A Pip of a Pip

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It’s been quite a stretch without a toy post – mostly because I have not acquired any since my adventures in Shanghai, and that was more about the trip than the toy. I have written on the subject of the (now obscure) British comicstrip which emerged post-WWI, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. My post Pip Squeak and Wilfred Perform, based on a postcard purchase, examines the strip in depth and my more recent Close Quarters which kicks off with my acquisition lust for a piece of furniture based on one of these characters.

Nonetheless, it was a splendid Pip toy that lead me to discover the strip in the first place, although I was unable to purchase him. Subsequently, I have bid on numerous versions of this toy and to my surprise I won this one and for a quite reasonable price. Pip is in such good shape I think buyers might have wondered if he was a re-issue of some sort. (The same seller is in fact selling a knitted version which may very well be newer – much to my shock patterns were sold for such things. I cover this strange DIY opportunity in a post here Homemade Mickey. Kim assures me, after having a sniff, that he does indeed have the smell of nostalgia.) Pip has a vaguely, early Felix-y air here, I believe.

Before we get too far into this post let me outline the comic strip for you a bit. Published in Britain’s Daily Mirror, written by Bertram Lamb (and signed as Uncle Dick) and elegantly drawn by A.B. (Austin Bowen) Payne, it is the ongoing story of Pip the dog dad, Squeak the penguin mom, and Wilfred the bunny boy-child, who form a family and live in a magnificent mansion called The Grange. (Where they are theoretically cared for by the aforementioned Uncle Dick, and a human housekeeper Angeline.) Pip was said to have been purchased for a half-crown from a dog’s home, where he was sent after being “arrested” for begging on the Embankment; Squeak was found in the London Zoological Garden although hatched in South Africa; and Wilfred who was found and adopted by them. (There are other characters and I am especially fond of Auntie penguin who is a bit frowzy with age and who has a penchant for money schemes.) Launched in 1919 one can easily imagine why a fatigued post-war England would embrace these characters and their whacky and low-key ongoing tales. It ran until 1959, although with the death of Lamb in ’38 and the subsequent defection of Payne in ’39 the heyday ends there.

I supply a sample strip from the ’30 annual below.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection, from a 1930 Annual

 

For the few (really guys, two or three) people who read the earlier Pip, Squeak and Wilfred post you know that it has been a long held desire to have (at a minimum, let’s be realistic) one each of these stuffed toys. I have achieved two out of three for now with the acquisition of Pip. I have made many attempts at purchasing a Squeak which have yet to bear fruit – stay tuned on that. Meanwhile, I share a photo below my then recently acquired Wilfred rabbit during my recovery from foot surgery a few years ago. (Hence the large, red cast in the background – that’s me.) He is perched on one of my nice annuals – more on those below.

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Wilfred rabbit toy, recently arrived. Blackie and toy shelf in background!

 

While I have labored to no effect to work up much interest in this strip they were, in their day in Britain, as big as Mickey Mouse – spawning early merchandise which included not just stuffed toys and various figurines, but postcards, furniture, recreations of The Grange, records of songs, as well as annual competitions and gatherings across Britain. (My previous posts above include some Youtube footage of a parade and a short on the making of the strip.) Here I include a photo of the badge from their fan club, the GUGNUNCs below. WWI medals were also issued in the names of each of the pet family. The club was in existence until fading with Britain’s entrance into WWII.

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Pip, Squeak and Wilfred fan club pin, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

I have collected several of the annuals, my 1930 one below. I read them while trapped in bed, doped up with pain meds, after foot surgery a few years back. Still, to know me is to know that I have a tremendous capacity for enjoying juvenile literary fare – take my posts on Honey Bunch and Grace Harlowe, the Automobile Girls and the Moving Picture Girls Novels. It is a great avenue of relaxation for me. Kim began his vacation last week, so I am playing catch up and trying to quickly free my mind from my new job and responsibilities during this week running into Labor Day weekend – the most vacation I could manage with the new gig. Re-reading some of these seems like it might just do the trick and help relax my work-addled brain

For those of you who would like a bit more background on them, you might try Forgotten Comic Charaters; Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, an excellent online article. In addition, many of the strips are available online. I say perfect for these last, lazy days of summer.

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1930 Annual, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Close Quarters

 

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Pip Chair, not in my collection

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For those of you who have visited our home, or follow us via Facebook and otherwise online, it is not news that we live in one and a half room apartment in Manhattan. By Manhattan standards it is small, but not shockingly so, although perhaps a bit bizarre maybe if you don’t live here or in Tokyo. It is the fact that Kim also works (producing piles of art no less) in this space and that, as this blog has made clear, we remain veteran collectors, which makes our chock-a-block 600 square feet a bit unusual. While discussion and documentation of this might be of interest, I raise the issue today because there is an area of collecting that I have had to long recognize is difficult, if not entirely eliminated, for me and that is furniture. Of course we have furniture, arguably more than two people, two cats and the odd visitor actually, technically in fact require. Bookcases – lots of those, filled with both books and toys – and chairs. We have a fair number of chairs – three rockers which is a bit unusual in such a small space. (My parents collect them – we have a favorite, grand Windsor and two Shaker rockers. Yes, collecting is a genetic disease.)

I illustrate my point today with the chair above, recently for sale on eBay as I write. It is a child’s chair from a set of furniture made around the Pip, Squeak and Wilfred comic characters – I love it! Oh lucky child who had this! I have written about this British strip before – Pip Squeak and Wilfred Perform – and frankly I have yet to stir great interest in them. (For better or not, I assure you there will be more forthcoming about it.) I love the gentle strip which is available in numerous Annuals still obtainable and perfectly splendid toys were made in conjunction with its many year run. Kim is somewhat mystified, but always supportive of my interest. Still, in a space like ours even small furniture purchases are a negotiation, as well as a bit of a jigsaw puzzle at best. Given this, and the seller’s refusal to help engage a shipping company, I will not be the owner of this chair. It did bring to mind, however, other furniture potentially loved but walked away from.

For Kim there was a chair decorated by fellow cartoonist Jay Lynch. (Kim describes it as oddly curious and he would have happily scooped it up.) Most memorable for me was a wooden table, kitchen sized, with black cats painted on the top to be had at the Elephant’s Trunk flea market years ago. (That one is still painful to think about.) Also, many years ago was an amazing floor lamp at a street fair on Third Avenue which appeared to be from the ’30’s, with a transparent world globe suspended for a shade, but also had a long sweeping base that would have taken up five or six feet this apartment does not have. The list goes on – a great couch or chair here, a darling cabinet there. If there was space my toys would live in those great glass front cabinets from an early store, or at least glass medical cabinets. Alas, as long as we reside here, these remain aspirational purchases. However, it is well known between us that should a large cat or elephant stuffed toy on wheels become available, all bets are off.

Pip Squeak and Wilfred Perform

Pam’s Pictoram Photo Post: For those of you who follow on Kim’s Facebook page, you know I have a deep affection for the once hugely popular British comic strip Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. Admittedly, my fascination with the strip mystifies even Kim a bit, although he acknowledges the merit of the drawings. While best experienced today in the wonderful, robust Annuals, it was a daily strip that ran in Britain’s Daily Mirror from 1919-1956. It was the brain child of Bertram Lamb who took the persona of Uncle Dick and illustrated by A.B. Payne. It follows a family of (interspecies) animals – mom, Squeak, a penguin; dad, Pip, a dog; and Wilfred, their child, a rabbit.

The Annuals were issued from 1923-1939. In addition, Wilfred had his own, aimed at the younger set, for many years as well. Much to my extreme pleasure, the Annuals are chocked full of strips and are light on filler, puzzles and the like. They have limited color and a few full color illustrations in each.  I own a short run of them. They are a bit pricey but can be found for somewhat less if one shops around and is patient. I am sure the Annuals will be a future post of their own some day.

I am still filling in the story of the doings of the Mirror however. There is evidence that models of the family home was created and photographed for postcards, which can be easily found. In addition, there seem to be performances, as photographed here. These appear to have been wildly popular. There are two very short films, live action, on Youtube that I have included here. I believe I have seen at least one more. Both of these show the family home, Mirror Grange, but the second has the live animals as well:

 

The merchandising was wonderful and sells very high today. (Hopefully a future post will show me owning all three stuffed animals!) The popularity cannot be underestimated – even war medals were named after the characters and the strip. Wilfred had a popular fan club of his own – the Mirror would send birthday cards to you on behalf of the animals.

While the strip’s stories are very simple, they are quirky and the characters drawn expressively. I include a sample page below – hopefully to beguile you with!

Pip Squeak Annual Page