There’s Gladness in Remembrance

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Kicking off the advanced Christmas season here at Pictorama this week with this recent purchase. This card caught my attention with its sheer oddity. I cannot exactly imagine how someone might have come up with the combination of a smoking cigarette, Christmas and cats on a postcard greeting. It makes me think that the designer was very tired and was desperate for ideas, or perhaps smoking something him or herself. Or maybe it was truly an example of these are some of my favorite things, like the song says.

Several of the cats seem to be escaping out of their surreal smoke rings, although that big, annoyed looking Persian is curled up on his or hers like a pillow. All fluffy Persian variations (or is it Maine Coon?) I can’t quite decide if four of these cats are the same cat or just similar markings. These are some serious looking kitties, especially the one without stripes at the bottom. It is obvious, but I might add, there’s nothing of the celebratory or festive about them – these aren’t some darling kittens – these are some frowning cats.

Meanwhile, then there is the burning cigarette and the matches, artfully falling from their match safe. More than anything about this card, which was never sent and without writing on the back, the match safe dates it for me to the early part of the 20th century. Books of matches were in high fashion by the 1940’s. (I have written about match safes in my collection on two occasions, Safety Match and Match safe – Ya Gotta Make Calls.

For my own part, I have never been a cigarette smoker, not even when I was a teenager. I have smoked maybe three in my life – I never saw the point in it; although I certainly understand that there are people who feel otherwise. Clearly this represents a time when smoking was both comforting and to some degree festive. My ambivalence about it does not extend to how good it looks in early films – it does indeed look sophisticated and cosmopolitan.

The sprig of holly is the sole festive Christmas touch. With Hearty Christmas Greetings…There’s gladness in remembrance it declares. Gladness in remembrance touches on the coming New Year – auld lang syne – out with the old year and in with the new. One can only wonder why this card was tucked away and kept pristinely for all these years except to say Christmas cards seem to be kept, although those are usually ones sent by someone. Perhaps, like me, the photo just entertained someone who found and hung onto it.

I have always been a conscientious writer and saver of cards of all kinds, even before my cat card collecting days commenced. As Pictorama readers and others know, Kim and I have been producing a holiday card together since we first started dating and it is time to start work on the one for this year. I admit to the possibility of some influence from this card as Kim and I begin to contemplate our card design for this year, but we will have to have to wait and see what comes of it. Keep an eye on Pictorama for an eventual preview reveal, but know that we are considering it as we partake of our Thanksgiving dinner later this week.

Advertisements

Brought to you by…

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Sometimes I believe I manage to score certain postcards because they are hard to actually see on eBay. Then I realize, alas, that maybe I am the only person who actually thinks this is incredibly cool! Nonetheless, for that handful of you who share my aesthetic ecstasy over smiling black cat advertising, I present this gem today. I have announced my deep affection for the fine advertisings of Black Cat Hosiery in a prior recent post, Time Out for Our Sponsor, and also Black Cat Town. Pictorama readers know that this company adopted the grinning black kitty as their visual moniker.

In today’s card, they seem to be executing an advertising campaign which was the early 20th century version of stadium advertising – although this would be in some sort of theater. My guess is a vaudeville theater and these folks seem to be peering over a box seat balcony or loge of sorts. Oddly, a sad looking vase of flowers is perched in the lower right. It is a hoot that the words of this sign appear to be made up of actual socks and hose – if you look carefully tags punctuate the letters. They have pasted up a bunch of their great black cat signage of various sizes – it is very homemade, if charming, indeed. Lastly, I do wonder – a theater where they were selling socks and hose somewhere? Were they supplying the can-can dancers with their run resistant stockings in early product placement?

In a neat script on the back a little ditty carefully penned reads as follows: This picture isn’t very good/But “By the By,” perchance I should/In justice to the artist add/The subject to were pretty bad. There’s evidence that it spent time in a photo album, but was never mailed. I am not sure why, but I feel like it was written by the man in the middle of the group. I put on my photographer’s hat for a moment, and also opine that in all fairness the light had to have been quite low, inside a theater, for taking a photo with the equipment of the day. (A tip ‘o the hat to Kim for darkening this before I presented it.) Therefore, this jolly group should probably be pleased with the results they managed to achieve. For my part, I am of course, quite glad that the photographer did not sacrifice any of this splendid sign in his or her attempt to record the night out enjoyed by these folks.

By way of enticement and illustration, I offer a full color photo of my small Black Cat Hosiery advertising, featured in Time Out for Our Sponsor as mentioned above.

10460413_10203601149302253_5323731571812401495_n

Featured in Pams-Pictorama.com post, Time Out From Our Sponsor.

 

Esther and Houtas

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: A recent delving into and wading through old cat photos online has produced some unusual purchases in the form of mostly snap shots. I assumed that was what I was purchasing when I acquired this, but much to my surprise, although it had been pasted into an album, the black photo album paper has torn away on the back to reveal that this was indeed a photo postcard. It was never mailed and written in a neat inked hand on the back is, Esther & Houtas sitting on the wood pile. Ground is covered with snow. I went to the trouble of looking up the name Houtas. I do believe that is her name (it is neatly written) and was able to find some nodding acquaintance to it on the internet. I assume it refers to one of these girls – who I further assume are sisters – as opposed to that nice gray kitty one is holding.

This photo has a timeless quality, and it isn’t until we look closely at those wooly tights and button boots that we realize how old it probably is. Those matching, layered wool dresses and heavy tights look a bit itchy when we consider them seriously, but were probably just the thing for that cold day – no need for overcoats. These girls seem a bit mismatched as sisters, but my own sister and I did not look more alike than this – she of very curly hair and I of very straight.

I have no idea where this card is from or where it was taken, but this spare snowy landscape could stand in for my childhood in New Jersey. This big woodpile is more substantial than the one we generally had out back, although during the course of my childhood we always kept a sizable pile of logs. Much of the cord wood was purchased each fall, although some of it came from limbs that had been trimmed off of our own trees, or as the sad result of a tree that had reached the end of its life and had to be cut down. My mother was always very responsible about the trees and their well being. They were tended to by professionals no less than annually. I personally would have been reluctant to play on the woodpile however, as it was the likely home of mice and even the occasional water rat who wanted a pied-à-terre on dry land. Perhaps for that very reason it was something of a favorite spot for the cats. Although as I remember, some form of wild catnip also grew in the gravel driveway near the woodpile and our enormous cat Pumpkin used to go into rolls of ecstasy over it in the spring. That would have added to the appeal.

The house I grew up in had two enormous fireplaces although we generally only used the one downstairs in what we called the family room. If I ever buy a house a working fireplace will be a must. (I have met New Yorkers lucky enough to have functioning fireplaces in their apartments, but I am not the sort of person who lucks into outdoor space, fireplaces or rent controlled New York apartments. It think it is a skill you are born with, like the ability to hold your breath underwater for a long time or whistle well and on key.) I am endlessly fascinated by fireplaces and will do what I can to migrate to them at restaurants or bars this time of the year. I will settle for gas fires, although there’s nothing like real wood, with the smell, popping of sap, steaming of moisture and the sighing and rolling of disintegrating logs. Oh such bad news for the unsuspecting insects and spiders who took up residence in those logs!

My parents recently moved to a much smaller house, on a cute little patch of property one town over from where I grew up. The house does have a small fireplace, which works at least in theory. These days my mom and dad are too elderly to mess with a fire, even with fake, store bought logs. However, I just promised them the Christmas gift of an electric space heater that looks like a fireplace to ease the drafts in their new house. If I like it maybe I will find room for one here in our tiny New York abode as well.

 

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.

Firehouse Kitties

20171008-00003

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While firemen are frequently depicted rescuing our feline friends from trees, and Dalmatians get all the credit for being the canine kingpins of firehouse life, it is a fact that many cats actually rule the roost at our local firehouses. I grew up with a volunteer fire department, an impressively splendid thing in its own right with our local men training and risking their lives to rescue folks and put out fires. There was a firehouse of course, but to my knowledge no resident animals. However, here in Manhattan I assume traditional resident firedogs probably exist, but are not known to me. Our firehouses seem especially well suited to independently minded cats who require nominal care, and have the added bonus of tending to the rodent population.

From the firehouse cats stories I have read (and which abound on the internet, should you be interested) cats generally seem to find their way to the fold after being rescued, either from fires or other sticky situations. I assume it was probably ever thus and that this photo of our fire fighting friends from the early 20th century probably acquired their two cats the same way. If you ask me, these two scrappy kits look like they are ready to get off laps and mix it up a little, especially the one on the left. I was hoping that these photos would have a little more information in person, but sadly they remain a bit duped looking and I wonder if it wasn’t actually a primitive reprint process of the day – allowing everyone to have copies of the group photos.

I assumed that these two photos were of the same firemen, casual and formal portraits, but no. If you look carefully they are not the same men – the mustaches were the first give away. Still, I present even our cat-less firemen since these photos have remained together all this time, seems fair to keep them paired here. They are early photo postcards, highly solarized over time. Both have 1904 written in pencil on the back in the same hand, there is no other information.

It probably will not surprise any of my Pictorama readers that I keep gentle tabs and a tally of cats in my greater Yorkville, New York neighborhood. One of my regrets about no longer walking across the Eastside to work every morning to work is that I no longer maintain my regular nodding acquaintance with a number of cat friends along the way. One such feline lives in the Yorkville firehouse on 85th between Lexington and Third. This fellow with marmalade spots does not generally come out to mingle, but I have spotted him, clearly in charge, keeping an eye on the interior of the firehouse and presumably its inhabitants. I did a quick search today and his name is Carlow and I uncovered an interview he gave at Interview with Carlow the Cat. I have tried to get a good photo of him for years and have failed. However, thanks to the internet and my fellow blogger, here he is shown below.

980x.jpg

Curiosity and the Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I remember many years ago blithely quoting, “Curiosity killed the cat” to my brother who rejoined without missing a beat, “and satisfaction brought him back!” I had never heard the second part and loved it, so perfectly does it describe the intense nature of a curious kitty. Wikipedia pegs the origin of this saying in print to the early 20th century, however one can’t help but feel it goes back to a much earlier time.

If I remember correctly, the Butler cat in question was a long, svelte, but querulous orange tabby named Squash. He bore this rather inelegant name as he was the second, smaller orange tabby in the house. The elder was our massive cat Pumpkin, therefore Squash was a little Pumpkin. He was a sweet natured cat if a bit of a doofus, best remembered for being so long that he appeared to have extra vertebrae and was able to sit vertically like a human in a chair. He was also very attached to one of the other cats and could most often be found piled on him at any given moment. I don’t remember what it was that Squash was investigating at the time of this discourse. As we had a pile of cats I’m surprised I remember it was him.

These three-of-a-kind kits also appear to be orange tabbys too – stripers as Kim likes to call tabbys. Each of them is wearing a matching collar and what I think of as a bird alert bell. Whatever they are eyeing is going to have a fair chance of getting away thanks to those bells, assuming it has ears. However, as cat observers know well, a cat’s deep attention can be devoted to something we humans can’t divine or see. On numerous occasions I have found Cookie, sometimes alone often with Blackie, staring hard at one of the walls, unwilling to have their concentration broken or to be easily distracted. One can only assume that their finely tuned cat ears are focused on activity within the wall – oh my! And then there are occasions when you can tell they think something is alive and of vital interest – and it is not alive at all. Kim’s shoe laces seem to frequently fall into that category in this house, as does a recently revealed nail in the wall which drives Blackie to distraction almost daily.

These three feline beauties are sitting on an nice stone wall in a warm looking cascade of light and their fluffy fur coats shine. I have the changing light of fall on my mind these days and it could well be a sultry fall afternoon, but that could just be me too. Regardless, the person behind the camera not only caught this trio of cats at a great, unified moment, but also with bold shadows that echo them below. It is a photo postcard, although it seems like a late runner to the genre, not as old as most of what I purchase, and probably but not definitely professional. In addition, it is in perfect condition, but the nubbly scalloped edges do peg it to a certain period. There is no writing on the back and it was never sent.

Each cat tail is curled around the kitty in a different stage of unfurl and it has to be said that our friend to the far left with the largest white bib and the chap in the middle are far more intent than their brother on the far right. He is looking at whatever it is, but also appears like he might just yawn and head for a nap shortly too. Maybe he is just fooling me though. All have their ears pointed forward and precise cat toes lined up at the ready.

Orange tabby cats run predominantly to the male – Google tells me about 80/20 to males – and I have referred to them thus. However, out of the four orange cats I lived with over the course of my childhood it should be noted only three were male, so we Butlers defied the odds somewhat. Meanwhile Calicos run to virtually all female. I have found that both run toward certain personality types, but perhaps more about that another Pictorama day.

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.