Felix in the Photo

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As some Pictorama followers know, I have long favored Instagram as my favored social media poison pick. Kim is devoted to tending the curation of his Facebook page, but I prefer to pleasantly lose myself scrolling through my iteration of the universe which skews heavily into vintage jewelry and clothing, antiques, cat doings (go @sadieanddottie!), the antics of some real world friends, and of course early photos.

Cookie and Clark Gable recently.

The viewing world in return gets a version of me (@Deitchstudio) which includes these blog posts and related photos, the comings and goings of Cookie and Blackie lovingly chronicled, story vignettes of my morning runs along the East River (walks for since my great fall, see my post Busted, here, for that tale of woe), and in the before times my occasional travels with the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra as the fund raiser for that organization. I try to avoid any whiff of politics and try to keep the chaos of our tiny abode visually within bounds admittedly. Photos of Kim only with his knowledge and permission. Selfies rarely, usually just with friends.

Running became walking about two minutes after I snapped this photo on Memorial Day.

When I look back on this time I think I will mostly vividly remember scrolling through IG and watching home renovation tv.

You all over here at Pictorama get more insight into the inner life of Deitch Studio, but the folks over on Instagram get a daily visual account of me and mine. Obviously there is crossover and I know many of you follow me there and a few of the folks who I “know” only from IG wander over to Pictorama on occasion. (There are some triple crown folks who are FB friends too!) It is a happy day when these parallel Pictorama worlds collide and today (and likely tomorrow) will highlight some finds attributable to those folks.

Today’s splendid photo find (you were wondering if I would ever get to it I am sure) was purchased on eBay. The listing made no mention of the presence of Felix in their midst (nor cat costume photo) so I wouldn’t have found it without the tip from @the_antique_lens. I only know them by that moniker, no name on the account or bio information. Unlike many of the folks I interact with the_antique_lens is a collector, like me, not a merchant.

Their exquisitely presented account reveals what seems to me to be a remarkably similar visual taste in early photos to my own (Felix notwithstanding) to my own, although less specifically focused than my heavily cat/toy related collection. It is with thanks to them that this little beauty found its way to the Pictorama collection. A thank you to their eagle eye and generosity in the tip.

The photo is oddly mounted on pieces of paper that have resisted the glue applied resulting in ripples. It does not appear to be from a photo album – I think maybe framed at one time, but there are push pin holes in the top corners and one side so it spent some time displayed that way. There is a bit of black tape across the bottom mystifies me which Kim has edited out in this scan. Nothing is written or indicated on the back.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

It is an interesting photograph. At first glance you might think was taken for Halloween, but the Christmas tree makes me think not. Perhaps a school play? Felix is especially curious in this case (hard to think of what that story line might be, but he is front and center), however given that several children wear similar costumes school play gets my vote. The costumes have a consistent quality too, all of the same quality. I am sure I cannot imagine a story that might incorporate the kid dressed as a gift box, an Indian, the little girl with a burlap bag over her head and the imaginatively rendered bear in the lower right. I am especially enamored of the teacher’s fairy costume, and as Felix the Cat costumes go, that is one I want!

The photographer had a good eye for framing this, especially if he or she arranged everyone. However I also feel that the photo maintains the aura of the stage presence of the kids – they do not mug, or even mostly smile much. There is a look of shared purpose and focus to them and they gaze directly at us. I am especially fond of the rifle bearing soldier and bear on all fours holding down the composition on the right, while the white fairy costume draws you back to the left.

A careful examination of the writing on the blackboard (a credit to that instructor’s neat hand which I am attempting to read more or less a hundred years later) appears to list three clubs. Furthest to the left (and easiest to decipher) states, The Right Club, Lois Dickason, President, and a list of names. The center reads, Our Writing Clubs, Gold Highest Honors, Blue Standard, Red Below Standard. (Underlined twice!) I can barely make out what it says on the board behind the teacher, but it appears to be, Gold Star Club, Ellen Montgomery, President, and a list of names too faint to decipher.

The Right Club and the Gold Star Club names listed have one or two stars after each name. (I would like to point out with girl Presidents of each, clearly the girls here were doing an excellent job representing for the fair sex.) The scrawny Christmas tree with its star is a poignant seasonal touch.

This is one of those photos that allows you to time travel and I think wall worthy – a tribute here in the cramped environs of Deitch Studio. Hope you enjoyed the trip.

Family Photos

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I get to combine my love of early photos with family. While I was visiting mom in New Jersey last week, my cousin Patti took out a huge basket of photos we went through together. Some folks remained unidentified, but a core group appeared throughout. (I wrote about this side of my family back in a post around a photo of a very early family wedding celebration. It can be found here.)

These are entirely my mother’s side of the family, the Italian immigrants who settled on the Jersey shore and ran a series of restaurants and food stands in what was a popular beach community. I apologize for the reproduction quality – I was just taking pictures of these photos on my phone.

As far as I can tell the genesis of these food enterprises was my great, great grandfather – last name Cittadino, first name not known to me. He is shown below in two photos, with car and bike.

Pams-Pictorama.com
Pams-Pictorama.com

I especially like the one of him with a bike. Regretfully no one knew who the two hotsy totsy looking, well dressed young women were. They showed up in some other photos. None of these photos were marked and had largely at one point been in an album, but we realized what everyone does when looking at family photos which is there are a lot of people who were friends or folks they worked with who were like family, but sadly no one remembers now.

The Deli, shown below, seems to have been the first restaurant incarnation of the family. I only recently learned of this earlier version of the family food establishments. As per an email from my mom below, I gather it was a place to eat as well as the take out sale of food. Sorry to say, these two fellows in the photo remain unidentified.

My grandfather had a deli and related food sale place in Long Branch on the Main Street Broadway. Every morning he walked to the bank for day cash on the way passed the owner of the bar getting to the bank. They struck up a conversation the fellow told him he was tired and wanted out. My grandfather then struck a deal walked on to the bank and got the loan went back and gave him the cash and that was it. He walked back to the deli told my grandmother and the customers eating there at the time and agreed all would help move down the street and that is how he moved down to the building with friends and customers helping shortly after when they did.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Norwood was the name of a street in Long Branch, in fact the street where my grandmother and the extended family had a home. (I wrote about that house in a post that can be found here). As per my mother’s email, the deli and the bar that followed, were actually on Broadway, the long main drag of what was once the thriving downtown which I believe ends at the ocean where the Boardwalk once thrived. The family home was within walking distance of the Deli and Bar, I think probably 15 or twenty minute walk, of it.

The family also seems to have two food concessions on the Long Branch Boardwalk as well, one I had always heard about, owned by my Aunt Ro. However, another turned up in these photos and I am not sure who owned this stand, but the general consensus was that this was not Ro’s but another. Not sure who is pictured here either, although he resembles my great uncle Frankie, but is too long ago to be him. Perhaps the Al mentioned on the awning boasting a Quick Lunch.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The family’s bar is what is remembered best by my mom, run by her grandparents, her mom and aunts. Mom would go to their apartment above the bar after school as a small child. Although much of the family worked there – not Mom’s father, Frank, who was an engineer for Bendix. While it is always referred to by family as The Bar, it served a lot of food as well. In addition to the daily fare special Sunday dinners were offered to steady customers, all prepared by the women of the extended family. Mom remembers them cooking non-stop between the restaurant and family.

The photo below is the aforementioned Frankie, father of my cousin Patti who stays with my mom these days and found these photos cleaning out her house. I believe this shot was at the bar although I would have voted for it being one of the beach concessions. (I wrote about my sectioned blue Willoware plates which were the Blue Plate Special plates at the bar and are our everyday dishes. You can find that post here.) My mom and uncle were too young to work there, although my mother used her restaurant background to waitress her way through college later in life.

Hot dog concession with Frankie manning the flatop and Great Grandpa Cittadino behind him. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The establishment remains today, at 591 Broadway in Long Branch – currently Johnny Piancone’s, ironically also an Italian bar restaurant. I have never been – although once my father and I had pizza in the place next door which I gathered from him had been there as long as he has known my mother.

My uncle ate at the restaurant several years back and they allowed him to visit the apartment upstairs which he also remembered vividly from afternoons there as a child. I have shown the bar today below which I found on the FB page. The bar pictured may be the originally one, although I believe my uncle said it had been cut down. The restaurant appears to have survived the pandemic with outdoor dining in a backyard and I would think doing take out. It’s nice to know that it is still there, still going in its own way.

A Girl’s Best Friend

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is an intensely foggy morning here in Manhattan and we can see nothing but a sheet of white out our 16th story window. It is a bit doom and gloom so I have dug into my photo archive for a jolly one and have come up with this calmly happy one of this full-on flapper and her canine friend on a porch swing.

It is printed on photo paper, not a photo postcard, and bears signs of black photo album paper on the back. It is a very good shot with those interesting shadows I couldn’t have resisted either and the porch railing, the swing she is on, and trees behind create a nice frame of geometric shapes. However, the printing is a bit disappointing, not enough contrast and the blacks sink together although a careful look indicates that there was information there. They have cheated a bit and there is a white line added behind the dog’s hind quarters which I can see on the original, but you probably cannot in reproduction of the photo above. Nonetheless, despite any flaws, she takes us right to a time and place and holds us there for a moment.

I don’t know why, but it is her shoes that interest me in particular. As a collector of vintage clothing and photographs, you rarely get to really see shoes and while these aren’t notable, I just find myself looking at them and thinking, well, hmmm that’s what women’s shoes really looked like.

Recently a seller on Instagram has had a few pairs of women’s shoes from this period (@witchyvintge or witchyvintage.com) and they are surprisingly modern. There was a pair with kitten heels – or perhaps really more French heels – from this period that I commented I could slip on today and happily wear – if of course I ever wore anything but sneakers and slippers these days. (As an aside, @witchyvintage posts and sells some of the most remarkable vintage clothing I have ever seen in my years of collecting it. There are everyday pieces from the 1800’s, everything from long calico work dresses to corsets and dress clothes, the likes I have never seen outside a museum exhibit. It is fascinating to see them and know there are collectors out there who are sourcing and purchasing such early pieces actively.)

From Witchyvintage.com, still available, $265

Her hair is styled in the signature Louis Brooks bob of the day and it does a fair imitation. I wonder if it went up in the back the way Louis’s did. Her embroidered dress is perfectly of the time and so is the long strand of beads which was a length popular in the teens through the thirties, but not beyond.

This doggy is a large fellow to be even a partial lap dog, but canine affection knows no bounds. Dogs species are not well developed asset in my toolbox, but this seems to be an Airdale. I have never known one personally, but he seems very likable and clearly devoted to her. I remember when I was a kid our German Shepard couldn’t understand that she was no longer a puppy and would try to climb into bed with my parents, up between the headboard and their pillows. This of course was more possible for a pup than a seventy pound dog and caused some chaos – among the kids and cats that were also likely climbing on my folks at the time.

It’s hard to see the stages on the leaves on the trees, but I am going to gamble and call this an early spring photo, with the trees just starting to bud, about the same as where we are now in the process, maybe a week or two behind. Just warm enough to sit on the porch a bit in the sun without a coat and cuddled up with your dog.

Lined Up

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I purchased these two photos on Instagram in a wave of ones from the same period and probably place. While I suspect I purchased them at the same time and from the same vendor, I do not remember for sure. Both are snapshots printed on thin, early paper and bear the black paper stuck to the back that is evidence that they came from a photo album. They were sold to me by someone in the Midwest and I think that is the area they depict as well.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

I can only say there was a time last summer when images, mostly of women, from the turn of the century were attracting my attention and I purchased a pile. They are mostly in outdoor settings of the beach (see the one above), garden or yard and notably they show a persistent passion for being presented in a line – not just these photos, but many I didn’t or wasn’t able to purchase of women sitting on the ground in a line, or even finding ways to do a vertical with a ladder. (Some of my posts of these photos can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

In the smaller grouping, which is also the smaller photo, the women pose in what appears to be the lush side-yard garden. They peer at us above and through these leafy vines on this bright sunny day. You can almost feel the heat of the midday sun looking at the short shadows. I might hazard a guess that it is mother and four daughters. It is hard to see, but I think the daughters are in white cotton dresses; mom appears to be wearing a dark skirt. Their hair is piled up on their heads, although one has it wound in tight braids. The shadow of a ladder is in evidence in the doorway.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The larger photo is the one I favor a bit. There is something just wonderful about this group of young women in white, lined up behind this somewhat ramshackle fencing, covered in overgrowth – is it hay in front of and behind them? Hard to say how they managed to get back there without getting stuck by the barbed wire of the fence, but the photographer had a good eye and got them between the posts. Their long, white dresses are partially visible behind a layer of the plants. The white, cloudless sky is a tribute to the inability of early film to capture clouds at the time, however curiously it works to the favor of the picture. (The soiling and bend of the early paper creates an illusion of sky that is not really of the image.) The photo is very much of a specific time and place, but also has a timeless quality.

If you look carefully, they are all smiling and laughing. At first I thought it was a group of young, female friends but one or two women look older – second and third from the left. I wonder if it is a coincidence that my reading this year, young plucky girl stories such as Ruth Fielding and the Camp Fire Girls, (some of those posts here and here) take place in the same period during the halcyon days of the early and mid-teens of the last century.

Spark Plug: Our One Ring Circus

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Thorough Pictorama readers may remember back in March of 2018 (March 24, almost exactly three years ago!) when I posted about the photo below in the post It’s Clint Flynn – on Spark Plug (which can be found here).

At that time I confessed my rather specific interest in this mini-genre of photos which depict people on various homemade versions of Spark Plug, the horse character of the Barney Google comic strip fame, which made its debut in 1919. (In my mind these are like an addendum to people posing with Felix – collecting those photos being part of my life’s work.) In 1925, the year today’s photo was snapped, Barney Google and Spark Plug would have been hitting their stride fame-wise.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

When I say mini-genre of photos I do not exaggerate as I have only seen three in my life (although I am convinced that there are many more to be found which I plan to uncover and of course acquire.) I was able to purchase two of the three known to me. It was the first one, at a Hake’s auction I believe, that got away which started me on my hunt for further ones. (Strangely, like some of my Felix photos, I believe that first one hailed from Australia. Australia in the 1920’s must have been a crazy, great place.)

All three photos I have encountered sold for a significant price. The card I share today started at a price even I wouldn’t pay for it and eventually came down as I had expressed interest and gather I was the only taker. In part, I think this card suffered a bit because it was hard to be certain at first that it is an original photo postcard, not a reproduction, which it is.

Back of card. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Unlike most outstandingly great photo postcards I have encountered, this one was mailed. Luckily it didn’t suffer noticibly on its journey. I show the back below and you will note the postmark, March 23, 1925! (I am loving all the coinciding of March dates today. March must be Spark Plug photo month, right down through the decades.) It was addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Chalfont, Muncie Ind. 720 W. Ponders Street. (The street address is added like an afterthought which I don’t believe I have ever seen.) The sender, unnamed, writes (somewhat cryptically), Golden Banders. Come and see our 1 ring circus it is free Thurs. We. is the date. Please come early don’t be late. March 26. 7.30.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

On the front of the card 1 Ring Circus and a $ have been painted neatly onto the neg and printed. I’m not sure what the $ is referring to, tucked as it is between these two splendidly attired and painted clowns, adorned with pointy caps, each of them accessorized with a feather duster.

The woman, less sporty in her dress, but fully in the spirit of the thing, seems to be an assistant of sorts; she is holding Spark Plug’s head a bit possessively, although maybe she is also keeping him steady. (I really like her shoes – I own a pair like those that I am quite partial to.) The tot fortunate enough to be perch atop him is in a Buster Brown suit, with bow tie, and looks pretty smug and pleased with himself – who can blame him? Hotsy totsy!

Unlike the sturdy fellow in my earlier photo, this Spark Plug is a wonder of casual construction. I think he may have real plungers for feet and lower extremities and something mysterious above that connecting it all. (Interestingly plungers are frequently used to depict Spark Plug’s feet, he is not drawn that way in the strip where he just has enormous, clunky hooves.) His body appears to be an ambitious combination of wood and cardboard if I had to guess.

An interesting question is whether or not Spark Plug has back legs here – I do not see them. (Do you?) It seems like maybe white hat clown is holding him up? Not sure how that works – perhaps the clown jiggles you up and down? The solution behind this mystery is hidden now. Whoa! Steady there fellow I say!

Hard to Find the Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tomorrow we will have our annual Deitch Studio Valentine reveal (one of the highlights of the Pictorama and Deitch Studio year – if you are new to Pictorama or just need to see a Kim Deitch Valentine right now, last year’s can be found here), but today we are back to a Felix photos. This 8″x10″ came to me via @missmollysantiques on Instagram (a fascinating source for things Halloween and exotica from our nation’s great Midwest), and although it was a rollicking good Halloween photo, I didn’t see the Felix at first.

This interior from the early decades of the 20th century is homey and nice. The window dressings form their own patterns in the background, and the piano on one side and mantel on the other frame the group nicely. There is no carpet on the floor, it is shining wood beneath the bent knees of one of the young Indians, but perhaps it has been rolled up and put aside for this shindig. It is hard to imagine that this well-appointed room didn’t have a carpet most days.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

These folks have embraced the costume spirit with a fair amount of enthusiasm. If I was the judge for Best Costume I would likely hover around the gypsy fortune teller (second row, second from the left, holding a tambourine, sassy sash at her hips), or perhaps the clown in the back corner behind the piano – but I am a sucker for a period clown costume and her pointed hat has a nice Halloween pumpkin and black cat. (You can find an earlier rather splendid similar Halloween clown in the snow photo post here. It heralds from the same Midwestern source. Those folks really knew how to celebrate Halloween.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

The men have largely, although not entirely uniformly, embraced cross dressing as their fancy dress and I count four of those here. Others seem to have adopted funny suit clothes without a self-evident definition – comical hats and ties largely. One fellow got into the spirit fully and is in a sort of jester costume, although he looks a tad unhappy, sad jester – he holds something in his hands I can’t make out. Maybe being next to the flashy gypsy à la flapper has him put out.

If you look closely at the back row you spot several men and one elderly woman who are not in costume, tucked in among the more colorful celebrants. Dad and Mom as I think of them, are wedged between a straw hatted and bespectacled (not to mention jaunty) fellow striking a pose on the end and a well-dressed younger woman who may or may not be in costume. Dad is clad in vest and tie, mom with her hair up, eyes downcast, but wearing some lovely long beads, dressed up if not in costume.

Two other younger men who don’t appear to be in fancy dress are to the back. One with a loosened tie behind Dad and the other in a plaid flannel shirt is on the other end. Flannel shirt guy is taller than everyone else and good looking. Perhaps he is in costume but my guess is no. Meanwhile, he looks a bit grim at the prospect of this photo.

On the floor we have our small fry representing a sort of jester, the aforementioned Indian (feathers in her headdress vaguely askew), and a third little girl whose costume, if she is wearing one, is indistinct. She may be sporting something on her head that I can’t quite make out. It’s easy to imagine them running around wildly before and after this shot. I can almost, but not quite, assign them as siblings or offspring of the older generations in the photo. (Does our Indian look a bit like Dad? Does the jester look a bit look a little like the heavy set man with the huge, flowing tie in the middle row?)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Meanwhile, if you haven’t found him yet, Felix takes the form of a posable toy, likely of the Schoenhut variety held in the hand of the woman to the far right, perched on the piano. Although she is in party dress, she does not appear to be in costume either and perhaps grabbing Felix was her attempt to be more festive. Perhaps after this photo she sat down at that piano and started to bang out some tunes, apples were bobbed and the party got underway.

The Girls on the Moon

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a cold gray February morning here in NYC as I write. Snow (I think of it as more snow), which just commenced, is expected throughout today. Somehow it seems like a good opportunity to consider these pretty young women in spring dresses taken in July of 1912.

They are wonderful and somehow that shines through the fact that this photo was an unusually ham-handed product. Perhaps it is the sheer number that these photographers took at fairs or seaside resorts, but they are usually of at least adequate execution, if occasionally showing signs of exhausted chemicals (dunked in a nearby bucket a few too many times) or an image not washed of developer properly and fading over time. This photo would be the exception to the rule – the bottom of the image is out of focus and the top physically cropped crudely – although reading it, that seems to have happened later. Maybe it was cut down slightly to fit in a frame – there is no evidence that it was in a photo album. Perhaps the slightly slovenly execution is why this card was actually sent rather than just saved as a memento as is most often the case with these, at least those which are generally seen and collected today.

For all of that these two are charmers. One grasps the nose of the moon – poking him right in the eye! And the two hold hands. They are both enjoying themselves mightily and smile broad, sincere grins from their moon-side perch. One looks at the other and she looks out, at us and into the future.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The notes are charming too though. Written at the bottom it says, This was taken in Muskogee. We had the finest of times there going to the parks & shows & most everywhere. On the back, also in pencil but lighter and very hard to read, it appears to say, Dear Ma, Say have you sent me any money? if you haven’t pls send some to Aunt Pearl’s for me. I’m leaving this afternoon for K.C. I sure had a grand time here especially…[arrow to the part about money] If you have sent it I will get it alright…will forward it for me. Jane. It is addressed to: Mr. Densel Brown, 2255 E Street, Granite City, Ill. (Yes, she has written to her mother but addressed the card to her father. Welcome to 1912 I guess.) In her hand it is dated 7/19/12.It was mailed from somewhere called Gibson and one wonders if these two are cousins.

A play on the typical Moon photo which I purchased years ago.

I have collected a few of these cards. One of my very first posts was devoted to an early acquisition. (It can be found here. A post about the other photo below can be found here.) They are a competitive area of collecting however so I only dabble a bit. They are a special joy when excellent examples are pulled together and framed or shown collectively – more is more – something I have seen well executed a few times. Much like my beloved posing with Felix photo postcards these always seem to be joyful. As if to say, who wouldn’t get a grin on their face when, in the midst of a fine day at a fair or seaside resort, dressed in your spring togs, you got to sit on the moon or mug with a giant Felix?

A happy group enjoying themselves for a pose on and around the moon.

As huge flakes of snow obliterate our view now (cartoon snow is how I think of these giant pieces, chunks really, floating and blowing around) accumulate outside my window, I am grateful to have spent an hour in July, 1912 in Muskogee, Oklahoma with Jane and her pal.

Stormy Weather

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Ah, yes. A return to photos today and this recent acquisition which exceeded my expectations when I purchased it. I have discovered, the hard way, that purchasing photos off of Instagram sales is different than buying them on eBay. One must act very fast and can’t really study and consider a thing the way I like. Therefore, there’s been a fair amount of leaping and some purchases that have left me scratching my head when received. Such is the life of an online photo collector. Nonetheless, it has broadened my horizons and this example is a gem of the non-cat photo variety.

It is a smallish photo, the actual image is three and a half inches, square. It is permanently affixed to the white decorative cardboard mount. I am inclined to say it is a cabinet card, but I defer to some of my readers who are more specifically knowledgeable in this area to offer a correction or fine tune that assumption. On the back it reads, Brown’s house in pencil in one hand, and in pen below in another script, Medef’s Camera, Dec 16, ’01. I purchased it from a seller in the mid-west and I would make a guess that it depicts a scene there, but hard to tell of course. It was sold to me by a woman who runs two accounts, one for antique clothing and jewelry (@spakeasachildvintage) and another I first discovered her under, @_wherethewillowsgrow_, for old photographs. I frequent both.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

What I find somewhat remarkable about this photo is both the subject matter and the ability of an early photograph to capture it so well. I not sure I envy the early photographer, perched on the shore, capturing this roaring and roiling body of water. It is winter, there is snow on the hillside on the other side of the water and if you look carefully you can also see the icy banks across from they stood to take the photo.

The moving water is in sharp focus meaning it was a pretty fast exposure for the day. The Brown’s house is presumably the pleasant looking house across the way, a bit hard to see but visible. Hard to say if their property was threatened by the rising, violent water. There appears to be a whirlpool, or perhaps just a deep cavity formed by the waves, to the right side of the photo. It is quite a maelstrom.

Pictorama readers know I grew up on the Jersey shore, on the Shrewsbury River and only a few minutes from the ocean. River flooding and occasionally violent hurricanes, were not uncommon and dot my childhood memories – mom picking us up early from school before moving the car to higher ground and walking home in advance of a storm; watching the river burst up over the bulkhead and into our yard and around the house; the cold feeling of the water rushing under the house during a flood; geese paddling by and peering in the back door.

Despite that, I don’t remember seeing our river in quite this state – perhaps because the Shrewsbury was not contained by the same sort of deep embankment as is shown here, maybe made yet more active by a nearby falls. (Hurricane Sandy was the first time my parents evacuated during a storm and after a lifetime there they moved not long after, being too elderly now to deal with the extremes of life on the water. Mom lives nearby but definitely inland now.)

The sun playing on the water is always lovely.

As recent readers know, I have taken up running along the East River (attempting to anyway) as part of my pandemic exercise regime. (That post, Running Slowly can be found here.) The moods of the river remind me of my childhood and it is fascinating to watch its many moods each day. In general I am shocked by the current which almost always seems to be very strong and fast. Even without boats (and there are boats in winter, a more or less steady stream of ferries, tugs and cargo ships) small waves, sometimes eddies and whirlpools. On a very windy morning the water can slap the bulkhead and spray as I jog by. The extremely calm day is a rare exception. I find it irresistible to photograph in all its moods and record it ongoing, as seen here, often with the early morning sun playing on it. Being near it now reminds me of my childhood and endless days of watching the water out our windows.

A strangely still day on the East River recently.

Living by the water you are quick to learn that, much like life in general, one day it can be as calm and smooth as glass – and the next it can whip itself into a fury.

Strong currents in the East River in November.

Framed: Part One

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today is the first of at least three framed photos that have come to me recently, two were gifts, but today’s was purchased. I hope to post about them all.

As someone who collects photos I of course give some thought to frames. Shown below is the utility black postcard frame that virtually all of my photos on display are assigned to. In this way they are fairly uniform and I maximize wall space.

The wall over Kim’s desk is the exception however and those photos are in an array of frames purchased, found or otherwise cobbled together, which creates a nice effect too. (I pledge a future post devoted to the wall, perhaps in sections. It is a major source of entertainment for the Zoom evenings I put myself in front of it. Even Wynton has claimed to spend time parsing it during these endless months.)

Partial view of a Felix and Cat Chair photo wall.

But my wall of Felix photos (which I previously posted about here in a pre-apartment renovation post) has them all housed in their matching black plastic frames which allow the photo to be the visual star. I have a pile of unused frames at the always at the ready and (needless to say) a pile of wall worthy photo postcards awaiting installation.

You would think that pandemic life would induce me to spruce up my surroundings, but beyond the necessary renovations back in the summer, I seem to devote myself largely to work and being drawn into the daily unfolding drama of the national news. My mental health would undoubtedly be better if I spent more time on framing photo postcards. (I have, however, just purchased a new desk chair as my back has continued to remind me that the one I use was never meant to be a 12 or more hour a day perch. The new one at least has arms so let’s see if Mr. Back responds to that.)

Still, sometimes it is the frame or all about the frame. Frankly, I find interesting frames a bit intimidating and I can think of at least two that are sitting in this apartment, languishing until I figure out how best to fill them. I mean, you want to do the frame justice with the right photo, but also the photo needs the right home too. And if it is a spot for several photos it is additionally perplexing. Perhaps there is some sort of life lesson lurking there. Clearly, I overthink.

Photo and handmade frame; Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Today’s framed photo comes via a new indulgence which is an antique store in Dallas, Texas called Curiosities. I have written about a purchase from them before (that post about a unique Felix match holder can be found here) and over time purchasing from them has almost become like a trip to their shop a few times a month. I found them on Instagram (@curiositiesantique or their website, GetCuriosities) and much to my entertainment they turn up a continuous array of somewhat irresistible bits and pieces – toy cats (a future post there indeed), but also just interesting stuff.

I can’t help but feel if I lived closer to the store that I would probably buy twice as much – but of course that would mean I had a house and could fill it, rather than our tiny and increasingly crowded apartment. A phone chat to seal the deal with Sandi or one of her colleagues is always a nice interlude in the day too.

Obviously though things do make it over the transom all the time and the most recent purchase, which is so hot out of the box that Kim will be seeing it now for the first time, was this photo in a handmade frame. Now, while I confess I was hoping to purchase this and replace the photo with one from my collection, it is not possible – this framed photo was constructed specially for this photo and it would be wrong if indeed it were possible, to replace the picture.

The tramp art style wood worked frame is punctuated by stuffed bits of old silk around the sides and corners – now so old and faded that they appear more solid than cushy as I believe was the original intention. We’ll also assume that the colors were more vibrant, if not actually vivid. Still, a certain grandeur remains. The photo is inset into a gold stripe trim self-frame of glass. From the outfits on the girl and boy shown, it dates from the dawn of the 20th century. A careful look reveals that they stand on an elaborately tiled floor and I can almost make out a table and a wall mural behind them, making me wonder if this wasn’t taken in a restaurant – although that seems odd.

Girl and boy are in matching suits of sailor inspired design. These appear to be wealthy offspring, their clothes and shiny shoes stylish and well appointed. The girl wears a tiny necklace and the outfits are trimmed with bright brass buttons. They do not look to be especially robust, either of them, but I wouldn’t go all the way to saying anything more than that. The boy looks squarely at the camera while the girl has a slightly dreamier expression, looking off to the side.

Somehow there’s a lot of history attached to the back of this frame.

The back of the frame is interesting because you can see the construction. A careful look shows it was made from some sort of light wood boxes or crates, bits of advertising cling to it. As side view shows how the layers, which are actually fairly thin, were carved and put together to create the dimensional effect. The maker of this was no slouch!

The side view shows how the carved layers were atop each other.

So I will go in search of a spot in the apartment for this where it will not be ravaged by the sun, but can still be seen (a perpetual challenge in this apartment, although we are grateful for the natural light from the northeast and the view of the East River), perhaps by some aging tintypes in the small hallway between bedroom and bathroom. We shall see. And maybe I can commit to getting a few more of my Felix-y photos framed up and on the wall, to be enjoyed each time I sit at Kim’s computer or go into the kitchen.

Cat Chair Cont.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Returning today, as I ultimately always do to cat related photos, I share this great photo postcard I recently added to the Pictorama collection. I always consider these cards of folks perched on a giant cat especially good finds – perhaps even as beloved as my collection of photo postcards of folks posing with giant Felix the cat dolls, a find in this category to add to my small holdings of these is a reason for celebration here at Pictorama. They are an extremely jolly and jaunty variation and always find a place of pride on our crowded walls.

A careful look at the other versions I have hanging on the wall confirm that this is likely a different giant cat than the others – although the variations are very small, like the size of the eyes or nose. As for location, I have every reason to believe that is different too, although similar as these, like the Felix cards, always seem to be photos taken at the beach resorts, usually in Britain. (Although I have a number of examples taken in Katoomba, Australia, as well and at least one series showing such a Felix in Kuala Lumpur, below, where he appears to be directing traffic. Those posts can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Today’s card was never sent, but J. Easton, Clifton Paths, Margate is printed at the top of the back, along with (Extra copies please quote number.)

Impressively Margate’s history as a seaside destination for health and recreation dates all the way back to the 1750’s. An early photo of the cliffs referred to in Clifton Paths, are very dramatic, high cliffs in dramatic relief to the beach below which I assume are still in situ today. During this early 20th century period the area and its Dreamland amusement pier and beach were likely reaching a zenith of popularity for the sort of seaside retreat the British became known for. Another photo taken at Margate in my collection is below and the post can be read here.

Margate holiday photo, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Meanwhile, this youngster seems remarkably unimpressed with his perch – ungrateful child! I would love to swap places with him for this pic. His expression and body language, hands on hips, say it all and the language of small boys remains legible decades later – come on and take your stupid picture already! One imagines that a small child would have to be lifted atop of this large and wonderful kitty.

This photo below was also taken in Margate and identified as being in Cliftonville which seems to be adjoining or the same resort. This could be the same kitty, just a bit older in this photo. (That post, published on my birthday in 2017, can be read here.) The precise location seems to be different and this one does not have Mr. Easton’s logo so my guess is they were most likely competitors.

Cat Chair Photo, collection Pams-Pictorama.com

These kitties (Are they the same manufacturer? They look like Steiff toys but I can find no tracks to confirm they actually were produced by them) each seems to have the same little tongue sticking out, which always looks like a nose ring to me at first glance – here it looks like white beads or tufts outline the tongue. Most kitty chairs have a bow or a collar similar to this one, and many have white outlines defining the toes. Oh how I would love to see one in person!

Unlike some of the Felix figures, which even when their size approached that of small human probably allowed for the tucking under the arm and moving about, which means they are sometimes tatty compared with the apparent pristine of this fellow which somehow looks like he mostly stayed put – just being tucked away in the evenings or on rainy days. It appears to be an overcast day and the legions of beach chairs lined up behind them are all empty. Apartment buildings line the area, which I am figuring overlooks the water, as far as the eye can see here. There may be some vendors with stalls, likely on a boardwalk there. A sun spot has marked the photo there so it is a bit hard to see. Mr. Easton, photographer, has a tiny brand mark in the lower left corner. I wish I could find out a bit about his business but my research skills seem to be inadequate to do so.

While several of the photos I have of small children posing with an imposing Felix often larger than themselves occasionally look a tad worried or concerned, this cranky fellow is the only kid in my collection who is not enjoying his time on the giant black cat. I share some women who know how to have a good time on a black cat below – this photo lives on my site, but somehow there has never been a post devoted to it which it certainly deserves. They know how to have a good time. Go girls, go!

Pams-Pictorama.com collection