Little Red Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today I return briefly to the topic of toys and I offer the final piece in the Christmas of 2018 haul with thanks and a nod to Kim. This little fellow showed up right around the holidays and we snatched him up. Research reveals that he is a Schoenhut, fun flex Felix. He is a smidge worse for having knocked around for the last ninety years or so. He would have had a tail at one time, made of the same (once) bendy fabric. Some of his brethren smoke a jolly little pipe, but he did not. Although I feel as if I have seen this red version before, an internet search turns him up in black and a bright lime green (shown below), rather than the red. I have a dim memory of once seeing a line up of red, green and yellow ones for sale for a princely sum, but perhaps it is false and I was dreaming or smoking something?

I knew this fellow was small, but I had thought maybe he was 30% larger than he is. I am sorry he is no longer sporting his chest sticker which would have read copyright & patent FELIX by Pat Sullivan. Despite this declaration there is something a tad off model about him, the ears giving him a slightly exotic cast. I have a large and what I think of as a more traditional Schoenhut Felix I wrote about a number of years ago in my post Felix the Poser (which can be found here) and that is what I think of as the iconic Felix toy. Mine shown below. (I also toss out mention of my post on another tiny wooden Felix, A Surprising Tiny Felix which can be found here.)

jointed felix

From the Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

In many ways the color and size of this little guy appeal in particular to me. I am sure if he was my childhood toy he would have probably suffered a loss of limbs and maybe even fragile ears from too much love and carrying him around. The universal practice of carrying toys around by children both fascinates and frightens me, although obviously as noted I too certainly did it. I was thinking about this on the elevator to the Q train the other morning. I never take the elevator, but it was there and I was late for work and in a rush from the gym. As I squeezed in, next to me was a little girl of about four who was crying (I came in late to the scene so I do not know why she was unhappy) and I noticed that grasped in her hands was a number of small toys – four or five, plastic animals of characters, not familiar to this adult Pam. Notably and for an unknown reason she ceased crying as soon as the doors shut.

It must be the toy collector in me, but my immediate reaction to seeing children on the streets of New York grasping their beloved toys is anxiety that they will drop and lose them, and I reflected on this while the elevator carried us down its single flight. After all, it is the sad fate of many toys, found on the streets and subways of New York and it is tragic to imagine the loss of a treasured toy.

 

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Ornamentation

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is an incredibly tiny photo – only about 2″x2″ cut from something larger. It was at one time pasted into an album, perhaps a page of many, small cut out images in a 1920’s collage. This Felix is a familiar Schoenhut model toy which was hugely popular. Someone has plunked our friendly Felix toy down on the front end of this gorgeous looking early Chevrolet. Ironically Felix has a notable history with Chevy, thanks to a long lived dealership in Los Angeles. I touched on this in a post called Felix Sells, after being inspired by a single early dealership envelope which I saw on eBay, but failed to purchase. As I am not especially knowledgable about cars, I cannot hazard a guess about the model of this one and therefore the possible year completely eludes me. Still, we can assume that it was while Felix was first hitting the big time and star that he was, he was simply everywhere.

Originally motometers perched atop of early car hoods and served a purpose, gaging car temperature. They became more decorative over time (believe me, I only know this because I watch American Pickers, and some of the ones they find are gorgeous), but then eventually temperature gauges moved into the car, where we will assume they were more useful. The spot on the hood was inherited by, also increasingly decorative, hood ornaments – and Felix was a favorite. Below I show the most common version, the LeJeune Felix hood ornament. (Louis LeJeune hood ornaments is a British company which still exists and was founded in 1910, so they were still the new kids on the block when they hit it big with this Felix,  probably in the late ’20’s.)

These abound for sale on eBay and I have never purchased one, in part, because it would need to be mounted. (Remember, our cramped studio apartment does not allow for a lot of construction projects or tools.) If I see a nice mounted one I would love it. Felix is at his early squared off best, portrayed in his thinking/pacing mode. I do very much like the idea of him on the prow of my car! This one is resplendent – in fully painted glory. Generally you see an unpainted version (and modern castings) available.

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Painted version of the Le Jeune Felix hood ornament, not in the Pictorama collection, alas! From a Hake’s sale catalogue.

 

Another version of a Felix hood ornament, shown below, came up while researching this. Not sure of the maker or year. One can imagine this one in fully original shiny brass glory however – wowza! There were another few variations where a metal Felix had been married to another ornament in a homemade version. I was unable to capture those. Still here he is in his thinking walk; he seems far less concerned however. This Felix is strolling.

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All this to say, it would have been an easily understood joke of the day to take a Felix toy and stick it on the front of your Chevy and take the photo I have acquired.

Although somewhat less popular today, hood ornaments still exist. I have a friend who has a nice one of a beaver on the front of her car and he has graced the front of a series of her SUV’s as I understand. A similar but more widespread practice today seems to be tying old stuffed animals to the front of trucks, something I have wondered about. Perhaps it comes out of an entirely different motivation.

If I owned a car (which would require that I drive a car – really another story) I would consider affixing this Felix with his bent, thoughtful walk to the hood. After all, contemplation is good and speed isn’t everything.

 

Felix Roly Poly

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Felix side view – check out the whiskers!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: The parade of toys emerging as a result of our recent big pack up continues with this fellow who I kept out of a box so I could write about him. This Felix was made by Schoenhut in Germany and appears to have been made around 1922-1924, according to my research. Felix is made of paper mache and appears very sturdy indeed. Therefore, it was a surprise when my research turned up that he was actually a candy container. He only stands about 7″ high so I have to assume that the candy was small and there wasn’t much of it. I cannot see where he would have opened, nor how he has been re-sealed. (Leaving me to wonder – is it possible that the now old, old candy is still in there? Or is this misinformation?)

It is almost beyond my imagination to consider such a wonderful world where candy might have been delivered in such a container into the happy and greedy hands of children. These roly poly toys do not appear to be in short supply so children must have liked Felix more than the candy. In the mugshots above, you can just barely see that he maintains part of a Schoenhut sticker on his tummy and to my especial amazement, he has kept his whiskers all these years!

If Felix was not your roly poly of choice, you could have Santa, goblins, golliwogs, fat men and bunnies – among others. I do own some other black cat candy containers (covered in mohair) made in Germany. Alas, they are packed away and will have to await their moment in the spotlight at some future date.

Roly poly toys seem to have been around for a long time but I could not find out much about their origin. It seems that numerous cultures – Russian, Chinese and European – actually have versions of the toy. Quite simply, the toy is weighted and rounded on the bottom so if you push it over it bounces right back up. I guess this was devised for small children to entertain themselves with since they couldn’t actually knock it over. Wikipedia sites Weebles (by the Fischer Price company with the memorable tagline, Weebles wobble but they don’t fall down!) as a contemporary manifestation of the roly poly. They do not mention the bottom-heavy, blow up knockdown clown toys of my youth which I adored. As big as a small child (I found the sheer size thrilling – I always liked big toys) you could sidle on up to it and give it a poke and it would go down – and bounce right back up! Wonderful! I think I could go out and buy one now and still enjoy it.

Felix the Poser

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This Schoenhut Felix is very common, but I like the size and heft of mine. He is about eight inches high, and he came to me in an unusual way. I received a call from an acquaintance of Kim’s who was traveling, in Florida I believe, who said he saw an old Felix in a store and asked if he should buy it for me. I have never taken a chance on such a blind acquisition before, but on that day I rolled the dice and I got this guy for a great price.

Even all these years after his heyday, this Felix toy is virtually ubiquitous as old toys go. They frequently appear in photos with children, often with babies. I do not have any in my collection, because I prefer the more idiosyncratic stuffed toys. The wooden ones are widely available, although not especially inexpensive, in a variety of sizes and some variation. Felix is posable, although this one has started to grow fragile and like so many you see, the twine that holds him together is threatening to break. I believe that somewhere, for a large sum of money, you can have them restrung. I imagine new they were relatively indestructible however.

The extreme popularity of this toy is somewhat mystifying for me. He is a hard wooden toy, not cuddly. While he is nicely posable, it is hard to imagine that explaining his fascination for kids. Frankly, this fellow mostly looks good on a shelf like mine – among his kind and ken – dozens of different variations. In fact, Felix’s vast allure over many decades is hard to explain – even for devoted fans like myself. However, the ongoing appeal of Felix cannot be denied. Below is a photo of a small toy of more recent vintage (I believe I acquired him in the 1980’s, long, long before my collection was even a twinkle in my eye) which is also very popular. A small variation on the Schoenhut theme which I give for your consideration.

modern Felix