Travel Cat

 

Cats in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As I wrote yesterday, I was a bit devastated by the realization that there were no toy dealers at Portobello market on the day I was there. I had really been looking forward to it and one in particular, Mr. Punch’s Old Toys. (I was given the name of two other far flung antique centers which also proved a bust for my purposes – one ultimately specializing in very high-end jewelry, and the other devoted almost exclusively to furniture and lighting.)

However, I did manage to acquire this very nice fellow, shown above, from a man selling ropes of beads and other items from Central Asia. Meanwhile, he had four cat variations on this fellow lined up for sale as well. This one was the largest and his neck swivels which the others did not, enabling him to have what I like to think of as an inquiring look. The seller insisted that it is Steiff, although I see no hole where the Steiff button would have gone. While Steiff certainly made quality toys, it is not an affiliation that I am hung up on either way. I trotted off to an ATM machine and acquired some cash and returned to barter him down a bit before tucking this nice guy in my bag.

Although my collection focuses largely on black cats, I have a bit of a history of picking up striped cats out-of-town, although seeming never online. I like to think it is the expression of a each cat that calls to me. Included here is a random white cat as well. He was purchased in Dresden while on an especially stressful business trip for the Met. I stumbled into an antique store on a free afternoon and found him – or he found me. He cheered me immensely for the remainder of the trip and did a stint in my office as well. The smallest of these was purchased for me by Kim at an antique center in Cold Spring, New York, and is the only one that sports a Steiff button on one ear – although the white one has a hole where a button could have been. The other cat with a bell came from an earlier trip to Cold Spring, and was the first one, purchased in a store more or less dedicated to toys and early holiday decorations I used to visit periodically.

These cats have the appeal of being toys I can easily imagine as a childhood favorite; one that is carried tucked in a stroller or into bed with a child at night. One of the features I like best about the new cat is his long, soft tail, unlike his tail-in-the-air friends. There is a trace of red on the back of his neck which makes me think he too used to sport a red bow like the others. I think his is a sincere face. (I have always thought the smallest one has a very worried expression for a toy cat. Poor kitty!) The kitties with bells have whiskers and I assume there is a chance that all did at one time – these being the most susceptible to disappearing with handling over time. Smallest kitty also has a head that moves – white kitty has had his head re-sewn onto his body, so he could have had a moveable head, but we do not know. I am open to hearing from those of you with more information about whether or not all these cats are Steiff or not. Please do weigh in.

As I wrote in Shanghai Pam and the Toy Store Adventure there is something grounding for me about buying toys while in a far flung places – especially inviting, and on occasion outright comforting, about finding toys while out in the world. These cats currently reside scattered across our apartment, in fact I had trouble finding smallest kitty. I am thinking though that maybe one should head to Columbus Circle and take up residence in my office. Currently no toys reside there and maybe new kitty could take up residence for moral support and offer his inquiring yet welcoming look to all.

 

 

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Altar of the Black Kitty

Pam’s  Pictorama Photo Post:  It was Kim who first said it looked like this little girl was worshiping at the altar of the kitty. I bought it as soon as I spied that lovely black cat and fluffy tail. Lucky girl, quite a birthday gift that would be! Just a few highlights have been touched up with color by hand. There is something of the altar of the Virgin Mary about it, as she looks deeply into the eyes of the toy cat, some religion I could get behind.

This card is British and on the back is, To dear little Joie from Gran with lots of love hoping she will have a happy Birth Day. X ++++, written in a spidery, hard-to-read grandmotherly scrawl. As far as I can tell, it is addressed to Miss Joyce Lucton (?), 2 Glenbroke Place, Upper… Street, Bristol. The postmark is faint, but it appears to be from 5:45 AM, December 1, 1906. The edges of the card are embossed with a fancy flower design that is hard to see in the photo. It probably won’t surprise Pictorama readers that I still enjoy sending and receiving actual cards – although the birthday postcard is something one doesn’t much see these days.

It is well understood that as children we anticipate our birthday all year – not only for the day of cake and toys (although that is very good and I still like that) – but because when you are young of course the idea of being a year older is great too. We want to  be grown up. Somewhere in our twenties the tide seems to turn and a sense of, if not actual dread, ambivalence sets in. My mother would say, beats the alternative (or as an older friend said recently in response to my birthday greetings that her birthday was better than the dirt nap), but we stop being celebratory at a minimum. Suddenly, older is bad.

For me, oddly enough, my twenty-first birthday was the first where I found myself, alone in London on a year abroad, at loose ends and feeling less than celebratory. I decided to rally, went to a high-end hair dresser and cut my hair very short for the first time, followed by a to a vintage clothing store. There I purchased a vintage dress and jacket, a lovely teapot, a strange silver pin of the Sphinx, and an art deco necklace. (I still have the pin and the necklace and somewhere the jacket. The teapot chipped badly in a move a number of years ago, and the dress given to a friend.) A friend rescued me in the evening and took me to a dinner of Greek food. I called my mother when I got home (very late and a bit tipsy) and I remember the operator asking me if I knew what time it was in the United States! Very British. I have called my mother every year on my birthday though, and I am pleased to say she didn’t mind in the least.

A number of years later, in a fit of latter adult birthday ambivalence, I took the matter in hand and declared February my birthday month. I gathered around me a cohort of Aquarian friends, and decided I would celebrate with each of them separately. Like me, they had long-suffered birthdays that were jammed in or around (or in one case on) Valentine’s Day. We had that, and living here on the east coast, snow in common. While over time that group has mostly dwindled (although the unofficial club did take on a new member last year) with out-of-state moves, and in one case sadly with a quite elderly member, death, I have to say it has wrought some of the very nicest memories. Despite increasingly busy schedules time is set aside to spend with each of those people and has resulted in some lovely memories. Sometimes, these days, the date gets pushed to March – sometimes well beyond – but it always happens. More than a decade ago, one friend’s daughter was born, prematurely, on the day we were scheduled for dinner – and that in the midst of a snow storm to boot! February 2018 birthday dinners and lunches are already being considered and scheduled – other Aquarians feel free to raise your hand.

 

 

Cat Chair (episode 2)

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My constant searching for photos of people posing with Felix has also introduced me to what turned out to be a broader world of people posing with a variety of novel things. As readers of Pictorama know, the souvenir photo postcard operation of the 1920’s and beyond could focus around a stuffed Mickey Mouse, Felix, Spark Plug (Barney Google’s horse) and these very large black cats. In one of my earliest posts I featured the first of these cards I purchased – Giant Cat Chair. I own three cat chair photos altogether and would love to acquire more, but they appear quite rarely. One of the most noteworthy things is that the cat is definitely a different one in each so there was a number of places – all of these from Britain – where you could pose with a big cat chair. This one appears to be a smallish-large cat chair – just the right size for this little tyke – and the tongue sticking out is different than any of the others I have. Also, this one has the remarkable feature of his tail sticking straight up in the air. This one looks the most of all like a Steiff toy cat, but very, extra large.

The card itself is smaller than regulation size postcard, closer to a photograph than a photo postcard, but postal ready on the back. The writing on the back (which was never sent) appears to say Alan 18 month Cliftonville 192. (I wonder if they meant to write 1920? If so, it is a bit of a sobering thought to consider that little Alan would have been old enough to fight for England in WWII.) Cliftonville is hard to read, but likely since that appears to be a seaside area in Margate. While having a fast look at images from Cliftonville I found this rather splendid image on Reddit of a beauty contest in Cliftonville in 1936.

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Beauty Contest, Cliftonville, England 1936

 

Despite the glories of the seaside park in general, the general background of this card is a bit tatty. The wooden building behind little Alan is sort of interesting, with a bit of gingerbread design on it, but in the distance we see an iron fence and a large building that appears to be an apartment house. In general, if a seaside resort, the area they have chosen for cat chair photos is a bit down at the heels and sad. The kid, Alan, is well dressed, (I love the little belt on his top) is well turned out and clearly enjoying a holiday or special day at the shore.

Tatty scenery or not, I would have loved to have my photo taken astride this kitty – and it would be a tight fit, but he’d look pretty good in my living room today as well for that matter should he turn up on eBay one of these days.

 

 

The Lore of the White Kitties

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: In the process of packing and unpacking toys recently, I realized that somehow along the line I had acquired a small coterie of white cats in contrast to my substantial (and well documented) collection of black cats. Three of these fellows are Steiff and two have no identification. The Steiff with the bell and red ribbon was purchased by Kim at a store in Cold Spring, New York, for me. The all white kitty on all fours, without stripes, came from a small shop in Dresden and I bought him while traveling there for the Met. (He kept me company on the remainder of the trip and made my ship’s cabin feel more like home.) I almost wrote that the others came off of eBay, but yet when I think about it I know they did not. The strange rule of Pam purchasing white cats seems to be that I do it in person and it is an impulse buy. Sadly I have no specific memory of the origin of the remaining cats. I do wish I could remember where I got the largest of them – he really is a splendid cat and I can see why I bought him.

White cats don’t quite hold the mystery  and intrigue that black cats do for me – however seems like a friendly group and like they probably get along together better than the black cats. (I have seen some elbowing for space among the black cats – just ask Kim.) Most of these live peacefully sprinkled among their black cat brethren and this is the first time I am putting them together.

White cats are prone to deafness – it seems strange that it would be a congenital defect that natural selection wouldn’t have done away with – and I have never met one of these. Meanwhile, they also frequently  have two different colored eyes, a pretty great look. The Turkish government has even declared white Angora cats with blue and amber eyes national treasures. This alone could convince someone like me to visit Turkey, and how sad that during the long Presidential election year neither candidate has offered us such a part of their platform.

It is worth noting that Felix has a girlfriend with white fur and a ribbon who I think of as White Kitty, although her name is in fact just Kitty – and she always seemed to be luring him into one kind of trouble or other such as a mountain of kittens, or her father with a shot gun as popular themes. Kitty was often drawn entirely differently – a realistic and not so doggy-human as Felix, as in the internet swipe of a postcard below. Although in the comics she sometimes looks like an all-white Felix in a dress. It is bizarre that in the strip below Felix also seems to have a (equally scheming) cousin who is also all white.

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Felix and Kitty from a popular British postcard set by Pathe

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Felix and Kitty from a daily