Bathing Beauties

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s post focuses on a small bevy of beach beauties all originating from a single album. If I understand correctly, although found in the Midwest, these photos were probably taken in New London, Connecticut. Fastidious Pictorama readers may remember that I graduated from Connecticut College, located in New London (a post about that can be found by clicking here on Train tracking), and therefore these images strike a particular cord of memory of the beaches there.

As college students we did occasionally find our way to the beaches of New London and the surrounding areas. However, given that I returned home to the Jersey shore for the months of June, July and August, I tended to be in New London off season and have no memory of having been swimming there, nor do I think I ever even wore a bathing suit while there. I do have a very fond memory of being at Harkness beach late one night in the snow however. There is a boardwalk sort of arcade. It was very beautiful and I remember regretting that I never had seen it in season.

At the time of these photos New London was still largely an enclave of some wealth and privilege. The college was already there, attracting the more Bohemian young women of a moneyed class. As I have written previously, for a variety of reasons the town has mostly fallen on hard times, a cycle of struggling and failing to achieve urban renewal. However, there is an area near the water where the old mansions still exist and the shoreline is largely beautiful, if somewhat marred now by industry.

Given the singularly female focus of these photos I wonder if they were attending the college which was at that time, a single sex all-women’s school, although for them, like me, this would be out of season. Or perhaps at least they were chums from school there.

I purchased other photos from this album which I will share in future posts, but I will note, these women liked to be lined up for a photo. (You will see more of this in those later posts.) Looking at what to us today appear to be impossibly ancient swimming attire, they appear quite natural on them and they certainly do not seem encumbered by them as we might think today. The water is crowded with people, wading and lounging in what looks to be fairly shallow water, perhaps on a sandbar of some kind. I look especially at the picture of them submersed in the water, up to their necks, and I envy them! This is what vacations were when I was a kid.

Meanwhile, I especially like the image of the woman alone on a now deserted beach. Her long white cotton dress and a jaunty scarf. Perhaps early morning or evening, before or after the crowds of the day, both lovely times to be at the beach.

By comparison Kim and I are more or less wrapping up our sort of a summer vacation this year. At some point we mostly gave up and shifted into working, albeit perhaps a bit less than usual, slowing to a jog instead of the long hard sprint of spring into summer. I have never failed at vacationing so resoundingly, my list of household ambitions largely unsatisfied, truly unable to unplug, let alone visits to the shore or lazy days.

Sidewalk dining at Veselka earlier this week.

Some ambitions were met, new shades were finally installed (this after our window replacement last October, the huge boxes containing them sitting in our one room like furniture since March), the bottom of a closet cleared out as needed for storage. However, other bookcases that required sorting out – in one case a coat of paint needed (I got as far as purchasing the paint), and a new carpet for the living room were among the items not achieved.

Kim and I ate out for the first time since March, Veselka in the East Village, and we tried a Vietnamese restaurant for take out near home. Our old favorite Mexican joint across the street reopened, to our great happiness and surprise as we thought they were clearly victims of the virus economy, closed first for renovation and then through the intervening months since March.

However, I cannot say I really got rested – I suspect Kim would say the same; he returned to several hours of inking daily in week two. Work continued to need my attention and I remained restless. I will take this last week before Labor Day at something less than full throttle and see if I cannot rest up a bit more. Somehow this year, with the whole world standing on end and trying to reinvent itself, letting go of the reins entirely was not possible, not for me. Labor Day weekend is on the horizon, let fall begin.

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.

Isle of Man, 1924

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: When I started collecting photos of people posing with enormous Felix the Cat dolls, taken at resorts across Britain and Australia, it was the sheer boffo wackiness of their existence that enticed me. (If you are a new reader there are many of these posts as I have a fairly substantial collection and you can see a sample in these posts:  Vacation FelixAnother Aussie FelixFelix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1 for starters.) However stranger still in some ways, is the existence of photos like these, where people are posing with a lovely, large but not huge, Felix doll – about the size of one (or two or – okay, several) I own. The Isle of Man is, of course, a resort area and these appear to be vacationing folks. But even as a devotee of stuffed Felix toys (a connoisseur you might even say) exactly how and why a photographer was handing over a large Felix for folks to hold when they were having their photo taken does mystify even me a bit. I am sorry I wasn’t there to enjoy it, and it certainly speaks to Felix’s extraordinary world fame and how beloved he was at the time. Everyone wanted to memorialize that memory of hanging with Felix I guess.

In my post Felix Family Photo it is a similar case and I show the photo featured in it below as well. Another family that scooped up Felix and posed. Just seems to be something people did – not just kids posing with their toys! A family affair.

Y#3 collection


Our photos, at top, today are quite small, snap shots that barely even seem to have been taken and printed by a professional photographer except for the commercial set in the one. Poorly printed and over-exposed (I somehow imagine that the fellow taking these was tippling a bit) we are once again depending on the magic of Photoshop to improve upon them. Less than perfect though they may be, they were treasured and kept by someone, or numerous someones, for many years before coming to rest here.

It is clearly the same couple and despite the man’s disappearing cap, one assumes the same day and session. I cannot read the jaunty sign behind them on the photo set. (Almost looks like Free Weight?) It took a fair amount of study to realize that, in both photos, Felix is holding a little Felix doll! (Kim managed a detail of it from one of the photos.) Wow! Amazing! On the back of each picture, written neatly in pencil is, taken at Douglas I. of Man and additionally on one 1924. Douglas is the capital of this resort locale. This makes a fine entry into a casual examination of summer vacation photos, as I head toward my own well-earned vacation at the end of August. I can only hope that somehow it too will be Felix filled.

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.


Wading In – Happy Summer

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have owned this photo for a very long time. I cannot remember if I purchased it on eBay or if I bought it at a flea market. It is in bad shape  – faded and dirty, but it always makes me happy when I look at it. It is tiny, only a few inches across and mounted on a hard gray card. Kim has photoshopped more contrast into it than survives in the actual photo.

Despite her voluminous skirts she has managed to hike up to her knees; this attractive woman is wading deeply in the water, and she appears to be having a blissful time! It is a beautiful spot – the photo has no indication of where it was taken or who it is. While I imagine Maine for some reason, it could be any number of watery hot weather vacation destinations. It is easy to see why this photo was kept all these years. In our apartment it sits on a bookshelf at eye level, where it catches my eye once in a while and I consider the pleasure of it, caught on film so long ago.

Wading is a wonderful thing – I think it has virtually all the pleasure of swimming without any of the exertion or, ideally the mess. (Assuming of course you don’t get too enthused and fall in or misjudge the trajectory of an income wave.) Since you remain dressed and are in danger of getting your clothes soaked, these is a tiny frisson of excitement as well. A sense of maybe you shouldn’t be doing this, but what the hell. And the pleasure for someone who was wearing layers of cotton dress, petticoats and corset seems extraordinary. But she isn’t thinking about that – she is in that lovely cool water, her hair pinned up on the top of her head and she is smiling over her shoulder all the way to us in the future, with come hither, summer happiness.


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Of course this little fellow and his pun just cracked me up! I’m not entirely sure what exactly he is perched on, but he has a very serious expression and has a very nice striped coat. This card, mailed on August 24, 1914 at 8AM from Oliverea, New York has a slightly primitive look. Despite having spent a fair amount of time in the Catskills, the name Oliverea was not immediately familiar to me. It should have been since it is not far from Big Indian, where I spent a considerable amount of time visiting a long ago boyfriend on weekends. He was cooking at a place called Rudy’s Big Indian – which despite its name was a fairly high-end restaurant in the new cuisine mold of the time, the late 1980’s. In this case it was the kind of food that lead eventually to the farm to table trend of today, local produce and such. My memory was that the owner was a really sweet guy who was very good to the utterly insane guy I was seeing. He was a Buddhist who had been helped by people and was paying it back, but the boyfriend, Andrew, drove us all nuts. I think I heard Rudy died unexpectedly, several years after I had severed ties with Andrew after his post-cocaine sobriety morphed into stage 2 alcoholism. Meanwhile, the restaurant was evidently bought and is now under the name Peekamoose.

Prior to my disasterous, long-distance relationship with Andrew (which briefly turned me into a weekend denizen of Amtrak, staying in nearby Shandaken, and ultimately made me realize that living in the shadow of mountains depresses me terribly) I had grown up visiting cousins in Sullivan county and had a more cheerful opinion of it. The cousins, three of them two girls and a boy, just like the three of us – each Butler a year older than their cousin counterpart. We would run wild in what seemed like endless woods at the back of their house and go swimming in a lake instead of the ocean as we did at home which therefore seemed exotic. They had a huge dog, a Great Dane I think, instead of a German Shepard like ours. It was like a parallel-universe Butler clan located in the Catskills instead of the Jersey shore. It was also the house where my dad had gone for summers as a kid, up fro the City, with this same cousin and his sister – and they would tell us stories of all the bad and interesting things they had done. I only vaguely remember the stories about exploring caves, riding horses and getting yelled at by their aunts. I imagine they were a handful.

As you can see from the back of the card below, this was mailed to Master Paul E. Rooffs (? – I’m open to suggestions on the name) at 890 East 34th Street, Brooklyn, New York. (On a whim I googled this address and found a house that I thought very well might have been there in 1914, but further research showed that it was built in 1920.) To the best I can read the card it says, Aug. 23 – Dear Paul I wish you were here to [sic] with us. I have a good time riding in the Ford and also go swing [or swimming misspelled?] with aunt Will. Expect to go home by the end of the week with lots of love I remain lovingly – it is signed with a name I cannot decode (Suzanna?) and also written at the bottom is Vonderveer Park.


Back of Catskill card


It goes without saying that a text message will deliver this communication between friends or family more quickly and efficiently today. It will, alas, sadly never have the evocative charm of finding this kitty and message more than a hundred years later. Pity the card collectors of the next century.

The Wigwam


In my collection


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: In the course of my persistent (some would even say relentless) searching of photographs for my collection, I occasionally stumble on one that is entirely outside of my area of interest and collecting, but thoroughly captures my imagination. If it isn’t too outrageously hard to get I will add it to the Pictorama holdings. This card wins on two counts – there is something shining and glittering about the light in the trees that caught my attention, and I have always had a fascination with the idea of staying in vacation cabins and these wigwams would definitely have won me over. As I sit and write this on a snowy January day in New York City, the mind drifts to hot summer days and fantasy vacations in places like Maine. The reality is that Kim and I do not drive and generally speaking do not vacation away from home, but fantasy is the key word here. For the record, the postcard is unused and The Wigwam was neatly inscribed by hand.

Many years ago I did in fact stay in a bungalow (although not of the wigwam variety) in Maine, on my way to attend the wedding of friends. My then boyfriend and I were torn between finding it charming and being faced with a certain musty, buggy reality. It is my only experience in one. It did not dim my theoretical interest in them however. I do not think I ever mentioned that growing up we also did not travel on vacations as a family. From what I hear such trips were mixed bags of great and awful memories, but I really have none. My father was a cameraman for ABC news and traveled constantly so vacation for him (and therefore for us) was spent at home at our house on a river inlet and within walking distance of the beach and the Atlantic ocean, a boat or two moored off a dock in the backyard. Growing up in a beach community we were not deprived in the least. (My childhood summers are an endless string of sparkling days at the beach strung together in my memory.) However, I have few childhood memories of long car rides and family vacation hotel stays of any sort with the exception of visits to family which usually resulted in staying with them. Somehow I don’t see my parents as the types to embrace ancient bungalow holidays anyway, and I have little doubt that my sister, brother and I would have torn each other to shreds trapped in a car together.

Perhaps my apparent adult disinterest in traveling on vacation is rooted in this lack of childhood family vacations. It just wasn’t a habit I formed. I have traveled to far flung places – Tibet twice, Patagonia, much of Europe, but I have never plunked myself down on a beach in another state or country on vacation, and it has been decades since I have been on so much as a random weekend away for the sheer novelty. In reality I travel more on business these days than I manage to for pleasure. Much like my father, vacation has come to mean time with Kim and the kits here in glorious Manhattan, reveling in the novelties that Deitch studio and Pictorama have to offer.


Silets Bay Auto Camp

Scan(2) copy 8

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Perfect for these lazy days of summer and those of us who are dreaming of a vacation cottage of our own! Any of you who have been following this blog for a bit know that to some degree I consider Oregon something of an El Dorado of early photographs and here is another prime example. I am a complete sucker for this kind of light in a photo and frankly it could be of almost anything – just gorgeous. It has the same quality as early black and white nitrate film in good condition, filmed in low light it just shines with the spots of light. This card is unused and has nothing written on the back.

There is a Cutler City historical site which mentions the autocamp. There seems to be some disagreement on spelling and this site spells it Siletz rather than Silets. According to this the Siletz Bay Autocamp was a popular destination opening in 1927 on property that was originally owned by Charley DePoe, a Siletz Indian. (We will assume this is where the name came from and that the “z” is correct!) The property was subsequently in the hands of a George and Maryanne Cutler, and eventually Frank Gibbs who built the first cabins on the property immediately before it became the Autocamp.

It conjures up a summer idyll and no thoughts of lugging suitcases, sunburn or swatting mosquitoes. Just our dream vacation, in the woods, swimming in a lake and hiking in virgin woods – largely untouched since it belonged to the Siletz Indian tribe. Something to dream about from my urban concrete summer perch this year.

Floating Dock

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Continuing on in a theme of summers gone by, here is another offering. Unlike my post Alice Smalley this one is undated and without an label. It is not a photo postcard either – instead a small photo on the thick paper stock of the 40’s and 50’s with the rough, decorative edges that photos sometimes had in those days. This one of a woman and another fine tabby, a bit older but clearly just as scrappy. The woman here is a bit dressed up (that’s quite a skirt with polka dots no less – one doesn’t see polka dots as often as you once did – why is that?) perched here with sandals which I can tell you, probably weren’t that steady on that dock. It is another beautiful mountain spot. My only complaint is that this one is a bit dark.

This photo has special appeal for me because I grew up with a dock much like this at the end of our property. We moored a small sailboat off it and generally had a rowboat tied up next to the dock for the purpose of getting to the sailboat. The rowboat required bailing after each rain and that was a job that fell to my sister Loren and I for the most part. I admit that Loren was a bit better about it than me – and there is the time that she quietly untied the row boat while I was bailing – leaving me without oars and drifting off! Needless to say I was madder than a wet cat when I got a hold of her.

It probably is not surprising that the dock was a never-ending source of fascination, especially during long summer days. There were crab traps hung from it, but we would use nets to grab up crabs and fish too. Mostly we enjoyed low tide which allowed a closer examination of the bottom of the inlet of the river we lived on – named Polly’s Pond, although not really a pond in any technical sense. It’s historic name was Oyster Bay – no oysters there when I was growing up, but recently I understand that they have had success in seeding those beds and reintroducing them. For me, it will remain a mystical place of crabs and fish and long days laying out and getting tan, shared with my sister and brother and a number of curious kitties, always attracted to the possibility of excitement in the form of fish and rodents, perhaps a bit of protein hunted on the fly.

Alice Smalley

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I went for this photo in a big way. I am not sure why exactly, there was competition, but I had to have it – there is something very idyllic about it. To begin with, the spot is gorgeous – the back of the card reveals that it is a state forest camp in Eagle’s Mere, PA – and the woman and cat are sort of archetypal. She is in her saddle shoes and is with that sprightly little tabby. He looks like he probably grew into a heck of a fellow.

Meanwhile, I gather Alice did not approve at all. The card is addressed to Miss Amelia Sonna, 121 Main Street, Boise, Idaho. It says as follows, in careful print: Taken On Our Vaction Trip. At a state Forest camp near Eagle’s Mere, Penna. Over the 4th. I think this is a swell photo – but Alice claims the hair + costume makes it ‘terrible’ – How do you like ‘Figaro’, our motoring cat? Love Henry S. It was mailed on July 27, 1940 from Washington, D.C. at 11:30 PM.  Well, I disagree with Alice about the hair and costume and I absolutely love Figaro, the motoring cat! This is one of those photos that leaves me wondering about these folks and what became of them.  A quick search on Henry or Alice Smalley in period Washington, DC does not turn up anything. Eagle’s Mere remains a rather stunning park area with many hiking trails (and a museum of early trains) on a lake in Sullivan County, PA. It gives me a yen for hiking in Pennsylvania, something I have not done for a very long time. I have never been so far west, but used to go to the area near the Delaware water gap with my friend Christine Butler (no relation!) for photos and hiking. Heavenly.

Anyway, as summer 2015 gets underway, there is something soothing and timeless about this photo. A reminder to go outside, enjoy – and take some pictures. Make sure to print them!