York City pallor an overall greenish hue, for a future rant. All the women already know it.)

More time passed. In the past decade I became a gym rat and gradually grew used to seeing myself reflected in multiple mirrors, in running shorts, tights, and other revealing clothing and in equally unflattering light. I slowly adjusted to seeing colleagues in the gym at 5:30 AM in my exercise gear. My reluctance to do so has faded as my devotion to working out increased and I wouldn’t hesitate to pull out my bathing suit now. Good thing too, because I understand there is a pool at the gym near my new office, and I am looking forward to swimming some laps. I will never be as good as a teenage Loren was, but I am looking forward to getting back in the pool and giving it a try.



Cat Chair Photo Sleuth


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Frankly, there are mysterious things that go on with photo purchases I will never understand, and one stumbling on the weirdness of finding photos that must have started life together, or in some sense hail from the same source, and end up being sold by entirely different entities. I have examined this phenomena once or twice before, most memorably in The Mysteries of Felix where several tiny passport size photos of people wearing a Felix mask came to me via different sellers at very different times. In this case I recently purchased the photo above of this toddler in a cat chair – which I happen to think is remarkable enough with that great cat chair. However, it is also amazing that while I purchased this photo from a seller on eBay, located in Maryland (for less than $10) the other, which went on sale at the same time as mine did (was listed at $35) and is being sold by someone in Indiana. My photo has been slipped out of its stand up cardboard frame, long lost no doubt, while the other one still sports its display frame. While there is nothing about the cat chair that allows us to positively identify it, I think the carpet both are set upon is distinctive enough to tell us it was the same photo studio set. I have put them together below so you can see them side-by-side.


If the cryptic writing on the back of my card means what I think it does, my card also originated in Indiana. Here it is below and very hard to read, but look at the bottom, Evansville, Ind.

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Back of photo, collection


For what it’s worth, I think the kid in my photo is the more winning of the two by far, and meanwhile who wouldn’t be charming perched in a nice cat chair like this one? I have never seen a chair like this before – in a photo or as an object. I reminds me in design of the ashtray stand I have below which I have written about in one of my most popular past posts, Wooden Novelty Co.



Blackie with the cat ashtray holder,


Pip Chair, sadly not in my collection

The chair also seems to be something of a kissin’ cousin to the chair the Pip (of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred fame) chair I was unable to purchase in Close Quarters a few weeks ago. It is my assumption that all of the above were designs that could be purchased and executed by the ambitious lay person – however like the photo in Wooden Novelties, could also be purchased fully finished as well. And yes, space or no space, I would snap this cat chair up in an instant given the opportunity!

I assume we will never know the story of these photos, to what degree they belonged together and wandered away from each other. I imagine that there was some sort of a sale where they were purchased by different dealers and turned over on eBay by coincidence at the same time. What we do not know is if the connection is closer – were these siblings and was it an estate sale they came from? I am a bit regretful that they will part company, but they will at least coexist for awhile longer on this blog post.


Coney Island Airplane

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  The back of this card identifies it as a Coney Island Souvenir, but otherwise it is unused and not dated. Several that appeared to be from the same album were put up for sale at the same time, but oddly, this was the only really compelling image for me. (I would have thought they would all be sort of fun, wouldn’t you?) I do love this one – how perfect and goofy! I don’t know what I like best – the creative abstraction of the “airplane” or the wonderfully artificial scene painted at the bottom. (Are those real lights coming through the scenery? They seem to cast all the way upward when you look carefully – tiny searchlights.) Or perhaps the man himself, posing with a Harold Lloyd-like concentration and aplomb! He is so very nattily dressed – nothing like a man who wears a boater well.

It is an odd set up for photos. As Kim pointed out, airplanes changed so quickly at that time it must have gone out of date almost immediately. It would have been an of-the-moment craze however. A few moments of dreaming what it might be like to be up in the air. Of course, you could wander out and climb onto the roller coaster and get a good idea.

Me and My Felix

Series Q #2Series Q #3Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  It doesn’t surprise me that, if you had a wonderful Felix the Cat doll, you would want your photo taken with it. As many of you already know, my collection in this area is fairly deep.  (Some of it was already immortalized and shared in an early posts, Felix Makes the Picture Better and more so in Ugly Children Good Toys.)  Shown here is a little girl dressed in her finest, holding a delightfully large Felix doll and looking mighty pleased with herself.  It is a photo postcard and nothing has been written on the back. Her Felix is a more pristine example of one I own – I am sparing you a photograph of me holding it!

The other card has a small holiday riff and I will use it as a tip of the cap to the newly launched 2014 holiday season. It is hard to see, but the tinfoil greetings has an impression of holly around it.  This little fellow had to pose in his winter clothes (and hat) in front of a very soft focus bit of outdoor scenery.  Note those snappy buttons on his trousers though! He’s dressed up too.  His Felix on the other hand is an absolutely whacky pop-eyed fellow.  Love those ears standing straight up – part bunny! This also unused and perfectly preserved.

I have wondered if these toys were just props at the photo studio. For some reason the little girl has always struck me as the owner of that Felix, the little boy perhaps not. Maybe because it is a bit less clear that the girl is in a photo studio – the portrait could have been made at home.

Those of you on Facebook know that I can’t resist posting a photo of me with new toy acquisitions. A natural impulse I think – representing a long tradition of proud ownership. On the other hand, who wouldn’t smile in a photo studio if they handed you a huge Felix doll?  I would!