Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today’s recent acquisition is a bit of a head scratcher. I purchased him at a Bertoia auction recently. I was laying in bed late one night when I saw the email for the auction. I threw a bid on him and more or less forgot about it until I won and an email invoice showed up, a happy moment indeed.
I know I have seen this toy once or twice before, but the price must have been high or I was too late because I never remember bidding on him. While it is not a common toy; I did find one or two other examples online sold at auction previously. He is memorable though I think and you could almost think it was a hand-painted one of a kind. I have christened this jolly fellow Uncle Felix.
It appears to come from a pattern by a toy maker called Gunthermann (or Guntermann) which seems over the decades, to become something of the epitome of extraordinarily rare and expensive Felix items. I show the Felix merry-go-round below which fetches the price of a good used car at auction these days. (Someone prone to hyperbole on Pinterest called it the rarest toy ever.) Sadly it is unlikely to ever darken my door (I don’t play the lottery) nor am I even likely to see one in person although I would very much like to see it move. The maker is also responsible for a pull toy of Felix chasing mice (shown near top) which seems to always go for a mint as well.
There is no information about my fellow in particular and whatever the relationship between Gunthermann (a German toy company that goes back to the 1890’s) and Mangold is not readily obtainable. The names around the Felix walking toys of this type seems to be interchangeable, although this odd variant seems to go under the Mangold name. Please do enlighten me if you know the facts here.
Above is my own early (albeit beat-up) version of the Gunthermann walking Felix which I wrote about previously in a post found here. Also shown below is the more common version of the same toy pattern. The obvious question is, why did someone decide to disguise Felix in eyeglasses and a cheery black, red and white suit? How many could have been made and sold and why take a popular character make a very popular toy of him and then change it up? His red glasses taking the place of the black circles around Felix’s eyes. Mine wears a nifty white vest with painted buttons, white gloved hands and red trousers (with a pinstripe!) that end in black spats – his tail is painted white.
Uncle Felix does still work, his key winds and his legs do a splendid sort of hopping walk. (He seems too fragile though to try to film it so you will have to take my word for it.) His paint is worn and chipped (and suffered a bit in transit despite careful packing), but his full glory is easy for me to imagine and dream about.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: After a long hectic week I take refuge in toy talk today. When I rolled out bed this morning and walked to a shelf of toys and took this fellow out Kim looked at me inquiringly and said, “Somehow you’ve never written about that particular Felix?” I have not. He arrived at a very busy time around my birthday and just the other day I thought about him, went looking for him and realized that I had unpacked him and tucked him on a shelf without serious consideration.
It probably won’t surprise Pictorama readers to discover that I have many rather compulsive collecting habits, formed and honed over years of searching for certain toys. I receive myriad notifications about auctions and notices about toy cats for sale on various sites such as Ruby Lane which is the origin of this guy. I’m sure there are people who have more refined processes and mine requires mulling through a lot of really dreadful items before occasionally there is something worth investigating. Maybe it is the only way to do it, maybe not.
As I said, this fellow turned up on Ruby Lane whose daily listings are among the worst really, at least based on whatever search I saved there. Infuriatingly, on the rare occasion something great turns up it is generally already sold and don’t even ask me what that’s all about and why they need to tell me. Still, I give it a cursory morning glance each day. It’s like the lottery – you have to be in it to win it.
One morning in early February (while still in bed) I saw this and did a double take. He is 12 inches long (ears included) and made of a fluffy mohair which is unusual, however I have at least one other, very small and very old Felix made of a similar wool. He is, as you can see, oddly pristine making me wonder if he was somehow newly made. Yet a close look at his face pulls me in the direction of older.
This has happened to me once before, back in 2018, and I wrote about it in a post here and the toy is shown below. He is also rather pristine, but of an entirely different type. Although I thought there was also a chance he was somehow newer, he seems even less so than this fellow featured today.
He was very (relatively anyway) inexpensive so, after I had a cup of coffee and could reason a bit, I figured it was worth taking a chance. If I ended up with a weird modern reproduction of an old Felix so be it. I purchased him and he arrived on my birthday, with some other nice items since it was my birthday, and I unpacked him and placed him on the shelf until my examination today.
His head rotates, but his arms are not movable. Most notably his tail is just knitted wool whereas most Felix’s have a stiff tail for better tri-pod style standing. This Felix sports this brand new looking red bow, has shoe button type eyes and nose along with his stitched on Felix grin.
All Felix toys have an expression which helps define them and this one has a benignly slightly cross-eyed one, maybe not too bright but affable. He has long pointy ears, not unheard of in Felix design, but a tad less common. His most notable feature though is the fluffy mohair he is made of which hovers off him like a halo. As mentioned above and shown below, I have another very unusual one (featured in a 2014 post here) with fluffy mohair, but a very different design.
My final analysis is that he is old, but of somewhat mysterious origin. Much like the off-model ones hand assembled on the East End of London (one of my favorite posts about that can be found here) there is a story here about the who and the how this was made which I have yet to figure out. Please send any information you may have. Meanwhile, Pictorama is on the case and will of course share any discoveries ultimately made.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: A number of years ago I wrote about a small wooden box I keep on my desk at my office which Kim made, long before he knew me, and gave to his mother. When closing up her apartment it was one of the items that found its way back to us and Kim gave it to me. I treasure it and keep a few special items in it. I have written about the box (here) and the items housed there (here).
This box is one of the items that remains in my midtown office which has not migrated back to my desk here at the apartment. It keeps me company there when I make my occasional work visits to Columbus Circle.
Unexpectedly I recently had the chance to purchase an elephant box for Kim in turn, just before Valentine’s Day this year. A few months back I had added a new vendor to my Instagram feed (@lucyameliaeastwood) and a steady stream of bits of early 20th century British detritus in the form of Bakelite bits, jewelry, shoes and dresses from the 1940’s, now washes over me more or less daily. The jewelry is of the sort that I would routinely purchase if the shop was down the street and visited periodically (think cheerful glass bead necklaces, clip on and screw back costume earrings aplenty), but for the first several months I didn’t see anything which merited me ordering it from Great Britain.
Then this wonderful elephant box appeared and it caught my eye immediately. Still, to order such a relatively small item to be shipped all the way from England, to be packed and shipped seemed like a lot to ask of the seller. As I weighed it, the rather splendid celluloid butterfly (above) also showed up and those combined did indeed seem like a reasonable request. (I have written about the strange interest in insect jewelry which has overtaken me during this long pandemic Instagram season. That post can be found here. The British seemed to make a lot of jewelry with an insect theme in the dawning decades of the 20th century – the war torn years. I wonder if there is a correlation with that and also with their appeal to me at this pandemic time?)
Readers of Pictorama know that the fragility of celluloid generally worries me despite the attraction of its ephemeral beauty. I fret that the rough and tumble of life here at Deitch Studio (there are cats! it is small and crowded!) does not seem like a safe landing for fragile items, but we make occasional exceptions. (I wrote about my fear of fragile celluloid purchases in a post here.)
However this little fellow made the perfect Valentine gift for Kim. We think he is rather splendid in his early plastic, ivory-like appeal, his trunk up for good luck and prosperity. I wonder what it held originally, if anything, or if just produced for the likes of us looking to fill it with something.
Elephants are a bit of a theme or subculture here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama. A rather splendid metal toy, a Kim find, resides on a shelf at the foot of our bed. Meanwhile, in his next book Kim has a great elephant story – it is sitting, inked and awaiting publication at the other end of the table I write from while he finishes the last stories for the appendix of his next book.
For the moment, the elephant box is living on Kim’s desk atop some volumes which are permanent fixtures there and the butterfly pin (also very fragile and I think can only be worn in a way where it won’t encounter a jacket or an errant purse strap) is with it and may ultimately reside within. A spot in a calm spot on a shelf, one where books do not come and go too often, will be found for it, protected from the hurly burly of life here at Deitch Studio.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy acquisition is part of the loot from lightening striking multiple times at one online toy sale in Britain this fall. Within a few hours I had redistributed some hard earned cash to three dealers. One was a small purchase, a wonderful postcard though of a girl in hunting garb aiming at a Steiff teddy. (That post can be read here.)
Today’s Jeep came from a dealer whose toys seemed to skew more toward traditional bears and dolls than somewhat obscure comic characters. She was lovely however and I will hope there is a chance to do future business with her.
As it happens, I have always had a soft spot for the Jeep and frankly had no idea that Deans Rag Company produced one, but as soon as I saw this one I snatched it happily up. For those who have not read the original Segar Popeye strip, I say do yourself a favor and settle in with the full run and have a good old read. I originally read the dailies serially via a wonderful edition of hard cover books that our friends at Fantagraphics published years ago. (They have subsequently published the Sundays as well.) The full glory of Popeye in his native medium bears little resemblance to the somewhat limited range of the animated cartoon character of my childhood and it was one of the nicest rabbit holes I ever headed down in comics.
Among the discoveries, such as characters Ham Gravy and Castor Oil, was Eugene the Jeep. The Jeep, for those of you who have not encountered his mystical self, is a dog-like animal from Africa who can, (among other things) appear and disappear at will, walk on his hind legs, always tells the truth, and can utter the single word, Jeep! (Wikipedia has a rather cogent explanation of him and his back story which can be found here.) The Jeep represents a sort of the high point of that strip for me – a charming and mystical character which possesses somewhat limited if extraordinary powers.
The first mention of the Jeep appears in March of 1936, although he takes his place in the strip later in 1938. While researching this and the dates associated with it I had a moment of wondering how the first mention might have intersected with the introduction of Punjab into the Little Orphan Annie strip. The equally mystical Punjab was introduced into that strip almost exactly a year before in February of ’35. Makes me wonder if it inspired Segar or if there was something else afoot in the world that inspired both. I am not well versed enough in these things to say, but will perhaps pose the question to one of our better informed friends such as Bill Kartalopoulus, comics historian. Maybe it was just in the air. (The question of whether or not the army vehicle with this moniker has the strip as the origin remains somewhat unclear to me, but is definitely possible.)
Much like Krazy Kat, and even Felix to some extent, the relatively simple shape of this character seems to have inspired somewhat strangely inaccurate three dimensional recreations and I have looked for a splendid soft Jeep toy for a very long time. Kim has spoken of one that passed through his hands in the late 80’s which I have had trouble finding. I think it might be this model below, just spotted on eBay.
While the earnestness of this Dean’s Rag incarnation cannot be denied, down to the lucky four leaf clovers which decorate him, somehow he is a bit off kilter. He is about 7 inches in height. (I have not had a chance to dig really deep to see if he came in a number of sizes, although as a rule Deans character toys did. Having said that he does seem a tad rarified so there isn’t much online. Somewhere I have a CD which has the history of the Dean’s catalogue on it which will enlighten me if I can find it.) My example has a small tear on the neck and toward the tip of the tail. The only other example I can find has a worse tear at the tail with stuffing emerging – at first I thought it was a characteristic of the toy.
He has, as is necessary, the wonderful Dean’s Rag Book Company imprint on the soles of his feet. (For some reason those imprints fill me with great joy – if I were to come back in a future life as a vintage toy I would very much want to be a Deans Rag toy proudly sporting this indicia.)
As toy collector and seller Peter Woodcock pointed out in an email these small toys soiled and tore easily with handling and did not survive in large numbers. (Peter will emerge further as a subsequent character in the tale of this sale as he parted with something truly delightful which I purchased as well.) A quick look over at Mel Brinkrant’s collection shows a few pristine examples, as well as one or two other examples I must keep my eye out for – I can see the corner of another of the Deans Rag ones and I would say yes, it is larger. (For all things Mel and his beyond extraordinary collection you can go here. Talk about a happy rabbit hole!)
Researching this wonderful toy has reminded me that within these cramped four walls is a new volume of the pre-Popeye Thimble Theater strips. (It can be found here on Amazon.) I think I need to curl up with that oversized volume in bed for the remainder of the weekend. It is snowing gently outside and I cannot think of a better way to wile away this afternoon and evening.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This morning I dug into pile of photos next to my desk and came across this one which I have absolutely no memory of purchasing – none whatsoever. It does happen, although rarely and more frequently with unframed snapshots where I might purchase a lot of several. It must have come from an IG sale as I can’t imagine how I would have stumbled across it on eBay. The photo is framed with the back sealed so no idea if there is information on the back. Strangely, there is no way to hang it on the back, nor a way to prop it up.
Clearly the antique toy car appealed to me and these two kids seem to agree as they look mighty pleased with themselves. Really, what kid, boy or girl, wouldn’t feel like they were at the top of the world with such an item? This car is a bit battle scarred, but that does not diminish how wonderful it must have been to be driving it. These kids are clearly sister and brother; they could even be fraternal twins.
Without seeing much of the yard I suspect that they had plenty of room to take her around in as well. (I saw a kid with an impressive motorized car in a high rise driveway on 86th Street recently and thought that it must be frustrating to have such limited opportunity to drive such a great item. Also, it really is the ability to be independent and to get away from adults – right?)
The paint on this car is faded and streaked, but the steering wheel sits up proudly and there is some sort of a windshield as well. We can only see the back of them but there are headlights on the front, a grill along the side (as sporty cars would have had at the time), these nice wheels and we can see the pedal mechanism underneath. The boy is sitting on the back and looking carefully it appears that there was some sort of area without a seat which might have enabled hauling small loads or perhaps a second rider.
These kids are in what appears to be a backyard, wooden frame house and a bushy bit of garden are behind them. Further back a wooden fence and more bushy grasses behind some cinderblock edging or in planters, hard to tell, but the yard looks like a good one to ride such a car in.
Locomotion is a prized thing for a kid. I was the proud owner of a pink and white two-wheeler with a chipper basket, but was somewhat hampered by living near busy streets my folks didn’t want me on. Our neighbors have a little boy, Eliot, who currently sports a scooter with wheels that light up as it goes. He and his dad were taking it for a spin in the hall on their way to the laundry room the other day and Kim and I paused to share our real admiration of it. Scooters abound in New York City right now – those you push with your foot and a motorized variety that I think was largely nixed for safety, but you still see them. Kids and adults alike use them, sometimes together.
The pandemic more or less coincided with the rise of the motorized bike here in New York City. These are largely employed by food delivery people and I read an article recently that there is a problem with them being stolen. Kim and I agree that they are pretty great and I think we’d both like a try at one, although since our bike years are far behind us and neither of us really drives perhaps better if it doesn’t happen.
As kids though, from tricycles, to two-wheelers, wagons, skateboards, scooters and all the rest we are fascinated with those things that allow us to go, fast or slow, to haul or coast. And if you were lucky enough to have a fine ride such as this you are mighty lucky and you knew it.
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I’m not sure I remember a Pictorama post falling on Boxing Day, but here we find ourselves on a sunny if cold New York City day post-Christmas as we do our best to shove 2020 behind us. Kim and I were recently speaking of Boxing Day and I looked up its history. It started in the 1830’s in Britain and it was a day to be charitable – boxes were taken to the poor and were given to servants who got the day off as well. It spread to the British colonies and remains a holiday there whereas, as we know, traditionally the day after Christmas in this country is usually about shopping. Of course nothing is really usual about this year, and I cannot imagine stores teeming with post-Christmas folks under the current Covid circumstances.
Our own Christmas was celebrated with just us and the felines here on 86th Street, a Zoom call to New Jersey with my mom, cousin and friend Suzanne in the afternoon sadly substituting for an annual visit. In order to cheer us up I made a rather amazing bouillabaisse if I do say so myself – a sort of quick and cheaty one that has its origins with my grandmother, but I have manipulated a bit over time. (I managed six of the seven fishes – seven if you count the anchovy paste!) I served it with homemade corn muffins and a red pepper compound butter. Before I brag on myself too much I will admit that I forgot to consider dessert entirely and ran out to the store and acquired a frozen Dutch apple pie. Frankly it did the job just fine and I confess, diet be damned, I am looking forward to eating some for breakfast today. Yum.
Christmas was a cold, stormy day here with a wind whipping around – I discovered just how bad when I made that run to the store. Jazz at Lincoln Center unexpectedly announced that they were giving us all two weeks off over the holiday and I am easing into a blissful state of extra sleep and pajama wearing – house cleaning will follow I hope, as I have ignored the state of it long enough and one should go into the New Year with a clear mind and house I suspect. All this to say, I have not yet enjoyed the aforementioned improved weather but look forward to some outdoor exercise in a bit – New Year’s resolutions are lurking just around the corner to be sure.
However, the aspect of Christmas which was traditional and in no way disappointing were the toys Santa, aka Kim, brought me! Two absolutely wonderful toys, the first featured today by way of Bertoia auctions shown above. (Of course I still enjoy receiving toys on Christmas – not a surprise to Pictorama readers I am sure.)
This extraordinary wind-up toy was identified as a French Krazy Kat with no additional information. He is entirely unmarked, stands at about 8 inches, with a metal body covered in a heavy felt suit. His head and hands are composition and you can see that he probably fell on his face a lot from the chipping on his nose – his one ear is also a bit nibbled down. Despite that he is in pretty extraordinary condition, and of course it should be noted that I believe he is a Felix not a Krazy Kat. It should also be noted that his wind-up key is permanently affixed to him, not removable.
I have never seen a toy like him and would appreciate any information folks might have about his origins. His mechanism spring is a bit shot or over-wound and I have only achieved a few bits of a hopping, splayed leg gait out of him (he fell on his face immediatley) which is too bad because I have seen enough to know it must have been comical. He is smaller and more delicate than the more typical wind-up mohair Felix, one that seems to always lose one foot. My example shown above. I assume that because of his composition parts this fellow didn’t last and few of these seem to be knocking around. I wrote about the one above and another more or less one-of-a-kind wind-up Felix toys, shown below, in a post that can be found here. While I had never seen that one before I was certainly familiar with the wind-up function he was built on.
So, we start to close out 2020 with a house full of leftovers and a moment to catch our collective breath. For those of you who still have some cooking ambition in you, or need a New Year’s meal, I lay out the basics of my fish stew below. Enjoy!
Fish Stew or Quick Bouillabaisse Recipe:
Saute onions, garlic and chopped carrots with salt and pepper until they begin to brown, add additional veggies. I like a little potato to thicken, green beans and a bit of corn. (If you are using corn on the cob you can wait and drop the full ear into the soup to cook and cut the corn off after – that will add taste and additionally thicken soup. I used frozen corn this time.) Add in a bit of anchovy paste and a smidge of tomato paste.
Add in fresh fish of choice, about a pound of each – I used a bit of halibut (skinned) although any thicker white meat fish will do, and cut it into bite-size chunks, I added shrimp, and scallops and let cook. I like to add a lobster tail or some crab legs and it does well to add them in here too if they aren’t frozen which my lobster tail was this time. (Snow crab legs are great, but messy to eat later – this was a faux lobster tail belonging broadly to the lobster family with sharp sprine-y bits – ouch!, but I was able to take it out after it had cooked and add the fish meat back into the stew so no eating time mess.)
Deglaze the pot with a cup or so of wine or vermouth. The cheating part starts here (and I am pretty sure this is my addition to this recipe) with some canned fish options. I start with a can of clams, with their liquid included, and this time added a tin of smoked oysters. (I prefer mussels but oysters was all the market had to offer and they were just fine. This is a very forgiving recipe.)
Here’s the big cheat – add a bottle of clam juice AND a large container of Clamato juice (I have often wondered what other use Clamato juice has in life – do people drink it? Make cocktails with it?) Also add a large can of chopped tomatoes at this stage. This creates a substitute fish broth base. I added fresh chopped basil and wide leaf parsley. I like basil in it in particular, but again this is another place where you can be creative. I also added a bit of oregano and at this stage adjust your seasoning overall – I tend to have been adding a bit of salt and pepper with each addition of fish. Bring to a boil and then simmer for at least 40 minutes.
If pressed, you can happily eat this immediately, but the real trick is to cool it down and refrigerate it over night. A glorious change takes place and it is even more amazing! Great dish for company made the day before and then only needs to be heated before serving.
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It’s back to basics today with a toy cat post! I have a photo or two of kids with this type of toy and a post where I lost a Felix version at auction which I desperately wanted. (That post can be found by clicking Jimmie and His Cat Toy) I found this little fellow on eBay where I was the only one interested in him and picked him up for very little.
He is a tad smaller than I expected, almost exactly the length and width of my hand. He has white pearl button eyes and I regret that one errant whisker has come loose. He is made of a soft leather and that has become a bit fragile with age so it is probably best that he has come to rest in a relatively quiet cat collection here at Pictorama.
What you cannot tell is that he has a delightful crunchy filling – beans or rice maybe? The tactile experience of holding him is sort of wonderful and is the reason for the title of this post. I can easily imagine slipping him in my pocket and carrying him around, demanding that he be with me when I was tucked into bed at night. (Pictorama readers might remember that my own childhood talisman was a dog named Squeaky. I wrote about him in a post you can find by clicking here.) He has an understanding face as well, a bit concerned but earnest. Like my real cat, Blackie, I will dub him to be a lucky black kitty.
I cannot decide if he was homemade, from a kit maybe, or inexpensively mass produced. There are enough of them, all similar, to say it was at least a kit. His stitching is a tad uneven, his upper paws gone over twice, his “left” arm double sewn. I have never seen evidence of the kits if they existed, but I would say it was more than just a pattern as they seem to all be made of the same lightweight leather, easier sewing than leather might imply. I would say that, at least in his day, he would be considered a durable little fellow, easily wiped clean after the occasionally sticky or messy encounter.
All in all, he seems like an ideal toy really. I cannot imagine what if any his equivalent is now, but for the small children of today, I certainly hope there is one.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Frankly I don’t remember exactly when this Felix family photo wandered into Deitch Studio, but when I was clearing a work space for myself it turned up. It is a small photo, sort of 3″x5″, and June 1927 is all that is written, in ink, on the back.
There is great contrast in this photo between the family sporting their best summer bib and tucker and the pleasantly rundown and overgrown yard they pose in. Why they have grabbed up these two good size composition Felix-es is of course also utterly mysterious. Each is held by one of the be-suited men. The third man has one of the women perched on his knee and the second woman is tucked between them, all posed on these inviting broad steps – just meant for sitting on.
The porch is inviting, or at least it is to me from the limited environs of Deitch studio at the moment. There is a deep wooden rocking chair almost out of sight and a less comfortable chair where a newspaper was hastily abandoned in a heap atop of it – the reader perhaps hopping up to pose for the photo. The early summer is unfurling into lush, green overgrowth around them. I think of upstate New York, but it could be many places. (I tried to check but I cannot find a purchase history to see where it even shipped from.)
The phenomena of having your photo taken with Felix is of course the original premise of this blog. However, even as someone who has collected many photos of people posing with Felix (usually the human-sized stuffed ones of seaside resorts and fairs – an example can be found here if you are new to Pictorama) these sorts of family snap shots with Felix remain a bit cryptic to me. Had they just won them at a fair perhaps?
I remain somewhat baffled by family photos where folks just snatch up a Felix statue or toy for the family photo – was the message that Felix was an important part of the family? Or just such a part of the times – they probably didn’t realize that it would eventually mark their family photo as somewhat iconic of the period.
Meanwhile, I cannot imagine the equivalent for my family growing up. (Despite having been the daughter of a photographer we didn’t do a lot of family photos and they were sort of starchy compared to these folks and their Felix dolls. There are no photos of me and Barbie – there is only one of me with a toy that I can think of and I wrote about it a long time ago here and I once again share me and the much loved Squeaky below.) I have a clutch of other photos from the late 1920’s and early ’30’s with Felix joining the family for a photo. Off the top of my head though, I want to say those photos are all from Britain and it is usually a stuffed Felix that gets the place of honor. (One of those posts can be found here.)
Me with my beloved toy dog Squeaky, probably around 1968
Whatever the early 20th century motivation for posing with Felix toys, I am glad to see these treasure turn up today – sometimes finding new ones in my own apartment. Let’s see what else turns up here at Pictorama, shopping in our own closet as it were, for items of interest while enduring and also enjoying bunker days here.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s a porcine weekend here at Pictorama starting with this Three Little Pigs mug I purchased for my birthday. Much like mice (mostly Mickey) and dogs, pigs seem to make up a sub-genre of the Pictorama collection. I’m fond of the little fellas. I keep a particularly nice plastic one on my desk at work (a post that includes him can be found here) and I purchased a very snappy wind-up version from my same beloved toy vendor in Chelsea a few years back. (Pause to advertise for the Antique Toy Shop New York whose website can be found here.) Like this mug, that wind-up, shown below (the post can be found here) is a marketing tribute to the Disney animated classic of The Three Little Pigs and the juggernaut of toys that came out of that film.
And of course there was the recent unexpected purchase of my (absolutely splendid) stuffed Wolf recently. He has the honor of sitting on my bedside table and I will say, I like to sleep at eye level with his clever little, hoary paw feet. The Wolf has quickly become a favorite item. (That entire post is here.)
When I went to pluck today’s mug off a high bookcase shelf this morning I realized it is virtually identical to the Little Orphan Annie mug I keep up there as well. (China lives on high cat-proof shelves here at Deitch Studio!) I show them together below. The Little Orphan Annie mug (detailed in a post here) was a Kim find and gift to me. While its markings, Manufactured exclusively for the Wander Co., Chicago, Makers of Ovaltine, fail to identify S.C. Co Patriot China as identified on the Pig mug, it is clearly the same company.
A quick search turns up plenty of Disney related items (I feel a Mickey Mouse version of this mug coming on for me) there was not much history about the company itself easily found. Clearly they had a significant Disney contract as well as the Ovaltine novelty one. As per my post, the Little Orphan Annie mug predates this one by a few years. However, the style and molds are identical.
This Pig mug is pretty raucous. The Piggies are standing atop of a firmly trounced Wolf, looking like a Wolf-rug here, singing their Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf song. (I like this Sing-Along version on Youtube, here.) A look at the lyrics below are a reminder that the story is a bit of Ant and the Grasshopper tale of the pig who works hard to build his house of bricks as opposed to his brethren who slap theirs together out of straw and sticks. Luckily the brick house building pig is charitable and rescues the others and they defeat the Wolf.
Written by Frank Churchill with additional lyrics by Ann Ronell and featured in the 1933 cartoon, the song had long legs of its own and was recorded by numerous artists. It is one of the most popular to come out of the Disney canon.
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf The big bad wolf, the big bad wolf Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf Tra la la la la
Long ago there were three pigs Little handsome piggy wigs For the big, bad the very big, very bad wolf They did not give three figs
Number one was very gay And he built his house with hay With a hey hey toot he blew on his flute And he played around all day
Now number two was fond of jigs And so he built his house with twigs Hey, diddle diddle he played on his fiddle And danced with lady pigs
Number three said, “Nix on tricks I shall build my house with bricks” He had no chance to sing or dance ‘Cause work and play don’t mix
Ha, ha, ha, the two little do little pigs Just winked and laughed ah, woo
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf The big bad wolf,…
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers and other Deitch Studio fellow travelers know that there is a wonderful tradition of Kim making me my very own special valentine each year. It is the most beloved manifestation of my uber Deitch fan status and today I share it with you all.
One recent year Kim drew the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as a cat band for me (that one can be found here) and in 2017 Kim’s work on Reincarnation Stories had our minds focused on our 86th Street apartment building morphing into a rollicking toy museum for me, which in turn inspired the valentine that year. (Reincarnation Stories, that extraordinary missive, can be purchased here should you somehow be without a copy and that valentine post is here.)
Recently, I was strolling through ebay, looking over the array of Felix items and wondering specifically about a certain kind of china Felix I do not collect. Much of it seems to be promotional item give aways made by British Pathé Films. There are small ashtrays, match holders, miniature jugs, and things best described as gewgaws. They must have been universally saved as they are very available, almost a hundred years later.
Pictorama readers also know that given the confines of our studio apartment (which I like to pretend expands magically to house an infinite number of toys, but in reality not really) and our two felines who race through (and up and down) it daily, I am somewhat discrete in my collecting and try to keep fragile items to a minimum. Therefore, there is a world of early Felix I have not really touched. In addition, there are tea sets and other space hogging items I must refrain from acquiring or threaten to tip the gentle ecosystem of our abode. (I have opined on my vision of a Felix filled home in my post Living the Felix Life which can be found here.)
However, on this day as I was looking I was fantasizing about a seaside British cottage, filled to the brim, positively sparkling, with all these Felix items. As if somehow this woman collected them all in the late 1920’s and kept them all to perfection. Kim asked about my thoughts for the valentine right at that moment and over my morning coffee I conveyed that vision (very ineptly, I have to admit), to Kim who then somehow managed to translate it PERFECTLY in this valentine. Yay, Kim!
He asked me to do some image research so he could better see what I was talking about. And the real find during that research was this image from Getty below. Wow, wow, wow! This is one of the best Felix photographs I have ever seen. I must find a way to get a real copy from Getty somehow so I can hang it on my wall. (Look at the Felix dolls stuffed in their belts!) The big winking Felix in the middle finds a place of honor on my valentine and I get to wear the cool Felix girl outfit!
Getty Image photo
Although in one sense I art direct the valentine, our largely unspoken division of labor means I generally do not make a lot of specific requests about execution concerning things like color. This year I think I surprised Kim with the request that my dress be orange. I think it mystified him a bit, but he has given me my orange dress and I do love it. Perfect.
Of course, Kim’s version of Felix memorabilia is far more ribald and raucous than any reality. Felix is tooting on a nippy hookah while I serve him tea; dancing animated Felixes make up the tablecloth edge (wouldn’t I love to own that); and Cookie and Blackie (who, as I write is trying to push me off the computer chair) make an appearance. Blackie is behind the hookah and Cookie is behind a Felix urn where she eyes her tail suspiciously. (Cookie, even as a very adult kitty, still chases her tail constantly. I think she’s convinced me that a demon really does reside there that periodically needs subduing.)
Of course, out the window is a jolly scene which is the East River version of my fantasy. There’s a Mickey Mouse running off the page and there will be more about him to come in future posts. (Think birthday gift.) A crazy Felix clock, the traditional one crossed with an especially good Norakuro one we were admiring online. Tea Time! Tea Time!
And there you have it, the 2020 Deitch Studio Valentine and it is a beaut! Thank you so much Kim! I am the luckiest wife in the world.
Meanwhile, I think maybe next year we need to make our way into the Felix tea room those women were beckoning us into…