Pam’s Pictorama.com: even by my standards this is a pretty goofy photo. Extremely faded at the bottom left it says, Barker School and on the other sidebarely legible, May 31, 1928. Written on the back in pencil is Woodland, Maine and Halloween Costumes – which clearly they are not since we know it was taken in May.
Even in my wildest imagination I can’t figure out what kind of school play might have given birth to these costumes – from the strange dark masked characters which look like Zuni dancers, to the weird scarecrow type figure the jolly bunny and a sad little turtle boy thrown into the mix. A pretty dark fairy tale.
This card was never used and my sense is that the writing on the back is a later addition although in two different hands so maybe added at different times. It is a bit bleached out so I have increased the contrast a bit with some computer magic. Even with that it is hard to figure out what the heck is going on here.
There is a small figure in the middle with what appears to be a parasol, also dressed in black that looks a bit cat like. My feeling though is that it is some sort of spring planting festival with the scarecrow and bunny – somehow the figures in black are reminding me of corn? The figure in the lower left is a complete mystery – no idea what he or she is about although a happy looking character.
Below I share a more or less contemporaneous photo (via a photo postcard) of the Barker School. I cannot seem to confirm if it exists today or not. It may have been renamed.
I would have loved to have been in school plays like this and perhaps that is part of the appeal of such photos for me. I was always up for dressing up and putting on a show. Combined with this lovely day in Maine in May seems almost irresitable.
PS – I am feeling better today. Tummy winced at my morning coffee, but definitely better.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This great photo postcard appealed to the latent cowgirl in me. I know very little about these things so I don’t know if this nice fringed outfit is real or costume – even her nifty boots have fringe. She wears it with aplomb and a good bit of attitude, riding crop in hand. Undeniably she is an indoor cowgirl here on a living room carpet and in front of a curtained window. Her kerchief and hat are both at jaunty angles.
While I have never been on horseback (nor have I ever resided on a farm, let alone a ranch) I had an early enthusiasm for a fantasy version of them as evidenced by my being an early and avid adopter of the Jane West toys.
There was something endlessly satisfying about the sturdy plastic, jointed limbs. She had a cowgirl outfit molded to her body and heavy rubbery accessories. She was made to stand with some authority (unlike my beloved Barbies who of course had feet designed for perpetual, fashionable high heels) and somehow the fact that she was cast entirely in blue plastic did not detract from her appearance. Jane had a wonderful palomino horse which she could sit astride on.
In my otherwise Barbie-oriented childhood it is a bit hard in retrospect to know what the cowgirl thing was about. Unlike Barbie’s adventures (my Barbie was named for Jo in Little Women and she was a globe trotting journalist), I do not remember the play I dreamed up for her.
Notably Jane did not need a cowboy equivalent of Ken, at least mine did not. In my world she stood on her own and didn’t even deign to date GI Joe – my Barbie’s fallback companion. I believe she is a head taller than both.
My mother was horse-y as a young woman. I am not sure how she started riding, but I know that not coming from a wealthy family she worked mucking stalls along with her childhood friend Jackie so they were able to ride. I gather Mom was mad about horses until one day while they were riding her friend was badly thrown onto a fence. Luckily for her the fence was old and just gave under her otherwise he back would have been broken. It left mom skittish about riding and although my older sister had a few desultory riding lessons I never had the chance to even start.
As a teenager a good friend gave me an excellent vintage Annie Oakley jacket of the softest butterscotch colored suede which she found in her attic. As a very little girls she and her mom had had matching jackets! It was much beloved by me and I wore it until it literally fell to pieces. This was perhaps my best personal cowgirl moment. It was as close as I was to come. (During the pandemic I also read all of the volumes of the Ranch Girls series. A post that touches on them can be found here.)
I came across a Jane West doll several years ago and snatched her up for my toy collection. It felt good to have Jane in the house again and she lives on my shelf, ever ready for some cowgirl action.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Back in February I posted about my recent birthday trip downtown which included a brief foray at the flea market on 26th Street. (That post can be found here.) While there, I quietly picked up this rather splendid postcard to give Kim three days later for Valentine’s Day. It has never been used and there was no writing on it. There is some solarization I cannot quite get rid of when I photograph it. Mostly it has a wonderful and whacky sensibility which I thought would appeal to Kim’s taste.
The seller at the flea market had just a few random letters so I was fortunate to find a D among them, however it also turned out to be an especially good photo from this series. The lyrical looking woman holds apple (?) blossoms in front of this great scene of the two children (girls perhaps) having a photo shoot complete with box camera, tucked inside the letter if you will. We see nothing but the feet and back of one, and the other posing prettily, dressed up, primped, furbelowed and curled, with a flower in hand. A photo within a photo.
The D is painted, as is the scenery landscape beyond the children and somehow they have melded the photograph pieces together by a delicate operation of painted blooms and clouds. It is pretty seamless and I have a bit of a hard time deconstructing how this was put together. As one online source questioned – is it really a photo postcard? It is certainly a hybrid and the photo over painting and photo is delightfully many layered.
I devoted part of the morning to looking for more of these and some information online. (A pleasant trip down a postcard rabbit hole I will say.)They were produced by the Rotograph Company and one source says this series is from 1914. The woman always poses, usually with a floral flourish, in front of the letter and the children appear in tableaus behind her, usually two but sometimes three as in the P I grabbed online below. I like the P, although not as much as the D. For me the two cheeky little girls, sort of up in the tree that makes the P really put it over.
In a continuing search for our initials, I found the B, but like it least of all. Despite the pup in front and a very sweet view of a home in the distance, I find the woman and children less interesting in this arrangement.
To my dismay and surprise, the K turns out to be a bit rarified and I was unable to find a photo of it to examine or snatch for my examination. Instead I offer you the letter E which I found a bit compelling along the way although it doesn’t do us much good. The woman is back in her floral mode and the two kids are hanging out in the middle of the E under an umbrella. I like the sort of marshy scene.
There is a hand tinted version below, but I can’t say I think the tinting improves them really.
Now the D is framed and has a place of pride on the wall, as you head into our kitchen – just across from a wall of Felix photos and under the Little Orphan Annie and Sandy wax cloth dolls.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There is a certain kind of cat photo postcard I am a sucker for and this fits the bill perfectly. These two tabby tigers perch together on this bench in this very homemade photo postcard where someone has taken the time to etch their names in during the printing process.
It is poorly made – even before the intervening decades (more than ten) it was likely faded from poor processing, perhaps tired chemicals or just an inexperienced hand. It is hard to see but the bench that Tiger and Tom pose on may actually be a chair that has lost its back. Hard to tell.
Tiger and Tom look ready to make a break for it so I understand the pressure on the photographer to rush a bit. Cats will be cats and these would like to get on with their play in that big field which was probably full of all kinds of interesting things to chase and marvels to consider and conquer.
On the back, in a clear if youngish hand, it says, Heard you were at the fair. I had a day off but went to Owosso instead. Had a great time. When are you coming to H…ll? Chic and then below, They all call me Chic out here for there are3 Myrtas besides me. It is addressed to Miss Julia Purdy, Fowlerville, Mich. The postmark is indistinct but appears to be from October 26, 1908. Sadly no reference to the puss portraits on the verso.
Spending time at my mom’s house among her numerous kits (I posted about their general ambivalence to me recently which can be found here) I am reminded of the feline politics of a house full of kits. Growing up we always had a waxing and waning (usually waxing) number of cats and you become accustom to their pecking order, the shifting sands of affiliations and turf tussles..
Currently in this house Milty is technically senior cat but so old that he is a bit of a figurehead (shhh, don’t tell him) and it is Beau who is really top cat. He rules with a casual paw for the most part. Gus is a male upstart who is always testing the water with Beau who cuffs him about the head and neck and tells him to get on with his own business. This leaves two girls – the ever bossy Peaches and the so timid now you see her now you don’t Stormy. For some reason we refer to them mostly in a formal way – Miss Peaches, Mr. Milty, etc. This goes for all the caregivers too.
All this to say, I see some interesting combinations and odd bedfellows amongst the participants as they look for strength in numbers and allies. Sometimes I find Peaches and Milty napping uneasily together in a chair, later maybe Gus and Beau having a truce in the side bedroom. Everyone loves the room I sleep in and the office I use as these rooms are closed to them when I am not here. There is a great outpouring of cat interest when these doors open with my arrival.
I will close on a stray cat note. Hobo, a ragged looking male I have taken to feeding (because we don’t have enough cats you say!) who consumes copious cans at a time – the cat has a hollow leg I swear. He showed early this morning for his first three cans of the day. We’ve long wondered where he was entering our yard as it is entirely fenced in. Today I discovered his path and a small hole in the fence, with a well-worn cat path clearly defined!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am in love with this photo and snatched it up as quickly as I could! A timeless image for cat lovers, caught on an early photo postcard. Somehow, even with slower film, someone managed to catch this perfect moment, the woman in her full white long cotton skirt, her hair carefully done. Puss, who was to have his photo taken, probably in her arms, has other ideas.
So lucky that the camera man or woman was quick on the draw! Kit is quite a fluffy furry fellow or miss – tail flying behind him or her – I am betting on him as it appears to maybe be an orange tabby and those are mostly male.
There are leaves on the ground which create a pattern and some space and a Tudor-style house in the background. It is interesting to note that this was used as a Christmas card. Printed on the back with what appears to have been a stamp is some holly and the message, A Merry Xmas to You. Hand written is also, With Mr. &Mrs. Hook’s best wishes 1912, and in the corner just, Jessie Hook.
I like to imagine that the photo, presumably of Jessie, was taken in the early fall and Jessie so amused it became the Christmas card.
It is hard to believe, but here at mom’s there are five cats and almost none will let me pet them. There is of course, Stormy (Cat of Mystery) who will allow no one to pet her – or even see her very often.
For those of you who are new to her story, she appeared one (very stormy) night and my mom put a trap out for her. She strolled into it immediately. After shots and spaying, mom kept her with an eye to finding her a home. Despite some internet pleading on my part, we had no takers and Stormy joined the family – although a bit like a shadow. She appears in the evening most often when the house is at its most quiet. She likes to sleep in a chair near my mom – who never leaves her chair so Stormy likes that stationary aspect of her.
Peaches, another female, was found as a kitten trapped in a basement in a neighboring town, yelling her head off until someone found her. The someone was a friend of my cousin and somehow Peaches also found her way to mom’s house. She is very feral and fiercely keeps humans at a distance of never less than about a foot. Recently though she trusts us enough for a stretch and a roll around on the kitchen floor in front of all of us. I have a long term goal of petting her one day.
Meanwhile, my mom’s cat Beau (Beauregard) is utterly devoted to her. He glared at us humans who are clearly inadequate to the task of caring for her to his standards.
He’s rarely further than the chair next to her. His yellow eyes following our every move. Mom rescued him from a photo she received from a Newark shelter years ago. He somehow understands that she moved heaven and earth to get him and appreciates it.
Beau will allow me to pet him and if necessary I am usually designated to move him if necessary – if mom wants to eat let’s say. I usually put him on my coat for a snuggle which is novel and meets with his approval.
Gus is another stray who wandered into the house a few years ago. He is a very mild mannered cat – a bit under the thumb of Beau and the elder statesman, Milty. He has a major crush on one of mom’s care givers and snuggles with her, but never can let me get more than about three inches away.
Lastly is Milty – he came from a Milton Road in Newark many years ago. Most senior cat, he is approaching his second decade. He is the squeaky wheel of the house and will seat himself in front of you (or on you) and demand food or attention. Occasionally he takes on Beau to remind him he is senior cat and not down yet.
I am missing Kim and my own Cookie and Blackie during this extended stay in New Jersey. However, while I may not get pets with each of the (sometimes) slippery kitties here I appreciate their antics and mom enjoys each and every one and loves being surrounded by them every day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: So many delightful Felix photo posts, however it has been a long time since I acquired a card that was a cat photo like this one. (Although full disclosure, another is racing its way to me for a future post as I write this.)
Unlike many of my recent posts with cards reaching our shores from Britain, this one was both written and received in the state of Kansas, USA. Although I cannot read the indicia clearly, December 22 is legible and the author of the note on the back has added the year 1913, very near the precise 100 year mark. Clearly the photo was taken on a sunny, warmer day than December in Kansas implies.
On the back, in an uneven, elderly hand with a blotting ink, it reads, My Dear Friend Tillie, This was taken in our front-yard, my daughter and I, and our cat – and my large plant we have had for many years. I hope this will find you well and happy. Lena. Upside down at the top she added, will write you before long. Also added appears to be the town send from, Waterloo and December 1913. It was addressed to Mrs. Lillie Hartzell, Rossville, Kansas.
I love this extraordinarily enormous plant, although not exactly sure what it is, maybe a Yucca? Google assures me that those grow quite large and are willing to grow in Kansas. It is magnificent, but made all the better by this the spotty nosed pet puss who has pertly perched there. Kitty looks right at the camera.
Although the dresses of both women are long there is a generational difference in style, the older woman recalling the 1880’s or ‘90’s rather than a reasonably fashionable woman of 1910.
The yard is lovely – leafy and sun dappled on a beautiful afternoon. There is a deep porch with decorative woodwork and a less ambitious potted plant. curtained windows are barely visible and off behind them is smother house or building. I could be wrong, but I vote for another building because maybe there is something similar about it. I can happily lose myself in imaging spending a sunny afternoon like this one in this lovely yard.
This outsized plant reminds me of a snake plant my mom has which currently must reach about five feet high. It has spawned numerous offspring (including this recently, shown below), including a cutting which is now well in its way, residing here at Deitch Studio under the care of Kim’s green thumb. The odd origin story of that plant was that it came to the hospital in a small decorative container in 1962 – sent to my mother (by who she has long forgotten) – in honor of my older sister Loren being born. The plant and its siblings continue to thrive at Mom’s and now here too at Pictorama.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: So those precious few Pictorama readers who are in it for the Felix postcard photos, hold onto your hats for the next week or so because I have a small backlog of Felix and other photo postcards I will be sharing. Starting with this one I share today which is a very recent acquisition.
These three kids appear to have just run outside for a quick pic with Felix which makes me wonder if itinerant Felix photographers just wandered the streets like hurdy gurdy players with their monkeys. The oldest of the three appears to be dressed for weather entirely different than the younger two which lends some credence to my theory.
Unlike most of the folks posing with Felix photos I own, this is in the smaller category of ones that don’t appear to be at an amusement pier, resort or photo studio. There is a subset of photos like this one that appear to be on a residential street somewhere, but the Felix doll is usually a bit smaller. (If you missed them, the posts for the photos below can be found here and here.)
This Felix is nice and big (oh wouldn’t I like to own him!) so it was a commitment if someone was carrying him around, not just tucked under an arm. He has a spectacular large bow, but his ears are flat down and he’s listing a bit. The little girl on his right seems to be holding him up. The youngest child is utterly unimpressed with Felix or the situation. She looks off at something or someone to one side of the photographer. The pose in front of a combination picket and lattice work fence in front of a brick building facade.
The interesting thing about this photo, which I could not see until I held it in my hands, is that it appears to be a dupe. If you look carefully at the top left side of the photo you can see the edge of the original photo before it bleeds into a fade at the bottom. It is a well worn and much handled photo with bent edges and folds and tears at the top. Because it is in rough shape (it is a bit grotty) it is hard to tell that as a result of the generation lost, the image is a tiny bit soft.
In addition, it has a photo postcard back bearing a makers mark, EX-SERVICE MENS NOVELTY PHOTO OR 65, ELMHURST RD., FOREST GATE, ESSEX, followed by a series of numbers which are serial numbers sometimes used to track an image. So someone must have brought the original photo to them to copy and they took a photo of the photo and printed it. The photo studio put their stamp on it so I guess they were reasonably pleased with their handiwork.
Ex-service Men’s Novelty Photo is an interesting piece of its past. I assume it was run by former service men and attempting to attract the same in this post WWI England which provides a sense of time and place. This photo, like many if not all in my collection, has a past of its own which it holds onto and we can only guess at – however there is something about this one which is especially evocative. However, I think it has come to rest in the right place here in the Pictorama collection.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There’s a first time for everything and today I claim a Pictorama first. Our featured photo is one of my husband Kim and his brother Simon. Family photos make occasional entries here, although usually a few generations back and until now always my family. However, Kim’s currently working on a story that involves his Mom, Marie, and her Mom, Kim’s grandmother which means a number of family photos have wandered out of storage and into the apartment for perusing. (See last week’s post here for a pencil detail of the story which also boasts an elephant bank I recently purchased.)
This photo would be Pictorama perfection even if it wasn’t of a young Kim and Simon, which of course does make it that much more interesting. Moon photos are a bit of a sub-genre of the Pictorama library, although it is a competitive market and so I tend to only buy those when opportunity presents itself. (For a moon photo or two you can look early posts here and here.)
I am crazy about this weird rainbow moon with its big lips, staring eye and bushy eyebrow! Kim looks like he’s having a pretty good time and Simon looks a little less sure. (I can’t blame Simon – it would be fair to be terrified of this as a small child perhaps.) Wishing Seat is painted in wavy letters behind them.
A careful look and we see that the “rocks” are all concrete and in a wavy design like hard clouds. There’s a nice little bench to perch on for your photo however and you can lean back against one of the rocks. There are trees behind them and a nondescript bit of greenery up front. The photo is a bit torn on the lower right corner – it looks like it was in an album and removed.
Kim’s already growing into a lanky build that will define him going forward, his hair already thick but cut short so mastered for the moment. Simon will remain a bit shorter, his hair straighter here at least. Kim thinks this would have been taken in about 1951 making him about seven and Si about four I think. (Sadly, Simon died recently and his passing was noted in a post found here. Youngest brother Seth yet to be born.) They were living in Detroit at the time, but Kim speculates that they could have been there or on vacation elsewhere. Car vacations were far flung affairs according to him, so there’s no real way of knowing. It was unidentified on the back so I put some notes in pencil for future generations.
It goes without saying that the moon is eerily and almost comically Deitchian in its demeanor and one can’t help but wonder if a young Kim’s brain was busy recording it and tucking it away for future artistic anthropomorphic cartoon contemplation.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photos came from a collection clearly belonging to a single person or family, parts of which were being sold on IG recently. The photos centered largely around the woman on the front of the motorcycle in the photo on the left. There were numerous photos of her, all with the same great smile and general enthusiasm for what she was doing. I chose this as an especially good example and the other just because all these women driving motorcycles of a certain period are appealing to me.
These photos have no notations on the back and there is no evidence that they were in an album so I guess it could have as easily been a shoebox of photos. There were lovely photos of her at various ages – with dogs and horses, sporting trousers, climbing trees, mugging with friends, at various ages over probably several decades; a life well-lived. They were being sold by my Midwest maven, @missmollystlantiques.
I was sorry to see this group of photos broken up, but by the same token couldn’t really quite justify the whole lot of them in my collection either. So I chose these two as sort of stand alone and noteworthy to add to the Pictorama library and bring to you.
I don’t know much about motorcycles so I can’t comment on the makes or models. Hers as above seems to have sort of saddle bags for transporting stuff hanging off the back wheels. Her older passenger, perched on the back, looks decidedly less comfortable, her hair tied in a scarf, practical shoes and ankle socks. Taking mom out for a ride? Our driver is wearing a spiffy height of style forties jacket, trousers and some sort of mannish oxfords.
The second photo, I believe, is one of the same motorcycle with a different driver. She has taken the sartorial styling to an even higher level and her trim fitted jacket is over a shirt with a collar like a men’s button down. Her hair is a differently exacting style of the time, practical in length but a bit iron clad too.
I have written a bit before about how changing transportation impacted the changing face of the American woman through the early decades of the 20th century – first by bicycle and then with the early days of the automobile (as written about in my post in the series novels The Automobile Girls which can be found here) and the role that mobility played in their growing independence. These motorcycles or motor bikes seem to have a wartime efficiency about them and one can imagine them being pressed into the sort of wartime service a young woman might have taken on in her own town or city.
I have written before (here) and recently shared again, a photo of my young father at a time probably a bit later, with a rickety motorcycle he would take on an adventure across the country. It would give out in California and require that he hitchhike back.
(I purchased another early motorcycle photo from the same source. That photo is below and the post can be found here.)
Meanwhile, there exists somewhere a wonderful snippet of early film of my maternal grandmother and grandfather on their wedding trip to his parents in the midwest (Missouri) on a motorcycle of this period, perhaps a bit earlier. Unfortunately I do not believe there is a still photo image. I saw it many years ago now but my grandmother, a young woman from an Italian immigrant family whose family had settled on the East coast shore town where I was eventually born, looked game for the motorcycle ride but maybe had misgivings about the trip to meet her in-laws. (I have written about her part of the family based on some photos here and here before.)
Her new husband, Frank Wheeling (who was eventually to be my Poppy), had the mind of a gifted engineer which was frequently employed with the tinkering with and building of engines. Not surprising that a young Frank had a motorcycle and I bet it ran like a charm. Boat engines and their building and repair his strong suit which supplemented his income later in life. That the catch from fishing and hunting helped feed the family during the deepest part of the Depression and after.
He’d met my grandmother, Anne, while traveling on a dog racing circuit – no idea what he was doing for them. They settled on the East coast in the shore town where her family was and where I would eventually be born. Poppy could build anything, fix anything and eventually went to work for Bendix where he worked until his untimely death by heart attack in his fifties.
I regret I haven’t spent much time on a motorcycle – it seems a bit late now as I don’t even drive a car. However, I do understand the appeal and I will say the motor bikes that are suddenly popular do have a certain appeal for me.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I feel like it has been awhile since I have had a straight ahead photo post and this is a worthy entry, just in as grabbed off of eBay recently. (This is the first of several – there has been some action on the photo purchase front.) The card was never sent and there is nothing written on as clues about when it was taken or about the girls in it. Their clothes and hair make me think early 20th century.
The girls are so lovely with their pretty matching cotton dresses with big collars and cuffs, their hair pinned up loosely. Each clutches a kitty and a chicken which by any way of thinking is an odd combination, however all the animals seem unperturbed (despite one squirming puss) by this. The chickens actually seem pretty cheerful and sit up contentedly, fluffy and alert, in the arms of the girls.
The cat with his or her back to us (stripes and spots) looks like they would prefer a firmer grasp, but the proximity to our feathered friends does not seem to be especially on his or her mind. The other puss, a nice tuxie, seems fairly content, less squirming there and looking lovingly at the little girl holding her.
My guess is that these are all special pets of the girls and are used to spending a fair amount time together. What lucky little girls to have such nice playmates! It appears like quite the idyll. I think I would have liked tea parties with pet chickens and kitties as a tot.
The girls appear to be twins and fairly identical from what we see here. They look very happy with their pets in this sort of riotous garden, roses at their feet. Sadly the photograph is a bit overexposed (I have done what I can with some electronic magic to improve the quality some) fading out entirely into the sunlight at the top. The edges of the image are soft and add to the dreamy quality of the image and gently yank us back into the pleasant world of this long ago summer day.