It’s Clint Flynn – on Spark Plug

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I am pleased to present something I consider to be a rarity, even among the rarified world of people posing with, or on, comic characters or stuffed cats. I could be wrong, but I figure I am probably one the largest (if not the very largest – only?) collector of such photos. Go figure, right? Anyway, many years ago I saw a photo of someone posed with Spark Plug. If memory serves, Spark Plug was more of a stuffed affair and furthermore, that it was from either New Zealand or Australia. (A bit less surprising than you think – about a quarter of my photos hail from that part of the world, such as the one in the post Echo Point, Katoomba.) That was in an online auction, Hake’s I believe, and I had a large but not large enough bid on it, and was bitterly disappointed when I lost it. Like a fool, I did not keep a scan.

Compulsive collecting behavior being what it is, I added it to my occasional searches for photos. If I didn’t want to look at automotive parts and endless Barney Google merchandise (not to mention that Google has adopted a very different meaning online than it had in about 1925) of which there is a plethora, I had to perfect that search a bit which I did over time. I did see some very nice stuffed versions of Spark Plug over the years as a result and was even tempted to buy one occasionally. I have not (yet at least), but after what may easily be a decade of looking I ran across this photo the other day while drinking my morning coffee, predawn and dawdling before getting ready for work. It is postcard, but on thin paper which I can’t imagine holding up in the mail. This one was never sent and even with that appears a bit ragged. After pushing a few buttons, happily I found it in my mail about 48 hours later.

The person who sold it, had an interesting bit of local history attached to it. Our man Clint Flynn was a resident of Flynn’s Cove, Cumberland County, Tennessee. Son of William L. Flynn and grandson of Richard “Red Fox” Flynn of Civil War note. Seems Red was a famous Union Scout and conductor on the Underground Railroad. Also mentioned is that Red lost his brother, John to Confederate Guerillas so this family gave a lot to the cause of the Union in the Civil War. Clearly the town mentioned is named for the family. Just because I find it a bit interesting, I include a photo of Clint’s sister Rebecca below, shown with the man she ultimately marries, Walter Reed. (He does not appear to be the Walter Reed of scientific or other fame, nor is he Walter Reade of theater fame, although my eBay historian friend implies that he too is notable without detail.) It is also up for sale on eBay as this goes to press.

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Photo of sister, Rebecca Flynn, and Walter Reed. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

 

Clint Flynn did not seem to make his way into local lore so we do not know anything about him except that in roughly 1923 (according to the seller who must have calculated this from the album it came from) he perched atop of Spark Plug while at Hardie’s Casino, Miami Beach, Florida and had his photo taken by H. H. Duncker, cameraman, as per the back of this photo. I like his bravado – embracing the situation for all it is worth and creating a sense of movement on this very stationary version of Spark Plug. Go Sparky, go! Spark Plug appears to be made mostly, or entirely, of wood, tail standing straight up in back like a frowsy flag. I also draw your attention to the strange little figure, chased by an alligator in the bottom right which I did not see until purchasing the photo and studied it, next to him a tiny and almost unreadable sign, Miami Beach, Florida. (This photo has also been enhanced by the Photoshop magic of Mr. Kim Deitch.)

Strangely, this is the first photo of this kind taken in the United States to enter my collection. While this was a common photo opportunity offered at seaside and other resorts in Great Britain, Australia and even New Zealand, I have never found or purchased one from our own shores. (I believe the best I have done is people posing with nominally outsized Mickey’s or Mickey Mouse knockoffs.) Now that I own this little gem, I am of course anxious to acquire additional ones. And you, my Pictorama readers, will be the first to know.

 

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Echo Point, Katoomba

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I ask that you put aside your party planning and New Year’s resolution composing and spend a few minutes in the Felix past with me today. I am continuing to report on the holiday haul with this mini El Dorado of tintypes from Echo Point, Katoomba. I have written about tintypes from Katoomba previously (most recently, Vacation Felix and Another Aussie Felix), but I have never purchased more than one from a single sitting.

The story of how I came upon these photos is interesting. While wandering around down South with the Jazz at Lincoln Center band for earlier this month, I was set up in a hotel room in Florida working furiously on some things for the office via my laptop in a rare post-gym and breakfast couple of hours in my hotel room. I had my personal email in the background as I first conducted a job interview with a candidate in Chicago and then tried to sort out some thorny issues around our April gala invitation. Between these I saw an email from this Pam’s Pictorama site, a fairly unusual occurance. When I finally remembered it was there and had a look at it a few hours later, I realized that it was interesting indeed.

Someone named Calvin was writing because he had Felix photos and he wanted to know if I was interested in buying them. (Of course I was!) Initially I thought he had a collection like the ones I posted yesterday (On a Sunday Morning in Swainsthorpe in case you haven’t been following along) and it took an exchange or so to realize that he had tintypes from Echo Point, Katoomba a resort in New South Wales, Australia. Regardless of my geographic location or my lack of sleep, I was certainly interested. He asked me to name a price, and then of course I needed to see them first – my experience with these being all over the place in quality, mostly dark from light exposure, sometimes to the point of illegibility. Over the course of the next twelve hours or so he sent them – as I was waking up the next morning I think – they were very clean and nice looking indeed. There were several of the same little girl and then others with an arrangement and re-arrangement of others. Presumably all of the same family. No identification or dates on any of them.

Calvin had purchased the lot of them from a postcard dealer, at a flea market I think he said. He went online to research them and stumbled onto Pam’s Pictorama and thought to see if I wanted to purchase them. Since it is my feeling that I really need to own ALL the Felix tintypes (and photo postcards, just to be clear) of course I wanted to purchase them. I named a price that multiplied the average price I have paid for such photos in the past. Calvin accepted and these were speeding their way to me and we arrived in New York at almost the same time. It is the first time Pictorama has attracted its own post material. My delight knows no bounds!

Judging by the cloche hats being sported by the female subjects these could loosely date from about 1922 to ten years later. It is hard to say if Australian fashion tracked US fashion exactly in this regard, it my have trailed us by some years. There is no identification, nor dates on the photos as seems to be typical with these souvenir tintypes. Meanwhile, oh to be such a lucky little girl and have so many nice tintypes made of yourself with Felix! I am so jealous! Although I know from making tintypes myself that they are by their very nature one-of-a-kind images, nonetheless it is difficult to find the differences in these three images, they are there if you look carefully however; the images must be just moments apart. It did occur to me to purchase only one of the little girl (he could have easily sold the others on eBay) or that I can ultimately sell two. Still, Pictorama readers know of my obsession with keeping family photos together and certainly for now they will stay as a group.

My favorite photo, the one featured at top, is of the large group. There is an early car behind them and some sort of an awing that reads Echo Point, Katoomba behind that. (If you are trying to read it, remember it is backward as this is a tintype and a mirror image.) The woman in the middle gets to hold this nice big Felix in place! In the subsequent photo of just her and the man with the hat, he holds Felix sort of haphazardly around the neck and doesn’t show him to full advantage. We get a glimpse of the tropical foliage behind them, as we do with the photos of the little girl, who for some reason isn’t included in the group photo. Felix is just her size and they stand together like old buddies. She is more warmly dressed than the others with a nice fur trimmed coat and sports a cloche as well. These clearly sat together some place, out of the light, well preserved.

Finally, I would like to note that we get a good look at the Felix doll here and he is a bit worn. Most interesting to me is his somewhat extra large (and I assume weighted for balance) feet making him slightly out of proportion. It has always been my assumption that all, or at least most, of the giant Felix dolls made for posing had one origin, but now I doubt that as I look at some of the variations on the wall of them across from me where I sit right now and type, those predominantly from Great Britain. What is even more interesting is that out of the five or so from Echo Point, Katoomba (outside of this group) only one seems to be the same doll. I guess there was a lot of wear and tear and many Felix replacements, or even multiple dolls being used at the same time. Here at Pictorama we continue to fervently hope that someday we will indeed find a giant Felix we can purchase for our very own!

 

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.

Austin Family

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Ah yes, the bread and butter of a Pictorama Post! Next to someone sidling up to a giant Felix doll, it is the happiest of days when one of these photos joins the Pictorama collection. This particular card had an odd listing and I stumbled across it on eBay, quickly snatching it up. On the back it reads, printed in pencil, Austin Family, East Dulwich, 1920’s? (It seems sad to me that a subsequent generation appears to have marked the card, yet it fell out of the family anyway.) Having lived in London, I was surprised to discover that East Dulwich is considered a district of SE London. I am not familiar with it and did not get to know it’s beach-y enclave shown here. Oddly, it seems to be ringed by these four story apartment buildings – not quite what one thinks of as resort area housing. When I lived in London in the mid-1980’s I believe this was an economically downtrodden area that was just beginning to be seen as an area for potential revitalization, and I believe South London has changed substantially in the following decades. Happy, striped beach chairs are lined up and in distance I believe changing tents, made of canvas, are also set up.

Meanwhile, the Austins are prosperous looking in their 1920’s holiday togs, complete with hats. The woman looks pleased, if somewhat embarrassed, by her cat chair perch and the child looks fairly delighted. This kitty has nice whiskers and is sticking his tongue out in a sort of cheeky way. He has little claws on his paws and a fluffy tail that sticks straight up. A note of interest to me (albeit perhaps less for the majority of you) is that this cat seems to be held up by a metal stand – none of my other giant cats seems to feature that. It also fascinates me that every single one of the photos I have with these “cat chairs” appears to be a different design of big black cat. How is that possible? The Felix-es, while a variety of sizes and somewhat individual in appearance as Felix toys of the day appeared to be, at least looked as if they could have been churned out of one, or maybe two, shops. Every single one of the half dozen or so of these others I own, show substantially different cat design – different eyes, made from a variety of materials, fluffy tail versus not, etc. (See prior posts, The Giant Cat ChairRiding the Big Kitty and Big Kitty.) So, were individuals just whipping these up on a whim? Hard to say. Clearly this Big Kitty design is a bit tippy – therefore, the metal stand. I assume if I stay in the business of collecting these long enough I will start to get some repeaters.

Printed on the back of this card is J. EASTON, Clifton Baths & Bathing Pool “Snaps” Cliftonville, when re-ordering please quote number. Oddly, I don’t believe I have seen such organized information on the back of one of these cards about the photo company that took and produced these cards. This card has been enhanced by the Photoshop skills of Mr. Deitch. It is a low contrast, sepia original. I wonder if it is too late to write and ask J. Easton for another copy of 476, perhaps printed a bit darker this time?

 

 

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.

Vacation Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: No news that when I see one of these Felix tintypes I go to the extremes to acquire it. Somehow the idea that tintypes and Felix existed at the same time entertains the heck out of me – although, by any measure it was getting late in the game for tintypes. Echo Point at Katoomba in Australia, not the only location for such fabulous photo fun of the day, however the evidence many decades later appears to be that it was one of the prime locations. Recently I have proudly displayed other such acquisitions of this type in posts including Another Aussie Felix and one of unknown origin in Felix Featured on Tin. I own several others I have yet to write about.

These three women and Felix look right at home together – them in their summer garb, complete with hats. Felix relaxing like a member of the family. I especially like the jolly striped awning over them. I am guessing that this is mother and daughters – perhaps even grandmother? Some information is sadly lost in this photo as is often the case with these tintypes which seem to suffer most of all from sloppy, on location workmanship. The older woman’s face is the real victim here and the information just isn’t there if you try to drill down on it.

This photo inspires me to think a bit about vacation today however, and Kim and I have been discussing it too. As most of you know, I started a new job a few months ago so I am limited in vacation time this summer. I usually try to take two weeks in the summer and do a serious recharge of my battery. Kim, who as many of you also know, is a maniacally super charged work-aholic also looks forward to this downtime. This year I am piecing together what leave time I have acquired and am running it into Labor Day to extend it as much as I can.

I have pretty much been shot out of a gun since starting the new job – a racehorse let tearing out of the gate, seeing how much ground I can cover in this first lap. Part of me hates to break that stride, but another part knows that time off is needed too. Photos from my friend Eileen’s vacation spent at their weekend home in Vermont – featuring lovely summer fields of green and a truly enviable swimming hole – have lured me into vacation thoughts too. So I won’t begrudge myself a few halcyon days of summer to let my mind wander, eat strawberry ice cream, corn on the cob – days when I have slept late after staying up reading books. Lazing around with my husband losing track of time. This photo makes me yearn a bit for summer activities. Maybe the Fair Haven, NJ Fireman’s Fair this year? A bit of cotton candy or candy apple and a trip on a small, but thrilling ferris wheel. We’ll see. Part of vacation is all in the dreaming and planning.

 

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.