A Halloween Post!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The Halloween season is upon us and brief morning trips to run in the park have revealed some serious dedication to decorating for the holiday. I used to enjoy seeing the townhouses near the Met decorated for the season – some would really pull out all the stops and put on a show. I am less often over there now, but one townhouse near Carl Schurz Park is really throwing down the holiday gauntlet with this tableau of a chain of skeletons climbing down the front of the house from the attic!

Decorated townhouse near East End Avenue, taken this week.

The Mansion Diner, on the corner of 86th Street and York Avenue, has long dedicated themselves to decorating their entire building for the holiday. They were a little late getting them up this year and I wondered if, short handed, they would skip it, but the decorations appeared earlier this week.

It’s interesting that I only rarely had reason to frequent The Mansion pre-pandemic, but now it is a regular stop for breakfast sandwiches post run and frequent meetings with a Board member from work who lives around the corner. I spent the summer eating ice cream outside while talking with him about work, Frank Sinatra being piped out loudly for our listening pleasure.

The Mansion Diner on the corner of 86th and York, also earlier this week.

But if part of your collecting gig is black cats this is a great time of year. I think I have mentioned that my collecting has blossomed thanks in part to an online dealer from the Midwest, Miss Molly (@missmollysantiques). My friendship (consumership?) started with purchasing a black cat jack-o-lantern head. (You can see that post here and the kitty below.) Overtime I have also purchased photos from her (the most recent of those can be found here). And she nicely gives me a heads up on cat items before posting them, but once in awhile it is the stuff around what she is posting that catches my eye and she sold me the wonderful Krak-R-Jak Biscuit box that sits on my desk. (That is a sort of oddly outrageously popular post that can be found here.) I have a rather spectacular Nestle chocolate tin box to share in a future post as well, but today we are talking Halloween.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The fact is my yen for these early paper mache cat JOL’s goes way back. I remember visiting a store in Cold Spring, New York that had a huge collection, but very expensive and utterly out of my reach. (Fall is a beautiful time to visit that area, an hour and a half or so up the Hudson, right on the water. It is a picture perfect little river town and Kim and I spent one night there for our “honeymoon” there, 21 years ago this past week.) I had resigned myself to never owning one, but the internet has become a great equalizer and prices are lower – and I spend more money!

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

All this to say, recently she came up with this cat jack-o-lantern and it entered my collection as my second such item. Like the first one I purchased, the paper inserts remain intact. It is hard for me to imagine safely putting a candle in these, but I guess that was the idea. There is no evidence of this on the inside, but there is a wire on the top for hanging it and that would have been jolly indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

He shows some signs of wear, especially the tips of the ears, which I guess if you were hitting the hundred year mark you would too. It is a common design and I assume it is a black cat sitting on a fence post, green eyes and red mouth glowing. His fur and whiskers are embossed. (The molds that these were made around must have been great – would love to see one of those.) He would be just the right combination of scary and wonderful. I get the vague idea that these are German in origin, although upon reflection, do the Germans even celebrate Halloween? It would seem that it is a recent development (according to Google), so perhaps these were German American companies? Anyone who knows how all that works give a shout and let me know.

Meanwhile, Halloween is the seasonal gateway to fall and then winter. I have already started eyeing warmer running togs and dreading those very cold mornings to come. Nonetheless, I think I probably have a few more Halloween collectible posts in me this season. More from Pictorama to come.

Following Up, Filling in and Fall-ing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast fall morning and I am waiting for hot coffee to finish brewing so I can wallow around in a few mugs of it. Our windows are open as a nod to plaster from recent repairs to dry and as a result our shades are uncharacteristically wide open, also as an assist to the workmen and to keep them clean in the demolition and repair of the ceiling and wall around them. (Some posts devoted to the clean up post Hurricane Ida can be found here and here.)

View from our currently denuded windows this AM.

October showed up last week and I still feel only a reluctant recognition of the fact. However, there is no stopping the march of the seasons and I no longer run in shorts and have even layered the occasional long-sleeve top. While I haven’t seen many leaves start to change yet, some trees have already lost theirs. There is a final hurrah of fall flowers in the park which I am grateful for and in the way that October has yesterday was downright hot in the sun, while today is gloomy and chilly.

Kim and I were married in October – our anniversary comes up this week. It was a freakishly warm and gloriously sunny Saturday, after a prior weekend when a tropical storm had raged here in New York. October turns this black cat collector’s mind to Halloween and some related posts are likely to come soon.

Miniature boat pond in Central Park this week. This pair from a family which hatched early this spring and are now mature. They seem to like this little raft which is sort of funny since they are ducks.

For those of you who follow the adventures of my work life, I can say that there are more days I wander in and out of the office and evenings at our jazz club, Dizzy’s. I have always been fond of Dizzy’s, but somehow it has really been a bit of a beacon from the past as I formulate a work vision of the future. Our concert season doesn’t commence here in New York until November which seemed like a long time ago until now it does not. But somehow a few hours of live music and dinner at Dizzy’s, overlooking Central Park and Columbus Circle, is comforting in a way I had not imagined. It is a bridge between the then time and now.

Finding a new routine, tried a new diner near work for breakfast this week.

Otherwise, I largely trot around the city in a rotation of breakfast, lunch and drinks meetings related to work, largely seated outside. (My 3 mile morning run expanding to include daily walks to locales around Manhattan, now racking up as much as another 7 miles a day!) It will be interesting to see if these meetings move inside as it gets chillier or cease for the moment. My team joins me with a combination of trepidation and some enthusiasm. An October date for a full on return to the office has been pushed back, but for how long we are unsure. I understand the peevishness of my staff at the uncertainty, but remind them we are getting the job done and there is nowhere to go but forward.

Drayton in an undated photograph.

Meanwhile, I have a rare post follow-up (last week’s post can be found here) and discoveries made post publication. I had penned my post on a cast iron puppy piggy bank I acquired earlier in the week and when Kim read it he informed me that the designer noted, Grace Gebbie Drayton, is actually of some commercial art and comics note.

Puppy bank designed by Drayton, shown here in shop window. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Speaking dog bank also in the window of the store – this just because I missed it last week!

Born in Philadelphia in 1878, her father an art publisher, she attended Drexel and the (then) Phildelphia School of Design for Women where she studied under Robert Henri. She married, and divorced, twice (she seemed to have a hard time getting much passed the decade mark with husbands) and Drayton is the moniker of husband number two.

Campbell Soup Kids figures by Drayton.

Her significant claims on fame are the creation of the Campbell Soup Kids advertisements beginning in 1904 and a comic strip called Dolly Dimples. In reality she had several such comic strips, all with somewhat saccharine names, among them – Naughty ToodlesDottie DimpleDimples,  and The Pussycat Princess, some strips (The Adventures of Dolly Drake and Bobby Blake in Storyland and The Turr’ble Tales of Kaptin Kiddo) were written by her sister, Margaret Hayes and illustrated by Drake.

Fairly rare kiddie volume from 1910 by Grace Drayton, under her first married name, Grace Wiederseim. Not in Pictorama.com collection.

Cuteness seemed to be her professional beat although there is something about her bio which suggests it may have been less in evidence in her personal life. Drayton owns the title of first woman to be a cartoonist for Hearst. She specialized in round faced, chubby child characters and in addition to the comics and commercial work she illustrated children’s books. An abundance of her Campbell Soup Kids and Dolly Dimples work survives (the Dolly Dimples paper dolls proliferated), and Drayton’s work is in the collections of several museums here in the United States and Great Britain. Drayton died young at age 56 in 1936.

September Morn by Drayton, not in Pictorama.com collection.

Kim had recognized the style of the bank even before knowing that Drayton had a hand in it. While researching her we turned up this nifty cat bank and doorstop variations, shown below. It is a bit less available than the pup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it (or a slight variation) doesn’t enter the Pictorama collection. More on that if it it comes to pass.

Cat doorstop designed by Drayton and produced by Hubley. Not in Pictorama.com collection.
Cat bank designed by Drayton. Not in Pictorama.com collection – yet!

My bank had the rattle of a few coins in it and Kim was itching to see what they were. I was reluctant to unscrew the bank which shows no evidence that it has been apart in many decades. Much to my surprise Kim displayed his adeptness of a childhood skill which involves coaxing coins out of a bank through the deposit slot. Only a bit rusty, he had four wheat back pennies, and one Lincoln, out in no time. (I do wish I had taken a photo of this process!) Wheat backs were minted between 1909 and 1959. One of these is dated 1924, three are from the 1940’s and one is from 1975. As Kim cheerfully volunteered, this proves all of nothing, but somehow is still interesting. I am toying with the idea of putting them back in the bank, but Kim has the finders keepers on that one and he can decide.

And that, dear readers, is my update for today.

How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama is generally and decidedly devoted to things feline – Felix finds, people posing with giant cat chairs, and photos of cats gone-by – but occasionally we wander into the dark side and we have a dog day. (For the canine lovers out there a few other posts can be found here and here.)

Even pre-pandemic, for decades really, Kim and I have had take-out on Friday night. We rarely have it during the week and frankly, although I eat out for work frequently, we rarely eat out at all. I generally cook (you can read more about my adventures in cooking, complete with recipes here and here) and find it healthier and less expensive (this is Manhattan!) to cook at home, and what’s more I like my own food. However, after a long hard week of work, signaling the start of the weekend, we have a date for take-out. There was a long stretch of Mexican take-out from an extended Korean family across the street and I would often meet Kim after my Friday evening work out at the gym.

The pizza guy figure who graces the entrance to Arturo’s Pizza take-out on 85th and York.
View of First Avenue from inside Taco Today, waiting for our Friday night order last year.

During Covid days the Mexican take-out was shut (it had actually closed right before for renovations and did not reopen for eight or more months) and we supported local from dwindling choices in the form of pizza (our beloved Arturos on York and 85th which kept its tiny storefront open and feed the neighborhood throughout the leanest time here) and a somewhat swankier Mexican restaurant on 86th Street. However, at the suggestion of my trainer who is very fond of it, we tried a Vietnamese place, the aptly named Vietnaam, on 88th and Second that had shutdown except for take-out. We fell in love with their soups and dumplings and have become devotees ever since landing there most Fridays. A line streams out their door on weekends.

The pick-up window at Vietnaam, with Kim paying for our take-out a few weeks ago.

In addition to the treat of laksa and canh chua soup it means a lovely walk of several blocks which helps us separate our minds and begin the transition from the distraction of work as we start to reacquaint ourselves with the idea of time off. In the winter it means bundling up, but the promise of hot noodle soup spurs us on and it is a good respite for a week devoted largely to chair sitting at desks.

Recently, over a period of months, someone was decorating a tree just east of the restaurant. I documented the additions periodically on Instagram. Then, just as abruptly, it was all gone without a trace.

Over the past year or so an antique/junk store had the courage to open on First Avenue between 87th and 88th, right near where my favorite bakery used to be. (That Yorkville moment post can be found here.) I saw stuff being moved in and then, there it was lights on a ready for action on summer Friday, back in ’20. Take out in hand we wandered in for a quick inspection and the stock was an eclectic mix, skewing slightly higher end than I might have thought. Some research shows that it is actually called Spellman Gallery, and would probably not be pleased to be put in the category of antique/junk store, although I mean it with the greatest fondness and deep affection for both antiques and junk. They do sell art, some early photographs of interest, but the bits and bobs interest me most.

The paper dresses in the window of the store caught my eye a few months back.

Although I’m unsure if we even went in again, I liked to look in the window. A few months back in February they had vintage newspaper dresses in the window which entertained me. And recently they launched a display of dog banks and door stops which garnered my attention. First one (nice!) cast iron door stop, but rapidly filled in with the others. Banks followed, a barking dog bank which made us curious about what the action might be. Now they had my full attention, wondering each Friday if there would be another addition – or would something have been sold and disappeared?

An earlier incarnation of the doggie window, pre-my pup.
This early entry sold quickly and was replaced with a “talking” dog bank and a dog jumping bank.

Over several weeks I enjoyed looking at this little fellow. Something about his cast iron cushion, the colors and his expression attracted me. I kept hoping he wouldn’t be sold and disappear. I appreciated the entire display and while I hated to be the one to break up the party, Saturday Kim and I looped around and wandered in to inquire about him. The store had grown pleasantly fuller since our initial visit. There was a large display of lovely early cooking bowls – yellow ware she called it when someone came into inquire. I own a few bowls of this type, given to me by a friend clearing out her attic, which I have used almost daily for years. I was shocked at the prices of them, but have no intention of taking mine out of daily rotation.

Our doggie was more dear than I think Kim or I anticipated, but when I started to hesitate Kim offered to substantially defray the cost and out of the shop window and home with us he came.

Our cheerful fellow off his pillow base.

Our pup is a bank and he is not attached to his light blue metal cushion he is perched upon – the stored coins accessible through a screw in the bottom. (Unscrewing this would make him come apart in two halves.) He is very heavy and although his paint is chipped in a few places it does not affect his overall jolly appeal. It took us a few minutes to even find where coins go in at the back of his neck. One jingles alluringly in the bank, but I am not taking him apart to find out what it is!

Coin slot just above his collar.

He is the product of Hubley, the early manufacturer of cast iron bank and doorstop fame, founded in 1909, and his brethren and tracks about them were surprisingly easy to find online. I did fail however to find him precisely. The earliest version of this bank I found was back in 1914, another slight design change is evident in one from the ’30’s. Originally sold under the name Puppo in the teens and s/he was designed by Grace Gebbie Drayton. (On his light blue cushion it is a he for me but interestingly always referred to as she in the online listings and information.)

The later incarnation morphs into Fido on a Pillow; it is unclear if the earliest version sported the pillow or not. (The later version had Fido embossed on the collar, mine doesn’t.) Not surprisingly, the pillow was often lost and I read that it was also sold sans pillow, and a black and white version of the dog alone proliferates online in various states of condition. (I’ll just say, it is all about the pillow for me.) Somehow I place mine roughly in the 1920’s, looking at the arc of designs.

Identified as the earlier, 1914 version, Puppo.
For sale on eBay, another differently painted version, closest to mine.

Having made a purchase from them I suspect I will wander back into the Spellman Gallery to poke around. Moreover however, I hope their window continues to entertain me on Fridays. Welcome to Yorkville Mr. Spellman.

Scooting Along

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix postcard came via the same source as yesterday’s – and I hope there will be more to come from this recent Felix El Dorado. I will report on that aspect when I know a bit more, but for now another interesting card.

This postcard appears to have been blackened by hand and probably traced from a master source. This is clear from looking closely at the brushy and uneven application of the ink and the ghost of a pencil line or two. The precise origin of this series (other than it appears to be British) is also a mystery and I have written about them before and own a few others. (The posts about the earlier drawn cards can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While at first it seemed somewhat improbably that postcards were being produced this way, consider the handmade origin of some of my treasured stuffed Felix toys. I once wrote a post on how many were produced by hand on the East End of London in a project to employ indigent women. (That post can be found here.) It helps to remember that postcards were the email of the early 20th century, mail delivery twice a day, and were used to make dates and for simple greetings and communications.

People here and in Britain must have kept well supplied to drop a note to this friend or that. Many of my cat photo postcards contain simple messages about having arrived safely at a location, missing family or reporting a visit with a friend or family. So while it still seems rather remarkable, this operation of hand production is the explanation I have settled on.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This card sports a Felix-y message, How I am coming in a fortnight’s time Ethel, PS not with a tail, Fred’ll keep that. It is addressed to Z. Honeysett, Woodview, Silverdale Road, Eastbourne. However, it is worth noting that there is no stamp or postmark, so perhaps this was included in a larger missive or package. The card has two pin holes from where it did time tacked up somewhere.

Meanwhile, Felix is zooming on his scooter which could fairly be said was one of his preferred methods of transportation. Here his tail is sort of ballast – that tail which fans of the cartoon know could come off and be used for many purposes. The tail is special indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. My version of the upright kitty toy I use as my avatar for this site.

Here in the pandemic period of the 21st century, I have adopted an image of Felix as my Zoom and social media avatar. He has graced my Instagram and Twitter accounts, although Pictorama has a sporty wind-up cat of less distinction which I did had not acquired when I started the blog. (Pleased to say that I am now happily in possession of this item and featured him above. He was given a post which can be read here.) I do not own the zippy version of Felix on a scooter that I use – it is a rather rarefied Italian (I think) variation that I have only seen for sale a few times and at unattainable prices. I have a somewhat non-functional version that charms me by sitting on the shelf nonetheless.

My somewhat broken down version of the scooter Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It should be noted, however, that the version that my avatar version wears has very zooty polka dot trousers and enjoys a spring for a tail. This does make him very desirable in my opinion and I find his off-model face rather charming as well. (I wonder what it says on his tummy?)

(Sadly) not in my collection.

When Zoom came into our lives abruptly in March of 2020 I replaced the generic “snowman” with Felix figuring I would give everyone a giggle. It did although some folks didn’t seem to know Felix or at least recognize him. Strangely you do become identified with your avatar quickly and it was almost surprising when someone new on a call would ask about him. (Having said that, I actually try to do at least part of my meetings, especially with colleagues, on camera to humanize the activity somewhat.)

After my Memorial Day fall my face was swollen and bruised and I decided to spare everyone and myself the sight of me on camera for a bit. During this time I received a request to change my avatar for a work related event where I had declined to go on camera and I switched to a photo taken a few years ago when I started my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I have yet to change it back again, although it is my plan because looking at this slightly earlier version of myself doesn’t suit my mindset after 15 months of working at home. Perhaps the little upright cat deserves some air time, although somehow the idea of zipping along as Felix has special appeal.

Felix Frolic

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My collection of folks posing with Felix grows at a rate which I have no control over. My search for them is constant, but they turn up at their own pace. Sometimes several appear in a short time, other times it might be a year. I was writing about them just a week or so ago in passing and realized that I had not purchased one in awhile – and as if by request this one turned up. It always pleases me very much when a new one finds its way to me.

Like many of these photo postcards, this one turned up in Great Britain. (The others hail from Australia and New Zealand – seems American born Felix only posed in those countries in the guise of a giant stuffed doll.) The Felix in this one is interesting and looks unlike the critters in the other photos I have.

What I would call a regulation, life-sized Felix doll for picture posing! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Instead he is a bit pint-sized and reminds me more of a specific kind of small stuffed ones in my collection. I have dusted off this little guy below who is on my shelf and bears are fairly interesting resemblance to the Felix in the photo.) While I have some ideas about it I have never definitively labeled which sort of Felix came from where, but they do fall into categories and this sort of tri-pod stance is one of them. He is vaguely off-model (these large dolls are for the most part), has many nice whiskers, and he is the right height to look engagingly right at this little fellow who is largely ignoring the whole process. Felix even appears to be holding an arm (paw?) out to him in greeting.

Similar design of Felix in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

As best as I can figure it out, no one company was churning out these large photo op Felix-es anymore than any single one was making the stuffed ones I collect. The majority fall into a generally similar appearance, and by that I mean the almost human sized ones which even an adult can sling an arm around. However, over time I have seen a number of much smaller models – and of course there were a number of large wooden ones for the photographer who decided to go that route. (I would happily acquire either a “life-sized” large Felix or a wooden one – should any readers come across them. I especially ask you readers in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand to keep an eye out!)

The wooden cut-out variety. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This beach-y area is typical of where you might get such an opportunity to pose with Felix for a postcard. This card came to me from Rowland’s Castle but there is no indication of the original resort town it was taken in. Behind this little fellow is a baby carriage and some other children which makes me think this was a kid’s area of some sort at the water. There are some wooden stands, presumably vendors of one kind or another.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This tyke sports a pretty nifty cap and knitted outfit of his day. He looks remarkably unimpressed with Felix or having his photo taken, but is stopping short of outright rebellion.

Like most of these cards, this one is unmarked and never sent, but was instead a treasured family photo which has found its way to me here at Pictorama.

Best Wishes for Health and Happiness for the Year 1936

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased today’s card recently on eBay – the lurid colors, patterns complimented the toys nicely – and what nice toys this little girl is sporting! While it was the black cat tucked under her arm that got my attention, it is really that nice dog that steals the show. He has a nice ruffled collar and reminds me of the paper mache bulldogs (growlers) that I have hankered for over many years. I will hope to be in a Paris flea market and finding him someday in the future. I share a French dog cousin of this one, acquired there in 2015. (The related blog post of a jolly raiding of French flea markets can be found here.)

Dog toy acquired in Paris. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

To be entirely fair to the black cat he is interesting too and one I have not seen before. I suspect he has a nice fluffly tail hiding behind her arm. He has been done in the manner of the Steiff cats, but we can see by his small head and bright white whiskers that he is something else. He would make a nice addition to my collection as well.

This card falls loosely into a category of my collection of French cards, with lucky black cats or real cats, sometimes luridly colored. (The post below can be found here.)

Painted Puss, from Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The photographer for this birthday card had an excellent set though and I am sort of mad for the geometric modern art rug the little girl is standing on. Somehow the many patterns – her dress, the rug and those great striped knee socks – all work together. The contrasting color which would have been applied after wasn’t leaving anything up to chance and somehow the orange bit up at the top brings it all home. The French had something going on with these. It’s a sharp little card.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This card was used as a card, but never mailed. Written on the back in ink, roughly translated a la Google, it reads, Dear friend, Best wishes for happiness and health for the year 1936. Andree and Fernandy (?). That as best I can tell. Of course the front of the card wishes the recipient a Happy Birthday as well. It probably will not surprise Pictorama readers that I would consider it a very nice birthday indeed if I were to receive these toys.

Chick-a-dee

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I bought this little fellow on a whim with a small haul of things from @curiositiesantique on Instagram a few months back. Much like I collect a certain number of dogs to balance my cat collection (and keep the stuffed cats on their toes), I likewise have a smattering of birds and mice (to entertain them) as well. This rooster is made by the high-end toy manufacturer Steiff and he is a tiny fellow as I have indicated in this photo.

He is smaller than the Schuco wind-up bird I featured back in 2016 in my post Tweet, Tweet, Tweet (that post can be found here) and sadly he does not hop around, except maybe in my imagination. He is missing his beady little eye on one side. However, he is nicely constructed and I am especially fond of his wire feet for some reason. He has been living on a shelf right near where I work so I see him out of the corner of my eye there most days. As yesterday was the first day of Spring and Easter is around the corner, I thought we would give him the spotlight today.

Steiff Hen, not in Pam-Pictorama.com Collection.

A quick internet search turns up a matching hen and a lot of conflicting information about what period of Steiff this fellow is from. Most of their chicken line has felt covered legs rather than these nice wire ones, and he can likely be dated from that if I knew a bit more. (One site says the wire leg chickens are the earliest; another says they are from the 1950’s and ’60’s.) He has lost his tag (which would have been annoyingly large and hanging from his tail from what I can see), but he is quickly identifiable as a Steiff product. Roosters seem to have remained in their catalogue for decades and there are some wild variations on the theme, especially in the more contemporary category.

Fancy Steiff Rooster, not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I have never known a chicken personally, hen nor rooster, although I stopped eating them a few decades back. Unlike Kim though I still consume the occasional egg, but in deference to his preference I do not bake with them and generally swap out with buttermilk as a binding agent which works surprisingly well. (One of those recipes can be found in a baking post here.)

I purchased some plant-based egg substitute the other day, called Just Eggs, which ironically would appear to be anything except egg. (Unless they mean just in the sense of sense of justice and are referring to the injustice of eggs?) I think they would be a good substitute for eggs in baking, but I am unable to find a conversion for them. (Readers, please share any information you might have about that. While a raw egg is about three tablespoons somehow this substitute looks like you would need a tad more than that.)

Egg substitute I recently purchased and haven’t quite figured out.

My mother, a lover of pretty much all of our feathered friends, admits that she had a dislike for chickens growing up. I gather from her that if not housed they will roost in trees and go quite wild. They would squawk and cause a ruckus as she walked to and from school and scared her as a kid.

Nevertheless, as an adult and a rescuer of waterfowl (and a vegan) mom has friends and acquaintances who have kept chickens as house pets and evidently they are smart and companionable. Mom once shared a video about a pet chicken (I want to say a hen) who lived in the house with the family, making its home in an enclosed porch at the front of the house. They live to a greater age as pets, almost three times the average span of a barn chicken, but still top out at around ten or twelve years. (Google states flatly that keeping a chicken inside is a bad idea.)

While my ambitions in life occasionally travel in the direction of home ownership and a longing for yard space for at least a small herb and vegetable garden, it has not extended to chickens necessarily. There are some mighty fine fancy chickens out there and admittedly they do tempt me a bit. For now here at Deitch Studio we will stick with a clock radio and cats to wake us up early in the morning.

A Deitch Studio Valentine

Pam’s Pictorama Post: At a quick count this is the seventh Valentine reveal we’ve had here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama. The actual tradition of Kim making me Valentines goes back to the first year Kim and I were together though and this November we round the two decade mark.

Cookie, currently in possession of my work chair.

Of course, like many folks, we’ve spent the past year knitted tightly together in our one room, with our two kitties, Blackie and Cookie. My days are punctuated by doing the small stuff, like fighting the cats for my desk chair (Cookie is sound asleep in it right now, I swear she’s smiling), or making us grilled cheese with jalapeno peppers for lunch. Somehow talking about our home life always comes back to food for me and my at home days have given birth to a revived interest in cooking – necessary and nurturing, it is at the heart of home.

My newly persistent home life means two distinct meals a day here – breakfast happens on our own (I myself am partial to yogurt and berries and the occasional sumo orange, Kim is on an avocado toast kick at the moment), but now lunch and dinner are more proper meals. Sometimes lunch is a bit of a pick up of leftovers, soup or a large salad, and sadly I have been known to eat mine while on a call or Zoom meeting. But more often than not is is taking a break and sitting down together at least briefly and consuming something nutritious. (I think back to many years ago in cooking school when a French chef-instructor, Guy, saw me eating standing up and he found me a chair and then lectured me on the importance of taking the time to appreciate the food and to focus on eating it. Very sweet and oh so very French!)

Easy to make, cheesy olive bread!

Dinner is really a proper homemade meal now with a couple of veggies and a protein. As some of you know, I passed through a baking phase early in the pandemic, recreating some of my grandmother’s recipes and finding some of my own. (A few of those posts along with quarantine life musings can be found here and here. Oh, cheesy olive bread!) I have moved into soups as part of my part two pandemic diet. These are hearty affairs which are closer to stews and are the centerpiece of the meal. Some recent recipes and thoughts on my confinement cooking can be found here and here. (Keep a weather eye peeled if you are a fan of the food posts, I’m currently dreaming up a vegetarian version of matzoh ball soup and my paternal grandmother’s split pea and veggie soup.)

A spicy clam chowder I invented recently.

Post-bookcase installation and re-arrangement of our apartment, my desk (an old and not especially beautiful drawing table that a friend was throwing out many years ago and has somehow stuck with me) is now placed about three feet from Kim’s large, wooden table he uses as a desk. (This table was acquired by us at the 26th Street flea market in the early years of living in this apartment. It was newly made and is substantial, although now one leg has been scratched on a bit by Blackie and it has its wonkinesses and weaknesses around the drawers too. I remember being somewhat amazed that we were making such a big purchase – what if we measured wrong? What if it didn’t hold up?)

Cookie enjoying some desk time recently.

As a result of our newfound proximity, Kim knows every aspect of my work life, fundraising for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and I hazard that he could easily take over for a day if pressed into service – repeating phrases and numbers he hears again and again. He knows the exact percentage we are at in our annual income budget and rejoices with me when the percentage point creeps up a notch or two. I sometimes consider if he ever really wondered what I did at work all day, as he himself has never worked in an office such as mine, but man, he sure does know about it now.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection, by Kim Deitch

When I look at last year’s Valentine, memories of last year’s life (in the before time) come rushing back. The fantasy of a Felix-filled cottage at the British seaside, like the locale of many of my posing with Felix photos. It is a reminder of how much change a year can bring and we have certainly all seen it in a variety of ways. I was in the midst of hectic domestic travel to some very snowy locations and I was exhausted from it and frankly welcomed the time at home. Of course, it begs the question of where we will all be when this time rolls around next year and we are presumably in what I call, the after time. I am sure many of you are thinking along the same lines.

This year’s card focuses in on my domain – our 600 square feet we call home and office. I get to sport a sort of semi-animated Felix necklace (Kim has a way of inventing bits and outfits I would love to own), but otherwise the players are (almost) all denizens of our tiny corner of the world. Cookie and Blackie are there, of course. Giant Mickey Mouse (a huge Dean’s Rag Doll display who inhabits the space near the bottom of our bed) waves his arms.

A line-up of a few of my favorite Aesop Fable dolls, along with a rather excellent Bugs Bunny I purchased randomly on eBay making an appearance. They are lined up behind Kim on his desk, in front of the ever-growing stack of finished pages of art that resides on his desk. A tiny Dean’s Mickey (Minnie really) Jazzer fills out the group on the desk. (They were designed to sit on the arm of your record player – yep, there’s a lot to absorb in that sentence and probably a bad idea for the records, which would have been 78’s at the time.) Kim is like the master of ceremonies – he has gathered the group to pay tribute!

Some of the Valentine participants shown here.

Meanwhile, Waldo is there and he is checking out Felix’s girlfriend, and while she is a creation of Kim’s mind, the Felix is not. He is a splendid, sizable example I purchased at auction because, although I have other somewhat similar examples, I couldn’t resist the bargain he was. (Of course, I have never regretted the purchase.)

What can such a fortunate girl say? I’m very pleased to be at the heart of this particular kingdom. Although not always absolutely peaceable, there is nowhere I would rather be. I hope to reign here, benignly of course, for many years to come.

Blackie (top) and Cookie as a matched set eating dinner recently.

Tin Toy

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today tin is in and I am featuring this lovely, but very simple toy that Kim gave me for Christmas this year. It came from an auction and caught my eye. Pictorama readers may know that this falls well outside my usual area of collecting – nary a cat or even an animal to be seen, not a wind-up. Yet there is a sort of universal charm about this toy. If there was something akin to a toy archetype in my mind this toy might qualify.

Turn up the sound so you can hear it work – part of the charm!

The handle of the wood chopper turns and that causes the log to be sawed and the mill wheel to turn. The wear on this is a testament to the belovedness of the toy. The paint is gone on part of the roof from it’s proximity to the turning wheel, and also on the edges of the house where you tend to grasp it. There is something very satisfying and soothing about turning the wheel and watching the pieces move. The charm of the origin detail in the paint with shading and the texture of the house exterior and log – I think it was a very brightly painted toy in its day. There is something a bit amiss about the proportions – of house to log and mill, even assuming the “log” is indeed a tree.

My knowledge of this kind of tin toy is really about zero, but I assign it to the category of penny toys. These tin toys were the brain child of German manufacturing starting around 1885 these toys were designed to be accessible for purchase by working class families. In Great Britain they sold for the price of a penny – hence the term which has stayed with them. Although the manufacture of them continued longer, they were most popular from 1885 until about 1914 – I assume without knowing that the World War probably slowed production and export and killed the popularity for export. According to a brief entry in Wikipedia, countries of destination were considered in the making and marketing of these toys – British omnibuses, trains for the United States for example and we know they weren’t doing business with Germany much from 1914 on and for awhile.

In my mind penny toys are one notch smaller and less sophisticated in motion than this one, but I think that is my own prejudice on the subject. In reading about them online the term definitely seems to cover toys of this size and relative complexity and beyond.

This toy is marked with a tag it retains, DC Made in Germany and this was the mark of a company in Nuremberg, Germany called Distler – Johann Distler KG to be precise. The company was founded by Mr. Distler in 1895 making these sorts of penny toys in the early years, with a catalogue of about 500 items. An article I found in the Sheffield Telegraph mentions the company as having gotten on board with early licensed Disney toy production and cleaned up on early Mickey Mouse toys starting in 1928. (This seems early to me as the first cartoon appears in 1928.)

Mickey Mouse also from the Fabtintoy.com site.

At Johann’s death, in 1923 (meaning he completely missed the Mickey Mouse boom) the company was taken over by his partners and then ultimately sold in 1935. The company and name is ultimately sold again to a Belgian company where in particular their line of race cars is produced until the late 1960’s. (Much of this quick history of the company comes to me via the Bertoia Auction site – which is where I purchased this toy, although the history was note in the listing for it.)

Distler Felix from the Fabtintoy.com site – lust worthy!

Images for toys associated with the company does not immediately turn up any like mine – it is car heavy, even in the earlier toys. Notably there is a Felix, circa 1925, I would certainly like to get my hands on, shown here. (An early indication on prices show is that I might have to mortgage the apartment however!) My wind-up Felix, shown below, does declare that he was Made in Germany, but does not give a manufacturer’s name. I don’t believe he’s ever gotten his own post and maybe I will set my cap for that in the New Year.

Felix wind-up toy from the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It goes without saying that these toys, originally designed to be affordable and accessible are now sold for many multiples of their original sale price, somehow making the appellation a bit ironic for collectors like me. Nevertheless, I welcome this first example of this type into the Pictorama collection.

Turkey Talk

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Toys today again with this terrific turkey. This item made a rare route to Pictorama a few weeks ago by way of Kim posting an image of it on Facebook which was so glorious I went in search of the toy. A quick search turned one up in good condition on Etsy and he landed here a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, a tiny bolt on one side of his tail went missing, either in transit or the seller neglected to mention it. Kim has done a short term repair with a tiny bit of wire from a twist tie off a loaf of whole wheat bread. Click below for our best effort on filming him – we got his tail to stay together sufficiently to get him moving on film, but I don’t think he has a ton of runs in him. Watch the video through, the full rise and spread action of his tail is what makes it great!

He is the earlier model of at least two that I found online (see further below),with greater definition and better action than the later one. There is something wonderfully Art Deco about the colors and design of his tail feathers that I especially like as well and what attracted me in the first place; his color is pretty glorious. Mr. Turkey is marked Made in the US Zone Germany on his tummy, which puts his manufacture in the mid-40’s to early 50’s. A Google search turns up an auction listing which mentions it was produced by Blomer and Schüler (or Bloomer and Schüler), a company founded for making parts in 1919, but which started making its own toys in 1930. It had an early hit with a Jumbo Elephant wind-up toy which is described as running. I have a weakness for elephant toys so I may need to investigate this more closely. Toys do lead to toys and a good wind-up toy is just the jolliest thing I can think of. (There is also a very hotsy totsy peacock too, but I must say, his mechanism looks even more fragile than Mr. Turkey’s.)

I didn’t see many of these on the internet, but would love to see him move!

The turkey’s action really does recall a come hither Tom Turkey trotting, showing off his glorious tail feathers to attract a girlfriend which makes me think he was designed by someone who knew turkeys. When living in England many years ago, I was surprised to discover that not only is turkey not indigenous to Britain, nor indeed Europe, but that they don’t have much of a taste for it and do not import it widely. (My Thanksgiving dinner that year was a Chinese recipe for orange chicken as a result. In retrospect, and knowing more about cooking now than I did then, just as well. I had the tiniest oven imaginable which would have taken three days to cook the smallest turkey.)

I will add that my surprise grew when I discovered that pumpkin isn’t eaten there, and they aren’t big on corn on the cob either. (Corn is grown there but is fed to farm animals. As a result, I don’t think they produce corn flour either.) Although admittedly my first hand information on the subject is now decades out of date. All this to say, I believe it was the American influence which designed this turkey as I do not believe at the time Germans were widely familiar with the mating habits of turkeys or eating them either, although the internet says they have caught up with a taste for turkey in recent decades.

From the collection of Deb Mostert via Pinterest – the image that started it all!

Although I do not eat fowl these days, nor have I for many decades, I was in charge of the family turkey on Thanksgiving for many years after my brief stint of professional cooking – my mother happily ceding this responsibility to me, my father never much of a turkey carving dad either. However, I cannot think about cooking a turkey without remembering a French chef I knew going on in honest bewilderment on the subject – not only at the American fondness for them, but the cultural necessity for serving it whole and carving it at the table. He pointed out, the thickness of a turkey’s legs demand significantly more cooking time than the thinner breast and wing meat and to think that there is a way of getting the legs done without drying out the breast was, in his opinion, a fool’s errand. He would have had you cook the bird whole, let it rest, carve the legs and put them back in the oven to finish cooking. I venture that cooking the bird stuffed, while slowing the whole venture considerably, helps ameliorate this issue, but his point was well taken and an easy solve if you aren’t married to carving a full bird at the Thanksgiving table. (The attenuated cooking time needed for the bird cooked stuffed also set him going – in all fairness, he was not only French but a restaurant chef which is another bird altogether. Clearly he wasn’t familiar with Norman Rockwell paintings on the subject!)

Later version by same company.

Given my early defection away from eating (and therefore cooking) red meat and fowl, I have never attempted to cook a turkey in a Manhattan apartment. Our ovens run small though, as do our kitchens, and I can tell you that New York is evidently littered with beautiful turkey roasting pans purchased each year without measuring the apartment oven in question. From the stories I hear from first time turkey chefs, they often find themselves with pans and even birds that do not fit our abbreviated oven sizes. I encourage first time city cooks to use a doubled up disposable pan on that first go, but to go easy on the turkey size too. We are so used to our ovens that we’ve forgotten how comparatively enormous a regular one is. I glory in how many things I can fit in my mom’s oven by comparison.

As we finally slam the door on 2020 with my turkey post, we at Pictorama and Deitch Studio are wishing all the best in the coming New Year. I look forward to seeing you all on the other side, at the dawn of ’21!