Firehouse Kitties

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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.

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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.

Dress up Hijinx

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is hard for me to resist an interesting Halloween card. This one hails, at least most recently, from Pennsylvania. It is unused and therefore not dated, the seller places it at 1907-1912 which seems like a fair estimate. These folks put some real effort into their dress up play. For me at least the prize for best costume is tied between the polar bear critter being ridden by someone who looks like Miss Muffet, and that extraordinary black bird creature to the right. He is terrifying in just the right costume way. They do look as if they could be putting on a play rather than dressing for Halloween, although the storyline is far from self-evident. The season looks right for late October, but we can’t know for sure. (One wonders if eight copies were made of this photo postcard, one for each person – and if so, could others possibly turn up? Such things have happened to me before. See my post Cat Chair Photo Sleuth.)

Perhaps my interest in such cards has to do with the idea that I somehow always dreamed I would have the opportunity to participate in this kind of dress up. As a child I had certain ideas about what I thought adulthood would hold for me that I now realize were a bit strange – largely the product of reading a certain kind of early novel and many old movies. For example, I assumed that I would move to a city where I would eat in nightclubs that had live dance bands and served dinner to people in evening clothes. (Oddly, with my new job and Dizzy’s jazz club, I am belatedly achieving that in a sense, although no dancing and evening gowns would be an exaggeration.) I thought I would drink water glass size mixed drinks that seem to be generically referred to as cocktails (certainly don’t do that), and that I would go to dress-up parties with everyone in wonderful costumes.

Now, I didn’t necessarily think all these things would happen at the same time. I did think the costume parties would be when I was younger and the dinner dancing in gowns would come later. As it happens, I can only remember one interesting costume affair I attended as an adult. It was an opening for a Robert Crumb exhibit at a huge gallery and about half of us were in costume. I was wearing a turn-of-the-century velvet coat, a long black dress and a witches hat. It was an interesting evening – lots of people, food and drink. My date and I went in different directions immediately and I flirted with all sorts of people – must have been the witch costume at work. I seem to remember being disappointed that I didn’t see Kim there – we were just friends at the time, but I always looked for him at gatherings such as this. I guess part of me knew before the we caught up with us. And that, on the other hand, is the sort of the splendid thing you can’t possibly imagine when you are a kid thinking about what it will be like to be grown up.

 

Symmetry

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I found this photo and it immediately put a smile on my face so of course I set about acquiring it for the Pictorama collection and present it here now for your enjoyment. Twin striped kitties, tails up and ready for action, with this (I’m going to guess) little girl in a great knit outfit, a pointed cap to top it off. From a formal perspective I love this photo; the textures are great – scrubby grass, tabby striped kitties and the white wool’s patterns. And then there is the one-two cat divide with the kid in the middle – yay! I even like the way the hat runs off the top of the photo drawing your eye up. Hotsy-totsy photographer. No idea where this was located, but the horizon goes more or less forever and, right or wrong, somehow makes me think of the midwest in the 1940’s.

It surprised me that this is a photo rather than a photo postcard, which I frankly assumed it was when I purchased it online. (Yep, you regular Pictorama readers probably realize that I don’t seem to read listings all that carefully, especially when it comes to size. Gets me into trouble sometimes. See prior post Big Mickey for example!) There is evidence that this photo was in an album, but nothing has been written on the back.

I have written before about the glory of being a small child with cat friends like this. Kitty companionship when you are little is a really wondrous thing and somehow the communication between little beings like this, even cross species, is very straightforward. The luxury of having these two adolescent sibling specimens for your very own! I can remember telling my cat Snoopy endless stories and tidbits of child lore and he was very attentive and seemed utterly interested in it all. These days I try not to burden Blackie and Cookie with too much information, but sometimes there’s nothing like sitting down with your kitty for a heart-to-heart conversation.

 

Ebmar Pines

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I bought this photo at a flea market a long time ago. No cats to be seen and no one in a costume so this is an odd one for me. There is nothing written on the back and I have been entirely unable to find any location for Ebmar or Ebmar Pines, although it is clearly a certain kind of camp ground or picnic area we are all familiar with to some extent.

I think it is the symmetry I liked on this one – mother, sweet faced and happy on one side, why-do-I-have-to-be-here resentful daughter on the other.  Hot summer day, the flies and bees are buzzing. Don’t know what is on the table between them. Looks like a jar of lemonade and some food. It is a pretty wooded spot, although there’s something a tad frowsy and uncomfortable about the long, prickly grass, a loose bag from their picnic perhaps and a blanket spread behind them. Mom is on a camp chair and daughter is on a wooden house chair. The house chair makes me wonder if maybe they aren’t the owners of the spot, sitting out by the sign, waiting to welcome possible business. I wonder how the daughter felt about this card being kept for all time – memorializing her summer of discontent! I hope she didn’t regret it too much. Hard to be reminded of one’s adolescent obstinance.

When you are little, summer is an endless delight. As you get older, even as a teenager, it can be more complicated. Working for some kids, traveling with family for others – camp for others still. Here at Pictorama, I have frequently referred to my growing up at the shore, and the glorious string of summers of swimming and sun I remember. In my high school years I had jobs though too – cleaning houses, short order cook and later in college, waitressing. Still, summer remained special and generally delightful in my memory for all those years.

Somehow none of us are prepared for the abrupt end of that once we take a full time job. The Met supplied a liberal amount of vacation, but I rarely was able to put more than two weeks together in summer – it wasn’t allowed. At Jazz at Lincoln Center, my new gig, I am experiencing summer Fridays for the first time, half days on Friday from Memorial Day through Labor Day. To be honest, I have yet to leave really leave early on Friday, but the place does clear out. I am easing myself into it I guess, but I like it. It is a tantalizing reminder of the slower pace of summer in my childhood and somehow two and a half days seems so much better than just two.

Flying to the Moon

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I guess I am a sucker for kitten balloon photos. You may remember an earlier, similar card in my post Flying Dutch Kitties, which is in all fairness, a better photograph. It was the moon that grabbed me in this one – I do love a good man in the moon. (I am, after all, married to Kim Deitch. His man in the moon images are, of course, the best and one of the many sterling qualities I married him for.) This one looks full of mischief to me. I can remember being a little kid and looking hard at the moon and being fairly sure I could put together the face of the man there.

This appears to be an American made card, sent from Chicago in 1912, but the specific date is obscured. It was sent to Austria however, and there is a long note, penned in tiny German I have no hope of translating. Landor, the maker of the card, seems to have been partial to cat photo postcards, made at the turn of the century, but I cannot find the history of the company online.

Unlike the masterfully constructed set in Flying Dutch Kitties, this one is deceptively simple. As if you could have easily taken this photo at home with a couple of kittens, string and tissue paper. For me, these are the photo equivalents of how I felt about the Little Rascals when I was a kid. You would look at those various stitched together vehicles, clubhouses and staged shows and the construction seemed like it should only be just within your reach – which of course, wasn’t true at all. Now I frankly marvel at the thoughtful construction and technology of them.

As for me, I have failed to record Cookie and Blackie doing any of their “tricks” for the camera – hind leg standing and boxing; Cookie giving Kim high fives; or her skill in moving a small rocking chair she is partial to. Candid photos of orchid eating or displayed on Kim’s desk is about the best I can do with these two. Too bad – I could be a contender for the Queen of the Cat Video on Youtube if only I was a little bit faster with the camera.

Cookie & Blackie 2015

Cookie & Blackie in an undated photo