The Boys and Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have periodically opined on how much fun it would be to have your photo taken with a nice Felix the Cat doll and this one looks like a third child in the photo. Felix is such a handy size I wonder if it is a prop (probably) or actually belongs to these youngsters. I know if it was I as a tiny tot, I’d have been bellowing for him to come home with me; greedy, thankless child that I was. These two kids look quite jolly, the older one downright debonair – perhaps best not to meet him as a gent (or cad) around town later in life. The younger one appears to be trimmed out in fur which seems all odd from today’s standards. Even in our own decadent times – fur trimmed outfit for your toddler?

This photo seems like the sort of studio shot taken for the purpose of eventually ending up on grandma’s table of treasured family photos. My mother’s mom had studio portraits, large ones, of my mother and her brother, both in graduation cap and gowns, as I remember. The one of my mother had hand colored tinting, and it was the first time I ever saw that in a photo. As a kid I was endlessly fascinated by it. I can see it in my mind now, hanging in the dining room (housing a table which occasionally held food, but we absolutely never ate at – that was done in the kitchen with a table and space which both somehow magically expanded to fit an infinite number of family members as required) on a flocked print wallpaper, gray with a green design. The photo did not look like my mother, mostly because her nose was broken and not set properly shortly after high school when the photo was taken. I didn’t know that until I was older and wouldn’t have thought to ask for an explanation for the transformation. My uncle looked exactly the same – his Howdy Dowdy resemblance following him into adulthood and beyond. As the younger brother his photo was true color and his bright red hair and freckles stood out.

When my grandmother moved out of her house and into a nursing facility, much was disposed of and a small number of things were absorbed by my mother and uncle – who by that time was living down south, but collected a number of things. I do not know what happened to the photos, my mother was not overly fond of hers so she clearly did not claim them. I do not know if my uncle did. I must think to ask my mother when I call her later today.

 

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Happy Hollow Special

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today marks the beginning of delving into a nice big pile of photographs I purchased last week at a postcard show here in New York City. Way back in college, I remember an art professor, Maureen McCabe, saying she loved this show because she bought things like vintage paper dolls for her work constructing collages. That was a few decades back and I suspect that the sale has changed over time. It was small, but sincere, and for me a happy hunting ground. This bi-annual sale is provided by the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York (more about them here), which evidently meets monthly largely for the purpose of buying, selling and trading postcards. I noticed a mention of them in the New York Times recently and made a note of this sale a few months ago.

I may have purchased enough postcards to keep me from needing to drop into a meeting before their next show in November, but we will see about that. The process of looking through physical cards is quite different than the sort of internet searching I do and I stumbled across some interesting, non-cat affiliated cards, this being one of them. Kim patiently waded through postcards with me last Saturday afternoon, after traveling to and from midtown in a deluge, so a shout out to him.

I would love to know more about these folks, posing here in front of this striped carnival background. These lucky little girls are riding in high style, drawn by this large goat. Goat carts were popular in this period and below I include a photo I grabbed of a goat cart in Central Park in the 1870’s. I always thought they used smaller goats, but this photo and the others I found show big goats. The Central Park goat cart is quite high-end compared to our friends posed with this more humble affair in Hot Springs.

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I recently read about Goat Yoga online which seems, touchingly, to simultaneously combine yoga and admiring, frolicking goats. I have a general fondness for goats – in Tibet you see these small ones that look like Scotty dogs everywhere and I always wanted to scoop one up – however I resisted the temptation. In addition I spent many years doing yoga and, while I have found that cats can take a real interest in yoga (they generally try to out-yoga you, and they usually can as they are flexible little critters), I admit I never thought about doing it with goats. Clearly, my lack of imagination. Anyway, I see online that there was an attempt to bring said Goat Yoga to Brooklyn, but the Board of Health put an end to it so we here in the five boroughs will never know the pleasures of it I guess.

Getting back to our postcard, I would say that the donkey sticking his head in and the stray arm to the other side of the frame, sort of frame this photo compositionally. I myself wouldn’t have minded seeing more of that donkey fellow with his big furry ears. Mom and Dad and the kids are in their best bib and tucker – Mom sporting a splendid hat and is especially dressed up for the occasion. As carnival photo opportunities go, this one is decidedly lower end than most however – certainly not as luxe as posing with Felix at the beach (see for example my post Felix Mugging), but it has its own charm.

The cart is labeled Happy Hollow Special, Hot Springs and below, somewhat mysteriously, 21, is also painted. If you look very closely, you realize that this “cart” is propped up on a small stand and isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps this guarded against a rogue runaway goat. Goats are known for their independent natures, after all. Although this card was never mailed, written in pencil on the back is Sal & Birdie with their daughters Dorothy & Marion. A quick look online reveals that Happy Hollow, Hot Springs is a vacation destination in Hot Springs, Arkansas and perhaps that is our photo locale, a very long time ago indeed.

Pam’s Felix Frolic Continues

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am aware that we have been having a very Felix-y time at Pictorama lately (aren’t we lucky!) and to some degree that is just a reflection of buying opportunity and inclination, although admittedly we are well-documented Felix fans. I believe I own about 50 or so variations on photos of people posting with an array of Felix, and about two thirds of those are these posed photo postcards.

I have come to realize that my readership does not perhaps (inconceivable to me) value or enjoy these images as much as I do. Quite simply expressed however, it is my feeling that I should own all of them. And I never, ever tire of them nor find one that I do not consider fascinating. As I have previously opined, I envision a book devoted to these photos someday – perhaps just a self-published or a publish on demand, so at least I can admire them all in a handy way. (Although that implies a sense of completion which I am unwilling to consider.) Sadly our wall space falls well short of being able to display them all. So, while I can hear some of you tsk, tsk-ing and saying, “She’s at it again” I plunge ahead with this latest discovery. It is my intention to move on next week. (I have a beaut of a photo for movie fans.)

So, now to our photo. Darned if I can figure out what junior, posing here, has in his hands. I am going to settle on it being a ball. I can’t say that he looks especially charmed by Felix either which is too bad. Little did he know that it might be his only shot at immortality. (I say this with all due respect and as a guesstimate of course, as I have no idea who he is or might have grown into being.) The stairs and strolling folks in the background create a nice dynamic. This jaunty “adult size” sort of Felix is my favorite and the type I would want to pose with. (Yes, I have spent time considering this.) He is pleasantly enormous and a close look reveals some wild whiskers on him. Someone has written 1924 on the back of the card along with a short column of numbers that don’t make sense. Somehow it doesn’t look like it was written at the time though and 1924 seems a tad early to my thinking.

So I leave you to contemplate this one woman’s obsession – and a nod to those of you who might actually share it.

 

 

 

All in the Family

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is the first of a weekend two part mini-series featuring family photos as two splendid photo postcards arrived in the mail this week. I think both are quite wonderful in many ways, but as I sit down to write it is the idea of family I am struck by – the jolly family-ness of both of them. I am launching my endeavor with this beauty of a family posing with Felix on this photo postcard, one of two I promised last week. This one’s a gem! Like most of these (Pam) treasured cards, this one was never mailed and there is nothing noted on the back, therefore names and precise location are lost to the sands of time.

Dad, Mom and tot are the family unit today and somehow our itinerant Felix photographer turns out to be a really great one and has gotten it all just right. Felix is in exactly the best position so he is (tail and all) pointing right up at the kid. The child’s face is all screwed up in a sun squint, although he’s sort of smiling too. Mom and Pop are looking on, amused and somewhat child-boastful. Junior is standing on his own two feet, perhaps a newly developed skill set for this fellow. Meanwhile, Felix is a bit like a second, only slightly smaller child and mohair covered member of the family.

I always am struck by how fully dressed folks seem to always be on the beaches in Britain during this early 20th century period. Dad is in a full suit, tie, vest and oxfords. His hat is tilted back on his head in a nice somewhat rogue-ish way. Mom is in full dress regalia with her striped white dress, stockings and shoes. (Somehow all I can think of is the amount of sand they must have had to get out of their shoes and clothes at the end of the day.) There is a towel on the back of dad’s chair and a pail for the youngster, lurking behind Felix’s tail. More suited, hat wearing and layered up adults spot the background. We will assume it wasn’t one of Britain’s warmer beach days.

Somehow our photographer has captured the three of them (four if we count Felix) in the foreground, apart from others on this crowded beach. The pleasant visual din of everyone else blurs slightly while our family is sharply in focus. In a sense, it is enough to say that this is how family’s see themselves, no matter large or small, a part of the world and yet separate and special.

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.

 

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.