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Monthly Archives: March 2012

Delightful Stuff Board: “Pussyland”

“Our Pussies singing. Our Pussies Ringing. Our Pussies dancing. Our Sammy singing a Serious solo Song.”

“Pussyland” is one part of a series of children’s books sold in Australia as “Childland.” Published in 1906, there is a copy of “Pussyland” for sale online for about a hundred dollars. I am keeping the location secret in case I suddenly inherit a fortune from a distant relative.

People in 1906 liked to see cats looking like cats. Not for them the cute-tification of the small tiger, the backyard terror, the deadly pouncer upon mice and birds. The “Hello Kitty” line is among the most stylized and least catlike. We like ‘em cute and cartoony, but the Edwardians wanted their cats beasty and a little wild. The serious bell ringers, the maw-stretching singers, “Sammy” in his tux fur, and the little girl kittens spreading wide their skirts to trip the light fantastic claw have much more charm to my eye. Oh, I wish I could see the other 16 pages of this book with illustrations in both black and white and color. What are the other pussies doing? Driving cars? Cooking fish for dinner? I want to know!

How did “pussy” acquire its modern meaning, its link to something other than cats? My guess is that both have fur and people like to pet them — and that’s all I’m saying, folks!

Whence came “Pussyland?” Edward William Cole, who published and sold this little book at his “E. W. Book Arcade,” ran a business known as “the palace of the intellect.”

But it was much more fun than that.

Customers could ignore the books and choose to eat and drink, listen to bands playing, look at themselves in wall-to-wall mirrors and watch the antics of  live monkeys. There was a confectionary department where changing displays had oddities such as the toy hen that “laid” a tin of candy. Costumed jugglers entertained, exotic displays and installations pleased the eye – and this reputedly biggest bookstore on earth even had corners for readers to read books. It was the early Borders chain in hyper mode – the social center of Melbourne – and known far beyond Australia’s shores.

It was only a matter of time before Cole began to publish his own material, and “Pussyland” with its seriously purposeful cats and kittens is a most charming example. Sing, ring, dance, and solo on dear pussies – oh, please, won’t someone republish this little treasure?

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1920s Board: A Girl and Her Car

Here she is, the bearcat of the 1920s. No, not the car – it’s the stripped-down doll lounging on the running board of the era’s sharpest accessory, the convertible, a “breezer.” Sure, the wheels had spokes like a wagon; the starter crank could snap back and break bones, a mishap called “Ford arm”; and if it rained, one got wet until the leather roof could be raised by hand and hooked into place.

But there was that rumble seat in back – privacy – portable privacy and a lot of romantic rumbling no doubt took place there. If a Jane had the berries to buy gasoline, a baby vamp could go wherever there was a paved road and choose her destination without reference to Papa and Mama who, after all, weren’t hip to the jive. The revolution that began when a woman could wheel a bicycle from a shed and slip away without anyone knowing had reached a triumphant liberation.

And the doll herself – freed from corset and long skirts and put into paint and skin-tight clothes. Dieting became a big issue for women in the 1920s and any sheba who didn’t want to be a bug-eyed betty learned that the face nature made was no longer enough.

How happy this young woman is in her bathing togs. It’s a sunny day and she’s parked by the curb at oceanside. The photograph made, she’ll hop up, grab her hope chest of ciggies, then ankle down to look at the waves and spy out a handsome sheik. Maybe they’ll share some hooch from a flask and spoon in that rumble seat. Maybe in time he’ll get a crush and turn goofy over this choice bit of calico — and put a handcuff on the third finger of her left hand. It’s good to be young; wonderful to be happy; great to be bouncy and full of vim and confidence. Perhaps that’s why we who watch from nearly one hundred years later still love the Roaring Twenties.

Interesting Reflections Board: Little Winter

Daffodils are blooming, the crocuses are delicate fading flags of purple and yellow, hyacinths and tulips are determinedly rising from the soil – spring is on its way.

 But I am here to remind you about Little Winter.

 Little Winter comes after you’ve relaxed and decided the cold weather is over. When woolens and flannels are packed into dresser drawers and piled on storage shelves for next autumn, Little Winter comes sneaking back. There you are with a choice of sleeveless tops, capri pants, and sandals to meet that three-inch field of frozen white flakes that surrounds your house and sends an icy breath through those newly placed window screens.

 But don’t curse Little Winter for it’s really a holiday time. The chance to wear that nice sweater you were keeping for a special occasion, to pull on your fabulous boots one last time. Don’t forget to cook some comforting shepherd’s pie and enjoy hot chocolate.

 For Little Winter only lasts about three days and then the world spins onward  into the hot weather.

 And when after several months of fun in the sun, long days, flowers and lightning bugs, when  the cold returns and you’re putting away your summer clothes, leave out a few of the best because – there’s always Little Summer.

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