Contained

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a long-standing passion for acquiring those things which might contain others. By this I mean I find it hard to pass up cabinets and boxes. This means I find great comfort in wandering the aisles of a certain kind of home goods store fantasizing about organizing my life (and never taking the time to do it), however it is antique versions that are like catnip to me.

In the past I have written about a large, Krak-R-Jak tin on my home office desk which contains cards awaiting their eventual destination (that oddly popular post can be found here), one that contained Nestle nibbles which moved to my mom’s house (post found here) and finally, on another occasion, I wrote about an antique display case which I purchased locally as part of a vintage haul which I wrote about here in 2019.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection, taken shortly after acquisition in December of ’19.

I recently had to control myself over a Instagram post for a nifty little wood and glass display cabinet, forcing myself to look around the apartment and focus on where exactly I thought such a thing might fit. The joy of the thing that holds other things is that it holds the enticement of greater organization as a bonus. Not only this nifty object, but it will improve your life. (Now you get a real glimpse of how my mind works.)

Of course, not all boxes and containers are created equal and some really do serve said function and others sort of sputter and fail in the attempt. The failures really could produce several posts of their own. I went through a period of thinking that tins (not tin boxes which have worked well actually) were a good storage idea. Turns out they are not – always a bit hard to open they lack the easy access that turns out to be one of the hallmarks of happy and frequently used storage. They tend to look nice scattered around however.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Does it go without saying that one of the reasons storage appeals is because I own so much stuff? And live in a small space?

Recently without really focusing on it I have begun to acquire antique boxes for my jewelry. I own several jewelry boxes (including one wooden one that was my grandmother’s which my mom found and had refinished for me many years ago) and many of my rings and smaller pins live in a nice, but rather common faux leather travel box I would date from the forties I picked up somewhere in a bulk box buy I don’t quite fully remember. I have my sister’s jewelry boxes although I don’t use them regularly and instead store things in them. They do not quite work for me.

Corbin Cat Trays which hold my jewelry! Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Rings, necklaces and earrings that came in boxes tend to stay in their boxes, although there are a few exceptions for pieces worn very frequently. (I refer here mostly to the “before time” when I wore and regularly rotated through my rings during the work week. My ring and jewelry wearing has not yet nearly reached pre-pandemic levels. I don’t think I have worn a bracelet in more than two years. My gold bangles languish. The healed broken ring finger still rebels against my wedding band.)

For all of this I have to admit that my most frequently worn jewelry lives in a series of dishes and piles in an unholy mess on my dresser which needs to periodically be set right.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

A few months back an amethyst ring (birthstone birthday gift to myself) I bought on Instagram came in a lovely antique box – not its original one but an ancient purple one that it nestles in nicely. I like the way it snaps open with the click of a tiny mother-of-pearl button.

Family engagement ring trying out this vintage box this morning. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Recently, @therubyfoxes (aka Mia) was running an IG sale and I purchased this nice ring box above (I had just missed a group sale of several while I tried to figure out where exactly to find said sale – sometimes I think I am of less than average intelligence about such things!) and a lovely little travel case. I will need to decide which ring in the box and which items will find a home in the case. (Not only did Mia have to send a video instruction on opening said box, but further instruction once it arrived. The good news is that once I get the hang of things I do tend to remember them. I clearly did not inherit the mind of my maternal grandfather the engineer.)

Gabriella Kiss ring on top and two favorites from Muriel Chastanet, a favorite jeweler in Los Angeles, below. Insects flew in yesterday with the boxes!

And because it is nice to buy things to put in the boxes, I also purchased a coterie of insect pins from her which I really love and I can’t wait to decorate myself in the crawling and flying fellows for spring and summer. Some earlier purchases of butterflies and a celluloid dragonfly have been very popular on my lapels this spring already. (The butterflies, purchased from @wassail_antiques were evidently made by British POW’s during WWI and posts about those pins and the dragonfly can be found here and here.) Maybe the new case will be all insects.

Will more boxes lead to greater organization? Hard to say. I’m afraid that my track record implies otherwise, but it can’t hurt to try.

Newsworthy

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Many ongoing Pictorama readers know that my father, Elliott Butler, was a career cameraman for ABC News. Therefore, news of all sorts has been digested by my family in a variety of fashions but with great gusto over the years. A background of television and radio news is among my earliest childhood memories.

The radio news issued all day and into the evening from a large (12″x18″ ish?) brown box of a radio which sat atop of the refrigerator in each house we lived in until the last, when somehow it magically disappeared. It was on an all-news station almost all of the time, at least until my sister was old enough and tall enough to occasionally turn it to music. Back it would ultimately go to the staple of news however. (My mother allowed my sister her way with music in the car more often, but oddly I have little or no memory of every changing either. It was easier not to get in the middle of their minor tugs of war I guess.)

A reasonable facsimile of the radio I remember gracing our kitchen for years. It must have been purchased before my father’s affection for all electronics Sony.

In those years television news was consumed mostly in the early evening and again later at night. It was viewed on a scratchy black and white television at first (I have vague memories of the landing on the moon viewed on the smallest and almost impossible to see little portable television). Occasionally we would watch a different television channel in an attempt to see my father filming a major story for his channel. A very large man, 6’5″, he towered over most of the other folks. He always wore a distinctive hat and these made him easy to spot.

This was one of Dad’s favorite styles of work hats.

As a small child I thought I would grow up to be a journalist. There is a photo of tiny tot Pam dressed up like a reporter which is on display in Mom’s house. I may take a picture of it and add it to this post when I am there later in the upcoming week. I held onto this thought as a possible career into adolescence, but it faded as my interest in visual art grew over time. I don’t think I would have been well suited to it in the end and I think it was mostly a response to wanting to be like my dad.

A whole post could be devoted to my father’s work wardrobe which was devised with a stunning combination of practicality and his mother’s underlying sartorial sensibility. I look at images of how cold it is in the Ukraine and I know my father would have been there sporting an Eddie Bauer long down coat which covered even his long frame (the size of a sleeping bag to a young me) and down trousers to match for extreme cold. Layers of long underwear and wool (he was religious about wool socks in winter cold and for a quiet man he could nonetheless preach their virtues and how wool keeps you warm even when wet), would have been topped with a wool (itchy) watch cap on his head.

In warmer weather he favored safari suits for their myriad pockets which light meters and other tools of his trade might be stuffed. Years of standing outside for hours a day helped fine tune his work clothing to a perfect pitch.

Ad for a version of the safari suit dad favored throughout his career.

Dad bought for quality as well as practicality though and he liked shopping, unlike my mother who frankly has barely ever noticed what she wears as long as it is temperature appropriate and not confining in anyway. (My mother has a hatred of pantyhose which is well documented in the family. You could sometimes coax her into a pair of tights if weather permitted, but an event which required pantyhose of her roused her ire immediately. She often threatened to just strip them off and leave them on the sidewalk as she had seen stray pairs thus on the streets of New York. My mom imagined women like herself who couldn’t take it another minute.) I inherited my father’s love of clothing and fabrics although in terms of style and design we differed some.

My father was equally at home in a suit and owned a fair number of them. There are things he never wore – shorts and cotton or linen suits number among them, as was any fiber that wasn’t natural. I believe this impacted my own opinion of what men (as in boyfriends and eventual spouse) should wear. He had specific ideas about my attire and I wish I had asked my sister if he tried to impress these on her as well because oddly I don’t remember that he did, but no one ever really told Loren what to do.

A vintage men’s long Eddie Bauer made coat of the type Dad favored.

The background of radio news helped my mother gauge if my father might be called away or kept at work. It was local New York news on the radio in those days although we always lived in a New Jersey suburb. My mother’s brother, John Wheeling, worked for CBS radio and so that was the radio station of choice. (He had a variety of jobs writing, producing and on-air, a few years in sports at the end of his career. He once did an on-air report on a hurricane from our house, surrounded as we were by flooding waters.) As I said, we were a news family. Between the commute and his schedule we rarely had dinner with dad and I was always surprised by my friends who had set dinner hours for when their father would come home from work each day. Other than weekends and vacations it was a novelty to find him home in time for dinner with us as small children.

Dad woke to a clock radio of also tuned to news, loud enough to wake the whole house at least briefly. I too still wake to a clock radio, but with the more soothing sounds of WQXR classical radio although hungry cats have sometimes gotten to us first.

A parade of clock radios, all Sony I think, through my childhood and young adulthood. One of mine caught fire once when I was in my 20’s as I remember.

For most of his career my father traveled to news locations across the country and the world. First using film which would need to be developed before going on air, grabbed by three in the afternoon by messengers who would get it back to the newsroom, then moving to video and finally the ability to send it via phone lines and satellite for broadcast. News bureaus did not exist robustly across the country and the world in the early days of news and he would travel, frequently by car but sometimes by air, on a routine basis, storing up a list of restaurants and stores he liked to visit in towns across the US and occasionally countries he went back to visit later.

A bit earlier I think, but reasonably close to the Sony portable tv’s I knew.

As a media consuming family, transistor radios and portable televisions multiplied around my childhood home. I was very attached to both and have memories of carrying a small Sony radio around with me, not to mention hours spent in front of a small black and white (also Sony) television in my room.

My fondness for clock radios continues today with a series of Sony cubes to wake me at home in the morning.

His work was of course occasionally dangerous. He covered riots at a time when the news wasn’t seen as friendly or potentially necessary documentation of an event. He hung out of helicopters and traveled to areas of political unrest. He knew colleagues who were killed while on the job in war torn areas and he was smart to take his safety seriously. I cannot watch television news without worrying about the crew in dangerous situations. In my mind my father is always among them.

Dad, next to the man in the red shirt, in an undated photo I also used in a January ’20 post.

In his retirement he himself became very attached to radio news – an amazing fondness for NPR and also a show called Car Talk notable since he had little interest in the mechanics of vehicles. Sometimes I would find him returned from a trip in the car, sitting in the driveway until some story or segment ended. In the last years of his life he would be peevish about CNN and how often their stories repeated on a loop which he would nonetheless watch. Meanwhile, my mother has in turn become a CNN addict and it is on the television in her house constantly. Her flatscreen television so large I believe I can see the pores on the news anchor’s faces.

I think a slightly later model, but definitely along the lines of the one I proudly carried around as a child.

After a year of Covid and election coverage frequenting our television I banned CNN and television news in our house to try to regain a sense of proportion and sanity around ongoing current events. I continued to consume my news primarily from the newspaper – I have subscribed continuously to the New York Times since I was in high school when I accepted a special subscription offer which continued through college. Although I still subscribe to the hard paper, like most people I read it mostly online these days. During the pandemic delivery times got later and papers were left in our lobby so it wasn’t possible to read the hard copy over breakfast as is my habit any longer. Online access allows me to investigate other news sources as well and I think if I had more time I would subscribe to the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal daily as well.

However, the outbreak of war in the Ukraine combined with long days spent with mom now, has drawn me back to watching television news, witnessing those horrors has continued even upon my return home. My diet of news television increasing again as I worry about those delivering the news as well as the events they are covering.