Cat Ears

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I resisted this photo as long as I could because it was expensive, but had to purchase it. (Full disclosure: Kim has tweaked the contrast on this in Photoshop which improves it considerably.) There’s no explanation on the back of this card and it was never sent, but it does speak for itself. I must say, with perhaps one exception (second girl from the left end), as a group they don’t appear happy about what I consider to be their jolly cat costumes. And my goodness, poor #6, in his enhanced, darker costume doesn’t look happy at all. Even mom doesn’t look thrilled. It’s a glum group of kitties. (A careful look leads me to believe the adult is at a minimum related to the child whose hand she holds and #6.)

In addition to his number label, #6 is the only one sporting a nice set of whiskers and has a high contrast version of the cat suit. It is hard to see, but they do also sport tails – a pity that we don’t see those better. One set of ears was sewn to look more elfin that cat, third in. It is almost impossible to see, but each also sports a tiny horseshoe pin – pointing down I’m sorry to say, all that luck pouring out. Mom wears one too. There’s something I especially love about the line up of shoes peering out, the trouser legs sewn differently at the bottom of each. There is that reluctant version of hand holding that children do – with a complete refusal of the two on the end. Ha! Gotcha. Take that you grown ups!

Personally, I have long loved a good animal costume and I tend to think I would have been more than happy to have been dressed up like this, especially if I was #6 – I would have been jealous of those whiskers and sharper black suit if I was one of the others. A tail is a great thing too and I have often thought I would like one. For myself, I am very fond of a pair of cat ears on a hairband I own. (This combines a good hair look with, well, lovely pointy cat ears – if only I could make them move independently like Cookie and Blackie do in inquiry and annoyance.) Our cats seem to find my cat ears alarming and repugnant however.

I remember when I first got the cat ear hairband years ago and put it on to show my cat Otto – who shrank away and with an expression which could only be described as the sort of disapproval and disappointment she’d have reserved for my holding forth with a racist joke – how could you? Evidently cat ears are the equivalent of kitty black face. It also seems you have, in their eyes, been transformed into a huge monster cat. Frankly, they appear to find hats distasteful too in a similar way – although it must be said that Cookie and Blackie are forgiving of Kim’s outsized cowboy hat he wears daily. However, I get the kitty stink eye for a knit cap in winter on my way out the door.

Unlike the Metropolitan Museum, it is interesting to note that many of the folks at Jazz dress up for Halloween. I was surprised the first year, but this past year I did bring cat ears to work. I only wore them for a short time, but it is clearly one of the perks of the job.

Frances Bowdon & Josyfeen

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo postcard is of a kind that is just like catnip to those of us at Pictorama who are in charge of purchasing. Frances Bowdon and her cat Jo (short for Josyfeen) is an excuse to stroll down a path of time when radio ruled and the gossip of the day, which filled hard copy newsprint, was devoted to the comings and goings of the likes of the Boswell sisters, discussions on if Russ Columbo was really a tenor, and the interesting news that Paul Whiteman didn’t like to ride in elevators. (This via the December 19, 1931 edition of Radio Guide which appears to have been a weekly publication.) Of course, an interesting photograph of a girl and her cat is enough to pique my interest. But one of the other reasons I enjoy collecting and poking around about these items are these moments of time travel they afford as they lead you down some strange byways that Google hardly even knows it has.

Frankly, Frances Bowdon rated pretty low on this fiesta of radio news and I believe only showed in my searches because radio listings were included and her evening show, fifteen minutes daily except Sunday as noted on the card, of down home mountain talk from what I can discern, appear in the listings. I couldn’t find any little snippets of news about her in the sea of commentary. Ultimately I only found this small article on her shown below, which appeared in the Ithaca Journal, November 20, 1931.

Bowdon article

Sadly for her, Frances did not seem to make enough of a splash in radio that I could easily find tracks of her career much beyond this, although listings here and there for her show seem to wander into the mid ’30’s at least. I do wonder, at a minimum, how this young woman managed to make her cat part of her radio show. In fact, for that matter, I sort of wonder how she got on the radio – but sadly these tidbits do seem to be lost in the morass of time. Her history and what happened to her later is swallowed up. I couldn’t come up with an obit for her.

In my card, if you can read the script at the bottom, she is opining on Jo having moved while taking the photo, although I personally think it isn’t bad for a kitty on the shoulder photo. The card was sent with a commercial indicia so we don’t have a stamp or cancellation for a date, but then appears to have been hand typed and addressed to Miss Flo L. Roland, R.F.D. Kenmore Sta. Dellwood Road, Buffalo, N.Y. (I do wonder how people were chosen as the recipients of such cards – what sort of mailing list was that at the time?)

The writing at the bottom of the card says, R U disapointed n me and Jo? Frances and Joseyfeen P.S. Josy wood move whin the picture was took F. In addition, the card below, which Amazon is evidently selling along with a version of my postcard, sadly, thanks a listener for their condolences on the death of Joseyfeen. (I too am sorry of course to hear of the death of her kitty.)

Bowdon note.jpg

I am puzzling a bit over the studied bad spelling on both of these cards. Part of the act and the Ozark’s charm that was being put forth clearly, if a bit heavy handed. I also like the phrase invisible big time from the article above – and also that she asks if the recipient of the card is disappointed in how they look. (She and Jo seem more than passingly attractive to me.) Funny that in some ways the internet is like radio in this way – while imagery does abound, many of us have regular contact with people via things like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook who we generally never see. It is different of course, but recently a few internet friends have had reason to reveal their real names, and even that is a bit surprising if you have been thinking of this person for years as Movies Silently or Popculturizm and suddenly they are Fritzi and Rob. For those of you who didn’t read my fall post Camperdown (found here) I share a recent photo of me and Kim together…just in case you’re wondering!

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Images from the Boathouse, including a bonus one of me and Kim!

And a Merry Christmas to You!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Forgive me as I’m out of order this year as yesterday’s Deitch Studio card post was for New Year’s and this little gem I’ve been hoarding for a couple of months is for Christmas. Devoted readers may know that I am a fan of the photo collage postcard, although I generally collect more primitive examples. (Click on these for examples: Well, wouldn’t this make you exclaim! and the very seasonal, Dawn of a New Year.) However, there is something still goofy and charming about this more mass produced card. This hand drawn young couple, separated by photos of a fluffy and proud looking cat, a happy woman with a tea cup, and a dreamy young girl – surrounded by Christmas decorations – go figure. Clearly someone’s ingredients for a happy holiday. I cannot argue.

This card was mailed from Birmingham, on December 25, 1912. It is addressed in neat penned script to Mifs Lucy Oliver, 139 West Parade, Lincoln. (Our friend Google tells me that Mifs is an early way of writing Miss. Definitely my fact for the day.) In a loopy, but carefully child-written pencil is the message, With love and kisses from Douglas.

The Christmas postcard seems to no longer even be in existence as a genre – the hold on physical cards in general even seems a bit tenuous these days. (Maybe it is just our own popularity flagging, but alas there was a real falling off this year.) Collectors of future decades beware – much as I opine that our digital photos don’t get printed and the physical evidence of this time will be paltry in the future, this is true of cards (photo and otherwise) as well.

I do love receiving fat enveloped cards in the mail this time of the year – I remain a bit of a child-like sucker for the holidays and the trappings of the holidays. I like to see midtown Manhattan all dressed up in holiday finery – Christmas balls, lights and garlands sized appropriately for the home of a giant or giantess hung between buildings or plopped down on their plazas. I love Christmas lights – especially the old-fashioned bubbling ones, but also the newer ice sickle ones. I regret that our studio apartment is too small for even a small tree (I used to have a small, fake one I would cram in here and the cats would sit under it like we’d brought a forest in for them) or much decorating. I am sad when it all comes down in January, which therefore seems very dull.

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Holiday decorations on a plaza near Rockefeller Center earlier this week.

 

For a fundraiser, the last week’s of the calendar year also represent a balancing act between festive celebration (our Big Band Holiday concert has its last performance this afternoon), while turning our hand to getting the last of the calendar year-end gifts into our coffers. It is a busy time. More on that as the New Year draws near in Pictorama’s next post, poised to ring in 2019. For now – Merry Christmas to all!

 

Bow Wow-zer

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s card arrives from the shores of France, although it appears to hail originally from Marienbad, a town of film fame and described as a Czech spa town by our friends at Wikipedia. (It is embossed with a photo studio name, as well as Marienbad, which I can’t quite read in the upper left corner.) It was, of course, the small and somewhat odd Felix toy in the foreground that brought it to my attention initially.

However, it was the seriousness of this fellow (or gal) posed here with Felix, ball held under one paw, that made me acquire it for the Pictorama archive. This is a formal portrait of Fido, beloved pup, and from the quality of it a high-end pro production, my guess is that it dates not much earlier than the 1930’s. Of course, the evidence of Felix being featured might point a bit earlier, although that is a pretty off-model version of the great cartoon cat. There’s no writing on this card and it was never sent – it is pristine. Marienbad, it seems, was a high end resort before the WWII, but suffered after and fell on hard times. I would guess this photo was the endeavor of a fairly wealthy person from whenever it was executed.

Much of the Pictorama photo collection is made up of attempts, good and bad but always sincere, to document beloved pets – those folks who scoop them up for a photo, or who tried to capture them from the early days of daguerreotype and tintype forward. The earlier methods of photography were of course less effective to catch an impatient puss or restless dog. The sweet spot of the photos I have amassed is largely the photo postcard, of which this belongs to the high end studio version. I see fewer early studio portraits of cats and dogs than I would imagine really. 

I believe I have mentioned that here on the east side of Manhattan I occasionally walk past a photo studio that features some animal portraits in their window, right next to charming photos of babies, small children and pregnant women. Of course dogs are much more likely to be hauled over to a photo studio for a portrait. The idea of loading Cookie and Blackie into carriers and finding them photo ready on the other side of that trip is not at all palatable or likely – and I will assume that our cats are not alone in that regard. My guess is that both the little Felix and the ball are the photographer’s props, not beloved objects of this pooch. However, I think that the sweet look in his or her eyes was all about pleasing a master, just on the other side of the camera – posing as requested, but happily trotting home after it was all done.

 

Sittin’ on a Wall

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have already opined on the origins of Humpty Dumpty (see here for my post Humpty Dumpty where I discuss my version of the toy shown here, several amazing variations on it, and dip into Humpty’s humble beginnings) so I will not focus on that today. I admit that the weird toy attracted me to the card though. Even owning one, I remain fascinated by it’s strangeness and can’t quite get enough.

This Humpty wears a jolly beret! (Mine has a peaked cap, jaunty as well. Did Humpty always wear a hat? Did I miss something about that?) He and the little girl both hold their hands up in the air in an identical pose – she just wrapped in some illusion fabric rather than a dress, but seated on a little cushion and with those hotsy totsy shoes! They appear to perch together on more of a chimney than a wall, but perhaps we can say a piece of a wall? This card is clearly made by a professional studio and was never used, nothing written on it.

Hang on now because I’m afraid I am going to wander down that sort of meandering path I do occasionally when I have something scratching at my mind. I have been thinking a lot about the crucible of change and how I have gone through it at various points in my life. I wish today I had a story of how I went into it and came out the other side. While I know intellectually that there is always another side and I will eventually come out, I write today as I flounder in its midst; without even a glimpse of the far shore yet, trying to figure out to paddle my craft there.

Humpty Dumpty and his great fall are a good metaphor for this – man, once he fell all the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again. After the page has turned and change has begun, watch out because like Humpty, you aren’t going back to the old you. Last week I alluded to this (see Time is Flying) and the process I went through after my sister died years ago. More than I thought it would, my father’s death has propelled me into another catalyst for a transition that is roiling forward, somewhat of its own accord.

I feel like I am clutching a tiger by the tail, being thumped around as I try to hang on. This week I think I realized that you can’t fight it, despite a rather cat-like tendency of mine to abhor change I need to figure out how to embrace it. Transition and growth sound so positive that after the fact, you tend to forget the growing pains, but there is nothing now but to get on board. It is a tough path to be on and taking charge of it requires marshaling resources I will have to find. And it is hard to remember that it is not so much about putting the pieces back together – that ship has sailed – as it is about forging an entirely new whole.

 

Cat House

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo of a handsome shiny black cat seemed like just the thing the other day as I scrolled through eBay. Unfortunately, as I often find when trying to capture my kit Blackie, a black cat can be tricky to capture, especially if lurking the shadows. He is positioned perfectly in the doorway to his kitty abode however – eyes glowing, a feline watchdog, vigilantly overseeing the situation. This cat house is a good fit for him size-wise, and he even has a pot of flowers out front. Those are sprightly, the plant behind a bit more anemic, although the overall impression is that this is a neat and tidy corner of the world. I purchased it from Montgomery, Alabama, but there’s no indication about where it might originate from and it was never used.

Back in June I wrote about the dog house from my childhood. (It can be found here in the post Mr. Frank, In the Dog House.) Our dog didn’t spend much time in her house and we never even considered a house for our cats, other than our own that is. Over the course of my childhood our cats largely roamed free, in and out of the house more or less at will, numerous times a day. We were never possessed of a cat door, but cheerfully did their bidding at the door. Somehow over time we joined the ranks of those who kept our cats entirely indoors, where they were safe from predators, and cut down on their own preying on birds and whatnot. At some point there was a town ordinance passed which served to severely curtail free range pet cats – I was shocked to find this out, but it meant the Butlers no longer had indoor/outdoor running felines.

I have not seen many cat houses firsthand. Recently though Kim was on a panel at his alma mater, Pratt Institute and I did notice that they had several cat houses on their campus. Unfortunately, I only have the photo below snatched off my Instagram account, the original photo a victim of my attempts at good phone hygiene and the ongoing purging of photos. The Pratt cat house, one of several as I remember, was a more downscale model than ours above. Yet was probably a more practical affair, plastic over the door to help keep the winter chill (not insubstantial that day) out.

cat house Pratt.jpeg

I didn’t see any cats in these houses on that day. In looking for a better or additional photos of the Pratt cat houses I discovered that Pratt has a well documented history of caring for stray cats. An article in the New York Times from May of 2013 describes the steam plant at Pratt as the heart of cat central at the art school. The strays tended may range in numbers from dozens to more than 100 – but whose counting really? They are (or at least were, that was a few years ago) tended by Pratt Chief Engineer, Conrad Milster who christened them with names like Dulcie, Landlord, Art School and Prancie. The article explains that these free range kitties are fed and cared for by Mr. Milster at his own expense. Clearly the cat houses are another of his contributions. The cats contribute to the well being of stressed out students and faculty and are unofficial mascots of the Brooklyn school.

When I was in college in Connecticut I had a cat friend who I referred to as Ranger Tom. I do not remember where that name came from, but he was a hefty gray and white fellow – spotty nose like I generally am drawn to in a cat. He was more of a visitor cat – seemed well cared for and just making the rounds to see what acquaintances he might make, and of course what food he might get out of it. As a vegetarian I wasn’t his best bet, but would occasionally keep this or that on hand that a visiting cat might approve of. We were only acquainted in my freshman year, but I missed my own kitties and he was a welcome diversion therefore I say excellent work Mr. Milster. Keep those cat houses going.

Hanging Out

Pam’s Photo Post: This card was purchased at the April El Dorado of a postcard sale here in New York this spring. The screwiness of it attracted me to it. I assume this is not a one-of-a-kind card, but the back does not however indicate commercial production. The card was mailed to Miss Lilly – Lane M B Elliott Dillon Mont. Also written in a messy pencil script is, as written, This is a very nice winter so far & how I would like to see all you folks and Janes folks. Was all well last Heard from J Sam Bell & girls Last week. Will. This card was mailed on December 7 at 10 AM, 1907 from Ames, Iowa. (A quick look tells me that Ames, Iowa is where Iowa State University is. No evidence that our less than literate writer was attending however!)

Under close examination, these gents on the card do not appear to be hanging from this light pole. There seem to be lines run down from the top which affords some sort of foot hold, while holding on above. I will guess that this was officially a function of telephone line repair? Isn’t it odd that many places don’t actually have phone poles and lines now? There was of course a time when they were ubiquitous. I remember though at some point being aware that they didn’t have them and how odd that seemed. The town I grew up in has phone lines above ground and as a place which is prone to hurricanes, which routinely knock them down, you would think they might have committed to the cost of moving them underground, but perhaps more to it than that. In Manhattan they have of course moved them underground.

When I first saw this card I could not help, but reflect that it would have been an impressive amount of upper body strength if these guys were hanging from the poles. As an adult I developed an addiction to working out at a gym – I find it very relaxing and work out four or five days a week. However, despite developing more muscle than I have ever had in my shoulders and arms, I doubt I could do more than a chin up or two – especially with my arms facing forward – let alone hang from something like this. Ouch! I was abysmal at these sorts of things as a kid, rope climbing, pull ups, push ups and the like. I do occasionally wonder – what were they thinking testing us that way as kids? If I can’t do it now, why on earth would I, as a more or less average kid be able to do it then? It remains a mystery to me.